Saturday, September 22, 2018

Falling Up

It's the Autumnal Equinox and things are moving slow, but steady here at the farm. I am in my usual mode: low-grade panic. I got some bad new yesterday at the dentist that I need to schedule another root canal at a dental surgeon because it's a molar and the tri-root tooth can't be worked on at my dentist's office. Right now I can't even worry about it and need to focus on getting more firewood and the wood stove fixed, along with the usual bills and chores. But the good news is that there is a little wood stacked, a half cord. And there is a wood stove being repaired and friends to help figure out the warped iron and work of it. In August I was able to mail a mortgage payment, and I am in the process of working on another while getting whatever firewood in I can along the way. I emailed a neighbor that logs with horses and offered to barter a logo for his business for some wood - he seemed interested and that would be ideal! It's a shot at least. I want to have a cord and a half stacked and ready by Halloween - which is still half the firewood I need but at least enough to make it till Yuletide. I am really hoping for a mild winter.

In other farm news the lambs are scheduled to be harvested in December and the butcher set the date. The butternut squash harvest is hearty as ever - possibly the best veggie crop this farm ever grows - and I started piling them all up at the side of the stove near a basket of Joseph's wool. I was going to go off hiking with Friday today but instead spent the day working on my own wilderness: my lawn. I mowed and weed whacked. I cleared out the area behind the barn for fall campfires, setting up tiki torches and clearing shrubs. It feels good to do the simple chores of maintaining a place - keeping it as presentable as possible. The Hobbit in me demands a pleasant little place ready to offer hospitality and several meals to any that enter. And since today is Frodo and Bilbo's birthday as well as the Equinox - it seemed fitting to spend it at home.

Things are okay. I'm feeling better than I have in a while since I stopped drinking. I am in my third week without alcohol, an experiment of sorts as well as a way to save a little money. I am planning on doing Sober October as well, and that'll be two months without a sip of anything, and it's been fairly easy but makes my evenings a little more anxious. Without a delightful distraction of a cider my brain worries more and the nights seem a little colder - but I think my liver will thank me in the end. I needed a break and want to focus more and more on my health, which is my only form of health insurance right now!

In a few days the month will pass. I'll call that surgeon and see how long I can put off this appointment. I'll figure out the firewood (I paid for almost all of the last delivery, another slow and steady update!) And before the cold comes let's hope I have that fireplace ready and roaring and the peace of mind that comes with a full woodshed and hay in the barn.

And I saw the fox again yesterday morning. He is young and strong and gorgeous as he struts across the far field. Mabel doesn't like him and snorts at him. Merlin doesn't care.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fire(wood) Sale!

Hey guys! Running a sale on pet portraits, Soap, Classes and logos right now! Trying so hard to promote them and classes here on the blog so I can mail in a summer mortgage payment ASAP and get the first bit of firewood stacked. It's about scrappy preservation right now and even selling a single bar of soap helps! So if you're interested in supporting the farm please drop me a email at dogsinourparks@gmail.com

Monday, September 17, 2018

Wood Stove and Dentures

My friend Patty said she'll be stopping in check out the wood stove and do some repairs! I need to get part of it replaced, and have the part, but having trouble getting it in there thanks to seven years or so of constant heat warping the bits and pieces. I am hoping her technical genius and bevy of power tools can do what I can not. She'll be by to look at it around noon, I hope. There's a chance this wood stove will be repaired by nightfall! Fingers crossed!

In a bit of bad luck I am dealing with the onset of another abscess, and I hope, an easy repair by my Dentist. I am not writhing around in pain, but dealing with the dull ache that I am all too familiar with. The kind of pain that slowly builds from gums to your jaw and towards your ear and never goes away unless thwarted by intense antibiotics. The good news is it's in the area of my mouth that had a lot of dental work last spring. I am praying it's just a repair to an old filling and not a future root canal, but either way, now I have to plan around dental bills and that's discomforting while trying to earn up enough for firewood and hay along with the regular expenses of running the house and farm. I called the dentist this AM and they wanted me in there at 2PM but I explained I couldn't afford the trip today (which isn't the most dignified thing to do) and then asked if I could get an Rx of antibiotics for the infection/pain? I'm waiting for a call back.

I am glad this is Hobbit Week and it starts so gently with meditation and stretching. It will help me be calm, focused, and aware that everything I do today is towards feeling better. And fasting works out pretty well when chewing hurts! I share this because it's the reality of this farm, these finances, this life. Yes I am posting about a week of Fantasy-inspired self care based on a favorite children's book. But I am also dealing with really adult problems every single day. And I like that balance. I like that meditating in quiet breaths tonight will help me focus. I like that I will be listening to the audiobook while I do my daily chores, morning and evening. And I like that by the time I reach the end of that map the pain should be gone - by dentist or science or pills.

I'd consider dentures, honestly, if I didn't already have four root canals in my mouth repairing damage already. There should be a bench with my name engraved on it at my dentist's parking lot. You can't win every throw of the dice in the gene game. I have bad teeth and just need to keep taking care of them. So I will. 

Hobbit Week

It's the start of a new week and I'm working on getting back into the swing of clients, deadlines, and goals from a wonderful weekend off. I had an amazing 6.8 mile hike on Saturday with my friend Tara (and I am still sore from the 2900ft climb and climb back down it!) up to Mount Equinox. Sunday was spent on the farm, being a true Sunday. I relaxed and walked with Gibson in the woods here on this mountain. I read library books. I made pizza and ate ice cream and have been feeling like the kind of person who stopped running so much and has been eating pizza and ice cream: so hell Hobbit Week!

Hobbit Week is a holiday I made up. It's a week of positive self care and change inspired by the work of Tolkien. I made a map of The Shire and I carry it with me all week. On the back of the map are daily goals to get to one location on the map to the next! The goals are set to my own body and needs. For example: to get to Hobbiton today I need to dedicate 30 minutes to yoga for this sore body, 10 minutes of meditation to clear my head, fast until 2pm to clear out my gut, and then only eat fruits and veggies today. If I manage that by nightfall I have made it to the next location on this little map. Once those goals are met I paint in the sections I have "traveled" and by Friday night I should make it all the way from the Shire Homesteads to Bree!

The week includes running, fasting, healthy eating, and meditation. The fact that I have a physical reminder of my journey, daily goals, and a plan to do it around work and weather make it even more real to me. I carry the map folded up in a favorite leather pocket copy of The Hobbit. If you want to see more pictures of the map, they are on Instagram and Twitter!

On with the Journey!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Wood, HO!

So glad to announce that I just unloaded a half cord of firewood! I was delivered from a local farm, my friends at Common Sense (as well as 20 bales of hay). May not seem like a big deal but that half cord is progress and a promise. It means I am now just 3.5 cords away from a warm winter, 1/8th of the way there. Since the check just cleared for mortgage payment I explained I didn't have the money to pay them just yet for the hay and firewood. They're friends and explained that it's fine, pay when I can. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have neighbors like that, and I'll hopefully earn the money for the half cord and firewood this weekend. But just knowing that there is some firewood here! Hoo! What a great relief. Between that, the house payment, and bit of warm and humid weather going into the weekend it is such a relief and so encouraging!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Plod On!

Things here are plodding towards solvency! As the weather turns from crisp to summery again (temps over the next few days back in the 80s!) I'll be enjoying these last weeks of "summer" out on the trail whenever I can, and maybe even an overnight campout before the cold really sinks in.  The camp out would be on a friends' land and a big step for me. Don't laugh - but this one night of camping local (after evening chores and back in the AM for morning chores) would be the first night in seven years I haven't slept at the farm. Even just a few miles away in a tent with my dogs, curled up with sleeping bags and novels, but even though it's just a few hours away it's a big deal to me! By true winter the only farm animals here will be the chickens, horses, hawk, and pigs. The lambs will be in their new homes/freezers and if I arrange for someone to check on the critters I could get away for an overnight trip with the dogs for sure. Nothing big. Things like this camp out, but it's a step towards a freedom I sorely need both as a woman getting serious about dating and putting herself out there: and as a return to backpacking. I have learned this summer how much I miss those woods. 

