Saturday, August 20, 2011

beasts and bookstores

When I stepped outside the farmhouse yesterday morning I was face to face with a larger, horned, animal. Knox, the once adorable little lamb, the first lamb ever on Cold Antler's soil, had somehow escaped. He was watching me from the wrong side of the fence. He is no longer little (he is however, still adorable), so this isn't as easy as it used to be. I had to get this horned beastie back into the fence, figure out how he escaped, repair the hole, and reset that holy electric wire that keeps all things civilized around here.

It took a handful of grain, a dramatic horn grab, and some dragging to get him back through Jasper's Gate, but all was success in the end. An entire hour went into repairing and replacing the broken wire. Between the sheep wrangling and fence repair I was coated in a sheen of new sweat. It wasn't even 8AM. The humidity was sucking down the day already. It felt wrong though, out of place. Technically, it's still summer but we're in Transition Time for sure. The weather and air still sings like river-drunk cedar waxwings but the crows are already talking about them behind their backs. Leaves are starting to fall down green. Nights are in the low 50's. I already saw my breath once in daylight a few days prior. Change is in the air.

Weather Report aside, the Wether Report data was updated. Knox was back with his family inside the fence. All was well again. This fence business was exactly the kind of time suck that would ruin a Friday morning a few weeks earlier. If I had to call into the office late, work longer to make up the time, and stress out the entire time I was at home with the animals doing whatever farm task could not be put off...I was miserable and emotionally torn by the time I got to my desk. Instead of all that, I was just grateful to have this issue happen on a Free Friday, the beginning of my new weekend.

"Weekend" is not really an appropriate a term anymore. Friday is just the start of three days of farm work and writing instead of the commute to Vermont to work at the office. I still work like nuts, just at home. I do like the cadence of this arrangement. The first four days fly and then these three seem to last for eight. It amazes me how much longer, and fuller, the days are when you spend them at home, outdoors. When you don't run off to spend money or get lost in a string of errands, but just work, weed, mow, stack wood, stack hay, or maybe make one trip into town.

Yesterday I stopped in at Battenkill Books to talk with Connie and invite her up to the farm. Here's why I like Connie so much. The first time I walked in with my border collie pup (the place is dog friendly) Gibson peed on a shelf. Connie did not get upset. She did not ask me to pay for the book he peed on. She didn't even ask me to leave. She just wiped off the shelf with some cleaning supplies she kept behind the desk, removed the book, sanitized the area and smiled. She just kept on talking about our conversation even through I was a blubbering jerk of apology. I decided to patronize that bookstore ever since.

So yesterday, when Gibson came along with me to the store (no accident this time) I didn't feel the slightest bit uncomfortable walking up to the desk to chat. She told me she pre-sold 18 copies of Barnheart and some other books as well. I was so glad to hear it. It's good for me, for the farm, for her store, and to readers who want a personalized book mailed to their house for twenty bucks. And to hear that you sold 18 copies of your book in one day when you aren't Sarah Palin or a NY Times Bestselling author, was so comforting. Sometimes this writing life is scary as hell. To hear you moved 18 copies is damn good news—a nice Friday affirmation that I'm getting somewhere. Even if I am standing in a bookstore my dog peed on with sheep crap on my cuffs...

Another note: those of you who are CSA members, I have some news. I got word from the mill. They are hesitant to make wool with the Blackface's thick locks. I asked them some questions and they are getting back to me. They will still make the yarn but I had to clarify some issues. They wanted to make rugs and I wanted a 70/30 blend of Blackface and Longwool yarn: a tough outerwear wool that kilts, tartans, and fishermen sweaters were made of—just like the original Scottish shepherds would blend. The folks at the mill aren't used to being asked for non-traditional wool yarns, so it's a bit of back-and-forth. But the good news is the first year's CSA members should be getting their yarn before October. I appreciate your patience.

Oh, and a winner of the week at the Folk School will be picked tonight! Check back at the blog later to see if it's you, and if it is, email me at to set up your vacation.


Blogger Patti said...

Sounds like your weeks are better balanced now. I remember when all talk was of the American shorter work week that was in our futures. Ha! That never seemed to happen for Americans. I'm glad that your new schedule has made life better for you. I find I like working for myself better than anyone else. Your post today was a good one. I too feel the transition in the air. Have a wonderful weekend on the farm.

August 20, 2011 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger ddu said...

I sympathize with Gibson; when I step into a great independent bookstore for the first time, I get so excited I almost piddle. He's a good boy. Best wishes!

August 20, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger bookkm said...

I loved this post, today. Now, I want Fridays off, toooo! Oh wait, I'm retired.

August 20, 2011 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Jude said...

So true about how many more hours there are in the day when the commute is taken out of the equation. Congrats on selling 18 books in one day from one store--yay!

August 20, 2011 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

YAY on the books! I am going to pre-order one as well, I just have to sell some eggs to get the "extra" money. Pre-selling through Battenkill seems like such a perfect win-win for both you and Connie. Congrats!

August 21, 2011 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Sounds like we need to get some books from Battenkill in October. Perfect way to round out a weekend of learning!

August 21, 2011 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Kigwit said...

I love your new schedule. When my son was five he cottoned onto the fact that we have five school days to two home days. He's been lobbying for a change ever since!

I would be willing to work four 10s for three home days! it seems like you are able to live more than working a standard week.

August 21, 2011 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger CallieK said...

Hey Jenna, I received a bunch of books from a publishing company that they've asked me to review- I said sure, not knowing what they'd send. To my absolute delight one of them is Barnheart and I devoured it in one sitting. Nice work girl!

August 21, 2011 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

because your sheep are on the property and the lambs are born there, it may behoove you to spend some one on one time with each lamb/sheep and work on halter training them?

an animal out of a fence doesn't have to turn into a horn snatching wrestling match!

a friend once told me, "think smarter, not harder" which i routinely think of before i act.

August 22, 2011 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Connie said she will set my copy aside so I can come in and pick it up. And knowing me, buy seven or eight other books while I'm there.

August 22, 2011 at 2:57 PM  

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