Sunday, November 20, 2011

four jobs

It is an unusual thing to wake up in this farmhouse warm. Not that this is an uncomfortable place by any means, but around 2AM the fires go out in the stoves and for three hours nothing heats this place but the air inside it and four wolves. But this morning the air outside was way above freezing, and the house temps never dropped below 63 degrees. Unusual, indeed.

Weird mornings like this aside, the first thing I am to this house is a charmaid. I go out with my boots and grab the black ash can and come inside to scoop out the stoves of their collections and then take it to the rain barrel to be covered in water. I don't take chances with this house. Then I re-light each fire, usually with some fatwood, and then when the fires are crackling at five-alarm blasts, I note the temperatures on the indoor thermometers (55-58 usually this time of year) and head outside to see to the dogs and farm.

My second job is dog waste valet. Use your imagination.

My third job is caretaker. I head out to the barn first and fill Jasper's hay bag and leave a tiny scoop of grain in his bucket. When his stall has been mucked, and fresh bedding laid down, I grab the lead rope and walk up the pasture gate where he is waiting. I walk uphill to him, and at that angle the salt-an-pepper pony looks like a stallion from a storybook. I get closer and we reenact the usual struggle to get him to calmly walk from pasture to stall. I used to think he was a bad horse for being so fussy, but then I realized the only time he gets like this is when I am leading a bored horse to freedom or a hungry horse to open pasture. You can't blame the man for knowing what he wants, and having the spirit to ask for it. He is calm as a lamb walking down the road, in harness, or in the stall or fields. It's the in-between that makes him nervous. We've all been there.

My next stops on the caretaker rounds is the chicken coop. I open the tricky-latch door and as soon as it swings open the honks of geese fill the world. This is jarring when people first hear it, but to be it is a welcomed ruckus. I pour fresh grain into their feeders and refill their water. I go inside the barn again to refill the pigs grain and water as well. The rabbit's get their pellet containers topped off with fresh feed and I check their water-bottle levels. They are at half-mast, which means they can wait till later. With the chickens free, horse chomping, pigs rooting, dogs relieved, and rabbits content...I am down to my last task.

I grab a bale of hay and dump it into a wheel barrow. I carry it uphill to the gate where Jasper once was and scatter the whole thing into four large sections on the ground. My sheep have little cliques and it is important that every caste gets to eat their fill. The sheep are doing well, better than ever. Sal is 100% healed from his foot issues that came this wet summer. Lisette has packed on the pounds due to more grain and mineral access than ever before. Between the minerals, vitamin supplements in their water, and plenty of hay they seem strong and content. Atlas is out and about but I haven't noticed any breeding going on. I think I released him into the flock at the end of one heat cycle and the next one is a few weeks away. That's all the better for me. I'd rather have lambs dropping on grass than snow.

Last ditch chores are seen too. Water carried in buckets from the well to the animal's tanks and buckets. Mineral licks are replaced if needed, eggs are collected, tack is hung up on the hooks in the barn. The farm is ready to meet the day doing it's own work of making wool, pork, horsepower, eggs, lamb, chicken, and rabbit. There are kits and goslings on the way soon, I can feel it. The notion of rabbit pot pie and roast goose this winter sounds amazing. (Don't worry, I will never eat Cyrus and Saro, but I will eat their kids). This whole thing takes about 40 minutes. I return inside thinking 58 degrees is ridiculously hot.

My fourth job is writer. I come inside and see to emails and open up a word document. I am starting a new book this week, my fourth, and I am thrilled to get it going. It's about a whole year on Cold Antler Farm, October-to-October and how the work of farming and living by the seasons has changed me forever, given me new awakenings, holidays, joy and purpose. I think I'll call it Days of Grace.

That is a Sunday for this particular farmer on this particular farm. My jobs change with the seasons and with the farm's needs. In June there are easily twelve jobs on a Sunday morning, most dealing with the garden and new chicks and lambs. But in theses Days of Grace between last leaves dropped and before real snow, I am a charmaid, valet, caretaker, and writer. That is the good work that fills my heart before dawn. I am grateful for it.