I'm glad to report I've been able to mail off a mortgage payment and soon hope to start stacking firewood and feel like this pic of puppy Friday from a few falls back! One thing I will change about this fall is less fires for vanity in October. Some nights do get cold, but often I like having a fire at night just to settle down beside. I figure if I skip out on early fires on forty-degree nights I'll have a little more play on the -20 degree ones sure to come again like last year! It's easy to want to load up a woodstove on a chilly autumn night but maybe I can save it for company. I want to savor firewood, it's been so hard to get a hold of this year and as I type there still isn't any here yet. I hope to get the first delivery soon. Even a cord is like 3 weeks of relief in my head.

Tomorrow is the day to Vote, New York! Get out there!

Thank You

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:


Saturday, September 8, 2018

My People

The third canine I saw today was a red fox, leaping through the air like a gymnast after a fat red hen behind my barn. I'd be upset if he wasn't so beautiful, a perfect moment caught after morning coffee. The dogs ran after it and the hen lived, but even if she didn't I would not be shooting that fox. My fox shooting days are long behind me. No predators see their end from this farmer, we are on the same team far as I am concerned: trying our damnedest to do whatever it takes to make it through the winter. Good luck, fella. Stay warm.

The day stayed cool and cloudy. I spent the morning with the usual tasks and chores and then worked through packaging some soap orders and illustration work. In the afternoon I saddled up for a ride to take in the view from the top of the mountain. From Merlin's back I could see the valley all the way to Peak Rock across the Battenkill river swamps. Only counted five yellow trees, it is still summer in color and that makes me exhale a little relief.

This morning I shared that fear about firewood, which is a good fear to have. Tonight may dip into the thirties and even if I wanted to light a fire for comfort I can't. The stove is in pieces awaiting repairs and there isn't enough wood. But I know there will be. I called Common Sense Farm last week to check in on the first cord I ordered and they said they'll deliver it when they have time and I hope it's this week. I hope I can figure out how to swing the bill, which I will, I always have. But I will feel so much better after a day of stacking oak and hickory and knowing that my stove is ready for me, waiting.

I feel more like a writer again, more than I have in a long time. I'm working on this romance novel and there's no kickstarter, no patrons, no publisher, no deadlines. It's at only 10k words now but when I sit down to work on it I smile. When I was riding Merlin I thought about the prologue and the coyotes and wolves that open the story, talking over dinner in Cambridge NY. I love telling stories, and this one is so fantastical while being personal. It's on my time and my passion and it feels so good to have something to build piece-by-piece.

My nights have all been based on spending time with my hawk, getting ready for the season ahead. Having a bird you can trust in the forest means trusting her in your living room first, at least for me. We sit and watch movies with the dogs, her on my fist. I practice putting her hood on and off, touching her feet and bells, talking to her, getting her used to the primate she hunts beside. Falconry is technically all about the field - the pursuit of game. I love the entire path to get to that point just as much.

Living with predators, writing about predators, learning and reading and knowing I am also a predator. Yes, I have put down my gun. I'll share with the hungry fox and wave to the trotting coyote. It took me a long time to find my people. I don't need to scare them away.

First Chilly Morning

I've never gone this far into fall without firewood stacked and ready. Worried.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

That's Farming

Chores are mostly done, save for the buckets currently filling with water as I type. I need to do a second set of water rounds because of the heatwave we've been saddled with. The horses are especially thirsty, and drinking extra gallons every day. The lambs have become crepuscular, and as early as 8AM are under the shade of the apple trees, heavy with fruits ready for picking. The chickens don't seem to mind the heat at all and run about after the August flies. All in all, the animals are doing well. I'm personally thrilled with this hot introduction to September. It feels like when your professor grants you a surprise extension on your paper, some won time. If it was forty degrees in the morning I would be dealing with a whole different set of anxieties - but the heat has me focused on work and plans instead of panic. I am grateful for it.

My good friend and fellow Washington County farmer, Patty Wesner took a look at the stove and has figured out a plan of attack for it. We are going to have to take apart sections that had fused together from heat over the years, but she thinks we can get it done. That is really encouraging!

I have been writing, a lot. Working on this side project for self-publishing which is a romance novel set in genre fiction and I am having so much fun with it. I have no idea how it'll turn out but for now it's a way to spend my evenings feeling thrilled with characters and story. Fiction isn't my strong suit and I am trying to take my time and plan this chapter by chapter. Either way it's fun and has replaced drinking a glass of wine and watching movies into the evening. Taking a break from alcohol for a while to see if it changes up my productivity and health. So far, it's going gangbusters.

I am still in the scramble to make ends meet, but what else is new? The point is to keep the scramble up and not lose focus on why I am trying so damn hard in the first place. And when the weather breaks, and another house payment is mailed, and a cool September morning drapes her mantle over this farm I will tack and saddle a horse and ride up to take in the colors of fall. I will pull a thermos from the saddle bag and take a deep swig of coffee and know that there's firewood stacked, a stove in working order, wolves are just pacing around the door instead of scratching at it, and I am still standing. That's farming.

P.S. Running a sale on soaps for repeat customers! Email me if you'd like some more! Makes a great gift going into the Holiday seasons! And can make you pumpkin honey soap for fall! 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Claw Marks

Sometimes after a meal here I need to stop and realize what just happened.

My morning was fueled in the usual way; a cup of reheated coffee from yesterday's percolator. Fortified, the dogs and I headed outside into our small dirt empire. The collection of animals and plants I have been tending since the snow melted. The daily work all through the wet summer points towards mornings like this. Once everyone was fed and water carried - I collected a large pile of cherry tomatoes off the now-sagging plants. I threw ones that had already burst from ripeness to the hens at my feet, which had formed around me well aware of the drill. They stole little tomatoes, the size of cantaloupes to them, and ran away like school children playing pranks.

I brought the fruits inside and set them in a bowl. In the fridge was some breakfast sausage from the pigs I raised, left over from yesterday as well. I set it out on the counter along with a few eggs I had collected the evening before. Basil from the garden was in a mug of water, waiting for meals to add it's sweetness to. The only thing I hadn't raised or grown for this breakfast was the mozzarella cheese. I was going to have a sausage, tomato, basil and cheese omelet.

I cooked the omelet and sat down to enjoy it, sharing it with my hard-working dogs. I drizzled some sausage, fat, and egg over their kibble bowls and we all ate together in the living room in contented silence. As each bite hit my lips I could see my dirty feet, cross-legged in my lap, and smile at the life that brings such hedonistic meals and hard work together like so.

I worry so much about the keeping of this place. But I worry because of mornings like this and the life I created and how the holding onto it means more than anything I know. But I wanted to share that this morning I woke up to this intense anxiety that September has arrived and I have no firewood, a stove in need of repair, and am still earning summer mortgage payments - but you know what? I only have that panic because of mornings like this. Because it fuels every day with worth and meaning and deeds that give a human being a reason to wake up and keep trying.

