Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cold Antler Won!

The results are now public about the Beekman1802 Mortgage Lifter Reader's Choice Award! You can go to their Facebook Page and see the live stream video where they announce the details, but know that Cold Antler was the number 1 voted farm! Thank you to all who voted for me and helped keep CAF at the top of the list for weeks and weeks! When the voting finally ended I was contacted by Josh and we spoke on the phone. It turned out that one of my readers was neck and neck with me for first place, God's Whisper Farm. Realizing how close the votes were, I chose to split the prize money and offer half to Andi and her land! So instead of one reader's choice award winners, there are two farms getting a little lift!

This Little Book

One Woman Farm is a small book. It's small in every way. It doesn't take up much space, take much time to read, nor did it shock the world in sales records - but I love this little book so much. It's got images of my home, animals, life and love drawn throughout. It combines stories, music, art and agriculture to showcase a weird little world. It's all these things but it is also fall captured. It starts in October and ends in October - the holy month on this Homestead. Pick it up if you haven't, or if you order from my local bookstore, Connie will call me and I'll literally drive down there with Gibson and we can both sign it for you and send it to your front door.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Come in, sit down.

Welcome new readers and old friends, I often post this: Come in,  Sit Down, which means introduce yourself here on the blog by your name and location, and maybe share a little more about yourself as far as homesteading dreams or goals are? If you don't feel comfortable giving your name online, you could always just leave your location and perhaps a suggestion for the blog. It's a way for me to see who I am writing to and say hello. It makes the place a little more friendly on this side, as you know so much about me, but I know so little about you. A simple introduction makes it feel like I'm talking with a group rather than writing to the sky. If you never comment this post is an exception worth making. You might even make a friend or two...

It's also a way for you guys out there to connect with other folks with like interests. If you're sitting in your Sausalito apartment dreaming of mini angus bloodlines and rototillers you might just see another name from Sausalito a few comments down dreaming about coop plans and explaining his container gardens.... and before you know if you've made a farming friend. The internet is great—you'll never hear me say otherwise—but it keeps us inside a little too much. It should be a tool to network and learn from, not a replacement for three dimensional conversations and relationships. (I am talking for myself right now as much as anyone) and by saying hello here you might just spark book clubs and dinner potlucks, meetups and work parties, farm visits and advice, or just someone to grab coffee with in the Philadelphia Barnes & Noble and pour over the new issue of Hobby Farms together while chatting about why your husbands think chickens are ridiculous.

So come on inside, pull up a chair, and say hello.

I've Heard of Eggcrate Mattress Pads....

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Get a Logo!

If you are looking for a logo, tee shirt design, print for your home or a unique gift to give a friend - I am offering logos on sale. Email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com about prices and dates for openings in the design schedule. I would be honored to do work for you readers, friends, and farmers out there looking to spruce up your own marketing and support another farmer in the process.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Out of The Woods



{{Hit play to read this post with a soundtrack}}

The last time a thunderstorm barreled through this farm it hit around 3Am. A loud boom cracked into the sky and it jolted me out of bed. Within twenty seconds of it slicing the silence, Gibson had run up the stairs from his post in front of the door and slammed into me, his 55lb body as close to me as possible. He shook madly, his tongue out in a panicked pant. He's always been nervous about loud sky noises, gun shots, fireworks, anything unexplained and possibly dangerous. I reached my around under his front paws and held him close until his breathing went from rapid to calm. I sang to him, a whisper without a hint of threat, like Ryan does.

The rest of the world was black and white
But we were in screaming color
And I remember thinking

Are we out of the woods, yet?

Lightening lit up the room followed by louder and closer thunder. Friday sprawled lazily at the foot of the bed, entirely apathetic. She was on her back with all four paws in the air like a cartoon in a hammock. She has zero fear of thunder, ram horns, or giant pick up trucks but if your 32year old wobbles towards her she hides under a bush. She's terrified of children. Having never even seen one up close until she was around 6 months old, I think they confuse her. But since there were no toddlers, she was content. Gibson fell asleep half an hour later when the storm had exhaled into distant rumbles. He didn't leave my side the rest of the night. I kept singing.

The night we couldn't quite forget
When we decided to move the furniture so we could dance
Baby, like we stood a chance


We all have our storms and toddlers.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded they will pass.

Today was good. I spoke with the bank and arranged enough payments to get this farm out of any imminent threat of foreclosure. I can not tell you how amazing that felt. I let out a sigh I was holding in for what felt like years. Every day, for the past few weeks, I was fearing the mailbox. When the white truck puttered up the mountain I knew that it could be the day I found out I was out of time. But thanks to the Going Postal campaign the farm is safe, and tomorrow the first ten pieces of art get mailed out to people all over America and Canada. Thank you.

