Friday, March 22, 2019

Pork Shares Still Available! Lamb Sold Out!

Okay guys! Still looking to move shares of pork! Get some amazing meat for yourself or buy a share to be donated to my local food bank/elders' home!

This farm needs to make the sales to stay solvent and the clock is ticking louder by the day. I have less than ten days to pull things off towards this month's safety net.

This is the time to support the farm if you are at all interested in doing so. Please send an email. I'll be in touch withe everyone who isn't clearly a troll!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Preventative Measures

It's been a gray day on this farm. Right now the rain is falling steady and I am just inside from evening chores. Paws are wiped. The candles are lit. The wood stove is sputtering to keep the chill off the rainy, windy, weather outside. Despite the weather things are steady, if not gaining on the mood front. I made the whole Kiva Loan payment on time, keeping that promise to my lenders. Now I can focus on the mortgage, and gods willing, the health insurance. Sales are at a trickle which is a damn fine flow better than no water at all. I have a ways to go to make it. Fingers crossed.

And you know Murphy's Law never needs a reason to not come calling... Soon as the payment was made to Kiva I took Friday out for a nice walk before the rain came. She stopped to do her business and what I saw was not pleasant. She has worms. Not a tragic case but she has them for certain and I made the call to the vet and was told she was also due for her rabies shot so tomorrow she heads down to the vet clinic. Never a dull moment on a farm. Keeping me on my toes.

The good news is that I was able to get hay loaded up in the truck and unloaded before the rain. I was also able to get some needed house repair supplies at the hardware store. I saw the weather report was calling for intense rainfall between tonight and Saturday, and I already saw what a rainy morning can do to my basement. A few days back I was able to reroute the sump pump but the hose was so damaged from Gibson's teeth (certain it was a deadly black snake I guess) that when water came out it spit and squirted most of it like a sprinkler system. I got a new cheap hose at the hardware store and replaced it from the basement out to the drainage area outside. Finishing that up felt like a very good preventative measure.

Preventative measures seem to be how the ball game has changed here. While things never go as planned I am getting better at preparing for most of them. Yesterday when the truck started and promptly died, I didn't call the mechanic. I lifted the hood and saw a relay box has slipped off the clamp and was laying in a weird position. I set it right an tapped it a little just for encouragement and the truck started again. I wouldn't even know what a relay box was if I still drove a newer truck. I'd also be without a farm since it was $400+ for a payment and insurance (not including gas and repairs) on the past Dodge. Taylor might not be pretty but I know how to dance with her. I love her. If things ever pick up I'll get a smaller car to jet around with for things I need to do. Right now that isn't the plan. RIght now the plan is hold on for dear life to what I have, keep it close, mend and make do, and work hard towards better things.

If I wake up tomorrow to that intermittent hum of a sump pump motor and find it working well I will raise my coffee mug high to preparation. Here's to all of that. And to March going a little slower so I can keep the hustle moving and the bills paid.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Eggs and Partners

Lambs of springs past, now being born at Moxie Ridge Farm
Spring is slowly stalking this farm. This morning I collected the 6th goose egg while the four geese that reside here walked up into the horse pasture to nibble on the very first exposed green bits of grass. Snow and ice is still splattered everywhere, but those nibbles are bites of hope for easier days ahead. Easier on the the weather, the mind, and the body. I'm collecting the eggs to save for a farm friend that wants to barter for rabbits. I am gingerly planning getting back into rabbits and have a new used hutch system reserved from one of Patty's older setups (needs a new bottom) and beautiful stock from a local lamb and pork customer who has a hankering for some geese. I pick up the giant eggs and carefully bring them inside to set in a protected cabinet. If all goes as planned and luck keeps shining on this farm, by June I will have a green landscape I need to mow, slick horses running on the hill, rabbits in hutches eating hay, piglets and lambs running about, and a sense of belonging I am always clawing towards. That is what I want, what I am actively praying for.

There are ten days left in the month to make a mortgage payment. Not this month's, a late payment. This has been the MO for a while now and will be until I catch some sort of amazing break. But right now the farm is in survival mode to keep ahead of foreclosure, the electric company turning off lights, the internet provider from shutting off my services, that kind of thing. Yesterday I sold a logo and all the money went towards a loan repayment with Kiva and the electric company. Those were the loudest screaming needs and once those are satisfied I can focus on the mortgage, lambs, and if I am lucky - keeping my health insurance. It seems unlikely that I will. I can't not pay back my loan, or not buy in the lambs and pigs I need, it's not an option. The health insurance - while wonderful - it seems selfish compared to those louder screams. That said, I am going to try. It makes riding horses, hiking, working with hawks feel safer. It makes everything feel safer. But that feeling might be a luxury I can't afford when the alternative is losing home.

I woke up today with a weird feeling. Both excited about the spring and all the plans of warmer weather, and the very real notion that time might be up here. It is getting harder and harder to keep the ship floating (or more honestly, plugging holes in the boat). To beat this metaphor to death: the landfall I am hoping for seems less realistic every day while I get better at mending. I don't know what that ends up as? What I do know is I hope to keep writing about it, whatever the outcome. And as I am heading towards my 37th birthday this summer I no longer want to do this all alone. There was a real moment of sadness during coffee today when I thought about how I have no idea what it is like to have a partner in life, for support and to share the burdens and joys of making a home or working towards a goal. Being broke is something I am used to. I gave up the idea of financial security when I came out as a full-time farmer, but I never thought I'd be going solo for so long.

That is where I am at right now. Determined and lonesome. A little scared about making it into summer, or what might happen. The usual. May luck carry me a few weeks more. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

100

dreaming of Spring Greens and Donuts
Good morning from a crisp and sunny Cold Antler Farm! I am finishing up morning chores and checking in between tasks to write (and warm up my hands). I had a lead on some lambs, bottle babies I'd have to feed, but the seller found someone else to buy them while my truck was being repaired and I couldn't get to them in time. Maybe that's for the best, as right now all income needs to focus on the mortgage after I earn back these recent repair bills, but the price was so good it makes me wince I missed them. But the good news (and in this life you must focus on the good news) is that lambs are popping up for sale everywhere. Few people are able to deal with bottle lambs and the time they take so I will try and jump on some more as they become available and I'm able to scoop them up.

I was able to worm Merlin this weekend but the Mare is trickery. She sees that apple paste tube an acre away and scrams. The trick: I buy 2 jelly donuts. I give her one and let her enjoy every perfect bite. Then I make sure the second has been filling-scraped-clean and instead piped full of apple paste. She eats it up like candy. Donuts have gotten me far with Mabel. Merlin, on the other hand, doesn't care for donuts. He's more of a fruit guy.

Things are shaky but optimistic. I have until the end of the month to cover the farm and keep her safe, and I feel like it's possible to achieve the sales to do it. What else can I think? It is frustrating to be right back where I was this time last month, dealing with truck repairs, and behind on everything. But if there's any comfort in that it's that I got through February and was able to retain my farm, health insurance, heat my home and keep all the animals healthy and content.

And I also need to remind myself that this May will be nine years on this farm. That's going to mean well over A HUNDRED mortgage payments made. I managed that so far by myself, mostly self-employed, and following this dirty dream. When I wake up nervous I need to look at the statistics and remind myself who I am dealing with. I wouldn't bet against me. Not yet.

If you are interested: meat shares and handmade farm soaps are still available. Private beginner lessons in fiddle and archery are available.  Logos and illustrations are available. Just send an email!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Gibson's Birthday!

Happy Birthday Gibson, who turns 9 today. We have never spent a night apart. We have never spent more than 7 hours apart, actually. We never will. He is my best friend, soft and gentle herder, farm hand, blanket, story, and song. I love you.

SPRING!!!!

It was 65 degrees here yesterday! What a gift that was! I saw turkey vultures for the first time soaring (the REAL bird sign of spring) and local sap is running like mad. I got the horses their spring worming paste and a new block of minerals to replace the crumbles of their old one. Merlin is shedding hair like nuts. Mabel is slowly getting her old coat back as well.

Mighty proud that the sump pump had issues and water was filling the basement by the bucket full after a morning thunderstorm here, and I was able to repair the hose and reroute the water as if I was making toast. This house isn't anything fancy but it is solid, and I have learned how to mend it when it needs band aids. At least so far. 

