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.





Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Hawks and Hope

When I last wrote there was no working plumbing indoors and I was coming off an intense storm and deluge of rain. Since then the plumbing has been repaired thanks to my amazing friend Chris, who came over with his partner Miriam to spend a night of hanging out and board games in celebration of running water. They brought a bottle of scotch, a roast chicken and vegetables and he showed me how to remove and repair the shark bite plumbing fixture I didn't have the right tool to budge. So I have water again! And I have amazing friends who came to spend time at the farm and teach me some new skills while we sipped hot toddies.

They arrived at my farm around 4PM, right when I was finally hiking down off the mountain. I had started hiking there at 11AM when my friend Caroline from Sandgate came over to hunt with Dash and I. Ten minutes into the hunt Dash saw a rabbit, took off, caught some of the wind and suddenly was over the ridge and out of sight and shouting distance. I spent an hour calling for him, Caroline being a real sport helping, as we hiking toward the directions we thought we heard bells. I walked up and down that mountain all day. No sign of him. Some times hawks simply fly away. It's part of falconry. They catch a swell of air and soar, they get chased off by territorial raptors that already live there, or they chase game out of earshot and it takes a while to find them. So far no luck. I notified the DEC and filed all the right paperwork about it and hope I can find him. Right now he's out there. He's healthy and a good hunter and all the equipment he is wearing to hunt is designed to be safe and come off eventually if he stays wild. But what a gut punch of a day...the bittersweet nature of his flight over the mountain and friends there to hug you and show you how the hot water is back on tap and spend an evening playing Lords of Waterdeep via candlelight.

That was Sunday. Yesterday I woke up early and returned to the mountain at dawn. I drove all over the area looking for him, too. No luck yet. My thighs and calves are so sore from the hiking it was hard to stand up this morning when I pulled myself out of the sleeping bag. Today the truck refused to start and I stood there in my driveway with my neighbor (a town sheriff) and another officer as we tried to troubleshoot what was wrong with Taylor. The consensus was possibly the manifold, but start by replacing spark plugs because it's electrical and that's cheapest and easiest to do. Work from there. SO I called my mechanic and he should be over to tow her away tomorrow. I'm without a bird and without a truck. OH! And a polar vortex is sliding into town! GREAT!

Enough of all that: here is some good news. When the truck was running, yesterday before this storm hit, I was able to get plenty of feed and supplies. I was also able to source some local dry firewood to carry me through a few days until I can figure out a larger delivery. I set out a seed bell for the songbirds. I baked some bread and defrosted a pork butt from the bottom of the freezer and even though it was in there a little longer than comfortable it roasted just fine with honey and sauce. So I had an amazing farm-raised meal beside a roaring fire and if I wanted to I could have a hot shower RIGHT NOW. I'm not sick like 90% of this area seems to be with a killer cold and when I did wake up earlier today to one hot water line frozen I was able to defrost it in time. The pigs got fresh straw bedding. The horses are comfortable. The dogs and cats are too.

I am okay. I'll figure out the truck, the wood, and this harsh cold that is coming over the next few days can't last forever.  May has to arrive eventually and as long as I continue to budget, plan, work, and figure out pork and lamb sales, soap sales, and the occasional help of freelance - I can use the skills of farm and art to keep this homestead going. I've done it for nearly a decade now, as this May marks 9 years at this home. That is no meek feat. And it's okay to be proud of doing that alone, and figuring out one problem at a time, and knowing that when May comes you may find me back in the saddle with the hawk that returned to me after a few weeks in the wild. That's what I am holding onto tonight. Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

And Then, The Rain!

It has been a deluge of rain over a pile of snow and what resulted is an ice sheet and mud pools in place of what used to be a farm. It made chores a lesson in balance and humility. And without water inside the farm house until it is repaired, it made carrying buckets inside for dog and toilet bowls extremely challenging. Sometimes life here feels like a training montage for a bad nineties karate movie...

The good news, the biggest news, is that I did mail in a house payment yesterday and that is a big weight off my chest! Another one into the books, another payments towards the mortgage. The bank account will be in the single digits once that check cashes, but that's what the account is for. Making it happen, every single month. Back to gathering up the next one! If I can make that happen in 2 weeks I'll be in a far better place so that is my current hope. Spend little as possible, save as much as possible, and focus on getting in firewood soon as I can. It's not March, and days below zero are back in the forecast.

One day and one step at a time. Soon it will be spring and there will be snap peas and chicks and longer days and riding horses on trails that aren't mud and ice. But today, today I am just going to be happy I mailed in that bill and sigh a bit at being one step closer to safe. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Stormlog: Day 5

The good news is that today and tomorrow the temperatures are rising! I took the blanket off the mare and can start getting the hawk ready to hunt again. The truck is running, started up this morning and I got a lot more sleep than I did on the last few hard nights.

