Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Mountain Barista

Recently I was over at Livingston Brook Farm, picking up hay, when Patty brought out a vintage box from the back of her truck. It was around the size of a small toaster and on faded cardboard I could read the name Via Veneto Espresso Maker. I wasn't even sure what it was? I had never seen this sort of device before? She found it while cleaning out her mom's closets on a recent visit, no one in her immediate family wanted it. Since she's a confirmed tea drinker it was my turn to take it or pass. I took it. Oh boy do I not regret that choice.

This little device is amazing. It works on the stove top using pressure, steam, espresso and magical engineering to make smooth cafe-style coffee at home. It took me a few forums and videos to learn the best way to use this beast: but I have it down now and finally learned how to steam milk without scalding it. In the morning I can set it up to perk out a few shots of espresso and then I can pour the foamy milk on top for a true coffee-house style latte! I wake up looking forward to this new ritual. Sometimes I add some vanilla and sugar. Sometimes I just dump 2 shots of the high octane into a regular cup of coffee. It's a caffeinated dream come true.

I never knew this type of coffee maker existed. I knew of the high end mini-fridge sized machines people buy or indie bookstores use at small cafes. I knew of the tiny inverted triangle styles of high-pressure espresso makers and other small percolators. But I didn't know of these pressurized coffee/steam combinations that don't need an outlet to do everything the coffee hulks at Starbucks can do. If you're a coffee person like I am, might be worth looking into this bad boy. There are used ones just like this on ebay for around $90 and a newer version called The Bellman is over $300!

I'm going to try and hold onto this. So often when something like this comes my way I end up neglecting it or selling it. This was a gift from a friend and it's special. It makes snowy mornings in an uncertain life brighter. It makes vanilla lattes part of my morning using drug-store coffee and milk from Stewarts. It fits this joint just fine.




Icy Light

It's been an interesting couple of days! Yesterday was supposed to be a proper storm but instead a few light inches covered the ice crust instead. Around the farm that just meant you can't see the slippery parts, and Friday taught me a lesson by running full speed towards the barn and sliding in circles like Bambi. She was fine but you've never seen a collie look more confused! And this morning the farm is covered in fresh powder and light from a sunny sky. Man, did I ever need that bright morning!

But through it all the animals seem content and the pigs have mastered winter in the goat-turned-hog pen. They have made one section their hay nest, another their bathroom, and the outside area the meal bowls and water stations. They are so orderly and hierarchical in everything they do. Soon the largest sow will be butchered and then the others will follow. Spring will bring new piglets and lambs (I am looking already) and chicks will beat them all to the punch. I am still outside every day with the horses, sounder, poultry, and enjoying time with the dogs in the snow but it's not the same as past years with Lambwatch nights and getting milk pails ready for the goats. I miss it all horribly, and while I am glad all the flock and herds are doing well I feel this break from breeding is only making my true love (and need) to homestead nest into me even harder.

I am hoping to use the more time I have to work on a new book I am trying to sell, a very important book to me and this farm's story. I also want to get outside more. Yesterday I went snowshoeing for an hour and then stopped to cook lunch under the cover of evergreens while the snow fell. It wasn't much time away from the stoves and computer - but enough to remind me how wonderful exploring nature again. I am already working on the plans and permits for me and the dogs first group backpacking trip this spring! It will be low mileage, local, and at a wilderness area that doesn't allow campfires but I'll have us and friends and camp stove cooking and the stars and that stolen idea of freedom being away from the animals for 14 hours or so. If I leave late in the afternoon after chores, have a friend check on everyone at night and first thing in the morning - it should be okay. But that isn't something I have to think about right now. Right now I have my current goals to keep this place mine another month, get the animals growing and comfortable, and keep my eyes to the sky just in case Dash does come back. I miss him so.

Stay warm out there, friends.

P.S. Considering bringing back the YouTube channel!? Thoughts?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Luck and Stubbornness

It's been a rough month and I am doing my best to get through it. The farm is warm and the animals are well but the same anxieties are filling every corner of my day. It's why I don't write here as often. It will be the same content: fear of losing the farm. It's been especially frustrating this week with three people messaging me about meat shares (one even committing to buy) and then all of them backing out. Which is understandable. Everyone is trying to budget and figure out their lives. I am going to try and find some things I can sell online or auction off. I have 11 days to have that mortgage payment postmarked before the house is back in the foreclosure zone. This is all I am thinking about. If you are looking for lighter farm content you should check out my Twitter or Instagram pages - but here on the blog where I feel I am talking to people that know me - I feel like I don't have to just share a pretty picture of a pony or a joke. I can be honest. And the honest truth is if something doesn't turn around here fast, some sort of real luck like a book contract or a big freelance, I'm in real trouble. Living a life where you are always just ahead enough of the pacing danger chasing you means working your ass off just to stay out of failure's cross hairs. Yesterday, while working on a book proposal sample piece I wrote this: Anxiety is a monster, no doubt, but some of us bridle it and jump on its back to get where we need to go. We need it to carry us towards the next foothold of relief.

