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Monday, November 21, 2011

I Found a Farm at the Library

In these unstable economic times around the world a young American author named Jenna Woginrich is inspiring readers of her books, tweets, and blog posts to take charge.  To learn to be more self-sufficient while being environmentally conscious. Jenna is no whiner. She is on her feet trying, making mistakes, and learning. You can occupy Wall Street if you want.  No offense to the occupiers, but I admire someone like Jenna. She is truly a doer!

I discovered Jenna's first book while looking for recipes in the 640 section of the Library shelves.   I happened to notice the title Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. This  immediately got my attention because anything about "handmade" is impressive to me.  It means that someone has slowed down, taken time to be creative and clever, broke a sweat, taught themself something, saved money, and even helped the planet to boot.  What's not to love?! 

 In her book she talks about how she started off as a young, single woman with a desk job and a city apartment who wanted to build a more self-sufficient lifestyle by learning homesteading skills. She didn't own land or have much practical experience beyond a few forays into knitting and soap-making.  She did have a strong desire to opt out of what she saw as a consumer-driven culture. After moving to a rented farmhouse, she learned to raise chickens and bees, and to grow her own food. All the while supporting herself with a full-time job as a graphic artist. 

Along the way, she learned that an abundance of enthusiasm and a willingness to experiment could make up for a lack of knowledge, and that reaching out to others for mentoring and guidance could help her reconnect with her community.

In the book I found simple sewing patterns and simplified recipes for pancakes, quiche, and bread among other ideas.

Made from Scratch shares the deep satisfaction Jenna found by learning to provide for herself. Her youthful (she is in her mid-20s) outlook is positive and humorous as she shares stories of her ups and downs with her two sled dogs (yes, she even taught herself how to drive a sled team!).  In addition she talks about lessons learned to knit a sweater, play a guitar, make jam, even raise baby chicks.

Her voice is inspirational and encouraging as she goads readers to take small steps toward self-reliance as she does.  For Jenna, it's about learning the simple skills most of us have forgotten, and finding joy in the process.

Since the printing of that first book, Jenna bought a small farm in upstate New York and continues to learn new things, such as training a pony to pull and playing a banjo. She is writing her fourth book now about how she has managed her first year as a property owner, part-time new farmer, and still full-time graphic artist. 

Her story is less unique than you might think. Raised garden beds in Brooklyn backyards has taken on a kind of movement (search videos on You Tube). Upstate New Yorker farmers Josh and Brent of Beekman Farm have a book and now weekly TV show about their "conversion" from working for others to self-reliance on the farm.

One way Jenna has helped herself survive is by inviting readers of her blog to paid workshops in her home, where she shares her hard-won knowledge on a variety of topics.  In March I am looking forward to attending her workshop on Urban Farming, a course for suburbanites like myself who want to be better backyard gardeners and canners for benefit of health and wallet.  
To learn more about Jenna Woginrich and her homestead on Cold Antler Farm, just search in Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger, and of course, on the 640 shelf at your local library.

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