Some day this story won't be about struggle. Some day it will be about love and adventure and the wealth of contentment that comes from knowing your roof is safely yours and watertight. But right now I am glad for mornings like this, for meals like this, and for a place that I will hold onto so tight I leave claw marks when moved.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

August Fading

Storms all last night and into this morning and August is almost gone. I gotta give her credit though, this summer is leaving us with a bang! Humid and highs in the nineties the last two days making work hot and sweaty and the river heavenly. Yesterday I got as much done as possible in the early hours and then spent a glorious 45 minutes swimming and floating down the Battenkill. Being a weekday it wasn't very crowded but there were still a lot of people looking for refuge from the heat. The water was clear and cool. The air was heavy but not burdensome. And all the while I was a little comforted and grateful for the late heat wave. It made me feel better about not having the firewood in yet. It made the wood stove sitting in pieces in my living room a little less urgent. It made me believe in a little more time. Because time is what slings luck your way. It's what gives you the chance to be resourceful, figure things out, get an idea, find inspiration, or in yesterday's case: float.

I don't know if I'll reach my goals of mailing a mortgage payment and getting firewood in by the end of this month. I only have two days and am only have way there in savings. But I do know that there is no reason to stop trying and I've pulled out of much deeper holes. So today on the farm, now sweaty and writing you post-chores and morning rain - I am here to offer pork and soap, logos and drawings, classes and speaking, books and downloads. Maybe one of you will email me today and inquire about coming this fall to play the fiddle or shoot a bow.

The farm is doing so well, regardless of my own anxieties. The lambs are plump and since the other sheep are gone to Moxie Ridge - all my shepherding attention is on them. Gibson and Friday keep them in line and the horses tolerate them just fine. The piglets are twice the size they were in July and soon will be moving out of the barn and into the woods or the goat's old pen. I haven't decided. The barn may be a better home for them with winters like we have here?

Today I have hay being delivered to be stored in the barn and a long list of outdoor and indoor tasks. Mundane things like fence repair, laundry, and scrubbing down the hawk house. But also illustrating a cow for a customer and working on a logo restaurants logo. I am so glad for a day that lets me use my artistic and physical self. I need to remind myself always that is why I am here. That is why this blog and farm has lasted a decade. That's why I've become who I am proud of being today.

In other news I am back into the fun and effort of writing this little romance novel, which I plan to self publish. It's a distraction and a challenge - and something I have never done before. It's vulnerable and exciting and I'm really trying to work out the story.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Gotta Move This Pork!

The piglets are here and thriving! Doing well and I have sold all but a half share of what I have planned to raise for CSA. I am trying like mad to move this last half pig to help out the farm. I gotta sell the share fast and happy to make a hell of a deal!

If you are interested in getting some pork send me a note! Email me here!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Offline

The internet was out for a few days, a problem with Verizon and a couple hundred rural customers. It meant checking emails and trying to make sales while using public Wi-Fi at the laundromat (though I did get a lot of laundry done!) or at friends' homes. I didn't really mind it until evening when being alone in a farmhouse without audiobooks, movies, or TV shows streaming felt lonesome and there was nothing to distract me from end-of-the-day anxieties. Same for getting up in the middle of the night. It would be 3AM and there was no twitter to check and laugh at the friends and comedians I follow. For someone who prides herself on living alone on a farm and considers herself somewhat misanthropic at times - it was a kind reminder how much I love hearing other people talk. How much I want to connect with people - even online. It's back and I'm balmed. But I did make sure to spend a healthy time offline today.

This morning started with a ride with Merlin and what I lovingly call the Trash Saddle. It's a comfortable Collegiate saddle someone had thrown into the community potluck area of the dump. A space for space heaters, old claw-foot tubs, vacuums that kind of work, and old siding or building materials. I scooped it up and cleaned and polished it. I added leathers and stirrups. I got a girth that fit it. Now it's my favorite English saddle and today I rode Merlin in it at a walk, trot, and canter feeling comfortable as can be. A win for this Saturday.

The afternoon was dedicated to a hike at Folded Rock, a tough five-mile round trip to the lookout and back. I hated this trail the first time I did it, then adored it at the lookout. I went back with a friend and shared the struggle and view and today I went alone (no dog or friend) to see how fast I could ascend the 1200ft ascent in half a mile. It was tough, but I did it faster than before and instead of talking to dogs or people I just focused on music the whole way up. My arms were glistening, my back was soaked, and my entire 3liter water supply was GONE by the time I made it back to the truck on the humid day. Between the ride and Folded Rock I was beat. I came home and read in the hammock under the King Maple and took a nap.

A perfect Saturday. Ride, hike, read, nap. And now I'm checking in with you. I have my hawk inside tonight to start hunting season training which means right now she is sitting on a perch indoors around human and dog smells and sounds. Later she'll watch a whole movie on my fist, getting used to the hood and being touched again. Every fall she has to be reminded of that first training period back when she was first trapped and trained. Summer has her fat and wild. Time to start slowly dropping weight, getting used to me, flying to the fist, and then hunting by October! It's been a bumper crop year for cottontails so I am excited!

Some updates on the farm: 

 The breeding flock and goats are gone, as you all know. Right now the summer lambs, piglets, and egg/meat chickens are the bulk of the income from the farm right now. There are also my gardens, the geese, the riding horses and the hawk but the production side of things this coming fall and next spring will be raising off-farm reared animals seasonally. I am okay with the decision. Morning chores are already so much faster. I am using so much less hay and grain. It feels like the right choice though I do miss the flock and herd. I will breed sheep and goats again, just not this coming season.

My wood stove is opened up and cleaned out and being taken apart for cleaning and repairs. I bought the flue piece but I can't figure out how to install it. But while I failed at that I did get the gasket rope redone, cleaned the glass, and started scrubbing the rust off with steel wool to prep it for some repainting of stove paint. It's not ready to use yet but it is getting the necessary repairs in time, I hope!

Still no firewood in but I am optimistic. I have placed an order I just need to get the funds to pay for it and have it delivered. But before I do I need to get a mortgage payment out so I am promoting soaps, logos, illustrations, and classes like nuts on Twitter (my largest social media presence). I can say I am 3/4ths of the way there. I may not make it by the end of the month but even if I get close I'll be okay. I just don't want to see leaves changing colors and nights dropping into the thirties without heat, at least some, set up and ready for a cold night. It's less about comfort than it is about anxiety.

 





Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Autumn Is Calling

Proud to share this simple farm meal and to boast a bit. The buttercup squash, sweet sausage, and apples in this easy recipe all came from this farm! To be totally honest, I thought these four plants I bought at the farm stand were "butternut" not buttercup - but found this early winter squash easy to grow! They are a squatty pumpkin shape with a rich meat that is a lot like a butternut - but farmers around here assure me they don't keep as long so enjoy them as they ripen! Which is what I did today.

I halved the squash and scooped out the seeds (set aside for the piglets). Then I diced up some of the squash meat making a bowl to contain those cut pieces and some apples from the trees outside. I had pre-cooked sweet sausage in the fridge and put all the diced fruit, veg, and meat in a bowl. I then melted some butter (third a stick or so) in a small pan and added cinnamon and sugar, as if I was going to brush a pie crust. But I drizzled it all over the squash filling and then set it in the gourd to bake in itself for half an hour or so at 400°.

It was a lovely meal! Took moments and used fresh gifts from the farm as they were ready. Easy to make a vegetarian meal as well. Will certainly be making this at least once a week while the squash calls!

Ten Days!

Okay guys! I have ten days to mail a mortgage payment, get a cord of firewood stacked, and feel solid going into September. If you ever thought about supporting CAF now is a great time to do so! Sales on logos, soap, pork, illustrations, and classes! You can get details on all of this - from Archery 101 classes here at the farm this fall to half a pig for your freezer by emailing me! Thank you for considering!

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Goats Are Gone

Yesterday all the goats were picked up by fellow New York homesteaders Jo and Sam. They have a farm south of Albany and are active in the draft horse community. They were lovely people and took all four goats (three generations of Alpine ladies and Benjen) back to their farm. I helped them load up the goats in the back of their pickup in a safe enclosure and handed the doeling to Jo, which she named Millie. I'm so glad all the goats are staying together and found such a fine homestead to belong to, but good gods does it hurt.