Yes. That is my basic state. It has been for years.

The farm is warm today. Not outside, but in. The sun is shining on the icy hills and so far I only fell over once today. I am home and working. I am ready for the snowfall that is predicted and I have all the firewood and dogs I need to feel safe and warm. I've stopped drinking and plan on being dry for a while. It is helping with my sleep and making coffee all the more precious.

I am hoping for luck and stubbornness. I am hoping soon I am writing you about spring lambs and piglets and not about being anxious and somewhat lonesome for a partner in all of this. Both seem like such long shots: financial stability and romance. I'm okay if both are. But every so often you need to reach those footholds for your own sanity. So you are encouraged to keep trying when Spring seems so very very far away.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lamb and Pork Shares Still Available!

Shares are open for 2019 half and whole pigs and lambs! Looking for small-farm raised food at very competitive rates? Send me an email! MY prices include the price of the animal (which you either own or co-own) as well as the butchering and smoking/cutting fees. Most farmers have you pay for the meat and then pay your butcher bill later, I offer a lower rate to pay all upfront. NY pickup only - I do not ship meat. So if you're in the Capital Region north of Albany or like driving - consider supporting this farmer by buying food from her!

So Very Tired

Another storm is heading our way. I am spending today preparing for it on 2 hours of sleep. So very, very tired. Last night I couldn't fall asleep because of anxiety about the farm but finally managed to not off around midnight. I kept waking up, tossing and turning. At 4AM the chitters of a very horny raccoon excited the dogs into a barking frenzy and even though they grew tired of the masked mating season I couldn't shake the tiny fur demon sounds and instead got up and started the day. Since dawn I've gone through all the cold morning chores, stacked firewood, took the truck to the mechanic (a new starter was installed), loaded up the truck with hay and ran to the grocery store. I still need to get heating oil for the hot water, feed from hardware store, and focus on heating this house before night sets in. It's currently 48° inside because of running around all morning and not tending fires, logos, and illustrations. Hoo. I am so very tired.

Good news is this: My bank account isn't negative. My body is healthy, even if exhausted. The pipes are currently thawed. The animals are all hail and hearty. I got coffee on the stove right now to keep me going and tomorrow I go to the dental surgeon for part 2 of my root canal I started in December. I got a ride because I am not sure the truck could make it, certainly not in the early stages of the storm. Once I am through with tomorrow I'll be down to double digits on the ledger and need to work like hell to figure out a house payment. But that's something to wake up for, fight for, and do so with all the same teeth I started the year with. I'll set out bird feed for the storm birds and hopefully get some rest later tonight.

I've been following Moxie Ridge Farm on Instagram to see the lambs being born out of Hannah and Jessa, already new babies from the old flock. Leah is doing so well with them and the babes look so bonnie and sweet. Part of me misses them, and I mean really misses them. Another part of me knows this year of getting myself in order and a break from lambing and milking goats was needed. I can't imagine having to check for lambs on this 8 degree night after a day like today.

Who am I kidding? Of course I can. I hope Leah has nothing but luck with the flock and I am glad I left them in their capable hands. Time for me to continue with the storm prep.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

What I Do Best

Dispatch from the farm today is a mixed bag! Yesterday I got firewood delivered; which is great news! I have enough wood now to get through the rest of winter easy. It means no matter what this farm will be warm and that is something. And it was delivered just in time, too. Last night the wind roared through the Battenkill Valley. There was a chill of -2 on that 15° night and I was tucked in my bed with the dogs listening to it as I fell asleep. I knew it meant a change in weather, and it certainly was. The last few days of sunlight and warmth had me outside in 40 degrees with a light sweatshirt, mud, and slush. But now I am back to slipping on the ice and finding all sorts of new bruises in the shower. Lovely!

