Saturday, August 8, 2015

Protecting Yesterday: A Call for Stories!

Good morning from my second cup of coffee and second record on the turntable. It's Saturday morning and I am done with the chores and getting ready for a proper weekend, which means less office time and more outside time. Today that means a jaunt to the post office and A&J Farm supply in Salem. Still, sounds pretty good from my mug of heavy cream and caffeine here in the farmhouse. Lovely, this.

I'm excited for the day. There is nothing of import planned, but I'm still excited. I know the day started with sunlight, animals, music and some lofty goals. All that is ahead of me is enjoying the trying, which has always been my favorite fuel. Some people run their days on a sense of duty, or anger, or passive participation - but I opt for the higher octane, hope. I'm a big fan of what could be. It burns cleaner than what has been.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. How many of us are in situations - be it physical circumstances (like homes and jobs) or emotional circumstances (like depression, anxiety, bad relationships) - because we're protecting yesterday? The psychology of prior investment is a dangerous thing and the number one killer of Barnheart. If you put the last ten years into one career, one home, one life every day of that ten years was another dollar in the bank based on that choice. Add if up and suddenly most of who you are is that set of circumstances. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but it is crushing if you aren't where you want to be and feel you've put in too much time into another life. You can't get excited about today, much less tomorrow, when all of your energy goes into protecting yesterday.

One of the greatest things about starting this blog was hearing from others who had the courage to let Yesterday go. I got a comment from Alyssa that brought me to tears last night on Sara's Law:

...Jenna, Just thought I'd pipe in. Back in 2009, we owned a Suburban Chicago house on a postage stamp lot, and it was there that I lived vicariously through you. I dreamed of having my own wood stove, my own horse... something more than our little square-box garden. In the Winter of 2010, we decided to up and move to New Hampshire sight unseen (I quit my job, yikes! My husband transferred with his company to give us some stability.) No family, no friends... Nothing, except for our two dogs and a hankering to renovate an old house and *finally* get some horses. In 2011, we closed on an former dairy farm built in the 1800s and quickly added two horses to our 'family' - a draft cross (riding, for me!) and a Haflinger (riding, driving and farm work, for my husband.) It's been a blast... lots of work, but a total blast. My husband now shows the Haflinger in farm shows, and we take trail riding vacations with them. I could never imagine returning to an office, working from 8-6...

I got really emotional reading that, because her story is my story. It's so many peoples' stories. But every once in a while someone comes out and says "I DID IT" and the fact  CAF was a small part in making that happen is the kind of fuel enhancing goo I need. It's the extra stuff that keeps me seeking out new music, adding miles to my runs, not giving up on this place even though I get messages all the time telling me to quit. I'm not quitting because this little blog had a small part in getting a couple from Chicago to ridding across New Hampshire on a pair of horses. Alyssa and her man chose to stop protecting yesterday. They released their grip on the life they worked so hard to build and realized that claw marks on regret are not as pretty as hoofprints in the dirt.

So I am calling for stories. If any of you out there made the big and brave leap to a farm life, even though that meant risks and fear - share your story here. For every person that comments there are hundreds who don't and may need the proof on screen that others are doing this, too. Take a few minutes and tell your tale of making homesteading or farming your new reality. If you are in a a slower, more controlled and less risky form of making a change - share that, too! Anyone working towards their better circumstances - please add your story here in the comments.


Blogger Christee said...

Since becoming acquainted with your blog in 2011 I changed my "career" goal from nursing to urban horticulture. This past May I graduated, with high distinction, with an Associates degree in Urban Horticulture Greenhouse and Nursery Management from our community college.
I also work at the college as the greenhouse manager and plan to own and operate my farm, market, and cafe in the next five years. Our little family is on a dirty and bumpy road to paying off a sizable debt and then purchasing our farm/ranch.
We currently have chickens, ducks, goats,a horse, and 2 herd trained Australian Shepherds. In 2011 I simply came home with 5 chicks much to my husbands surprise and have been adding to them ever since. We think that the goats should be kidding in the next few weeks and are looking forward to another year of kids. I am a self-taught miller and cheese maker too!. Like you, I simply cannot imagine life without a horse now that I have had the extreme pleasure and heartbreak the beasts bring. I just had to put down my 26 year old mare this past June due to becoming completely blind in both eyes. I have learned how to process chickens and rabbits for meat and will be taking a livestock processing class this Fall. We also plan to add cattle to the mix a little further down the line.
That is a little about my journey that I walk everyday and still love!
Handbasket Farm

August 8, 2015 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Bobbie Brown said...


