If you’re not reading Cold Antler Farm, you should. It’s the story of Jenna Woginrich’s attempt to set up a small farm in the small village of Sandgate, Vermont. Jenna’s intrepid, and scrappy, and smart, and her blog is a pleasure to read.
Last week, she wrote a post called “Never Looked Worse,” in which she recounted some of the trouble she’d gotten into with her neighbors, and with the village, in the course of acquiring animals and growing food:
I went to a few of the neighbors to talk to them in person, and see if they felt I was in the wrong trying to start a small diversified farm in their village. I asked one woman her opinion and she sighed, looked off into the distance, and said “Well, you know Jenna. The property has never looked worse…”
That response floored her, as she saw beauty in the “sagging fences, the chicken poo on a stepping stone, the bags of feed behind the garage, the hay stacked on the porch.” She makes the point that farms are picturesque in our collective imagination, but much grittier up close.
As I read this, all I could think about was how glad I am that nobody can see our house from the road. Our property is piled with crap. There are the half-completed projects like the base for the wood-fired oven and the lettuce-in-the-cold-frame experiment we’ve got set to go on the next sunny day. There are branches that have come down in storms that have yet to be gathered into a brush pile. There is the brush pile, large even without those branches. There is the trailer chassis (trailer trash!) piled high with lobster traps. There is a very large boat, covered with a canvas tarp. There is ice. There is mud. And there is firewood. Piles and piles of firewood.
I know this is the look of a functional property, but I don’t see in it the bucolic beauty of Cold Antler Farm. I see piles of crap amid ice and mud. I can’t help thinking that the rusting carcass of a 1969 GTO would feel right at home here. Then all we need is a porch, a dog to go under it, and a still made out of an old washtub.
Jenna, tell your neighbors they have a standing invitation to come visit us. They’ll never complain about you again.