Thursday, February 26, 2015


Last night I was driving home from Glens Falls and life was not good.  It felt like one of my teeth had exploded. I could not believe how intense the pain was, having never experienced this brutal of an abscess before. It was as if a demon had detonated a bomb in my gums at exactly 5:34 PM and there was no stopping the pain. Driving home was excruciating. The motions of the truck slightly bouncing along the road felt like being hit in the face over and over with a baseball bat. I was in tears, uncontrollable tears. Welcome to the beginning of a blog post about my Rock Bottom Night.

Ever since I left the 9-5 world and gave up my dental insurance the Dentist stopped being about maintenance and moved into the slot of Damage Control. I was last at the Dentist in September to repair a filling, and am good about taking care of my choppers whenever something cracks or gets a cavity. I refuse to give up on my teeth, however wonky they may be. I brush and floss and all that, but any sort of extra care is just not an option in my life right now. So this is where we are at: Abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

I was crying because it hurt so damn much, but also because it was the final straw in a very fragile week. I have not been blogging because all of my creative sit-down-and-make-something-in-front-of-a-screen energy has been going towards Birchthorn and Logo Designs. After a day of chores, shoveling, firewood chopping, 4 logo clients, and a thousand words on monsters in 1918 - I am creatively drained. I just want to sit back, watch an episode of Community,  drink some warm tea, and get ready for tomorrow. Maybe invite some friends over for a board game or a movie. You know, relax. But the cold we've been experiencing up here this month has been relentless. And that has been getting to me in body and spirit.

As you know, I heat with wood and so that means keeping a supply of dry firewood and the presence to not stray too far from the homestead. This means (generally) staying close to home and keeping pipes thawed (some exploded anyway and destroyed a carpet) and the home fires burning. Yesterday afternoon was kinda warm so I felt it was okay to attend a class and see some friends up north, and that class is where the tooth demons took over my body.

You can only keep it together so long before something gets irrevocably broken. You get me? If you're still reading this let's update the emotional tally. This is where we are at now: Exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby. Let's hear it for me!

Also, I was driving home in a truck with a late inspection. Not a horrible crime, but another example of adult scolding our society likes to slap us on the wrist with. The truck is safe, but it has a bad 02 sensor and a crack in the windshield. It needs both things repaired before it can pass inspection. No big deal, right? Well, it wasn't until I got pulled over by a cop and given a court summons.  Now the law is onto me and this inspection NEEDS to be done before I have to go to court next week to prove it to the judge I am driving an inspected vehicle. I had been putting off the non-essential repairs to the truck as long as possible since other things needed to be taken care of first (you know, like the mortgage, electricity, etc) and knowing I was probably looking at a root canal was a 2-3 reality punch combo. So this is where we are at now: Driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

Also, I am dealing with some personal stuff I don't feel comfortable writing about here. Nothing serious, so please do not worry. There is no horrid physical diagnosis or death in my family.  But what there is is a lot of the kind of emotional upheavals that happen to all of us living a human life in 2015. Family drama, regrets, fears, anxiety, and personal doubts that I can actually pull this adventure off. It didn't help that I was dealing with PMS either, which doesn't make me angry or snappy but does make me very pensive. So this is where we are at now: Scared about being a 32-year-old single woman farming alone, dealing with PMS, feeling overwhelmed, driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

This, my friends, is my rock bottom. Welcome. I'd offer you a chair but all we got is rocks. We sold the chairs to keep the pigs fed.

Guys, I am a tough woman. I do not usually let myself fall into any selfish despair.  But man oh man, this pain in my face made all those other problems and stresses feel a thousand times worse. Anyone out there reading this who deals with anxiety and panic attacks understands this, and I was headed for a serious bender of pain and panic. I stopped to picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig at some cagey discount booze place and headed inside the farmhouse to begin the process of self-medication. When you are one of the uninsured Americans that twenty bucks worth of booze is a lot cheaper than running to the emergency room for some percocet.

I got home to the cold house, started a fire, and in a haze of pain and googling I started to remedy the situation best this farm girl could. Enter the triple threat of swishing warm salt water around my mouth, spitting it out, then swishing bourbon around my mouth, spitting that out, and then walking around the farmhouse counting to ten and breathing deep before repeating it all over again. I took 800mg of ibuprofen. I used a topical numbing agent. All of this was not helping. My ears were ringing, my face was throbbing, and the only thing that made it somewhat better was the placebo ritual of salt, whiskey, counting, topical numbing, etc. Just doing something felt like I was punching back at the monster. I did this for hours. The dogs slept with their full bellies of kibble and the sheep chewed their cud in the moonlight and I just wished someone would knock me out with a blow to the head so I could fall asleep. If the good people of Kentucky knew how much bourbon I spit out into my sink last night I would be lynched.