I hope to be entirely caught up on the mortgage by August. And then ahead of it.

I feel really good, guys. I really do. This dedication to marathon training has changed me. My body, my head, my heart is different. I stopped drinking a few weeks ago, not forever, but giving my liver a break before it slides out in protest. I have never slept better, fit better into my clothing, or cared more about my well being. Taking care of myself this way is changing things. It's changing the entire farm. I'm not going back to donuts and pasta. I'm currently hurt, dealing with a heal injury, so I didn't run today but I tried. It hurt in the first few strides so I went home and did a couple hundred pushups and sit ups, yoga, and stretches. A previous version of me would have poured a bourbon and picked up a pint of ice cream. Now I just want to feel better. The fifteen minutes of bliss eating some vanilla ice cream isn't worth the two hours of feeling bloated and guilty about it. I don't associate ice cream with those fifteen minutes anymore. I associate it with those two hours. Pass me the watermelon, baby. I am never going back to feeling that way again.

Remember when we couldn't take the heat
I walked out, I said, I'm setting you free
But the monsters turned out to be just trees
When the sun came up You were looking at me


Thunderstorms and miles. River swims and horseback riding up mountain trails. Holding loved ones close and making payments. This story keeps going. Nearly ten years of blog posts now, and as I grow into the woman I am learning to love more and more - it's harder to take certain things seriously. It's harder to be scared. It's easier to feel strong. It's necessary to be grateful.

I am still in love with all of this. You just can't know.

Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?


In the clear yet, 

good.

My Girl Friday

Last night I was standing in a dark road outside my house. It was around 11PM and without street lights, everything was black. My flashlight battery was dying, and all I had was some flickering light and the occasional burst of a firefly by the stream. In the distance I could hear the sound of a ewe somewhere in the woods, outside the fence and away from the rest of the flock. The ewe was panicked and I wasn't sure where she was. Gibson and Friday were beside me, waiting for my decision. Or rather, Gibson was waiting for my decision - Friday was beside us in the ditch with the stream trying to eat a firefly every time it lit up. She played while he nearly shook with anticipation. I told him to get the sheep and his black form teleported head into the darkness.

Friday saw Gibson leave and perked up, no longer interested in luminescent snacks. She dropped her tail and slunk into that Border Collie crouch. She doesn't really know what to do with sheep yet but she knows the import, and wanted to know where the Hell Gibson had ran off to. I watched her best I could in the flicker of the small torch.

A few moments later the ewe and her lambs came scampering down the road, Gibson behind them. Friday flanked them and helped keep them from taking off to the left or right. I smiled to see it. She is just a year old and mostly wants to be a pup, but she's learning the ropes as a farm dog by and by. Gibson and I had months of classes with respected sheepdog trainers, but Friday came into my life when all was a whirlwind and money was tight as could be. There were no three-hour round trips to farms for classes, at least not yet. That doesn't mean her instincts are shining through. I'm proud of the dog she is becoming.

I named her after my favorite movie, His Girl Friday, which stars the amazing Rosalind Russell as Hildy. Rosalind is a force to be reckoned with in all of her films, but something about her rapid-fire banter, the timeless comedy, and her spark stuck with me. I never get tired of that film. And as I watch my girl grow up I am seeing how much she has turned into quick the firecracker herself. She's a lot klutzier than Gibson, and alot more foolish - but she's got a bravery he's never had. Friday will run right up to a 200lb ram and bark in his face. If he lowers his head at her, she dodges and ducks. In the same scenario Gibson would back up and try to circle farther out. Gibson has the literal balls in this couple, but she's got all the brass when it comes to putting her paw down. Which is some what comical at her 38lb size.

But small girls can be mighty.

Photo by Miriam Romais (I cropped it)

Postcards Coming Your Way!

If you were one of the postcard supporters at the first level of pledges for Going Postal, your postcard is in the mail soon! Those that donated at the custom level, you have been contacted via email asking for details of what animal you would like drawn and sent to you in a protected mailer!

I am so grateful for the support on this art project. There is still time to support the farm through this and get either a random piece of artwork (like these shown here) mailed to your door with a thank you from me - or a custom piece of your choosing. Click the link above and know all funds from this Artwork for the Farm Project go towards the future of Cold Antler. I hope you enjoy the postcards and keep an eye on your mailboxes!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Thursday

It was magic hour, that time before dusk when sunlight seems the warmest and the world gets saturated like an Instagram filter. I was doing my best impersonation of Baloo the bear. I was on my back, floating down the river without another human being in sight. It was the end of a long day. A day that started with a seven-mile run and (just an hour before my bear impression) was spent on the back of a horse on the top of a mountain. in-between those heroic events I did what most professional do all day - sat in front of a computer working. But at that moment the world was just that river, tired light, and cold water. Heaven.