I realized that I too had a Barnheart when I stumbled across your book in 2012. I had already ready "Made from Scratch" and was hooked on your dreams and where they would take you. So, I have been "along for the ride" and most inspired by you. I started my "journey" in Lexington, Ky while still married, with a bad relationship I couldn't see how to really leave. My reasons for staying were few but, they kept me there, none-the-less. During that time, we lived in a Home Owner's Association (HOA) neighborhood with a tiny yard, large house and neighbors literally 6 - 8 feet apart. This HOA was so strict that you had to get permission to plant a tree or remove original planting...ridiculous. I decided to buck authority and build an 8' x 4' raised bed and grew completely organic veggies for 3 years with much success. Naturally, this only fueled my desire for more!
This past February (2015), I found had enough of my soured marriage and packed up everything and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. My two younger daughters had been begging me to move out here for a very long time. They were living in a nice duplex with ZERO yard. Out here, many folks do the zeriscaping thing, that is where their yards all covered with landscaping rocks! Can you imagine?? No grass! I didn't let that stop me though, I gathered every pot I could find and started a little garden on their back deck in May. To this day, we are still taking lettuce cuttings from those same pots. The lease was expiring at the end of July and we had discussed moving to a larger place with a yard for my 6 year old grandson. Even though we had started the house hunting process in April, as of mid June, we had still not found a suitable location. The last week of June, some good friends of one of my daughters, texted me to see how our search was going. When I told her that we had yet to find anything, she asked if we would be interested in renting their home with option to buy! Are you kidding me??? Of course we are interested. This place is almost perfect. It is still in a suburban neighborhood but, no HOA, it has a huge back yard with a privacy fence and the back yard has an upper tier that is the absolute perfect size for my dwarf fruit orchard, grape and blackberry vines, and all the veggies I could ever want!Oh, and I have a woodstove!!! I am told that we can't have chickens or goats but, I plan to try and change that soon. So, while I may not be ready to dive in head first into full fledged farming, I do want to be a homesteader and this new place offers nearly everything my heart has been longing for to make that dream come true. I can't begin to thank you enough for your inspiration. Even at age 50, I still think I can do this...all because of you Jenna. So, PLEASE never let bumps in the road discourage you. You are amazing and I just think you are the bee's knees!

Bobbie Brown
Colorado Natural Nana

August 8, 2015 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Christee and Bobbie, these are amazing! thank you for sharing and congrats!

August 8, 2015 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

It's always interesting to look back at the road that led to where I'm standing now. I grew up in a town that was, and still is, a weird cross between suburbia and highly specialized agriculture (cranberry bogs), but in a family with farming background on both sides. I tried to be smart financially and when I bought my first house it was a three decker in a small city. It paid its own mortgage renting the top two floors but it left me claustrophobic as hell, and being a landlord sucked. Happily I had always been horse-crazy and was able to board my horse just one town over, that was my escape. That and a few house plants. After a few years I knew I wanted to keep my horses at home, so I sold my city "investment" house and bought a house and barn on 3/4 of an acre, back in the town I grew up in. Put in a vegetable garden, connected with a local organic farm, and started reading more and more about our food system. My childhood dreams of a horse farm slowly morphed into more, but I didn't dare put it into words yet. I was priced out of more land where I was, and was seriously considering moving south, to KY or SC horse country, where I have friends, just to be able to afford a few acres. Then one fortuitous day I was surfing, looking at horses for sale and horse wanted ads, killing time. I clicked over to the real estate section, where I had never been before. There was an ad that read "gutted colonial on sixty plus acres" with a price I thought had to be wrong. I emailed anyway, and four months later it was mine. The cleared land was so overgrown you couldn't even walk around the house. Debris from the gutting of the house was piled everywhere, toilet and pink bathtub included. The house floors were an inch deep in pigeon shit. I spent the first six months living in a camper behind it, and the five years since then living in a studio apartment built into the garage. Five acres of land has been cleared, and I have my horses with a three-stall shed row barn ($900 craigslist special, re-roofed and one stall added on), three coops to house my 80 bird laying flock, and portable pens that house the several hundred meat chickens and turkeys I raise and sell, doubling/tripling every year. I still work the full-time job, but am fortunate in that it is one that I enjoy. I aspire to being only a farmer but am not ready yet. I will eventually finish the main house, maybe as a B&B, as the huge Brimfield antiques fair is just two towns away and hotels sell out. The work is hard but the possibilities are endless, and the rewards are too myriad to list, even if financial is not one of them.

