Friday, November 9, 2018

A Morning to Celebrate!!!

There's a hint of snowfall in the forecast and the temperatures are finally dropping! This morning there was some frost on the horses' backs and I could walk across the pasture without slipping and sliding on mud! It's a small victory, but what a morale boost! And this farm is finally comfortable with the firewood supply! This is a morning to celebrate!

And on top of all that fine news a reader named Cathy mailed me a camera! I am figuring out how to use it and soon as I do I will be able to post new pictures here of the farm at a higher quality than my Kindle Fire! I have hot chocolate, hay bales under cover, wood stacked inside, feed stores for the lambs/pigs/chickens.... I have new books to read (thank you to my sister who mailed me a new novel) and basically everything a Hobbit requires for a snow storm. Dogs, cats, hawk are content and the flannel sheets are on the bed.

And yes, I know that I have basically just been writing about fears of winter prep, firewood, money, and such but that's it's all I think about. I wake up and think about what I can try to sell, what I can manage to pay towards student loans, electricity, save a little for the root canal. The to-do lists and the daily income goals I make through sales, freelance, the farm... That's my entire world right now. It's my job. And about a thousand times more consuming than any office job ever has been.

The stakes are always so high and the fear right up against it all - but man, the strength this farm has given me makes me stand eight feet tall. I've been here for nearly a decade. I bought this place as a single woman. I kept it. I will keep it. And for at least this weekend I will be ready for cold mornings and snowfall and enjoy that buzz of the first true storm that makes this barren place of dead trees and brown fields turn into a magical land again.

I'm going to keep going. If you want to help with that, please do. Send an email or buy some artwork or soap. Those sales and blog contributions are all I have to make a living off of right now between lamb and pork shares. It's certainly needed and may be what carries this place through into December. And then I figure it out from there, month by month, as I have since I signed the mortgage papers.

And Cathy, of the camera mailing, please email me so I can send you a winter's supply of soap!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

All Sighs

It's been a long time since the ground was solid and the sky was bright. Which is a sentence I am writing about the weather, but might as well be about the election. I hope all of you got out and voted! I was at my poling place first thing after chores today. The place was packed, not usual for a mid term. I am on pins and needles waiting to see how it all shakes out. Politics mean a lot more to me these days. A lot more.

But yes, the weather has been a trial. It's been raining for a long time, day in and day out. Milder weather and the deluge has turned this farm into a mudslide and I am going through straw like crazy keeping everyone comfortable and dry where they bed down at night. There are towels by the door and I've been keeping up with the laundry and mopping but good heavens this farm is looking exactly like all of us look between transitions: rough. Nothing in nature is expected to bloom year round, right? Once snow comes this place will feel as perfect and right again as it did in late June. It finds its place in the gear slots of my heart. It keeps digging in.

After last winter, you think I would have changed my tune but I can't help it. I am excited about the first true snowfall. I am giddy about the idea of waking up to my world covered in white powder and making my way barefoot down the old stairs. To light the wood stove and start a pot of coffee and then head outside from a cold house into that perfect snow with the dogs to care for my animals. And then return, to a house suddenly so much warmer after being outside than being in bed and sitting beside that domesticated fire and sipping hot coffee and knowing that for the day all in my care is safe, fed, warm, okay. I want that feeling back again. I crave it. And as the mud pools and the earth stays warm I miss it.

There's now two and a half cords of wood stacked for this farm. I'm a month behind on the mortgage, but catching up and a lot closer to solvent then I was a few months prior. This morning after voting I went to the laundromat to clean my sheets and comforters. I took a hot shower when I got home. The world may be rain and mud and politics but tonight I will be clean and warm and tucked in close with dreams of snowfall and the steady released sigh of knowing that there is wood, candles, stoves, coffee...

Tonight I hope we'll all be okay. We'll all sigh.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Meet Dashiell! My New Hawk!

Just trapped this looker recently. Dashiell (Dash!) was 955g at trapping. He was caught right outside Cambridge, a few miles from my property on route 313. He has small feet, a big heart, and already is comfortable at Cold Antler Farm! So glad to have this little guy to restart the hunting story all over again. Wish us luck!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nesting Season

It's full-blown Nesting Season here at Cold Antler Farm. Days are shorter, muddier, colder, and wetter this fall. I am so glad the stove is up and running and that another cord and a half (three cords total!) will be delivered to the farm, all paid for! Knowing that my heating needs are met, at least for a good chunk of this winter, is such a relief. And because of that relief I can focus on other things this farm needs to do. Basics like keeping the bills paid, animals comfortable, and house pleasant enough not to scare away strangers.