Yesterday afternoon I even got my truck back from the mechanic. They added another relay and road tested it several times. It seems to be okay now and once I got it back I took her right to the laundromat/car wash in town. I had been waiting 2 weeks to finally get this laundry done and while the clothes were agitating I hosed off her dust and vacuumed the cab and today I'll clean the windows and dash. She's back and she's all I got. As much trouble as she has been this winter I can be grateful that this is a truck I own in full. I am paying for maintenance and what I spent this month on her repairs is what I used to spend in one month to pay the loan and high insurance on my old truck, which I didn't own. So the bright side is as rough as it has been, at least it is my own truck in that driveway and as far as I know she's okay to drive to the post office later to mail out some soaps.

I got a lead on some bottle lambs, and spoke to a farmer about piglets. It seems like getting a hold of stock for the summer won't be an issue. I may be trying some new breeds out to see how they do and using the pasture in new ways. The geese started laying eggs and I am collecting them to barter with a friend for rabbits. I want to breed rabbits again, and have a new set up I can put together for them soon as it has a new floor installed. I also want to plant a lot of sweet corn and move the horses off the front pasture by the house. There will be a lot of repairs and work to do to see this all through, but I can't wait to be outside with a list of outside chores instead of just indoor chores. And with clean socks and a clean truck... I feel a spring in my step.

Right now I am working on selling the last of the meat shares so I can buy this stock and start bottle feeding lambs! And I need to earn back the money I spent on the truck while still juggling the same monthly bills and this new habit of having health insurance. I am working on it. I have my income goal set for the day, my list of work to do, my silly hope, and 2 very good dogs. With all this and hot coffee, what can't I accomplish?!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Truck Update

Just spent $370 on truck repairs and it literally died five times on the way home from the mechanic. This is the only vehicle I can afford right now and it needs to go back to the shop tomorrow. I'm going to let myself have a good long cry about this and take a walk.

Nine Miles

past springs had kids in the living room, but lambs will be here soon!
Morning from a farm that feels a lot more like spring than it has in quite some time! The chicks in the brooder are getting feathery, the peas I planted are sprouting, and I have been spending more time outside walking...sometimes even in sunlight!

You just don't realize how much you need time in the sun until you force yourself to meet him every day. After a winter of so much dark and cold and time indoors—to walk and actually feel sun-warmed skin and start to work up a sweat—to need to squint from the brightness of glare off snow... what a wonderful gift of realizing how much I missed all of that.

I walked nine miles yesterday, my most yet. Since the truck has been in the shop for a few days (needed a whole new fuel pump and filter) I walked all the way to Shushan to visit Yushack's store and get some supplies. It sure changes your grocery shopping when you know you have to carry all your groceries four miles home. But I did bring back what I needed and then took the dogs for a walk up the mountain quick. I'm sort of a walkaholic now, if you can forgive that hacky phrase.

Walking on trails and roads has been changing how my body deals with hunger, anxiety, and food. I move so much now I am basically a machine in motion, and food becomes more fuel than anything else. This is how I always dreamed of living. Like a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail - tired and always hungry and sleeping without stress. I've been slimming down and eating without any restrictions and I've not felt this good in a while. I'm sure a month without any alcohol is also a big part of that, but all of it is helping me feel better. Being sober, lots of water and exercise, and not counting calories or feeling guilty about eating half a small pizza after walking nine miles... and still losing lbs... I have to admit I'm a happier woman than I was mid winter. And stress is a lot less.

Well, it would be a lie if I said I was without stress. I am still trying to stay ahead of any bank threats and keep the farm moving till I manage to land some sort of real luck - like a multi-article freelance contract, book deal, or family of 5 that wants private archery lessons for a whole weekend. But I will get there at some point. In the meantime I just racked up a $370 truck repair bill and that doesn't include the tow truck, but at least with all this walking I am too tired to not sleep through the night.

In the meantime, this little farm is working on catching up on soap and illustration work, logos and freelance writing, selling CSA shares, pitching article ideas to editors, considering rabbits and bees again, planning the kaleyard and possible sweet corn on the hill and new pasture ideas... A lot. But I do well with a lot on my plate. I always have.



Sunday, March 10, 2019

Truckin'

Taylor during a summer sunset, not yesterday...
Yesterday was a sunny and bright day here in the W.C. I got outside for over 6 miles of walking with my hounds by my side and after a morning of cleaning up around the farmhouse I loaded the back of my trusty pickup with bags of trash and sorted recycling fore the dump and a basket of laundry for the laundromat. Most Saturdays I make time for this exact combo of home chores. I don't have a lot of clothes I wear so a weekly washing is important, and no one wants bags of trash in their mudroom enticing possums and other bitty mammals, now do they? So with cheery spirits I pulled out of my driveway - full of hopes of discarded garbage and clean sheets and....

The truck died 200 feet from my house.

Great.

I attempted to troubleshoot and restart the truck, I even got it to back up 5 feet, but then it was done. One of the gifts of having an old truck like this is learning a lot about them. I already knew it wasn't fuel, the fuses, or the battery. I did know that the fuel filter was overdue for being changed as was the regular oil change. There was some problem with the truck getting what it needed to start, starved of gas, and so it acted as if it was out of gas on a nearly full tank.

My friend Dave, the same hero from before, was over shortly after I emailed him because he is a saint and he helped me get the truck back in my driveway and out of the road by towing it up the hill and showing me how to steer without power steering, which should be included in every "arm day" for every gym person. Then he gave me a ride into town to get all the feed I'd need for the pigs and a gallon of milk (for myself) and here I am stuck at the farm while I wait for the tow truck in the morning. I just hope it's an inexpensive fix. Right now I only have a couple hundred bucks to my name while I save up for another month of bills and the mortgage and I'm worried that won't even be enough to get Taylor running again.

But right now, in the middle of a snowy Sunday morning, I know this. I know that myself and the animals have all the food and comforts we need. The house is warm and I have bread rising to bake later. I just fed the dogs a breakfast of eggs and kibble and the cats are running about like they always do pre-nap. It is snowing outside, but it's a late winter snow that wants to be rain, and the forecast is for kinder weather ahead. This truck issue can't be dealt with until tomorrow so instead I will try and sell meat shares and soaps and start saving for repairs and bills. That is what I can do today. That is what I will do.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Shares Still Available!

Still have one lamb share and two half pig shares for sale! Get yourself some New York State small farm meat from Cold Antler. These shares are for piglets and lambs coming this spring, raised here, and price INCLUDES butchering, smoking, and packaging! VERY COMPETITIVE RATES!

And if you want to make a HUGE difference to this farm and community, but are too far away to pick up a share, you can purchase a share to be raised here and donated to my local food bank to feed people in need! Just send an email to inquire!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Help This Coming Spring and Subscribe!

Readers,

Every once in a while I will suggest you consider subscribing to this blog. It's entirely free to read the posts, see the pictures, and share the adventure. It always will be. But all authors, artists, musicians, and creators depend on the people who appreciate their work to be patrons on some level.

If you own my books, thank you. If you share my blog posts, thank you. If you have come to a workshop or event here, thank you. And if you simply want to kick in $5 a month towards feed and hay - I thank you. It's a small way to both encourage me and help keep the lights on.

Like NPR stations, I'll be here to tune into whether you wish to subscribe and be a patron or not. But I do ask if you enjoy what you read here and do not already subscribe - to consider it. Please only do so if you feel the writing has value (as entertainment, inspiration, etc) and you can manage it.

Thank you,
-j

Want to make a one-time contribution?
https://www.paypal.me/JennaCAF

For a monthly contribution to the blog and to be a regular patron:


Heroes With Pigs

Yesterday afternoon I found myself driving the truck on some farm roads outside of town. I was trying to find the location of a farmer, Dave Brushett. Dave mentioned he had some nice square bales for sale and I was buying. My usual hay banks were getting politely conservative about their quantity with winter still hitting hard in March. So with directions described in an email from Dave pulled up on my e-reader, I headed out to the new roads after lunch. I should mention it was a cold day. The high was forecast to be around 16° and Dave's farm was a hundred acres on the top of a sweeping hill. I'm so used to my tiny farm being tucked halfway up a mountain, protected from high winds and the worst of March weather. This was a wilder place, even just a few miles away. I felt the wind hit the side of my truck as I made the third turn off a small country highway and saw the landmark described in the email: a big red barn and a regal white house. His place was the cabin a road behind it. Almost there.