Shameless self-promotion - if anyone would care to "like" my FB page Hamletgrove Pastured Poultry, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you!


August 8, 2015 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Darcie, I adore you. Hope to see you again soon.

Also, feel free to promote whatever you want guys! Post your blogs!

August 8, 2015 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Robin Follette said...

Thank you for giving us this opportunity!

My husband received a random phone during supper one night. Would he be interested in a job in the poorest section of New England? He worked for a university and I was in county government. Our quality of life didn't match our great pay and benefits. Three months after the phone call we were living in a town of 900 residents, and I knew we'd never leave our new little town. We did leave. We learned more skills, adopted abused horses, and outgrew our 2/3's acre in town. We're now on 45 acres of forest in the middle of nowhere, population 65. I traded heels and suits for jeans and boots and not once, not for one second, had any regrets.

Through hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening and raising pigs, chickens and ducks, I put 90% of our food on the table. I barter pastured pork and chicken for pastured beef. My freelance writing gives us a few extras here and there. I could not be dragged back to city life. We left 26 years ago, and each time we're there to do some shopping we can't do here, I'm reminded of why we live in the woods.

Hunt Fish Garden Gather Write

August 8, 2015 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Kendra said...

Jenna, you are an inspriation to many! My story starts much the same way as many - lived in a town house with a hoa and stuck in a bad marriage until about 5 years ago. Thought I'd get started on my dream when I moved to Colorado in what turned out to be another poor relationship choice. While I was out there though I learned the joys of keeping chickens and fortunately had a rental that allowed me to grow a large garden (that grew larger every year we were there). When things went sour with the relationship though, I had to leave the beginnings of that dream behind and moved back to suburbia for a couple years to get back on my feet. The dream however never died. I was lucky enough to work with some very awesome people in Colorado and now I have a second chance to make my dream live again. I have spent this summer finding a place to live back in Colorado (I really love the mountains and never want to leave them again) I am going to be out in the country again and will have another chance to start a garden and raise chickens. Who knows.....maybe one day I may even get a goat or some sheep! Ultimately I plan on buying my own property and starting a market garden. There are many CSAs out here and I plan on volunteering at any that will have me so I can learn the ropes of market gardening. I have learned that dreams only come true if you take steps to making them happen! So I'm just gonna keep on taking one step at a time and I know my dreams will become reality! Thank you so much for sharing your dreams with the rest of us. It always helps to have positive role models to look up to!

August 8, 2015 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Wendy Wyatt said...