Brown trout jumped out of the water to my left and I took a mental note, maybe in the morning I’d come back with my fly rod? Maybe. I smiled, knowing that in the morning all I would do is run, stretch, and then see to the animals. By the time the piglets were fed, goats milked, sheep watered and horse hayed I wouldn’t want to go fishing. I’d want this: the river. And not to fish for brownies, but to do absolutely nothing in. The calm current swept me downstream, under the dappled light of Sycamores and songs of cedar waxwings. My salad didn’t need trout in it tomorrow night.

I floated around a bend, and the river picked up her pace. I know this 1/4 stretch so well, every rock and deep pool. So I didn’t think twice about letting it scoop me away and push me out into a swimming hole near a gravel beach. This was a very crowded swimming spot on the weekends, but those of us luck enough to dip in on the weekdays, it was empty. Or nearly so. Because as I was swimming towards the beach (to walk back to my book and towel up river), the most beautiful thing started down the path. Two girls were on the back of their horses, an Appaloosa and a Chestnut mare. They had on tank tops and shorts and their companions (two teenage boys) rode alongside them on their mountain bikes. The boys ditched their bikes and hung around the beach, but the girls lead their horses right into the river - to the shallow areas that dipped into pools so the horses could swim and splash.

I felt lucky as hell. Here I was floating and splashing, my companions teenagers on summer break. I loved their pluck. I loved the bravado of the boys and the fearlessness of the girls - who of course had no helmets and simple tack. They just wanted to ride their horses to the river, because everyone was hot and they could.

I walked out of the water dripping wet and grinning like an idiot. How the hell did I end up here? How did I collect the loose change of luck and scraps of fate to end up in a corner of the world where children ride horses into sunset rivers? A place where I had tended a farm, cantered a draft horse up a mountainside, and ate better than the fanciest restaurant fare in New York City. I mean, when you milk your own goats the cheese is really fresh. When you grow your own bacon and tomatoes - no amount of Michelin stars can beat those BLTS on homemade bread. And to savor that with river-soaked rain, on a piece of land you somehow managed to keep? It’s witchcraft.

Things are far from safe here.

Things are perfect here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

193 Miles and Counting

I am officially training for a half marathon in Vermont in September. This is week 6 of training, which started yesterday. I am running between 20-50 miles a week out here in the back roads of Veryork. So far this body has ran nearly 200 miles in a little over five weeks. I'm proud of that, but even more proud of how much I am starting to enjoy running and grow as a runner. It make sense, I suppose. This whole farm dream has been a marathon, hasn't it? You keep going. You don't give up. You don't listen to the people making fun of you as they drive by in their pickups. You don't make excuses about rain, heat, or being tired. You keep going. The fact that I am training for this race (to simply complete it, not win it) at the same time I am trying to keep the farm going - the metaphor isn't lost on me. I feel stronger and leaner than I ever have. I may be short, and I may have the stride and build of a Hobbit - but there's something fierce in there. I'm proud of that reflection.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Cheap Thrills

The days are hot and the farm keeps on going. That's the story this July, or at least the part I am willing to share. Right now this farm's future is as up in the air as a deck of cards chucked into the wind. It's all luck and a hunch right now.

Right now the sheep are out in the back field enjoying their dinner of freshly-stormed-on pasture. The goats are nibbling hay in their pen, their evening milking well over and their udders empty. The chickens are roosting, new chicks are on order, and hopes at the farm are high. like I said, luck and hunches.

By the by, there are five new little piglets here! I picked them up a few days ago from West Wind Acres. They are a home brew of many different heritage breeds, and pretty young. They all fit comfortably in a large crate on the ride home, covered with a shade cloth in the back of the pickup. Now they are enjoying a diet of chow, goats milk, scraps, and bolted garden greens. While these guys are so little, they are in the pen in the barn, but soon they will be out in the woods in the usual pig digs. I'm not sure how many pigs this is for Cold Antler, but I am certainly getting a hang of the pork train. Proud to raise them, proud to provide them to folks I raise them for, and always happy to share the spoils of the work with friends.