Selling the flock of breeding sheep was a hard step, but since the lambs were still on the farm, still grazing on the hillside, the pain slid off and went back into the work of keeping the farm going. But the goats no longer in their paddock by the barn makes this place seem so quiet and still in comparison. The energy and life of goats is firecracker intense. Their absence is noted like an action comedy switching to a blank screen in a theatre.

So this morning Friday and I headed into the woods for a 4 mile hike in close by Vermont. I got a magazine gig writing some product reviews of outdoors gear and all of it has to be tested on the trail. I worked on illustrations the night before so I at least had covered my AM desk work, hoping that a guilt-free hike would balm my sadness over the goats.

And it did help. Getting outside and getting my body moving always helps. We hiked up to the Lye Brook Falls which were amazing! 125ft cascade hidden in this magical place. The trail was insanely packed for a Monday morning but I couldn't blame the other day hikers. The view was stunning.

I do not regret the choices I've made to scale back. The bank just sent someone here to see if the house is occupied and that fear of getting out another house payment soon as possible growled inside me, solidifying the actions of yesterday. I needed to make these changes and go into winter with less expenses and responsibilities. And as every day creeps closer to September I am reminded both of the import of the decisions I made and the fear I won't catch up. I still need to pay for firewood and get it stacked, which was supposed to happen sometime this week but can't just yet. First thing is keeping the bank a safe distance from the threshold.

I have ten days or so left in the month to get some firewood stacked and mail off a mortgage payment. Here's to figuring it out, fast delivery of freelance checks, new sales, and the luck to manage it all. Hoping for an abundant fall without the scramble against snowfly. Here I go.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

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, August 17, 2018

Shakes Like Thunder

I'm writing to you during a thunderstorm, and it's a big one. I'm expecting the power to go out so I have already lit candles the Kindle is charging so it's ready to play me an audiobook to keep me company in the dark. Gibson is in my lap, always terrified of thunder. Friday is asleep across the room totally unfazed. Besides the distant rumbles and the sound of rain things are calm here. The chores were done well before the storm hit, including sharing the bag of corn cobs delivered by a friend on the way to the town dump earlier. Everyone loves corn on the cob! The goats, the chickens, and even the geese tumble and chomp on them with the same joy us humans do when they are so sweet and picked daily. It was an embarrassment of riches.

This morning started with a talk at a local Science Day Camp for kids. My friend Jeremy and I brought our birds to tell a room of 37 preteens all about hunting with hawks and birds of prey. The kids were wonderful and Aya was a great co-speaker (as was Jeremy)!

Once home I fell into my regular to do list of work.  I'm proud of the to-do list I keep and check off through the day - making categories for work and farm and fitness. Not every day is amazing productivity but every day sees that work is done and even if there's no sales and just bills - I can check off tasks and feel like accomplishments are happening.

Once the farm and client list was sated I decided to mow the lawn. I wanted the work out and I wanted to see the place looking a little more kept. You know how some people tidy up to clean their head before work? I'm like that with the farm these days - if I feel cluttered inside and out - I clean up. This time of year you can't mow enough. The region is so wet that mold grows overnight on leather in your home and rocks have moss thick enough to shear like a sheep. The air is heavy with water and every paw and boot is muddy.

You need to understand that mowing the lawn when you're behind on your mortgage is an act of hope. It's aggressively optimistic. It's saying that you know you'll be okay and you're proud of the place you struggle to maintain. I have no shame in sharing that struggle here, and when things (if they ever do) get easier I hope to share that fairy tale as well. But right now it's a good fight of praying while mowing and waking up to a coffee pot you prepared the night before; intentional acts of care. Hope so loud it shakes like thunder.

A slow day here in a lot of ways. No sales or business, which is a little scary, but also it sure looks like a million bucks. A freshly-shorn lawn, a cleaned up home, a bed with fresh sheets, a belly full of frittata from my own farm's eggs and sausage.... this is wealth even when I'm broke.

And speaking of a bit of wealth: that picture of Merlin?! He's wearing the saddle I found at the dump and cleaned and oiled. It rides great! I took him out on the trails for an hour last night and took this picture of him at sunset. We're still out there together. We're still going strong.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Good Honest News!

Thought I would share a bit of good news here at the farm! The furnace is working! Hot water is back on the daily menu, thanks to some troubleshooting I figured out via Youtube tutorials. Also, the part I need to repair my wood stove came in and is sitting beside it — ready to be installed as soon as I am able to figure out if it's something I can do or if I need a chimney sweep or expert welder of sorts — but it is here!

I called Common Sense Farm about firewood - both pricing and delivery for a dry split cord. I'm behind on firewood preparation but having ANY will be a huge relief as I start ramping up for another mortgage payment. I'll be cleaning the wood shed for the new supply over the next few days and sometime in the next two weeks they'll deliver, so I have some time to save up for it and plan.

And to ice the cake of good fortune: the truck passed inspection this morning! No need for any new repairs or issues. She's working fine and street legal another 12 months!

To celebrate I am saddling up Merlin for a ride this evening. I've been working with Mabel and her solo trail riding training and what I want today is the relaxing comfort of Merlin and the forest. I want to savor this little bit of good, which I know may seem like a low-bar to many of you, but hot water and a sound truck aren't exactly givens in my life. So today I'll raise my glass to a bit of good luck and be grateful for those of you still cheering this scrappy place on!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mounted Archery Club!

This weekend I got word that a riding barn was hosting regular mounted archery practices right here in Cambridge! I'd attended a clinic by the same amazing people of Apex Mounted Archery last summer, but now the instructor Sara would be making regular visits to Long Shadow's Farm to teach and train people interested in learning the sport. Sara's hosting casual practices for anyone interested in joining the local club. 

We showed up on a rainy Sunday without our horses. Patty—my partner in crime in all things Equine—said we should use the clinician's horses and see if it's something our own mounts could do another day. I agreed (even though I was dying to try shooting at a canter off Merlin!)

At the clinic I rode a quarter horse named Scooter who calmly walked the course as a I shot the first few times, then trotted, and by the end of the clinic I was shooting at a canter! It felt so amazing, and comfortable. That's mostly because this horse had the entire routine down and I felt safe as could be on him. Merlin might be harder to push into a canter on a short stretch and Mabel, well, she might just leap over the fence at the end of the run! But it made me want to try with my own horses for sure. The video in the third slide of this Instagram post is me and Scooter! Watch us shoot at a canter!

Being so inspired by working with these fast horses I decided I wanted to spend more time riding Mabel solo. Usually I ride her with a friend, so she's always out on the trail with Merlin. Alone she doesn't have the same drive or confidence. She is way more stubborn, bucky and barn sour without her BFF. But the only way to get through that attitude is regular work and training. So yesterday we tacked up and rode up the mountain together.

Guys, it wasn't great. She was hard to get going and when asked to canter she straight up bucked. I stayed on, she learned I wasn't going anywhere, and by the end of the ride we were a team but I can't say it was enjoyable like riding Merlin. But there was also a time when Merlin was just as difficult when we were learning each other. Today I'll see if I can get on her again and keep it simple. I'm not going to be one of those people who looks at her horses in the pasture and never rides - oh hell no. Especially if she's got a future in archery!


Friday, August 10, 2018

Incredible Things

I woke up early enough to have farm and work set aside by 8:30 AM. Not the whole day's work, of course, but needs met and the day set into action. I had coffee in the thermos, day pack loaded, and every animal in my care had their bed and breakfast better than most chain hotels. The sun was breaking through the clouds and I was feeling good. My iPod still uses a click-wheel so I rolled into my Road playlist. Here we go!

