Monday, October 30, 2017

My Other Workhorse

My other workhorse is this beat up, unimpressive, fiddle. I have had it for years, a Silver Creek Acoustic/Electric. I just wiped it down with a piece of lanolin-heavy wool to dust off the cobwebs from a week without playing. I sawed out some scales and a few tunes. I am not an amazing musician, but to be able to stop the cold, rainy, work outside and play a light Irish jig inside by the fire before writing/design is a treat. It lightens my heart. The songs change the color of the day. Add a splash of coffee, even better.

Wet Morning Onward!

By the time 9AM rolled around I was already done loading the truck with feed and on my way to Common Sense Farm to pick up hay. I was praying I would miss the next downpour and manage to keep the bales dry between their barn and my own. It wasn't looking too promising. The day was wet and warm, but a moving warmth. As if the weather was a wet, lumbering, ghost of a beast moving through my town and pulling a burdern of frost behind him. Tomorrow the temperatures will drop to freezing. I still need more firewood and I start to worry as I turn into Common Sense Farm's driveway. This has been a tough go of early fall. I'm worried and falling behind again. The beastly weather only amplified that.

I was still dragging from chores, which were done in a cold rain back at home. A storm had roared through in the night and tore some of the siding off the house in the wind. My concern wasn't the white vinyl in the grass but the animals. I checked on every piglet to pullet and all seemed well and accounted for. I carried feed and water, and the crowing and cackling, bleats and baas all stopped as the entire farm went to the fine work of breakfast. That earned silence is still an encouragement to me. That feeling of a cold, miserable, morning made better with a provided meal to all those I care for fills up my heart a bit. It makes the coffee by the wood stove taste better. It is also why the coffee is so strong in the first place.

I am not at Common Sense Farm long. I pull into my familiar spot behind the barn and load the truck with bales beside the feed bags. A few hoggets are outside their fence on the lawn, eating forbidden lawn grass calmly. I walk up and snap their picture and feel another injection of encouragement. The sheep I am greeting were from blackfaces born of my own stock. Two farms are sowing the rewards of my clumsy beginner shepherding. It was another good cup of coffee, that.

If I sound glum I'm just distracted with concern, but feeling positive about the week ahead. When you can get out of a warm bed on a Monday, tend to a farm, run errands, use your body, and enjoy coffee you are starting the week with a jumping point that has to lead to a decent mark in the sand. I have my to-do list written up and work to look forward to. I may make some sale, I may not, but there is still soap orders to fill and illustrations to color from recent ones. I'm focusing on not spending any money and earning the other half of a mortgage payment I need to sleep a little easier this week. I have a chapter to revise for my agent for this book we are hoping to sell (You have no idea how hard I am hoping for this) and still half a pot of coffee left.


P.S. If you would like to get a paperback copy of Birchthorn you can order one now from Amazon. For those of you who backed the Kickstarter, your hardcovers and paperbacks will be mailed once I get the paperbacks in. So you can order now if you only backed at the ebook level or want extra copies. Some folks have already received their hardcovers and more are on the way out soon!

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth more, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Three of Us

Falconry is becoming a team sport these days. I have started to introduce Aya to Merlin, getting all three of us used to the idea of working as a three-species hunting team. People have been hunting with birds on horseback since time out of mind. I am going to join their ranks.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Monday, October 23, 2017


This has been such a strange October. Beautiful, bright, but oddly warm and wonderfully tempting. Tempting in the way that makes you feel real cold is a bad memory and not something just around the corner. I have only lit a fire a handful of times. I am still jogging in shorts. Autumn feels like a tired extension of summer.

This week is also going to be mild, with a lot of much-needed rain. It's not so wonderful for the windy and chilly October I dream of in my fall fantasies, but damn good for my work ethic. I get double the tasks done for clients when I can't be pulled outside by saddles and wood piles. I'll take that over a perfect fall.

Winter Prep Update: I have almost all of my firewood in, one cord to go. I have hay on lock down in neighboring friends barns and a stash in my own. Winter provisions are stacked all over the kitchen in containers and sacks, larders and cabinets. My focus now is getting the mortgage caught up to this month and then repairing the hole inside the wood stove. Once those things are done I will tuck into that first snowfall like my spirit animal; a dog turning around three times before laying down. Mind you, that act of turning around is my spirit animal, not the dog. Hygge is my familiar of choice.

