Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tiny Flags

This morning is beautiful. After chores were done and the animals were quietly munching and crunching, when the goats were milked and the day was officially on its way—I stopped to look around. The sun was hitting the green grass. Cersei and Jaime were romping around the yard. The ducks waddled past the geese and the chickens in their tractors ate and jumped and drank and napped. Everything seemed perfect. In the next few hours I knew I would do what made me happiest - I would run, shoot arrows, and ride my horse. When I can spend a day moving across the landscape by my body and by horse, and then quiet the mind into the meditation of practicing archery and focusing on that target... I am happiest. I can't relax without a tired body and head. And I get to run on this mountain road, and ride that beautiful horse, and shoot arrows at a straw target all here in my backyard. This is my everyday vacation. This is my dream come true. This is home.

I know this, and sometimes I forget how long it took. Cold Antler Farm started in 2007 with a rented home in Idaho. I had no land, just a few chickens, some gardens, rabbits and an insatiable desire to farm I called Barnheart. It wasn't a passing fad. It wasn't a pipe dream. It was who I was. And I was going to get there.

When people ask me for advice on what they can do to get to the same place, my answer is usually simple. I respond "Plant something" and I mean it. If you live in a studio apartment and can't tell an angus from an ayrshire - plant something. You don't need to know breeds of cattle or have a garden plot in your city's limited urban garden. You can go to Home Depot, buy compost, a pot, and some seeds and plant something. It doesn't matter if it grows or not, what matters is you actually made the choice to act. I think this is the biggest hangup people have following this dream. They think that the choices all need to be big, romantic, and successful. They don't. You don't need to be 24, flip off your boss, join WWOOF, and travel to Peru to herd Alpacas for your summer. You need to choose to spend $26.78 on dirt, seeds, and pots instead of pizza and beer and try. No excuses. If you don't have a window, buy a grow lightbulb and a desk light. Figure it out because if you give up on growing a sprout in one pot what makes you think you'll last a season on a farm? Be ruthless with your trying.

It's about slowly moving priorities and resources. It's about how every week you end up buying one more indoor pot until the superintendent tells you that "You know, if you really like growing stuff you can use the courtyard? or the Roof?" and you start hauling 50lbs backs of topsoil up the elevator with pre-cut 2x4s. It's being consistent, and stubborn, and not letting the 13 jillion mistakes you will make stop you.

It's also about listening to yourself. Not your snarky in-laws, not your disapproving parents, and not your coworkers who crack jokes in the breakroom about you wearing the same shirt twice a week because you didn't have time to do laundry on the weekend because you were too busy building a chicken coop. It's about caring more about what makes you happy than what makes you socially acceptable. That's the real work of changing your life. That's the hard part. Not the hoeing gardens and moving hay bales, that is just body and time, but the work of overcoming the meeker parts of us that hold us back. That's the back breaking.

So you want a farm and have no idea how to get there? Plant something today. Plant it knowing you might very well fail, kill it, and then plant it again. Buy some books on the homesteading aspects you like most and stack them right on your coffee table for the world to see. Subscribe to a backyard chicken mailing list or forum. All of these things are small actions but each of them is another prayer sent out into the world. A tiny flag stuck into the ground saying "This is what I want" and the more flags you shove into the ground the more you realize how serious this is to you. And the more your decisions change towards the life you want. Maybe you'll take your profile off and switch it to Maybe you'll take that job that lets you commute from the country instead of the next floor in the city gig you are in? Maybe you'll just spend the next clothes budget on Carhartts instead of Calvin Klein? It all builds on each other. It is mental composting so you can plant your dream.

If you really want a farm you'll end up there. For better or for worse, you'll be there. If you really have Barnheart and not a passing case of farm lust based on the last documentary you saw, you'll find your way. But know it isn't money, or location, or age that makes it happen. It's those little choices and the strength to shout from the rooftops this is who you are.

And maybe one day you'll wake up on a Tuesday morning wearing the same shirt for the 5th day in the row and smile.


Blogger M- said...

Nicely written Jenna. Bravo.

May 17, 2015 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Denton, Texas said...

Good morning! I can't tell you how much I needed to hear this this morning. Thank you for the inspiration!

May 17, 2015 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Alhamdulilah said...

Very encouraging! just a could give positive coaching at schools and encourage kids to grow their own food and such.

May 17, 2015 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Su Ba said...

You are right on, Jenna. For real!!! I started creating my farm 14 years ago. The very first day I planted a sapling tree. It became the symbol of what I wanted. I wanted to plant things, I wanted to farm. Along my journey I made zillions of mistakes and failures, but each was a learning experience, one more step to living a homestead life. Every journey starts with one step. So I took it. If one never takes the step, one never takes the journey.

May 17, 2015 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Thanks Jenna....I really needed to hear your message today. Blessings :)

May 17, 2015 at 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Went to the farmer's market today and came home with herbs, tomato plants and an artichoke plant. Artichokes!! I LOVE artichokes! Never thought they would grow here, but they have now made them into annuals just for our part of the country. Can't wait to see what happens!

May 17, 2015 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Ah, you are brilliant! Thanks for sharing this.

May 17, 2015 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

Great article Jenna, I love it when you write things like this.

May 18, 2015 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger serena said...

I've been so bored with office work that my supervisor finally told me to start a garden for the dining hall a month or two ago. (not to mention the potted plants all over my desk) One tiny step closer!

May 18, 2015 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

...and ride across your countryside on your horse...

May 18, 2015 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger turningwheelfarm said...

Thank you for this! I needed to read it again. :)

May 18, 2015 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Well said, Jenna!
Last week I finished building a cold frame in the backyard, and I now have some sprouts growing in it - all from heirloom seeds! I'll be building 2 raised beds and replacing the rotted surround of the in-ground bed this week. I may not have chickens (there is a stupid bylaw against it here), but I will have a garden this year!
Thanks for always being so encouraging. Your posts always help me stay on track to my farm. :)

May 18, 2015 at 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This really applies to all dreams. I love "be ruthless with your trying". That's gone up on my wall.

May 19, 2015 at 7:34 AM  

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