Monday, September 8, 2008

all my armour on

Preparing for Monday mornings is an ordeal. I need to put all my armour on. The coffee pot is loaded, and on the stove ready for me soon as I get up. My outfit for work is picked out, at grasping distance. I set the alarm extra-early (4AM) So I can hit snooze a jillion times before 5. All of this is required to mentally prepare me for the 40-hour corporate work week I truly don't belong in. But I am okay with. Because right now, I do belong there. It's what pays rent, bills, and feeds me and the animals. It might be years, decades, before I can afford to buy a farm and make that my full time job. It makes my stomach turn if I think about that too long. But let's be honest - working for an outdoorcentric company in Vermont is world's away from the same job in downtown Chicago. I am lucky. I know this.

Lucky or not - I still wish my workday was outside, with rams and lambs and a border collies named Knox and Saven. This sometimes tears at me. Am I asking too much when I strive for this rural life? Am I being foolish praying to foresake a comfy 9-5 job so I can work my ass off in the pastures? I don't know. Some people have been telling me to slow down. Not to expect too much. They have my best interests at heart, but their warnings make me lower my ears and run into the wind like Jazz and Annie do when we're mushing in the snow. I'm still finding all this out. I do know I'll happily work more hours, pour buckets of sweat, and come inside so tired I can barely stand if its what I know I should be doing. Farming and writing is the world I am clawing uphill into.

The coffee is perking now. Thank god.

I'm still somewhat tired from the weekend. I drove down to my hometown of Palmerton, PA for the annual festival. which was all but rained out. I still had a nice time. It's a small event with crafts and rides. Local community churches and girlscout troops selling their wares as a giant public fundraiser for dozens of clubs. Sadly, it fell the same weekend as the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. But some priorities still soak in traditional waters. So The dogs and I drive the five hours to my homeland. My kind neighbors watched the farm.

Back in Palmerton, the food and familiar faces were there. My best friend Kevin drove up from Newtown to spend Saturday with the Woginrich's (his favorite thing, ever) and between Kevin (who, by the way, decorated an apple pie with a perfect likeness of Kermit the Frog, and make a human cel inpired pastry) and my family, four dogs, and deep fried twinkies. It was a grand 'ol time. I wish I took a picture of that pie.

Even though Palmerton was a nice break from farm and worklife. I kept wondering about the the chickens and sheep. Were they okay in the storm? Did Katie get them enough water? Did Dean remember to shut the coop's door at night? When you run a small farm, it's impossible not to take your work home with you. I have to go to Boston in two weeks for a book event and while I'm excited to see my friend Erin and her city, I loathe having to prepare. Having to ask the neigbor's to walk up here and care for the animals again, vaccinate the dogs for the kennel, and leave my animals. People do not get into homesteading to up and leave it every two weeks. I am excited and grateful for the book, I don't mean to sound like I'm not. I will happily promote it into the ground. But at the end of the day I just want to work hard and then relax harder, and that happens best where sheep chew grass, fiddles play, maple leaves turn red, and roosters crow.

When I came home to Cold Antler it had recovered from the storm. All the sunflowers that had yet to bloom (I planted them late) were now bursting with yellow from the rain. They seemed to say 'welcome back'. Marvin and Sal bleated a hello (Maude ignored me like usual), the chickens scurried about the yard. Jazz and Annie sat next to the car, waiting for dinner. Everything was fine. I don't know why I worry about them so much. I guess that's just how I'm wired.


Blogger Renee said...

Don't let anyone change your dreams or expectations. You are on the right track and sooner than you know it you will be able to have your farm and do the thing that you want. I find most people want you to slow down and not expect much from your dreams/visions because they either don't have one or they cannot image their coming to pass...either way I think they migth be a little jealous

September 8, 2008 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

I would agree with renee, except that I don't know if jealousy is the driving cause. I think that those people don't want you to get disappointed, they love you and don't want to see you hurt, even by yourself. But I say, go for it!!! What have you got to lose by living smart, saving and dreaming. Dreams are what makes life worth living. As a wanna be homesteader myself with a family, I say get it now, before you have children, because they change everything in good ways, and challenging ways. It will be years before I can claim a homestead myself, and I'm 40. So, go out and grab that brass ring, if you can fund it, it's yours!!

September 8, 2008 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger The Old Man and His Dog said...

The day one gives up on his/her dreams is the day they spiritually die.

Those saying to slow down just don't want to see you hurt if you fail. Failing is part of learning and living and required to succeed.

Succeed my friend!