I grew up wanting to be a forest ranger. I went to college for forestry and had a couple of jobs with the forest service. Then I went back to college and studied food science. I spent a couple of years working in a major food company's food technology lab where we invented foods for cans and boxes. I was disillusioned with the world. I did not like working for corporations. I quit and moved to Vermont. I spent a year and a half living out of my VW bug, but found a farm to work on for the winter. Then I decided to find a cabin in the woods and settle down. I spent 6 years at the cabin. I had chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits and a big garden. I canned hundreds of jars of food a year and took my butchered chickens and some of the fruits and vegetables to a freezer locker in town. I spent much of the time working as a chef at an inn. After 4 years at the cabin, I had my daughter. When she was 2, I went back to college again. This time I studied social ecology. The background story to my whole life was that I was not physically well. I got diagnosed with one autoimmune disease after another. While in college the first time, I found out I had rheumatoid arthritis. The last time, I was diagnosed with lupus. Soon after I graduated, I ended up on disability. I still wanted to farm and be a homesteader! I moved to 10 acres with an underground house. Over the years, I slowly but surely bought the place. Thanks to Voc-Rehab helping me with the physical challenges, I began a CSA farm. I did that almost 2 decades, along with all of my homesteading stuff. It was a great place for my daughter to grow up :-) She was unschooled. We took in many WWOOF'ers for years. Then I got diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and soon, myasthenia gravis. I became too disabled to do much. My daughter had grown up and I decided it was time to give up the farm and do something else. We moved on. She's married and has kids. She has her own raised beds, a chicken palace, does canning and all those things I never thought she would continue :-) I am very, very grateful that I followed my dreams as a young person and physically did what I could when my body still worked. If I had waited for "someday", I would never have gotten to live my dreams. Now I am old and disabled and live in a senior apartment building. I do not regret my choices when I was younger. Thank goodness I lived life as fully as I could at each point. Please, never put off your dreams. DO IT NOW!

August 8, 2015 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Heather Knoll said...

I'm at the halfway point, straddling two worlds but so close to the dream I can taste it. My partner & I spent five years looking for our dream farm & found it in 2011. Two and a half acres of 100+ year old Gravenstein apple trees (part of the heritage of our community here in Sebastopol, Ca). These trees are quickly disappearing & being replaced by vineyards in our town, and we are grateful to tend them. We started right away planting food & flower gardens around them, creating food forests. We got two noisy punk geese and a whole lot of ducks. I'm excited to add meat rabbits & chickens in the next couple years, and thanks to your blog I've seriously starting thinking about a pig (doesn't apple-fattened pig sound good??). I'm scheming about how to do a goat co-op with neighbors so we can share the daily milking routine. I'm still working a full time job off the farm but finally this year I've made the first steps out of just dreaming of making some income from the farm to actually trying it out. I started a mini CSA for a few friends to test the water, I've finally started selling my creations (jewelry etc. online), & I'm learning new skills that will allow me to work from home & spend more time on the land. It feels great to take those first steps from dreaming to doing. Thanks for sharing your story Jenna! The ups & downs inspire and keep me believing in the possibilities. I find I'll be reading your blog & think "why am I on a computer right now? I'm going outside..."


August 8, 2015 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Wendy Wyatt, I know what myasthenia gravis is and I bow to you for staying upbeat in the face of it, and for not letting your other physical challenges restrict you. No wonder you so inspired your daughter. Best Wishes.


August 8, 2015 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Jenna, I've had Barnheart for an awful long time now. I found your blog last year through a "best farm blogs" google search. I was very inspired by your life and writing and felt that sort of weird kinship you can only feel for random people on the internet afflicted by the same malady as you.

My ultimate goal is to have a small diversified family farm. I'm not there yet, but like you, I am excited about this day. I'm excited about what will be. I'm excited to spend time reading from my growing farm library about soil fertility, market gardening, goats, rabbits, and horses. I'm excited to tend to the little garden in our little yard and play with the American Chinchilla babies that are going to be eatin size in couple weeks. Right now I'm trying to make the most out of working full time at a job that's really not so bad while my partner finishes grad school. At least we are fortunate enough to rent a small house with a yard that can hold a little garden. We applied for chickens, but got denied on a technicality.So we decided to get rabbits instead. There are almost always alternatives! When we figure out how to fix my old clunker car I want to spend some time visiting and volunteering at the many local organic farming operations.

