Thursday, March 17, 2011

Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life - Jenna Woginrich



Bear with me for a minute...I'm going to digress.

I have any number of crazy fantasies that will probably never happen in my lifetime, and they are not based on anything even close to reality, but on fluff and sunshine. One of them is to live on a farm and make sheep and goat cheese (I've seen this life in situ in Poland, and having visited this woman twice, I am hopelessly wooed by the idea). Never mind that I USED to live on a farm when I was young, and could have probably tried this if I had asked my dad, but didn't. I was too busy worrying about how to get off the farm.

So anyway, I was discussing this fantasy with a rep from Storey Publishing at SIBA last fall. I have no idea how we got on the topic. And the rep excitedly shoved this book in my hands and said I had to read it. That it would totally feed my fantasy, and maybe even expand my dreams to raising chickens, bees and rabbits.

Synopsis: Jenna Woginrich seems to have always had a little Mother Earth in her. She grew upItalic in Tennessee, and at a young age had an interest in spinning fabric into yarn, and playing old musical instruments. But after college, when she got a computer design job in northern Idaho, she decided she wanted to try homesteading. She found a mentor, rented a place with some land, and dove in head first.

Jenna is fearless. She got chickens first, then bees (STINGING ANGRY INSECTS!), then rabbits. She explains patiently, as a person who has started from square zero, how to approach these projects. She planted a garden. She uses her huskies as work dogs and also takes them sledding. She taught herself to play the banjo, the fiddle, and the dulcimer, and has jam sessions with other old time music lovers. She buys her kitchen gadgets at antique stores. She knits and sews her own clothes, sometimes from the sheared fur from her angora rabbits. She bakes bread, makes her own pasta, and cans her garden produce.

Her new lifestyle hasn't been without strife, and she is very forthright about it. Her dogs got into her baby chicks and killed them. She accidentally killed her bee queen. One of her rabbits injured itself and had to be put down:

"How simple was the simple life? Clearly, it's complex enough to make a Buddhist vegetarian kill a rabbit at point-blank range, then go buy a gun. Your lifestyle preferences are not considered when it comes to caring for the lives of others on a farm. Not everything can be as simple as we'd like."

At the back of the book, Jenna provides simple sewing projects, recipes, and resources for all of her endeavors. She makes even the most overwhelming projects achievable, whether you live in New York City or on 200 acres in Montana.

My thoughts: This book was a whole lot of fun to read, and it absolutely did expand my fantasies to chickens, rabbits and gardens (not bees). Realistically, with the pace of my life right now, and the nasty, scavenging varmints that think it is their right to eat anything on my property and poop in my pool, I probably won't be adopting vulnerable animals or planting greens anytime soon. But the seed has been planted (pun intended).

My ultimate goal, once my kids move away to college, is to move into a condo on the beach. So maybe the idea will stay a seedling forever, but you never know. And as Jenna states in her book, you can grow herbs on your windowsill, you can train your dog carry food home from the farmer's market, and you can bake your own bread and make your own pasta. I am completely open to this, and actually have been known to make my food from scratch. See! I can be green!

Throughout the book, several thoughts kept swirling in my mind, besides visions of my own fresh eggs. One was "there is nobody in my life that even comes close to being a personality like Jenna". As somebody who often makes her own tomato sauce with slow-roasted tomatoes and makes her own ricotta, I am already a lonely minority amongst my friends. Another thought was "this is definitely one lady I'd love to have dinner with. Just to see what makes her tick and listen to her stories". And actually you can listen to her stories, because she has a blog called Cold Antler Farm.

Hey, she now has sheep, and she loves goat cheese. On those topics alone, I could talk for hours.

4 out of 5 stars








20 comments:

Nymeth said...

I'll be sticking to herbs on the windowsill for now and for many years to come, but like you I am full of daydreams...

farmlanebooks said...

I have a dream about being self-sufficient one day, but I'm not sure I'm a good enough gardener to make that happen. I am currently considering getting chickens and I love the idea of bees- sounds as though I could follow in her footsteps! If only I had the space to excercise huskies..... You've got me daydreaming now!

Jeane said...

This lady sounds amazing. All I do is garden a bit, but I've dreamed about keeping bees (my husband is terrified of stinging insects and says no!) or chickens (my city says no) in my backyard. I've just barely started doing a bit of canning, and wonder if I could learn to make bread from scratch. My mom used to when I was young.

I knew someone when I was little who kept goats, and I remember not liking the goat milk, it just tasted so odd. I wonder if it's a taste I could learn to like?

Zibilee said...

I so want to read this book! Jenna sounds amazing, and like someone who not only has a lot of energy, but a ton of chutzpah as well. I wish I had the talent to do half of the things that she does...

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I always wanted to be that sort of person! But it is so far from reality for me, that reading the book would only make me feel bad. (However, I fully intend to BE that person in my next life!)

The Bumbles said...

If she can teach me how to get my cat to make homemade pasta I'm all in.

bermudaonion said...

I love to read books about farm life because it's a dream I've long had. When I face reality, I know I'm far too lazy and spoiled to ever live on a farm, but in my mind the existence seems idyllic.

Avid Reader said...

This does sounds fascinating. I always want to do things like this, then I make a garden or something and everything dies. I'd love to read about someone else's success at a farming lifestyle.

Elisabeth said...

I am with you! Farm as fantasy and condo on the beach reality! We can live vicariously through books!

Kathleen said...

I have the fantasy of a farm life in the future too. I think mine will be limited to having a huge garden and trying to raise as many fruits and veggies as I can. Living here in California I have a good chance of making a really good garden without stressing too much about it. Sounds like a fun read.

heidenkind said...

I have this fantasy that I'll meet a rancher and we'll wind up raising cattle in Montana or something. Ha! Right.

C.B. James said...

It all sounds fun, but I'm not sure how much of it would turn out to be fun. I thought for a moment the book would be about crafting, but she's really serious.

We bought a bread machine a few years ago for five dollars in a thrift store and now make our own bread every couple of days. Well, the machine makes it. That and the vegetable garden are the household things we do. I engage in a few crafts now and then, too.

But I would like to argue that writing your own book reviews should count a little.

caite said...

I friend of my at work has bought a property on a mountain in Virginia, she and her husband have built a log house and intend, in a few years, to move their and raise goats.

I like to buy my goat cheese at the supermarket. :-)

caite said...

btw..that rabbit she had to "put down"...exactly what did she intend to do with those rabbits anyway?

Julie P. said...

Sounds very interesting. I'm in awe of people like this.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I think it's very interesting how many of us daydream about living this kind of simpler lifestyle...I would love to have a few chickens and I'm like a kid at Christmas waiting on Spring planting to begin...Ahhhh...we'll just all keep dreaming together :)

Jenners said...

This kind of life is so insanely alien to me and my personality, yet I would be interested in reading it...just as I am interested in reading my current book about a crime scene cleaner, it is fun to learn about other ways of life. And I would have never pegged you as a wannabe farmer!

Darlene said...

I'd love to read this. Ahhh, the fantasies though - mine is a rambling cottage in Italy with olive groves and all.

Anna said...

This sounds very fascinating! I have those fantasies some days, but I think I would be horrible at that kind of life.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

This is the book you were telling me about over our (not homemade, but delicious and highly entertaining) dinner!

I'm supportive of making small changes toward a handmade life. Any little thing you can do to move in that direction has to be good. So you can have potted herbs on the balcony of that retirement condo on the beach ...