And then my truck sputtered, coughed, and died.

It just died. As if some magical being watching had a remote control and simply turned it off. It felt like it had run out of fuel but I knew there was some gas in, I had slid a few dollars worth in the night before? What gives? unable to get it to start I grabbed my gloves and decided to walk the mile or so in the wind to the cabin on the hillside.

One of the disadvantages of not having a cell phone is not being able to save yourself this kind of hike, but I was prepared. I had three layers, the outermost being a wool sweater my friend Tyler handed down to me and a scarf my mom bought in Paris. Over that I had on a big hooded Carhartt canvas vest, insulated and tough. My fleece had snug on my head and boots laced: I was a bundled-up hobbit on the hillside with my eyes on the prize. No matter what I needed to get some hay and myself back to the farm and that truck running again. My plan was to get to Dave's, ask to call my mechanic (number is memorized, of course), and if needed - maybe a ride home?

Dave was already in his truck planning to look for me, since I was over half an hour late. I waved from his driveway and quickly explained the state of the truck. The first thing Dave did was offer me his lunch, which I declined having just eaten at home. When I declined he asked if I wanted to take it with me? Insanely kind, but if there was one thing I have covered it's calories at my farm.

Dave, a father and grandfather, burst into Dad Mode. We drove back to the truck and he said it was most likely about fuel. That if I was running on a low tank eventually condensation and water build up and freeze and block fuel lines. He was right. Because we drove back to the farm and within moments he was adding gas from a fuel container and stabilizer. That was enough to get the girl started and up the hill to his farm. There we loaded up the truck with the bales I came to buy and he showed me his sow and her new piglets. They were the brightest thing in the barn.

So many farmers around here are farrowing, kidding, lambing, and calving. This is my first winter in almost a decade not joining them. I don't regret selling the breeding sheep to Lee at Moxie Ridge or the goats to the homesteaders last fall. But I do miss them and the work. I already talked to my friend Dona of Northern Spy Farm about helping with kidding this spring. She agreed, and I'll be so thrilled to have those babies in my arms again.  It's just not spring without them.

Dave followed me all the way to the gas station and back home to Cold Antler, making sure there was no more issues with the truck. I learned to never have the tank below half-capacity in very cold weather and he got to not only make some cash and help keep a farm gong - he also kept this farm going. They say not all heroes wear capes. Well, that is very true. Hell, some heroes farm pigs.

The truck is working and hay is here. It's a dark-green second cut and enough to last my two horses a while. I'm damn lucky to have these kinds of neighbors and friends. And lucky to have broken down a short walk in the wind from help. Also, lucky as all get out to have the truck working without a trip the the mechanic! That Ford is the arteries of this farm - pumping in feed and fuel and getting me around town to places like the post office and my tiny social life.

That's the biggest news I have for today: a small adventure and a kind farming friend. But hopefully soon I'll have lambs and piglets here of my own bought in to raise all summer and get this place back into full production. There will be green hillsides before we know it. At least that's what I'm telling myself.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Black Horse Sun

The check cleared and the sun is shining! This farm moves forward with another month of chance and hope! Right now as I write to you there's a fire roaring and the house is heating up after a night of good sleep. I didn't wake up worried. And the trick seems to be making myself physically exhausted, as I mentioned before. Yesterday I walked each dog down the mountain road and home, a 2-mile trip each time and one half being a climb in elevation. My body isn't used to moving across the landscape so much. It has been months since I really hiked or ran beyond a few miles a week. The last 2 days I've gone 9 miles all together. My shins hurt from the run, my thighs hurt from the walking uphill. My body is slowly getting back into a state of locomotion and actually feeling tired—the NEED to sleep because the body demands the rest—seems to be the only thing that helps the anxiety since I have stopped drinking. I'll be a month without a sip of alcohol soon. Not sure how long I'll stay off the hooch but right now I am liking these good sleeps, bright mornings, and clear-headedness.

Anyway, back to this morning. I woke up in a chilly house (50°) but the sounds of baby chicks in the brooder and knowledge that I did the ultimate act of preconceived kindness for myself (prepared the coffee maker the night before) felt like waking up in a hotel. Okay, that's a stretch. Felt like waking up in a very posh glamping platform tent. And camping is the right metaphor because this past summer I bought a Kelty sleeping bag on clearance from REI, for backpacking. Turns out it is way too heavy and impossible to compress for any reasonable backpacker but it is WARM. On nights like last night I used to load up the daybed with blankets and wool fleece and now I have this bag that cleans up and heats up in moments. Around 4AM Friday realizes the warmest spot is in that bag and she paws at me until I let her in. The bag is roomy enough that we fit in there together, snug and snoring, head on the same pillow and creating enough heat to melt ice on the roof. Good lord I love my dog.

And after I roll out of that sleeping bag I have to shuffle over and make a fire, heat up coffee, and get ready for some physical activity outdoors. There are people who have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail whose winter mornings are more civilized. Hoo! Do I love it though! I love the way the coffee and fire warm me up. I love starting a list of work and goals. I love solving problems, searching for spring lambs, watering seedlings, feeding chicks, collecting eggs, scratching pigs, and inhaling that amazingly warm summer scent of sunshine on the back of a black horse...

This place is wild and safe for a little. I am working to keep it that way. May the sun shine and spring find us all sooner than we could possibly fathom. And till then, more coffee.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Soap Sale!

Hey there readers! I am offering a soap Sale! Get6 random bars (plus the $14 flat rate USPS box shipping) for $45 and will throw in a signed book with one random order picked out of a hat! Help out this farm, get clean, order soap! To do so just email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com and put soap in the subject line. I would love to share some of the products this farm makes to start getting ready for another month as we all march towards spring!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Spring Forward

Last night, sometime around 2AM, I was outside in a snows squall looking for a chicken with missing butt feathers. Friday had already chased off the fox/fisher that had chased the hen off her roost. I could hear her in the night. I could see the feathers in the snow. But even with my headlamp I was having trouble locating the bird. It turned out she wasn't on a bank of snow or the hay covered by the tarp - she was on the roof of my truck. I picked her up and brought her inside. I was so tired and knew a chased-hen wasn't going to calmly return to the place she was nearly ganked. I set her inside the dog crate and tried to go back to sleep. My brain wasn't having it.

I don't know what it is about those early morning hours of 2-4AM but my mind is running at a faster frame rate than logic. Things that seem so easy to overcome in daylight are terrifying. I started a full-flown panic attack. Worried that I won't be able to make it through another month. Worried that something bad will happen. Worried that every choice I made that lead to this farm was a foolish escape from reality or a prison sentence of loneliness and isolation. I couldn't fall asleep till around 3:45 and when I did it was from exhaustion, not peace.

When morning arrived the night terrors had passed. The sun was shining on a freshly snow-covered farm. Within moments of letting the dogs run outside to play I had coffee hot on the stove and was watching the six new laying hens in their brooder eat their feed, beside them some snap peas I started in a small planter. I baked a frittata with my hens eggs and enjoyed it thoroughly. With some sleep, food, coffee, and daylight everything felt so much better. The vitamin D, caffeine, chirps, seedlings... the fact that in a few days the clock strikes forward... I felt so much calmer. I was happy with my choices. I felt like I belonged.

But I realized I need to burn more energy during the day. I need to fall asleep already too tired even fight back against the adrenaline of panic. So today I started running again, a modest 5k. After that I made sure to hike on the mountain with the dogs. Together I managed to move 5 miles across the landscape, in the cold, with this body. By 5PM I was showered and took a 45 minute nap and woke up feeling so much better. I need to burn off this anxiety. Being outside does that. And without the work of gardens, lambs, piglets, goat kids, etc right now I need to create time outside. So I did. I am glad I did.

I am springing forward, ahead of the clocks. I am raising some new hens while protecting others in the night. I am planting seeds, running roads, hiking at sunset, and resting my body more. There's a good chance I'll wake up doubting and afraid again. That's okay. That's part of this experience. But the truth isn't fear in the night. The truth is how you feel with the certainty of morning.So here's to hopefully finding another light in the dark, for all of us.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

MADE IT!!!!

