Monday, April 25, 2016

The Bear: Part 1

This was not a good week to be a goose at Cold Antler Farm. Not at all.

The geese have had a nest by the wood pile next to the kitchen. It's a safe little place, tucked right next to the house by the mews and the stacks of firewood. About a dozen eggs were being sat upon, hoping for a hatching of goslings to take to the Poultry Swap in May. About ten feet from them is the garbage cans. Both cans and the nest are less than fifty feet from my small 2-car-garage-sized barn.

I came home from the brewery early. Or, earlier than my friends who stay well into the wee hours. I get up with the sun around 6:30AM right now and staying up until 1Am isn't appealing. So I came home, and when I pulled into the driveway with my pickup, there was not a weird thing going on, at all. There was no panicked sounds of animals or grunts. There was no weird smells. I had been sober as a Judge for a while before I even turned the key in the truck. All was quiet on the Cold Antler Front.

I let the dogs out to pee. I checked the goats to see if any kids had arrived. I counted the flock for all 14 sheep. I made sure the pigs didn't topple their water (I hate waking up thirsty at 3Am, I imagine a pig does, too). So, as far I as knew, the farm was well and good when I crawled upstairs into my bed at 11PM. Honestly, I was so happy about that stair walk, it is embarassing. I had been sleeping on the daybed in the living room all winter, and to have the big full bed, the open windows, the fresh air, the clean sheets, the sprawling GLORY that is a big bed in a clean room... I was more drunk on comfort than anything. And this was the same day I had ran eight miles and fell off a horse. I was ready to sleep.

And while I was sleeping the bear came.

I live on a small mountain, up a winding road. Bears are common, as is bear hunting. There are packs of Plott Hounds that chase bear across my farm fields come fall. I watched them run across corn fields and have seen cubs climbing trees. I love this. I have no qualms with bears as they rarely cause problems. But that night while I slept one bear was on a mission. That mission was calledL DESTROY COLD ANTLER FARM.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Girth Matters

You don't think of much when you're falling off a horse. There isn't a lot of time. But I do remember a quick moment somewhere between saddle and dirt when I thought about hooves. I wasn't worried about the short fall off the horse, but I was worried about where those giant haunches landed after I did. I caught a glance of black feathered foot and felt them into the earth beside me. I have no idea why a thousand pound animal with a head the size of a truck tire can be classified as "pony." I got right up. Merlin trotted a foot or two away and then just stood there, blowing. He stared at me.

It was my fault, the fall. I was feeling invincible after an 8 mile run. It was sunny, 72-degrees, I wanted nothing more than to come home, change into riding clothes and boots and ride that beast up the mountain. I wanted to feel like a hero after feeling so out of control and scared all week. To take in the view of the valley I just explored on foot from the back of my horse. So I got Merlin out of the pasture, groomed him, didn't take the time to do any ground work and I didn't use any bug spray on him. I had not even bought bug spray yet this year. The bugs weren't an issue yet.

But the heat had finally brought out the first hatches and while they weren't bad in the woods at the base of the mountain they were bad up in the open grassy places we ride. Merlin wanted to graze on the better grass where the sun shined. I wanted to ride. I could tell I should have done ground work, too late though, and we rode on.

In another place and in another time I'll tell the whole story, like if we meet up for drinks at the Argyle Brewing Company, but the summary is that I was asking him to go on new trails, with bugs bothering him, without ground work, in a saddle that had too loose a girth. All dumb mistakes I had made before, but what can I say. I ran far and felt strong. He felt strong too, and kicked up high as he loped up a muddy trail and there was no purchase on the sliding saddle.

I got his reins, lead him to a place I could tie him up, and adjusted the girth. I got right back on him. He tried the bucking again and I said some very choice words and stayed on. I rode him home. He was wild and wanted to sprint. I laughed thinking how a 20 year old horse is not exactly an oldster just yet. He bitched and wanted to take off but I kept him calm. I sang to him the only song I knew in Gaelic, slowly and with calm confidence. Whatever part of me that was supposed to be shaken and scared was in a drawer somewhere else.