Around 10PM I broke down. At this point I was so exhausted from the pain and the constant swishing of spiny agents I couldn't take it anymore. I decided to just feel it. Just let it wash over me. Just deal with the pain and accept it. I sat down in front of a candle to meditate. I started to slowly breathe and be all zen about it.

That didn't work.

I ended up screaming into a pillow so the neighbors didn't call the police. I was coughing and spitting up I was crying so hard. Not knowing what else to do I lit all the candles on the home altar and the statue of Brigit glowed in the tiny midnight farmhouse of this pathetic, writhing, woman. And then I just prayed. I didn't sit there with my hands over my heart like a yoga class just ended, no no no, this was pagan prayer. This was primal. I howled out my prayers of healing and paced like a caged animal. I did that until I collapsed to the floor, too tired and too hurt to do anything else but heave and sweat. And when I stood up, it was gone.

I am not shitting you, the pain had nearly stopped. What was a whale had turned into a slow-moving tuna. I felt my tooth with my tongue and realized I couldn't feel anything up there anymore. Be it divine intervention or just the accumulated effects of constant salt, booze, and numbing agent I was finally able to focus again. I was so grateful I shook. It took moments after that to fall asleep. I did so with a border collie in my arms, breathing slowly alongside me, keeping me warm.


Mornings are always better, aren't they? That was how I usually feel but the pain that I had defeated in honorable combat last night came back again. It crept back into my head like a water snake slides up a stream. It slunk in slow, but steady.  I knew I had to see a dentist ASAP so I called the practice i always go to and the number didn't work? What? I tried again? I knew the house phone was working because my mother called me four times already, worried about me thanks to last night's sordid Facebook post. I tried to call again, no dice. Then I realized that even though Arlington Vermont is just 20 minutes away, it's a different area code and therefore "not local" as far as my landline provider was concerned. So this is how my "brand new day" starts huh? So, with a hearty, "FUCK IT" I told Gibson to get into the illegal truck because we were just going to drive our asses to the dentist, and I needed him for moral support. I wasn't expecting any instant help, but at least I could get an appointment without spending the morning on the phone with Verizon working out a new long distance plan.

Okay, so I had a plan. I would go outside, get all the animals seen to, and once chores were done I would leave my cold house (no fire started yet this Am or coffee drank) and head to the dentist with my co-pilot riding shotgun and reminding me that no matter what, I owned the greatest dog in the world. It mattered, that.

As dog and Shepherdess headed outside to feed the horse and sheep (they are always fed first) I noticed something odd. Only five sheep? Where was Brick, my sturdiest ewe? Looking west, I saw her. Up on the hillside inside the sheep shed walking downhill towards me and bucket of cracked corn I was holding. Behind her trailed two brand new lambs, still wet with birth goo and walking behind their mother. At this point I clenched both fists and just screamed out, "TIMING!" Gibson watched them in awe. The flock had gone from 6 to 8 before dawn. And the pre-menstrual rush of emotions flooded my tired brain and this farmer went on auto-pilot.

I turned off the fence, told Gibson to lie down and wait, and bounded up the hill. There I discovered two beautiful ram lambs, strong and eager, with tiny horns. I checked them both out and saw they had fat bellies and were clearly drinking milk. The sun was out and the temperatures weren't bad at all this morning so far and I knew lambs this strong and from this ewe would be okay to leave for a bit while I headed to the dentist. If this pain got any worse I'd be useless to the farm anyway. I fed the rest of the animals and G and I drove to the dentist.

Soon as I walked into the dentist's office there was a framed photograph of two newborn lambs. The gods laugh. I laughed with them. I mean it, I walked into my Dentist's office (without an appointment) laughing to myself. Now, you need to understand that this is a rural Vermont office. It's just someone's house, all yellows and browns and old wallpaper and lace curtains, turned into an office. No part of it was a stupid, sterile, high performance office with flat screen tv sets on the walls. It is old school and I love it. I explained to the folks at the desk (briefly) about the pain, the night, the lambs, and could they possibly fit me in soon? The first thing the receptionist asked for after my story was photos of the lambs on my cell phone (Which I loved her for and laughed again), and I explained I don't have a cell phone, I gave it up, but I would email her some later. She then told me to come back in an hour and they would do x-rays and help me out. Brigit's Fire, was that ever good news!

