Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Great Gifts!

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Back to Work!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for me: back to work.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Through The Storm

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Powder Sugar Morning

Woke up to a farm covered with a fresh powdered-sugar shake of snow. Not much, but enough to coat the trees and make the mud from yesterday a little more pleasant. I walked outside and all the truck tire ruts had fluffy shoulders and the bit of pine swag hanging from my front door was frosted. I smiled at the happy start. It's the little things.

Chores went fast this morning. Mabel seemed happy in her blue blanket, which I put on around 9PM last night when the snow squall started and the wind felt harsh. I was out there in a headlamp with the dogs, fidgeting with the snaps that go under the equine belly. Today she seemed easy going as ever, and she and Merlin enjoyed their hay at their eating spot below the lamb pen (who were doing the same).

The pigs were all snug in their nest in the barn and seemed annoyed to be waken up for breakfast, steam coming off their bodies when they emerged from the straw. The dogs ran around me, enjoying the morning chicken bothering and goose baiting while the two cats enjoyed their extra layer of winter fat asleep by the wood stove. We are here in the folds of winter and it's not even the solstice. Feels early. Already went through a cord of firewood and need to get more.

So I talked to Common Sense Farm this morning about buying two more cords over the next few weeks. Another thing to figure out. It never ends does it? And that isn't a complaint as much as a comforting reality we all share. Just when you think things are starting to level out you end up with truck repairs, double the firewood needs, and a root canal.

My root canal is scheduled for this week with an Endodontist in Saratoga. I have about 3/4th the funds together, another $400 to go. Part of me is so grateful it is getting done because my head has been dealing with this ache for the last few days that scares me, not a headache but this bone ache of inner infection. All I can do is take the medication, work on current clients, and hope more sales come in to pick up the slack. So that's the other part, this knowledge that all that money could cover another mortgage payment and bills. I'm angry at my teeth, my genes, the bad luck of having to deal with this some mornings. Right now I am as angry as I am glad Thursday is inching closer. I want these fears and the pain behind me but the fire to catch up is both causing anxiety as it is motivation.

If you want to help out, please consider purchasing a gift certificate for artwork or soap to give as a holiday gift? I can't promise artwork or soap by this Holiday's deadline but the gift vouchers can be printed and redeemed anytime in 2019. It's certainly needed and so appreciated. Send an email.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Piece of Junk

Someone recently called my truck a piece of junk.  They said it the way you'd say any mundane fact—not a drop of cruelty in their tone. They said it as if describing "a slice of bread" or "that brown cat". It was a gut punch. 

I agree my 29-year-old truck isn't impressive. It has faded paint, rust spots, and dim headlights. It has no working AC, a wonky cassette player, and hand-stitched holes in the upholstery. It often needs work, rarely starts in the rain, and (until recently) the oil leaked as if it was being held by a colander.

But you know what? I love that truck.

I sought out that truck. It wasn't something I settled for. It was an intentional purchase. As intentional as choosing homesteading over corporate design. Yeah, she's a little rough but so am I.

I wanted that age and model of truck for good while, too. I longed for it. The XL bed, the steel exterior, the lack of anything digital inside. She works on switches, levers, dials and slung luck.

I love the style of late-eighties trucks and how much space they take up, proud and true. They are unapologetic in their utility and comforting in their simplicity. And like raising your own food in your backyard; they are inconveniently old-fashioned. When I drive her to the movies it looks like a lego parked among rows of suppositories. Which is how I feel about modern car design in general. I didn't want to drive around in spaceship. I wanted a machine.

When I emailed the musician who was selling her he told me no one had ever seemed so excited about an old truck before.  When I contacted him I had no idea how to pay the $1900 asking price. That is still a lot of money to me. But I told him I would figure it out, just give me the weekend, and I did!  I got a micro-loan through Kiva and was able to get the money within 48 hours! That man drove the truck to my farm and delivered it himself. And that was three years ago and I just got home from picking up a load of hay in her. The heater worked. The speakers were playing a podcast. I was so happy and grateful for her.

Piece of junk... Well I own that piece of junk. Her title was paid for that day I met her and I paid off the Kiva loan early. I keep her oil changed, interior spotless, windows washed, and I know my mechanic's number by heart. I have never been so educated on a vehicle I owned before. I understand her quirks and pieces. I own the tools to keep her going and maintain her like any other beast on this farm. She is part of my family here.

She only costs $48 a month to insure and even if she needs $500 worth of work every quarter it is still less than the nearly $500 I was paying A MONTH to have a newer model truck. The 2004 Dodge was bought on a $14,000 loan and needed all sorts of inspections and insurance. I couldn't afford to live like that anymore so when the Dodge started failing and was too hard to make payments on I knew my next vehicle had to be drastically different. Paid in full, simpler to repair, easier to pass inspection, ready for snow and farm. That truck was a prayer.

Scaling back on things was the only way I could afford to stay on the farm. I did it with many aspects of my life. I dropped my insurance and went to Planned Parenthood instead of my old doctors. I stopped using a cell phone and only kept a land line. Money went to bills, loans, and the cost of running this farm instead and that was fine since it was my work, my playground, my grocery store... my entire world. I got my cost of living down to what matched what I could scrap together. And so far, even though I am usually right up against it, it has worked. This May will be nine years on this farm. Almost a third of the way towards ownership as a single woman. No in-laws, no parents, no spouse made any of this happen. This blog, my books, this community made that happen. Which is magic and as amazing as my truck.

My truck got picked on and I felt the need to stand up for her and for me. Be mindful of the words you are saying. Something worthless to you might be the keystone to someone else's lifestyle. Or it could be something they wish they didn't have and being called garbage doesn't help their esteem or heart. Kindness can be the choice to say nothing at all.

When I look at her I do not see a symbol of poverty or failure: I see a decision to stay. I see something I can afford that works as hard as I do. She is my girl and one of the puzzle pieces that allow me to live this feral life that I am so honored to keep scrapping together.