Monday, November 19, 2018


A lot has changed in my life since starting this blog but few things make that as clear as days like yesterday. I woke up to a broken oil furnace in the basement (what I use for hot water) and the truck wouldn't start. Years ago I would panic and then instantly hit the blog; writing about how scary that was and not knowing what to do, feeling stranded, worried about costs and being my myself. And to the magic of the Internet's credit: comments, advice, texts with friends and emails came pouring in. We got through so much together. It gave me the ability to feel cared for, gather some some deep breaths and feel okay. Then I'd go through the action steps of  calling a tow truck/repairman or asking friends to help. Which is not a bad thing, at all! By all means call and ask if you are in (or without) hot water!

But 36-year-old Jenna didn't feel the urge to write about it. She didn't have to call anyone. She just wanted to get it back to good. And luckily the truck broke down while at the Wayside General Store in Sandgate. I was meeting my friends Dave and Laurie for breakfast and so I had arrived at a friendly place full of friendly faces. The battery was dying after four years of solid work. Dave jumped me and I had the juice to carry me home.

I knew how to get a jump. I am now a woman who carries cables and a trickle charger behind the bench seat. I got the battery replaced at NAPA back in Cambridge. When I pulled into the farm's driveway I started the hot water repairs. I knew how to turn off the furnace and safely tinker with it while scouring YouTube videos for the right troubleshooter. While doing that I found out I need to replace the filter. I make a mental note to grab one next time I'm at the hardware store. By noon I had hot water flowing from the taps and a working truck again. I say this in my driest Paris Geller voice: Bully.

My brain took in the $127 for the new battery and added it to the daily income goal, hoping I could at least break even with the day's sales. I scoffed at the idea as I made notes on my daily list and let out a long sigh. Okay, keep going. You got this.

When I bought this place in 2010 everything about farming, home owning, repairs, insurance... all of it was new and I was learning it alone. No spouse or in laws to call. No relatives or family nearby. Just a sole wild Jenna trying to figure out how to keep the gears moving. And while I did fail miserably at home-owning competence, I succeeding at making friends. Soon I knew people who knew what I didn't and cared enough to help. I did my best to return that help whenever possible. Lather, rinse, repeat and this girl had herself a network.

I know how to fix more problems than I did when I bought this place. More importantly, I learned how to fix myself. I wish I could say that was from learning some meditation technique or wisdom based down through the ages... it was mostly me making mistakes and being too stubborn to quit or change. That furnace has been giving me guff for years and I know it the way I know Merlin. That truck might not be much to look at but few repairs cost $127 dollars on modern vehicles, even replacing batteries.

Today my friend Othniel came up from Common Sense Farm to deliver the last half cord I had paid for and he brought along his industrial power washer. While I stacked the wood the house got a bath. The plastic siding was growing mold large enough to soon require names and classifications.  Today that hose smote it. I once again live in a white farmhouse, not a green dapple.

While he washed the house I went through the day's list and felt that panic seep in. The low-grade panic that haunts the edges of the day. I constantly worry I am not doing enough. I looked at what had been accomplished so far:

Strip Bed√
AM Chores (stock fed, watered, fresh bedding if needed) √
Make Coffee √
Emails and Socials Checked √
Dating Apps Checked √
Grocery Shopping √
Pay Verizon Bill
Soap-making Supplies Restocked √
4 Pet Sketches Sent for Approval √
Buy Feed √
Make Soap √
Package 2 Soap Orders √
Half Cord Wood Stacked √
Cat Litter Box Cleaned √
Change Sheets √
Train Hawk √
Blanket Mare √
PM Chores √
Make Dinner √
House Bath √
Paint an Illustration
Write Blog Post
Shower (clean sheets!)

This day started at 6AM and won't end until 8PM. After this post is done I need to paint that illustration. I didn't make any sales today so that means tacking today's goal onto tomorrows. Right now I want to move the bank account from the land of three digits to four. Once I'm in that world I can start thinking about a house payment. But it's list like this, written every morning, that combine the work of farm, household, business, and social life that keep me in line.

Compared to what I used to do in an office, this is 4 times more intense. The combination of the certainty of a direct deposit and knowing I was one person among hundreds working for the same goal felt like I was the crew of a giant ship. I could get coffee three times a day. I could take an hour lunch. I could leave at 5PM and not even humor the thought of a work email. Now I wake up and fall asleep thinking about this farm, the needs of the place, the money I need to earn, the work I need to prepare for. And even when the paper is littered with cross-out items it doesn't feel like enough. Like I am simply. not. doing. enough.

 So to remedy that feeling I make my lists and I have to finish them. It took years to learn this discipline, again, through mistakes. But this list will be completed. And even if today meant just emails and queries, bills and errands, and no income I do have this list done. I am a woman with a trickle charger in her F150. My water is hot. My house is heated with a stove and fire and an oven with a roast I got on sale that will make 5 more meals, easy.

I think that feeling of not doing enough can't go away. I think it is part of me. And I think it'll take becoming someone else in another ten years to learn to ignore those feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. But tonight I am warm. I have work, a shower, and clean sheets to look forward to. I am going to flirt online with people who I'll probably never meet and aren't interested and the fall asleep whispering sweet nothings to Friday while the snow falls on my white house.

And tomorrow I will get up and try again.