Thursday, November 12, 2015

I am gaining on them.

Alcoholism is real. Let's start by saying that. And if you are a two-hundred pound ovine with nothing else to do on a dreary day but get drunk, that is what you do. Ask my ram, Monday, who has thwarted every single fence repair and electronic shock I've thrown at him to break the barrier and lead his flock to the Promise Land; the fermented apples resting in glorious piles at the base of my neighbor's apple trees. I woke up this morning at dawn—and was getting dressed in farm armor to head outside for chores—when I glanced out the window and saw all seven sheep eating on the hillside. Good, I thought.

Good, I had no reason to rush as I set the percolator on the wood stove and got the dogs outside to pee and regarded my morning with the rural civility it deserved. But as soon as I headed inside to pour that first cup of coffee I heard the crash of a giant horned head bursting through woven wire and brush and knew that demon sheep was back to his addiction. I heard the baaas of his girls behind him, and came out just in time to see them romp across the little road to my neighbors yard. Goddammit.

My neighbor was outside with his granddaughter, waiting for the school bus. This whole thing is both embarrassing and ordinary. I wave and send my two sheepdogs after the sheep, about fifty yards away from us. Gibson uses the little road as his path to an outrun. He then does this dog-food commercial leap over a stone wall and slams into the grass below it with decision. God's Body there is nothing better than seeing a beast doing what it was born to do! I can't help but whoop for him, and little Friday trails behind him. He runs towards the sheep, slows down to his crouch and slink, and gets all seven back on the road and home in seconds. I don't know how anyone out there raising sheep isn't doing it with border collies. They have better fences, clearly.

The dogs and I spend the next hour outside in the sick-warm of an unseasonable November. It is mud everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I am carrying out fresh hay, grain, and lugging water buckets and while my body is on the tasks of livestock breakfast my mind is just on hunting. Whitetail season opens again in a few days. I'll be out there trying, but I am being realistic about this season. It's been five years of hunting and not once have I filled my freezer. I want to because sixty to a hundred pounds of venison is a serious haul of grass-fed protein for a winter larder. It's money I don't have to spend at the grocery store. It's going to be a tight winter and anything hunted is an economic and gastoral blessing. I hope I get lucky. I have a muzzle loader tag this year as well, so maybe a late season doe will be a real thing.

I am thinking of deer, but also about taking Anna Kendrick out to chase some squirrels this afternoon. I don't care if she gets one or not, that girl just needs to fly. I am planning on taking a long hike with her on the mountain this afternoon. Her, flying beside me, stealing my hat from my head, playing tag with the glove... it's worth every second spent with her even without a kill. We walk and I think and watch the woods like the pair of predators we are. If the rain isn't coming down in buckets I will take her out. The choice is made right there and then as I move the chicken pens out of the mud and onto solid grass.

Chores get done and the collies and I get dirtier. I say a quiet luck prayer under my breath for a house with linoleum floors. There is no carpeting in the living area anymore and that is a great thing. I see us walk inside with my coated boots of mud and manure and two dogs covered in the same and watch the muddy paws make a trail to the water bowl across plywood and plastic and smile. I think of when my sister came to visit a few weeks back and pulled me aside to say, in that loving-but-concerned sister way, that "I love you, Jenna but your house is gross." That hit me hard because before their visit I spent three days scrubbing and cleaning and buying things like scented candles and Febreeze and I thought the place was ready for a photo shoot. She saw the permanent stains on the plywood from thousands of muddy paws crossing them. She saw the curtain lace needing to be washed and turning from white to cream. She smelled those farm-house notes of wet dog, earth, puppy pee and burnt coffee. Of course it was gross to her. I shrugged. It was a reminder of how feral my life must seem to a mom with a suburban house and floors literally clean enough to eat off of, because she has babies crawling over them. When you got two adults, two incomes, and 100% less farming you can make your house spotless. I'm not saying it's easy, but with diapers catching most of the manure in your life its a hell of a lot easier to keep things tidy. I'm fine with my house being gross to some people. They aren't on Team Farm.

