Sunday, September 7, 2014

Buckets & Posts

It doesn't look like much, does it? A scrappy hillside, some sheep, and a small pole barn in the background. In the foreground: a few strands of wire, some step-in posts, and a rubber water trough. The picture isn't anything to brag about. It's not a sunny day. There are no beautifully saturated, lens flared, memories here. It is a rubber bucket, weeds, and some sheep eating grass. Not exactly what you see scrolling across the bottom of CNN...

But when I see it I beam. Because that grassy hillside was nothing but dirt and stone last summer. It was erosion and mistakes, overgrazing-turned-desertfication. That ram in the foreground was just a yearling, half that size and half as braw. Go back two years, and that shelter was just being built, by a man and his son who belonged to the community down the road. When money became really tight they let me pay off the pole barn in sheep, and so today if you drive past Common Sense Farm you will see a flock of five Scottish Blackface sheep who were all from stock born and bred here.

I have had a lot of sheep escapes, too. But these sheep are minding this small, impermanent, fence because I now understand chargers and wiring. I know how many strands it takes, how strong a pulse, the things you only learn by doing and taking a constant mental inventory of what is and isn't part of your own farm's story.

Five years ago this was a mowed field. An extension of someone's lawn. Now it is a farm. A living, breathing, abundant farm. This is a place where honey, milk, wool, vegetables, pork, chicken, eggs and berries are produced. It is a place where apples are pressed into hard cider and baked into pies, homemade bread cools on stovetops, and ducks roast in the oven. It's a place that has its own butcher, farrier, chimney sweep, and neighbors who trade baskets for eggs. It's a place where hoofbeats can be heard at a god clip, coming up the sweep of road that brings a white farmhouse into view.

I used to see this place as a dream come true, but that isn't the case at all. Dreams are wonderful but it was not the act of wanting that made Cold Antler mine, and it sure as hell isn't dreams that keep the lights on and roof over my head. Cold Antler is not a dream come true - it is a reality come true. And while I use the romantic term "dream" a lot, I never thought of farming as something as far away as a dream is to most people. It was always the conclusion, the place I would end up, even when I was most scared and uncertain how. Dreaming is good, but believing is better. If you want something you need to believe it will happen and fight like hell to keep it. It's worth it, and every day I wake up my life is full of freedom and a mission that makes my heart sing and blood boil: to stay.

A place that deals with good and bad, mistakes and repairs, and a woman figuring it all out a day at a time. Good fences and healed earth matter here. They are the foundation and the result. They matter a lot.


Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

I like your term, 'healed earth'. For some that can be a worthy and laudable goal all by itself.

September 7, 2014 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger sandalfoot said...

Tonight I was on a mission, a property search. Looking for a small house on a small farm near a small town. I didn't find what I was searching for, but I did see listings that fit your description of what your farm probably was before you made it what it is. Good for you, Jenna. You made something really wonderful happen.
Good honest hard work pays off. I'm happy for you.

September 7, 2014 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger esther said...

Scrappy or not,to me it looks great! Wish i had it ...
But it is your,s and it makes you happy , that is all that counts...

September 8, 2014 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thanks Barb! I heard that term from Joel Salatin, he writes about how agriculture can do so much to help the planet - not just destroy it. Through wiser practices like rotational grazing, stacked systems, etc. Anyway, I am proud of that hill!

September 8, 2014 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...


September 8, 2014 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...


September 8, 2014 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thank you esther! you are right, what counts is what makes your own smiles happen

September 8, 2014 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

Jenna, which of Joel Salatin's books is the most inspiring to folks a bit new to land stewardship? He is on top of my Greatest Hero lists.

September 8, 2014 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger Ginny said...

My 5 year old self knew where I'd send up. My 31 year old self isn't there yet, but I am exactly where I'm supposed to be on the way there.
Congrats to you for allowing reality to blossom!

September 8, 2014 at 2:14 PM  

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