Last night after a swim in the river, my friends Tyler and Tara and I enjoyed BLT wraps. Fresh chard and bacon from the farm made us all content as we tucked in for a movie. It was a perfect night, and before they headed back to Vermont on their motorcycle we hugged goodbye. I'm not a hugger, but those two and I share the kinship of being self-employed, woodland, 30-something, weirdos and I love them. We were floating down the Battenkill earlier that evening, had all spent the day earlier earning a living from our businesses and dreams, and were still young and foolish enough to keep it up. If you are the people you surround yourself with, I am going to be fine. I hope, at least.

But back to those pigs: I had never driven those roads before, and with two border collies sharing the cab with some great music it was a bonafide field trip. Gibson, Friday, and I all put on our aviators and cranked up the stereo and listened to a whole lotta jams as we drove around the hillsides southwest to Rockwood's place. I roll without a cell phone, and the only directions for the 46-mile trip were written by hand in a notebook from a conversation Josh and I had in Facebook. At one point the road I was on had a weird turn in the town of Stillwater, and I was lost. So I chatted up locals at the Stewart's and within ten minutes I had an iced coffee, two farmers, a biker chick, and a map all gathered around the hood of my truck, which I have been calling Taylor regularly (It's a 1989). Together, we all found the route to West Wind together. I loved that. People are great, and thanks to the kindness of strangers I found my way.

I swear music, running, this farm, good people, and those dogs are the reasons I wake up with sharp teeth and a wry smile. And that's the attitude you need to have to keep a crazy dream like this going strong. You need to outwit the odds. You need to keep inspired to create the life worth writing about. You need to care more about the whole than any single piece. You need force, hope, friends, collies, biker chicks, and bacon wraps.

Wish me luck, guys. This month I'm all in.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

More Mail!

Last week that application came in the mail from a Troll. Today, after my morning run, I opened the mailbox and found a pile of letters from people just reaching out with encouragement and kindness. One was gorgeously hand written in fountain pen. The other was a short note with a beautiful crystal. The other was a simple note, mailed to just let me know we need more Jenna's in the world. I can not tell you how uplifting that delivery was! And how it made my day to see such things. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Album of My Summer


This is the album of my summer, Strange Trails, and I wish I could write the words to explain how important it is. This is what I have listened to while running over a hundred and fifty miles. This is what I am hauling water buckets, bales, and driving to. This is the album I have written my best words to and fascinated about things I would never dare write about. It is a crime I don't own it on vinyl, but recreational spending is on hold. The whole album is available to listen to above, and song by song on Youtube. If you love rock, Elvis, over thinking, indie rock, and force and hope - listen to it. It is meant to be listened to as one thing. Every song blends perfectly into the next. It is exhilarating in it's composition. It is fun, sexy, dark, hopeful, and when you are done listening you feel stronger.

Guys, if you stopped caring about new music because of children, work, life - start again. Listen to this. Get it on iTunes or on CD for your car. Listen to it and soak. You can work out, eat well, dream, meditate, and do anything else to improve but nothing is as influential and invigorating as good music you never heard before. 

In Those Eyes

I sleep with dogs. When someone else is in bed with me, they sleep with dogs too. It's a matter of seniority as well as farm management, because whenever a certain type of sheep baa or a fearful chicken squawk breaks the silence I want to be up instantly. Having a border collie in the bedroom is, by far, the most intense alarm clock.

This morning Gibson and I were snuggling, since it was just us and Friday was downstairs in her crate. We had been up around 5Am with a raccoon scare and when all was well I fed most of the animals and headed back to sleep for a few hours. Friday got breakfast in her crate and G and I went back up to bed. He usually sleeps beside me, just like a person would, with his head on the pillows and his back to me. And as I was enjoying our morning cuddle I heard the sound of Sal, my oldest sheep, balk in the front lawn. This meant that someone broke the fence (Hannah) and the sheep were out. Gibson was up and at the window in an instant. The box fan blew in his face heroically. He looked like Lassie if Lassie was a fighter pilot.

Then he ran downstairs, having estimated the problem and the amount of canine panic it required. He barked and whined and went to the front door. Friday was already howling backup from her crate. I was getting dressed and as I left the bedroom to turn towards the shallow staircase he was already heading back up to check on me. He stood there on the stairs and let out a sound that was unmistakably a question. His eyes looked right into me, with such fire I felt it rattle my rib cage. This was not the eagerness of a stick about to be thrown or the desire for a biscuit. This was something else entirely. Inside those eyes was the story of six years. The story of growing up a working animal in a specific place with a specific job. It was the plea to act and the prayer for permission.

He looked at me with decision. His choice was made. He was demanding joy, and I was the one he needed to turn the ignition. So I nodded and hurried downstairs to open the front door. In five seconds the sheep were back inside their fence.