I'm back inside now and Gibson is asleep, exhausted, in the overstuffed chair. The wood stove is lit just to fight back the damp outside. Friday had her puppy breakfast and is in her crate asleep as well. Annie (who sleeps as much as possible at 16) slept through all of this mud and memories and hasn't moved off the comfy daybed since her morning piss. The house smells like wet dog and burnt coffee, and I still smile. I poured myself a giant mug of the nectar and I'm enjoying it with sugar packets I pocketed from the gas station because things are too tight right now to go out and buy a box of Equal. That sentence might sound tragic to people with cleaner floors, but I am happy. I wouldn't trade in this scrappy life for a maid staff, sugar canes, and espresso machine.

I am looking forward to a hot shower and the chicken and potatoes with lupine anticipation. It's not ten-pointer but it'll do. Last night I had two chicken thighs cooked in an asian sauce for dinner. It was amazing. The rest of that bird is in the crock pot, a sort of leftover stew to pick at when I get too wolfish to fuss with recipes. Yesterday morning I had bacon and eggs from this farm's chickens and pigs. When the place that gets you mocked, takes care of you so well, you don't really care about others' opinions. Kind of like when you're old enough to not be embarrassed by your parents anymore - just grateful.

Today is just about indoor work - graphic design clients and writing - and that is good. I'll clean up the place and run a mop and light some candles to fight against the mess. I'll put on a record, something good for a rainy morning like Iron and Wine or Band of Horses. The house will be filled with music and dog sighs. I'll get a hot shower (which I am looking forward to more than most people look forward to getting laid), pour myself some more strong coffee, and put on some clean clothes and lipstick and feel like the huntress with a mortgage I am.

I am okay with all of this being messy. I am okay with a sister grossed out by my floors. I am okay with people I went to college with being wealthy while I am sliding pink packets into my pockets after buying a cup of coffee at a gas station. If the race is about happiness, if that is our actual metric for a good life, I am lapping nearly everyone I know.

And the ones ahead of me?
I am gaining on them.


Blogger Robin Follette said...

Eh. There are other things to do now. Winter's coming and the mud will be gone. Writing deadlines, deer season, homesteading, damp days, an English Shepherd that herds her ducks through the wet garden and brings dirt in on her feet. I'm busy. My floors are not just dirty, they're currently filthy. I sweep but haven't washed them in two weeks. So far, so good. Nobody's died so I think I'm doing okay.

November 12, 2015 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Loved this post today. And your description of Gibson jumping the wall made my heart race a bit. You make Thursday sound like an adventure. Thanks.

November 12, 2015 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Pilates Paula said...

You are fantastic, and I don't think your house is gross. :) Things just went from breathable to tight around here, as they so often do, and while I feel the tightness in my chest as anxiety, I don't feel it in my heart. I enjoy my work, I enjoy my life, and if the price for my joy is less security- so be it. You're right, this race is about happiness and your words are a balm!

November 12, 2015 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

Clean floors are overrated. Seriously, pushing a mop around just dilutes and swirls it around. redistributes the chunks. Seed for the week is all. I remember a school mate over one afternoon helping to prepare dinner. A tidbit fell onto the floor...she picked it up and threw it right into the pot, stating, "You could eat off your mother's floors." I don't want that on my headstone, thanks anyway. lol.

I'd remove my carpet in a heartbeat....the husband half not in agreement.

Good luck with the deer hunting. I'm off to the UP for a week. And if Anna brings you back a tree rat. Cook it. I do. In fact, a couple are on the menu for deer camp.

November 12, 2015 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Kyler and Sylvia said...

Would be great to see a video of Gibsbon in action?

November 12, 2015 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, to some your house may be gross but you know what I see (and smell) when I come over? A home that is lived in and loved. A home that has entertained friends, served good meals, offered up warmth and good conversation, and learning. I smell a house that makes me feel comfortable because my house smells like dog too. It is a home that has a wonderful owner and occupants who make me laugh. Can't wait to experience that again.