I'm hosting some friends of friends' from out of town this weekend. Her and her husband are coasting through town and I was asked if I could handle guests? I am always thrilled to have visitors but feel I need to prepare them for the farm. This isn't a Haycation/Glamping situation. It's a small old house that is always happy to offer hot food, strong drinks, and clean sheets but it is still a home heated by (mostly) a single wood stove. There's no TV, microwave, washing machine, and I live with four mammals beside myself in this house and if you're allergic to cats or dogs... well, you're not going to have a good time. So I try to let folks know upfront. But the upside: you wake up to crowing roosters and the singing of a creek each morning. The blankets are heavy and beds are comfortable. The dogs are kind and the horses usually don't buck very hard. It's a fine place to rest if you like backpacking.

My trusty Canon Rebel I bought years ago finally kicked the bucket. So I am without a digital camera right now and hoping to get one used again soon. If anyone has a quality used camera to offer for sale or barter, let me know. Looking for Canon or Nikon, SLR. Email me!

The truck has an appointment to fix an oil leak and I am saving up for a root canal so most of this farm needs minor repairs, but whose doesn't? And both of those things are more important and urgent than a camera right now. But I figure asking never hurts and if someone has a five-year-old Rebel they want to trade for lamb or pork futures, I can ask. Never hurts to ask.

Okay I am off to get a load of hay in the truck and clean off some muddy paws from my farm dogs. You guys stay warm and well!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On The Hunt!

I released Aya last Thursday south of Cambridge. I pulled over near state game lands, far from anyone's farm, in a tucked in corner of the Battenkill River near a covered bridge. If my bird was Thomas Kinkade, she would have plotzed. She was over 1400 grams and without any anklets or leather attached to her for the first time in nearly free years. She flew up into the trees and took a perch and I waved goodbye and thanked her before driving home. It was sad and lovely. That's what any wild-caught bird could want: three years of safe, professional, training before heading out into the job market. I wish her nothing but luck.

Now, time for a new bird!

Yesterday I spent about five hours in my truck, and the vehicles of friends, driving around Washington County looking for my next hunting partner. It's trapping season until January for Falconers, so all of us without birds (or trying to help others find theirs) get into our cars and load up with traps, coffee, binoculars, gear, more coffee, stories, and coffee. It's possibly one of my favorite parts of this sport: trapping. You wake up with this insane hope to pull a dragon out of the sky, and if you use the skills and mentors you have collected: it works.

Hawks are trapped humanely with a live lure. Basically: a small mammal in a wire dome cage covered in tiny nooses. When the hawk sees the critter it lands on the wire cage and its talons get caught in the noose. As a falconer you only drop such a trap right below a hunting hawk in a tree or on a telephone wire and watch that trap carefully. You do not leave it out of your sights. And soon as the bird lands on it you are right there to wrap it gently in a towel and remove the ties from the talons. the bird is uncomfortable for about 3 minutes tops, and then safely hooded to stop it from panicking and taken right to a falconer's home to be outfitted with anklets, jesses, a leash, bells, and a well-fit hood.  If you want to see this entire trapping and securing process there are thousands of Youtube videos, this one was especially good at explaining it all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Flying Free

My apologies for not updating recently! Things here have been in full pre-winter preparation mode. Getting firewood stacked, finding a new source for hay delivery (Common Sense Farm doesn't have enough to sell this season), and trying to stay on top of chores, bills, and work. October has been a whirlwind of both wonder and anxiety. The wonder of fall, guests from out of the country, logging with the horse, foliage, hunting, and the joy of my favorite month but also all the last-minute panic of getting ready for winter. So far there's a cord and a half of firewood stacked, and another cord and a half paid for and awaiting delivery! I am still behind on the mortgage but made a payment last week and will work hard as I can towards making another one soon as possible. There are some hiccups in the way to juggle - a root canal, truck repairs for a valve because of an oil leak, new winter tires, and the dogs' annual checkups - but those things will all get done soon as I can. I need to remember that a few weeks ago I had no firewood and a broken stove and now I am writing from a warm house on a rainy cold day, with most of my wood bought and half of it stacked and stored and functioning stove! Huzzah!