This is the reason I am so in love with these dogs that so many people write off as insane or hyper. They aren’t. They just know exactly what they want. They are driven by instinct and obsession. They are so in tune with sounds, routines, animals, and their tasks it can be equated to canine Asperger's, but it's far more complicated than that. A sheepdog raised with a job on a farm is a song. They are rhythm and force, complex and beautiful. They aren't necessary like oxygen and sunlight, but the world is better with them.

And so are we.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

Have a safe and lovely Holiday, folks! Make sure to take some time to just sprawl on the grass, like these two pros!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Judy

So,  a woman named Judy emailed me. And let me say this up front, all of you can email me. I appreciate it, sincerely. But I gotta say, Judy is a master. She didn't care about current events. She didn't care about my fear, money, or story-not really. What Judy cared about was reining me in. She told me that she loved my posts about individual animals, neighbors, and friends. I have neglected these updates. So expect a lot of Judy Posts about sheep, goats, geese, piglets, and more this week.

Thank you, Judy.

Nutshells

Friday night a severe thunderstorm came through the county. I am glad I was home. Gibson, my six-year-old, Border Collie is still terrified of loud bursts of sound. When a thunderstorm comes he doesn’t jump into the bathtub (I don’t have a bathtub); instead he pants heavily inside his crate or comes looking for me. Since I was home, he wanted to be beside me through the storm. So while I was drawing and watching new episodes of Chelsea Handler's Netflic Talkshow, I put down my pencil and embraced him.

I don’t know how common this is, but Gibson uses his front paws the same way you and I use our arms. He doesn’t set his paws onto my lap but wraps them around my hips in an embrace, or loops them around a calf to grasp me, literally holding on. When he is scared he wants to be close because he doesn’t understand; but he knows that so far every time he was confused by sky violence he made it through if he was close to me.

I believe in tough love when it comes to primates. I don’t believe in it when it comes to canines. I’ll ignore a person to teach them a lesson, but if a dog asks, I am already hugging back. And through the wind and hail, the thunder and lightening, I held that dog. I felt his breathing go from rapid to calm. I watched him fall asleep in my arms from the exhaustion of panic. I know that transition far too well. He's such a complicated and beautiful thing, but he gets so confused by the noise. He just wants to know he will be okay, and he'll accept the lie of a hug if it gets him through twenty minutes. That's addiction culture in a nutshell.

That's love in a nutshell.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Mailbox

“Well, girl, you don’t have any brain tumors!”

....was what my Optometrist said to me, after inspecting both of my dilated pupils with those giant alien-autopsy face machines they are somehow allowed to use on us civilians. Not exactly normal patient/doctor chit chat, I know, but it was warranted. Before the exam I told her how I always am nervous about going to the eye doctor and have been ever since I was eleven years old... 

I'l never forget my first eye appointment. I was a chatty kid. (I am a chatty adult, too. And I talk fast and often to others when I get nervous.)  I was telling my hometown Optometrist about how I thought what she did was so great, because nobody ever leaves her office worse off. Everyone she helps out; through glasses and contacts and what not. What a great gig! Then she went grim, looked me right in my 11-year-old eyes and told me sometimes she has to give people horrible news. Sometimes she can see right through to the brain and see a mass of cancer that will kill a patient in weeks. They come in expecting a new pair of frames and leave with a death sentence.

If she wanted me to stop talking, it worked. 

And that's why till this day I prefer the Dentist to the Optometrist, both of which I had to visit this month. I had a hole in a molar the size of a peppercorn that needed to be filled in, and my last pair of contacts were about to wear through my retinas. My eye wear prescription was out and I couldn't chew. You can only put off self-care for so long.

I know the Eye Doctor and Dentist isn't a big deal to most of you out there, but to me these are watershed moments. Heathcare was the biggest boogeyman of self employment to me. It was the monster under the bed that even the most hearty of friends and supporters warned me about leaving behind for a life of farming. But if you can live your dream life and afford a new pair of glasses - that is my humble definition of success. So today I had my first eye exam in over four years. I paid the $170 bill for the doctor's time and effort, and was happy to do so. I earned the money for that visit. I had $20 in reader subscriptions come in through Paypal and I sold a piece of artwork for $150. This day I made exactly what I needed to cover that visit. So I felt amazing. I felt like I was doing it. I felt like this was something I could pull off....

And then I went to check my mailbox.