At this point I realized I should really carry a watch if I'm not carrying around a smartphone that subs as one. Anyway, I was elated, and so I headed back to the truck and told Gibson we had an hour to kill. So we headed south to Shaftsbury to go to Whitman's feed store, an old stomping ground. I bought some amazingly clean fresh straw, a new heat lamp, lamb and kid paste, a brooder light, and some fresh syringes. At this point I just paid the woman, surrendering to the day. I knew I would have to write checks to the dentist, the pharmacy, and hay barn already so might as well go down towards the red with two comfortable lambs. I was honestly feeling that if everything fell apart in my life at least on this day those two little lambs would be clean, warm, medicated, and nutritionally supplemented. (Note: I usually have this stuff on hand but I wasn't expecting lambs until 2 weeks or so. Guess Brick wasn't waiting for permission. Good for her!)

I got X-rays done and a prescription for antibiotics and pain meds. Serious pain meds. I drove back to Cambridge to return to the farm and get the Rx filled, but something urged me to stop into the Wayside Country Store on the way home. I wanted to check in on Nancy, who just lost a husband of 50 years a few weeks ago. I wanted to see how she was doing?

Soon as she saw me I melted and gave her a hug. Inside the store were three generations of their family including her granddaughter who messaged me last night on Facebook about my tooth. I felt this rush of warmth, this overwhelming sense of okay. How can I believe in pain and stress more than love when I am surrounded by amazing, caring, people? There are new lives to rush home and take care of. There is a dog I love more than anything in this world waiting for me in the truck. There is this grace filled woman, who is listening to my stories about the tooth and the lambs and the dentist and the pain and just hugs me and pulls out family photos of their first milk cow and her kids in the 70s holding it by a halter in the family portrait. And I stand there with this overwhelming sense of love for this messy life I live, and that all of us live. I had a prescription in my pocket. I had warm coffee in my hand. And I had these people I love sharing with me their stories and offering me pain meds and advice and empathy. How could you not love this world every day?

Goddamn it life is so beautiful.

We are not just our bad weeks. You, me, we all contain multitudes. I am the woman crying on the floor in terrifying pain and I am the woman smelling a newborn lamb in her arms and smiling like an idiot. I am the scared woman under a lead vest at the dentist's office and I am also the woman in a small country store moved by an old woman's faded family portrait with a jersey cow. I am the defeated, pathetic, howling monster from last night and I am the hero standing tall on a sturdy plank floor having already spent her morning ignoring pain and feeding pigs, sheep, horse, goats, poultry, rabbits and more. I am shit and I am sunlight. I am a mess and I am perfect. I sipped my coffee (the pain now again subsiding thanks to the Dr visit and more numbing gel) and let out the kind of sigh you hold in for days. I chatted a bit more and then walked around the little store and picked up some provisions I needed. While walking back to the counter to pay I noticed an antique pocket watch with an eagle/hawk design on the front hanging from the junk/costime jewelry display. It was eight dollars. Sold. Problem number 2325325 fixed. Time was once again, on my side.

The sun was out. I was heading home to my adopted town. I knew I still needed to pick up hay and some extension cords for the heat lamp, so I stopped into town. Gibson and I walked into the hardware store and chatted with Bryan. I told him about the new lamb and he congratulated me. He and his family raise chickens, rabbits, and beef and know the work and love that goes into newly born stock. I dropped off the prescription at Rite Aid (praying that it wasn't a jillion dollars) and then headed over to Common Sense Farm because I wanted to just dish with a best friend about this insane past 12 hours.

I walked into the kitchen at the commune and familiar faces invited to me join them for tea or a meal, I politely declined and headed to the second floor in the mansion to Yeshiva's apartment. There I found her and her glowing, pregnant, body. She looked as tired as I was and we hugged and spent time just being two women with a lot on our minds. She talked about her life, I talked about mine, and I felt so much better. I left a check I owed them for hay and loaded up three more bales into the back of my truck from their barn. I threw it into the back of the illegal pickup along with the county-fair-display straw. So much work ahead of me when I got home. I took three deep breathes. The day was just starting.

I bought the extension cords, a 100ft and a 50ft, and headed home. I let out the dog to be a dog and he instantly started herding Quark away from the wood pile by the front door. I told Gibson, "That'll do" and picked up the old rooster in my arms and set him onto the bed of the pickup with some cracked corn. Then I went right to work outside. I rebedded the sheep shed, set up the heat lamp for tonight's colder weather, and set up the extension cords. I made sure everyone outside had hay and water and then headed inside to finally start a fire and get to work on logos and writing. I had a few hours before evening chores started again. I opened the front glass door and what did I discover?! A note from the power company! I had 72 hours before electric was shut off. Great! I came inside with the door-knocker notice sheet and set it on the table. I set the problem meter back to 2325326. I took the pain meds and antibiotic with some water and I won't lie, part of me wished I took it with whiskey.  I didn't. Once that bottle becomes the answer to your problems you have a lot more to battle with than bills and truck inspections. I have enough battles to fight as is.