The bad news: the pipes that froze yesterday didn't thaw out despite the space heaters and two woodstoves. While trying to refill buckets to use to flush the toilet the cold water stopped working all together in the last faucet that worked and a pipe burst in the mudroom. I raced down to the basement to shut off water to the upstairs from the water heater and inspected the pipes.

Here's some more good news: It looks like the pvc pipe that replaced the broken pipe from last January lost a fastener/connector and that is what caused it to explode open and break free from the replacement pipe. It wasn't a bursting of metal - but a blockage that caused enough backup to force the weakest point open. (Basically instead of a dam breaking, some asshole pulled out the stopper.) I am hoping to get on the phone with my plumber and find out what that piece is and if I can do it myself on Youtube before calling in hired help.

I already planned on mailing that mortgage check if I could make the last $100 I needed for that check to clear and then start saving for the next. I can't afford to call in a plumber right now - but I really think I can fix this if I wait until tomorrow when it is 40° and all the pipes thaw out, or should. Then I can use the money I earn straight away for more firewood. I have enough to last another ten days or so.

In the larger scheme of things, this isn't horrific. I've been in much harder positions and figured those out. But today I need to work first on making sure I run into town for water for me and the dogs through the next few days and to get this pipe repaired. And possibly shower at a friend's house so I don't scare the locals when I go into town.

Homesting! YAY!

Next book contract I sign I'm getting myself a very respectable tool kit. I feel like I earned it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Stormlog: Day 4

The worst has passed! Last night (or this morning, rather) the temperature dropped to -15° here at the farm. I tried to keep all the pipes moving but when I fell asleep around 1AM the 6 hours I was asleep was enough for the most vulnerable bathroom pipes to freeze. I am working on thawing them out now. The good news: so far this is the worst of it The truck has started again, all the animals are fine, the sun is shining, and I have a belly full of a cheese omelet and coffee. Things are okay.

I took this picture during the heaviest snowfall. While the wind whipped and snow accumulated to the 16" the farm gathered - this was a warm and safe sanctuary. I am proud that some pipes (not burst!) are the worst of it and that the hot water, home, pets, livestock, truck, hawk, and I all came through the other side. Tomorrow will be possibly 40° and raining - which means things like the drainage should thaw out. Besides needing new firewood soon, I am okay. I am just $100 away from mailing in my mortgage payment and another few weeks to mail in another. For that I'll keep working and trying and hoping. I feel like luck has to change soon. Things will get easier. I can feel it in every tiny bone.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Stormlog: Day 3

The storm has passed and now the real cold is setting in. Things here are okay, as are all the animals and myself. The only issues I have are a truck that won't start because it's been -7° since sunrise, and a shower I can't use because the drain pan below is frozen. BUT! That's it! I have more than enough feed, hay, food, and coffee to be comfortable here until Wednesday's thaw. I stayed up with the stoves last night and the house never got colder than 52°. The pipes are fine. The animals are fine. The only ones that seem bothered by this cold are the dogs. Since they are true house dogs and acclimated to a life between 40-70° all winter this kind of cold makes their paws stiff and hearts sink. So they basically only go out to pee and check on things with the morning and AM chores.

The other beasts are just dandy. The cats have been asleep all day by the fire. The horses are good and eating hay, extra has been provided. The pigs are mostly sleeping and their outdoor water station became an icicle so I brought a new one into the barn and they seem more than happy to sleep and eat their way through all this and honestly I am kinda jealous. The hawk has been fed way above flying weight and is checked on every few hours and eats his meals and gets weighed indoors twice a day while this passes.

As of right now, noon on Monday, things are remarkably okay compared to previous years. I am comfortable. The animals are comfortable. The house is okay. The animals are okay. And last night I stood outside in the snow beside two munching horses and watched that lunar eclipse while making a wish to the night sky. It felt special and I felt proud. The girl who started all this would have no idea how to prepare, stay warm, repair furnaces, rake roofs of snow, and slide through a storm with some ease. She'd have to learn it all the hard way. And she did. But as of right now this farm is good minus some minor inconveniences and that's good news indeed!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Stormlog: Day 2

The farm was hit with about a foot of powdery snow last night. I had a fitful stride of sleep and by 8AM was outside in the dark checking on the animals and starting the truck. I went back inside to make coffee and get dressed. I planned on heading out to take care of all the chores come daylight. This was a bad plan. By the time the sun was up the snow had turned to freezing rain and there was a heaviness to all that powder. Instead of easily shoveling and raking a pile of poof I was cracking through solid matter with shovels and rakes and straining hard. It took a long time to remove the soggy snow from the kitchen, barn, and mews roofs but I did it. Then drank a shameful amount of coffee. Here we go.