It wasn't a big mail day from the USPS. Inside was a package from a blog sponsor, a bunch of pamphlets about my wood stove to hand out at workshops or to inquiring guests. The other piece of mail was a plain, white, letter addressed to me (with my last name spelled wrong) and instead of my house number it just read:

Jenna Wogenrich
Cold Antler Farm
Cambridge, NY 12816

There was excessive postage and no return address. Inside was a blank, generic, job application printed from a website hosted by the state of Maryland. I pursed my lips. There was no note, not explanation at all. Then I got it. I sighed.  It was clearly a next-level internet troll sending a reminder to my physical home that I should get a job. That I should stop expecting to live the life I am living, pack it in, and return to a 9-5 office life.

And I will admit it had the EXACT effect intended. This person pressed my shame button, hard. They basically were saying; Jenna, how dare you live this life? Stop talking about it. Stop celebrating it. Shut up, Don’t expect patronage, get a job. Go away. And I felt small. I stood there, by my metal mailbox that I painted Cold Antler Farm on six springs ago. I stood there holding that job application on the land I am facing foreclosure on if I don’t get lucky, soon. It made me feel sick inside. Who the hell does this?

This was a kick in the ribs while I was already down. I folded up the blank application and went inside the house. On the doorknob was a hanger notice from the electric company: final disconnection notice. Another kick. I wanted to throw up.

All the good news about lack of brain tumors, the art sale, the pride of self care, and hope for new glasses in the future went out the window. I went inside, sat down in the living room floor, and cried. Gibson came to me, instantly, and collapsed in my lap. Friday watched from her crate, head cocked and curious. I had a prescription in my pocket, a head without cancer, and I still let a nameless stranger knock me down a peg. How long before the lights went out? How much longer before I quit, sell the animals, leave the farm, go away?

Not sure what else to do, I took care of some farm essentials, let out the dogs, and then changed into running clothes and ran five miles. These days, that is a very short run. It was a hot day, and it didn't take long for sweat to coat me like the mandatory baptism I demanded. I ran and I thought. Did I deserve that? Was it a sign? What am I doing here holding onto a ghost like this? Maybe I should throw in? Maybe I should start over?

When I got back home in record time, I finished evening chores early. I refilled everyone's water and checked the flock, goats, and horse. I moved the chicken tractors.  Then I came inside a dripping mess to that job application on my bench, like it was supposed to be dissected for posterity. I gave it a closer look.

What? It was totally blank.

I looked through the pages, all of them.  It had no assigned job. The person who mailed it wasn't clever enough to fill in a position they thought I belonged in. They thought the gag was enough, but what they gave me wasn't a scolding - it was a canvas. And I sat down covered in deerfly bites, sunburn, and sweat and applied for the job I wanted:

 I filled out the application as if I was asking for my dream job, which is to make a living here as an author without fear. So when the space offered me a position, I chose World-Renowned Author. (Which I know is ridiculous, but if I get a blank check I am cashing it in) - And then I went through the rest of the application, all the pages, and filled out my hopeful salary, my experience, my history and resume.

It turns out that this 33-year-old woman actually has a decent shot. I have put out five nationally circulated books from two major publishing houses, and was working on wrapping up my first self-published novel. I had a BFA in communication design from a four-year University with a minor in Illustration - two degrees I use daily to help keep the lights on (literally!).  I had traveled around the US and been to both coasts promoting books, speaking at huge events and fairs, and had nearly a decade of farming experience under my belt. My order didn't seem that tall now that it was all on paper in front of me. That piece of snark mail turned into a spell book.

After the application was done, I read it as if I was the person hiring (I kinda am), and felt pretty great. I set it down like it was a decree of faith, gently and with love, and then went to my rotary phone to call the electric company. I called them with calm confidence of a tumorless eye patient, and we worked out a half-payment now and the rest in two weeks. It is a pinch but the lights and internet stay on so I can continue to work from home. I let out a silent prayer of thanks. Someone out there has my back.

People send things like this and want to hurt me. They want me to feel shame for the life I want, work for, and crawl uphill with bleeding fingernails to keep. Fine. I get it. You aren't happy, and you don't think I deserve to be either. But honestly? What were you thinking? You don't send a box of kindling to an arsonist. You don't send white gloves to a mime. You don't send a 6-pack of beers to an alcoholic - these are not avatars of shame. These are evidence of validation!

I am well aware I don't have a normal job you Agents of Caution associate with the kind of approval that helps you nod behind crossed arms. But your stupid letter was a badge for my sash, a light in the dark, and it made me feel strong.  Really, really, strong. And I say that as a woman farming alone for nearly a decade.  I say that as a five-time author.  I say that as the qualified applicant in the running for the most amazing life of all time, and I am just getting started. Did you think your adorable letter was Kryptonite? Well, it wasn't.