We made it! The farm made it! I mailed in the check at least. And once it cashes I will have about $9 in my account, but it is MAILED! What a relief! I spent the next 24 hours decompressing in relief. The exhale that comes with figuring out another month, knowing for at least a few days I don't have to worry if the bank cashes the check. So I had a proper weekend. Little promotion, barely any non-farm work, and a lot of time walking in the woods with the dogs. In a few days the clocks move forward and grant an extra hour of sunlight, making it not truly dark here until 7PM. Spring is coming and now is the time to dig in and try like nuts to catch up on all I have fallen behind on.

I can't thank you enough if you read this blog and encouraged me. Thank you for keeping up. Thank you for buying soap or artwork, lamb or pork, or just kicking in a few bucks towards these free words you are reading now! Slowly, and never simply, this farm will get to year ten. Starting in May this farm is heading into its TENTH YEAR! Ten years of making it last, keeping the dream alive, of friends and farming and trails and stories! Please keep reading and watch what happens next!

And as always I try to remind you - for faster updates always check in on Twitter for the newest of news! I update there dozens of times a day. Here once every few, unless things are more exciting. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Sun And Luck!

The farm is within spitting distance of making the mortgage and the sun is shining. I am feeling very hopeful in general. I think a huge part of it is the community online, reaching out to offer kind words, buy soap, hire me for logos, etc. Another part is the past few days of sunshine and time on the mountain! I have been getting sore in the legs again, for the first time since I lost Dash and spent a nervous day searching all over the mountain for him. I got a great workout that day but it certainly wasn't pleasant. Yesterday was smiling dogs and hot coffee and time outside on the mountain as a break from the computer and the farm.

Yesterday was an example of a very good day here. I farmed, I made soap, I mailed out soap, I worked on 8 logo designs, I handed over writing to my editor. I pitched articles and I promoted my work, all of it. I promoted the meat I raise and the soap I make. I promoted my skills in writing and design. I wasn't afraid to ask you or others to hire me, to get a portrait, to read what I have to say. And to do all that and still have an hour to walk among the snowy trees and soak up rays... Amazing!

The farm is within $200 of all the goals for the month and for putting last year's bills to rest. All of them. And I did mail in my health insurance which means I will have maintained it for 3 months straight, a record for this farm since being self employed in 2012.

And in more exciting news, there are bigger things rumbling under the surface. I am working hard on a new book, the most personal and important thing I have ever written. If I'm lucky I'll be able to sell it and share it with a lot of people who will find comfort and inspiration in the 3,000 mistakes and fears I made ahead of them! And with the days getting longer and actual sunlight in the mix I feel so much more optimistic then I did in January. Back then I was literally writing to you with two holes in my teeth big enough to fit a peppercorn in (both are repaired) and unsure if I'd have the firewood to stay warm. Well I am whole and warm and the sun is out and I am a few sales away from knowing this farm is safe and ready to work like mad for spring. Time for chicks and lambs and piglets and more!

If you want to contribute to the farm, here's the Paypal.me link. You use this to purchase soaps, workshops, illustrations, design work, meat, etc!  

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Cold but Cheery!

My only news to share today is that last night was very cold, well below zero. I stayed up late with the fire and tended the pipes and none of them froze! This is always a small victory for this farm! Besides that, as you can already guess, I am trying like mad to make this mortgage and health insurance payment before the end of the week. That is basically all I am thinking about. I did mail in the insurance because it has to be cleared by March 1. I didn't mail in the morthage. I'm still a couple hundred short but feel like if a few of these folks who asked about meat and artwork respond to my emails - I may skate by. I'll take a skating by. This month had two truck repair trips to the mechanic, dental surgery, regular dentist filling appt, and so had none of that happened I'd have this mortgage up to date. Instead I am still trying to keep the farm's head above water.

Someday, when I am far more stable when it comes to these things, I am going to make sure I start a fund for single female farmers. I will go out of my way to find them. I will do whatever I can to encourage them. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing every thought, fear, joy, and story online. But many quietly do share the same roller coaster of highs and lows this farm does. When this ride starts to glide smooth I am going to dedicate as much time as I can to straightening other women's tracks. Goodness knows so many have helped me do the same.

All that aside, I do try to get away from the notifications and emails at least an hour during the work day. I take the dogs out for a hike up the mountain, wind or rain or sun or snow. I am trying to get back into shape for summer and get my body used to moving across the landscape with a back on my back. Today we were able to be out from 4-5PM and it wasn't even dark yet! I mean, there was snow everywhere and it was 15° but that longer daylight means spring is on the way. She's trudging towards us all.

Onward!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Gallop

A few months ago, back when the world was a lot greener, I took Friday back to Merck Forest for a morning hike. The plan was to make it to a view called The Gallop. It wasn't as popular of a hiking destination as the other side of the vast property. People usually only go there if they are on a larger loop or with a group. I wanted to make it there just to see the mountains from a couple thousand feet in the air.

We ended up taking the wrong trails. The wind was moving clouds fast and I was worried about a storm nailing us five miles from the safety of the visitor's center parking lot where the truck was parked. It was a day hike so I didn't bring any sort of tent or shelter. I looked at Friday, who seemed to not mind the wind or humidity at all, and we kept making our way towards the look out. The whole time I was growing more worried. I wanted the view but I also wanted us to be safe. Why didn't I bring a simple tarp and paracord? I could make a lean to in minutes that could shed a downpour? Friday bounded along happily. As far as she was concerned we were safe and fine and she was with her Alpha and her heart was beating. Life was good.

The clouds parted. The storm passed us to the south. We skated and by the time we made The Gallop there were still winds and racing clouds in the sky but we were safe and resting. I poured Fri some water for her bowl. I munched on some jerky. All that worry, all that sweat, all that self doubt... And we still made the view.

What is the point of constantly struggling to keep this farm? Why put yourself through the constant anxiety? Don't you want to have a dependable income? It's okay to change your life? Please, stop.

These are the kind of messages I get regularly, and rarely are they sent without true concern and care. Some of you have known me for a decade. You've watched this farm go from 25-year-old's fresh passion on a rented property in Idaho to my everyday life as a 36-year-old. You watched me become and adult, really. And through those years my energy has moved between different activities and stories but always remained rooted in this farm and nature. I am a farmer, a hunter, a horseback rider. I am a shepherd, a falconer, a hiker. I am a runner, an archer, and river swimmer. I'm all of these things and they happen on these 6 small acres carved into the side of a mountain.

Every once in a while I manage to catch up. Not just financially, but emotionally. Usually in the summer when I am through the work of keeping the farm house warm and don't need to be inside to be comfortable.  And on those days when I am feeling sun-warmed and tired. When the grass is green on the hill and I smell like dirt and horse sweat and river water... When the bank has no reason to drop by and knock on the door and I realize I have all the food, water, entertainment, work, and worth I need... I am home. I am happy.

I think actual happiness is insanely rare. I have had it in my grasp here. I know it is real. I know if I figure out how to stay here I can have it again. And the best thing I ever learned from this farm was that there will never been an end of the rainbow. There will not be in inheritance or lottery win. There will not be a romance or partner. There will not be a spiritual enlightenment or overcoming of every personal demon. What there will be is the gift of remaining.

That is not a small thing. The fact that I have managed to buy a farm as a single woman, almost a decade ago, and have managed to remain here is what fuels me and refreshes me every day. Every day this farm remains mine is another shovel of coal in the fire in my belly. As hard as it is some times, I know that I have become a person who has taught herself constant resourcefulness and adaptability to make this place work. All of these scary days, like now, are what make those June nights so sweet. And in my deepest places I know I can find that safety again if I refuse to give up.

This farm has a few days to mail in a mortgage payment to stay out of the danger zone: the red area where the bank can choose to foreclose the property. I've been running just in front of this zone for the past few months. Unable to catch up, but able to keep my head above water. I am in that part of the summit hike where the storm is brewing and can either hit us or pass us. I don't know what kind of Gallop this will be, at least not right now. But if the past is any indicator I can quietly and secretly feel safe knowing I am the woman who made it this far. If statistics matter, they are on my side. Yes, we may be blown away without a tarp for shelter but we may also get by thanks to shifting winds. Get down from the mountain, add a tarp to the pack for future hikes, and keep walking.