All the animals and the house are fine so far. There's been no broken pipes but tonight and tomorrow are 48 hours of truly tough cold coming on. The high tomorrow is 2. I'll be feeding the stoves, both of them, all day and all night and keeping pipes dripping. A nap here or there. In between the stove and sleep there will be the work of chores, shoveling, chopping and carrying wood, and doing my best to get through this. I'm encouraged that I am just a few hundred dollars from where I need to be to mail in a mortgage payment and keep the wolves from the door. Sales are slow, but steady. There won't be a windfall any time soon but I'll take a drip. I can work with a drip

The furnace is working. The hot water is on tap but my shower is out of order because the pan under the shower is frozen solid. It can't drain until the weather breaks. But not having a working shower is a small price to pay for a house in the 60s on a night that should drop to -8°

Regular photos and updates are happening on Twitter and Instagram. More often than here. Follow me there for all good and bad news. Let's hope it's all good! Send a kind email or tweet. Encouragement is so needed and I am very, very, tired and dreaming of June.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Stormlog: Day 1

I woke up this morning inside my backpacking mummy bag with Friday and Gibson curled up all around me. The house was chilly but not what I consider cold. While slowly starting to wake up I heard the furnace (how I heat my water) turn on and expected to hear the light snap the fire and the roar of that old basement beast. Instead it clicked right off. I turned over deeper into my sleeping bag mumbling... "Not now.... tiny angry gods, please not now..."

I did my usual routine when this happens (usually when fuel is low or weather changes dramatically) I turned off the furnace and the breaker to it and let it grow cold. I went out and got a few gallons of heating oil and dumped it in, then restarted the furnace and bled the line. To my absolute glee it restarted just fine! It's as good a feeling as mowing a lawn or changing the oil in your own truck - one tiny machine task I understand and can deal with myself. Felt really good - and the water stays hot!

The storm hits here in just a few hours. And I am proud to say that I am as prepared as possible. I even ran out this morning for more hay and feed as well. I have a chicken defrosted in the fridge to throw in the oven so that when this storm falls in earnest at least the house will have roasting beast and enough for leftovers if the power goes out. I'll keep updating you as the storm progresses long as the power stays on. Right now we're at the beginning and there's hot water coming from my tap so that's encouraging!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Storm

I'm writing you from a very comfortable living room. It's 68° in here and I have just wrapped up the day's work. There's a bunch of just-poured orange honey bars of soap in dragon molds and it has filled this comfy homestead with the most scandalous scent being deep winter right before a snow storm slams us here in the Northeast. I don't know what the future holds but right now, right here, things are heavenly.

This storm that is on the way will be rough; at least 20" of snow and nights around -10° and as bad as that is, it's the days after I am most worried about. There will be a real deep chill after the snow hits. The kind of cold that is dangerous for the house's pipes, my dwindling wood supply, and my nerves. So I am writing you with a bit of fear as I type. Maybe I shouldn't have looked into the extended forecast at the end of such a long day?

I've been preparing for it. I've been chopping and carrying in firewood, running errands, and making sure the animals are comfortable as I will be. There is a pile of tarped hay outside my front door, the pigs can practically swim in their deep bedding, the hawk will be fat and out of the wind, and the dogs will be curled up with me in a backpacking sleeping bag on the daybed by the woodstove. I mean that. Friday literally climbs inside the bag with me and together we are a furnace regardless of how much ice may end up in the toilet bowl.

And you know what. I'm okay with all of this. I'm okay with the fear. I'm okay with the uncertainty of how the hell I'll mail this mortgage check sitting by the family altar in my front room. I'm okay with the sore muscles. I'm okay with checking on the hawk at midnight and 4AM. I'm okay with sleeping in a bag instead of my bed. I'm okay with all of it.

Here's why:

Earlier today I had an adventure. It was around 1PM on a weekday and I was walking up a snow-swept mountain with a hawk on my glove and a heavy ash staff in my right hand. In a little over an hour he flew above me and dived after rabbits and grouse while I jogged my Hobbit body behind him. I bushwhacked and crawled under thorns and ran out of breath moving uphill in a few inches of snow and when it really started to squall and the wind picked up on my mountain I pulled out my rabbit fur lure and called his name and he came back to me from 70 yards away. I fed him and lashed his jesses to my glove. I slipped on his hood and sweaty and tired we walked home together.

That is worth being afraid. In fact it's the fear of losing it all that I am still here.

This storm is going to be hell for me. There's a roof above the kitchen that needs regular raking because it needs to be replaced and that isn't happening anytime soon. The barn roof needs to be raked, too. I know this Sunday I will be outside several times in the night to remove snow from this farm's tired roofs. It means feeding both wood stoves like hungry dragons and keeping pipes running at a drop all day. Basically - it means total exhaustion. Still, worth it.

Being here alone means every path shoveled, every animal safe, every water bucket and bale carried in thigh-deep snow. It will be just me without trips into town and that used to embolden me and the only thing keeping me here is the stubbornness that fuels this dream.

By Wednesday the storm will pass. There will be rain it will be so warm. But between now and then feels like a thousand miles. I am afraid but I am ready. I would rather be here trying than more comfortable somewhere I no longer have to.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Snow and High Hopes!