All right. So that's that. That's my last 24 hours. That's where I have been and what I have been dealing with. I wrote it all out, all of it. I think the pain meds have me a little light headed, but that's not the reason for this long post. The reason for the post is the reason for this entire blog: an raw portrayal of farming alone and trying to live a creative life.

I assume some of you will read this and think I am an asshole. Others will read it and shake their heads and think. "Man, this girl needs a break". And yet others will read it and see a person in love with her messy, passion-filled, wild life. Well let me tell you something boys and girls, I agree with all of you. However, since I have to spend 100% of my time with myself, I am pretty forgiving. When it comes down to the brass tax I love myself, my farm, my life, and my choices. Every day terrified on this farm is better than the most comfortable day in someone else's office.

Like I said earlier, we contain multitudes. I am the monster and the hero, and the life I choose to focus on is comprised of a million tiny decisions every single day. Last night I chose to sink to rock bottom. This morning I realized that a rock floor is damn sturdy ground for standing up on. And I'll figure it all out. I'm already figuring it out. Even when things get this rough around here I need to stop and realize that this is one beautiful mess I chose and every year it gets less messy. I need to take a moment and accept with absolute joy that I am living an intentional life I am so passionate about. That every morning I wake up and create, and laugh, and fall in love with the world over and over again. I stretch, and sip coffee, and plan workshops and prepare for animal births. I play music, I work in my home office, I visit my friends in this community I love so much and loves me back. As bad as things may get I am well aware these are nothing compared to the problems some of you deal with. That my biggest failures are just fuel towards a better self, and that most of what is wrong just needs steady work and relentless stubbornness. I have those things in spades.

And I need to remember that while times are tough now, they are just a passing afternoon. They are just what life is like "right now". How many times have I been here, in this place of worry and pain and figured it out before? Why should I doubt myself when I have always figured it out?  It is a fact on paper that I bought this farm in 2010 and have paid FOUR YEARS of mortgage payments, even if I am a little behind right now. That means a lot. And this slump can all change in one book deal or a rush on logo sales or workshop attendance. I see that illegal truck outside with a driver's side door that stopped opening and I don't see a burden. I see a vehicle with just 13 more payments left until I own it1 I see a Fell Pony I dreamed of, found, learned to partner with, fell in love with riding, and have paid off in full! I see a hawk I took from the sky and learned to hunt beside. I see an entire farmyard of animals I raised for myself and others. I see myself down to a size 10 instead of the 14 I was in December. I see a strong woman with the power to make art, life, music, stories and food and that would make me a goddess in a better age! So I can choose to spend this day focusing on the fear and problems, or I can spend it focusing on the hope and solutions.

I choose Goddess. Hear me howl.

I also remind myself that outside are two beautiful lambs. They are this farm's future and healthy and braw and gorgeous. More lambs are on the way and as simple as those little beasts are, they are even more drive to figure out the problems and continue this wonderful, glorious, fight for the life I love. I say fight with joy. I am not interested in any sort of pacifism in this short time I have. I am a martial artist, a hunter, an archer, a farmer, and a damned tough fighter. I like my world being one where sweat, blood, and beautiful force and hope combine to give me purpose I see lacking in so many others. Better a passionate asshole trying to keep the lights on than the person I could have been if I didn't try.

Listen, I don't know what you guys think of me and frankly, it is none of my business. I'm writing to you because I can't help but write. I would go insane if I didn't do this every single day in one form or another. You're just a witness to the addiction. But if you made it this far into the blog post then I hope you read this with compassion and it gives you a sense of fire, light, healing and hope. That is what I got out of writing it.

Okay. Time to check on those sheep, get their shed toasty for this cold night ahead, get the fire restarted (it's gone out since I've been writing here this past hour or so) and get back to the good fight.  I wish all of you a day a blessed with challenges, meaning, friendship, joy, pain, love, and warm dogs as I have been blessed with.

Here I go.



Blogger Maria said...

Looks like I get to comment first, and I have nothing deep and meaningful to contribute... Other than to say,
1)dental pain can be HIDEOUS. really hideous. but you know that now. I have been there - no amount of ibuprofen or paracetamol helped. the relief when I had the root canal done was indescribable. I always tell people I don't think of root canal as a bad experience, cause if you really need it, you really need it.
2)sometimes all the things come together. money worries, personal issues, dental issues, and if you're female and the gods are laughing at you, usually PMS as well. For sure.
3)you always come through Jenna, and you write about it eloquently afterwards.
All the best be with you.

February 26, 2015 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

These words won't make a difference ... but good luck Jenna!

big hug from Denmark

February 26, 2015 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Congrats on the your new furbabies!!!
I hope you feel better very soon. Remember there's only one way to go now and thats up!
Sending positive thoughts and prayers your way.You will be okay.... I just know you will be.Its just who you are and will always be no matter what or where you are.
We all fall down but whats important is that we get back up and you always do a find job doing just that. Hang in there.