That night I finished chores with the sheepdogs running around, grabbed a long hot shower, and then got gussied up for the brewery. I always take Gibson, who is welcome most civilized places. I enjoyed a night of hard cider and new brews and talked for hours with good friends. It was packed, and headed home when the crowd size beat the enjoyment size. I knew I'd wake up sore.

I was too tired to hear the bear. That story in the morning...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Gibson & Friday


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Run

I was out running yesterday. I needed it. It's my meditation. I wish I was better at sitting still and breathing—I used to be—but these days few things are as unsettling as sitting quietly with my own bear-cage of a brain and not being allowed to get up and leave. That sort of classic meditation feels like being trapped in a phone booth with a crazy person. And soon as I relent and get up from that quiet place - I have failed. So I exchanged sitting still and counting breath for jogging. Out with music and sunshine, I can do something tangible and physical - but still monotonous. My brain can latch onto music that inspires me or podcasts that make me laugh and I can feel things in my body and mind heal up. There is no email. No constantly checking leads for jobs. And even if I only make it half the distance I thought I would go - I still ran. I can turn home early and not feel like I failed. It's important to explain that here.

One of the most common things people say to me is "You are Living The Dream!" What people see is a woman on a farm, working from home, and following her passion for a creative life. That is all true, but I am not living a dream. I am fighting like hell to keep a dream. "Living a dream" conveys the sense of success and ease. That is not the case here. And recently that fight has me down for the count. I feel like I am failing Cold Antler Farm.

I came to this farm with the identity that I was a writer. Since 2008 I have published five books about this adventure. Right now my 6th book is being edited and will be self published later this year. Writing books has been my identity and my sense of self worth as an adult, but selling another one to an established publisher is getting harder and harder. My agent has two proposals for books I am very passionate about and desperately want to write, but no contract has been signed in years on this little farm. This lack of that  professional-bound-Nationally-shelf-stocked work is one way I feel like a failure. Because being an "author' was who I thought I was. But now my income comes from freelance design, writing, and illustrations. I don't know what to call myself these days when people ask what I do for a living. I am failing at being a working author.

Cold Antler Farm was created right before Made From Scratch, my first book, came out. This was before the boom of social media and blogs were hot. I got lucky with timing and boldness, and got that book contract signed on my 25th birthday. The book did well enough to bring readers to the blog, people getting to know a 25-year-old dreamer talking honestly about her goals and trying to get a farm of her own.

For years I wrote and grew alongside this audience. Your kindness, support, and stories was a drug that fueled this fever dream. In 2010, I bought this farm and had published three books in around two years. Talk about an ego boost. I felt invincible. I felt amazing. But I think people were done with my story after the farm was bought in 2010, thinking that was the best place to end the movie. I can't blame them.

But the story didn't end at signing mortgage. The story right now IS the mortgage. The story is keeping the lights on, the animals happy, the place legally mine, and to work hard as hell to get the break I need to be more comfortable.  I don't like this slow numbness of the uphill crawl towards solvency. I don't like feeling any of this. But here is what I do know, and I am certain of: It is temporary.

There is no quitting. There is no plan B. There will be success and I am sure of it. I don't know how or what avenue, but it will happen if I can just keep going. I firmly believe that as soon as I give up, I relinquish that contract with my future. It's not something I can explain well, but these are truths to me. I am as sure of this as rain. And what may come across as stubbornness and idiocy to those reading this right now - it's more like faith.  These past few years have been the darkest and things will get better. And I believe getting to tell the story of that journey of certainty is important.

So I run.
I will not stop running.
And every single mile I run feels like part of the road that takes me there.

If you can help, please help. Help by sharing my story with others who care about food, farms, and luckless slingers. If someone you know needs a logo or illustration, drop my name and contact information. Give one of my books to a friend to read. Share a post you liked here with friends via email. Get the word out that in this messy and gross election year there's this scrappy woman who refuses to give up, shut up, or stop the climb. Because that is what it will take, grassroots effort. And I hope we can all look back on this time of fear and uncertainty on this blog and realize it is times like this when the wolves were at the door that she learned to howl.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Meanwhile in Jackson...

