Thursday, May 24

Plan B Workshop at Cold Antler Farm

My Fabulo-tastic Day In Jackson - Part 2

The Plan B Workshop, hosted by Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, was amazing. A perfect setting with people who shared the same ideas and and great conversation. The weather was wonderful - warm and sunny with a nice breeze. We spent a great deal of time outdoors, which made the days topics all the more relevant.

The day started with a meet and greet and then a tour of the farm. Jenna showed us her beautiful property, all her animals that we have come to know by name from her blog, and her cozy and welcoming farmhouse. After getting plates of food from the kitchen, we gathered in the living room to hear the first presentation by Kathy Harrison.

I had been very nervous about the day and I was trying my best not to have a total panic attack induced meltdown. Put me in a place I have never been before with people I don't know and mix that with general anxiety, and I am usually a hot flash away from crippling nausea and a day spent in bed. But that was not how I wanted this day to go - a day I had been looking forward to for months. I was just dreading it: "Excuse me Jenna, but I really need to throw up in your bathroom and then sprawl on your daybed for the remainder of the workshop."

So I took a pill and mentally cursed myself out - "Suck it up you wuss! You have been so excited about this workshop! Don't wreck it for yourself!!!!"

It worked. And mixed with the wonderful hospitality of Jenna and the engaging conversations with the other attendees, I was cured. Kathy's talk sealed the deal with her relaxed and open presentation style. We sat around Jenna's living room - on the daybed, on chairs brought in from other rooms, on the floor and someone was even lounging on the dog bed with George, the huge and very friendly cat.

Kathy's presentation was focused on home preparedness and the things you should have on hand at home or in your car. All the basics were covered, as well as a few things I had not thought about. Access to water and proper sanitation were some of the first topics covered as well as food storage. I did not know that you could dehydrate a potato and then re-hydrate it right in the mason jar with some water from the kettle. Give it an hour and you have....potatoes! And a new catch phrase was born - "It's just a potato!"

Also, stocking up on necessary medications is something we should all look into. With insurance providers, doctors and pharmacies sometimes limiting the amount you can get at one time, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are on medications that are necessary for your healthy and well being. They may be willing to write a prescription for a larger dose if you explain your reasoning. Along with medications, Kathy suggested that it is a good idea to have some Pedialyte on hand. It comes in powdered form, lasts a long time, and is essential for re hydration during or after an illness.

A good library was also discussed. Even if you never need to tan leather or make soap, you have a reference just in case. She mentioned the Mormon Survival Guide as a good thing to have on your bookshelf or filed away for reference. It is free and you can print it out or save it here.

One more important point that Kathy made - have hard copies of your important information and contact numbers. How many times have we called someone just by scrolling down the list of pre-programmed numbers on our phones and selecting the persons name? If you could not charge your cell phone, do you know their phone number in order to contact them?

After that we broke for lunch and loaded up plates with more food. I ventured outside to enjoy the picture perfect weather and I was soon talking with a great couple who lived only 15 minutes away from Cold Antler. There was such a wide variety of people there - ages, backgrounds, different geographical areas - but we all seemed to be drawn together by the same ideas. It was mentioned that it was interesting how we had all seemed to have read the same books and watched the same documentaries and movies.

The geese, turkey and chickens roamed freely around the yard and provided festive entertainment. Gibson, who had accompanied us on our meet and greet tour, was now showing us his great rabbit watching skills. This just might have been a perfect afternoon. Fantastic weather, great people, interesting and relevant topics, barnyard animal noises, friendly dogs, and cool, shady grass. Who would not love to spend time lounging in the shade discussing dairy goats and artisan wells with roosters crowing in the background?

The second presentation was given by James Howard Kunstler and was centered on peak oil and energy. A much different presentation than Kathy's but equally relevant and interesting. Although he had some competition from two geese that paraded back and forth behind him, he had us engaged and curious. Even the rooster sent out crows of agreement from time to time.

James Howard Kunstlers presentation spent time on the gloom and doom aspects of energy shortages and peak oil. But the gloom gave us ideas and discussion topics and we had a great time on the lawn hashing over economics, mutual interdependency, the future of everyday life and how all of the above will impact society on a block by block level.

