Friday, February 22, 2013

The Writings of Jenna Woginrich

Late one night, I relaxed in bed with my fiance at my parent's house reading Mother Earth News. The house I had bought a year and half earlier was under structural and functional construction. While working on it, we were living in my old bedroom at my parent's house. Tucked into bed, I read an article called Life on the Homestead. I didn't notice the author. I didn't really care who it was because reading it, it could be anyone, including me. I read the article aloud to my fiance. He wasn't as impressed or moved by the article as I was. I dog eared it and read it again a few nights later. I would be willing to bet that I still have that magazine with the dogeared page.

Years later I would read an excerpt from a book called Made from Scratch and get so excited that I would literally leap out of my computer chair to tell my husband about the book I had just found by the same author, Jenna Woginrich, who had written the article from Mother Earth News a few years ago. He, of course, had no idea what I was talking about. I though, was over the moon. The woman who I had felt so connected with through her writings, had written a book. Not just any book, but from the looks of Amazon, a book that told her story and gave me practical information I could use on our small homestead. I promptly requested it from the library, along with her other works, Barnheart and Chick Days.

A month later I have read Made from Scratch and Barnheart as well as perused Chick Days. I have also read a fair amount of her recent blog entries. By shear luck, I read Made from Scratch and then Barnheart (go library go for only getting a few books in at a time) and should you be interested in reading either or both of these books, I would highly recommend reading them in order. Now, the details:

I absolutely loved this book. It was incredibly well written and enjoyable from the very beginning. Each chapter concentrates on one subject and starts with her story, followed by practical, need to know information. It covers many different topics from Chickens and Rabbits (each have their own chapters) to Sewing and Home Cooking. I tried a few of her recipes and they were basic and good. I even requested her permission to share her bread recipe in the upcoming Bread series. This book was highly enjoyable and I was very sad that it ended so quickly. It is clear that she has a lot of knowledge and strong emotions for all topics farming related. I highly recommend this book.

I was especially excited to read about her beekeeping initial experience because we are hoping (and when I say we, I mean me. My poor husband comes along for the ride because, thankfully, he loves me so much.) to add two beehives this spring.

After finishing Made from Scratch, I promptly cracked open (it had arrived a few days earlier, talk about luck!) Barnheart. The first chapter/introduction, titled "How to Tell If You Are Infected," did not grab me like the the first one but I loved her first so much that I decided to keep going. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific topic and it seems to follow chronologically. I say seems because the second half of the book I had difficulty following time. It is completely possible it was just me as I would get to read a few pages here and there.
The chapter discussing her adoption of Sarah, the herding dog, is filled with emotions and vivid scenes, especially for me. I have a rescue dog and for the first year worked very hard to make sure she was getting enough exercise and had a proper energy outlet. Throw a couple of kids into the mix though and those routines can degrade. Has my dog been nipping people? No. There have been plenty of times when it is clear though that she has too much energy and I need to get back to being a responsible dog owner who properly exercises her dog. The chapter ends with a disaster at Thanksgiving and no real understanding (time wise) of the handling of the resolution. (I am being a little vague so I don't spoil it for you.) The next chapter begins long before Thanksgiving and continues until she gets home from Thanksgiving at her parents. It is unclear where Sarah, the herding dog, was during her turkey chapter and during the next "Note on the Door" chapter. She is noticeably absent from the chapters considering how strong the emotions were from the previous chapter. Also the author got hurt by one of her sheep in the chapter about Sarah but it isn't mentioned anywhere else in the book. Personally I would think that an injury that "took a few weeks of walking with a cane to recover from a torn muscle. And a few months for me to actually bend and move my knee like a normal person" would have affected the subsequent chapters. I cannot tell when the injury occurred during her year or when it healed, however having had more surgeries to my knees than you can count on one hand, I can tell you that knee injuries profoundly affect your life. Her entire healing experience last for less than a single paragraph, specifically four sentences. Never again do we hear mention of it.
In summary, the book was laid out similar to her first book but for me it didn't really work. I had trouble following her passage of time and ended up skipping back a few pages to try and figure out what I had missed to go from one page (or chapter) to the next regularly. The book, instead of being a continuous story, is really a collection of stories about her life in Vermont while she was running a small farm on rented land. Each chapter is self contained and beautifully constructed with imagery and emotions. Each chapter overlaps if you were to make a timeline, however in each chapter, there is no mention of the life occurrences outside of the chapter topic. For me this detracted from the enjoyment of the book, for others it may not. Perhaps if I had sat down and read one chapter at a time, such as before going to bed, I wouldn't have noticed. As a whole story I was disappointed. As a collection of stories, it was phenomenal.
Jenna Woginrich is a highly gifted writer, who has the ability to draw a reader in, and experience life as she is living it. I would recommend Made from Scratch to any and everyone. I would recommend Barnheart to anyone who is dreaming of a farm and need a little extra bump in the "live your dream" direction.  Would I read another book by her? In a heart beat. Jenna Woginrich is proof that it can be done. Anyone who really wants to only needs a little time, a little dirt, a strong desire, patience, an ability to learn and a lot of hard work.
I would also recommend visiting and reading her blog Cold Antler Farm. There is a lot of information about all different topics from food to music to games. The life she leads is inspiring. Words cannot express how excited I was to read her entry about the newly signed book deal. Not only is another book getting started but the entry mentioned that her fourth will be out in October. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy.
This article was Featured on the Farm Girl Blog Hop.


  1. I have read and enjoyed these books as well (and her blog!) Despite the fact that my lifestyle is very different from hers I admire her so much for going after the life she wants. Very inspiring! Visiting (and pinning) from Diana Rambles. Thanks for the great post.

  2. Just checked "Made from Scratch" out at the library! Can't wait to read it!

  3. Thanks for telling us about these books...they sound great! Thanks so much for sharing this on The Creative HomeAcre! I can't wait to see what you share next time at...

  4. Aw, I read Made from Scratch and fell in love with homesteading through it! Such a nice book.

    Thanks for sharing at the Blog Fest! Always a pleasure to find your posts in the list!

    ~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

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