Blogger sash said...

I really enjoyed this post. Good, honest work. As a frustrated writer behind a desk for over 25 years, I have been craving more good, honest work. Thanks to your inspirations, I started drying herbs from our garden - a small start - but something about it felt good and right.

November 20, 2011 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Amen SG!

November 20, 2011 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"that is the good work that fills my heart"...this is the description that I have been searching for when people ask me why I do what I do...this is your gift Jenna, simple words that paint a perfect picture...thank you...

November 20, 2011 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger NMPatricia said...

What a great post. Thank you.

November 20, 2011 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Lynnanne said...

nice post! i'm curious, do you keep a journal? or do you, unlike me, have a fabulous memory to work from? :)

November 20, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Be careful mixing water with your wood ash. I don't know how much water you use, or what you do with the ash after wetting it down, but water percolated through ash produces lye. If you leave an ash bin out in the rain, (or leave wet ash in a container) it will become caustic.

No, no...I didn't ruin an ash bucket that way...not at all. *ahem*

November 20, 2011 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Oh, and I've always claimed to have three jobs - farmer, chatelaine, and bookkeeper (my paying job). Every one of these feels like a full time job, and I'm about to add a fourth - mother.

November 20, 2011 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

A new book!? HURRAY!!! :D

November 20, 2011 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger SHJeffers said...

Do you count yourself as one of the 4 wolves or did I miss an acquisition?

November 20, 2011 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

A beautiful post as always, Jenna.

Congratulations, Tara!


November 20, 2011 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Susannah of Cricklewood Farm said...

Congratulations, Tara! And sound advice about the water and wood ash.

Jenna, yay, another book! I'm curious,too, do you keep a journal or rely on memory?

November 20, 2011 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I love it.

November 20, 2011 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Molly Piper said...

Gosh, Jenna, I just looove your enthusiasm and strength and good humor!

November 20, 2011 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Days of Grace is a great-sounding title. best of luck writing the book (though you clearly don't need the luck, and you've said before it's all about determination!)

November 20, 2011 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Anja said...

Love the post, it describes live perfectly

November 20, 2011 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

Sounds like the perfect morning to me~thank you for sharing it!

November 20, 2011 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Kooooool !

November 20, 2011 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Jenna, I really enjoyed this post, thanks for bringing us along on your journey! Can't wait for the new book!

November 20, 2011 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love my day to look like yours. Soon. So purposeful and full of meaning. Thanks for sharing, Jenna.

Hey---I was wondering if you were making lye with your wood ash and water?

November 20, 2011 at 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ooo...will look forward to this new book :)

November 20, 2011 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Another great post. You do more first thing in the morning than most people do all day!

November 20, 2011 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger LindaSue said...

What a great love story!

November 20, 2011 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger kippy said...

That was beautiful!

November 20, 2011 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Tiff: I'm one of the pack!

November 20, 2011 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...


November 20, 2011 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Cricklewood: just this blog, which is pretty much a journal! and memory!

November 20, 2011 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

If I am making lye, it isn't on purpose. I alwys dump my ashes in a compost heat after they've soaked a few days? bad idea, huh?

November 20, 2011 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

If it is a bad idea to dump the wet ashes in compost, I am guilty of that as well. But I have made the most beautiful, black rich dirt here on a lot that was solid packed red clay so I guess at least here in Georgia, where I clean out the fireplace once a week, not daily, it must not be a really awful thing.
P.S. just went out and inspected the wet dump I did yesterday and there were a million rolypolies and red wiggler worms. I did dump a big shovelful of the bottom side of my compost on top of the ashes so they wouldn't blow around so maybe I diluted it enough so it wouldn't scald the wild life in my compost heap?

November 20, 2011 at 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too was on dog poop patrol today. Since we have 4 of them, it comes with the territory.

November 20, 2011 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

Isnt lye one of the ingredients for home made soap? You might have the start of another homestead task/craft!