I want to keep walking. So I will keep walking.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Mountain Trails

I had been working inside most of the morning. My time outdoors only for morning chores and carrying buckets of water. The sky was gray and the wind was whipping down the mountains. After that short visit with the animals, I had a list of work to do and all of it involved writing, editing, designing or drawing; skills that do not require boots. After a few hours I was growing moody and tired sitting in front of the computer. I kept checking emails and Twitter, hoping for an inquiry about a job. Maybe the person who turned down a CSA share because of a gas bill changed her mind? Maybe the nice lady who didn't think she could eat a whole lamb with her husband didn't realize a "whole half lamb" is still just a lamb and can easily fit in a regular above-fridge freezer. Maybe the person who never replied to requests for art prices or logos will get back in touch? Maybe a brand new email will show up with someone wanting to take an archery class with her son in July?! I am addicted to the checking and every time there isn't word - I get more nervous. This is not good for me. Being so attached to the dopamine of social media and email was more draining than a 10 mile run.

Earlier in the morning, during my coffee, I wrote down the list of things I wanted to get done today and I made "Walk in the Woods" part of the list. I did it because I needed to make myself get up and move my body. I know as the days get longer my desire to move more becomes crucial. If I ignore it I get even more introverted and glum. So I bundled up in fleece and canvas and took the dogs out for a mile or so walk up on the mountain. I am so glad I did.

It was so windy that the power was flicking on and off and trees were swaying. The hills were ice, but I had slid on the chains over my boots, making it safe to traverse. We didn't go far and were probably only on the mountain for an hour or less but I got my heart rate up and watched snow swirl past trees and the dogs ran enough to grow tired instead of restless indoors. I think this year I will still run on those roads, especially in the spring when I need it most - 2 hours in the sun sweating after this cold winter. But I will also spend more time hiking among trees with dogs on mountain trails. That is where I always come back to. 

Dead of Winter!

For years now, Game Night has been a regular tradition at the farm. My friends Miriam, Chris, and Chris's son Keenan have been coming here, once a month to set up a very intense board game with an accompanying potluck, soundtrack, and stories. Last night as the winds howled and the farm grew darker in its icy rest, we played a game called Dead of Winter. In this co-op board game (meaning everyone plays as a team not against each other) we were assigned characters living in a post-apocalypse zombie-ridden small town in winter. We collected canned food from the abandoned grocery store and sent our golden retriever Sparky out into the snow to dodge zombies as he searched for fuel cans. We braved it all while listening to an action movie soundtrack and eating homemade pizza and curry. Keenan made goofy voices for his characters. I envisioned my firefighter braving the cold squall with his axe over his shoulder. It was like being in a movie, but it was us, and there was pizza.

Dead of Winter is an epic, edgy, and fun night that comes in a box. As a homesteader I can't express how much I love turning my living room into an adventure. How no one looks at their phones or a screen - it's us around a table sharing a meal and laughing. And it reminds me how lucky I am to have found the good friends around here who have been a part of this farm for years.

I linked a video about Dead of Winter above with a sample game by Wil Wheaton and Co. Check it out and if you can get a hold of one of these games - either buying it or renting it/playing it at your local game shop - give it a try!

Pic by Miriam Romais!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Spikes

In this short life there are few things I will care about as much as hot coffee in the morning. Today while I check in I am sipping some sitting beside me. It is nothing special. Folgers on sale in the big blue tub, some powdered creamer. This morning I slept in till 8 and I didn't whip up a latte or even brew a fresh pot. This is what was left over from yesterday on the stove in the percolator. The used-coffee still makes the day seem a little more real. I am enjoying it, both the lazy start to the day and the hot drink after a rainy and cold morning outside.

Chores were slippery and what was crunchy snow is now a sheet of ice. I am so grateful I have these little micro spikes for my boots. They are also nothing special - cheap and from Amazon, but recommended to me by local farmers. They make you feel like another species, something with crampons built into your hooves. I used to use those rubber yak bits, you know what I mean, but a pair of those barely made it a winter on the farm without breaking. The springs used for grip were meant for sidewalks and parking lots and not carrying 80lbs of water up a hillside. I always slipped and snapped the rubber like a rubber band pulled too tight. These new spikes are the mountain goat's gloat!

So the coffee isn't fresh and the weather is gloomy but so far things are really going so much better for the farm than earlier in the week. I have made my daily income goal every day for the past three. Twice I even surpassed it! If this continues and luck is with me in three days I will be able to mail in my mortgage payment and health insurance check. If I can do that I will be rolling up my sleeves with new energy and verve for spring. If I can't, then I'll also be rolling up my sleeves - just out of panic instead of excitement. Either is an action boost, for sure.

Thank you to everyone who took a moment to send encouragement. I can't tell you how needed it is, and how much it makes a different on days like these.

If you want to contribute to the farm, here's the Paypal.me link. You use this to purchase soaps, workshops, illustrations, design work, meat, etc! 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Come to Cold Antler & Leave a Fiddler or Archer!

Come to this farm this summer (or fall) for a special trip to see this place and leave with a new skill and the tools to practice it at home. I offer half and full day workshops in either fiddle or archery for beginners. The requirements are easy - come willing to learn with the ability to hold a fiddle or draw a bow, and we take it from there. You don't need to have any athletic or musical experience. These two passions of mine can be taught to anyone with the will to learn, a sense of humor, and the stubbornness to practice at home. I provide the instruments (class comes with your own longbow or student fiddle!) and you leave learning how to play your first song or safely shoot your first bow.

These classes also make great gifts! Want to give your spouse the ability to play a song or shoot a bulls eye? You can buy them from me and get a printable pdf emailed you can set into a card or wrap as a gift. The card lets the gift receiver set up their own date and time for the class at their choice. Classes here include:

Fiddle Indie Day: A student fiddle, spare strings, bow, and case. Class covers care and feeding, tuning, your first scale, your first song, and practicing at home. Play among sheep, goats, chickens and horses on the side of a mountain. Half or full day options - full day includes more practice time, a second song and scale as well.

Archery Indie Day: A palm wood long bow and string. Class covers care and feeding, safety, equipment and range rules, instinctive archery shooting and aim, target practice, and beginner tips and lessons in bow and arrow fitting.  Half or full day options - full day includes more practice time and a woodland field course shooting through cover, down cliffs, and at animal targets on trail.

You can also sign up for both in the same day, which means a morning of music followed by an hour lunch break and then an afternoon of archery. Prices vary by amount of students and times. Base price for a half day with fiddle/bow is $250. Email me to sign up at dogsinourparks@gmail.com

P.S. I also have done custom classes in Chicken 101, Goats & Soapmaking, Mountain Dulcimer, Beginner Horsemanship & Driving, Rabbits, etc. Ask for a custom class if interested!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Spitfire!

Good morning! Yesterday was SO ENCOURAGING! I got kind emails, messages on social media, and a sweet note/magnet in the mail! Folks emailed about orders and I made the daily income goal and half of the previous days! I can't tell you what good news this is! And today I am waiting on responses from some other inquiries about portraits and logo design. It really is a turnaround from earlier this week. Goodness it is such a grand relief to get a little footing on a goal. May this momentum continue!

I don't have much else to share this morning other than this story about Mabel from yesterday. Since the weather has broken a bit I removed her blanket. I don't know what got into her (though I suspect it has to do with Cole the Fox) but shortly after the blanket was removed she started flagging her tail and prancing with her head up high! She did little kicks and trots in circles, as if she was protecting her ground. Merlin stood back and watched as if a Rhino was observing a gazelle trying Zumba for the first time. So did I. She just got full of it! It was a nice sight to see. With all this ice and snow the horses aren't the summer spirits of constant running and rolling and exploring the big pasture. She got over it a few minutes later and went back to her hay.

Cole was back at 4AM. Friday has decided this is her main enemy. He stalks about brave as can be and then when he sees a dog he takes off. It's a big time for all mammals involved. Mabel snorts out air like a spooked deer and Gibson joins Merlin in thinking we are all crazy. What can I say, family is family.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Give it My All

No ponies escaped in the night, but Cole, our resident Fox, was in the front yard bothering the geese asleep by my front door. Friday got to chase after him in an icy rain at 3AM and is still proud of herself while we are all waiting for the coffee to get started. The dogs are chomping on kibble, the horses and pigs fed their breakfast a while ago. Everything outside is crusty and coated with ice. Later in the day I hope to only leave the farm for laundry and feed pickup. It's a mild Thursday with mild goals. I am hoping luck finds me. No new sales happened yesterday but I know I can make up for it today or tomorrow if I split the goal amounts and tack them onto each day. So I am starting the day with tough goals to work towards, new projects to work on that inspire me, a place I love and am proud to fight to keep, and an optimistic attitude. This is a lot to pull out of your heart before coffee but I am giving it my all today.