Besides the happy struggle I have been really enjoying working with Aya this fall. She's been such an amazing hunter and true partner in the field. But I do think it is time to release her back into the wild well before snowfly and start with a brand new hawk when I can. She's been with me a few years now and it's time for her to be back into the local breeding population. It'll be sad but to see her go but I am proud of her hunting, health, and the work we did together.

I hope all of you in colder places are preparing for winter best you can, excited for white tails and hunting stories, that first snowfall, and the happy hibernation we may hopefully all safely get to the other side of.  This year without the goats and breeding flock will be easier - both for chores and for the pocketbook, I am using half the hay I used to. The lambs go to the butcher in December. The pigs, later in the winter or spring. The farm goes on regardless. This is our good work.

Here's to free birds, gentle winters, and luck finding us all.


Monday, October 15, 2018

It's a Stay Comfy Kinda Day...


First Hawk Hunt of the Fall!

It's a rainy Monday morning and I am in a great mood! Chores are done, the coffee is hot, and I'm about to slip into a hot shower and get some groceries for my guest staying a few days. Having people visit the farm (and those of you doing this a while can understand) and seeing it through their eyes is such a needed thing. It doesn't matter how they see it. My guests can be in love with morning pony rides and swimming in the river on summer days or hating the heat and wishing they just had Air Conditioning. Love it or leave it, you get a new perspective. But having guests come in October is somewhat cheating. Everything is in full color right now - maples and oaks and birches - all swirling with leaves. I have logging work to do with Merlin and the goal of firewood to make. I have a house with good farmed meats, eggs, and just-made soaps to offer in a household with hot water and kind dogs. These are simple things but I can't imagine not loving a fall visit to a farm.

I am hoping to take my friend Ivy out hawking tomorrow, if the bird and weather agree. She's in the country (usually splits her time between England and Germany) for a meeting and some work stuff near me in Manchester Vermont. I think hawking in the woods will be a fine introduction to Cold Antler life! It'll also be Aya's first hunt of the fall since all our work so far has been based around handing, hood training, flights on a creance, and lure baiting. The same work you do with a just-acquired wild bird is repeated (at least by me it is) every late summer into fall. And now on a crisp morning I hope to fly my bird out and about if she's at the right weight. Fingers crossed!

P.S. If you don't follow me on Twitter (and you shouldn't if you just want farm updates) you haven't heard me rave about The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. It is so good. If you like family drama, light scares, a spooky old house, and a touching story - check it out. I watched the ENTIRE series in two days this past weekend!



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

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Logging With Merlin

I came across a bit of good luck! My neighbor Jared, who lives a few miles away from Cold Antler Farm, said I was welcome to pull out some of the ash he cut this last February to use for firewood. Jared logs with horses and I had emailed him a few weeks ago to ask if he wanted to barter firewood for a logo for his horse-drawn business. (Turns out but he didn't have the time or size wood I needed.) But he did offer to let me take some of the downed, dry, logs! Jared's family used to own my farm and they still own the land around it. Some days he drives his gorgeous team of Percherons up the road past my house to train them, cut timber, and haul it out. So today I hitched up Merlin to his trusty leather harness and we made three trips into the woods next to my farm.

I was using the road he made with his team, happy at the thought of another modern working animal using the road. This was a wild road. A place for time travel. Me and my pony walked up it, his thick black tail swishing with our stride. It was a gorgeous fall day and I tried to do something I have been forgetting to do amidst all the stress of winter prep: stop and enjoy myself.

I took a moment on the trail to simply admire him. This pony, born across an ocean and here a few decades later helping his Hobbit move some logs. For a horse in his early twenties he was moving fast and even trotting along with the logs. He seemed to be enjoying the work of it. There was no bad flies, the weather brisk, the woods new and alive. I was reminded how good it felt to do this: to go from harnessing to commands in the forest. I let myself forget how much I adore driving this beast.

We started with a lighter load of small trees and then worked up to two hefty logs. All brought to the driveway where I'll get a friend with a chainsaw they can cut them into rounds for splitting. Or maybe I'll invest in a tough sawzall or electric chainsaw at some point? I think I can use my hand saw on the smaller ones myself. I'll figure it out, the promise was getting them here in the first place!

So on this fine Sunday I worked my pony and was reminded of the moments I'm trying to keep, but also trying not to get lost in all that when life throws these perfect little chances to be aware how lucky you are just to try. 