A significant storm is heading into Veryork! It's hitting this weekend and I'm starting to plan for it now. Making sure everything is ready on a tight budget means careful planning - both here with farm as well as work and finances. Not the same planning as super cold weather (which we've been having) but more of the snowy type of planning. Things like making sure the roof rake is repaired, pieces assembled, and ready to go. That the hay isn't in the barn for the storm but under a tarp beside the house so on the heavy snowfall mornings I don't have to dig a path to the barn before horses get breakfast. Making sure there's enough feed for pigs stacked in the kitchen if I can't run into town for a while, that the dogs are cats too are set, and that I am prepared as I can be.

I am okay with the storm coming through. I feel like this winter has been pretty mild so far. If I'm home-bound for a few days I can focus on things like sales and catch up on illustrations and designs, maybe double the usual workload even. I'll do my best. And speaking of people doing their best...

Yesterday the most amazing thing happened! A stranger on Twitter bought an entire lamb from this farm for a family in need. I will either find a family that needs it or donate the meat to my local food bank or the elder care home in town. It was such a beautiful way to help out both this farm and other people. If you're reading this from a position able to do this, send me an email. I would be THRILLED if this entire farm's remaining meat shares went to people in need here in Washington County. I just want to stay here, in this home, and keep raising food. If I can do that while helping others get lamb and pork from a local farm that tastes great - even better!

I am going to remain optimistic about this storm, about this farm, and about my own future here. I am hoping to turn things around in a really positive and prosperous way with a new book contract and  maybe more freelance writing gigs. In the meantime it's the old-fashioned pork, lamb, and art pushing and hoping to keep figuring out this life month by month, as I have since I started working from the farm in 2012.  Onward into good work and high hopes!!!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Dash's First Rabbit!

So proud of Dash and his first rabbit! He got it while hunting yesterday with me on the mountain here near the farm. Cold was the day—a high of 18°—but despite that we worked together to scare and dive after rabbits into clearings. It's a heck of a feeling seeing the little guy you met in the fall turn into your hunting partner by snowfall. Here's to many more! 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Help This Winter 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:


Cold Coming On

A Cold couple of days are ahead for us, with nights all in the single digits and days not much above. I am bringing in more firewood and working hard towards the goals that keep this place above the danger lines. I need to mail in a mortgage payment soon, to keep ahead of the cutoff where the house falls into danger of being mine no longer. The struggle keeps struggling but the fight is well worth it, and today I have some big news: I am starting a brand new book proposal. It's something I have been meaning to write for a long time, and was far too afraid to share it. But I'm going to outline the intro, the chapters, the pitch today and start writing the sample chapters. It's a book meant to encourage those struggling to find their purpose, self, and confidence. It's about all the ways this place changed me and helped create the woman I am today. I'm excited to get it started. I'm really excited to pitch it! But for now: firewood, and hope, and working on bills and another day of work. Best to you all!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Best Moments

There's this moment I look forward to every morning. This time after I leave the comfort of bed and before the worries of the day begin. It's not when you may think — not the morning chores in the fresh air with the animals. As much as I love the beasts out there in the swirling morning snowfall; that work is a daily mild panic ritual.

Chores are half responsibility and half inspection. Yes there's the serving hay, grain and water but also the random luck of living with so many animals in one place in a harsh season. Right now there are 20+ chickens, 4 geese, 4 pigs, 2 horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats and a hawk and I can't enjoy my coffee or sit down here to write to you until I am certain all are fed, well, and digesting before winter coffee hits my lips.

Summer and winter farm rules change. I am not ever anxious waking up on a 60 degree morning in June. But after a night of wind and cold - I need to check on a hundred little things that could snowball into problems if not addressed. Did the pigs' water tough freeze in place? Will the truck start? Does the wood stove need the ash removed? Is the mare's blanket chaffing anywhere? Are the geese nesting under that brush because something is wrong in the barn? Did the hawk cast his pellet? And so on. You get the vibe. Morning chores are making sure everything is okay and another day can begin. It's a sigh of relief and a pat on the back. It's accomplishing something big before you ever pour that first mug...

BUT! Oh, man. But when you get to that point in the morning where everyone outside is sated and chewing, when the fire is roaring, when the coffee is percolating and the dogs are done with their breakfast and the cats are already curled up for a long stretch of morning chow... That is when I find my favorite time. I have a criminally large mug of coffee. If I have any heavy cream I whip it up in a bowl and add vanilla to it and plop a real dollop of treasure on the mug. I turn on a podcast, an audio book, a YouTube documentary about people who still think the earth is flat... anything I can observe as entertainment instead of work. I give myself a whole hour to do basically nothing by the fire. I don't work on freelance articles or editor notes or book proposals. I don't send logo updates or illustration sketches. All that can wait for that one hour. I know once I start that stuff I'll go until past dark and worry like mad about bills and the mortgage and whether or not I'll be able to mail a house payment in time this month. I know all of that is coming. But before it does, I give myself permission to be happy instead of scared - just for a little while.

