Got to Have a System
Working for yourself means having the ability to blow off a day and just go horseback riding or running - but that rarely happens, almost never in winter when stress and expenses are so much higher on this farm. I think the reason I love summer so much is the heat is free. I am not attached to a wood stove's maw or worried about not being home for 4 hours. The truck runs better in warm weather, too. I hay to bring in hay and firewood, extra calories in the form of feed, and figure out how to deal with ice, rain, bad roofs, etc. I am at war with winter. Summer really is paradise and fall is the fireworks before the darker months. Anyway - ponies and running shoes are not as common a blow off as 67 degree mornings. Mostly because I don't have the ability to enjoy those things when my time is needed elsewhere. So there is a system of literal lists I write every morning Monday - Friday. They are split up into Farm/House/Work/Me and as silly as that sounds - that list it is my real boss.
The Farm portion is a list of all the animals and their needs. Every animal is on it; from feeding loud cats to bringing in Aya for weighing and notes. Between cat chow and hawks there are sheep to deliver second cut hay to, a horse to feed and observe, and geese honking as I do both. There are *hopefully* pregnant dairy goats to fork hay over to and check their water's level and freezing. There are five growing hogs to break fasts, chickens to get corn to, and dogs that demand calories for their work as my all-around farmhands. Most mornings they get fried eggs and a peanut butter biscuit. Friday is starting heat right now so that adds a list of diaper duty for her and keeping Gibson away from her swimsuit area. Fun! Anyway, the animals come first. Once these chores are done I get to check off about 8-10 items off my list. It makes me feel like I am already accomplishing something and being productive.
Inside the farmhouse is another set of To-Dos. There is coffee to start, a fire to light, and weird chores suited to just this house in her current state of scrappy. There are plumbing issues I can't afford to fix right now so I need to bail out gray water from a drainage tub I set up in the mudroom. There is also the everyday tasks of basic cleanliness. I live alone, but make my bed every single morning. This is less about proper living and more of a habit/morale boost. Like brushing your teeth or putting on eyeliner before going out in public - it's just the right thing to do. Surface cleanliness is my religion. One time a writer friend came by and looked around at my house - asking if I straightened up just for him. He meant the odd knickknacks arranged on bookshelves, just-mopped floors, and perceived order of the place. (I was grateful he didn't the place basically needs to be hosed down with bleach.) But it is all just polishing a first impression. Open a drawer or closet and see the real mess. This is also true about my brain. Outside you see some decent eye makeup and a 3-inch heel on my riding boots but inside it is just a clutter of anxiety, excitement, and ruthless optimism bordering on crazy.
I consider the farm part of my job, but when I say "work" I mean writing/design/illustration gigs. The stuff people have paid me money to do. My bare-bones level of clients to work on every day is 3. So far today I've already hit that and it isn't even lunch (which is why I am blogging now and yes I will add blog post to my work list and then check it off, thank you). It took watching four episodes of The Good Place while coloring in an Alberta client's mare and inking her mane strand by strand - but I got it done while thoroughly enjoying Kristen Bell. Not a bad morning.
Now the part of the day I really have to work at: me. This is when I get up from the computer and go for a run, do yoga, meditate, read a book. It's basically break time from animals, changing sheets, and computers. I won't be watching the news today, but I will be checking in with Twitter - which has been a life saver this past year. If you want to see daily photos of the farm - follow me there. I don't do much farm updates on Facebook anymore. I have learned that Twitter is more of a coffee house of like minds and shared ideas and Facebook is more of a Thanksgiving dinner in which everyone is disappointed in me at different levels. @coldantlerfarm
If I get all these lists checked off by early afternoon I go hunting with Aya Cash. Just being out in the woods for an hour or two - hiking and seeing her follow me high in the trees above is meditation in itself. I can't listen to audiobooks or podcasts. There isn't a computer screen playing Pitch Perfect or Braveheart for the 3000th time. There is just the sounds of her wings whistling though cloven air as she comes back to me. There is just the self doubt and fear in my head. There is just the hope that seems louder, and therefore more real that keeps me going.
A gal has got to have a system.