I didn't make my goal of making the last summer mortgage payment by the 15th. I don't have a cord and a half of wood stacked yet. But I am a little closer to both of those goals. I have a working wood stove and a cord stacked - that's not nothing. And I bet Merlin and I hauled enough wood for a few nights comfort.  I am waiting for some soap and art sales people said they would pay for to ping in via email. I am still grateful for this magical time I get to be a single woman hauling logs out of a forest path with a pony and getting paid with tech magical banking.

I won the dice roll on timing, for certain.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Too Late

I remember the first time I ever went on a trail ride. It changed everything. It gave me the strength to make life decisions I didn't realize I could make. It was the day I accepted my life wasn't about control, but resourcefulness and reaction. Here's that story.

I had been on trail rides before. The kind where you rent a horse at a dude ranch or resort. I'd even upped that game a little and ridden across farmland with my riding instructor at the barn I took lessons at. But all of those experiences were different. All those previous rides included signing waivers and the watchful eye of professionals. They also involved someone else's horse. I was paying for a taste of an experience I so desperately wanted: to ride and explore the world on horseback with my own mount. The kind of life I read about in fantasy novels and history books.

Those rides taught me a lot but were a totally different from that spring day in 2012 when things changed. Patty Wesner offered to trailer Merlin from the stables he was being boarded at to her farm. There she and I would tack up our horses and go for a ride across her land and a neighbor's. Seems simple right? Nothing fancy. But it wasn't simple. This ride was on private land with a horse I was planning on owning. There wasn't a professional in earshot. We were on our own, in the wild, and all the lessons and dreaming seemed to lead up to this moment. What was it going to be? Two women galloping across the landscape like the opening credits of a movie? Or me strapped into a gurney as the helicopter whisks me away to ICU?

The ride itself was a calm walk and trot. No one got thrown off their horse and the spring weather was overcast but pleasant. I honestly don't remember much about it other than hoping I got home to Patty's farm in one piece. What I do remember as clearly as ten minutes ago was the moment I got on my horse and we started walking down her driveway...

So much anxiety lead up to actually getting into the saddle. This was a big step for me. The entire time I was tacking up Merlin (in all English gear, that was what I knew best) I was clammy. There's a real fear that sets in the first time you venture outside your comfort zone, and I wasn't sure I was good enough to ride beside Patty and Steele. And all of those nerves contorted and swirled inside me. I remember shaking as I lifted myself into the loaned dressage saddle. And then something happened:

It was too late.

From the moment I sat into that saddle and clicked to Merlin to walk and follow Steele, it was too late. I was on a horse. The ride had started. Anything that happened from that first step on was happening during the trail ride I had agreed to go on. All the nerves slid off me like a wet raincoat dumped in a hallway. My brain and body had no use for them. I had a job: to guide this horse well and return to this driveway. There wasn't any use for anxiety here. I had none.

We rode and returned and it was lovely, but it was the click of my brain from anxiety to action that taught me I could do this. I could quit my job. I could someday come out of the closet. I could follow this insane dream... I could do it because the ramping up to the action is the hard part. It is always the hard part - but once I made the leap my brain was just in problem solving mode.  I knew that if I could be brave my mind would follow and lead me safely home. I'd be okay. I'd always be okay because while my fear is a guide, it isn't my leader. It always takes the back seat to decision.

Sometimes being too late is a good thing. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Stairs

It is a rainy fall day here and I am catching up on as much client work as I can handle. Yesterday was much of the same. After Friday's adventures hiking up Mount Antone in Vermont and then riding Mabel with Patty and her mare Ruby, it was time to get to work. It's been overcast and raining ever since that glorious day which has made it a lot easier to settle in with drawings and designs.

There isn't much new to report farm wise other than my wood supply has made it to one full cord stacked for winter! Two more (minimum) to find. It's tough to get them at the size and dryness I need and get them delivered but not too tough. But that one cord is here and the wood stove seems to be mostly working and that is a heck of a thing in itself. Slowly things are feeling a little safer around these parts. My goal is another half cord stacked by mid month.

This weirdly-warm weather has come sulking in like a wet cat and I'm okay with it. Days in the sixties and seventies coming and we have not had a single hard frost yet. This was the gossip at the deli counter at Yushak's Store this morning in Shushan. Everyone thinks it's odd it hasn't been very cold but I am silently grateful I'm not using firewood I don't have yet. If I'm not heating my home into mid November I will be thrilled.