This particular morning has been pretty productive. Got the chores done early, and baked a small loaf of bread for later. Then, fueled by some pumpkin-flavored coffee (I can be basic) I drove into town to pick up some more slightly-soft squash from Common Sense Farm for the pigs. After that I stopped at the post office and mailed off three illustrations and a package to a friend. I still have soap making, graphic design, and evening chores on my list but if I get the comps done early enough I will tack up Merlin for a ride. Smoke em if you got em, right?

Wish me luck getting this week square away, bills paid, and the farm solvent. I do have some good news to share: Soon as this next payment goes out the my bank I will have paid off a 1/4 of my mortgage since buying the farm in 2010! That's something to be proud of, and I will take a moment among all the nerves, paintbrushes, and logos to raise a glass to small bridges crossed. I bought this farm, made this farm, kept this farm, and 1/4 of it will soon be mine on the books. That's not a bad accomplishment for a Monday morning. I can not wait to mail off that check!

And every fall I welcome Samhain/Halloween cards to the farm and try my best to mail some back. If you want to drop one in the mail send it to:

Jenna Woginrich
Cold Antler Farm
Cambridge, NY 12816

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Painted Stranger

Mabel is still new to me, even after spending most of the summer here. I've gotten to know her pretty well and have spent time beside in the field and the saddle; but memorizing her splotch pattern and smell isn't the same as knowing how she thinks. In that way she's still a stranger.

At least compared to Merlin she is. I know Merlin like I know my dogs, friends, and favorite books. I know his every ear twitch and tail swish. I can tell 30 seconds before he has to pee - regardless if he's out in the field or on his back. but Mabel's personality, quirks, triggers, and trials are all coming out one trail ride at a time. I have no idea when she wants to pee. A surprise every time!

She is far more confident when riding with other horses. I have had three different friends ride her, Sara, Patty, and Tyler and all felt comfortable with her. I've also ridden her while others rode Merlin. She's bold and trail smart. She is PURE JOY to be on the back of at full gallop. You need to barely use the reins, just your weight and legs are all she needs to go, turn, or slow down. I have never been on a horse so well trained, actually. The Ohio Amish did something right.

She is responsive in every way AS LONG as there is another horse with her. But when I take her out alone she is much more cautious. Every rustling of the wind or scurry of a squirrel has her jerking to look. Sometimes she jumps sideways at a deer loping 30 yards away - shocked to know she wasn't the only four-legged beast in the forest. What she over Merlin in size, youth, and speed she doesn't have in confidence. Merlin will go into the woods while coyotes dance past him (happened this spring actually!). I hope she gets there, too.

Right now I can say every time I am out with her she has been getting more comfortable and willing. It's all very encouraging, the little victories. I'm so glad she is here. And the more she gets to know me matters, too. This is a relationship and if we both keep working at it, we'll work it all out.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wych Elm Mornings

First hard frost of the season hit last night. It's thirty degrees this morning and a fire is in the wood stove. Morning chores were a bit slippery on the ice-tipped grass, but everyone at the farm has been fed and seems to mind the chill a lot less than us humans. Breakfast rounds this morning were a reminder why I fell in love with homesteading. The work of cold mornings, hot coffee, and the sweaty work of leaving a path of content animals behind you is a cure all for my heart. It's been a stressful October and cold morning light was lovely.

The piglets were stoked, and ran out leaping for their breakfast from their shelter on the hill. The horses came running from the far field for their hay. Sheep have this hilarious leaping run they take, kinda like an ovine spring with bouncing up into the air. Everyone seemed optimistic and bright. Maybe they were energized by the brisk air? I hope I get a chance to share it and head out for a run later. Gotta enjoy this sunlight while it lasts, especially when the mornings whisper-threat snow.

This weather also stirs in me is the need to get out the crock pot, light the jack o lantern, and nest in for some spooky stories. I have been listening to the LORE podcast and enjoying the odd folktales and stories it has to offer. I am not sure I recommend it for first light, however? Walking out to into a hungry farm and AM chores to slow piano music and a half-hour episode on Bella in the Wych Elm is not exactly a chipper start. But true stories, and those past down through the ages, are always more interesting than the slasher films I can't stand this time of year. October is for memories, for old stories, for those lost. It's special.

Thank you to those who sent me emails about the last post. It was needed, kind, and so encouraging.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Any Donkey...