It was spinach, bitch.

And I am framing this application and putting it on the wall. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Your Vote Could Make This Happen!

If you follow me on Social Media, then you have heard about the Beekman 1802 Mortgage Lifter Contest. This awards a $20,000 prize to one of the farms entereed and an automatic $2,000 prize to the farm most voted for. This would literally save Cold Antler Farm, which is at a very scary place right now in its own story.  Winning ehe smaller prize would help catch up on the mortgage in a very, very, important way. All you need to do is vote by entering your email address, and that vote counts towards Cold Antler's shot at the $2k.

I was the first place farm for while, but now have fallen to number 2. I ask that you vote because such an action could make a world of a difference to a farm on the edge like this one. Any prize money would absolutely go towards actually Lifting the Mortgage!

Vote Here, Vote Every Day!

Hannah Horvath Wants to Die

Hannah Horvath wants to die. Or at least that is what she's been communicating to me, her very tired farmer. This little black lamb is constantly getting stuck in fences, trapped in briars, separated from the flock, and tangled in sheep politics. She's a klutz, basically. Unlike all the other lambs who seem to have a handle on their choices, Hannah doesn't. Her hollers have their own little panicked tone, to which this human and her two border collie roommates understand means; "It's me, HANNAAAAAHHH I DID IT AGAAAINNNN!!" And then I go outside, look up the hillside, unplug the electric fence, and see what she's gotten herself into. Yesterday she was fine but dragging around a piece of rose bush off her butt that scared her as it "followed behind" her every step. The day before her head was stuck in the ONE SPOT in the fence her head could fit. A few days earlier I was about to leave to visit friends and before going I stopped to listen... sure enough Hannah was in Merlin's Paddoc - a coal black lamb next to a coal black horse - just yelling because whatever shoot or ladder got her into that mess she wasn't about to find again and crack the case herself. I had to open Merlin's gate, call her to come, and let her back to the flock.

I'm not worried about her. She seems to only make her mistakes once and then figure it out. I am home and here to keep an eye on her and Gibson loves this new intense "Black Sheep Opps" work in his life. I feel that if I can get her through these awkward teen years of reckless youth she'll turn out to be a fine little lamb. Her peers: Marnie, Caroline, and Jessa are never stuck or flailing. They're just fine. They have this sheep thing down. Hannah still has some explaining to do...

P.S. I am so happy about Marnie and Ray (the characters). So, so, happy. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Roommates

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fell

Tonight after chores were done and I wrote that last bit, I gathered up Merlin and took him for a ride up the mountain. I live on the eastern side of this little bump and even in June the sun slides out of view by 6:30pm. So I took Merlin to go find it. I'm glad I did.

Fell ponies fit me. I mean that in many ways. Being 5'2" tall they match my height, but also we share the same build. We're mostly muscle and resentment, stubborn love, luckless slingers. When I am on his back, even when he is acting up or awkward, I feel safe. I feel like I'm at a place I belong. And I need to remember it's a place I found through a lot of time, effort, work and determination. I didn't discover a home in the saddle with Fells, I built it one brick at a time.

80 miles, 8,000 words


These days most of my energy is going into running and writing. Since last Sunday, which is what? twelve days ago? I have ran 80 miles. I think running has become a balm for anxiety, a way to physically beat it out of myself. Today's ten mile run was steady and slow, but mostly comfortable. My body wasn't fighting me this time, asking to stop. I try to run in the morning after chores and then the rest of the afternoon is for other obligations of writing, logos, illustrations and clients. Writing right now is less about this blog (sorry) and more about getting a proper start on a new book. A book deal is crucial, so very much so. Not only for financial security but because it's been too long and I have a lot to share and say. I want to tell an entirely different story about myself. So far an 8,000 word proposal has made its way to my agent's hands and he is shopping it around. If luck is with me more books are in my future. Fingers crossed, ale poured, hopes high.

Right now just making it to that point is my biggest concern. That is why I am running so much. I need to feel that even if there are threats or scary phone calls about my home, that I am working towards a larger goal and removing the stress best I can. That is why that Indiegogo was launched. If I can meet that goal there is no threat of losing my farm. If I don't, real trouble is ahead. In exchange for larger contributions you will be mailed hand-drawn art in the home you are supporting from the author asking for your patronage. If you like me, it's a kindness. If you dislike me, it's a cheap way to keep the person you dislike creating content you can be upset about. Fun!

If you don't want to support it, that's okay too. I appreciate you just being here to read this.