I know I need to make serious sales this week and I also know how hard that will be. People can't just buy artwork and soap and meat shares they won't eat till next fall after the holidays. Everyone is recovering from those expenses of travel, gifts, hosting, meals, etc. It's something I need to adjust to. I am working on it. But I still need to try. I write down my list of work and goals for the day and income is part of that. Today I hope to meet as many of them as I can without spending anything. Some days you can't avoid spending money - animals demand certain things and choices. But today I should be able to hole up and work and hope. Get a step closer towards feeling safe. And if I'm lucky tomorrow I get to repeat all of this on my own farm, again.

But right now: coffee and a long sigh. There's no cream on top today and I'm not running out to buy any either. But it's hot, and I earned it, and it's here and I'm grateful.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Bird and Bodhrán!

A few days ago friend of the farm, Kathrine of Caer Luna, joined Dash and I for a hunt. Kathrine has a small farm near Albany and raises goats, rabbits, and poultry. I met her online and she and her husband have shares in lamb in pork here. When I mentioned falconry she asked if she could join us sometime and I was thrilled at the idea. Dash is coming along well this first winter together, but is more cautious and less likely to stay with me when new people hunt beside us. To fix this I asked friends to join us for short one-hour hike and hunt exercises. Every time he gets a little more comfortable.

She brought her camera and I am so grateful she did! She caught this moment of Dash flying past us towards the end of the hunt while playing tag with the lure. What a perfect moment! And when Dash did return to my my call and was awarded for his good work, we walked down the snowy mountain talking about our farms and stories. She mentioned stopping by the Brewery in town and asked about a Thursday Night Celtic jam there and how her husband played the bodhrán and wanted to try it out. I told her they should come by that very night! 

And they did! Ever since the other bar in town closed its doors the brewery is a happening place at night. The musicians were doing tunes that fit with his music and before long everyone at our table was raising our mugs to the drummer in the circle! A beautiful moment of new friends, community, music, and local beer. Who knew birds and drums could make a perfect winter day?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Looking Ahead

The Holiday came and went in a happy flurry of food and friendship! I spent Christmas day at Livingston Brook Farm and enjoyed a ham dinner and good whisky with great friends. Now it is back to working towards the farm's goals and planning for spring, which will come sooner than I realize I'm sure! I have started taking shares for lamb and pork, which I want to double sales of from last year. Planning and taking reservations now gets me the income I need to order the stock from local farmers to raise in the spring through fall of 2019. Along with the new bees and expanded vegetables this will be a heck of a year for Cold Antler. I'm trying to farm smarter and focus on what I am best at: pork, lamb, and squash. I want to create a place I can leave for a night or two - with my dogs - to explore the mountains or a romantic night away. And I am excited for the days growing longer and the light returning into spring. As much as April creeps me out I so look forward to her.

The last lamb share is being picked up today. The pigs are still growing. Soon the farm will fall into the winter lull of ice, snow, mud and easier chores made simpler by the weather and farm's seasonal changes. I look back at June and it feels like a theme park compared to this morning's routine. I woke up to feed the pigs, the horses, carry water and check bedding. I fed the poultry and the pets, removed the mare's blanket and weighed and worked with the hawk - but without the work of a summer farm with lambs, goats, gardens, hives... it feels insanely simplified. Not a bad thing at all, but I do miss those sweaty mornings with less mud and more light.

My days now are based on earning money, winter chores, spring preparations, art, soap, meat, and writing. Goals are in focus. I hope we all have a bright and wonderful 2019!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Merry and Bright!

Last night I was woken up by the weight of Gibson slamming into me and his front paws clinging to my torso. A flash of lightning so intense the whole bedroom lit up followed by an exploding crack of thunder. Gibson is terrified of storms, gunshots, any uncertain unseen loud noise. I remembered some dog person telling me not to coddle scared dogs because it reinforces their fear, like you are rewarding it. I held my shaking dog because when I hold him he stops shaking and buries his head in my chest. That is what he runs to me for. I refuse to deny it.

It was Solstice Night and never in my memory had there been a thunderstorm at Yule. It was just a few hours earlier we (the two dogs and I) had walked up in the moonlight to the highest point on our land. The moon was full and the fast-moving clouds were swirling past it as warm air whipped our hair. It was a magical feeling up there. Then a storm roared through. What a collision of the wondrous: Winter Solstice, A Thunderstorm, a Full Moon. Magic is afoot.

This has been an overwhelming month. Scary and hard and some nights bitter cold and some warm as a tropical storm.... but I managed to pull off mailing a house payment, a root canal, an emergency vet visit, dozens of packages mailed, and a butcher bill for four lambs - all on top of regular bills! Well, for the most part at least. Some things always fall behind but for the most part I can sleep soundly tonight. 

That happened because of the community around this blog. This community keeps this farm going through purchasing meat, soap, art, and stories. I can't tell you magical that is to me. How grateful I am. The only reason I get to live in this weird life of selective time travel is because of those of you that still read along with this story. Ten years, TEN YEARS!

