Friday, July 10, 2009

a new year, a fresh start

As a birthday present to myself I brought home a small pile of chicks from the feed store. I went into the store planning to just pick up straw and scratch grains but saw that sign posted by the register: Extra Laying Hens: 2.80 each and ended up driving home with a small box of day-old poultry in the front seat. Since I lost so many birds from this fox it felt like a proper present, the thing to do. As I write you five chicks (four Rhode Island Red pullets and one Golden-Laced Wyandotte Rooster) and a Turkey poult (an heirloom breed called the Narragansett, also from Rhode Island) are chirping from the safety of their bathroom brooder box. The chickens are for Cold Antler, but the turkey is for my friend Phil's Thanksgiving (or Christmas, since it is already July) Table. I'd offer the bird to my own family, but that was a disaster last year. (Not everyone wants to meet their meat...)

Tonight I farmed with a rifle by my side and a loaded clip in my pocket. As I mulched and weeded the garden I let the birds out of their confinement for some armed supervision. No sign of the fox in days, but I am ready when he comes. I have a baited Havahart trap set near the coop (which I rented from my neighbor's gas station for a dollar a day) and have been hunting every morning. I go outside at dawn with hot coffee and my .22 and wait. I have no pity for the fool. I'll hang his pelt on my wall.

There was this moment when I was walking out to the garden with a rifle over my right shoulder and two tomato plants in my left hand and I thought to myself: this perfectly sums me up as a woman.

I propped the gun by the garden fence and let Finn out to romp on his tie-out. I watched the birds scratch and hunt worms and salamanders all around me while I cleaned out their coop. It was a back-breaking few hours of pitchforking old crap-lined straw, but the hard work felt good. I've been stressed out all week, and tired as hell. Not getting enough sleep and over-thinking too much. It was good to just dive into grunt work. I am covered in chicken poo and sweat as I check in with you. I am the picture of disgusting. Happy Birthday to me.

This weekend will be packed with things I love. My farm will be front and center, (there is so much to do here) but I have taken off from work Monday for my own mental health and as another small gift to myself. Instead of the office, Finn and I are heading on a local trail for his first-ever pack hike. It'll be short, and his pack empty, but a beginning none the less. (He's already walking on lead up to a mile every day by my side, and has been borrowing Jazz's dog pack as draft-animal training wheels.) I think It'll be fun. I might make him carry a sandwich for me. We'll do lunch. Clearly, I am a very exciting young person. Lunch dates with ruminants...

Tomorrow morning I am getting up early and driving over the mountain to Merck Forest for the Annual NEBCA Open Sheepdog Trials. I am hoping to either help in the pen or by learning to keep score. (In case I end up in the shoot, loading four sheep at a time onto the trial fields...I'll wear my boots) That day will be wonderful, and probably stir up all sorts of longings for my own lamb and wool farm, a dream that keeps me up at night and makes my stomach turn when I think it might not happen... But maybe someday I'll get my farm, and a good border collie or two by my side. That is the hope. I am big on hope. You have no idea.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll hear all about that tomorrow.

Tonight however, I turn 27. I'm covered in mud, sweat, chicken shit and smell like death—but I am happy. Not blissful. It's been a crap week, but happy. Now, I am going to shower like I have never showered before, slice into the watermellon sitting on my counter, tune my fiddle and guitar and light up the porch with as many candles as I can manage. Tonight I will throw myself a birthday concert. The theme: a new year, a fresh start.


Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Happy Birthday to you!! Enjoy your evening festivities. :-)

July 10, 2009 at 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! Thanks for sharing it.


July 10, 2009 at 8:15 PM  
Anonymous dare2 said...

May your next year end with you blissfully happy even while covered in sweat, mud, and chicken shit. Peace and blessings

July 10, 2009 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Happy Birthday!!! I think chickens are the perfect present to yourself. Mine were my mother's day present from my hubby, as I said that was ALL I wanted! I hope you treated yourself well today, and in taking Monday off, I hope you treat yourself extra well on that day, too, in an extended celebration.

