Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tavern Fare

Yesterday morning I poured the entire 22oz bottle of hard cider over the slab of pork. The clear liquid covered the three pounds of meat and the scientific part of my brain understood that the acids in the alcohol would help break down and soften the flesh as it slowly cooked all day. That’s all well and good, but the connoisseur part of my brain wasn’t interested in the technicalities in the least. All she could think of was how good slow cooked pork tasted that had marinated in hard cider all day, a perfect pairing of flavors and a true taste of what this little farm has to offer the world.

When the bottle was empty I set it aside and grabbed the bottle of honey. It was hard not to smile with joyful anticipation. This was pork I knew by name, that I raised from a shoat, and had been butchered on this farm. The cider was from the farm, too. It came from last fall’s bumper crop of apples, collected with friends, hand-ground at a pressing party with the help of a restored fruit press from the Civil War. Now that cider was being used to break down the muscle of a pig named after a fiddle tune. I topped off this happy scene with a half pound of honey, courtesy of the ladies just outside my living room door.

This. This, is living it right.

It was a lot of food. Too much for one woman. I sent a message to Mark and Patty and invited them to join me. They have fed me countless meals at my farm and I wanted to return a bit of the favor. I knew if I cooked some rice and fried up some kale from the garden in herbs an oil, and got some buns whipped up I would have a feast. I still had a bottle of mead left over from Samhain and here in the farmhouse there was home-brewed cider, ale, and a sweet young wine. Why eat alone?

Mark and Patty did join me and it the farmhouse was warmed by the fire in the wood stove, wood cut on this farm (at least in part) and dragged from the forest by draft horses I knew, that had ridden on the backs of, that I have kissed their noses on cold days. The house was 67 degrees (ridiculously warm for me) and the food smells of bread, meat, rice and kale was a spell on all of us. We ate, we laughed, we drank dark beer and mead and caught up on stories of a new team of oxen Patty helped get for her work. Mark talked of hunting and weather - two topics we never get tired of.

Five years ago this would have sounded like a fairy tale. Something for people in taverns in Tolkien novels to taste and speak of. Dinner with a name? Cider I knew in the apple? Friends with tales of oxen and goose hunts?!

Now, life is often scary and far from perfect. There is no security, and that is something few are willing to go dancing without. Well, actually, that’s not true is it? There is far much more security here, and I feel much safer than I ever did working for a paycheck from an employer that could lay me off whenever they felt like it. The finances might not be predictable, but my job security is watertight. I’m never going to fire myself. And instead of a pile of groceries there is a freezer full of meat and wild game. There is a network of neighboring farms of every sort. There is wool for hats and sweaters, timber for heat, vegetables in the garden, and eggs, milk, cheese and bacon out there on the feather and hoof. This is the most volatile safe place in the world.

If you are struggling with the decision to take the leaps I have. I can’t offer advice, as the decision is your own. But know from this table in the corner of a small tavern—lit by firelight and warmed by friendship—I have not a single regret. There will always be wolves at the door of those who leave the flock. That’s just how it is, and I’m fine dancing with wolves. They keep you on your toes.

Tonight I am writing this under the light of the full moon, casting in on this living room. There is good fiddle music playing, a fire in the stove, dogs asleep at my feet, and dinner on the hob. The animals outside are all fed and well and while there is still one more set of night rounds before I sleep I am grateful beyond measure for this scrappy life. This week I sold a spot for Spring Fiddle Camp and a whole pig’s worth of shares to friends and neighbors. I may have enough scrapped together by week’s end to turn over a (late) mortgage payment but I am still dancing. I am in a sweater from High School and only own four pairs of shoes, but that is mighty fine by me. My lifestyle is my style. And my four shoes are plenty to keep dancing with those door wolves under the full moon.


Blogger treebeardshollow said...

splendid beauty.

November 5, 2014 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's a good life. What I like to call "living". I'm so glad I found your blog to share all of this wonderfulness with you.

November 5, 2014 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Amen sister. I am wearing a sweater from the 80's. It feels just fine.

November 5, 2014 at 9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Jenna, I just wanted to ask, in the state of California there is a limit to how many chickens you can have without a permit. Do you know why?

November 6, 2014 at 1:05 AM  
Blogger Mary said...


November 6, 2014 at 4:59 AM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Sairai, chicken restrictions are usually a local ordinance and you would have to speak to your town's zoning board about this. Mostly animal limits are there for reasons of odors, dirt and noise. Not everyone takes care of their animals in a way that will not annoy neighbors. If you want to own live stock you are best off living in an area that is zoned agricultural and not just residential.

November 6, 2014 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Jenna I'm finally taking the leap! Not quite as exciting as a farm, but a little place of my own, by myself! I'm leaving my men behind (adult son and hubbie) They both have problems they need to work on, and I have to move on. I'm broke, but if you can do what you do, Im sure I can make my own little paradise somewhere too.

November 6, 2014 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thank you Carl and Tanya!

November 6, 2014 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Lisa, we are rocking it

November 6, 2014 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Snakelover: As said by panswiife - but every place is different. My town of Jackson has no zoning at all! which means a used car lot can be across the street from a NY times best selling author's farm! (and is) but it also means no one can hassle me about chickens. California is also possibly the most restrictive I have heard of with laws like that.

November 6, 2014 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thanks Mary! and good for you Carrie, all the luck to you!

November 6, 2014 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Tucker said...

That was an achingly beautiful post. Thank you very much for sharing.

November 6, 2014 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Im with you Jenna. don't have the farm, but also don't have the employer. That is a type of security and a taking back of ones own life. No one has the power to take away my earning, its up to me. sure there are anxious nights but I've learned to trust that something new always shows up and ive never starved. the older I get the less I care about having stuff, its just not important. Cheers!

November 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This post would be great for the Dark Mountain Journal (Dark Mountain Project).

November 9, 2014 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This post would be great for Dark Mountain Journal (Dark Mountain Project).

November 9, 2014 at 8:57 PM  

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