November 20, 2011 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Jenna, you should be fine. A small amount of water and a small amount of time won't hurt anything. Just dump it promptly after getting it wet and it should be okay.

November 20, 2011 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger jugtownjane said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 20, 2011 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger jugtownjane said...

I love the sound of the geese honking as they're let out (the mallards buzzing by my head I could live without). How do you water them in the barn and not have a hellacious mess? I fear winter!

November 20, 2011 at 6:02 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

@ Tara : Well hey, if you make Lye, then you can make soap!

Jenna, looking forward to your new book!

November 20, 2011 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger City Sister said...

The title of the new book reminds me of "a year of grace" from the last chapter of the last book of little house on the prairie...The First Four Years.

November 20, 2011 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Little House on the Prairie was my first thought too!

November 20, 2011 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Jenna, I put my ashes in a galvanized garbage can out on my deck away from the house. They are harmless stored like this and there really is no good reason to soak them and good reasons not to. I don't clean my ashes out daily but instead shake them down leaving a layer of them on the grate. Your ashes will be useful in the garden.

November 20, 2011 at 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That is the good work that fills my heart" - I love that line. Simple and right to the point. Good, honest hard work...sigh.

November 20, 2011 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger daisy g said...

Another Jenna book to enjoy soon. Looking forward to it... Enjoy your week, hon!

November 20, 2011 at 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those all sound like excellent jobs to have - maybe not always the most pleasant (dog waste valet, for instant), but necessary and rewarding.

November 20, 2011 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger jim said...

i've been dumping my wood ashes down the hugh cracks in my texas yard=thought this was a good idea-maybe not-------thoughts

November 20, 2011 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Jim, I have to ask what are the cracks from. Just curious.

November 20, 2011 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger jim said...

doglady-texas soil up here is clay=we had 72 days above 100 degrees this summer and clay cracked open all over the area, cracks on our land, some are 10 inches wide and 7 feet deep- i filled some with old bricks just so our pet shih tzus wouldn't fall in them. Never saw it this bad.

November 20, 2011 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

About the wood ash/lye, there's a section in Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen's book Making It on how to make soap with lye made from wood ash. It's a lengthly and stinky process (due to the rendered lard added to the lye) and typically results in a soft soap you can't mold into bars. Even so, I think it might be fun to do once, just to know that I could should the zombie apocalypse come.
(Also, I highly recommend their book. It has a lot of great projects that even I could do).

November 20, 2011 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger alewyfe said...

Well, regarding the ash/lye questions... you can make a weak type of lye solution, though it won't make nice bars of soap. The leached ash-liquid contains potassium hydroxide, which is better suited to liquid soaps and cream soaps. To make bars, you want sodium hydroxide... could be an interesting experiment, but I would use some nasty fats you want to get rid of rather than anything you hope to turn into good soap... plus, it's very difficult to determine the strength of it (some old recipes recommended repouring the lye water through the leaching barrel and adding ashes until it was able to float an egg... but how old of an egg? It's really a guessing game. You might make usable soap, you might make gross gook, or you might make a caustic ouch-fest. At least, that's this soapmaker's two cents!

November 21, 2011 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Barbara Techel said...

Love the working title of your new book!


November 21, 2011 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger ThiftedBliss said...

Loved this post-could just picture you going from chore to chore with all the animals waiting for your attention. Can't wait for the new book.
Congrats Tara!!!! Karen from CT

November 21, 2011 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Joss said...

Oh how excited I am to hear that another book is in the works! It was 3 years ago almost to the day that I first picked up Made From Scratch and things changed forever. Thank you for doing what you do!

November 22, 2011 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Dogs can be trained to use a particular area.

November 22, 2011 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger Susannah of Cricklewood Farm said...

@doglady - I put mine in a galvanized trash can, too, slam the lid* on it and wait until the can is full and cold before using the ash as "dry matter" in my compost bin.

*slamming the lid is just satisfying - one could just place the lid on the can, too. Whatever floats your boat! :-D

November 22, 2011 at 4:10 AM  

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