Sunday, May 31, 2009

collateral damage

The rain fell off and on all day. Generally things were gloomy. However, it seems the only animal on the farm who felt that way was me. The overcast sky and occasional shower seemed to invigorate the livestock. The sheep are jubilant out in the cool wet pasture. No flies in their faces and their new wool coming in seems to keep them weather-proof. They saunter around the wet, windy, field like rock stars while the waterfowl spread their wings into the raindrops. The chickens weren't as thrilled about the precipitation, but psyched for the rain-fresh worms that squirmed along the fenceline of the garden.

I spent the morning weeding and planting my sunflowers, which I grow mainly to brighten up the cabin and office or give as gifts. Those flowers make me happy. Right now the striped seeds are resting in a bed of mulch enriched by my rabbits' and birds' old meals. In a few weeks I'll have those high-summer yellow lions in vases. I can't wait. Sunflowers mean we're that much closer to fall.

Between spurts of weeding and planting—I came inside to bake while the rain made the former too much effort. The cabin smelled of baking bread and homemade pizza when I walked in from chopping firewood or adjusting the goat pen. The work seems endless here (and it is) but it flows through my day as normal as commuting to work does. It's a mean to a common goal.

Not everything is faultless here. I paint a picture of perfection, but only because I ignore the things that make this so hard. I attempt to cheat hardship by ignorance. But know my body is always sore and sometimes I feel like I'm the most tired 26-year-old in America. I have to get up before 5 most mornings, and sometimes I don't come inside for dinner till dark. When I go into the shower at the end of my long day I find I'm covered in bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, bites and bad tan lines. I'm currently adorned in scars from roosters, a bite mark from a rabbit, and a pinch-bruise from a pissy bull goose right on my stomach. Cold Antler, as humble as it is, is a full time job. And it shares a life with a person already working a full time job. It's hard. Consider that fair warning to anyone out there living vicariously through me...

But I feel the same way about this dark side of homesteading as I do about learning an instrument. You pick up a guitar for the first time and it sucks. You're not good, and it sounds it. Your fingers throb from the steel strings. Your neck gets cramped from holding your shoulders in a new way. You get angry and frustrated learning so slowly. But at the end of it all, you know there is the possibility of music. You've seen it before, and know the appreciation it can render. So you shrug off the pain, forget the bad things, and keep at it. Which is what I do with every scar and sore arm. Collateral damage.


Blogger Tara said...

That's the truth, sister! Thanks for mentioning that part. I always feel like a whiner when I talk about the difficult bits. Most people seem to fall into two camps: those who think it's idyllic all the time, and those who think it's drudgery all the time. Like anything else one might undertake, it's both.

May 31, 2009 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Carol Murdock said... are to be admired for your spirit girl! A farm is work, but at the end of the day, it's what makes the good life work.
I would not trade it for anything!

May 31, 2009 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger onlythejodi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 31, 2009 at 7:10 PM  
Anonymous jodi @ onlythejodi said...

Thanks for your honesty. You have inspired me however and I'm no spring chicken. I've started slowly, volunteering on a farm/school up in Brewster NY. I had my first day of farm work this past Friday I felt the full meaning of the word "work" when I got home after 8 hours of cleaning stalls and watering livestock.

It's my chance to learn just what the reality of farm work entails.

I checked out two homes in the area. I'm making my moves, slowly, but I'm making them!

May 31, 2009 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger Vermonster said...

I know those extremely tapped out days. Ask me next Sunday as I try to get up the energy to clean house, and prepare everything to come home to Vermont for a visit, after working for 8, yes I said 8 straight days of working. Hopefully, the kid that is out of school for the summer, and the one that will shortly be out, will take pity on me and help out by starting to clean the house.

May 31, 2009 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm there with ya! I have bruises on the back of my leg from an attack rooster, a bunny bite mark on my arm, and my back and hips are aching from bending over weeding/spreading straw. But, I got my first handful of strawberries this weekend so its all good.

May 31, 2009 at 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Lynnanne said...

We're taking care of a friend's place while they're on vacation (chickens, bunnies, garden, etc)... and she's left the strawberry patch to us! Legs are sore from bending (or should I say from standing on our heads) for four hours... but ohhhh those sweet tasting berries make it worth it.