February 26, 2015 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Nancy Lewis said...

Jenna, my hat is off to you. You are the Celtic Huntress and the Mona Lisa. Bravo, and may you always be blessed.

February 26, 2015 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Heather Knoll said...

You are awesome Jenna.

February 26, 2015 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Sherry Lee said...

I see a messy, passion filled woman leading a life of intention. Jenna, you are an inspiration. Sending prayers your way for a speedy recovery.

February 26, 2015 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger aart said...

Bone infections are the most painful, especially in the head, and *very* dangerous...hope you can get it *fully* resolved asap.

February 26, 2015 at 5:52 PM  
OpenID quietowlfarm said...

Jenna- you are a complete badass. But absolutely not an asshole. You managed to handle a crazy shitstorm better than most folks would--and see the good where many would just despair. I think that's proof of your character right there.

Oh, but I wish I could hug those beautiful babies! Congratulations!

February 26, 2015 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger margaret minetti said...

congrats on having the courage to write down what most of us feel at some point but never let others know. i wish i was that brave. healing thoughts are with you, and fingers crossed for all the sudden financial strains, life is never easy, but all of this at once is tuff! i keep my three flatties near and dear , keeps me sane. hugs to gibson and you.

February 26, 2015 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Jenna, You wrote "Better a passionate asshole trying to keep the lights on than the person I could have been if I didn't try."
That is IT - you did try and you are so much more because of it. And so are all those your life touches.
God Bless... you're in my thoughts.

February 26, 2015 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Best Post Ever!

Holy crap that was riveting. You are awesome and trust that it will all work out.

I grew up on a dairy, and we had some very tough days, but somehow it all always gets better. You just need to have faith.

By the by, I had a root canal right before Christmas, and in the three months leading up to it, I found clove oil, or chewing garlic cloves, to relieve the pain when nothing else would. Believe me I know where you are. I just got a job with Dental again, after going almost a decade without it. When you have to pay cash, there really is no other option then "damage control"

Best from the other side of the Lake

February 26, 2015 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Guys, thank you so much for these replies. I am always scared hitting that publish button when something is this damn honest. I expect to get scolded, or someone to yell at me for spending 8 dollars on a watch when my truck needs repairs, or basically call me out on every insecurity and contrary point. I am aware of my faults, but I am okay with them too. That is what I mean by being an asshole. I see the person that isn't consistent and faulty and still love her, which comes across as arrogant instead of confident to some.

These comments are so helpful. I'm on pain meds now and just 24 hours ago I was a mess. It's already looking up and outside my window up the hill is the red glow of the heat lamp and i got to spend an hour with the little ones today, inhale my horse's coat, and Quark the rooster is here inside being himself by the wood stove.

So things are better.

February 26, 2015 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Ally said...

Glad to hear you are coming out of the "storm", and anyone who hasn't been there at one point or another is either lying or damned lucky. I hope the pain meds and antibiotics help until the root canal is possible. Healing thoughts your way!!

February 26, 2015 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger kbrow said...

"I choose Goddess. Hear me howl."

I loved reading this entry. I'm hoping things are turning around for you; it's been a tough winter around here, as well.

February 26, 2015 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger Juliet Carol said...

Just now read your post...sometimes life is very hard, very hard and you don't know where $ will come from or the pain is unbearable, whether of the heart or tooth...(been there)! It will get better!! Praying that your problems can be resolved quickly and your dream can continue!!! Thank you for sharing you life struggles! Congratulations on the lovely twins :) Life is precious and a gift.

February 26, 2015 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger sarah e blog said...

ill take my life raw and real with a side of sweet, and maybe a dash of intense, thanks jenna for sharing yours :)

February 26, 2015 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger Daisy Farm said...

There is almost nothing worse than a tooth ache. I had one a few years ago. I wanted to bash my head into the wall. Instead, I filled my mouth with ice cubes and froze my mouth. I don't know if I killed ALL of my teeth but at least the one that had the issue was dead. It is a horrible, horrible pain. Unlike any other.

February 26, 2015 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

YES! And thank you for sharing this. I've so been there and back up again (many times) - pain, desperation, anxiety and fear - yet these must be experienced so you can find out just how strong, loving, forgiving you are. I believe having something to fight for is the key to coming out on the other side intact and better for the struggle. You totally have that.
P.S. And LAMBS!!!!! Congrats. Best therapy there is.

February 26, 2015 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Lisa Nigro said...

Your raw and real spirit Jenna is so beautiful. I was reading a quote by Pema Chodron which was titled the Gloriousness and the Wretchedness of life and it talked about what you experienced in your 24 hours.

February 26, 2015 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Mary Wilson said...