Friday, April 15, 2016

Visit the Farm, Leave a Fiddler!

Offering a sale on Fiddle Indie Day Packages, and a big discount if you come with a friend, spouse, or kid! The package includes a student fiddle, case, and bow and basic beginner song sheets and charts. It also comes with 4 hours of private lessons here at the farm from 12-4PM - Taking appointments for Summer and Fall!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Take Him Home!

This is an original piece done in pencil, ink and watercolor of Merlin. It is on 9x12" Bristol Board. Below him it says "Luceo Non Uro" The Clan Mackenzie Motto: I Shine, Not Burn. It is signed and dated. This is for sale to help support the farm. Make an offer to dogsinourparks@gmail.com and the highest silent bidder takes him home. Shipping free in the US. 8 (US) dollars CA.

Want a piece done of your own equine in sketch, ink, or full color? Email me as well!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Giant

Lucas and Bryan


That'll Do

Sometimes running a farm feels like being in your own action movie. The stakes are high, the air is crisp, and while you won't find yourself fighting bad guys or walking a tight-rope - your heard still pounds.

Last week I found myself walking up the road, watching the woods with squinting eyes as the ghostly bodies of escaped sheep darted through the trees, little lambs loping behind them. They were a ways up the steep hillside, but still visible since most of the woods here are not yet green. Gibson was beside me, watching, head low and eyes locked. We had been trailing them for a half mile, tipped by a neighbor who had driven by to say they saw my ram and some ewes down the road. My road ends at a rural highway, so that got our attention.  I put down the colored pencils and we suited up in boots and a walking stick. We'd get back those sheep. Now we found them. Step one, complete.

I have been spending so much time inside focused on the artwork that is trying to catch up with the bills here, that I didn't stop to look out the window at the flock after morning chores. So they had plenty of time to slip through a hole in the fence and follow the deer paths and stream into the woods.   To get to them Gibson would have to jump over the cold creek, race uphill, and have the wherewithal to send them home, not farther away from the farm. I wasn't in hunting chaps, and the rose bushes and other thorny growth was thick. I was hoping Gibson could hand this without me going home bruised and bleeding. I sent him up and he was gone like a buckshot.

It wasn't easy to see from the road, but far as I could tell Gibson locked on them with that classic stare and it was enough for them to turn tail. They darted back towards the farm, and the dog slowly stalked behind, trotting when he needed to to keep up. Gibson has been trained with me and some professional sheepdog trainers, but we are far from trial ready. I was counting on his instincts, not my commands. We are not a well-oiled machine like that. I watched them as I walked back home, along the road and then they crested over a bank and they were out of my site. I watched. I waited. No sign of dog or ewe.

I walked faster, my heart racing a bit. This wasn't our property and I didn't know it. I don't usually have Gibson out of my site, much less leave him with a 200 pound ram, ewes, and their offspring to deal with. I heard nothing, no barks or yelps. I saw nothing, though I strained my eyes trying. Finally I saw a flash of white and it was gone, but it was heading towards the farm. They were on some secret path for cervines and ravens. Seeing them closer to home I called to my dog, who raced back from farther up the road than I expected.

He popped out of the woods and onto the empty country road. His chest was heaving and he looked to me and then back at the sheep. I called to him "That'll Do!" and when he ran to me I went to my knees and hugged him close. This dog, he's perfect to me.

The sheep were back in their pens, soon munching early grass and acting as if nothing was wrong or different. Gibson and I were back home, he at my side as I worked on drawings for clients and files for logos. I let out a happy sigh, a long one. For years all I wanted was some sheep on a hill. I thought it was because of my love of wool and fibre, livestock, and farming. But it's about the tiny exhales of adventures I share with these dogs. We don't win ribbons. I we don't enter contests. But we work as a team to keep a little farm sane and safe.

That's better than an action movie.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Stories & Hitmen

The farm has been getting ready for spring, slowly and surely. The days go from sunny and warm to nights so chill you wake up to frost or an inch of snow. It's April? What should I expect? This month is mean. It's close enough to flirt with spring and get some flowers blooming or apple trees excited, and then BAM! It's 19 degrees and your truck door is fused shut by an ice storm and that outbuilding you just needed to last a few more weeks collapses. April. What a dick.

