Wednesday, January 26, 2011

added elevation

So despite the last few weeks of blizzards, dead transmissions, frozen pipes, sore muscles, truck repairs, frozen animals, office stress, ditches, drainage, and fatigue: I think it is finally coming to an end. The animals that made it through seem okay. I am fine. Really. I'm not losing heart, being poisoned by carbon monoxide, or falling out of love with this farm.

I think I just never anticipated this sort of cold-weather chaos. I have lived here for years now, but the game changed. I learned, pretty damn fast, how different the life of a renter in a 1950's cabin with a Subaru is to being the owner of a Civil-War era farm with a light pickup truck. The intense cold, and extra-heavy snowfall has been helping to underline these differences. I'm getting it though. With everything that goes undone, I'm learning who to call, how to react, and the right gear to slide into on a slushy decline. The only way to absorb these lessons is to need them. There's a lot of that going on around here. it's an uphill battle, and every experience is a little added elevation.

Another storm you say?

Bring it.


Blogger Odd Ducks Farm said...

Don't be too hard on yourself, Jenna. This winter is just very very odd. You folks out east are getting slammed, we in the west have had a weird January thaw, it's all random this year. If we could take some of your snow, we definitely would.

That being said, you seem to be surviving well. Homesteading is such a "two steps forward one step back" situation. You've just been taking that step back this last week.

Remember, all storms are temporary. :o)

January 26, 2011 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger panthercreekcottage said...

Hang in there Jenna. Just keep telling yourself "she's all mine".

January 26, 2011 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Dave Swank said...

Inspiring. As usual.

January 26, 2011 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love your atitude Jenna.

January 26, 2011 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

I was making granola and had to pop over to check on you, how wonderful you woke with such an upbeat perspective, you cannot fall out of love with something that is your pulse........I believe barnheart truly has become a blood thing with you :) Your learning, your living it, and your succeeding in understanding a bit more about the life you chose HURRAH!!!! have an excellant day!

January 26, 2011 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Mare said...

We're getting a bit of the storm too. Bring it, but bring it gently! ;)

January 26, 2011 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Earthdrummer said...

You probably already know this Jenna girl...but put some weight in the back of that pick up truck of yours!
And drink tea...then some good wine, and sleep!!

January 26, 2011 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Sense of Home Kitchen said...

Good to hear. And that sheep looks to be dressed warm enough for the weather.


January 26, 2011 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Tobi said...

Atta girl.

January 26, 2011 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Mimi's Tapawingo said...

Consider every day an adventure. Geez I remember when we had to melt snow and boil it for drinking water. Life is good - that is why they call it "alive".

January 26, 2011 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger From the Country Farm said...

Watch out Winter, Jenna's BACK!!!!

January 26, 2011 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Love the sheep butt

January 26, 2011 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Mama said...

It's all about wisdom vs. knowledge. You're going to be swimming in wisdom by winter's end.

I don't know you but I'm sure proud of you. Way to go!

January 26, 2011 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Yay - glad to hear you've got your spunk back!

January 26, 2011 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

First year with a house is often filled with unpleasant surprises. Last winter, my well froze - had to have it dug up and fixed just before Christmas. It turned out the do-it-yourselfers I bought the house from had installed all the wastewater pipes backward - sloping down into the house instead of away from the house toward the tank. Had to have it all ripped out and reinstalled correctly. The driveway turned into quicksand when it rained in January. The well tank had rusted to a paper-thin consistency, which burst and flooded the basement New Year's Eve. The entire second floor was wired to a single 10-amp circuit. You get the picture. This is my first winter with all the livestock, so it's a whole new round of fixing what didn't work, usually in the dark and either rain or freezing cold. But, like you, I have my farm and I am happy. Broke and in debt, but happy. You'll get it all fixed up and be on to new adventures, and we will be following along and pulling for you!

January 26, 2011 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Joleen said...