Over on Twitter I am offering a deal for beginner archery or fiddle workshops! Sign up today and you can bring a friend for FREE! It's 2 for one for a beginner class in archery or fiddle for a 4-Hour workshop at the farm this summer or fall!! You joining me here for an event helps me stay here!

Hope you are all safe and warm wherever you are. I am happy to share that I have all the firewood I need: paid for and stacked dry. I have all the food and coffee I need. I have all the dogs I need. I am a happy woman with a mission. And even if you have zero interest in supporting this blog financially - sending a kind word of encouragement via email or social media is such a gift. Knowing people are rooting for the farm is a game changer on an icy day like today. I have no qualms asking for encouragement when I need it. I sure need it this week!

If you want to contribute to the farm, here's the Paypal.me link. You use this to purchase soaps, workshops, illustrations, design work, meat, etc!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

To the Other Side

Woke up at 1AM from my dog pile by the wood stove to dogs barking their heads off. It was a full moon so it could be anything from a coyote trotting up the far hillside to a late-night car driving too slow down the icy road. I told them to come back to bed but they wouldn't quit. So I looked out the window with them (slightly grateful, as the stove needed feeding) and saw a half ton of black draft pony standing in my driveway. Merlin was eating hay out of the back of the truck. Oh, fun.

It took a little bit of grain to lead Merlin back inside his fence. Mabel watched the whole thing. She won't dare step or jump over a barrier. She has a gnarly scar on her hind leg that my farrier thinks came from a tangle with bad fencing when she was younger, maybe back in Ohio where she originated from. The woman I bought her from said she didn't know what it was about either. When horses go through several states and owners their stories turn more into mythology than anything else. Anyway, Mabel didn't leave the pasture. And Merlin walked back in past the gate he knocked down to walk through. SO at 1AM in the 4° weather I repaired it. Threw them a bale. And then was WIDE AWAKE so I sat by the fire and watched a documentary.

I so enjoy these guys who create beautiful, free, seasonal adventure documentaries around the world. Watching them winter camp through a blizzard made me feel a lot better about my few minutes of pony-induced inconvenience. I watched for a while while sipping hot water spiked with some lemon juice to warm me up inside without any sugar or caffeine. I fell asleep a while later. The horses stayed put.

I am feeling less afraid and more determined about the farm's ongoing precarious state. Worrying does nothing. Action does. I sat down and did all the math. To get through this month—the last 8 days— which means making a mortgage payment postmarked by the 28th and mailing in my health insurance premium (I really want to keep having health insurance) I need to earn a reasonable amount every day for the next 7 days. About $194. Which for me that's as simple as one meat share, 2 logos, or several pet illustrations or soap orders. I have already made the utility/internet bills. I figured out the dental work. I had the truck repaired. And now I am wearing blinders on to get this goal met so the farm stays out of danger's maw and I get one step closer to spring - roof over my head and health insurance secured. So I am going to try like hell to make the sales and get through this, one day at a time, and keep going as I have for the past 9 years on this farm.

May marks the 9th year here, can you believe that?! I need to believe in the statistics of past struggles and making it through. I need to only focus on the work, on being optimistic, and that something/somehow will lead towards a solvent spring.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Mountain Barista

Recently I was over at Livingston Brook Farm, picking up hay, when Patty brought out a vintage box from the back of her truck. It was around the size of a small toaster and on faded cardboard I could read the name Via Veneto Espresso Maker. I wasn't even sure what it was? I had never seen this sort of device before? She found it while cleaning out her mom's closets on a recent visit, no one in her immediate family wanted it. Since she's a confirmed tea drinker it was my turn to take it or pass. I took it. Oh boy do I not regret that choice.

This little device is amazing. It works on the stove top using pressure, steam, espresso and magical engineering to make smooth cafe-style coffee at home. It took me a few forums and videos to learn the best way to use this beast: but I have it down now and finally learned how to steam milk without scalding it. In the morning I can set it up to perk out a few shots of espresso and then I can pour the foamy milk on top for a true coffee-house style latte! I wake up looking forward to this new ritual. Sometimes I add some vanilla and sugar. Sometimes I just dump 2 shots of the high octane into a regular cup of coffee. It's a caffeinated dream come true.

I never knew this type of coffee maker existed. I knew of the high end mini-fridge sized machines people buy or indie bookstores use at small cafes. I knew of the tiny inverted triangle styles of high-pressure espresso makers and other small percolators. But I didn't know of these pressurized coffee/steam combinations that don't need an outlet to do everything the coffee hulks at Starbucks can do. If you're a coffee person like I am, might be worth looking into this bad boy. There are used ones just like this on ebay for around $90 and a newer version called The Bellman is over $300!

I'm going to try and hold onto this. So often when something like this comes my way I end up neglecting it or selling it. This was a gift from a friend and it's special. It makes snowy mornings in an uncertain life brighter. It makes vanilla lattes part of my morning using drug-store coffee and milk from Stewarts. It fits this joint just fine.




Icy Light

It's been an interesting couple of days! Yesterday was supposed to be a proper storm but instead a few light inches covered the ice crust instead. Around the farm that just meant you can't see the slippery parts, and Friday taught me a lesson by running full speed towards the barn and sliding in circles like Bambi. She was fine but you've never seen a collie look more confused! And this morning the farm is covered in fresh powder and light from a sunny sky. Man, did I ever need that bright morning!

But through it all the animals seem content and the pigs have mastered winter in the goat-turned-hog pen. They have made one section their hay nest, another their bathroom, and the outside area the meal bowls and water stations. They are so orderly and hierarchical in everything they do. Soon the largest sow will be butchered and then the others will follow. Spring will bring new piglets and lambs (I am looking already) and chicks will beat them all to the punch. I am still outside every day with the horses, sounder, poultry, and enjoying time with the dogs in the snow but it's not the same as past years with Lambwatch nights and getting milk pails ready for the goats. I miss it all horribly, and while I am glad all the flock and herds are doing well I feel this break from breeding is only making my true love (and need) to homestead nest into me even harder.

I am hoping to use the more time I have to work on a new book I am trying to sell, a very important book to me and this farm's story. I also want to get outside more. Yesterday I went snowshoeing for an hour and then stopped to cook lunch under the cover of evergreens while the snow fell. It wasn't much time away from the stoves and computer - but enough to remind me how wonderful exploring nature again. I am already working on the plans and permits for me and the dogs first group backpacking trip this spring! It will be low mileage, local, and at a wilderness area that doesn't allow campfires but I'll have us and friends and camp stove cooking and the stars and that stolen idea of freedom being away from the animals for 14 hours or so. If I leave late in the afternoon after chores, have a friend check on everyone at night and first thing in the morning - it should be okay. But that isn't something I have to think about right now. Right now I have my current goals to keep this place mine another month, get the animals growing and comfortable, and keep my eyes to the sky just in case Dash does come back. I miss him so.

Stay warm out there, friends.

P.S. Considering bringing back the YouTube channel!? Thoughts?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Luck and Stubbornness

It's been a rough month and I am doing my best to get through it. The farm is warm and the animals are well but the same anxieties are filling every corner of my day. It's why I don't write here as often. It will be the same content: fear of losing the farm. It's been especially frustrating this week with three people messaging me about meat shares (one even committing to buy) and then all of them backing out. Which is understandable. Everyone is trying to budget and figure out their lives. I am going to try and find some things I can sell online or auction off. I have 11 days to have that mortgage payment postmarked before the house is back in the foreclosure zone. This is all I am thinking about. If you are looking for lighter farm content you should check out my Twitter or Instagram pages - but here on the blog where I feel I am talking to people that know me - I feel like I don't have to just share a pretty picture of a pony or a joke. I can be honest. And the honest truth is if something doesn't turn around here fast, some sort of real luck like a book contract or a big freelance, I'm in real trouble. Living a life where you are always just ahead enough of the pacing danger chasing you means working your ass off just to stay out of failure's cross hairs. Yesterday, while working on a book proposal sample piece I wrote this: Anxiety is a monster, no doubt, but some of us bridle it and jump on its back to get where we need to go. We need it to carry us towards the next foothold of relief.

