The girl is Jenna Woginrich, and she lives at Cold Antler Farm, and I went to visit.
This was one of those adventures that was unlikely. Fortuitous. Blessed. Incredible. Knowing I'd be visiting New York and feeling particularly brave one morning, I'd emailed Jenna to ask if she needed any help on the farm for a day or so. Turns out that my visit could coincide with Jenna's annual workshop weekend, Antlerstock. These days Jenna doesn't go to work as a graphic designer. She supports herself and her farm with her blog, by guest-speaking, and by holding regular workshops about homesteading and farming. I promptly bought a ticket for the weekend, looked at a map, arranged a rental car, and smiled. A lot!
The next morning was mild, but overcast. It was with some nervousness that I set out for Cold Antler. After all, I'd been reading about this place for ages, and suddenly... what the hell? How could it be that I was about to visit?! Incredible! I drove there thinking about the wonder and immediacy of the internet, and about how small it can make the world feel sometimes.
I don't know what I was nervous about. Others were arriving as I did, and there were about twenty people standing about on the front lawn in front of the little white farmhouse in a clearing in the woods. I headed for the familiar-looking girl in a utility kilt who was greeting the arrivals in turn.
"Who's this?" she said as I came to the head of the queue. I told her, my Australian accent sounding weirdly false in my own ears, and she said "Ooooh!" and gave me a big hug. She told me I'd won the (metaphorical) prize for being the person who'd travelled from furtherest away.
Jenna herself did talks on keeping chickens, on rearing rabbits for meat, on sheep, she did a soap-making demonstration and was on hand to only-just catch the screaming piglet as he made an attempt at freedom from the barn, and to admonish Monday-the-tame-lamb when he became too inquisitive about someone's backpack.
Inbetweentimes, we all talked, sharing stories about our homes, towns and lives. They were the most lovely bunch of folk, and I found I had something in common with all of them; we wanted to visit Cold Antler and get an insight into what life could be like if we had our own farms. The term 'homesteading' isn't really known in Australia; here we just call it 'farming' or, if we used to be city-dwellers, 'tree-changing'. The challenges are different - I simply can't imagine what it would be like to need six months worth of firewood on hand to heat my home, or to beat my way through snow to feed the chooks. But, I guess some of the people I spoke to have never faced a blistering summer of water restrictions. I'm not a farmer, nor am I a tree-changer, but the good thing was that almost everything we learned about (large livestock and tree-felling aside) could be adapted to suit a small yard in an urban setting.
Now, I'm not ever likely to have a rifle leaning in my hallstand like Jenna (and hope I never need one) but at Antlerstock I did do something I never thought I would.
|Photo courtesy Andrew from Brown Dog Photo|
Since I've come home, I've thought often about Jenna and her life on that little farm. I feel so lucky that I was able to visit. I'm thankful that Cold Antler has weathered the edge of the horrible recent storm that hit New York. I've started my own new sourdough culture, an intriguing experiment that I'll post on later. I've looked at my chooks with a new appreciation, and been delighted by the tiny cobs forming on the windswept corn in the garden. I've carved my very first jack-o-lantern. And, I'm eyeing off our woodpile and wondering what the neighbours would think if I started throwing axes around here.