This person sends me comments like this all the time. She's the only one going out of her way to do so these days. That's a nice change from when this blog was more popular and I might get 2 or 3 of these a week. Not having a book deal in a while does have some perks...

I stopped taking random comments here, so for her to send this to me at 8:30 on a Saturday night meant she had to scan back through the blog and then choose to write this anonymous (of course) comment. I rarely get her love letters in my inbox thanks to spam filters, but this one slid through. It's a little too personal and scary not to address.

Far as comment's go it's pretty damn inspirational. Once you get past the whole pretending-to-be-gay part she's accusing me of my dream job and calling it a scam. A job I don't actually have but do want. How wonderful to write well and honestly enough that hundreds would want to support it financially?! And when not writing I am out doing the things and living the life that brings me joy?! I'm pretty sure that is the goal of every writer in all history of the written word for entertainment, ever.

I think any of us working in self-employed or creative fields are used to this accusation. That we are playing instead of working. A real job isn't fun. It sucks. And if anyone has managed to make an income "playing" they must be living some nefarious lie or doing something scandalous on the side. Especially if they are a single woman.

Or! She is lucky, which is so much worse. It means I have it and you don't.

Cosmic injustice. Undeserved Karma. Witch.

But that isn't my reality. I am not that lucky or interesting. I am here living like this because it has been my only goal for a decade.

Few people are monthly patrons (16, I just checked). Yes, sometimes I get an email or random paypal gift or check in the mail. This is because another adult—of their own free will—wanted to send it and I am insanely grateful if they do. It doesn't happen often but when it does it encourages the hell out of me to keep going.

A few years ago I made a humble chunk of my income from writing books. These days I mostly make a living as a farmer and freelance designer and writer. I sell shares of poultry, lamb, and pork. I make a lot of goatsmilk soap. I sell services in the arts like design, illustration, music lessons, and public speaking - mostly centered around agriculture, folklore, and animals. My entire living wage centers around my lifestyle. It is fueled by the humble audience I have built by blogging about my life for over a decade, publishing 6 books, speaking at national and local events, and being active on social media as a public figure.

That is the thing critics never seem to acknowledge when accusing personalities of accepting handouts instead of punching time cards; the work behind building an audience. The effort that goes into a writer's consistent work to reach more people and be heard. To find a community. To create the kind of words and daily life that makes people want to sign up for Patreon - that is the job.

Here's my real financial life: Every day I make an income goal on my daily to do list. Usually it is around $200. Between sales from farming, classes, soap, illustrations, logos, and yes, blog subscribers I aspire to reach that goal. I usually don't.

So far today I made $10 from one reader subscription and found a five dollar bill crumbled in an old pair of pants while sorting laundry. That puts me at $185 to go to make goal. I hope to make that in sales but I probably wont. Which means not spending any money unless I have to. It means tacking that amount on tomorrow's goal. This is my mastermind system: trying and throwing dice.

I have a couple thousand people paying attention to me. My gamble is that one or two a day will email me about something I have to offer an actually purchase it. There are no guarantees. There's just asking to be hired. Most people don't even reply back once I send rates.

But making it the goal every day is something I can strive towards! I may go 5 days without a single sale and then make four logo sales and sell a fiddle workshop in a weekend! I have had to learn to tango with this uncertainty and it changed how I live to accommodate it. More on that later.

Some other things:

I'm not gay, but feel free to call me gay if you like. I am queer. A blanket term used by the LGBTQ+ community for the non-straight. I'm bisexual and always have been (that's the B in LGBT), but it took a long time to come out because of my own personal fears and self acceptance issues. I wrote about this in detail on National Coming Out Day over on Twitter. I don't talk about it here because I don't think my sexuality has anything to do with farming, wanting a farm, keeping a farm, or the life I built here. I also have never talked about my dating or sex life on this blog. It's not that kind of blog.

I have problems sleeping some nights because of anxiety. I am not on any medication for anxiety because I have found being active and having this farm is best remedy. Caring about something bigger than myself and a farm to fight for turns fear into motivation.  Guys, I'm rarely lonely but that doesn't mean I am not alone. On this site you see a woman on draft horses, tossing bales, or flying hawks. But at the end of the day that same woman goes to bed alone and in the dark is scared of being hurt, broke, or homeless.

