Words & Wool!
But the snow! The weathermen just wanted an inch, tops, but that was enough for me. A beard to cover up the frozen piles of chicken and goose poop was like winning an backyard makeover giveaway. I had a few hours to get the farm (and the farmhouse) ready for the workshop. Folks had signed up from New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Virginia and Vermont to spend a day with Cold Antler, myself, Jon Katz and some drop in guests. We would be talking about blogging, writing, inspiration, internet politics, trolls, ad sales, and anything else that would come up from the attendees. At the moment I wasn't ready for any of that. I was, however, ready to wrestle a sheep.
The ewe who was barely able to stand (the same one I threw my shoulder out on carrying up a hillside) was ready to dance. She stared at me, and the syringe in my hand, and wasn't having any of it. She scampered off with the grace of a ballerina in fat pants and I had to grab a hold of her horns, clamp her between my legs, and hold her down to give the injection too. She unwillingly obliged my doctoring and then ran off to join her fellow suffragettes. She was clearly doing better.
After that bold task was completed, and I was covered in muddy snow, I took to the other animals and their feeding and checking-up-ons and came inside for a hot shower. While washing the sheep poo out from between my nails I thought about the workshop. In two hours fifteen people would be there to talk about some important things in my life: this blog, how it works, and how it could work for them. That's a tall drink of Pro-Pen G to order up. Here's a neat fact. You can't get sheep poo out of your fingernails without resorting to a potato scrubber and hydrogen peroxide. You won't find that little gem on your Snappy lid, folks.
By 10Am the living room was stocked with chairs, friends, and new faces. We covered some basics and Q&A, and then just an hour into our discussion a fellow author knocked on the door. James Howard Kunstler took me up on my invitation to stop by. His blog, books, podcast, and novels were fairly popular and he was a success at the very thing most folks at the class wanted to learn more about. He sat with us for an hour, talking and taking questions. The day's schedule went off the rails but the guests didn't seem to matter. We broke for lunch and I hugged Jimmy and thanked him with a bottle of hard cider. He was a lot better about accepting that kindness than my sheep.
After our lunch break Jon arrived, and spent over two hours talking about the changing face of publishing, his experience as a writer, blogs, and taking questions on everything from trolls to email responding time. Both he and James were wonderful, doing the kind of presentation I would not even think to give. It was professional and poised, but friendly and without apology for their practices and beliefs. My own talk on the web was a little more personal, but I've grown really comfortable with at least a third of the audience, and the Season Pass members, and it felt more like a living room full of friends than an interview. I don't think the folks minded, not at all. You certainly get another level of intimacy at these things at the farm (not in a dirty way). Folks sat and knit, listening with their ears when their eyes tried to tackle a row of a new sock or sweater. It was a delightful combination of busy hands and open minds and when the wood stove grew too warm and the speakers had wrapped up their things we headed outside for a farm tour.
I showed folks the sheep, the horses, the goats, Monday, the pigs and the rabbits and chickens. My entire operation is within a 40 foot radius of my home. A half circle that leads to gates and barn doors and the chicken coop. It's not what you see when you close your eyes and imagine the Fisher Price farmyard, but it is real. It's scrappy and humble, but making food and wool and cheese right outside the kitchen window. And anyway, it's what I have to offer. No one seemed dissapointed, which was encouraging.
Folks left after another session with me in the living room. We covered more questions and some shared their own writing and stories, and after that everyone was ready to pack up for their drives home or to their hotels. I had farm chores and then a dinner date with Jon and Maria, so all of us punched our dance cards as we hugged and waved goodbye. I was tired, but inspired. the snow that covered the farm in the morning was just beginning to melt as the sun set. A warm front was coming in and as the sun set the gunshots from some lucky hunters echoed over the mountain. So much happening on one country road. I would have jumped up and down then as well, but a woman needs to learn some restraint. I carried buckets of clean well water up to the horses and whistled a few bars of Dixie as I thought about the concert I'd be enjoying that night. Traditional live music, dinner with friends, and another workshop under my belt with happy people heading home to create the world they want to live in. No complaints here.
Well, save for that morning punch from a dog, but perfection isn't the goal.