But I want a farm of my own and I will make it happen! We are making it happen. Slowly. We live in the Pacific NW where land is getting awfully expensive and my hopes of getting a farm of my own in my home state are dwindling. But I am very excited that my partner and I are going to spend two and half weeks this September exploring New England, Upstate New York, the Smoky Mountains and whatever sits in between. My hope is that we'll find a place that speaks to both of us. And is affordable. Affordable with good vibes, basically. The great thing about not owning land right now is that all of the possibilities are open to us--well, financially restricted ones, of course. But they're still there! And I am completely open to all options and am lucky to have a partner willing to join me in my farming dream. Will we end up in Maine, West Virginia, Tennessee or back in Oregon? Who knows! But I am confident that the future is out there and we will make it happen.

Anyhow, we may not be on the farm yet, but the decision has been made. We will take the " big and brave leap to a farm life", but it's a bit of a long leap. We jumped, but it may take a couple years to land. For now, I am happy with the garden, the rabbits, and horsey visits.

Oh and thanks for not minding a little shamelss self promotion. One thing you really inspired me to do was start a blog on my experience trying to start the farm dream as student loan debtor:

Anyhow, it's so great to hear these inspiring stories! Thanks, Jenna!

Rosie -

August 8, 2015 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Donna Bolls said...

When I read Barnheart it gave a name to what I'd been feeling all my life. I told my husband I wanted to live on a farm and he said "I'm listening." It's been a couple of years and we now own 13 acres of pasture/woods. I've interned on an alpaca farm where I got plenty of hands on animals experience and learned to prepare fleece for the mill. I've also learned to spin, weave and knit. We're taking the slow route. We're still in our original suburban neighborhood, but I've been raising a small amount of food crops in three raised beds and nooks around the yard. House plans for the farm are almost completed. Once there we will have a few alpacas, chickens and guineas to start. And a garden. Jenna's book is what gave me the guts to be the farm girl I always wanted to be. And it's never too late; I'll be 60 yo in January, but feel like a kid.

August 8, 2015 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

My story is in three parts:
1) I bought a house in 2004, and spent that last half of that year building a hen house. I got chickens in the spring of 2005. Then, wanting a different life (away from the city), in 2006, I sold that house and bought another one on a double lot in a small town. On three sides of that house there was open space so even though I was still in town, it didn’t really feel like it. I began gardening, planting fruit trees, grapes vines, berries, etc. and got more hens. But I was desperate to have goats, but didn’t think it was feasible even with the large yard I had. So, I pined away.
2) While I waited and waited for the day I could have goats, years of my life were passing by. Two things prompted me to take action – 1) a co-worker relayed the story about another co-worker who had just recently been remarried a year after his wife had died. I, along with probably a lot of other people, said “Wow! That was fast.” Clearly my remarried co-worker had heard that response from others, and simply said in response “you only live once, why not be happy and enjoy it?” Just because his wife of many years had died, didn’t mean he had to stop living. Just because he remarried didn’t mean he didn’t love his first wife. Well, I took this to heart – truly. The circumstances might not be perfect, but I wasn’t going to waste any more time waiting. And 2) a friend took me to a house in her neighborhood in Portland, OR, that had urban goats. If they could do it, surely with a yard nearly double a typical city lot, I could do it. So, I came home to my small town, visited city hall, found out all I needed to keep goats in town was a fairly easy to obtain animal permit. Thanks to awesome neighbors who signed the permit giving me the OK to have goats, I found breeders nearby and waiting for kids to be born the next spring. I got two miniature goats, and now make goat cheese, goat milk soap, etc.
3) For 3 years I had a tiny farm of hens, veggies and fruit, and goats. I wanted more! But, the downturn in the housing market, and finances meant that I couldn’t quite afford anything more than my double lot until the value of my house improved. Then a unique opportunity came along. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but maybe it would work. So, in February of this year, I rented out my house on the double lot, and moved with all my animals to a small (and I mean small) apartment attached to a main house on 5 acres in the country. My goats now roam a large pasture, they have a large stall in a red barn, my hens joined a larger flock and provide a dozen eggs a day, and I am able to save money to put towards a house on couple acres in the next year or so. Like I said, it’s not perfect, it’s not my own property, but it is temporary. I miss having a garden, but I am still making goat milk soap and cheese, and I still have hens. And hopefully, in the next year I’ll either find the perfect small farm or maybe have the chance to build one from scratch! It’s been a series of steps, not always easy, or fast, or perfect, but I only have one life. I will keep waiting because before you know it life will come to an end. I want to know that I have done everything possible to make my farm dreams come true.