This morning I had plans with my good friend Tara to hike the Folded Rock Trail. It's a local trail here in the Battenkill Forest, tucked into the Vermont border that shoots up Snake Ridge and winds across a mountain overlooking farmland and fields. I love this cruel trail. In half a mile you climb a thousand feet. It's tough and fast and beautiful. A great workout and fair hike. So I had Tara and Friday and 3 liters of water in my hydration pack. We were off!

We took four hours to climb to the look out and rest. Tara made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with grain-fueled bread, crunchy pb, and blackberry jam. They were amazing. I took bites as I took in the view and we talked about our lives and stories and wished we had a speaker of some sort to blare an audio book for the focused-descent. Alas, we just had silence and speed. But it isn't about the view or the company or the calories. Hiking is about the .3 seconds you forget you're an animal. It's about the desire for more than desks and AC. It's about primal strides and wanting distance. It's Pablo Neruda and Cameron Crowe. It's hiking while being aware Instagram exists.

The hike was grand. When it was over we stopped at a small footbridge hanging over a creek. We swung our legs like kids, watching the water rush below us. And we caught our breath and took in a moment to be glad we were there together. Tara grew up in the Midwest where mountains and streams like this were rare.  Now we rode them like a carousel horse every day. If I forget this magic I might slip on the next slight of hand. So I nodded and prayed like a wiser beast would.

More on the farm and its changes tomorrow. Tonight I am not sure what music to share as what I listened to driving home tonight was songs I am certain I have shared before. I guess I'll leave you with Ryan Adams covering Blank Space because it is gorgeous and life throws you unexpected beauty all the time.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Did I Even Make a Sound?

A friend just recently pulled away from the farm, having stopped by to catch up and share some good news. Some AMAZING news! We leaned against their car under the stars, they enjoying a cigarette and me enjoying a drink. Slow drags and clinking ice in a glass, we talked farms and business and they tried to convince me to join in for a local Karaoke Night a few towns over. "Get dressed, we're going out tonight."

I declined on having an early morning, but asked them to stick around a bit to chat. So we did. We talked for a while. Behind them I watched fireflies (the last of the season) burst in tired pumps of light. This was the end of summer and I secretly inhaled the smoke and light at the same time.

I left a group of friends in town just a bit earlier. My close friends Tara and Tyler rode their motorcycle to the Brewery to meet me and Gibson for dinner. My neighbor runs the food truck and Tyler bought me a gyro. At the bar already was a group of friends I met from my time at Argyle Brewery. In-between conversations I'd go behind the counter to wash glasses or refill pretzel bins. Jill was pouring and I always have her back when she's serving. It was as lovely a time as smoke and light in my driveway. Thursday nights are the Celtic Jam night and musicians play old songs and my dog sleeps on the wooden floors and everyone knows his name (rarely do they know mine). My dinner was perfect. My friends were perfect. The night and the music and the web of connections and mattering in a town of 1800 was perfect.

I had a date last night. I'm glad I went out. I feel like first dates earn bright green participation ribbons in society because regardless of how they go - you showed up and tried. I was proud of myself for meeting her. I was also glad to have this community around me I can tuck into like a husky wraps her tail around her nose when curled up into a ball and safe. 

I think I am supposed to feel lonelier than I do? I've been single for so long so I'm not sure? There was never the assumption or inclusion of another person in my life the entire time I dreamed of a farm and made it happen. There's no clawing for companionship, no stress about being alone. I would love to know what it's like to have feelings for someone and have them returned but that ache isn't pressing. Loneliness anarchy might be my superpower.

But if this life of good friends and trying and music and animals and meaning is standard? If being truly happy on a random Thursday night with the slung luck of these people is enough? I can only imagine being wanted by another human being is icing. Some bonus level magic that I will surely hope for but not count on. I don't require it. That doesn't mean I'm not excited for it.

This was a good day. Here's a song from a Broadway Show I listened to on my morning 10K that fits it. I assume most of you are familiar with Dear Evan Hansen, but if not, enjoy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hummin' like a Revved Up Truck

Yesterday after a few hours of indoor work I packed up hiking gear and Friday and we headed out for a light hike, a few miles here on the mountain. I'm lucky to have permission from a few neighbors to be on their land with my dogs, horses, and hawks if I please and since there was a threat of bad weather in the forecast I wanted to be closer to the farm. Friday did splendidly. I kept up, about 20lbs thinner that I was in winter thanks to all the miles ran. It was a lovely walk with few bugs or bears (two things I've been running into lately). When the walk was over I came back to the farmhouse to change into a swimsuit as the clouds started to roll into a black froth and everything felt electric.

One of my favorite sentences I could possibly say aloud this summer has to be: "I hope I can beat this thunderstorm to the river." It's been hot and humid here lately and the hours spent indoors or out keep me wanting the relief of the Battenkill. As the afternoon storms dragged through I sat outside under the King Maple with wet hair and a towel wrapped around my waist. I had heard the thunder began as I was floating downstream, feeling the cold water wash off the afternoon hike with Friday. and watched and listened, sipping a spiked iced tea and grateful for the day.

Some good news: I was able to mail in a mortgage payment and cover the truck's recent repairs! I'm basically back to broke but my deed is safe and I have wheels. Hell, I even have a date tonight planned. These are all upswings after a period of rough weather - literally and figuratively. I still have to figure out the wood stove repairs, furnace, and firewood but for the now I at least have a roof and transportation. If sales keep going and luck keeps swinging I may pull off a repaired stove and cord by Sept. Start where you're at, right?

Last night my friends Tara and Tyler came over to do one of our favorite activities: watch an episode of Wynonna Earp and talk. Like, really talk. It's a chance for me to gush about dating and my unrealistic crushes and for them to share their own stories. And it's so important to have people like that, ones you can say absolutely anything to and let your guard down. We sipped cider and sprawled with the dogs in the living room and watched the Earp sisters kick demons around on my ancient iMac and it was lovely as it sounds. It was a grand way to end a fantastic day of farming, hiking, river, and storms. And it made me feel a little better about where my heart and head is at.

Here's this post's song pick: Fool For Love!

Monday, August 6, 2018

36

We pulled into the driveway of Livingston Brook Farm around 9AM, Veronica riding shotgun. The forecast suggested a muggy afternoon and possible thunderstorms but this particular morning was bright as a set of new guitar strings. The sky was all blue and barn swallows. I had just turned 36.

We stepped out of the creaking beloved that is my truck and walked towards the 1700’s farmhouse before us.  I heard a voice from a second-story window holler "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" as we drew near. I looked up to my dear friend Patty and mumbled a thank you as Veronica hit me with some ancillary piece of clothing for not telling her. I'll never be comfortable announcing a birthday for the same reason I'll never care about astrology; it's a holiday I didn't get to choose.

My gift from Patty was my annual dinner and carrot cake that evening but she also agreed to taking my guest out for a horse cart ride to the Battenkill Creamery for ice cream. This would be a morning of harness and horse and quaint travel over country roads and farms. Watch out for the Bucolic Plague, everyone.

Veronica was visiting from San Francisco, her first visit to the farm. We met online and became fast friends. I can’t explain or understand the social media alchemy that lead to her pulling up to my front door in a rental car, but she was visiting Washington County for a few days. I wanted her to experience traveling across a landscape via horse cart and take home a story worth remembering.

We joined Patty in the farmhouse for coffee and breakfast before heading to the barn to halter and harness the horses. Patty has been driving her Percheron Steele for years, but always wanted a proper team. This winter she found a black mare named Ruby on Facebook to pair up with him. Ruby was Amish broke and trained but out of practice and needed someone to put in the time to get her back to regular work. Three solid of months of training had the two horses trotting like a pair of metronomes. Patty is a force of nature.