Everything is harder the first time around. You're learning a lot (the hard way). Love the big, furry sheep picture. Yes - this is a very extreme winter there. Hopefully, future winters won't be as bad.

January 26, 2011 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Ah, that's the Jenna we know! Glad you're still ready for the next challenge, barnheart intact.

January 26, 2011 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Cheapo Mimi in Nashville said...

My humble two cents worth:
1)Hunker down and do whatever you have to do to get through this winter. Whatever. Don’t think about the long term consequences for now, just make it ‘til spring.
2)Spend some time setting goals for the farm – what is the ultimate goal and what are the steps that will get you there? Think baby steps. Move carefully and thoughtfully; build on what you’ve got. Building a life takes time – it doesn’t happen overnight; it doesn’t happen in a year. Be patient. You’ve made astounding progress already.
3)Spend some time next summer shoring up your house. Daily stress relating to infrastructure issues will wear you out. Think about the problems you are having now and develop a checklist for how to repair/fix or how to handle efficiently next winter, what can wait & what can't. This is an unusually cold winter but there will be others. You can be sure of that.4)Think about how you can deal with the difficult location problem. Is there anyone anywhere remotely nearby that you can share a ride to work with? When you buy your next truck (and we all know it will be a truck), think about exactly what you need all year round. Limp by with what you’ve got and wait for the right vehicle and opportunity to come along. 5)Is there a community bulletin board/community paper/active Craig’s List community in your area where you could solicit a couple of hours a week worth of help from a young person or an underemployed/unemployed person? Two or three hours a week would probably be a tremendous help to you personally and would not be terribly expensive even if you have to pay someone outright as opposed to bartering.

I know you appreciate what you have. I’ve seen the posts on savoring the moment and I can tell you that is very, very important. Remember that you and you alone have made these choices – that is both good and bad. You’ve accomplished a lot and you’ve made some missteps. Enjoy the good stuff and don’t berate yourself for the bad. Learn, learn, learn, everyday learn, and move forward from there. Good luck, Jenna. We’re all rooting for you!

January 26, 2011 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Dayle said...

Atta girl! I knew you'd find those boot straps and pull yourself up again! The glass ain't half empty OR half full! I just the wrong size glass, darn it! You go girl!

January 26, 2011 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're not giving up (though I never thought you would.) Absolutely LOVE the wooly sheep rear. It's an inspirational sight all by itself.

January 26, 2011 at 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first winter is the hardest!

Take good notes on what worked the best (and the worst! LOL) and when as I do them. In other words, I try and keep a log on the things I do and when around the house, etc. Things like shut off drains, add weight to the truck, check snowblower, get fuel, etc. are all part of my fall prep work for the winter. Each year it gets easier because I know the routine.

Buck up and rejoice. Based on your comment here - you've already got the attitude back! Spring is coming and ol' man winter is trying one more time to remind us he's still got something to prove!

January 26, 2011 at 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For your truck you can get this 65 watt heated dipstick to warm the oil in the oil pan. This will make cranking the engine much easier in those very cold days. It saves your battery. It's under $15.00;jsessionid=9A2538CA41B891C82A4F2A5E07CE410E.diyprod5-b2c15?counter=0&itemIdentifier=419954_0_0_

January 26, 2011 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice butt.

January 26, 2011 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Atta girl Jenna!

January 26, 2011 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

As some people say, COME AT ME BRO!
Indeed. :)

January 26, 2011 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Myra Campbell Phillips said...

Hi! I just stopped by to say I read your book Made From Scratch. I just finished it today. I loved it!!!! I saw on the last few pages that you had a blog. I'm sure I will be visiting often. I really enjoyed to book. I appreciate the encouragement for those who dream about farming, like me, to do what you can where you are.