I still have 2 house payments to be made to be caught up, bu that is well away from foreclosure threat. Heck that's a month away and while that isn't exactly something I am proud of it is something that keeps me fueled to work even harder in 2019. Had the same funds been available minus the dental work, dog at the vet, and meat processing I wouldn't be behind right now. I'd be on track. And that is encouraging as hell. It means if things go easier in January I have the steam and will to catch up.

And, here is some more good news, I enrolled in the ACA and have the chance to get back into a healthcare plan! Yes, the deductible is huge and it doesn't cover much everyday care, but I have been covering that myself for years - this is in case something awful happens like a real sickness or broken bones or medical expenses. I have been chancing staying healthy and whole for a while now and it's time to have one less thing to worry about - like losing the farm I have fought so damn hard to keep over a broken arm. So hopefully I'll get the scratch together for that premium and be a person with health insurance! More magic!!!

So the farm keeps breathing in and out. Not perfectly, but still alive. And while winter is far from over I have firewood and good friends. I have my health and a house still in my name. I have two healthy dogs (Gibson is so much better) and a hawk that really gives it his all in the field. I have my animals, my friends online, and good work lined up making a modest offering food, art, and words to the world. I am aware there is so far to go - but I am feeling merry and bright. May all of you have a lovely Christmas or whatever you celebrate and be kind and good to your fellow man out in this cold world. Everyone is just waiting to feel okay.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Yuletide!

It's Solstice and warm weather has rushed through the valley with intense rain. This has messed with the farm's rhythm and schedule so much more than a snowstorm or snap of true cold would. This means melting and mud and ice so slick that dogs can't cross without slipping and they have built-in crampons! Last night we all slid around the farmyard checking on the livestock before bedtime. Horse and hawk, hog and hen - all of us were tucked in and dry save for the gal and her fool dogs romping around in the rain by the glow of a headlamp. We came inside soaked and happy. A hot meal of soup and a warm fire are the things than wipe the board clean of any regret for this life. We sat and enjoyed the show - the weirdly warm night and gusts of wind. I fell asleep feeling like I was in a pirate ship instead of a farm house. The way wind and water hit the siding you would not even turn over in your covers if you felt the house start to float away...

The real pain in the weather is how it messed up lamb share pickups. My truck still doesn't perform well in the rain, even after a replaced distributor cap and new battery, so that mystery lives on. There's a chance that if it does start and get me to the butcher it won't get me home. It also needs new tires and so driving in an inch of rainfall in bald tires also seems like a bad choice... There was a good change I'd either get stranded or in an accident, neither a great predicament to be in when you have boxes of frozen meat promised to neighbors and friends. So I had to reschedule the pickup for Monday instead. Not ideal, but all any of raising meat on this scale can offer is our best. I'd hate to mess up the story of lamb to lamb chop by getting boxes of meat sprawled across the highway...

So I am home this morning instead of driving to the butcher. I am working on logo designs and starting the planning stages for spring. I want to invest in some more honey and garden operations this year - focusing less on meat birds and more on veg. I'd like to double the laying flock for egg customers and also double the lambs I raise. This is a transition year between breeding lambs and goats for milk and buying in feeder lambs and milk from other farms for soap making. It involves some more planning and hopefully by the new year I'll have that on paper. I do want to keep the pork, lamb, egg, fleece, and chicken operations ago but would like to involved more vegetables and honey/beeswax craft. It moves the farm in the direction I want to go - which is active and thriving but able for a single woman to spend a night off farm every once in a while with help from friends or neighbors. I still have this pipe dream of taking the dogs to Mystic Connecticut overnight, or walking the streets of Providence Rhode Island like some design student or backpacking in the White Mountains with Tara, my adventure buddy. I guess we'll see!

I'll be celebrating the holiday quietly here. Lighting the candles at dusk all over the homestead and instead of a bonfire there will be a fire in the stove, welcoming the return of light and hope to the cold, wet, earth. Christmas Day will be spent with friends at their farm, and a big feast of the lamb, chicken, and maybe even a turkey we raised while sharing our lives and stories. I feel very lucky to have people like Mark and Patty and Tara and Tyler in my life, especially this year with so much change in my heart and hearth. I hope however you celebrate you are surrounded by loved ones and the belief that next year will bring more love and light into your life. That's what Yule, Jul, Christmas - whatever you celebrate! - is about. Blessings of good tidings and peace to you all.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Farming On

Outside a gentle snowfall covers this farm. I know the pigs have their nest of deep hay. I know the chickens are all roosted in the barn. I know the mare has her blanket, Merlin has his coat. I have my hawk beside me on a perch, waiting for his dinner to thaw by the fire while I wait for the oven to preheat. We are both having chicken tonight. Friday's heat has passed. A new cord of firewood has been delivered. My root canal is done, mostly. What matters is the infection is gone and there is no pain. And very recently - the lambs were all harvested and sent to the butcher. I write you on this snowy night with no sheep on this farm. There are pigs, geese, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, and 2 possums under my kitchen floor but no sheep. This is the first time in a very, very, long time this farm hasn't had wool on the hoof outside the door. It's exciting and scary.