The adventure started off splendidly. A beautiful day back lit by the percussion of trotting hooves. We traveled the two and a half miles to the Battenkill Creamery, rolling past farms and homes on low-traffic dirt roads. Besides an incident with a barking dog running out to growl at the team (they were not phased) the ride was idyllic. Dappled light and conversation, the pace of the animals' becoming our own.

Soon the road turned towards the pastures around the Creamery. In the heat the young heifers were under the shade of the trees, barely paying attention to the draft horses and the vehicle. I was excited to show Veronica the baby calves kept alongside the creamery while enjoying mint chocolate chunk (which is, hands down, my favorite). And this thought was interrupted by the awkward side-stepping of Ruby, who had somehow managed to snap the pole between her and Steele. My stomach turned and Patty said in a calm voice,

“Jenna get out there and grab their heads.”

I jumped out of the back of the cart and moved to the bridles, holding the horses by their lead ropes and halters. For those of you unfamiliar with horse-drawn vehicles the pole is exactly that, a long shaft of wood (or metal) that connects the wagon to the yoke in front of the horses. It’s the key piece of equipment that pulls a team's vehicle and now it was snapped at a 70° angle shooting up between the horses. The cart was broken down, right in the middle of a road and a delivery truck was heading right for us...

Patty stopped the coming truck and handed Veronica the lines, leaving her alone in the wagon with 4,000lbs of horsepower in her grasp. I don’t know if she understood what she was accepting when she took those lines but she took them and somehow remained calm.

If the horses felt threatened they could have darted forward, dragging her with them after I had been run over flat. I felt my lungs empty and said about sixty silent prayers for safety fueled by the whites of my eyes. Patty wasn't worried, she knew her animals and efficiently and calmly removed the horses from the broken vehicle, by yoke and tug chains, and lead them off the bank of the road.

Veronica got off the cart safety. I stepped aside sweating an inordinate amount for a lady. I can not express the relief I felt at this moment, but it was thicker than any water in the air or fear in my chest. We were okay.

Since that moment in the wagon Veronica has started a new job. I've wondered a dozen times if people asking her questions in conference rooms realized they were dealing with a woman that took the reins of a team of draft horses the way average people accept a passed shaker of salt?

V and I moved the wagon off the road to the side of a barn, each of us grabbing the sides by the metal bars and assigning it safety off-pavement. We chocked the wheels with field stones. Not knowing what else to do I ran to Patty and her team seeking orders.

 Patty's phone was dead. There wasn't another person with a fitting pole close by or available on a Tuesday afternoon. Looked like we would be walking home. I nodded. Patty told us to buy ice cream and bring her a chocolate cone. I ran back to Veronica to report our duties and she swiftly obliged.

We ate ice cream next. This seems inconsequential but it was amazing. On a hot summer day miles from certainty and safety three women ate ice cream in daylight beside each other. We just started walking home, licking cones and enjoying summer in childlike acceptance. Patty with the lines of her team over one shoulder started them towards home. Trailing behind her Veronica and I hiked onward, chatting and enjoying our ice cream. The humidity and temperatures rose. So did my spirits.

I was so proud of Patty. At nearly 60 she was in control of her draft horses like a conductor. She ground drove them, walking behind at a brisk pace my hobbit body struggled to match. I want to be like her when I grow up.

This was a hell of a birthday.

This is the point I should mention that V didn't bring her own boots. She was loaned a pair of second-hand Ariats that fit her well enough (and she had ridden Mabel in the night before) but they weren't meant for hot distance. A few miles into our hike back to Patty's farm, blisters started to haunt her and after many offers to get off her feet and ride one of the horses home, she accepted. Then she was on a Percheron in full harness. And that was that.

I want you to picture this. I want you to picture three women and a team of draft horses walking home on a series of country roads without a cart. I want you to hear the clink of tug chains and feel the sweat falling off your shoulder and onto harness leather. I want you to experience the bite of deer flies and the way living in a deciduous rain forest alters your heart rate. And that music; of hoof and breath and story, making our way safely home on a Tuesday morning.

I will never receive a better birthday gift than this memory. It's inside my bones. Bound to calcium and the force that helps me run up hills tired. It's mine.

After we made it back, fortified by ice cream,  the horses were returned to their paddocks, comfortable and hosed down. Veronica and I headed back to my farm and changed for the river to swim.

By the time I was floating down the Battenkill under the wing beats of cedar waxwings and the flutter of sycamore leaves I was entirely exhausted. I’d been up since 6AM. I’d gone through the morning chores of feeding the stock, hay bale tossing, water hauling and coffee preparation. The dogs had ran and stretched out their limbs and tongues. I had done all that beside them. Afterwards I’d help harness horses. I’d traveled across the landscape in cart and home again on foot. It was time to soak and float and think of nothing but simple comforts like the slight buzz of a can of beer and baby trout avoiding my sandals in clear river water.

That night we returned to Patty’s farm for my birthday dinner, which was pesto pasta and lamb chops. The pesto from Mark's garden of basil and sorrel and garlic. The lamb from Patty's sheep she raised on this same hill horses swish their tails. Old English Sheepdog puppies scuttled about our feet, gifts were exchanged, the stars stretched across half the sky while the other half teased a storm that never came. Patty made me a carrot cake in the time we were absent at the river. She even whipped up a cream cheese icing! I am so spoiled by the luck of this place. You just can't know.

By the time dessert was wrapping up, conversation came back to the wagon parked beside a dairy barn at the Creamery. Veronica and I agreed to follow Patty's truck and trailer and help her load the wagon that night so it would be home safe. It seemed like the least we could do. Once again the three of us were off. It was around 9PM at this point.

So in my 1989 F150 we drove behind her. I chased her brake lights like hope around the curved back roads of Salem, NY. I was tired and happy from the day and grateful for the story and the company. Soon we were all back at the place where fear swallowed me and I choked on prayers. But instead of holding back a team of horses there was just the work of pushing a wagon into a horse trailer. We did  this by the headlights of my truck, loading it up and into the horse trailer without fuss.

And that was my birthday. It was farming and grand hardship. It was horses and rivers. It was new and old friends raising glasses around a familiar kitchen table with fluffy puppies scampering at our feet. It was perfect and broken. I held on to the memories as they happened with white knuckles and clear eyes.

I said last post I’d try to add more music. This song is what driving home happy and tired from loading a horse cart in the dark without a thunderstorm in an 1989 f150 feels like at 36. I can't vouch for the sad lyrics, but the cadence of horse and road and heat and hope feels tired and lovely Regardless, more beautiful music than what I could ever write and fitting to that day's end.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

High Hopes!



Thank you so much guys! The emails have been pouring in! Kindness, understanding, cheers, and advice. It's all been so helpful and makes me feel that this farm isn't an island and never has been. Other people have had the same issues with their furnace. Other people have sold stock they loved, changed life course, adjusted, failed, kept on. To be able to tell a story into a computer in my living room and get an email from Ireland or Vegas or Vancouver.... good Lord, it's nothing short of magic!

So with a lighter heart on a sunny Sunday I'm here to say thank you, for your time and conversation. I promise the next post won't be about something falling apart... Oh, wait, it will be but it'll be a great story with a grand ending. I'll write about my birthday; the day the horse cart broke down at the Creamery and how three badass women dealt with it.  Been meaning to write about that day for a while but wanted the go-ahead from all the women involved.

Also, here's the song I've started every single run with for the past few weeks. Co-written by the amazing Jenny Owen Youngs (for you Buffering Cast fans) and never fails to bolster me when things feel rough. I am going to share more music this August, a song with each post. Music and coffee are the soundtrack and flavor to every day here and they got me this far.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Flooded Furnace

Two inches of rain fell in the last 24 hours, a deluge that made morning chores a water park and flooded this farmhouse's basement. I found out about the basement because I could hear the sump pump revving up over and over, but saw no water coming out from the hose outside? When I went down to investigate I found the old stone and earth floor covered in a few inches of water and the pump's hose stuck inside the wall spraying water back into the basement. Basically the worst fountain ever.