Glad the pain meds are working, and I trust the antibiotics will too, and this tooth will be a bad memory before too long. And I second the clove oil -- it's odd, since it's really easy to numb whole regions of your mouth with it, but it helps. (Though I can't say it helps on pain at the level you were feeling it.)

February 26, 2015 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

This made me want to give you a big hug. You are wonderfully strong and powerful, even during times you don't feel like it.
You'll get through this, my friend! <3

February 26, 2015 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Jenna, What an incredible post. I admit that I have been worried about you. Life does hand us some very difficult times. You are strong and brave...remember that. My personal mantra is "to be kind, gentle, and loving to myself", and that has helped me very much.

February 26, 2015 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

Oh my goodness, Jenna. I've been a long time reader, read and own a couple of your homesteading books, but don't know if I've ever commented. I think of myself as very, very open minded and one who admires people who put themselves out there and live honest lives that are unconventional. I admire your ability to live close to the earth and take your knocks, and then share it all with an online community. However, sometimes I just worry that things are TOO much for you. I wonder if you gave yourself a break, if things could be easier for you. I feel like you have so much angst mixed in with so much joy, and literally find myself thinking of you randomly and wishing you had a partner on your farm. I know you have a wonderful community, but so wish you could find another human to live with you full time and give the level of support you get by sharing a home with someone. I don't mean a romantic partner (unless that is something you would like someday). I really mean a business partner. I am not a farmer, though I have farmy dreams, but I just know I could not do it alone. Not because I am a woman and believe I can't do physical things; just because I don't know of any farmers, male or female, who are successful on their own. I live in farm country, and there is a reason farms, not even large ones, take many people to run them. It is HARD. I just can't wrap my mind around what you have achieved alone first of all, but why you would want to. Also, I get so nervous by how on the edge you often are financially. My heart almost stopped when I first started reading this post - teeth abscesses are no joke. My husband had an abscess following a wisdom tooth extraction a few years ago and had to be hospitalized and have another surgery. We would literally have gone bankrupt if he didn't have excellent insurance. This sort of thing happens all the time to people. I don't say this from a condescending place in any way; just that we have no control over what may come, and there is a reason why many of us choose safer paths and security. I am so glad you are feeling better and on the road to recovery, but I do wonder - do you think in any way, this will lead you to consider making some changes so you do not have to live so close to the edge? Maybe that is not possible, probably not desirable. I know you love much about your scrappy life, and I admire it. I just offer up this thought as I would offer it to any of my friends after they are in a tough spot, have gotten through it, and I want to help them avoid it in the future. I don't want you to feel defensive but perhaps consider a slightly different path. I know you work very hard, but have you considered how you could be more financially sound and not have to work so very hard? I feel like there must be a way or maybe a few ways but they would probably involve a slight paradigm shift. Anyways, this thought or advice, if you will, is offered with respect and a caring heart, and is not intended to upset you.

February 26, 2015 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

That'll do, Jenna. :)

February 27, 2015 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger Lara Katherine Mountain Colley said...

Thank you for writing it all down, the sometimes beautiful mess that is your wild adventure, and know that you are inspiring a lot of people out there. This may not help your tooth or your illegal truck, but truth be told, you are one of my greatest heroes. Keep doing what you do.

February 27, 2015 at 12:46 AM  
Blogger KathyB. said...

In a strange sort of way this post is uplifting & encouraging, and painful too. You're a brave woman.

February 27, 2015 at 1:50 AM  
Blogger Petra said...

Keep on going Jenna!! You're a strong woman. There's always a way, I.m sure you will figure it out.
Keep your head up. Sending you all my positive toughts over the ocean from Holland to your little farm.

February 27, 2015 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

I think I need a stiff drink after all that!

I understand you worry about hitting the post button. I consider posts like this to be a PSA -- public service announcement. You would be remiss if you didn't post the bad and ugly. I'm sure there are folks out there who think your days are nothing more than horse rides, having tea with the neighbors and gathering eggs in a gingham lined basket. And shopping trips to the quaint little town.

Small scale farming is tough. And usually shit soaked. I recently read about a couple who were trying to veggie farm and said that no one told them they couldn't make a living. They're making a living, just not in terms of payroll checks. They were not shoestringing it by any means.

So here's to another better day and some new fixes!

(and always keep a small supply of fish antibiotics -- for the fish of course)

February 27, 2015 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

This was a freaking awesome blog post. You rock! Thank you for sharing all this. You know you will make it through. The $8 watch thing was so cool! I love how life works that way. Brilliant; you, your words, your life.

February 27, 2015 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

I've been thinking that you could benefit from some steady, reliable income. Have you considered bartending? I think you would be really good at it. It's not an office job and it wouldn't interfere with your day chores. My niece bartended when things were tough and she made a very nice income. The tips can be great. You are a sociable person and I think bartending would suit you.