September 8, 2008 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

I completely understand that feeling of doing what you need to do during the workweek, so you can do what you really love the rest of the time. Those weeks can get really long sometimes, but it must help to know you are doing it to provide for your animals and build your future, even if it isn't the same sort of future some of your friends pictured for you.

September 8, 2008 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can so relate to putting the armour on and getting mentally prepared to give the work world their dues in exchange for the paycheck that lets you buy your freedom to do what you love! I'm doing the same exact thing. Different job, but the same waiting game.
To answer your question, are you asking too much, to strive for your vision of a rural life? Heck, no! No, no, no! I'm hearing the same passion in your voice for this way of life that I feel, and there's thousands of people that share it with us. We're on to something. We are, as Thoreau urged, going confidently in the direction of our dreams, and living the lives we have imagined. Hard work and all. I say, bring it!

September 8, 2008 at 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you have to go to the office job, really sorry, but on the bright side, with the economic realities in the US deing what they are, having the job is just fine, so enjoy that fact for what it is.
My last real job {real hours, real title, high pay, unique skills} was at Du Art Color Corporation in Manhattan where I worked from 1971 until 1974. I walked away from that one even though management begged me to stay {it had been very hard for them to recruit me} and I think I only regretted it for about a total of ten minutes around the mid 1980s. The management and the job and the perqs {union pay, plus got to meet all the famous film directors of the day, on a first name basis} were great, really great, and the job was fabulously simple, in fact I could do it while completely exhausted, it was photographic forensics {examine acetate and emulsion for flaws, say how they were caused} and my mind could be on automatic pilot and all would be well.
But I needed to get on another path and I did that. It was, after all, just a job, even though a very nice one. I never once when very young desired to work in a lab, so I walked.
I did keep that job until I had apprenticed in two other trades with two other masters {I had learned the forensics from a master when I was 12-13 years old} and there is a lesson there: The master/guild concept, or even the more grueling Japanese version {one of the guys was Japanese} which approximates indentured servitude, is needed today. I always try to learn from a master because the tricks of the trade, the right twist of the wrist, the things to skip, the ways not to chop your hand, will save you a decade of very costly mistakes, and thus a decade of your life, and a decade of higher pay.
So, since 1974 I have been self employed, profitably.
Self employment is no bed of roses, but if you have a farm and can work from the farm location, it's a bed of thorns you can learn to sleep on.
Perhaps you can slowly start getting the office people {I may be assuming it is an office, maybe you feed pulp to a mill}to let you do the major part of your jobbie in your comfy home.
Good luck, and freeze yer buns. I hate the cold, the dark, the Winter. Fall just freaks me out because it's like a bomb ticking --soon it will be dark at 4.30 PM ---AARRGGGHHH!
It gets dark about 5.30 PM in the tropics in Winter, which is really like late Spring. We only have late spring to late summer here.
No Fall, no Winter. It's Tropical Wave {storm formation} time right now. So different here, but yet, we have sheep in this town too, and they look very happy right now, it's rainy season and the grass is growing far faster than they can eat it.
Now, having to work, when you are 100% self employed has a major benefit. You can work really hard for X amount of time, and then for another X amount of time, do nothing, or do the other things you needed to earn the money for.
I found that I could often not work for cash for six months at a time {over the last 34 years}and just run down the bank account until it was time to find a client again. I still live like that, except now I work more steadily, but just about 20 hours a week.
In answer to the question, what does one do about retirement, well, that is someone else's preoccupation. I have no retirement savings, but do have some land, and long ago the US government told me I would receive no Social Security from them, but I worry not. Should I become really disabled I will rent myself out as a master to the tradesmen that get all the free instruction from me now. Eventually I'll become a rich compost under a young ironwood tree or two.
As to what is successful and what is not, I {a forensic} would say you are already very successful, and you seem to know it.
Congratulations and keep on with the path.
BTW, for very little money and very little trouble, you can install very cheap, but crisp, remote video cameras on the farm that you can use to observe the flora and fauna in real time on line from anywhere in the world. You can also have a speaker set up and speak to the sheep, the dogs or the chickens.
It messes with their minds I can assure you. They get a really quizzical look when the disembodied voice says "don't chew on that!" Have fun freezin' -- better you than me. Enjoy the fall foliage, my only loss from the cold climes.

September 9, 2008 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

hey RC,

You're right. But the idea of being so far away from my family, and a true Autumn, stings. I had to leave tennessee because it wasn't cold enough in October! But who knows. Maybe someday?

September 16, 2008 at 5:45 AM  

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