In a homeowner's fury of panic I turned off the furnace, unplugged the pump, and spent the next fifteen minutes trying to repair the hosing (thank you to the loaned short hose off a shop vac) and got the water pumping outside instead of in. Feeling mighty, I headed back to the original Saturday morning plan. I was supposed to assist with a falconry talk in Salem and was already dressed for a presentation and my hawk on perch ready for our ride to pick us up when the sump pump drama happened. Good grief.

I went with my friend Jeremy to the talk (which ended up being canceled due to the rain) and got home shortly after. to my delight the basement was pumped free of water! To my dismay the furnace would not turn back on. I checked the breakers. I checked the motor. Just zero juice. I am hoping that it shorted out from being splashed by the water and not destroyed in the flooding. That furnace is how I get my water heated for the kitchen and bathroom. Right now I have no hot water and the furnace is off.

This is where I needed to step outside for a breather. I just figured out a late mortgage payment. My truck is in the shop again, and I am trying like hell to earn up the cash for that. That alternator repair is why I can't repair my wood stove or buy firewood - with September just a few weeks away. I know I will figure this out. I will handle each problem as it comes. I will be okay. What is killing me is all of these things are falling apart after I finally made the choice to change things here - for the reason of making things easier on myself. Selling livestock, cutting back expenses, after going through those tough choices things have become so much more stressful than they were before I made them...

Send encouragement. Send a nice email. Tweet me a kind word. Message me on Instagram. This is a rough Saturday. I need it the bolster. Or if you have any advice on why this oil furnace wouldn't start up again after the water incident, or troubleshooting, please let me know!

Good news to end on: The sun is shining now.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Ida had a Daughter!!


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Goats Sold

The last days have been a roller coaster. Let me start with the good news: I managed to scrape together that mortgage payment and mail it in. Thank you to everyone who was a part of making that happen through logo and illustration and soap sales! It means I have another four weeks to earn another one.  That's a huge win for this farm, another month paid for and another step towards someday owning this place. It feels good and I need to focus on that.

Other big news: I sold the goats, or rather two of them. I found a home for Bonita and Ida to live together, a homestead in the area looking for a milking doe. They won't go to their new home until later this month when the family returns from vacation but they are leaving forever. I still need to find a home for Benjen.

It's so hard to do this, and so conflicting. I am certain of the choice but Bonita has been here since I practically moved to Jackson. Ida was born here. This place is her entire life. I've been a part of the story of milking, kidding, cheese and soap making for so long and now it comes to an intermission.  That pic from two summer's ago of a little Alpine lass in the living room - that will be a while before I'm there again. It's sad but realistic. I need to cut back on expenses and responsibilities. I need to save and repair and prepare for winter. Not having two different breeding operations and 10 less mouths to feed is a huge step in that direction. It doesn't make it any less sad. It feels like giving up even though logic knows it's reorganizing.

The goat life isn't all that's stopped since I last posted: the truck isn't running. It needs a new alternator, a several hundred dollar repair. Last night it nearly didn't make it back to the farm in a rainstorm and the headlights were almost entirely dim by the time I pulled into my driveway. I need a vehicle and hopefully will have it repaired by Monday but first I need to figure out how to pay for it and then I have to stomach the truth that the cost of this is exactly what the cost of the woodstove repair and first cord of firewood would be.

So, progress on some fronts. Set backs on others. I am trying to be positive and focus on the fact that bills are being paid and changes made for the better. Here's hoping some luck lands in my lap soon. God's body am I ready for that.

Monday, July 30, 2018

This Farm, Your Support, Our Story.

Okay so I have 48 hours to earn up enough through art and logo sales to mail in a mortgage payment on time. Once that is done I can start saving for firewood and stove repairs. I am asking for anyone interested in a pet portrait, sheep portrait, or any animal artwork to consider purchasing a piece I draw and mail to your home! Or a logo design! Or you can buy these as a gift for someone else and I email you a printable voucher you can slip into a card! This farm needs the work and is happy to do it.  Email me for details, rates, sales, the whole thing!

If you don't want or need artwork I also sell handmade goats milk soap by the batch, with milk from either Northern Spy or Moxie Ridge goats (my own goats aren't in milk right now but Ida should be soon!). These are custom batches made to order and don't ship quickly but also make a great gift or everyday soap! It's what is in my shower!

And if you simply want to contribute to the blog you can, this blog and the last decade of writing here is free and archived. If you simply want to chip in and keep this place going there's a link on this blog to contribute or you can use this link. I have no qualms, at all, accepting voluntary contributions for the words I write and life I share here. Some people don't like that about me and that's okay.

This farm needs your support to keep going, to get through this transition, to make it into winter. Every single farm needs customer support and I am lucky enough that I can farm words and pictures alongside lamb and pork and eggs and share them with a world-wide audience. So I am using this platform as my farm stand. I am asking for help to get through. And I'll keep being honest and open about what it all means to me - the farm, your support, my life.

Thanks for considering.

Brother Crow

Chores are done and the coffee is hot. It's a normal morning here, mostly, save for the sounds of what could be a werewolf outside? The dogs run to the sliding glass doors every chance they can to witness the howling. Their tail wags and their tongues pant, excited at the beast just beyond their grasp. Soaked in morning dew and riddled with pieces of hay and grass - Friday and Gibson can't pass up rubbernecking the big show. What a beast to behold on a Monday Morning!

Alas, it's not a monster, it's Brother Crow, a new rooster. A friend stopped by to pick up six started pullets to replenish her flock of layers and I offered to take in her older rooster, BC. I have never heard such a deep, low, wail from a chicken before. I can't even blame the dogs for their investigations, I mean, I would want them actively observing werewolves too.

He is as tall as Friday, no joke. He's a Giant Black and lives up to his name. He's been battle-scarred by fox fights and rooster tumbles. He's cautious and polite. So far he's settling in just fine. Not a bad place to land for a ol' gent.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

But first, the dishes.

This July has contained the highest highs and lowest lows I've had on this farm. Not the most intense moments—I don't mean broken pipes or galloping horses—I mean hope and despair.

Early in the month I was so driven and excited. The farm had never looked better or been more efficient. The animals and farmhouse had never been brighter eyed or better managed. I had a decade of mistakes and lessons I stood on like solid stones big as Buicks. I felt the confidence and certainty of a woman who had created this small empire on a mountain. Someone who had struggled and made it nearly a decade scrapping together this unreasonable life. A woman who could turn wool into yarn, tack up a horse, and pull a hawk from the sky and become her partner. I felt really good about who I was and who I was becoming. Out of the closet. Out of regret. Out of scared and hidden places that kept me isolated in so many ways.

And then, mid month, there was a slamming of anxiety and panic attacks. So much self doubt and fear and exhaustion that rushed in and filled me up so fast it was terrifying. When you're driven by hope it's like running yourself on the highest octane fuel a person can have. Thing is, the tank is made is made of glass and it's as transparent as it is delicate. It can be destroyed in one fell swoop or slowly loose integrity from a thousand claw marks. Anxiety had been scratching at that tank for a decade and one night a few weeks ago it burst.

That was when I knew I had to make changes or lose everything. Not just the farm, but the tank

My anxiety does the kind of haunting that thrives in darkness and still air. I can't feel it in daylight. It can't make itself known during the small wind from hawk wings or fast arrows or the electricity before an afternoon thunderstorm. It's the kind of dread you see in the corners of your eyes, sinister shadows. It knows how to hurt me.