February 27, 2015 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

Wow! What a crappy and yet beautiful 24 hours. Certainly had highs and lows. Here is a thought-depending on your tooth's location, once the infection clears is usually much cheaper to have the tooth pulled vs. having a root canal. Just an experience I went thru 2 summers ago...hmmm $140 vs $800. I had to make the decision to have my tooth pulled. And that was a hard decision. Also a dentist may work out a payment plan with you...but in my situation at the time ANY payment would have too much to manage.
Sending well wishes and warm thoughts!

February 27, 2015 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

Jenna, what a woman you are! Thank you for sharing - Jen.

February 27, 2015 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thanks for all these comments guys, truly!

Molly - totally worth considering, thank you!

Holly - I am going to try and not pull it since it is pretty forward in my mouth. I will get the root canal and the cap, just in stages as I save up for them.

The kind emails and comments have been wonderful, things will be okay I am sure. Just a rough damn week.

February 27, 2015 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Heather G said...

If being a self sufficient homesteader was a simple occupation, then the world would be full of em'. The fact that you can see the positive at your self-proclaimed "rock bottom" mean that you are truly meant for this life. You gives us dreamers the courage to make ours a reality. Bad times are a part of this crazy life and, at least on screen, you handle yourself with dignity and courage and fortitude.

Thank you. All will work out, you know that!
Be well.

February 27, 2015 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

Hey Jenna. I'm going to echo some of Lisa's thoughts about finances. I believe that what you do well, you do really, really well. And you're filled with courage and you love hard work. If you didn't have a mortgage to pay, I fully believe you would be able to sustain yourself on the land through barter and your workshops. That is an amazing thing. Like Lisa, I worry that you're living so close to the financial edge. And part of that may come from whether you really work at calculating the Return on Investment of various parts of your operation. For example, you have sheep, and the ewes have lambs, which you can sell. What does it cost to raise a sheep for a year, and how does that compare to the price you get for the lamb(s)? How does your time factor in? I just think it would possibly be helpful to calculate this on all parts of your operation, and then for the next year, focus on the parts that have the most profit potential. So that you have six months mortgage payments in the bank, and a slush fund for things like truck repairs and tooth problems. While some activities (like Italics) may lead to a book deal down the road, it seems apparent that you need revenue now, and perhaps should be putting your efforts into things like the meat chickens you had talked about. Did that not pan out? Anyway, like Lisa, I hope you take this in the spirit it was intended, as I have a great deal of admiration for you. I just think if you tweaked your mindset a bit, life could be a bit easier.

I'm considering buying a gift certificate for a workshop. Do you do those?

All the best, Jenna.

February 27, 2015 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

karen lisa - I appreciate and note your comments and take no offense, what you wrote is common sense! But know things like Italics cost very very little - hunting and his food is free and pretty much a pure joy. The cost was getting his building up and such - which is all paid for.

As for such a plan, that is certainly something I am doing now with my accountant and bookkeeping. An example would be these two ram lambs. I used to sell them for $175 a lamb if someone wanted a breeding ram. Now I know I can't afford to sell them for that. They would sell for $300 as breeding stock or I can keep them to raise as meat animals. That way the feed and cost works out to be worth it - with fleeces I can tan and sell as well for $175.

So I am learning every year. I've only been self employed for what is it? almost 3 years? I will continue to be and learn from mistakes, down turns like this, etc. But I already talked to the electric company and made a partial payment. (so that is okay) got the tooth calmed down with pain meds and antibiotics, have folks on board for the poultry project, and worked out plans with neighboring farms for worksharing and such.

I write about what scares or excites me, not the everyday bookkeeping and such - which means you readers get a manic version of my life. I think I should be writing more about the everyday as well, which is another note I can take away from this.

Point is: Thanks! and yes, I do gifted workshops.

February 27, 2015 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Another thing worth pointing out is I don't think having a spouse or roommate or more financial security would make me happier if it meant changing my life. I had security and insurance before, in that sense - it wasn't a better life.

What is better and will make me happier and less stressful is learning how to make this life work better - which all you fine folks need to remember is just going into my third year as a self-employed person.I am 100% certain that in a few years I will look back on posts like this and say "Man, look how far I have come, how I made it work, how much I have saved, paid off, fixed, etc" Right now is putting in the hard lessons and time.

stay tuned.

February 27, 2015 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Victoria Nidetch said...

We all have days like those Jenna, this has been a hard Feb. Keep your head up I am sending prayers and positive energy your way. Congratulations on your beautiful babies!

February 27, 2015 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger margaret minetti said...

damn, well they say bad things come in 3's! truck, tooth,elec. the new kids are a good thing even if it was bad timing. hang in there sweetie, im rooting for you!