Yes. That is my basic state. It has been for years.

The farm is warm today. Not outside, but in. The sun is shining on the icy hills and so far I only fell over once today. I am home and working. I am ready for the snowfall that is predicted and I have all the firewood and dogs I need to feel safe and warm. I've stopped drinking and plan on being dry for a while. It is helping with my sleep and making coffee all the more precious.

I am hoping for luck and stubbornness. I am hoping soon I am writing you about spring lambs and piglets and not about being anxious and somewhat lonesome for a partner in all of this. Both seem like such long shots: financial stability and romance. I'm okay if both are. But every so often you need to reach those footholds for your own sanity. So you are encouraged to keep trying when Spring seems so very very far away.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lamb and Pork Shares Still Available!

Shares are open for 2019 half and whole pigs and lambs! Looking for small-farm raised food at very competitive rates? Send me an email! MY prices include the price of the animal (which you either own or co-own) as well as the butchering and smoking/cutting fees. Most farmers have you pay for the meat and then pay your butcher bill later, I offer a lower rate to pay all upfront. NY pickup only - I do not ship meat. So if you're in the Capital Region north of Albany or like driving - consider supporting this farmer by buying food from her!

So Very Tired

Another storm is heading our way. I am spending today preparing for it on 2 hours of sleep. So very, very tired. Last night I couldn't fall asleep because of anxiety about the farm but finally managed to not off around midnight. I kept waking up, tossing and turning. At 4AM the chitters of a very horny raccoon excited the dogs into a barking frenzy and even though they grew tired of the masked mating season I couldn't shake the tiny fur demon sounds and instead got up and started the day. Since dawn I've gone through all the cold morning chores, stacked firewood, took the truck to the mechanic (a new starter was installed), loaded up the truck with hay and ran to the grocery store. I still need to get heating oil for the hot water, feed from hardware store, and focus on heating this house before night sets in. It's currently 48° inside because of running around all morning and not tending fires, logos, and illustrations. Hoo. I am so very tired.

Good news is this: My bank account isn't negative. My body is healthy, even if exhausted. The pipes are currently thawed. The animals are all hail and hearty. I got coffee on the stove right now to keep me going and tomorrow I go to the dental surgeon for part 2 of my root canal I started in December. I got a ride because I am not sure the truck could make it, certainly not in the early stages of the storm. Once I am through with tomorrow I'll be down to double digits on the ledger and need to work like hell to figure out a house payment. But that's something to wake up for, fight for, and do so with all the same teeth I started the year with. I'll set out bird feed for the storm birds and hopefully get some rest later tonight.

I've been following Moxie Ridge Farm on Instagram to see the lambs being born out of Hannah and Jessa, already new babies from the old flock. Leah is doing so well with them and the babes look so bonnie and sweet. Part of me misses them, and I mean really misses them. Another part of me knows this year of getting myself in order and a break from lambing and milking goats was needed. I can't imagine having to check for lambs on this 8 degree night after a day like today.

Who am I kidding? Of course I can. I hope Leah has nothing but luck with the flock and I am glad I left them in their capable hands. Time for me to continue with the storm prep.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

What I Do Best

Dispatch from the farm today is a mixed bag! Yesterday I got firewood delivered; which is great news! I have enough wood now to get through the rest of winter easy. It means no matter what this farm will be warm and that is something. And it was delivered just in time, too. Last night the wind roared through the Battenkill Valley. There was a chill of -2 on that 15° night and I was tucked in my bed with the dogs listening to it as I fell asleep. I knew it meant a change in weather, and it certainly was. The last few days of sunlight and warmth had me outside in 40 degrees with a light sweatshirt, mud, and slush. But now I am back to slipping on the ice and finding all sorts of new bruises in the shower. Lovely!

In other news: the truck needs that new starter and if I can swing it will be in the shop Monday morning. I was reminded of this about an hour ago when I needed jump in the IGA parking lot (Thank you, Iggy). But I had to spend a lot on the firewood so I am working on social media (Twitter and Instagram) to move meat shares, illustrations, soap, and classes in archery and fiddle. Sales are slow but yesterday I managed to earn 85% of what I spent on the wood. If I earn the remainder over the weekend I will be thrilled. And if I can manage the money to replace the starter. If I get lucky I'll sell a pig or a family of lessons in archery.

But honestly - things are looking up. The mail rarely carries scary letters anymore. I have health insurance for the first time in years. And I am even trying to get myself in shape for dating again. One step at a time. If the winds blow right. If I am lucky to get some repeat sales and maybe a freelance writing gig... It'll be another month here. All I can do is keep trying. It's what I do best.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Sunshine!

Yesterday I got outside for a two mile run. It felt good, even such a short distance. I dogged it, taking my time in the sunshine. The wind was a little prickly but nothing a hoodie and fast pace couldn't tell to scram. The mare, free of her blanket, was standing in the sun on the hill. Merlin was sleeping in the snow, sprawled out like he always is mid day. I started thinking about seed orders and chicks in the living room again. It was what I needed!

I am hoping the sunlight and warmth we got this week means some good news coming my way. This girl could use it.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Light at the End of the Mope

There's a break in the weather and it's lifting my spirits a bit. Last night was so warm (35°!) I slept with the windows open in my bedroom. I needed this hit of faux spring because, if I am honest ,I have been really feeling down. It's the darkness and the cold. And with the hawk flown off there isn't this push to get outside three times a week and walk in the woods.

So I have been trying to make time to move my body and get outside but besides a few snowshoeing trips up the mountain (looking for Dash) I have felt trapped indoors. I'm not bored but I am restless. In the summer I can get up from the computer and go for a long run or shoot my bow. I can saddle up a horse and be galloping on the mountain in fifteen minutes and back in less time than I would have taken for a lunch break at my old office jobs. But in winter outdoor activity seems like more work than fun. So I've been playing video games or watching movies to get away from myself in off time and evenings and that creates this cycle of all activity - be it work or play - involves sitting in a chair voluntarily which is three steps from a casket in my eyes.

But in better news I am taking the truck to the mechanic today to work on some electrical issues. A local is delivering firewood by the end of this week so I'll be trying like mad to earn up the cash to pay for it without dipping into the mortgage money saved. It's also time to contact my accountant about taxes, start some serious spring cleaning indoors, and stop eating just because "it's something to do"...  Basically I am living this winter like a bear in hibernation and it's making me nuts. I want to move a lot more, eat less, feel free-range vitamin D, and sleep better without these intense nightmares I've been having. Going to bed is like going to an anxiety movie every night. Last night I was dreaming I was back in college and didn't have an apartment to live in near campus - a reoccurring dream that life is new and exciting and I don't have a secure place to live. 

I'm just venting now, but I needed it. Outside is mud and dripping and that's what inside my head feels like too. But at least the coffee is hot and there's plenty of it! All the pipes are thawed and there's hot water on tap. I have clean sheets on my bed, kind dogs with full bellies, and two shaggy horses to snuggle when so moved to.

And I am moving forward with the spring plans for the farm including contacting pig and lamb sources, hatchery orders, seed orders, possible bee package orders (money depending), and plans to clear some new land for a pumpkin patch if at all possible and I can hire someone with a chainsaw who isn't terrified of chainsaws like I am. So there's light at the end of this mope. And right now what I need to do is focus on small goals like raising firewood money, selling lamb and pork shares, and making it another month towards thaw.

I hope you guys are warm and willing to get through it all too.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Five Things I Wish I Could Tell 26-Year-Old Me

I'm 36 and I have been sharing my thoughts and decisions publicly online for over a decade. I've published six books during that time (four of them memoirs) while I've kept this ultra-personal blog. Which means I was my most vulnerable and open with strangers before I knew who I was, what I wanted, or had any measure of self esteem. Oh boy.

Writing was not something I ever intended to do professionally. It was something I did for compulsive fun. I started blogging in my mid-twenties because it was a way to keep in touch with family and friends after starting out in the real world, post-college. I never stopped writing after that. So now ten years of my life has been recorded here for you to read. You probably know people with marriages that have been shorter. Hell, maybe you've been in marriages that have been shorter!