Add to that our two gardens, chickens and a bunny. We've just about got the chicken house ready to rock. The laying boxes need hung, and another window needs cut out.
Seeds are sprouting, plants are taking off.. And after it's all said and done, we'll know we're eating safe foods. After you put the time, energy and effort into it all, it makes it taste / seem all the better.

What is it they say about the journey? Without the failures, there are no successes. :)

May 31, 2009 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger C.J. Keller said...

I grew up on a farm and there was much hardship all the way around. When that way of life is forced on a child, I, like many others, left for college and never looked back. That is, until I was much older and with more wisdom understood better what is to be appreciated, what is to be changed and what is to be accepted.
It's wonderful to view this country life through the eyes of someone who did not have such negative farming experiences as a child and is already equipped with an ever growing adult wisdom in facing the challenges and relishing the rewards.

May 31, 2009 at 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Woodswoman said...

Jenna ~

I see you as a younger version of myself, and smile.

And I'm still here in my later years with sixteen sled dogs/horses/cows/pigs/chickens/rabbits/house dogs and so on.

Blending the beauty of the moment with gut wrenching hard work creates a wonderful outcome that money can't buy. Satisfaction and contentment.

Only those who partake can know the reward.

May 31, 2009 at 11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog because I am one of those who finds life in the country mostly dreary. I miss the city. I hate the outdoors, frankly. It's almost always too cold or too hot, and the heat makes me (literally) sick.

And it's really sad, because most people would think I live in paradise. I have a 30 acre place with a huge house. No mortgage; no job. All I have to do is some housework and outside work. I admit where we live is lovely - trees, meadow, creek, etc., but it's just not enough.

At least when I read your blog I see what it is supposed to feel like. Maybe it's possible for even people like me to adjust.

June 1, 2009 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger nancmcp said...

Your post today makes me want to come over and give you a massage! But I also understand, I think, why you do it.

I lived on a friends' horsebreeding farm off and on for 5 yrs while I was a traveling nurse. Just she and I on 160 acres w/ 20-25 horses. I drove to Indianapolis 3 days/week to work 12 hr shifts, then home to the neverending work of a farm. And I loved it! I had always wanted to live in the country, so I was living my dream. My friends' kept waiting for me to get over it, but I never did.

She got married and moved to the city and I settled in VA for a bit, but I look forward to living/working in the country again.

Your blog reminds me why. Thanks again!

June 1, 2009 at 2:29 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

Several years ago when my daughters were tiny I found myself weeping from the combined exhaustion of having baby twins,I had been lugging wood for the woodburner which at the house we were at then meant going down a flight of garden steps, I had 40 odd cloth nappies hanging to dry so I needed the woodburner to be blasting out & there was also dinner to be made,& countless other things that have blurred into the recesses of my memory now lol!
I sat down & thought crikey if ever I was tempted to whack on the gas central heating,throw the washing in the tumble dryer & get a takeaway that was the time,yet I realised if I did those things I would never learn to cope when things got a bit tough. And since then theres been alot more tough times lol but I plod though the days as best I can & have learnt so much over the past years.

My dad lives with us & is such a great help,it worries me how I will cope when hes no longer either able to do as much as he does now or isnt here to do it anymore,glum thought....

Its a good life we have here,but its very hard work indeed,I am up around 6am & not stopping till dark at the moment,yet I remind myself our days are all in a cycle & soon enough the days will shorten & the jobs that are keeping us on the go here will ease up :o) for a while anyhow lol!
GTM x x

June 1, 2009 at 3:58 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It is hard work, but a fulfilling work.

June 1, 2009 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous amykortuem said...

Hi Jenna. This is a lovely post. You know you're doing fulfilling work when you're sore, tired, shaky, sweaty, scarred up...and incredibly happy at the end of it all!

I saw an ad in our local shopper last week in the discount section for "$5 Goats." I laughed so hard at that. Since I can't have a goat in town, I'll comfort myself by writing a jig for the harp called "The Five-Dollar Goat" and send you the music so you can play it on your fiddle, too!

June 1, 2009 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Beware the five-dollar goat!