In other news: the truck needs that new starter and if I can swing it will be in the shop Monday morning. I was reminded of this about an hour ago when I needed jump in the IGA parking lot (Thank you, Iggy). But I had to spend a lot on the firewood so I am working on social media (Twitter and Instagram) to move meat shares, illustrations, soap, and classes in archery and fiddle. Sales are slow but yesterday I managed to earn 85% of what I spent on the wood. If I earn the remainder over the weekend I will be thrilled. And if I can manage the money to replace the starter. If I get lucky I'll sell a pig or a family of lessons in archery.

But honestly - things are looking up. The mail rarely carries scary letters anymore. I have health insurance for the first time in years. And I am even trying to get myself in shape for dating again. One step at a time. If the winds blow right. If I am lucky to get some repeat sales and maybe a freelance writing gig... It'll be another month here. All I can do is keep trying. It's what I do best.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Sunshine!

Yesterday I got outside for a two mile run. It felt good, even such a short distance. I dogged it, taking my time in the sunshine. The wind was a little prickly but nothing a hoodie and fast pace couldn't tell to scram. The mare, free of her blanket, was standing in the sun on the hill. Merlin was sleeping in the snow, sprawled out like he always is mid day. I started thinking about seed orders and chicks in the living room again. It was what I needed!

I am hoping the sunlight and warmth we got this week means some good news coming my way. This girl could use it.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Light at the End of the Mope

There's a break in the weather and it's lifting my spirits a bit. Last night was so warm (35°!) I slept with the windows open in my bedroom. I needed this hit of faux spring because, if I am honest ,I have been really feeling down. It's the darkness and the cold. And with the hawk flown off there isn't this push to get outside three times a week and walk in the woods.

So I have been trying to make time to move my body and get outside but besides a few snowshoeing trips up the mountain (looking for Dash) I have felt trapped indoors. I'm not bored but I am restless. In the summer I can get up from the computer and go for a long run or shoot my bow. I can saddle up a horse and be galloping on the mountain in fifteen minutes and back in less time than I would have taken for a lunch break at my old office jobs. But in winter outdoor activity seems like more work than fun. So I've been playing video games or watching movies to get away from myself in off time and evenings and that creates this cycle of all activity - be it work or play - involves sitting in a chair voluntarily which is three steps from a casket in my eyes.

But in better news I am taking the truck to the mechanic today to work on some electrical issues. A local is delivering firewood by the end of this week so I'll be trying like mad to earn up the cash to pay for it without dipping into the mortgage money saved. It's also time to contact my accountant about taxes, start some serious spring cleaning indoors, and stop eating just because "it's something to do"...  Basically I am living this winter like a bear in hibernation and it's making me nuts. I want to move a lot more, eat less, feel free-range vitamin D, and sleep better without these intense nightmares I've been having. Going to bed is like going to an anxiety movie every night. Last night I was dreaming I was back in college and didn't have an apartment to live in near campus - a reoccurring dream that life is new and exciting and I don't have a secure place to live. 

I'm just venting now, but I needed it. Outside is mud and dripping and that's what inside my head feels like too. But at least the coffee is hot and there's plenty of it! All the pipes are thawed and there's hot water on tap. I have clean sheets on my bed, kind dogs with full bellies, and two shaggy horses to snuggle when so moved to.

And I am moving forward with the spring plans for the farm including contacting pig and lamb sources, hatchery orders, seed orders, possible bee package orders (money depending), and plans to clear some new land for a pumpkin patch if at all possible and I can hire someone with a chainsaw who isn't terrified of chainsaws like I am. So there's light at the end of this mope. And right now what I need to do is focus on small goals like raising firewood money, selling lamb and pork shares, and making it another month towards thaw.

I hope you guys are warm and willing to get through it all too.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Five Things I Wish I Could Tell 26-Year-Old Me

I'm 36 and I have been sharing my thoughts and decisions publicly online for over a decade. I've published six books during that time (four of them memoirs) while I've kept this ultra-personal blog. Which means I was my most vulnerable and open with strangers before I knew who I was, what I wanted, or had any measure of self esteem. Oh boy.

Writing was not something I ever intended to do professionally. It was something I did for compulsive fun. I started blogging in my mid-twenties because it was a way to keep in touch with family and friends after starting out in the real world, post-college. I never stopped writing after that. So now ten years of my life has been recorded here for you to read. You probably know people with marriages that have been shorter. Hell, maybe you've been in marriages that have been shorter!

Please, stop and imagine if you wrote down your innermost thoughts and feelings with total strangers at 26? Who were you then? Did you do or say anything you regret? You're probably a totally different person than you were then. So am I.