Please, stop and imagine if you wrote down your innermost thoughts and feelings with total strangers at 26? Who were you then? Did you do or say anything you regret? You're probably a totally different person than you were then. So am I.

Which is why I never go back and read the blog. It's hard to do both as a writer and as a grown woman. I can't help but cringe at the boldness and certainty, much less the prose. The internalized misogyny and homophobia towards myself is so clear it's heartbreaking.  I wish I could travel back in time and hug her and tell her that she's going to be okay. Things won't get easier, but you'll get tougher and smarter. You'll learn how to be a homeowner. You'll learn to love yourself. You'll have to go through a lot of winters, run a lot of miles, and gain a lot of scars first - but you'll get there.

Here are the five things I wish I could go back to tell the 26-year-old me.

Listen

You're a single, young, woman sharing her personal and financial choices with strangers. Most readers are going to be helpful and supportive. Others are going to see you making the same mistakes they did and their words will come across as critical or negative. You're going to mistake a lot of attempts to help you as judgement. You're also going to mistake a lot of support as permission. Neither is the full story and you won't be able to negotiate any of this yet.

You are becoming an independent person (who has never been independent before) without a partner to share in the decision making with. You are also doing something very new; sharing the process of making a life with strangers. You won't know how to cope with the deluge of opinions and ideas.

Please, Jenna, understand it's okay to be doing what you are doing, but take a little more time to see things from outside your own limited experience and circumstances. I know this isn't possible for you to do now. You have blinders on so tight, darling. But once you have that ability it will make life a lot easier, even if it means less exciting.

Stop Apologizing

You are going to assume you need to constantly apologize for your life. This will be reinforced a hundred ways. Your candor and vulnerability will be appreciated by some, but others will see it as weakness and grant them subconscious permission to treat you like a child that deserves to be scolded

Remember that almost everyone is going to see you as someone without agency. By not having a man or family included in your story you will either appear broken or brave - but both views will be based on internalized misogyny that whispers what you are doing isn't normal. Young women are not supposed to avoid marriage and children, buy land and houses alone, and focus on what they want to do with their lives as individuals. You will be seen as selfish, ruthless, or both.

People will either applaud or disdain you for biases they don't even realize they have - including you. You will feel shame for not having a husband or children even though you don't want them and never did. And later you'll feel even more shame for pretending you did. That will weigh you down and hinder you in ways you can't imagine. It will mean horrific choices about love and romance because you will be desperate to feel accepted and wanted in a world that never seemed to do either. I am so sorry I wasn't braver, sooner.

You are going to let people say awful things shrouded as advice. For example, one day a woman will offer to pay to have your border collie spayed because she "cared about the breed's integrity" and didn't want me breeding my low-quality bogs. Jenna, your dogs are none of her business, nor is their family planning! Boundary crossing like this will happen over and over. You'll get slammed with scolding that rarely happens face to face and would have never happened if you were standing next to your husband in public.

Here's what it all comes down to: You don't have to be sharing your life. People don't have to read it. Every single interaction with you is because you chose to share it and people chose to read it. If writing about this farm ever makes life less joyful than not writing about it; STOP.

There's going to be so much kindness. You won't be able to handle it.

People are amazing, Jenna!

Sharing a dream online is going to attract others that can relate to your passions and excitement for an authentic life, whatever that means. You'll meet a lot of people and start a lot of friendships. Good gods I can't wait for you to meet Patty and Mark, Miriam and Chris, Tyler and Tara, Greg and Joanna, Dave, Leah, Kathy and Mary, Elizabeth and Weez! So many others I didn't just list but they are coming and so supportive of your story! You will have people to call for help and people to run to help. You will be enveloped with love and support.

There will be letters and packages sent to your home. There will be emails and articles and blog posts celebrating you. People will contribute to your writing, send Christmas cards, call you to help thaw pipes or figure out electric fencing problems. One of the main benefits of being so open means it allows a rush of kindness and people and opportunities!

Bad news, you will not be able to manage this either. You are 26 now and barely able to manage your office work, farm, blog, social life and family. You are dealing with serious food and body issues and anxiety and hair loss. You have the dangerous mix of very low self esteem and very high self confidence and people will read that need for acceptance and gregariousness as being more emotionally and socially available then you ever could be. There is not enough energy to keep track of the people that come into your life. Burst of friendship and then fizzles of entropy will be normal. You will feel awful about this and deal with it in unhealthy ways. Like dive into the world of Prepping and Survivalists because it enforces your need for isolation and escape. Or worst, still trying to date men.

And after you quit that office job you will be dealing with anxiety and loneliness and some mornings barely be able to get out of bed, but YOU WILL. That farm is farm counting on you. You don't know this yet but some of the decisions people will scorn you for the harshest will be the reason you get through the hardest times. A dark horse, talons, and time will save you from the worst depression you ever experienced. And while you are shaking from tears at 3AM too afraid to knock on your guest room's door to talk because you're scared of depending on another person for comfort, some one out therewill assume you are living in an ungrateful paradise and there's nothing you can do about it.

There's going to be so much cruelty. You won't be able to handle it.

A few people are going to hate you for reasons you will not understand for a decade. They will obsess over your life like a personal Kardashian, watching every choice and purchase and decision. They will expand pictures of your animals, body, and home to look for clues you are a bad person. They will assume the absolute worse about everything you do and ignore anything even remotely positive. And their reasoning for doing so is because you were dumb enough to share your life online - and by the way -  you don't deserve it in the first place.

Never has it been easier to hide behind an anonymous handle online and disdain a public person. It's why sites like GOMI are thriving. I know you are hurt by and scared of these people, but please have compassion. People that choose to troll anonymously are not happy people. They are just as scared as you are and just as vulnerable. Those comments are their form of free therapy. They're just people. You know how after a horrible date or fight with your mom you sit down watch 5 episodes of Gilmore Girls and polish off a bottle of Cabernet? That's what 99% of them are doing with a snarky comment. You are their Stars Hollow and wine. Watching a 20-something's train wreck is a delightful distraction from judging their own.

To be blunt, some people are going to hate you because you let them in and then you let them down. You became someone they cheered for and then you fucked up, or weren't grateful the right way in the right amount of time, or changed in a way that felt like a betrayal. And unlike their real life friends and family they can talk to about this sort of thing, you are a character with a plot twist. They can say things about you they could never say to sisters, or spouses, or their mothers and they need to do that.

Right now someone is reading this that doesn't like you and wishes you still allowed comments on the blog so they could tell you how awful you are instead of doing the dishes, eating a salad, drinking a glass of water and going for a walk or calling a friend. You can not help that. Trolling is the scavenger culture of the internet. It feeds off the carcasses of other's because it has no idea how to hunt for their own lifeblood. It's not going anywhere.

Keep Going

I know how for many years everything you do will seem like a mistake. You've spent all of your twenties and most of your thirties making bold decisions towards the life you wanted and then feeling the need to explain and/or apologize for them. But you are not that girl anymore.

You are going to become a woman who has managed to remain self-employed on her own farm for nearly 7 years. You are the woman who bought this farm by herself and managed to keep it out of the bank's grasp for a decade (and I promise they are trying very hard to get it back).

You're going to raise food for friends and neighbors. You're going to keep bees and grow vegetables. You're going to learn to breed and herd sheep. You'll learn to milk goats and make soap and cheese. You'll learn to play instruments, fly fish, hunt, and shoot arrows! Jenna I know this sound crazy but in ten years you'll ride fast horses and train wild hawks!

And here's the best part, you're FINALLY out of the closet and allowing yourself to fall in love! And it's because of those years and experiences I just listed! All of that growing food and growing up has chiseled away the parts of you that allows hate in. And that isn't about blind pride or achievements - it's about learning to forgive yourself and love yourself as the woman you. Easily the hardest accomplishment of your entire life.

Listen here lady, keep going. When animals die, keep going. When storms hit, keep going. When the bank drives by to knock on your door, keep going. When people send the state police to your door because you wrote online that a chicken died in the night, keep going. When she doesn't like you back, keep going, When you scream into the dark, keep going. When you feel so lonely and yet unwilling to receive love, keep going.

You are going to be okay. I know because I've been here the whole time.