What you see on Twitter or Instagram is the most interesting things I am doing. If you base my lifestyle off social media, well, that's bananas. Just because that is what I post doesn't mean it is all I am doing. If I filmed my entire day it would be 75% of me sitting in front of this desktop in my living room. Pictures of me unshowered at a desk do not get posted. This isn't the Truman Show. I share the more exciting and pretty things.

And if I get to 11AM after tending and feeding an entire farmload of animals, three client's emailed with updated work, daily writing done, and want to take a break with an hour of horseback riding, hunting, fishing, swimming, archery or running then GUESS WHAT! That is what you see posted. And it's done mid day because that is when I have and need the break. Evening schedule is molded around evening chores. My time to live the life I work for is the middle of the day/afternoon when I used to be sitting in a corporate office.

Reasons I am able to live like this:
  • I am single and childless. (This is the main reason.) Any income I do earn is responsible for just one human being.
  • Every piece of furniture I own is second hand. Nothing is new, modern, or fancy.
  • I do not use a microwave, AC, dishwasher, washing machine/dryer.
  • I paid off all my credit cards, save one with an embarrassingly low limit.
  • My electricity costs are low and mostly used for hot water, the fridge, stove, light bulbs, the computer/internet, and electric fences outside.
  • My heat is firewood. I tend a stove, not a thermostat.
  • My truck is paid for, all $1900 of it. My insurance is only $48 a month.
  •  I do not travel. I have not left this farm for one night in over six years.
  • I have no cell phone/smart phone.
  • I have no television or cable. (I use streaming services on a 7 year old computer).
  • My other bills (outside the farm costs/kiva) are down to mortgage, utilities, insurance and student loans.
  • All those things I do for fun happen right outside my door: the horses, the falconry, the shooting archery - all done in my backyard or on this mountain done without starting up the truck or spending money. I already have the horse and tack, bow and arrows, hawk and glove - etc. If I want to swim or fish it is a 4 mile drive to Shushan. I can do these in the time I used to take off for lunch at a corporate job.
This is how I manage to live like this. It's ten years of choices at a time in my life when they were possible to make without influence of a spouse, family, or children. My real luck was falling in love with farming when I was young enough, single enough, and stubborn enough to pursue it with blinders on. And to do so when there was a backyard farming craze sweeping publishing.

I didn't care if I went half a year without a flushing toilet, hot water, or constant nightmares. And since it's just me no one was getting exhausted and tired and wanted me to quit. Being single made me a seed.

I knew if I kept going eventually I would either collect the readership, or that magic book deal, or something like a TV or movie option, or something that would pay off. And if it isn't some magical windfall it will be the skills, choices, and life I molded myself and circumstances into. That I would just get better at being a professional Jenna Woginrich. I still believe I can do this.

I have shared a very intimate story online for over ten years. It's been one-sided though, for 99% of you. You know more about me and my life than you may know about your own neighbors, cousins or siblings. This gives people a mostly positive feeling of agency in my story. I get messages about first farms purchased because they saw I could do it. I get pictures of first horses, chickens, and even new marriages that happened because of a love of homesteading. That's the reason I do this. I chose to tell my story publicly because giving you the chance to read it meant I wasn't so alone.

The truth about my everyday life is that I am alone, anxious, and stubborn. And the amazing thing is I like that about myself. I like being single. I like being nervous. And I like being too stubborn to know when to quit. I don't have the talent to be an amazing writer. I don't have the kind of heart that gets to fall in love. But I do have the tenacity of a steel bear trap and that is where I put all my chips in.

I can't help people sending me messages like this. But over the years I have learned it has a lot more to do with the person sending them than it does with me. My skin grew thicker. My friendships and family I found over the years grew and aided in that growing strength.

Because of the internet I am able to live this Fantasy life, yes. But the Fantasy is a small part of the overall, messy, picture. I wish I had hundreds of people cheering me on and mailing payments for this blog. I wish my books were flying off the shelves and people in California talked about scripts and rights. But wishing doesn't pay the bills. What does is the hard work and ethics I have created over a decade of being shit on for following a dream publicly. And those moments are not a blink of deterrent in a life I built, created, and fight for every day.

Any donkey can kick down a barn.
It takes a special one to build one, you jackass.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth more, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Logos & Pet Portraits on Sale

Logos and pet portraits are on sale, $50 off each! Sales of these services and art go towards the mortgage of this farm.  If you have already purchased a logo, illustration, books, soap, or workshop feel free to contact me again for an even deeper discount to show my appreciation for your returning business.

