Saturday, November 26, 2011

a white hat

This morning I was getting ready to do the morning rounds, and something was on my mind. As my head was gearing up, Gibson was circling me, making frantic lessgooutsideandherdnow noises. I looking for my rubber boots, and when I sat down to slide them on over my jeans, the sheepdog attacked my nostrils with licks and yelps. He is incorrigible. I love him more everyday.

this morning I went out in an oversized men's buffalo plaid work shirt. It's so big it looks like a lumberjack trench coat on me, but it is warm and bright, so I like it. On my head: a white knit hat from my sheep. My brown rubber boots are the cheap kind Tractor Supply sells in a row my size, without boxes or tags. This is my morning uniform: jeans, red plaid, rubber boots, pigtails and a homespun hat. If you look close at the footage, that black streak is actually Gibson, running ahead to all the morning stops before I get to them. It is in this circus, that my mind returns to the question that was consuming me all morning during my boot scramble.

Why did I choose to live this life? What was the original tipping point that had me leave behind the world I was brought up in, that I went to four years of college for, that lead me to corporate careers in, of all things, email marketing. I mean, c'mon, email marketing, what could be farther from working a pony in harness than a desk job on the lowest level of a corporation making coupons on the internet? The mind reels.

I think about being a child, taken every Halloween to a small hobby farm nearby for pumpkin field tractor rides and petting their Nigerian goats. I loved that place, because even as an 8-year-old it felt correct in my New-Kids-on-the-Block lovin' heart. And in college, at Borders bookstores in Allentown (when there was a Borders on McArthur road) I would sit and read copies of Hobby Farm magazine, with a line of sheep on the cover, and wonder who possibly lived like that? Who had found a way to a snowy Tuesday night where their most important task was carrying out a bale of hay to their flock and returning to a warm kitchen for a hot meal, hard cider, and a beloved fiddle. How does a suburban 22-year-old make that happen? Can it happen?

My life has changed so much. It's 5:30 on a Saturday night and I am almost ready for bed. In college I would have been just getting back from the studio, getting into the shower to plan an evening with friends and road trips around the town. Tonight I am full from a dinner of some roasted chicken breast over kale and carrots. Both fires are going, and I know tomorrow morning will include the same chores and errands as today, and I look forward to it.

I love my life here, because evrythig I do is working towards another step of living. All year I am working towards the next thing, the next beautiful thing, that either feeds, clothes, or warms me. I know this spring I will get an order of chicks, and they will turn into thousands of calories of meat and eggs, and I'll use those calories to stack and split the wood that summer, that will burn to keep me warm that winter. Do you see what I mean? Every tomato planted is a can of sauce. Every lamb born is a sweater or a chop. This place, this lifestyle is continusously active in the actual sport of living. And before I lived season to season, among animals and agriculture, I lived selfishly through constant material gain. It left me empty, and scared, and wondering how I fit into the world? You get a farm and you get a purpose. Your religion becomes the next six hours. I look at that article in the Washington Post, and think about all the women and men canning and stacking wood alongside me, states and countries away, and I am proud. This generation does not want push-button gratification. It wants the results of hard work, time, sweat and patience only genuine authenticity can cultivate.

I live this life because I found my passion, and my strength. I walk up to the sheep fields with my black dog and crook, and our biggest goal in moving sixteen sheep from one gate to another so a working pony can spend an afternoon in the sunlight running. I pulled into my muddy driveway to see a gray horse running along a hillside and had to remind myself it was mine. That me and that 650 pound animal had worked as a team through leather and confidence, and made things happen. I love that damn horse, as much as I love anything. He is a part of a story, and a reality, and future that will be scary but okay. No part of me ever thinks things will get worse, not on this farm. Things will get complicated from time to time, but never worse. I learned this much.

In this farmhouse fires burn, alcohol ferments, dogs stretch, and a woman wants. This is a good place. It has forest, pastures, barns, stoves, creeks, ponds, sun, rain and even when it is broken it is green and alive. There is a beloved goose on a nest of eggs and I pray for goslings. There are rabbits waiting to kindle, and I pray for more meat. There are a half-dozen eggs being laid each day, and I am so grateful it makes me shake. Because all my work here is nothing more than the hope that I too make it another season, another month. Farming is believing. It is doing today what will provide tomorrow. No one who does this can say they have no faith, as every seed is a silent prayer for a few more months. What more dare we ask for?

I farm because just writing about it makes my heart race, makes me want to howl. I love this small place, carved into a mountain, hidden from so many things. Tonight I am warm and filled with plans and projects for the morning. I might be asleep by 7PM on date night, but who needs a date when you're already in love.



Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts this evening Jenna. I enjoyed every word and am proud of what you have accomplished and how you see tomorrow. Good night and sweet dreams.

November 26, 2011 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger ~Christy said...

Yes, yes and YES! Love it, love what you're doing and that you're sharing it with us. Relationship with the earth, with the present moment, with all that is immediate and real -- this is life. And you're living it! I feel your passion through your words and am grateful I have stumbled upon your blog. It inspires me to do what I can in my little corner as well. Thank you!

November 26, 2011 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

Amen, Sister. Amen. ;)

November 26, 2011 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger Patti said...

Lovely indeed! Thanks Jenna.

November 26, 2011 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Bravo Sweetie! Well said!

November 26, 2011 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger Simple Pleasures said...

Hi Jenna,
That was a lovely heartfelt post. I sometimes wonder when I read your posts what your family thinks of your love of farming? It must have been an adjustment for them. Please share that part of your story with us sometimes. Do they come to the farm? That could be a comedic book waiting to be written. City/suburban girl turned farmer and the funny things that have happened along the way to this new way of life! Have a great evening.

November 26, 2011 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

You just warmed my soul to the core. Thank you for sharing your love story with us.

November 26, 2011 at 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Who needs a date when you're already in love."

Absolutely fantastic.

November 26, 2011 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Trekout2 said...

Outstanding post Jenna... You help us to dream Thank you

November 26, 2011 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Sue at Sweetgrass Ranch said...

Well said, Jenna. Farming is in your blood -- it's your purpose and your passion. Passion ignites our other endeavors, like writing, taking each one to new levels. I absolutely loved reading this post and many more of yours, too.

November 26, 2011 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Love it! What a moving post. Tonight I smell sawdust and it tells me hands are busy and hearts are happy. We love to craft. Hope to someday have a farm. God Bless.

November 26, 2011 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Florida Farm Girl said...

Yeah, what ~Christy said!!!!

November 27, 2011 at 12:15 AM  
Blogger admin said...


November 27, 2011 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger daisy g said...

It's wonderful to see someone who has embraced their niche with such passion. Continued blessings...

November 27, 2011 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Copper + Cream said...

Wonderful! Thanks for posting.......I think I have the farming bug too. ; )

November 27, 2011 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I can identify with your beginnings in the book store with Hobby Farms. When I was a preteen, I read my Aunt's Farm Journals from stem to stern. I could tell you who the best producing Guernsey bulls were. I could recite the production records of many cows. My happiest moments were in my Aunt's barn, chicken house, horse barn and wood shed. You called it Barnheart.

November 27, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger sheila said...

White hats are not safe during deer hunting season. Hunters have been known to mistake a bobbing head for the tail end of a white tailed deer bouncing away and take a pot shot. The results are disastrous. Please get an orange hat for deer season.

November 27, 2011 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I wonder, too, why my husband and I, both with college degrees, feel the need to keep a small flock of chickens in the backyard and grow some of our family's food. My parents don't understand how this happened, and neither do I. I just know that it makes me happy.

November 27, 2011 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Cindy - I hear you there! I have a MS in Chemistry and have chosen to be a stay at home mom. We are building a house on 53 acres and plan to become as self sufficient as possible. Does my family think I'm crazy? Probably. But, who cares! We are pursuing something that makes us happy and to me that means more than a diploma hanging on the wall :-)

November 27, 2011 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger CAD said...

Huzzah! Thank you for describing so well the need I've always felt to have a life that is about living, not about sitting in a box all day to make money to pay someone else for the necessities of staying alive.

November 27, 2011 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Barbara Techel said...

Your honesty is so refreshing and so needed in this world. Thank you for such a lovely string of thought s from the heart.
It took me until my early 40's to start living from my truth. To see you at 21 living your truth proudly is inspiring and helps me to continue onward also. Thank you.

November 27, 2011 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Thistledog said...

I sure do like how you express this passion of ours. Middle paragraph ("I love my life here...") is a gorgeous summation of our purpose as farmers. You speak for so many, so well, Jenna.

Thank you.

November 27, 2011 at 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this post and thank you for sharing. I am so happy when I read things like this from other people and I don't feel so crazy. I am so happy that you have lived and shared your dream and inspire others to follow their dreams as well.

November 27, 2011 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger bookkm said...

Ah, planning, preparing. Sometimes that is the best and most fun part - right up there with the actual completion of a task. Your life is so immediate. You have removed the middlepeople from the things you need. This post sounds so much like a prayer.

November 28, 2011 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

"every seed is a silent prayer" ~ just beautiful, Jenna!

November 28, 2011 at 9:19 PM  

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