Love ya!

November 12, 2015 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Try as I may, this time of year it seems impossible to keep the outdoors where it belongs...outdoors. Though I shed the mud and manure plastered boots, and the horse hair and hay covered jackets at the door, that wonderful mutt trots right past me, leaving a nice trail of 'farm' through the middle of my clean kitchen floor.
Oh well, I guess that's why I have a mop and vacuum in my arsenal.

Ps. We never did see any pictures from your jousting expedition. I for one would LOVE to see some.

November 12, 2015 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Rachell said...

Way to count your blessings, Jenna. You are one of the lucky ones!

November 12, 2015 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thanks guys! Cat I will see you this afternoon?

November 12, 2015 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

K&S - yes I think that would be a hoot. I'm sure they'll get out again...

November 12, 2015 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Would your neighbor let you pick up a bucket or 2 of apples everyday and put them in the sheep pen? That might be enough to satisfy them.

November 12, 2015 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Alicia said...

Love this post! No wonder you're a writer. ;)

November 12, 2015 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

give Annie a smooch from me! and... do we have the same sister? ha! i had people recoil in horror at eggs on the counter (WHY ARENT THEY IN THE FRIDGE!) and home made butter. oh well.

November 12, 2015 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like it!! Way to make the point hit home! I'm just glad to know it isn't a race, after being in the race-car pit area for too long!

Getting back up, again!

November 12, 2015 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

It all sounds wonderful to me except the Equal. That stuff is vile poison. Use sugar. It isn't perfect but isn't a carcinogen either.
Did I miss something over the last year. Where is Jasper?

November 12, 2015 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Hi, A great post once again. Life on a farm isn't for OCD cleaning addicts. It is messy. There is a dirty floor and all the things that you have said. We just had problem with our well. Last night we ran out of water....a bad thing of course. I had some stored, so we got by. I worried about what the problem. A friend told us his story of a dry well, and $22,000 spent to get a good well drilled. The end of our story is better, there were 2 old switches and were replaced....and we now have water from the well.

November 12, 2015 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Loved it! You are awesome! Truly, loving life!

November 13, 2015 at 1:05 AM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Yes to all of this!! Those is my family not on Team Farm are regularly grossed-out/concerned/frightened about the state of things here, too. Especially because I have 3 kids and not-lickable floors - Ha! And it's not just the fresh eggs they can't stomach...
Unnamed Family Member: What is THAT?
Me: Sourdough starter
FM: Looks gross.
Me: Do you like bread?
FM: I love bread!
Me: This is how it's made.
FM: Oh, no I don't like that kind of bread that's made from mold. I'm allergic to mold! I only eat real bread, you know, like Wonder Bread.
Me: (sigh)

November 13, 2015 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

One of my pet peeves is women who want me to take of my shoes.... when I enter their home. I don't think that is welcoming at all. Her floors are so precious that I need to freeze my thanks I 'll stay outside.

November 13, 2015 at 10:05 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I think we all have the same sister! Since i've remarried and started farming, her imagination runs rampant of what my home and life are like and she won't even come visit me anymore. (she is in Birminham, I am in. Miwaukee suburb.)

November 14, 2015 at 5:56 AM  
Blogger Big Sky Chicken Ranch and Victory Garden said...

Jenna, your house is not gross, and I can vouch for that, because I've seen it in person. In May after a gnarly winter. Anyway, gross is a relative thing.....
My mother-in-law always says "it's a working farm house!" When I worry out loud about the "dirtiness" of my house.
Thanks for another lovely post.

November 14, 2015 at 6:09 AM  
Blogger Tattooed and Crafty said...

Clean is relative. :) We moved to our little house last year, and I think we have mopped the floors like, 3 times? *shrug* Meh. If you drop something, just wash it. Dirt germs are good germs, and making everything sterile is not as good for the immune system.

November 17, 2015 at 3:54 PM  

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