My focus these days is on getting ready for Falconry season with Aya, getting her down to flying weight safely and trained to fly free again soon as possible. I look forward to those days when the leaves are off all the branches and the shrubs are thinner on the ground so hunting is easier for her. Daylight seems to flirt to me these days are coming, it's nearly dark here on the eastern side of the mountain by 6:30PM.

The butternut squash harvest has been wonderful and some of the pie pumpkins are so adorable they seem fake. Pretty happy with the haul of them and the new variety (to me) the buttercups. Roasted squash is a regular menu item. I'm looking for a good squash soup recipe, too!

The pigs and lambs seem content as ever, but I think I'll be worming them all again this week to be on the safe side. The pigs and lambs seem slow to grow and while active and healthy, I'd like to see them all a little thicker.

Right now my mind is mostly on hunting, making sales, paying bills, and stacking firewood. I want another mortgage payment out soon as possible and to start saving for this blasted root canal I need before Yuletide. It'll be the third one in a row in this upper left region of my face. I just can't justify doing it right now, but will soon as I figure things out. But next: more firewood and a mortgage payment - which will be my goal every single month this fall. They are the stairs towards safety.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Little Better

The house smells like wood smoke and so do I. I just lit a fire in the stove and while playing with the flue rigging smoke got into my face and hair; adding the aroma of a campfire to the sweat and horse perfume I am certain the dogs could already pick up on. It has been a day of hiking and horses and now the lows are going to reach the thirties tonight and so there's a fire. A few weeks ago the stove was out of service and there was no wood here yet, but now things are a little better.

 This morning I knew the news would be hard and scary - so I took the day off of emails and freelance work. A few days of rain in the forecast will make sure I spend the weekend working, but today was beautiful and bright and what is the point of being self employed if you don't get to pick your vacation time or mental health days. So instead of following Twitter news about politics I headed back to Merck Forest to hike up to Mount Antone. I planned the summit hike to take the same amount of time it took before, about four hours. But it took us two and a half instead. I felt like I was flying up those switchbacks and Friday had more energy than ever before. A few months ago we needed to stop and take breaks every quarter mile and my body ached, but now things are a little better.

When I got home from the Vermont mountains I went riding on my own. I tacked up my mare and my friend Patty trailered hers over to join us. She rode her Ruby and I was on my Mabel. Together we explored the trails and fields my neighbor Tucker lets me share for horses and hunting. Mabel was a little punchy and she wasn't thrilled leaving Merlin behind. At a few moments she crow hopped and once she wanted to bolt towards home but I was able to stay calm and control her. What could have been a scary ride was cushioned by the insurance of experience. A few years ago a 16h horse throwing attitude would have me jumping out of the saddle afraid, but now things are a little better.

I have shotgun recoil bruises on my shoulder. After days of trekking through the woods on morning hunts with no luck I finally came home with a full game bag. Into the freezer went three squirrels and a rabbit, food for my hawk who is almost ready to hunt beside me again. The hiking has also made time hunting go easier,  my body is in better shape to move fast and erratically through the woods when it needs to. I am rarely out of breath like I was last season. Running is wonderful but hiking gets you into the kind of shape a stalking hunter needs. I am grateful to the animals that are becoming winter food stores for my bird. A lifetime ago there was no notion of hunting besides a trained hawk as snow starts to welcome winter, but now things are a little better.

We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others. I know I do. But what a foolish way for any of us to judge our happiness. There are so many better businesses, writers, homesteads, hikers, riders, and hunters than me. Countless more attractive, intelligent, and experienced people. I know that. I can spend thirty seconds on Instagram and confirm it. But you know what? When I compare myself today to who I was a few weeks, months, years, or a lifetime earlier.... I am a little better. And I am going to give myself the kindness tonight to be proud of that. I hope you will do the same for yourselves.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Stove Is (Mostly) Repaired!

Happy to report that the wood stove here is mostly repaired! I lit a fire in it yesterday and so far so good! It took three people a few weeks to get through it all but thanks to my friends Patty and Tyler (and their tools and advice) it got done! I needed their helpt to figure out how to remove the broken, warped, old pieces inside but once that was accomplished I was able to do most of the actual repairs and assembling of the stove myself. I'm pretty proud of that! And so grateful for the helpers in my life as they are what really keep this farm moving.