July 10, 2009 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Rachel B. said...

Happy Birthday! Good luck with your chicks!

July 10, 2009 at 8:58 PM  
Anonymous RenĂ© said...

Happy Birthday! Sounds like you've got a great long weekend planned. May not be exciting to everyone, but it sounds good to me! I'm going hunting for another tomato plant tomorrow since I don't have much faith in the sad patient I adopted yesterday and I'd love to make some sauce this year.

July 10, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Deborah Wolfe said...

Happy Birthday and many more to come.

July 10, 2009 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Lynnanne said...

Sounds like many birthdays are celebrated with chickens. I celebrated my mom's birthday with a gift of chickens... to myself! lol

Happy Birthday, Jenna... you fearless leader, you.

July 10, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Happy Birthday! Hope the fox is long gone and stays that way.

July 10, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Happy B-day! Shooting the fox would be the perfect gift.

July 10, 2009 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger granny said...

Happy Birthday Jenna !!And Happy New Year :0) May all your birthday wishes come true...

July 10, 2009 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger TheRaspberryChicken said...

Hi Jenna!

Tofu, Kelsey and I wish you a Happy Birthday!!! We were just playing with Tofu (one of Jenna's kits from her last litter for the rest of you who don't know.) outside. He is the cutest thing you ever saw! And he is huge already Jenna. You should see him! Kelsey and I have been meaning to write for a while and tell you how much we enjoy him... I've never met a rabbit who is as outgoing and friendly as he is. I'm sure the credit goes to you for that as well. Have a great weekend!

July 10, 2009 at 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Sherri said...

Is there any reason that you can't work at home.... are you doing computer/graphics, webstuff? Couldn't you work from home more of the time? I wish that for you... to find a way to do your writing and freelance and work from your home which is where you need to be... with your critters and your corn and your 22. (g)


July 10, 2009 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger john said...

Happy Birthday Jenna! All good people are born in July...I'm right behind you on the 14th!

July 10, 2009 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger The Old Man and His Dog said...

Happy Birthday to You!! I still read everyday, just don't comment as much. My still favorite blog. Have a great day Jenna!

July 10, 2009 at 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Kandy Gray said...

happy-birthday!!!!!!! i hope that the upcoming year brings you a new book/freelance deal! and would not a fox pelt be a great topper to the day?

be well,

kandy from canada

July 10, 2009 at 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Tony said...

Looks like we share a birthdate!

Well except mine began quite a few years before yours. Turning 41 and life has changed more for me in the last year than it did during most of my 20's.

You are way ahead of most in maturity and drive. Your farm will become a reality in time. I have no doubt of it.

Happy Birthday Jenna.

Tony in Asheville

July 10, 2009 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Rose said...

Happy Birthday!

July 10, 2009 at 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy birthday to ewe! Tracy

July 10, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Happy Birthday!!!!! Thank you for sharing it with us. You are such an inspiration! You'll get your wool farm and collies Jenna, I have no doubt about it. Hope is all there is, and is a mainstay in my life as well.

July 10, 2009 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm with Sherri, you need to be at home more! I think your book should be in every home in America...would that help?! :)
Hope your birthday is wonderful, keep doin' what you do!!

July 10, 2009 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Happy Birthday! As they say in my Eastern Orthodox church.."God grant you many years!"

July 10, 2009 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Dahlia ChanTang said...

Happy Birthday Jenna! Hope you have a lovely birthday week-end, and enjoy your lunch date with Finn!

July 10, 2009 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth E. said...

Happy Birthday, Jenna! Thank you so much for your blog. Enjoy your new chicks and the evening serenade for tomorrow is a new day - and for you, a new year! It sounds like the perfect evening.

July 10, 2009 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger svelteSTUFF said...

Ahhhh 27.... MANY years to make your Wool Farm a reality!!! Happy, happy Birthday to you!