January 26, 2011 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Hi Jenna: Things are looking up all around - I have taken off the handknit wool hat I was wearing in the house all day and also to bed, the last frozen pipe let go today and there were no burst pipes, the driveway is plowed, the path is shovelled, the wood is warming up beside the stove and the temperatiure is a balmy 28 or 29 - who cares if 10 inches of snow is coming tonight?
We'll all get through - and yes I have war stories too about the first year or two in my cranky old house, you learn by experience.

January 26, 2011 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger daisy g said...

Girl, you've got a lot to be thankful for and that always helps matters...

January 26, 2011 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

So Jenna, you didn't mention if the drain pipes let go during the warm up. My Dad said it was 28degrees in your area today. Sure hope so.
You really do need to put your truck into some funky situations and learn to drive out of them. Too many people don't take control of a sliding vehicle and then the worst happens. It is important for you to be in control and drive through bad situations. I guess you can tell I was weaned on winter driving.

January 26, 2011 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

It's just these moments on the farm when everything seeems to be going wrong that you know you're exactly where you're meant to be. You stick it out because you can't imagine not doing so. I would imagine that's what you mean by Barnheart. We all have and we're all with you. Saty warm!

January 26, 2011 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

“A woman is like a tea bag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water” Nancy Reagan

Hang in there Jenna, you are in my prayers. You are doing just fine.

January 26, 2011 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

Who would ever think it would be nice to doing chores in 20 degrees? It always amazes me how much easier everything is after it warms up a bit.

Can't remember if I've posted this before, but my dad always says "Nature gives you test and then teaches you the lesson".

January 26, 2011 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

This winter is not "odd" as one comment put it, the weather is changing. Get ready for it or go under. Root hawg or die as my mama usta say.

The job and transportation is the most important thing so move that to the top of the list. Get transportation in all types of weather under control.

January 26, 2011 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...


January 26, 2011 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger jen said...

Yay Jenna! You've been on my mind all day today...glad to hear you're OK.

January 26, 2011 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There you go girl! Turn around and let winter see your teeth.

January 26, 2011 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Jenna, you're an inspiration. I'm proud of you.

January 26, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Sharon Delman said...

Yeah, Jenna! Great attitude! I love your chutzpah. This (storm) too shall pass. Hang in there!

January 26, 2011 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger Lael said...

I don't read all your comments, so maybe someone has already mentioned this - if your sheep are healthy and have some sort of shelter, I wouldn't worry about them too much, even in extreme cold - they are wearing wool after all! As far as bedding in the barn - do you feed them in the barn? Any hay they waste, leave on the ground - it becomes bedding. Don't clean the barn all winter - deep bedding is warmer - and, if you utilize the hay they waste as bedding, you don't actually have to bed them down. I almost never use bedding for our sheep (we have about 80 sheep and goats here and have had sheep for 10 years), except in the jugs in the spring. And if you have snow on the ground - they won't drink as much water as they do in the warmer weather, so less water to haul.

January 26, 2011 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

My mother, who is, gosh- 82 I think, believes that we're starting another Little Ice Age. The first started around 13-1400 (I forget when) but didn't end until around 1850.

I would be willing to bet there are some folks in your part of the country who would agree with my Mom!

I am going to go out on a limb here and bet that you will be so much better prepared in every sense for next winter (which probably won't be near as bad).

Good luck with the rest of this one. Only two more months to go before the calendar start of spring.

January 27, 2011 at 1:35 AM  
Blogger WeekendFarmer said...

: ) We are burried in snow in Jersey as well and I can relate. But, we havent had the negatives yet. Sorry to hear about the animals.

Are you expecting any lambs this Spring? Watch out - they sometime lamb in the middle of a snow storm if any of the ewes are pregnant. We just got our 1st lamb.

Wishing you a prompt Spring full of Crocus at your new home.

warm regards,
The weekend farmer

January 27, 2011 at 3:49 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

This winter is like the winters I grew up with in the 1950's in Jenna's area. We often had snow storms at the end of Oct and for the most part the snow stayed until March.