So what happened was this: the stove needed a new back wall, or rather, covering over the back wall to be specific. This is more complicated than it sounds. The back wall has a door for the flue that leads up into the chimney. It has moving parts like the iron flap that opens and closes to regulate airflow, the rod that moves that flap, and the bolts and nuts that keep it all in place. This is what was in need of repair.

The old back piece had warped and melted from seven years of use. The warping made the outside stove walls vulnerable and could really weaken the structural integrity. To get to it I needed to take out the inner walls, the stove bricks, and learn now expert tool wielders like Patty and Tyler used metal cutting equipment and saws to get that old broken piece out! While they helped with that advanced task I used steel wool to remove old rust. I replaced the gasket ropes, cleaned the glass, and bought new bricks to line the inside. I am hoping my work is okay and so far the one fire I did light worked, but I want to have a friend with a more engineering mind check out the changes I made (like three larger bricks instead of four smaller ones) and my rigging of some interior bolts. But all said: I have fire. I have heat! I am one step closer to my goals going into winter!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Small Huge Step

Last night after evening chores I did something I have not done in over seven years: I spent a night off farm. You read that right. Until last night I had not slept anywhere but this home because getting away was impossible. There was a surplus of complications and responsibilities and a deficit of desire and resources. But things are slowly changing here and shifting slightly. I was able to load up the truck with the dogs and drive half an hour into Vermont to my friends' home on a mountainside. There I set up my tent on their land, joined them in an amazing chicken dinner, and then we sat outside under the stars with a campfire until we were all ready for bed. While out there we watched a red fox hop along the edge of their property and stars fall from the sky. We talked, laughed, and shared the little adventure I was having - my first night away. When all the feasting was over and the conversation became mostly yawns the happy couple returned to their cottage and me and the dogs retired to my 2-person tent.

This was not an adventure of epic proportions. This was just 12 hours off farm, after evening chores and back in time for regular morning feeding. But it was something I couldn't do until recently. It is why I sold the sheep and goats (along with needing to cut back on expenses). Not because I wanted to camp one night, but because I needed to get to a place again where I could. As I venture back into the world of dating I want to be able to get away a little.  I want my farm and the fine work of it: but as long as I am single and there's no Cold Antler Farm television series paying my mortgage or a NY Times bestseller being published: I needed to change things up.

And the best part of the small trip: I wasn't worried. While over in Vermont sleeping under the nearly-full moon with Friday and Gibson around me in a snug pile: I knew things were okay back home. I knew that none of the lambs had escaped their pen and were in the road. The sheep that did that had been sold. I knew that there was no baby goats to worry about or does needing milking at 6AM: they had been sold. I knew the pigs were sleeping under their straw in the barn. I knew the horses were fine in the field. I knew the hawk was sleeping in her mews, full from a crop of quail and on her perch. And I knew the cats had run of the house and could care less if I was gone half a day. They had food, water, access to inside and out. I had made this camp out possible because I needed it, wanted it, and taught myself a night away was possible. It's a small huge step. A level up.

Future adventures will be as small, an overnight backpacking trip. A day trip to a B&B with the dogs. Nothing that doesn't involve them as I can't imagine going anywhere without them. Gibson is turning nine and we have never spent a night apart, not one. Friday, the same at 3. We're a unit that isn't going anywhere but that's okay. This is enough for right now. And I'm glad we all made it.

Oh, and when I got back this morning everything was just fine. I let out a sigh so long yogis felt it across the sea.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Butternut, Bacon, and Brie!

This farm does a fine job of feeding me on a budget: meet the Triple B Treatment! I grew this butternut and raised the bacon. The brie came from Aldi ($2.99 a wheel, bless them!). To make this meal at home half a butternut and after you scoop out the seed area, take the meat and cube it up into chunks. I coated them in a bowl with some bacon fat (from the bacon I fried up to a half-cooked status on the stove top earlier and set aside), butter, salt, and pepper. I baked them until soft, about an hour at 375. Then I removed the skillet from the oven and placed some chunks of brie and the pre-cooked bacon to finish and melt together. I set them back in the oven a few minutes to warm up and bubble. Fairly easy and inexpensive for this farm since the squash and bacon and condiments were here. The cheese was a little fancy but I sure do love the discount grocery Aldi around here - what a perfect trio for a comfort dinner on this rainy night!

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!

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!