July 10, 2009 at 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

Happy Birthday youngster. :)

Baby poultry, what a fun gift to yourself. We have ducks and geese who've just moved into their new homemade house; still feathering out and growing like weeds. They are much more fun to watch than TV anyday. Our Welsummers from earlier this spring are just about to start laying.

Hope you get a clear shot at that fox. Now that would be a real good birthday present.

Have fun tomorrow. Never worry - you'll get your sheep, and your little dog, too!

July 10, 2009 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger rhonda jean said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 11, 2009 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger rhonda jean said...

Happy birthday Jenna. I hope this year is a good one for you.

July 11, 2009 at 12:21 AM  
Blogger John Taylor said...

Happy Birthday Jenna! May you enjoy everything you love to do.


July 11, 2009 at 1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy birthday jenna! I love following along on your life are an amazing woman! Thanks again for helping me to pick up the fiddle once again...quite a gift you gave to ME this year. I'd give you a shelf full of homemade tinctures to take care of yourself and your animals for the coming year if I had a gift to give....great farm blessings to you!

July 11, 2009 at 1:06 AM  
Blogger GrittyPretty said...

Happy Birthday Jenna!!

You are so cool.

May this next year bring you all things fabulous!

July 11, 2009 at 1:11 AM  
Blogger The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Happy Birthday!
Wishing you many happy years of spring beginnings, beautiful summer evenings, fall colors, and crisp winter mornings!

July 11, 2009 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Jenna, one of my dearest friends named her first daughter Jenna--the young one has graduated high school and is putting her love of small things to work in human baby care.

Happy 27th, the world awaits you...

May each step we take lead the way to Peace,

July 11, 2009 at 2:11 AM  
Blogger David Shearer said...

Happy Birthday Jenna! My heart goes out to you. Part of me wishes I was 27 again... Ah the longings of the heart. But truth be told, I would only go back and do it over again if I could retain all that I have learned since then. The truth is, I was an asshole when I was 27. Be well... and good luck with the fox hunt.
David S. Shearer

July 11, 2009 at 3:08 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Happy birthday to the most inspirational hard-working chick I know. Cheers!

July 11, 2009 at 4:11 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

Happy Birthday! I so wish I was doing what I do now when I was 27 :o) well done to you for forging your path early in life x
Happiness & health in the coming year & i hope you get the fox. I look forward to seeing your new cockeral grown,I have 2 gold laced dotte hens,they are quite lovely,very placid birds & good mamas.

July 11, 2009 at 4:27 AM  
Blogger carri said...

Happy Birthday!!

July 11, 2009 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Happy Birthday Jenna or as they say in Italy Buon Compleanno. I'm not Italian but I am trying to learn. Peace and happiness.

July 11, 2009 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Artful Gathering said...

Wishing you a Happy Birthday and a New Year filled with happiness and lots of Animals! Have a fantastic weekend! Dawn

July 11, 2009 at 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Pauline said...

Hi Jenna -- You have no idea how much we all enjoy your adventures, some of us doing it along with you, some of us remembering doing it earlier in our lives, but all of us cheering you on. Your candor about the ups and the downs of this life is refreshing. May the next year be filled with only good surprises! And, based on my own experience, you ended your day smelling like LIFE, not death :-) Happy 27!

July 11, 2009 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

what a wonderful way to start your day! Many blessings in the year and may you have someone to shovel and stink and maybe even shower right along with you and I don't mean the ruminants! ;)

July 11, 2009 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Jenna! Good luck with the chicks. Many blessings on "a new year, a fresh start."

July 11, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes,
Hippo Birdie Two Ewes,
Hippo Birdie Deer Ewe...
Hippo Birdie Two Ewes!

That sounds like a splendid birthday! And the best present in the world is being satisfied with your life today and knowing you're headed down the right road (although a fox pelt is a close second). Hang on to that hope - 27 gives you a huge head start on a lot of us (I just started doing "my" right thing at 37)!

Many, many happy returns, wooly lambs, goat antics and poultry capers to you!