February 27, 2015 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Tanya T said...

Oh Jenna. What a hell of a week. I have always been drawn to your optimism, you go girl. This post is so personal and real and brave. And the rock's weren't too uncomfortable. I always find that when I hit rock bottom a good sleep makes a world of difference. I wish you all the best and I'm sending positive $$ vibes your way!!

February 27, 2015 at 12:48 PM  
OpenID Nicola said...

A lot of people work long and hard at jobs with a steadier, more predictable income stream and yet still have money worries and suffer disasters that are out of their control. The difference is that we do it without the joy that comes from doing what we love in a place we love. It's astonishing what you can endure when you've found where you belong. And I for one would love to read more about the everyday things too - there's a soothing, quiet beauty in such things.

This post did exactly what you hoped it would and left me with a sense of fire, light, healing and hope. Thank you.

February 27, 2015 at 1:11 PM  
OpenID 5a3f375a-bec1-11e4-b9ee-a7a40ac438b5 said...

Hi Jenna,

I stumbled upon your blog about 2 weeks ago and I think you are an inspiration! I'm a 23 year old chick, living in my tiny apartment, grew up in the suburbs of L.A., about to finish my degree in wildlife management and conservation, living in the pacific northwest and about to enter into the real world. I relate so much to your story. I've been increasingly more interested and fascinated by off grid/ homesteading. Your story has given me hope that one day I can have my own small farm like you, even though I have no idea what I'm doing. I read your entire first book the day it showed up on my front door. I know it may not mean much, but I just wanted to let you know that you have one more person rooting for you!! Good luck and thank you for being you!

February 27, 2015 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Mary Schroeder said...

Hang in there. I've had the head-splitting ache of an infected tooth as well. You know how to fix any problems you have. It is just like cleaning. Start in one corner and work towards where you want to be.

February 27, 2015 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

When I started my first job after college, I had to get my own insurance (yeaaaa for freelancing). My dental insurance was about $28/month. This may be a silly question, but you have looked into individual dental care plans in your state? They can save a lot of heartache.

Hope the pain goes away soon!

February 27, 2015 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger crashdown said...

Jenna, just because your accountant tells you that you should sell lambs for $300 doesn't mean that you could get that. We'd all love to sell lambs for that price! You'd get $150 tops for your ram lambs unless you lucked out and sold to a very, very clueless buyer--that's what lambs from the same lines as yours are selling for. You wouldn't even get $300 for full grown freezer lambs.

February 28, 2015 at 1:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jenna, your words --jewels. I have read many of your posts and I usually come here for free so tonight I paid you a little back thru Paypal. Some of us can help sometimes, and for me, tonight, I could. Your life and writing is evidence of another, deep way to be. You're my chica Wendell Berry. With love--t O'h

February 28, 2015 at 2:04 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Crash - I don't expect to sell them at all - the high price accounts for what it would cost me to feed, butcher, and raise them for a year plus time - if no one buys them that's fine

February 28, 2015 at 5:18 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thank you, T

February 28, 2015 at 5:32 AM  
Blogger Kyler and Sylvia said...

Thanks for your transparency, Jenna. This is why I started reading your blog four years ago.

Only now, your writing has improved 10x.


February 28, 2015 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Sam I Am...... said...

Wow can you write! I was glued to your post and I have to admit I find "real" life so much more fascinating than anything anyone can make up. But that's just me! LOL!
I'm sorry for what you've been going through and if I was there I would lend a hand. You are so brave and courageous and it is so nice to meet such a strong woman. Your attitude is half the battle and at 66 I can tell you that for a fact. You go girl! thank you for sharing your life with's awesome!

February 28, 2015 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Natalie Matos said...

*hugs* to you, you're my inspiration to have my own place someday with my husband, and every chance I get I'm telling someone about this amazing girl my age with a farm and if she can do it, then so can we. Thank you for sharing the good and bad and making it real

March 3, 2015 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

"I choose Godess! Hear me howl!"

I am writing that down and I am going to look at it everytime I have an awful moment. We all have them, Jenna. We don't all have someone to help. Some people give up, but you are truly an inspiration. Thank you for that. Take it all one step at a time and you will definitely look back in a few years and see how far you have come. This is sooooo much better than looking back in a few years and regretting never taking that chance.

March 5, 2015 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Perhaps it would be helpful to have a "community day" at your farm. A little off subject but it may help to get some assistance from people who want to learn about your farm. A good work day could 1) help clear a larger garden 2) plant the garden 3) chop wood for drying. That way you could have more time for generating income. Work days are a plan for my property to harness family and friend assistance to tackle a bunch of tasks this spring. And of course I will assist them reciprocally.

March 9, 2015 at 8:47 AM  

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