I sold my breeding flock to Leah at Moxie Ridge. My goats, Bonita and Ida and her kid to homesteaders friends of mine recommended. Deciding to cut back on breeding animals was a big deal to me. It was the choice to buy in lambs in the spring to raise for shares, like I usually do with pigs. But the real change wasn't the ages of the animals but the security and presence of a breeding flock. As a storm swirls outside right now - it feels like a bad decision. Every homesteader in the modern era - I don't care what your politics are - is aware of the security and safety of having breeding animals on her own land. I currently do not. That prepper inside me is a little scared. That girl enamored with homesteading that wrote my first memoirs is disappointed. The woman I am today is patient.

My goals now are keeping the passions I have alive and the hope of love a beacon. I don't care how sappy that sounds.

I hope you wish me luck. I hope to keep farming on.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Firewood And Lamb's Eve

Gibson is doing better and on an antibiotic for the infection found in his urine test. He's on a bland diet and taking it as easy as a border collie can. I am so glad he bounced back, because losing him is something I am not prepared for in any way. But he's okay, and the kindness sent via Instagram and Twitter was amazing and much-needed. So thank you for taking the time to share a bit of grace to a woman very worried about her dog. The best news is that for showing up at a new vet's office with no patient history, with an hour's notice, and a full hour of talking to the doctor and testing and inspecting Gibson it was only $155. Not exactly a cheap visit but a lot less than some places charge for walking in off the streets. And everyone was so nice to us, even though I looked borderline-homeless and was ranting about symptoms like a terrified parent. I'm so happy he is okay.

I stacked firewood this afternoon till my arms were ready to fall off and am just now inside from evening chores. I mailed out thirty bars of soap and three pet portraits today, sent out sketches for approval for two more, and still have soap and art to make tonight. Sadly, all the work is catching up on earlier sales and new sales are rare. Which is causing the usual fuel of anxiety to promote like mad on Twitter. While handing over the check for the firewood to my friend Othniel there was a lump in my throat. I'm grateful for the heat but worried as hell right now. My number-one priority from today on is getting out a house payment before the farm hits any possible foreclosure dates. (technically possible as of Sunday). This month hit with a root canal, truck repairs, a surprise vet bills and a butcher bill for the lambs. Every day is one step at a time. Which if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time you know and probably feel like I do: nervous but certain I'll figure it out.

Remember when I said I wanted to write about love, loneliness, etc? I did. I wrote possibly the most personal thing of my life and submitted to an editor for INTO. Here's hoping it get's picked up. I think a lot of women in my situation can relate to what I shared. It's a very optimistic piece, at least I think so.

Tomorrow is a butcher date for the lambs here. After tomorrow night there won't be a sheep here for the first time in ten years. That is a scary thought. Expect some serious writing tomorrow about the intensity of the day.

And if you are in the position to order some soap, logos, artwork, classes, etc and want to help out the farm this is a very wonderful time to do it. I am all ears but booked like mad for this holiday season if it isn't a gift card - but offering someone the opportunity to pick out a custom batch of goats milk soap as an Xmas present is a winner in my book! Email me if you're interested!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Gibson

Running to a vet ASAP. Something is very wrong. He is vomiting bile and weak on his feet all of a sudden. Morning chores were fine and now this. Will keep you posted after visit with experts. Very very worried. Never seen him like this before.

Update: I'm back from the vet. Everyone was so great. The doctor thinks he had a stroke, and after some tests finding blood in his urine and bacteria - he is also on antibiotics. He is home now and resting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Great Gifts!

Morning all! If you are looking for a holiday gift that is quick and easy and also helps out this farm during a rough month, you can email me to buy a gift voucher for soap, artwork, or a logo! These are printable and sized to fit inside a card. The person who receives the gift can email me after the holidays to redeem it for custom art, a logo, or soap! The farm could really use the sales and this way you get a special one-of-a-kind gift! Email me for more details!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Back to Work!

Mornings here run on an economy that's equal parts excitement, responsibility, and anxiety. This is the Woginrich Formula. Let the fuel that runs the machine be a balance of passion, work, and panic. Maybe that isn't wisdom but it got me this far. And waking up on a morning like this with a set of goals to achieve makes falling asleep in an uncertain life possible. Here's me explaining all that:

Soon as I am out of bed there's the animals to check on and feed. Those rounds are what start the day and have yet to stop being genuinely exciting. It still makes me so happy to walk outside and see this piece of land I made my own, to step into a world of animals, effort, and stories all surrounding recipes and friends. If you farm you care about food, period. It's your life and what you prioritized as the centerpiece of it. Everything else is in service to that happy ending!

I think all homesteaders share the love of a good meal and a safe space - your own kitchen table at a big meal or bench by the wood stove with a strong cup of coffee. We get up and feed pigs, collect eggs, milk goats or herd sheep because that is the few sentences we are writing that day towards the Book of the Feast we are writing.