January 27, 2011 at 6:33 AM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

and next winter, you will have your preparations done, as all farmers do. You are not the first farmer in that house to winter over and struggle. Think back on the old-timers GF, they may have elegant solutions to the challenges presented to you.

January 27, 2011 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

They say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. If that's true, you'll be a force to contend with!

January 27, 2011 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

Good on you, Jenna.

January 27, 2011 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Nerissa said...

Your doing great and going to make it through the winter. If you don't already have bulbs in the ground consider adding them this spring for next winter when they pop their little green heads through the snow/slush and say SPRING IS HERE! I love it.

Also your stock is going to be so much studier for having had thinned out animals who couldn't stand this degree of cold although I hope next winter and the ones after aren't so bad you will have the comfort of knowing animals ancestors could handle it and its in their blood.

January 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Pat Woginrich said...

Priority #1
A 4 wheel dive vehicle by Sept. 1!!!!!!!!!!

January 27, 2011 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

With a snowplow attachment!

January 27, 2011 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger mirbrewer said...

Jenna, you're awesome. When I ran across this post in my reader today, I thought of you:

January 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

You got the right attitude Jenna! I do believe farmers tend to subscribe to two philosphies: "what doesn't destroy us makes us stronger" and, of course, Murphy's Law of "what can go wrong, will go wrong!"

But isn't that part of the fun? lol

January 27, 2011 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 27, 2011 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

A great quote Rosie but Nancy Reagan borrowed it Eleanor coined it. Credit where due.

A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.
Eleanor Roosevelt
US diplomat & reformer (1884 - 1962)

January 27, 2011 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Bullwinkle said...

Love your attitude

"...every experience is a little added elevation"

Don't climb so fast you need oxygen ;)

January 27, 2011 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger wende said...

I admire your strength and courage. You remind me of my single mom when we were young and on a farm in Iowa. Keep it up. I was wondering if you ever read the book, Letters of Woman Homesteader? If not I would love to send it to you.

January 27, 2011 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

I love your blog and feel for you in your winter trials. Check out these folks, they would have good tips on how to manage the snow and cold! a ranch in northern Alberta Canada. Hang in there spring is comming. Love the sheep butt, very full coat. Silver lining is you will get extra wool this year!

January 27, 2011 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Westfarm Goat Mom said...

That's the spirit!! Remember what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger :)

January 28, 2011 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 28, 2011 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 28, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

You've done great. There's always a learning curve when you jump into a new situation. You've learned the hard way about extreme cold and uninsulated farm houses, animals, vehicles, etc. I am a single mom, so have to do things pretty much by myself. Some of the things I learned about cold are:

Heat tape! Find all exposed (even less than a foot of pipe) pipes and WRAP THEM in heat tape.

Consider insulating under the house, and putting a moisture barrier on the ground (basically black plastic). It keeps the cold from seeping in. Very good for the power bill.

Vehicles: I have block heaters on both my vehicles, and also an oil pan heater on the diesel pick-up. They are not super expensive, I don't remember how much, but if I can afford them most people can!

Make some insulated drapes/curtains. You can also cover the inside of your windows with clear plastic to make an air pocket between the plastic & the window -- sort of like a storm window. Sounds tacky, but they have some kits that seal up really tight with a blowdryer. Very clear.

Put little foam insulated inserts into the wall sockets/plug-in's. Get at Home Depot. Keeps cold air from coming in around the plug-in's.

Caulk around your windows/doors.

You already have water/tank heaters for the animals, but I'd sure recommend getting a barn heater. You can get them at the farm supply store, and sure makes it more comfortable and possibly save a few lives. I have heat lights -- those red ones -- in my shed. Very cheap, will not really heat a large area, but they keep the chill off.

Hope that helps.

Spring is almost here!

Take care.

January 28, 2011 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...

THANKS, CHEERS with a health drink!!!

January 28, 2011 at 2:51 PM  

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