I have been sparse on this blog this past week, mostly because I have been spending all my creative energy on drawing and logos. If you follow me on Facebook you'll see a lot of work, mostly pet illustrations. But I also want to catch up with regular Youtube videos and the comic. As you can probably tell, I've spread myself thin. I can't help it. I love those little cartoons on Tumblr. I love the community on Youtube. I love the commissions and the logo work and figuring it all out.

Tomorrow I will tell you Gibson's heroic story of herding sheep for a half mile of forests and roads to bring them home. I'll also get into garden prep, chicken housing and brooder prep, farrier appointments, goat hoof trimming, and kidding prep. Slowly this farm will turn back into the green world it once was. Right now it's just poking shoots, mud, and slum. But I spent a few hours tonight just scrubbing and repainting the kitchen in a Spring Cleaning tear I went on. It felt good. I got the dishes done and the coffee ready for the morning. Never underestimate the morale boost having a clean kitchen and a prepped coffee pot can deliver.

I watched the movie Mr. Right and adored it. It's hard to categorize a hitman, romance, action, love story? But watch it. As Antlers it is your partial duty, kinda. We root for our heroes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Two Quick Things

I just wanted to pop in quick and share two things. First off, this here image of a wolf raising a horn with a mjolnir in his paw. It's for sale for $150 if anyone is interested, email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com. Also, I have a 1/4 share of pork a buyer backed out of. It is ready for pickup in about 6 weeks. If you are interested in some local meat, please do email me as well. Want both? I'll make you a hell of a deal.

Monday, April 4, 2016

April

Snow came, and kept coming, on this April day. It covered the violets and the daffodils. It coated lamb backs and goat noses. The pigs tucked into their nest and the chickens pretending it didn't happen. Earlier this week there was nearly 70 degree weather and grass on the roadsides. This is reason 43,873 that I hate April.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

He is a Dream Come True


photo by Miriam Romais

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Adapting, Always Adapting.

Creating art, my art, again for the first time in years has been wonderful. Last night to relax and unwind after a hard day, I drew this braided, kilted, border collie. But after he was sketched I didn't want to stop. I inked, painted, and penciled over him. Today I hope to sell this orginal artwork. The nest image is a sketch of a reader's horses, after that, a pile of comps for a motorcycle education group up here.

All of this is art to me. All these little pieces of work are what make up the mortgage, the feed bills, literally stop the power company from coming and placing notices on my doorknob.

I used to make a living from just writing. Books, freelance articles, and future book deals. I will always write but as publishing dips away from small memoir and ag books I am adapting. I'm using the skills I have as an artist to create many small projects.

This morning I woke up, made coffee, and fed my farm. Then I came inside and worked on digital and traditional art. Four different clients and a fed farm before 9AM is a damn good feeling. Wish me luck in logo and art sales! And if anyone you know is looking for a unique gift or branding work, please share my name!

Commission Prices for Art:

Sketch (pencil) $50
Cleaned and Inked $75
Full Color: $150

Logos: $250

Monday, March 28, 2016

Stay with me,
My good girl.
I loved you every minute of your life.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Little Lamb at Sunset


Friday, March 25, 2016

Tumblr & Little Wins

So a couple of days ago I couldn't sleep. I was so worried about this farm, being the farthest behind in the mortgage in my five-year history here. Today I mailed a payment, and while I am still behind I couldn't stop smiling as I dropped it off at the mailbox. Why? Because part of the money in the bank paying for the roof over my head came from drawing again. Intact is now a legit webcomic, and already has followers on Tumblr. Readers who follow me on Facebook are commissioning art. Folks are buying cartoon versions of their cats and dogs, horses and mules. And I am getting back the joy of drawing in the American Animation style I love so much. People who have never met my dogs are starting to get to know them. Gibson, the wiser, older, calm and smart farm dog. Friday, the total goof off who brings much needed light into the farm's life. Income is coming in from art. I am really happy about that. It is encouraging as hell.

Want to follow Intact: follow me on Tumblr here.