Saturday, October 1, 2011

finding home again

Those of you who have been reading this blog a while know how much I admire and look up to the work of Polyface Farm, a beyond-organic farm in Virginia. While at the Mother Earth News Fair I got to hear the honcho of that operation talk, a charismatic fellow by the name of Joel Salatin. He does many speaking gigs like this all around America, and when I sat down to hear him in Pennsylvania I didn't get what I expected. While there was plenty of talk about agriculture, it was really more about our personal culture, and I took one main thing away from his talk.


Joel pointed out that one of the largest problems with our culture, health, and community is how our houses (specially our kitchens) have gone from the center of our lives to a boarding house we sleep and eat at. Home has faded into lazy nostalgia, we're remember a place we no longer actually practice. There are people who pay every month to live there, hire someone else to mow and clean it, and unless we are asleep or grabbing a Pop Tart out of the toaster: they aren't there very often. Even weekends are dedicated to hitting the road to shop and go to soccer practice. Some people claim they could not even fathom spending an entire weekend at home: their children would go nuts without activities and events and play dates. Others without kids just find their homes boring, a place that is shut off from the world. They don't want to stay home because, even as I type this, I feel like the words "stay home" are a stick-in-the-mud's anthem.

I'm not saying you should all resort of agoraphobia to retain some sense of historical authenticity: I'm saying that home isn't such a bad place to be. For me, it's the only place to be much of the time! I've turned this backyard, old fenceless scrub pasture, and a one-car-garage barn into a farm. It took a while, a lot of help, a lot of animals, and good friends: but this white house on the mountain has become my refuge, my exercise, and my career. Writing and farming from this HQ is my dream job, and this blog and your support is slowly making that happen. My goal is for this place to also get off the grid and be as self-sustaining as possible. I want heat from wood, hot water and electric from solar or wind, breeding livestock, saved seeds, and enough scrappy farm-skills to render my own leaf lard for apple pies.

That's my story, yours is certainly going to be different. Maybe your home by the sea, a place passed down for generations, with an old coal range, dairy herd, and a wind turbine is your idea of a perfect home? Maybe it's an apartment in Portland, with a bike propped inside the front door, a community garden, and a cat you can't imagine reading a book without it curled near your chest? Maybe it's nothing crunchy or farmy at all: a loft in Philadelphia, a half-double outside the city, a suburban quarter acre... It doesn't matter. What does seem to matter, more than ever, that we value and appreciate home. That we try to honor it by cultivating good memories, good food, and community around it.

I grew up in a small town, in a very busy family. But I always knew dinner was served at 5PM and either my father or mother had prepared it. If we got busy, or too tired, they might serve us pizza or take out, but that was rare and usually during Friday around Lent (Palmerton cheese pizza was our vegetarian Friday night). But we spent a lot of time around that table, and every Sunday after Mass my father cooked up a heck of a brunch: eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, orange juice and coffee. We ate it in the dining room often, it felt special. And the whole family touched base. It wasn't until I went to college I learned how special and rate that was.

I miss that home, Columbia Avenue. But I am proud to start traditions just as important here. A place where the kitchen is my center, the keyboard my office, and the backyard my grocery store. I do the work that honors the promise of a small farm, and invite you all to join me when you can, and even though I'm a young single gal ready to light the world on fire: I'm still baking a pie tonight and planning for a winter pig. Some traditions (even new ones) are too good to give up for the bar.


Blogger phaedra96 said...

I agree with you totally! I love my house, warts and all(working on kitchen=drywalll=dust=ick!!!)and I work hard at making it warm, friendly, and a refuge. My children and grandchildren love to come home. I love family dinners, too bad they do not happen often enought, and company. I also am comfortable enough with myself I do not mind being alone, either. You have to like where you are and who you are before anything else.

October 1, 2011 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Right now mine is an apartment with a little container garden and kitchen that I try to keep clean and organized, but there is always a meal or project going on. Though we don't have a lot of traditions of our own, yet and are missing having lots of family and friends nearby, home is still very important to me. It is where I feel comfortable, content, cozy. There is much to see, learn and explore out there, but home is not just where I sleep.

October 1, 2011 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Deb Naydan said...

There is no place like home!

October 1, 2011 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jenna, I was just thinking about this last night. I am not a night person and rarely go out. We live about 30 miles from Chattanooga and I LOVE that city. There is always something going on there. Well, this weekend is the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Fest. so my daughter called to see if I wanted to go. We had a good time but it was freezing! We heard Solas, which is a great group. The fiddle player is Winefred from NY. And A few songs from Laurie Lewis and her band. Anyway, I was thinking how Chatt, always has things going on and there were so many people there. It just seemed to me that people have to be doing something all the time. People never stay home any more. And kids are so busy. Going from here to there all day.