August 8, 2015 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

After a layoff in NYC, I spent a year apprenticing on 2 farms in the Deep South where I'm originally from. I was a decade older than my fellow apprentices and at least 5 years older than the young farmers teaching me everything they knew about organic growing, retail & wholesale sales, and CSAs. I loved being outside, the physicality of the work, the semi-solitude, the ever-present learning curve.

I did another 3-year tour of duty in NYC before finally making a break for it. By that time I'd gone through a painful family death and turned 40, both of which had a lot to do with deciding, after a lifetime of being pleasing, that I no longer gave a damn what other people expected, wanted, or said. Putting down that burden gave me the energy and clarity of mind to understand what I wanted for myself -- a homestead in the mountains.

It was a close call, but I chose KY over VT mostly due to land prices, climate and proximity to parents I'll need to care for in the coming years. It still feels right. The land is glorious here, and recent blizzards and torrential rains aside, the weather temperate. Currently I'm in Old Louisville where I share a substantial backyard garden and listen to yardbirds 3 houses down while drinking my morning coffee. I grow additional food on a deck, have a KY pig and a GA cow in a chest freezer down in the basement, take the bus or walk 2 miles to work exactly 40 hours a week (my job is no longer my life), and take property scouting trips regularly my dog Luverne (how did I live my entire adult life without a dog?!).

Life is really good, and I'm confident it'll get even better. I figure I'm 2-3 years away from transferring into a work-at-home position and buying acreage between here and Berea. With spring water and southern slopes, I'm planning a homestead modeled on the wonderful Susana Lein's Salamander Springs (, a farm she started in her late 30s. I'll be older than Susana was when she started, but then I'll be older in 3 years regardless. I'd rather be older and living a life I love, than older and wondering "if only..."

August 8, 2015 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

These are so touching to read. Thank you, all.

August 8, 2015 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Dana "Aurora" Johnson said...

Loving these stories!

It was your story (and Foxfeather's) that inspired me to pursue homesteading, but really the seeds have been growing within me for many years as I grew up in the country and did a lot of homesteading activities with my mom without realizing that's what I was doing. It was natural.

Now I've got a five year plan toward a farm of my own. I'm adding new skills one by one - growing food, cooking food, raising animals, and learning everything I can about how to achieve my goals. I moved back home this summer to Minnesota to help my family while my mom undergoes cancer treatments, but also to start putting down roots and practicing for the future. I'm going to make sure my mom has the chickens in a back yard coop like she's wanted her whole life. She's always dreamed of a hobby farm and always held back. I'm going to live that dream and help her live it too, for as long as possible.

August 9, 2015 at 12:55 AM  
Blogger Kelsey Ward said...

Hi Jenna,

I'm Kelsey and 25 and I grew up on a farm and my family still runs it today in Muskoka area, Canada. It was rich with animals and my mother is an avid saver of food (canning anything not nailed to the floor). I love the taste of good food and after four years of university (my final theses being on draft horses in Victorian Scotland and England) I came back home and trained our half Clydesdale half riding horse, Stan to let me carry him around. my War horse! At last! He was a clumsy war horse but it was one of the most eye opening experience of my life, made warmer because my Grandfather(a log driver as a young man) and father taught me how to better handle him. But small town was strangling me and I sadly left Stan-the Man ended up travelling/moving to the Highlands of SS for two years (I'm here now!!!) I've followed your blog for the last two years and its one of my all time favourites, and every time I see one of your workshops I want to jump right in. I miss my horse dearly but there are other parts of my life that have flourished because of my decision. I've been a writer since I was little (fantasy is my bag, of all shapes and sizes) and following you inspires me to keep on with my own dream, even if they are not too barnhearty. So I've been Writing and writing story after story and some day I plan on publishing!

