Saturday, January 2, 2010

soft wool. dry hay.

I spent a good part of the morning outside. It was pleasant. Even though it was twenty degrees outside my body was warm from shoveling my chore paths around the farm. I had made a small maze of cleared footpaths for delivering feed and water. The geese followed behind me as I labored, as if they were inspecting the job. The geese are the only poultry at CAF that travel around in the deep snow. They were honking outside the cabin door this morning and each got a piece of pancake for their bravery. The chickens stay in their coop. Egg production has all but stopped. Some birds are hibernating and others are going out to brunch.

After the plowing was done I was breathing heavy and stopped to rest on the handle of my shovel. I looked over to the sheep pacing in the pasture, baaing at me for more hay. They'd already eaten their morning meal so I went into the garage for some fresh straw instead. I carried it out to them and their eyes got wide and ears perked up. They always think straw might be hay, and thought I was carrying them a giant dinner. They followed me back towards the shed. A small parade of shepherd, a black lamb, an angry ewe, and an old softy. I lined the sheep shed with straw while Joseph and Sal joined me inside it. Instead of leaving them—I plopped down in the corner, sitting with my back to the wood and my legs stretched out into the straw. The shed was wonderful. It was windproof, clean, and dry. I sat on the new straw and watched the snow falling outside just like I imagine my flock does.

Sal walked over to me. A beast of nearly 170 pounds with a skull hard enough to kill me instantly if he wanted to. He was at my eye level now, and nuzzled his head against my shoulder. I reached up to scratch his ears while he stood, calm as a monk in his monastery. I scratched his chin and he closed his eyes. The fleece under his jaw was the softest, warmest, sensation I had ever felt. I nearly gasped, realizing the most comforting sensation I'd known so far was happening outside in the middle of a Vermont snow storm.

Maude watched from the entryway, suspicious but calm as well. She smelled my boots. Then Joseph came over, and I was surrounded by my flock. I was resting in the wooden shed built with the care and compassion of friends and neighbors. I was wearing my close friend James's old wool sweater he gave me since he outgrew it. I can not express the happiness and contentment that filled me just then. It coated my lungs and swirled in my head. I didn't laugh or smile, I just knew this was the greatest place in the world. That people travel for miles, live their whole lives, just hoping to find this place.

My three sheep. A barn raised by friends. A hand-me-down sweater. A lamb's breathe turning to smoke. Soft wool. Dry Hay.

I have come this far.


Blogger tigress said...

OMG how adorable! looks, and sounds, like heaven.

January 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Jenna, reading your words, so precise and salient, warms the paws of me and CatCat as she stretches across this keyboard seeking my touch with her probing tail. [she just sat up and spoke to me as if she understands I am writing about her!]

In my world I communicate and tend to people as you do with your animals. Just completing a four year hospice patient, coming to Cold Antler Farm soothes me and reinforces the life cycle deep in my psyche.

Hard to describe it cogently, believe that you are doing a lot of good in this world and I so appreciate you and your critters and your determination. May 2010 bring you ever closer to the dream.

January 2, 2010 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger taylorgirl6 said...

Sitting at my desk at work, I sometimes allow myself to wander to the miniature, plastic farm I have set up next to the printer. I rake the dirt (sand, actually), stack the tiny bales of hay, straighten the fences, and reposition the animals. I'm up to three sheep, three pigs, two horses, one donkey, and a very small cow.

Here's the funny part. Everyone who comes to visit me during the week checks in on "the farm," inquiring about new animals, the state of the cardboard barn, etc. Once upon a time, my co-worker who sits beside me constructed a grain silo out of a used Rye Krisp box. He panicked in the staff meeting later that day, suddenly shouting, "Tear it down! Spontaneous combustion could ruin the whole farm!"

Sure, it's dorky for a grown woman to have a little plastic farm on her desk at work, but to me it's a place I can go in my mind, a place where things move slowly but the chores still need to be done. I envy you in so many ways, and someday I will have a real farm, just like you do. Between now and then, the path for the tiny tractor needs to be raked again.

January 2, 2010 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Joleen said...

Simple, beautiful pleasures. Sounds like a grateful day at Cold Antler Farm.

January 2, 2010 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

It doesn't get much better than that, does it.

January 2, 2010 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger Madame said...

Jenna, What did you do with the wool that was shorn last season?

January 2, 2010 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger nancmcp said...

You just keep getting better...

January 2, 2010 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Treasure.Every.One. of these moments. They're like milestones on the journey, touchpoints to bring back and remember and experience again when things are just too much.

January 3, 2010 at 12:07 AM  
Blogger Sowing Clover (Emily) said...

What a wonderful picture. I can smell the sweet straw and the wonderful smell of sheep wool now. Oh, how I love the smell of their wool.... can't wait to have my own someday.

January 3, 2010 at 2:40 AM  
Blogger E said...

animals are the best. warm, faithful, happy to see us every time.

January 3, 2010 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger Affi'enia said...

Wow that is a mighty description. Finding contentment in the little things is what life should be about. I bet your flock was a happy with the situation as you were. (except maybe Maude. I bet she just hides it real well!)

January 3, 2010 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

The goats get VERY excited when I bring in fresh straw! They fawn all over me, and all over it, and do little happy goat dances. It's a snack! It's a bed! It's a back scratcher! It's a pillow! It's a snack! (I think straw must be the goat equivalent of potato chips - a crunchy snack food with no nutritional value.)

Hanging out in the straw with your own animals is sublime.

January 3, 2010 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger ccm989 said...

Today it is 21 degrees outside -- too cold for the normally moderate NJ and I really needed to clean out the hen house. My 3 hens would not vacate the premises until I poked them with my plastic kid's rake then they decided maybe outside in the run was better after all. I left the hen house door open so they could peek in and check on my progress. After I was done, they ran back inside to inspect my work.
Never before have I had such satisfaction from my work! And I get paid in eggs!

January 4, 2010 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Sharyl Suzanne Morris said...

LOVE this. I'm very happy for you.

And taylorgirl6, your comment made me laugh. I love that you have a plastic farm at work and, even better, that your coworkers are into it too. :)

January 4, 2010 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jenna, those warm feelings in your chest and swirling around in your head--those are your angels singing. There is NOTHING better than a peaceful moment with your animals, in a clean fresh barn--no better sound than cuds being chewed--no better smell than fresh straw mingling with rain.

January 5, 2010 at 7:47 PM  

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