July 11, 2009 at 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a simple HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!!!! and a great big THANK YOU!!!!

July 11, 2009 at 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy birthday!

there is nothing quite as sweet as a little box full of fluffy chicks. it is very, very difficult for me to walk away from a feed store without some. like, every time.

the ducks, too. i swear they want me to take them home. along with flock of bitty, tiny, scampering quail.



and hey, there's nothing wrong with being covered in chicken shit and sweat. it beats being slimed by the fallout from some office-politics shit. HA!

July 11, 2009 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

Many Happy Returns! Good for you for treating yourself. It sounds like you definitely deserve it.
I really appreciate your book and your blog. I think if I was still single and on my own I would be somewhere close to where you are - we seem to share a lot of the same homesteading goals. But since I'm married with a toddler and a little one on the way, I've been trying to figure out how to involve the kids and my husband in my homesteading dream. So far: my husband helps me clean up from canning cherry preserves and my son helps me water my container garden. It's not much, but it's a start! Thanks again for your hard work, honesty, and inspiration!

July 11, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

There is no better birthday present to yourself than to look around your life and be contented in it. Happy birthday (from a fellow July birthday)!

July 11, 2009 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tried to post on the Green Mountain blog in reference to Songcatcher. Must have google account. That sucks. Set that comment site up like this with an anonymous spot. Anyway your recommendation was spot on. Great movie and it's been sticking with me for days and days. I am a man by the way. Seems mostly women here. But I like to go back versus the technological world we now live in. But don't fear we will be back to the old ways soon. As the economic collapse is just starting and us self reliant folks will be in the cat bird seat before long. Long live the homemade life.
Scrap Wood

July 11, 2009 at 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Shannan said...

Happy Birthday!!! Sounds like a perfect celebration to me. Enjoy your weekend.

July 11, 2009 at 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! Enjoy your long weekend.

July 11, 2009 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Holly Hall said...

Happy, Happy Birthday, Jenna! Have a good one.

July 11, 2009 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Toni D said...

Happy Birthday to you and may you always be knee deep in the poo!

July 11, 2009 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Happy birthday!

July 11, 2009 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Happy Birthday Jenna. It's been a crap week here too. No animals lost, but we did think we had a farm bought and our house in town sold. But, the farm was a bad deal and the buyers are willing to wait. It took us 6 years to find this farm, my hope is dampened for now.
I learned that I can't even have chickens on my 2/3 acre...ugh.

July 11, 2009 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous RayMan said...

Well .... happy birthday! I hope that your present is a fox hide hanging on the side of yoour chicken coop. Fair warning to predators!
Live life abundantly girl!

July 11, 2009 at 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday indeed! You ARE exciting. Any twenty something year old can go to a concert or out for a fancy meal. How many can throw their own concert and cook up a meal that rivals those at the trendiest eco chic lunch spots?

May your next year be filled with chicken poo and good tomatoes.

July 11, 2009 at 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Tessa said...

Happy birthday, Jenna! Thank you for sharing your dreams and your journey with encourages me to keep dreaming too!

July 11, 2009 at 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

I find it hilarious that you are hunting the fox and put out a havahart trap. Well reading that made me think of a book, I'm sure you would love it if you have not already read it. It's called These is my words by Nancy E. Turner, so far it's a 3 book series. I hope more will come, I could tell you all about how the books became books but if your anything like me I would turn around and google it anyways. Well good luck and keep on trukin!

July 11, 2009 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger nancmcp said...

Birthday blessings, Jenna! What a blessing that you are living the parts of your dream that you're able already. You are truly an inspiration!

July 11, 2009 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Birthday greetings from the Sierra Foothills in Northern California. We'll help celebrate by taking out the canoe tonight and drink some homemade wine out on the lake.


I stopped by a local organic farm on the way home last night to support the locals and to make a long story short, had a great time talking to the farmer about you and CAF. Seems she found you in MEN too. You inspire a bunch of folks!!!