Even churches are overloaded with activities and groups and clubs. It's sad to me that even a church has to jump in on the "busy" wagon for people to come.

Now me. I would so rather be home. I do believe I like animals so much more than people. And there is so much to do here. I love to go out under a shade tree and knit or crochet or just sit and watch my little world right here. And quiet! It is amazing. I live so far out that I am usually the only one driving on my road.

Sorry this is so long but you and Joel are so right. Home is where my heart is for sure. I am going to Savannah next week and already looking forward to being back home.

October 1, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Cat Eye Cottage said...

There is no other place I would rather be than home, and I love walking outside my doors, both front and back, to pick veggies and collect eggs. I don't find my place boring, but full of possibility. I could spend all day, every day at home.

October 1, 2011 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Patsy from Illinois said...

I love this post Jenna. Mine is a mobile home with a garage in the middle of a small town city lot. In spring, the front patio and part of the lawn is covered with Rural King buckets and empty Tidy Cat litter buckets filled with veggies. The sweet gum tree provides shade in another part of the yard. A clothesline in the back has clothes hung on it at least two days a week. I live alone with my great cat Max but we are quite content with visits from neighbors who are out tending their gardens and having cookouts. I don't have much but what I have is a blessing. Thanks again for this wonderful blog you have.

October 1, 2011 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

I so agree! I'm about to move into a tiny church ... about 600 square feet. Actually, now that I think of it, that's huge by Tumbleweed Homes standards. :-D It will be a bit like camping, as there's no full kitchen, but it's all one open space, and the energy of the plae is fabulous, and there's a big yard where I hope to finally plant a big garden, and maybe even have some chickens! My dream is to move to a larger farm, raise my own chickens, rabbits and pigs, have a horse or two. Write, teach, grow. In time, it will all be there. Thanks for your excellent post, Jenna. So good to get a fresh perspective away from all The Gap ads. :-D

October 1, 2011 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger kate said...

I hear you Jenna, and I like this post. I haven't always agreed with you on what I read here, but I read your blog daily because I like different perspectives.

Like you, I grew up with a life centered on home. Shared meals, a lot of time playing games we made up ourselves, close enough to hear Mom or Dad calling to round us up for supper. Sometimes when we ignored the calls, they rang a bell, which was super embarrassing, which is why they did it. Effective.

But unlike you, I am leaving rural places behind and sticking to the city. Why? Problems. Ticks are the main problem that I have not found any good answer to after years of trying. When I ask neighbors and store owners what they do, I hear a population that is getting used to it. Some call lyme disease so common it's like getting a cold. Some say it never affects them, even when they are bitten. Some say hey, just get the antibiotics when you are bitten -- which for me would be every week and life on antibiotics. Both my dog and I got lyme.

And police? It's just a comfortable job, with no investigation after crimes happen.

In the city, I do not have the every day issues I have had in the country. I have down time, when the problems in my life are just about my life, not dealing with my environment.

So I might disagree on some level with farmer/writer Salatin and with farmer/writer Woginrich. But I see where life is saying home is.

October 1, 2011 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Lyme is REALLY common around here! I can name ten people off the top of my head with it, it is taken as part of life, it really is. I get tested every single year (so far, so good) but even I who called my VT neighbors scared to death about my first deer tick bite, well, now I just pull them off and take the doxycycline. You can't escape ticks, not around here. Annie had lyme, but no longer does. Apparently dogs can be cured but people can't. I asked my doc why and he explained that the politics and testing of the shot are so fierce the technology hasn't passed legislation yet. But when I saw Annie go from a limping, joint-locked dog to the totally healthy animal she is now with two shots...I have to ask why not us?

And I appreciate your thoughts Kate, and your honesty. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I do hope everyone who disagrees is as kind and eloquent as what you just posted. I respect that very much, thank you.

October 1, 2011 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger kate said...


I had the same thoughts as you when my dog was tested -- positive -- and treated with doxy. He and I run all the time -- one of my top 10 joys is seeing my dog run after a frisbee. But one day he just sat down... sitting, not running. I got him to the vet. Lyme disease and a very sore back. He got better.

Me? It is so freaking complicated and I do not want this as a daily existence, living in a tick hotspot.

I know you're in Washington County (NY). Rural Rutland county (VT) has the same problems.