I also have gift cerficiates you can buy and have emailed to you as PDFs. These are ready to print and tuck into a card for anyone you would like to buy the gift of a pet illustration, logo, or fiddle/archery class!

If you are interested, please email me at


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

This morning I woke up fretful. I had nightmares again. The same kind I have had all month. I am me, but I'm back in college; this limbo of being a child and an adult. It's time for a new fall semester and in all the fervor of academia, extended daylight, and schedules I had somehow forgotten to enroll in housing. This idea of an exciting life ahead—full of learning and art and friends— yet thwarted by bad planning is my version of being in the classroom naked. Somehow I have managed everything but the roof over my head. And here I am, days away from class, and I have no where to live on campus. It feels like knowing you had picked winning lottery numbers, your birthday, and lost the ticket. Haunting and selfish and cold.

I wake up and realize college was 15 years ago and I've been a homeowner for 7 of them. That the roof over my head is (at least today) legally mine. That the rules of campus, HOA, landlords and even zoning (Jackson NY has no zoning) is gone. I can have horses or build a used car lot now. I'm a taxpaying member of my community in good standing but it still takes a while to come down from that panic. I wake up covered in sweat and terrified.

I am terrified but not alone. Friday and Gibson close in on me in comfort. Border collies understand that front legs can be used like our primate arms and hold onto me. Their paw pads grasp like individual fingers on ribs and shoulders. This is what I do to them when it thunders. This is how we show care, we hold on. And with them holding me I start coming back to reality. I know they are here and part of this farm. That while I am broke and worried I am still insanely wealthy for any woman in the history of civilization. I am okay. I close my eyes and smell sweat and fur and say my everyday prayer:

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

I own 6.5 acres as an unmarried, openly queer, woman. That would be impossible a hundred years ago. It would be insanely tough fifty years ago. It makes me an outsider now. But I am here.

I went outside with a mug of coffee and fed my stock. I keep horses for cart and saddle. I have a flock of sheep, dairy goats, a small sounder of pigs, poultry, gardens and hive. I have land. I have a pond, a stream, and a well of water 398 feet into the good earth. My bank account might only have $27 in it, but that is because every goddamned penny I earn goes towards the live I fight to have. And I do so as a woman alone. I do it without government assistance, family help, or husband. I do it with words, and design, and meat, and art.

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

We're told we're supposed to be humble. It's a fine Christian trait in our shame-based culture. But I am not a Christian. I think women should boast. I think we should raise our glasses high to hard work and accomplishment and accept praise and criticism with the same raised eyebrow. People have watched this life for a decade. They have seen me go from girl to woman, new to practiced, farm-curious to experienced farmer. I used t shudder at comments here. Now I just ended them. You want to tell me how you feel about me, go ahead* But you better be willing to put your name, your worth, and your reputation on the line to do so.

Breakfast was a dozen eggs in a cast iron skillet Jon Katz gave me when he was moving Bedlam Farm. I miss talking to Jon. I use that skillet every day. Once fried up the whole lot was split three ways between myself, Gibson, and Friday. The eggs came from hens I raised as chicks. They were outside pecking at grain and bugs, ranging free on our land. It tasted as good as you think - eating your own farm-raised eggs on a week day morning. Hens drinking the same well water as me. Hens feeling the same sunlight on our shoulders as me.

Lunch was defrosted sweet Italian sausage fried in a pan with pasta sauce and caramelized onion. I raised those pigs. They came from the daily care of beasts. It tastes like sunlight and sweat and fur exhaling from a bad dream.

Dinner was a butternut squash, cut in half, seeds scooped, and roasted in olive oil and chicken seasoning for an hour. It tasted amazing. Those small plants were set into the earth here in May. I have 50lbs of them resting all over this farmhouse, and that is a modest harvest. It was perfect.

 My body was sated. I spent the day doing work of hands, heart, and strings. Sometime after supper I picked up my fiddle and played a droning version of Blackest Crow. How many people even know that song anymore? And may I dare not discount the work of learning to play it. May I raise the glass of whiskey I am sipping high to old songs, old work, old fears.

I never know if I am safe. I never know what will come of agents, book deals, classes, or contracts. I just know that I am madly in love with the life I built out of twigs and tears on this mountain. That as scared as I am of not having a dorm room at 35, I feel insanely wealthy. That I am so lonely, but too busy to tend to it so it trots past me as bliss.