When I'm alone at 3AM and the dogs are fast asleep I can feel the claws on the tank. I'm scared to sleep because sleeping doesn't pay electric bills or make me less scared of dying. And that night the tank fell apart I felt those thousands of broken pieces inside and had no way to clean them up in the dark. The only way you can fix that part of you is doing the work. In the morning that stronger version of myself that finds a way to weave luck and hope between all the old and broken strands of fear. That's the tapestry of this farm and every farm. We wanted a life we were told was dead and gone and maybe it is. So we grow our hope from seeds and transform our mistakes into a million knots and pray like hell it's the right kind of cloth.

When I am worried about what could be ahead I try and focus on one part of the problem I can handle at a time. If I stand back and look at the whole thing, the list of winter preparations, the lack sales, the bills, the anxiety; it's too much. But if I can think about just one thing, and it can be as simple as doing the dishes, life gets a little easier.

So after I post this I am going to do the dishes and prepare the coffee pot for tomorrow morning. That's all I can do. The smallest shards of glass find each other and get a little stronger. 

I just want to be okay. Or at least to convince myself I will be okay. I think that's all any of us want. Maybe we can all start feeling better from there?

But first, the dishes.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Folded Rock Trail

A few days ago I asked a friend named Wilson at the Brewery to suggest some local hikes. I have this gig testing outdoor gear for a magazine article and women's day packs are one of the items I am testing. This means actually getting outside for hours at a time on the trail to see how the gear handles the miles, humidity, sweat, dirt, rain and body of this woman and her world. Wilson suggested this trail I took today. I kinda want to punch him, it was so damn hard...

I thought a nice short hike after a morning of rain would be nice. Wilson suggested what he called "The Battenkill Trail" and what the internet called the "Peak Rock Trail" and what the actual trail sign called "The Folded Rock Trail". And I was duped. I was sooooo duped. I have this association with the word Battenkill that equates summer activities with comfort and leisure. The Battenkill river is where I swim after a day of hard farm work. It's where I cast flies at dawn to brown trout alone in a pool. It's where I tube lazily with two beers in me. Battenkill does not mean workout. I was a damn fool to think this day would be easy.

I pulled up to the trail head at 2pm. I had a loaded day pack, Friday, and her pack ready to go. All morning it poured but the afternoon seemed bright and sunny. Since we were between rain storms it would easily be 80% humidity. I didn't care because I was told this Battenkill Forest was an easy hike with views of the river. A piece of cake.

It was not.

I have run half marathons and this hike was harder. The 1200ft climb happened fast, on a trail so steep I wanted to use my hands at times to pull me up. Friday and I took 2 and a half hours to reach the look out point, the top of the trail. My average run of a mile, a SLOW mile, is 12 minutes. This was no run. This was a steep mountain climb in a humid wilderness with a 20lb pack on my back. I was so glad I over prepared. I had packed a liter of water for Friday in her own saddlebags. She also had soft treats for calories. She drank and ate them all as we stopped every 1/2 mile or so.

I was drenched in sweat. Friday was panting like mad. To her credit she was as perfect on this trail as she was at Merck Forest. And this time there was a doe running off trail in front of her and she didn't chase. She was perfect. I think mountain smashing is her super power.

When we made the look out we stopped for half an hour. We both needed a real rest. I ate nuts and she had water and treats. The view was amazing, the entire Battenkill Valley. This trail is ten minutes from my home and I didn't even know. So many years on this farm were just about getting through the day on my own acres - I had no idea there was this adventure 6 miles away....

We made it up and back okay. It was honestly harder coming down. My quads were not used to that sort of shock work. It was so steep it took just as long sliding down the mountain as it did pumping up but we did it without a twisted ankle, tick bite, or sunburn. Preparation matters. Taking your time matters. Friday was amazing.

I am grateful for these challenges. I am so glad I am discovering Friday's talents. On farm she is, at best, backup to Gibson's herding. On the trail she is Wonder Woman. And I am learning from her.

Happy Trails!

Pet Portrait Sale!

Hey there Readers! I am trying like mad to earn up enough to make a house payment, repair the wood stove, and get some firewood in and stacked. If you would like to help out I am offering a 2 for 1 sale on pet portraits. For the price of one portrait I'll do two images, which are hand-drawn, inked, and colored originals on 9x12" Bristol paper. The sales of this artwork that I can do on-farm is the absolute best way for me to catch up on bills. Sketching, inking, and coloring can be done between farm chores and all hours of the day - rain or shine. And it's the highest return for my time and energy. So if you would like to help out and are able to - I sure could use the work. So send me an email if you'd like to commission two images!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Night Toads

At night I check on the animals before bed. Tonight as I walked around the farm with a trusty flashlight and two romping dogs I watched the moon come out from behind the trees. The wind was picking up and chatty. Lush maple leaves chattered above us gossiping about a storm arriving later in the night. I usually have a glass of wine or whiskey in the evening but today I did not and so every piece of me was sober as a monk and noticing tiny things you don't pay attention to after a glass or two of red. Things like toads.

As I checked on the different pens and roosts I counted four toads in my path. I like toads. I like all the reptiles that swim and croak and slither. The toads weren't scared of the dogs or me and had I not stepped over them they would have met their maker.  Four bold toads under a waxing moon. How about that?

I came inside to see if there were any sayings about happening upon night toads, some sort of folk belief or story. I didn't find any. What came up instead during my online search was  quotes about toads, and Toad himself, as in the character from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

"Toad talked big about all he was going to do in the days to come, while stars grew fuller and larger all around them, and a yellow moon, appearing suddenly and silently from nowhere in particular, came to keep them company and listen to their talk."

That made me smile.

If this site is anything it's talking big about all the things I am going to do. I talked about wanting a farm, wanting a horse, wanting collies and falcons and sheep and fiddles. I did all those things. I am glad I did all those things. And along the years of pulling back heavy bowstrings and hunting and falling off saddles I found this woman I have been hiding from. A version of myself that doesn't feel the need to hide or apologize or be ashamed of what she actually wants.

I'm going to choose to believe four night toads are a sign of good things to come, especially when the moon is out and the wind is talking and your heart is empty.

There are a thousand ways to feel lucky or terrified every single day. Focus on the former if you can.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Quieter

The first day without the flock here was a little sad and a little easier. Chores were done before the deluge of rain came slamming down and the rest of the day was spent on the indoor work of design and illustration clients, a lot of coffee, and two sleeping dogs. Between the storms I was able to run into town to do some laundry, send out some mail (books and soap), and pick up some feed. It was a quiet day.

The goats are up for sale but so far all the emails haven't been fruitful. I hope they find a good home soon and Bonita and Ida can stay together. They've never spend a day apart in their lives since Ida was born. Ida is due to kid soon so whomever takes them will have a bonus goat or two in the deal, which is great. They would be a great, seasoned, stanchion-trained, little starter dairy for a homestead around here.

Soon as I have the money from the goats and sheep I need to take care of a house payment and then I want to repair the wood stove and get in the first cord of firewood. Those three things are where my focus is set right now, in that exact order. June was an average month for sales all around but unplanned repairs (after some planned repairs) were an unexpected burden. But that's life. That's every one of our stories. We're all just doing our best with what we have. This farm is no different.

I also need to remind myself that big changes like moving sheep and selling goats - the relief on the farm won't be a fast change. Yes, there was less hay and grain used today and less gates opened but it will be months before I feel okay about all this and understand the choice and how it makes things a little easier. In the meantime I need to hustle anyway I can to keep the literal lights on. Around here that isn't a phrase thrown around lightly.

I know things sound somewhat rough around here, and they have for the past few weeks. But stick  with me and let's see where it all ends up? My hope is this farm stays a place of horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and hawks year round with summer pigs and lambs. That feels right for a one-woman operation when that one woman is me, right now, trying to struggle less and breathe a little calmer.