I guess I am just not up to it. Every single day, my dog brings ticks in, no matter what I do with so called "preventatives".

Like you, I know many people with lyme, some with bad outcomes.

City life for me is a more comfortable existence, especially after the tick life. But I might move to a city where chickens and a pig are allowed.

Thanks for the conversation!


October 1, 2011 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger cindycolombo said...

Our little lot in the city with chickens and rabbits and a garden is the only place we really want to be. We have a 5 year plan for a small homestead but for now we love to stay home and make this place our homestead. But we do get a lot of hassle from friends and family for not going more places and doing more things.

No one else seems to "get it" that we would rather be here working on our dream and that when we are done with that we are honestly to tired to be out running around and would rather be curled up around the woodstove reading and resting.

October 1, 2011 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

We live right in the city and Lyme is still a problem! Hard to believe but true.

Our 1/2 acre is home and I focus on making it our dream location. I love doing that work because everything I do to make my own space my favorite space is mine to enjoy and share! Love warm kitchen and good smells shared with my children, husband and friends. I also love taking the train down town and going to the theater as long as I can go home again and snuggle with the dog.

October 1, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Hi Kate from another Kate!

I have 2 properties -- an old city house and a tiny rural cabin. In my particular situation, there is a big tick problem at the cabin, and only the tick problem I bring with me to the city house.

I talk to my neighbors about it all the time, to keep track. 100% agreement with the rural neighbors, ticks big problem. Only me in the city neighborhood so far, so I see and experience the difference.

Just my experience.

October 1, 2011 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

I love being home, Jenna, but hadn't really thought about Joel's point of the cultural disintegration of 'home' before. Thanks so much for the perspective! That would be a neat thesis--and an interesting one to analysis of how different cultures do/do not celebrate 'home' and the comparative effects/implications on those societies...

October 1, 2011 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Our kitchen table is 70+ years old, belonging to my grandparents. It has cigarette burns and nicks, all from years of previous families conversation and card games. Sitting around it with my family creates a connection, both past and present, that my wife and I cherish.

A friend in a small town in MD got an old oak library table to use in their kitchen. When someone sits down at their table for their first meal they have them carve their initials and date in its top. It's a beautiful thing to see if you look at it for what it is, a record of friends that have passed through their home, and heart.

October 1, 2011 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I love being at the end of a quarter mile road in the woods. I've made this place mine with German Shepherds, cats, meat rabbits, turkeys, meat and egg chickens plus the garden to provide a bit of self sufficiency. It is home.
As far as Lyme goes, my Dr. told me if there was enough money to be made a vaccine would already be on the market. Remember how fast they made the flu vaccine when they thought there would be a pandemic?

October 1, 2011 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Hi Jenna, I'm kinda new here, but I really adore this post! When people call me a "home-body" it isn't exactly a compliment. And it leaves me wondering why that is? A friend once asked me why I spend time making things when it's so much easier to go shop for those things instead. It really comes down to ownership, as you so eloquently state. A hat I knit with my own hands is worth so much more to me than countless store bought ones.

I do think oftentimes when we're away from home for a bit, it makes us appreciate it that much more when we return. Enjoy your weekend at home!

October 1, 2011 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Doglady, I have German shepherds too! Awfully hard to find ticks on them....

What I hear about ticks and lyme and vaccinations, is...... specialists in infectious diseases patented their work very early and then hid it, stopping the usual marketplace response with drug development. (But I guess a lot of money could buy them out.) Also, early vaccinations caused side effects, which stopped work.

At least one state Attorney General in the Northeast opened an investigation, because the same doctors with the patents were also handling the definition of the disease in national circles.

My vet --- I have no idea why vets are smarter than docs -- told me it is a numbers game and always remember that. Do everything you can do to minimize ticks and the disease, because everything you can do can help with the numbers. Most ticks, it is believed, do not carry lyme, but the percentage is unknown.

When my dog got lyme, he had had the vaccination and was on Frontline. It did not stop lyme.

I'll shut up now!

October 1, 2011 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger 6512 and growing said...

I love weekends at home, when everyone finds their place on the homestead. Maybe I'm picking tomatoes and pulling weeds, my husband is pruning fruit trees and the kids are harassing chickens and painting muddy pictures on the walkway.

October 1, 2011 at 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do wish sometimes that there was more of a focus on the importance of home and how grounding and fulfilling it can be. We get too easily caught up in trying to be out and about in the world, and I think it can be more unsettling than we realise.