You are an amazing person and I hope you keep your dream going!

Thank you so much and please keep telling your story!

Kelsey :)

OH! and you inspired me to buy my first Bow/arrows. I love it. I'm getting another and its my favourite outdoor hobby after writing.

August 9, 2015 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

Hey right when I got home, I found this slow money invite to Carbaondale, CO in my email. Carbondale is just down the road in the valley from Aspen.

Now, a person may need to take out a KIVA loan just to attend (fast money) in order to get (SLOW) money. May be worth it, for those who are responding with their stories.....

Also, I want to share with you and your readers, there is a free bus service all over the 'Valley', there is a hostel in Aspen, shared room for $60 bucks. NICE. Worth it. Breakfast (yuck, didn't even take it), coffee (yum), comp wine at 4 pm, and a POOL. A POOL heated to 95 degree. Quiet hours after 10 pm. Umm. I think it may have been better than a hotel. (maybe not, but pretty dern close)

(As for me today, I am looking for a job. A 9-6 job. or someone needs to hire me as a writer. I still have barnheart, but it is delayed.) AND I need to work at finding a job, not writing here, because this is so much fun, but your readers aren't paying me! haha. lol. ;)

August 9, 2015 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 9, 2015 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger wild rose said...

Hello Jenna,

I came down with barnheart in my mid twenties. My partner and I decided to move to an old log cabin in Kentucky that his parents owned. No running water indoors but fairly close to a city and in a lovely part of the state. We lived there 5 years and I learned that there is more to homesteading than wishful thinking.

4 kids and 2 moves later we are still in semi-rural Kentucky, living on 17 acres near a beautiful stream with beavers, river otter, coyotes and hawks all nearby. I planted my first "real" garden this year and can't wait to taste our homegrown watermelons! We are making plans for either chickens or rabbits in the near future, and our oldest son wants to learn to hunt.

Thanks to a recent post by you where you talked about Merlin and about becoming the woman you wanted to be (I'm paraphrasing because I can't find the link), I finally called the horse farm down the road and now I'm helping out in exchange for riding and training lessons. I couldn't be more excited, as I've loved riding since I was a kid! Thank you for being a positive example of following your dream, and best wishes to you and all of your readers with similar love for animals, farming and the country life!


August 10, 2015 at 2:31 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

About 10 years ago I was living in the city, hating my office job and thinking about what my dream career might look like. I had recently become addicted to knitting, so my first thought was wouldn't it be great to get paid to knit? But then I started taking the idea farther. I was mildly allergic to wool back then, so most of my knitting was with alpaca. On a whim, I decided to visit a nearby farm. I was hooked, and hooked good. I started dreaming of a fiber farm that very day, and within the year had visited every alpaca farm within a 3-hour drive. I became friends with 2 of those farmers, and spent lots of time on their farms, learning how to give shots, trim toenails, skirt fleece, and all the other aspects of alpaca care. I went to alpaca shows and fiber festivals. I learned how to spin. In 2009 I came across your blog and books, and like Donna said above, it gave a name to this feeling I'd had for several years. I found myself saying "yes, yes!" and nodding while I read.

As I got more and more addicted to all things fiber, I expanded my dream to include conservation breeding of endangered sheep. I read pretty much every farm memoir on the market, plus countless blogs, magazine articles, and homesteading books. I told my husband I wanted to leave the city as soon as possible. He wanted to wait for retirement. Meanwhile, I took the Farm Beginnings course through Land Stewardship Project to get very clear about my goals and vision, and to learn about holistic farm management. The output of the course was a concrete farm plan/business proposal. My husband still didn't feel ready, but as luck would have it, his mom was retiring and thinking of moving away from the farm on which he grew up. Neither of them wanted to sell the property, but knew she couldn't take care of it by herself anymore. So we sold our house in the city and moved into his childhood home in rural WI. I spent many months cleaning out 20 years of junk from the barn and almost exactly one year later, I bought 4 British soay ewes and finally became a farmer! A month later, 7 alpacas showed up.