News on the goats, the sheep, the bees, and more tomorrow. I will be taking a little 36hr break from running for my legs to harden up from all the work they have been doing. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Icelandic Horse

Yesterday I sat down and drew this Icelandic horse, with runes beside her. If you would like a portrait of your own horse or to purchase this 9x12" original artwork, you can email me! Happy to create art for the readers of this blog.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bo, Anne, and Jodi

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Bo Burnham, or how many of you are into Comedy at all? I know this is a farming blog, but this farmer is into it. Thanks to podcasts I know more about the stand up scene in Los Angeles than I do about the beef prices at the livestock auction a half mile down the road. I wanted to be at Cameron and Rhea's wedding. I am more excited for Kumail and Emily's story becoming an Apatow movie than I am about anyone's baby pictures on Facebook. I jog to episodes of Harmontown. I fall asleep listening to Bill Burr on Youtube. And I cried watching Bo Burnham's ending song in Make Happy.

Jodi, a 50-year-old reader from California messaged me on Facebook. She was a wilderness firefighter for years and is now in a wheelchair, but she follows along with my books and blog. We haven't talked before, but she came out of the blue to talk to me today and I am so glad she did. She said she saw the fundraiser with the postcards and wanted to contribute, but would rather get a signed book from me? We got to chatting and she bought a paperback copy of Made From Scratch (all I have here are a few copies of that and Chick Days) and after she sent along the paypal and her address, the last thing she said to me was this:

"All will be okay trust me!"

Oh, Jodi. I so needed to hear that. You have no idea.

Today started off poorly. Before coffee, before morning stretching or chores; I read random internet comments about me on another person's Facebook page. I am a professional writer. I literally make a living feeling things and then writing about those feelings for anyone who wishes to read them. Why would anyone expect someone like that to brush off unkindness? Because I'm supposed to be used to it? I'm not used to it.

So these comments about my worth, that is how I started my day. They cast a shadow on everything else. Instead of feeling like I could take on the world I started the day feeling scolded. Which lead to a panic that stole my appetite, energy, and joy. I could barely finish my three mile jog - exhausted and worried that time away from the computer would miss an email for work or fiddle lessons. My stomach churned and my mind reeled. I was so angry at myself. Not the good kind of angry that inspires change and manic writing sessions - the sad, defeated, imploding kind of anger.

I was angry because I did it to myself. Those comments are people's thoughts who I have never met. Their thoughts about me are none of my business and I was a fool to read them. The stakes couldn't be lower, as they have zero interest in supporting me, my work, or my farm. To them I am a character on a reality show they enjoy watching fall apart. Unfortunately, Chase Bank doesn't accept payment in I-Told-You-So's.

So I ran my crappy, short, run and came home feeling awful. Since Sunday I have ran 26 miles, and only three of them happened today. I should have hit thirty. I'm training for a half marathon at some point in the fall. I don't know if it'll be an actual event with numbers pinned to my shirt and medals or just a fine day that I run 13 miles on my own here in the Shire. Comfort with the distance is the goal. To feel totally okay running that far, in one shot. Maybe that woman won't have her day ruined by flinching at strangers comments? Eh, worth a shot.

I am scared these days. Really scared.

My neighbor Anne stopped by. She just wanted to check in on me. She drove from town and just talked to me, which is something so rare these days. She didn't want anything but to listen, and she she did. She offered support and just let me know she was there and I wasn't alone. She used to read this blog from a home in Key West. Now she has five acres here in Cambridge. 

I need to laugh so I listen to the comedians, all of whom I relate to more than any neighboring farmer. Around here farmers are trying to sell food. I am too, but no where near as hard as I am trying to sell myself. I want to make a living writing about what I love so I can live the life I love. I happen to love a life of homesteading. But if I was into building car engines or collecting stamps you'd be reading about that instead. I love the telling. I need you to read it.

I need to focus on the Bos, Annes, and Jodies. I need to realize there is more compassion and cheering for this farm and this insane person than there is vitriol. And I need to love myself enough to not go fishing for drama because I am scared that somewhere far away an asshole is complaining about a stranger.

It is interesting and exciting, to wake up with such a singularity of purpose. Every morning is a mission to get solvent. I want to catch up, stop the fear, and sleep a full night. Some women out there want to get married. Some women want kids. Some women want to win the Superbowl. Me? I just want to know the home I made for myself is safe. That is what I want. That is part of what is driving this new book I am working on so intensely. But with every morning of gusto and writing, design and illustration, there is this constant fear of judgement that slithers into my evenings.

All will be okay, trust me.
But I'm not sure I can handle this right now.