Around then, I was sent on assignment to write a story about a rodeo that takes place in the Badlands of Eastern Montana (Montana happens to be my home state) where I met this man…
His name is Jake. He’d just been tossed from the back of a bull but stood up smiling. He said he was from Baltimore, a soldier in the Army Reserves and living out his dream of cowboying in the West. Even though we were opposite in just about every way, it was love at first sight. He came to New York City to hang out with me. I flew back to Montana to spend time with him and try to understand his interest in Garth Brooks and old tractors. Just when we were getting to know each other, he got deployed to Iraq for a year and a half. It was my first introduction to military life (turns out it’s not all about goofy eraser haircuts and Mountain Dew). We kept in close contact through letters, piles of handwritten love letters mailed to each other five, six, ten times a week. When he returned, we knew we were destined to be together despite the whole “now what do we have in common again?” thing. We were united in our mutual love of dancing and beef jerky.
Jake’s soul would wither if he had to live in a big city but I wasn’t wild about moving anywhere near a Walmart. I said I needed to live in a college town. Jake said Lexington, the home of his alma mater, had two. So we moved to Lexington, a small town of 7,000 with a solid agrarian, Civil War backbone, home to a mighty Walmart. We bought a little cottage on eight acres and started growing our own food, canning our own vegetables, brewing our own beer and raising and slaughtering our chickens. I sewed my own crazy fashions. I felt like a pioneer lady. I built fences with Jake. I rode horses. I got some cowboy boots. I did some felting. I started this blog, an outlet for my DIY lunacy. This was in 2009. I cowrote a cookbook called Tart & Sweet that was endorsed by Alice Waters and featured in the New York Times and Oprah.com. Around that time, I began thinking about my choices, wondering whether it was wise to abandon my career for love and weighing the nature of marriage. An outgrowth of these questions was the publication of my second book Rurally Screwed – out in paperback April 2, 2013! — a love story of opposites about making marriage work amid differences and deployments that NPR.org called a memoir of “unexpected, unpretentious and very funny heft.”
Around that time, this little chickadee came on the scene…
Since June has been in the picture, my rabid DIYing has slowed somewhat (good thing because I can’t take anymore canned food!) but we still farm chickens because we’re masochists always on the hunt for more “walking around money.”
Just as I was settling into my quiet country life as author-slash-chicken executioner, Jake got deployed to Afghanistan, leaving June and I to fend for ourselves. It was a year of trial and error, hardship and happiness — and probably too much red wine — but also a chance to make my country environment my own. I realized that just because I live in the country doesn’t mean I have to be country, which is to say, I eased off the canning and horse back riding and got myself an office in town. Jake returned from Afghanistan in April 2012 with his good humor and spirit intact. With the help and financial support of my many wonderful blog readers, we were able to bring this little stray puppy with him.
Her name is Solha. Solha was rescued out of Kandahar, one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan. Solha can jump ten feet high and bust out of any enclosure. She’s tough and wily and sometimes I wonder if she’s part Mujahideen. But she seems happy here. There’s no Taliban in Virginia.
These days, my blog represents my family finding its way back together again. I write about all sorts of stuff: food, animals, moonshine, parenting, farming, marriage, decor, beef jerky, whatever strikes my fancy, really. When I’m not writing here, I write fulltime for magazines, websites and newspapers. I’m a contributor to top parenting site Babble (my blog there is called Heartlandia) and I am currently developing my third book. I still occasionally can pickles. And I teach Pilates part time.
Want to know more about me? Feel free to check out my professional website or contact me directly at jessieknadler at mac dot com.
Thank you for stopping by.