I have now been farming for one year. I still have my day job, but my boss is awesome and lets me work from home. I'm itching to be a full-time farmer, but I can't afford that yet. There were no animals on this land for 20 years, so I need to rebuild the health and fertility of the pasture, put up cross-fencing, repair the chicken coop, and do other general maintenance and infrastructure building.

But in just one year, my 4 ewes became 10, 2 alpaca babies were born last month, and a stray cat made the barn his home. My commuting time is now spent mucking out pens and tossing hay, my sanity breaks are spent watching contented animals graze, my "gym" is hauling water and pulling thistles and putting up hay, my meditation practice is scooping manure. My first wool clip sold the day I offered it for sale (I'm still processing my alpaca fiber), and I just designed my first sweater pattern. Next year, I plan to add Ancona and Magpie ducks and hopefully a guard donkey. I'm even thinking of meat rabbits.

It hasn't been easy. I still know so little. I am only now starting to make friends where I live. I know very few non-food farmers. But I love everything about this farming life I chose. Even when they're the source of frustration or stress, my animals are such a balm to my soul. Nothing makes me feel more grounded, more connected to nature and the earth and the seasons, than the daily rhythm of livestock care. I can't describe the joy and satisfaction in a previously skittish sheep seeking neck scratches or watching the prematurely-born cria you at first took for dead bound through the pasture after her favorite playmate on such strong legs.

But I don't need to tell you any of that! I know you get it, my Barnhearted soul sister. :)

August 10, 2015 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Rain Parker said...

I weighed 280 pounds the first time I read Barnheart over my holiday break from teaching in 2011. My wife (well, she was my girlfriend then) and I had bailed on the city exactly one year before and were renting a farm and trying our hand at homesteading. We did it because I weighed 300 pounds, she weighed 220, we were far from happy, and nothing we were doing in that city made any darn sense to either one of us. We had had dreams of chickens, rabbits, goats, gardens, foraging, making bows and hunting. Of living off grid, preserving our own food, of seeing the inside of a smoke house, of eating meat we raised and processed ourselves.

People ask me all the time now, “How did you just…. go?” I just went because I couldn’t NOT go. I literally couldn’t sleep at night for thoughts of how different my life could be. When my primary care doctor looked at me and told me I was pre-diabetic, had insanely high blood pressure and cholesterol, and that I was not menstruating due to my morbid obesity – I felt like I HAD to go to save my own life. I was 30 years old.

Fast forward a four years, and you can now find my weight equating 3 feed sacks, not 6. And my wife and I are the proud owners of Eight Owls Farmstead in the mountains outside of Brevard, NC. Eight Owls is an intentional semi off grid community where we focus on organically grown education and farm based experiences. We share our story with folks of how we lost a collective 220+ pounds homesteading and eating organic. We hope we inspire folks to try to make some of the changes we made to find a happier and healthier path.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve read Barnheart. So much of it resonated with me in the beginning and it still does–I just reread it again last week. I was a graphic designer as well, and have a deeply rooted understanding of how sitting behind a computer all day selling things to folks that they don’t really need can drive you to farm!! I still teach graphic design part time at our local college and have been for the five years we’ve been homesteading–but I do dream of not doing that one day, hopefully one day very soon. Your books give me a lot of hope that that can be a thing that happens one day as well.

You are doing amazing work, amazing things. Keep up the wonderful work you are doing up there with farm based education. It counts, in such a big way. If you want to see a before and after picture of fat us versus farm us ;) - here it is:

Rain Parker
Owner, Eight Owls Farmstead
“Small changes change our world, striving to inspire the change we want to see.”

August 12, 2015 at 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if it'll ever happen for me.

It's what I've wanted, passionately, for many, many years...

But my husband's career didn't allow for it, and I was and am not making enough myself to make it happen.

Now that we're nearing retirement- he's keen now... but I have some chronic health problems that may make it less than practical.

Timing has really been my enemy in trying to have what I want during my whole adult life.

We may still do it, and I am trying to get healthier- and I hope we can make it work, to some degree.

August 18, 2015 at 1:25 AM  

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