To be a woman, alone, and eat like this.
To be a woman, alone, and live like this.
To be a woman, alone, and hope like this.

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

twitter: @coldantlerfarm

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth more, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Frost Warning

I just finished unloading the hay from the truck into my barn. Along with the hay came a bucket of garlic and a 50lb sack of spuds, as planned. I will buy another 50lbs soon as I can, and then 75% of my winter food is stored up for a frugal season. I want to be positive but I'm getting nervous again. I was so on top of things this summer, but now I am falling behind again. Not scary behind. Nothing like how the spring was, but that steadiness is waning and it has been giving me nightmares every night. And while it does concern me that this is all I am writing about this October, it's because it is all I am thinking about. I'm glad, too. Because being nervous keeps my cylinders firing and that is what fuels the machine forward. It's not a healthy relationship with anxiety but I'd rather use it for a reason to work, promote, and sell harder than curl up into a ball and give up.

A frost warning is set for tonight. I have almost all of my firewood in and one of the nice things about this mild fall weather is I am not usually burning wood. This time last year there was a fire every night and most mornings. I can count on my hand the fires I've stoked so far.  This is good. In fact, even among all these nerves I need to understand that things are in pretty good shape for October here. Food, firewood, hay and such are stocked. Bills are behind but no one is driving past the house to take photos for the bank and probably won't for another 2 weeks. With the holidays coming people will need gifts and that means better luck offering workshops, soap, logos, and illustrations. I made it this far - that is what I tell myself every evening. I'm still here.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth more, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Sunshine and Little Hoofrot

A load of hay is being delivered to the farm shortly along with 50lbs of potatoes and a lot of garlic! The hay is for the livestock, but the rest is for this farm's winter supplies. Well, mostly. Some of the garlic is being fed to the pigs as a natural wormer. My butcher told me about this trick and says it works a charm. I have nothing against more conventional worming methods and use them as well, but I like the idea of as little chemicals as possible in my stock. And at the rate these piglets are growing (save for the runt of the litter, whom I call hoofrot)everyone else is pigtasticly chubby. This morning while the goats and chickens explored the Autumn farm they dined on apples and squash for breakfast. Second breakfast will be later with a chow that has all their nutritional needs but there's nothing wrong with adding some fruit and veg to your morning diet!

It's been a gorgeously warm fall, as I have been sharing. But this morning there was a slight bite in the air. It felt good to work outdoors in red flannel again. And watching Ida and Bonita tear around the farm like kids was better than the sugar in my coffee! 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Autumn Flights

Odd weather here, very much so. But these warm days make for lunch breaks like yesterday, where I took this photo of the trails I ride and hunt with Aya on. We flew for an hour in the sunlight, chasing rabbits and darting through the trees. Aya is doing well this season and staying close. Whenever I think I lost her I whistle and say her name and she is above me, rushing past so close I can feel the air from her wings. I so look forward to chillier mornings on the mountain when game is easier to see and coming down the mountain means fireside coffee and a good book.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Soap & Signed Books!

Want to support this farm and take care of some holiday shopping at the same time? Well, do I have some good news for you! I am still offering Batch/Book Combos! This includes 8 custom-made large bars of soap (3-4oz) and a signed hardcover of One Woman Farm! You pick the scent/mold/combination of exfoliants and I make it to order. Takes 2-3 weeks to cure and mail. Email me at if you are interested.

Friday, October 6, 2017

87 Reasons to Be Okay

Rain is finally falling here. It feels like it has been weeks of dust and dry creek beds, an unsettling atmosphere in a place usually so lush. Don't get me wrong, the lawns are still green and the moss hasn't sloughed off the river stones, but it feels like a dust storm running the lawn mower or driving on a dirt road. Things be dry, friends.

The dryness is why many leaves on the trees are still green. That, and the added string of unseasonably warm weather (pheasant hunting in a long-sleeved tee shirt?!) makes it feel like a confused, dry, August. But today there is rain and I’m checking in after a morning of working on design and illustration clients. I have a story to encourage some of you out there.