Like this morning; the first thing I did was carry a bucket of feed and another of water down the barn with Gibson. The pigs were fed, and I made note of getting a bale of hay to them to refresh their sleeping area and add some loft for night-time insulation. They like to move from that nest to the outside area that used to home the goats. This year it belongs to the pigs. And as I go through this morning check of the sounder I am doing it for the farm, but also the larger characters of the story: the people waiting on pork or my own future meals with friends, like a summer lunch of BLTs with garden ripe tomatoes...mmmm.

Sidenote: Oh, gardens! I think this coming year will focus a lot more on planting and honey. Two ways to grow and expand the farm's operation without worrying about the around-the-clock work of a hundred meat birds. 

When all the animals are settled in for the day, with feed and fresh water, hawk weighed and noted, and the house pets all full from breakfast and napping - that is when I get to work on drawing and soap making and designs. I promote work online, write to you guys, work on freelance contracts, and do it all in a series of work periods broken up with time outside. For example: chores are done and it's time to get 3 different illustrations drawn, photographed, and sent off to clients for notes and approval. When that is done I can go for a run, grab a shower, or play a video game for half an hour. Then it is back to work on 3 logo designs, or packing 3 soap orders. The tiny rewards break up the day and allow the flexibility to fly the hawk in the afternoon or ride the horses in better weather.

And it sets the day into a project of joy, work, and goals that balance out that underlying fear of losing everything. I'm behind on the mortgage, more than usual, because of this root canal. So that adds to the panic around the work - and not in a necessarily bad way.  It means that there can be no slacking, that goals must be met! And that worry about money and cold - the monsters of winter - that is what never lets me back down on the work of the day.

I create lists and goals that allow me to physically check things off and see, on paper, that I am moving towards a safer place. If I can get through a day managing to keep every animal happy, get good work done, and make something using the skills I learned (writing, illustration, design) and put some money in the bank to work towards a house payment - Holy Crow do I go to sleep feeling good. And that is what I crave most of all about this life - going to bed at night content in what was done in the daylight.

It's almost 9:30 and so far the farm chores are, of course, done. I had three mugs of coffee and a power bar and three illustrations done. I have made a third of the daily income goal and next up is working on a large soap order for a customer. Through the day I'll keep track of work and progress and by 3 or 4 be burned out creatively but have this piece of paper showing me what was done. Whatever part of me could enjoy doing nothing seems to have died off, and that's fine. Over the years discipline and budgeting and work had to change or staying here was off the table.

Everyone's life and farm and work is different. What matters is that you find a way to wake up excited and go to sleep content. Everything in the middle is up in the air. We all get surprise bills, get sick, worry about relationships etc - but if the foundation is something worth the esteem it builds, I find you can literally carve happiness out of effort. That's no small thing. You focus on your story, what makes you happy, and try like hell to make your life a little more positive than the day before. And even if you fail you spent the day trying.

So, yes, wake up with whatever combination of joy, anxiety, and work makes your life sing. If you are sad or tired or scared, this is even more important. Stay away from things that anger your or frighten you until at least lunchtime. The news doesn't change that much between 6AM and noon. Drink water, get outside, move your body, be grateful for the trying and allow yourself to be okay with the trying being the bulk of the story.

As for me: back to work.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Through The Storm

Through The Storm He Silently Glided Along in Front of Her While the Woods Sheltered Them, 1915. That is the name of the painting above, a piece by Norman Rockwell I had never seen before. It's now my favorite painting of his. A woman and her friend alone in a wild place, being guided through the roughest times by the light that is a black dog. Holy Crow, can I relate.

Things here are pretty okay right now, especially after yesterday. There are some setbacks and concerns: like an entire mortgage payment's worth of funds going to dental work instead of bill and quickly dwindling firewood supplies - but these are battles I know how to fight. I already contacted some suppliers and worked out payments and  I am happy to announce tooth number 14 got its root canal yesterday, or most of it...

It's a tooth with three roots, being a molar, and while two of the three were easy to drill and clean and repair, one was a disaster. Old filling material had been compacted up into the actual root and made it impossible to do all three roots in the same visit, so I need to return after January. Good news is the price doesn't change and I'm not paying for 3 root canals (technically, that's what this is) and just the one. Because of this community online I was able to get that medical care. And because of good friends here in town I was even given a ride to the office in Saratoga.

There is some pain I'm dealing with right now but it is manageable compared to what an abscess deals out. And it's the pain of repair, not decay, which is encouraging -with teeth and with life in general.

I've been meaning to write about loneliness. It's a new sensation for me, something I never dealt with before. But writing about it means talking about some LGBT themes and romance and I am not sure if that's something you guys want to read about? Perhaps that's an essay for Autostraddle. But it's a different way of being here on the mountain then ever before: not being okay with being alone. It's not sad as much as it is growing pains. It took me a long time to want to not be alone. That's the real storm - the complexity of learning who you are - and I am glad as hell there's black dogs to guide me.