July 11, 2009 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Have a wonderful weekend,
What is there a better way to celebrate a Birthday?......Than be plastered in chicken poo!
"Happy Birthday"

July 11, 2009 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

Hapy Birthday! (now shower and go get a birthday drink!) Just think of all you have accomplished in those 27 years! I bet if you glanced at your bucket list from high school you'd have quite a bit marked off!

July 11, 2009 at 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With your interest in border collies and sheep farms you might find

all the best for your new year!


July 11, 2009 at 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to youuuuuuu!!! Hope you have had a great day at the sheep trials. I love that you gave yourself baby chicks for your birthday. You are so together for 27. I bet your parents are very proud of you.

I wish you all the best for the coming year...a new book maybe??? I'd love to see you be successful enough at writing to make your living at it from home. have someone to share it with would be lovely, too.

You have no idea how many people are being inspired by your writing. I read several homesteading sites, but YOU....your book and your photos and your face...and even your voice on your video...are what has spurred me on. To plant more food, to eat more home cooking, to grow laying hens (in the not too distant future) and yes, even to learn to play an instrument.

And you were is July and I am playing Run Johnny Run. Not well, but recognizable. Thank you!

July 11, 2009 at 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Jenna - hope you had a wonderful day! I just got your book out of the library & I love it. It has been added to my wishlist of books to buy soon! Enjoy your birthday!
Wendy A
in PA

July 11, 2009 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger Von said...

Happy Birthday,can't think of a better present or a better way to spend a birthday.Good luck with your dream.

July 11, 2009 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

Happy Birthday! I'll be celebrating my own 27th in 2 weeks. I've really enjoyed your blog these last several is a daily inspiration for me! Maybe some day I'll get as far as chickens, but for now I'm pleased to have just gotten to compost and a few vegetable plants outside my urban apartment...

July 11, 2009 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger BeckyMPH said...

Happy Birthday. Thank you for inspiring me!

July 11, 2009 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Happy Birthday Jenna! Ah, the days of 27..... I remember them well. OK, I am only 32.
Anyway, I really enjoy your site and I love reading about all your animals and your garden. I am starting to do a LITTLE homesteading here, but just a little at a time.
Take care!

July 11, 2009 at 10:43 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

I hope your Birthday weekend is going as good as you planned, or better!
You inspired me back in Feb when I bought your book. I planted my first ever garden, only 8 foot by 8foot, but trying to make a go at it!
I loved the line "a rifle in one hand and two tomato plants in the other"! You are just SO cute! :-D

July 12, 2009 at 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all -- Happy Birthday! Here's wishing you another year full of wool and dirty animal cages ;-)

Secondly, you WILL have your full-time sheep farm one day. Use your business skills to sit down and work up a project plan for the process. (Seriously - there's nothing wrong with a farmer understanding how to build a project plan.) Once you have it on paper and have tangible dates to work towards, you will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

July 12, 2009 at 5:02 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Happy belated Birthday !

July 12, 2009 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Sarah Sanders said...

I'm so late (gone on vacation) but HAPPY BELTAED BIRTHDAY!! :o) Your birthday sounds sonderful!!! Wish I could have a birthday working with my animals. :o) Maybe someday... I've so enjoyed catching up with CAF and can't wait to start back reading your posts every morning. Thanks for sharing your life with us!
Oh, and thanks for the chickens-as-gifts idea!!! I know what I'm asking for for my birthday!!!
Wishing you many blessings,
sarah in MN

July 14, 2009 at 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Happy Birthday Jenna!

Know that your site is a weekly gift to thank you. I've started my own blog because of your book and your site, so you've inspired me in more ways than you could ever imagine. Hope your year is full of happiness and farm life. Thank you for sharing your life with us. You may not think it much, but many of us hang on to your words and look so forward to your next entry!

If you ever get some downtime, please check out my blog at

Thank you Jenna!! Keep up the great work!

July 15, 2009 at 8:28 PM  

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