This morning after farm chores (the regular AM rounds plus cleaning up the mews for Aya Cash) I worked on a logo for a Norwegian homestead, illustrations for a family story picture book, and packed up some soap orders. Sales have been thin but I assume everyone is doing what I am: looking towards winter. People are considering gift-giving season, heating costs, and other winter preps that affect your household budgets. I wish you all the luck to meet them and meet snowfall with a heavy purse, large woodpile, and full larder! That said, here's the story:

I had some bittersweet luck yesterday. I had a dentist appointment to repair a filling, nothing major. All the old metal fillings from my teenage years are decaying and being replaced one at a time, as I can afford it. Teeth are a big deal to me. I see too many rural people let them go out here and it is something I refuse to give up on. Someday I want to get them realigned, straight, and white but right now I am thrilled to just have a full working set without dental insurance.

After topping off Taylor with some coolant I drove to my beloved Vermont dentist. Soon as I was set into the chair and seen I was told we'd need to take an X-ray. Odd, but nothing too concerning. I tallied up the X-ray cost on top of filling replacement and moved some sales around in my head. If I sold 3 logos or 4 illustrations I would still be on track by end of the weekend. Bad news, said the Doc. I had an abscess. We'd need to deal with it right now, right here.

To their credit they drilled, treated, plugged and repaired the tooth over the next hour. I am so grateful for their good care. But when we were done I was informed all that Novocaine and nitrous was keeping me comfortable during an emergency root canal.

The doc talked to the receptionist at billing and explained this was unplanned. Thank goodness this small town doctor let me make a down payment and work out a plan during the next month to cover it. I reorganized the tally in my head and let out a sigh. The bill is always the worst part of a root canal. This is my third in a few years.

All this is something I feel is important to share. When I was working a 9 to 5 it was health insurance that kept me in a job I disliked above all else. Here in America it's what keeps a lot of people from pursing other careers or making choices for happiness. Anytime I even flirted with my friends or family about (what I knew was coming) leaving that job it was health insurance that they warned me about. They shared horror stories of people who lost home and marriage over medical bills. You can't leave a job with god insurance. You just can't.

You know, if I had children or a spouse I had vowed to love and protect I wouldn't have quit. I couldn't. Or if I had any sort of known medical issue it also would have a very different story. I would still find a way to farm but the quitting, the 6 years of working as a writer/farmer/designer, the time spent here hiking, hunting, running and riding - that would all be a distant dream. I was lucky to be single, healthy, and flexible with time and sacrifice of comfort to make the leap. 

What gave me courage to finally quit and pursue this farm was hearing from other local writers who made it work. Some were part of the local Chamber of Commerce and on those healthcare plans. Others had government assistance through medicaid/CHIP/Social Security. (I have never been on any sort of government assistance save for one unemployment check I cashed in Idaho.) Most full time writers I knew were on a working spouses’ healthcare plan. Others had private insurance (these were all very successful writers). This was before the ACA made insurance pools more affordable in NY. I tried to afford private care and couldn't make the payments. Not strange from many creatives out in the world of freelance, nor from many farmers. You want an independent life? No one is going to make it easy on you.

So I just went without. I used services through Planned Parenthood or Urgent Care here in my town when I needed medical help/check ups. But I figured it out, mostly thanks to small town doctors like my dentist. People who are willing to work with clients. I can say that over and over again, people in the medical field here in rural Veryork saw what I was doing and worked with me. This wasn't the case in small cities like Saratoga or Glens Falls, but in the sticks doctors work with uninsured farmers and workers to make things happen.

And that was the case for me. I now have a whole new set of bills but what is the point in focusing on the setbacks? Here’s the great news and what I am raising my mug of coffee to this morning: my skull is no longer packed with what could lead to a brain failing infection. That’s worth falling behind. That’s easier to sleep with than the haunting pain behind your eyes and jaw creeping towards your brain stem. So I am damn grateful I got care I needed and made it work without dental insurance. It's this farm's story and the story of countless others in rural communities caring for each other.

I’m encouraged by yesterday. I’m encouraged by the soap I am mailing to a librarian in Missouri and the artwork I am preparing to ship to Wales. These small sales add up. They make it possible to stay here. I’ve got almost 8 years into this farm and that’s 8 years of proof that I can make it work. And if my single, scrappy, uninsured self can do it I hope some of you realize you can too. If you have youth and health on your side - good for you. If you have the stubbornness to pursue a dream regardless of any hindrance - you are my hero. 

Winter will come and snow will once again cover this farm. When that first snowfall happens I will not be looking out an office window worrying about my commute home, already in the dark of the time change. I will be here. I will be designing, drawing, tending animals, eating from my frugal larder, and figuring out another month as I have for the last 87 on this piece of land. I’m still behind on the September mortgage but I’ll catch up. I have 87 times before. That’s a hell of a track record for an art major in the woods.