Similarly, I always laugh when I see ads for free roosters. There's usually a reason they're giving it away. ;-)

June 1, 2009 at 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Local Nourishment said...

"Here's to the girls on their boards with bruises and scars.
Here's to the girls whose fingers bleed from playing guitar.
Here's to anyone who never quit when things got hard.
You'll never let them say,'You'll never get that far.'"
Superchic[k] "Anthem"

You reminded me of this great song my daughters love. You are getting great experience for being a parent. It, too, is mind-numbing, body aching, never ending work. And there's physical danger too: my one-year-old son headbutted me in the face and broke my nose!

Still, it's amazing what you learn about yourself when challenged to the max by hard work.

June 1, 2009 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger June said...

Lives full of meaning create calluses and bruises and exhaustion and wisdom. Keep with it. I know how it feels to survey the day's damage in the shower (and mine are nothing compared to yours). But the world needs the wisdom of hard work, never more than now.

June 1, 2009 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Little Ant said...

So true that when we relate our experiences to others we tend to leave out the reality that it is not always the rosy picture we paint. I find myself doing the same and then wonder to myself if homesteading is my destiny or not. It doesn't last long and I come to the realization that all dreams are imperfect. If it was rainbows and butterflies 24/7 then everyone would want to pursue my dream.

June 1, 2009 at 5:21 PM  
Anonymous mishelle said...

Jenna your energy and determination are mind-blowing! Am really enjoying your book and plugged it on my own blog, fyi:
thanks for the great inspiration. i'm also feeling the reality-check in sore muscles, bug bites, and regular poison ivy, but i don't have a full-time job to completely exhaust me. I am in awe, what a woman!

June 1, 2009 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Once upon a time I got the crap beat out of me including multiple bite bruises by a flock of pissy gooses :)

Great post Jenna. Thanks so much for sharing.

June 1, 2009 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

i'm glad you did take the time to post the reality of it. It would be easy to romanticize and not remember that "good things always come with a bit of sweat and tears"

June 1, 2009 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...


June 1, 2009 at 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

No rain, no rainbows!!!!! At the end of the day my whole body hurts, but when I look at all the things I've accomplished in the yard, I smile and realize that this is where I want to be. AND that I'm one step closer to where I'd ultimatly like to be. I look at the landscape around me, and its all so beautiful. Thats when I realize that the pain and scars are DEFINITELY worth it!!!!

June 1, 2009 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

I think it's so important that you wrote this. I think those of us that love the outdoors and living off the land, but have yet to live our full dream tend to romantacize the way our lives would be. I know I'm guilty of this. I think realizing and accepting the costs of doing for yourself is the greatest favors we can do for ourselves - and then realize at the end that it's all worth it!

June 2, 2009 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Kathi M said...

..and there comes that moment, brief though it may be, when you can slowly straighten up, hands curled, tired, but beaming. You are free. The sky is crisp blue, there is a short breeze through the trees, and all this work - all of this at your feet - is there because of your contribution. You set the "agenda". And you reap the rewards. You work...for yourself and your furry family. Thanks for the reminder.

June 2, 2009 at 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

I came by here by way of your book, which I found at the local library! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I'm glad to read that you got your sheep. I have two backyard chickens who live in an Eglu.

June 2, 2009 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

So true! It's hard work, but fulfilling work. How gratifying to see something you've built with your own hands blossom.

June 3, 2009 at 11:19 AM  
Anonymous dogear6 said...

Jenna - I can so identify with your sentiments on being so tired and the marks on your body. I am doing urban homesteading, fitting in with neighbors, the full-time job, etc.. It helped to read from you and the comments that it's not just me and somedays are just like that. I found it encouraging to just grin and bear it for another day - days - weeks.

On the other hand, my planters have yielded lettuce and radishes. The sugar snap peas are in bloom. The beets are nearly ready. I'm still eating from the freezer from last year's bounty (should be gone soon). This year's DIY is the raised garden beds, bee-friendly flowers, and vines to cover more of our fence.

June 3, 2009 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Commonweeder said...

Keep at it indeed. That is what we all have to do - even when it isn't easy. Magazines make it all look easy, but we know better.

June 3, 2009 at 3:34 PM  

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