Honest, funny, engaging and passionate about his subject, I very much enjoyed his talk and I have been watching more of his comments on YouTube videos.
Part of the workshop included copies of the books from both speakers - Just in Case and The Long Emergency - which both speakers signed for everyone there.

After the presentations and the cleanup, Jenna gave us an impromptu goat milking lesson with Bonita, who walked herself right up onto her milking stand and rose to the occasion. I learned more about goats in 10 minutes at Cold Antler than I had ever picked up reading books or internet articles.

By that time it was well past the official end time of the workshop but Jenna did not seem to mind at all. People were hanging about in the yard under the shade of the huge front yard tree talking about books, canning products, and ticks.

I have never been anywhere that had such a great group of people. That, coupled with Jenna's easygoing attitude, made my day stress free and put me at ease in a situation where I would normally be freaking out. Being able to share ideas and discuss topics that might raise some eyebrows at your local Applebee's in a great setting was priceless. Like minded people getting together - one of the first steps in making it happen.

One of the main topics discussed between all of us in attendance was the issue of self sufficiency vs. small tight communities. Someone asked us which one we would strive for is we had to choose and most people answered for community. I was one of the hold outs, stating that I would like to think I could be self sufficient but when we started discussing things, I realized that one person can not realistically do everything, make everything, grow everything, handle everything and keep everything secure. This made me a little uneasy however in that if my neighbors were people like the ones at the workshop, it would be no problem. Everyone would be on the same page and share a common ideology. But how do you take that home to your neighborhood where your neighbors are so different  that it seems impossible. One neighbor sprays chemicals on everything in his yard while another owns a house big enough for three families. Another neighbor grows some food but yet another pours gallons of gasoline into all sorts of hobby crafts.

I asked this question of James Howard Kunstler: "What is it going to take for all types of people to finally get on the same page?" In general he answered by stating that the way we live now is not going to be the way we will live in the near future. We have to be willing to reevaluate our standard of living and realize that there will not be a way to continue it, even with renewable energy sources. In his words, "making a more fuel efficient car is not the answer, it's realizing that the car is the problem."

What will it take? What will it take to have suburban middle class America, the cities, the farms, the rich and the poor and everyone in between take a look at the limited availability of the resources taken for granted? A massive drought? Famine? Environmental disaster? Government failure?

Or could it just be something as simple as waking up one morning and finding the price of gas is $20 per gallon?

Bottom line: We need to be more self sufficient and we also need to reach out to members of the community who feel the way we do. As much as we would like to think we can do it all on our own, this workshop taught me that having a network of people with skills, ideas and common values is just as important as having a stocked pantry, a crank radio and a backup heating plan.
A great deal of information was gathered and shared at the Plan B Workshop. People went home happy, excited and full of new ideas. And if something does happen, I like to think that I am just a little more prepared thanks to this great day of education.


  1. Hi Meredith,
    I always wanted to go to Jennas for a class, but living in Illinois, that's not going to happen. She is a brave and awesome farmer and a very natural writer. I am so glad you had fun. Stop by my blog soon when you have time. I am one of your newest followers, I hope you will do the same.

  2. So glad that you actually got to enjoy yourself. I would really like to go to Jenna's workshops too but live in Alabama so impossible right now. I am the same way about being in a new place with people I don't know but I do fine if I know somebody at the gathering wherever it is. Can you share more about the goat milking? We will be getting goats in the next 2-3 years and I think talking to somebody who has them or actually seeing how things are done in person is much better than any book. Mr. Kunstler is right about people getting together. I don't think that we have come together since 911 and that didn't last long before that probably the 1940's during the war or the 20s and 30s during the depression. It will take something major that will stay with us for a while like years for all of us to change our wasting ways...

  3. glad you had a great time, beautiful post!

  4. I'm so envious of your visit to Cold Antler Farm! I'd love to attend one of Jenna's workshops (I feel like she's my New York double, of sorts), but I live in Northern Maine and it's about 12 hours away from me.

    Thanks for taking the time to rehash everything you did while there. It was really fun to read. Also, I have general anxiety myself, so I was able to relate to everything you wrote in that regard!

  5. That is fantastic! What a great post. I didn't even know Jenna did classes. I should look them up.

  6. See the site: It will give you a different impression of Jenna Woginrich.