Now, back to work.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017


Yesterday morning I walked along the goldenrod laced paths near Carter Pond, shotgun in hand and the sun on my face. I was on a hillside, overlooking a rolling herd of fields stocked with game and alive with stories of past hunts.

My friend was ahead of me and her dog, Harley (a Large Munsterlander) romped past us. He swerved and dove like a porpoise all around, his bell ringing to let us know where he was and when he was stopped to point. Since forced ambush is the name of the game we weren't too worried about being quiet and shared conversation as we rambled. All of this, lovely.

As a farmer who hunts, I have that padded mental insurance of a stocked larder at home. I know the day's calories aren't depending on the luck of the day. This makes most hunts the same as most trips to the river to fly fish; a beautiful excuse to be out in nature as a participant and not just an observer. It wakes up something in my bones that rattles me in the best way possible. To stalk, to seek prey, to feed myself a bit with luck and effort instead of a garden, livestock, or debit card. To know something older and before - that is grand participation.

Harley was on the scent of pheasants and it was a glorious morning for upland hunting. Small game has been on my mind - between falconry season and rabbit hunts with Aya and now heading into the field after the birds — recipes were swirling around my head like the fallen leaves we kicked up along the trail. I knew within the hour I'd be home from this early-morning hunt and working at the computer instead of absorbing vitamin D. I did my best to savor it. If I had all my to-do list checked off I would make time to fly Aya after dinner.

Which is what I did. I worked inside all day and headed back out to hunt again, this time with talons instead of bullets. I prefer it. The warm October sun on her feathers and my neck, the hope of a sunset rabbit leaping from the brush I hit with my walking stick. It was a beautiful day. A day of animals and their work beside me. A day of farm and wilderness. A day of outside and indoors. A day to explain why I try so damn hard to stay in this life.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October Farm

The everyday work of getting ready for winter is most of my mind these days, as you have read. The larder is in okay shape, coming along. I call the folks down at the Stannard Farm stand to see when their potatoes are ready. They take 50lbs worth from the field, the dirt still on them, and sell them for under $20. I grew some potatoes but not that many and I want a hundred pounds or so napping in the kitchen all winter. It’s a mighty food that makes a heart soap, a simple meal, a good snack, or a pie filler. Homesteaders have been counting on potatoes for centuries and I am no different. I look forward to having them here like I look forward to hearing good news from my agent. Both are possible promises, both bring good news.

I have almost three cords of wood stacked. I just heard from friends from Common Sense farm another was cut for me of well-seasoned wood. Once I earn the money for that and the last of the September bills I will buy it, stack it, and be grateful for it. But I find it really important to find moments to set down the keyboard and farm work and enjoy October.

I am lucky, healthy, and present on an October Farm. What a beautiful thing to behold. And on Sunday afternoon I was able to join Patty and Steele for an afternoon ride in their horse cart. My friend Toby was visiting from Idaho and he came along, literally. In the back of the horse cart he took in the view of a slowly passing world from the past. We talked and joked. We came home to a warm farmhouse and cold drinks. We talked and took in the view of turning leaves and nip in the air. We made plans for hunting, harvest, and festivities ahead. This is the joy of an October Farm. It's every farm this time of year. I hope you enjoy it too.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hunting Season!

Spent a very foggy morning walking through the haze with my hawk, Aya Cash. Today marked the first day of rabbit season, her preferred quarry. She's at flying weight, a red tail all in and her molt done, and I admit I was excited to possibly come home with the first bagged game of her season. Of course, it was still summer foliage on most of the mountain. So many leaves, brush, briars, yellow jacket ground nests, and mud that actually seeing a rabbit would be tough enough - much less being able to reach it in the thick undergrowth. But that is never the point of early hunts with your hawk. The most game comes when the ground is open or snow-covered. But these warm mornings of mist and whistling for your bird to follow build up that relationship we haven't had all summer. We're partners out there in the field. And it's more magical to me every single year.

Today a friend is visiting from Idaho. Someone I know online but never met in person and that's exciting stuff. We're heading over to Livingston Brook Farm to help with some harnessing and draft horse work. Talk about getting right to the lifestyle? I'm looking forward to the day and excited for all ahead!