I've always been a homebody - there's really no place I'd rather be - but it does seem to be out of vogue, and not a common thing in this culture. I live in a not-really-that-lovely apartment right now, but I've made it home through what I've done here - decorating, cooking, cleaning, baking, growing, reading, knitting, and just generally making it into the place that I want to be.

And now, off to bake some bread, one lovely sign of being home for me.

October 1, 2011 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

The way you honor your parents in your writing is as rare as that sit-down-at-home meal. The old fashioned way is a good way, and you do it well.

October 1, 2011 at 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed at the frantic, crazy, busy lives many families live. I have young ones, too, but we homeschool and live a quiet country life. Prior to buying our rural property we rented a house in a wealthy suburb (we chose it because it was close to a huge park with miles of alpine trails). Do you know we rarely ever saw our neighbours? The cost of real estate (way overpriced IMO) meant both parents worked, kids were in after-school care, and weekends were spent rushing around doing all the things they didn't have time to do during the week. We did, however, get to know their hired gardeners! Could not understand why people would sacrifice so much of their time for an expensive house they were rarely in!

I love life in our rural neighbourhood. We actually met more neighbours in the first 3 months here than we did the whole three years in our previous neighbourhood. Being part of a thriving local homeschool community means we can get out with families and enjoy parks and playgrounds while everybody else is in work or school. But there is also lots and lots of down time, free play, running around on the farm. Life sometimes gets crazy here, even busy, but never rushed. And because we are free to do shopping, errands, etc during the week we rarely go out on weekends. That is precious family time and my favourite way to spend the weekend is us just hanging out together, working in the garden, and cooking up some yummy homemade food in the kitchen. Home really does have a special meaning when you live the Slow Life. I love it!

October 1, 2011 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Magill said...

My home is not a farm; it is a house with a screened-in porch about 5 miles or so from the edge of America (Atlantic Ocean side.) I have no farm, but a garden, which I am stubbornly trying to keep going year-round. And we have two good dogs. I LOVE being home. This was a great post.

October 1, 2011 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Kate, I have had positives on the snap test and usually do the 28 days of Doxy on the positive dog. I find the ticks easy to find once they attach and start to suck blood although I've missed a few. If you rub the dog all over from head to toe including armpits you'll usually find them. They don't transmit Lyme until the are ready to drop off at which time they regurgitate transmitting the spirochete.

October 1, 2011 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger annet said...

Amen, sister! Warts and all, this house and large yard (for a clothesline, a shop shed, a lawn shed, a gazebo, a vegetable garden, grape vines, elderberries, a rhubarb patch, an apple tree, a kitchen garden, a mini-greenhouse) is my home. I'm retired happily to it. Sure, we travel, but the twenty-minute walk over the Otonabee River takes me into a downtown I'm happy to play tourist in, and I do that far more often than leaving this house and town.

October 1, 2011 at 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family is a bunch of home-bodies. My mum never really liked going out much, and I seem to have inherited it. I like going out once every couple of months, but other than that, I much prefer to spend time at home whenever possible.

We move a lot, so for us, home is where we are currently staying. It's not about roots, but rather learning, growing, and retaining knowledge and traditions that aid us.

My husband, on the other hand, adores people and loves spending time out of the house. I know he loves me, but we can be on two different frequencies at times. I think it stems from his parents and how they acted as he was growing up.

October 1, 2011 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

The most fabulous weekends for me are the ones where I park my car after work Friday afternoon and don't get back into my car until Monday morning to leave for work again.

I have a rule that there can only be one obligation per weekend--I need a day at home (at the very least) to recharge. Home is where my heart is, and that's not a cliche. :)

October 1, 2011 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger kippy said...

Friends and family all gravitate towards my kitchen which, though small, is very welcoming. We can sit at the table and visit without feeling rushed. This time of year there is a bowl of nearly ripe homegrown tomatoes on the counter. There is a pumpkin on the drop leaf table. I dressed it up with some Japanese Lantern seed pods, a pine cone and a feather from one of the chickens decorating the stem. I've been trying to make weekends "save days" where I don't go out and spend $. Fall weekends are wonderful for nesting. The dog walks are wonderful because the weather is fleece jacket cool and you can see the autumnal colors in the trees and gardens. It would be nice sometimes to live in a rural area, but this city home is just that-home!

October 1, 2011 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger admin said...

I’m with you on loving when the car can sit for the whole weekend! Currently in search of “real home” but every place on my stop has become a home/headquarters of sorts. Homebody to me right now equals puttering around in the garden and spending an evening quilting or baking or just reading a good book and I’m not ashamed of it. Socializing has its time and place, but a whole weekend at home is a priceless and hoarded thing I try do more than not. Pie over bar scene is a no brainer decision for sure! Whenever I have family I will continue this…the kids will be building forts and whatnot instead of spending the day at the mall.

As for ticks, I’ve finally found a place where they don’t exist and I must say the dogs and I rejoiced at this when I found out they didn’t live in the Sonoran desert. I got Lyme when I was 17 and dealt with the draining affects of it for years due to not catching it and treating it right away but was luckier than a lot due to I guess being young and resilient and have been symptom free for years. I’d still love to live up in Minnesota someday out in the woods despite the ticks that I will try to wage war on—I can understand how ticks alone could discourage rural life for some though, especially when they first start coming out in mass in the spring—uggh. Curious about the vaccine issue.

Great post, thank you Jenna. Enjoy the pie!

October 1, 2011 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I grew up eating supper at the table with my whole family every night. My mother used a bell to round us up from the far corners of the neighborhood, too!
Now, my daughter makes sure her family has dinner together almost every night. Her kids are still young, but she sees the importance of it. It brings the family together as a unit, letting every one of them know that they matter.

October 1, 2011 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Reading on my cell phone from santa barbara and wanting more than anything to be back at MY home right now.

October 1, 2011 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Katou said...

Jenna, there's nothing I like more than staying at home doing my things: reading, knitting, gardening, walking in my woods, etc., now that I'm retreated.

My home is my refuge, my very special place where I'm trying to live a simpler life with my cat.

When my son was young and I was a working mom, it seemed to me that I was always running. Work, baseball in summer, hockey in winter, reunions, etc. It never ended.

Nowadays, I'm really happy if I don't have to go out and if I could, I wouldn't leave the house for weeks.

Recently, my son and his family moved out of the region and I went with them to help with the move. I was supposed to stay one month but after five days, I longed for my home. I thoughed three weeks because they really needed my help but, boy, was I happy to take the road back to my house, even if it was an 8 hour drive.

My house is an old house but it has a special place in my heart and I will have a hard time leaving here when I can no longer maintain the place.

October 1, 2011 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

I love being home on The Phoney Farm here in the tiny hamlet in TN. Great post.

October 1, 2011 at 10:55 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Love it. Great stuff.

October 2, 2011 at 12:39 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Jenna, love your comments. I often feel guilty for just wanting to be home with my brood and, wel, nest. Especially this time of year, though, what is better than a weekend with beloved family and friends and good wholesome food whose origins are known. How blessed we are to have a place we do call home.

October 2, 2011 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

Beautifully put :) You just described my sentiments! Today I drove by the soccar field where hundreds of parents were watching thier kids compete in soccar (little, little kids) I almost felt sorry for them all as I finished my errand. Back home, new size 8 knitting needle in hand.......I was ready for a long afternoon of bliss :)

October 2, 2011 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

recent surgery had ne home for (gasp) 9 days in a further than my driveway. I was mostly able, but not really inclined and had a great excuse. Many thought I must be going crazy cooped up like that. Nope. I was good. Books, movies, some friends dropped in, food was around and I really liked it. A friend or two were envious. I appreciate that about them. Most times home IS the best place to be. And now that is fireplace weather, even more. Curling up with blankets on the couch at night is a good thing...

October 3, 2011 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

On the Lyme front, I've just read "Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic" by Pamela Weintraub. She, her husband, and both her sons developed Lyme when they moved to their 'dream home' in the country. It took a number of years before any of them tested positive on the Western blot test, and by then, they were all very sick. False negatives on these tests are really common. Anyway, it's a good read if you have any concerns about Lyme, as there's a lot of information about treatment.

October 3, 2011 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger sweetbugfarm said...

Good to know we're not alone though out here in CA-my family and I cherish our home time and it's where we yearn to be, regardless of wherever else the day takes us.

October 4, 2011 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Charlene said...

thank you for this Jenna!

October 4, 2011 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Franklin said...


I'm so glad I found your blog. I've checked Made From Scratch out of the library three times these past couple of years.

We're stuck in the city at the moment, but at least we have a small backyard. I finally got three hens (that I've been wanting for four years), and I adore them.

Thanks for all the tips and inspiration! {I even found an old Rivereware percolator at a junk shop!}

October 8, 2011 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

This discussion reminds me of one of my favorite poems:
Talking Myself to Sleep at One More Hilton
by John Ciardi
The poem is on this page (but you need to scroll down):

November 20, 2011 at 9:37 PM  

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