Which is why I never go back and read the blog. It's hard to do both as a writer and as a grown woman. I can't help but cringe at the boldness and certainty, much less the prose. The internalized misogyny and homophobia towards myself is so clear it's heartbreaking.  I wish I could travel back in time and hug her and tell her that she's going to be okay. Things won't get easier, but you'll get tougher and smarter. You'll learn how to be a homeowner. You'll learn to love yourself. You'll have to go through a lot of winters, run a lot of miles, and gain a lot of scars first - but you'll get there.

Here are the five things I wish I could go back to tell the 26-year-old me.

Listen

You're a single, young, woman sharing her personal and financial choices with strangers. Most readers are going to be helpful and supportive. Others are going to see you making the same mistakes they did and their words will come across as critical or negative. You're going to mistake a lot of attempts to help you as judgement. You're also going to mistake a lot of support as permission. Neither is the full story and you won't be able to negotiate any of this yet.

You are becoming an independent person (who has never been independent before) without a partner to share in the decision making with. You are also doing something very new; sharing the process of making a life with strangers. You won't know how to cope with the deluge of opinions and ideas.

Please, Jenna, understand it's okay to be doing what you are doing, but take a little more time to see things from outside your own limited experience and circumstances. I know this isn't possible for you to do now. You have blinders on so tight, darling. But once you have that ability it will make life a lot easier, even if it means less exciting.

Stop Apologizing

You are going to assume you need to constantly apologize for your life. This will be reinforced a hundred ways. Your candor and vulnerability will be appreciated by some, but others will see it as weakness and grant them subconscious permission to treat you like a child that deserves to be scolded

Remember that almost everyone is going to see you as someone without agency. By not having a man or family included in your story you will either appear broken or brave - but both views will be based on internalized misogyny that whispers what you are doing isn't normal. Young women are not supposed to avoid marriage and children, buy land and houses alone, and focus on what they want to do with their lives as individuals. You will be seen as selfish, ruthless, or both.

People will either applaud or disdain you for biases they don't even realize they have - including you. You will feel shame for not having a husband or children even though you don't want them and never did. And later you'll feel even more shame for pretending you did. That will weigh you down and hinder you in ways you can't imagine. It will mean horrific choices about love and romance because you will be desperate to feel accepted and wanted in a world that never seemed to do either. I am so sorry I wasn't braver, sooner.

You are going to let people say awful things shrouded as advice. For example, one day a woman will offer to pay to have your border collie spayed because she "cared about the breed's integrity" and didn't want me breeding my low-quality bogs. Jenna, your dogs are none of her business, nor is their family planning! Boundary crossing like this will happen over and over. You'll get slammed with scolding that rarely happens face to face and would have never happened if you were standing next to your husband in public.

Here's what it all comes down to: You don't have to be sharing your life. People don't have to read it. Every single interaction with you is because you chose to share it and people chose to read it. If writing about this farm ever makes life less joyful than not writing about it; STOP.

There's going to be so much kindness. You won't be able to handle it.

People are amazing, Jenna!

Sharing a dream online is going to attract others that can relate to your passions and excitement for an authentic life, whatever that means. You'll meet a lot of people and start a lot of friendships. Good gods I can't wait for you to meet Patty and Mark, Miriam and Chris, Tyler and Tara, Greg and Joanna, Dave, Leah, Kathy and Mary, Elizabeth and Weez! So many others I didn't just list but they are coming and so supportive of your story! You will have people to call for help and people to run to help. You will be enveloped with love and support.

There will be letters and packages sent to your home. There will be emails and articles and blog posts celebrating you. People will contribute to your writing, send Christmas cards, call you to help thaw pipes or figure out electric fencing problems. One of the main benefits of being so open means it allows a rush of kindness and people and opportunities!

Bad news, you will not be able to manage this either. You are 26 now and barely able to manage your office work, farm, blog, social life and family. You are dealing with serious food and body issues and anxiety and hair loss. You have the dangerous mix of very low self esteem and very high self confidence and people will read that need for acceptance and gregariousness as being more emotionally and socially available then you ever could be. There is not enough energy to keep track of the people that come into your life. Burst of friendship and then fizzles of entropy will be normal. You will feel awful about this and deal with it in unhealthy ways. Like dive into the world of Prepping and Survivalists because it enforces your need for isolation and escape. Or worst, still trying to date men.

And after you quit that office job you will be dealing with anxiety and loneliness and some mornings barely be able to get out of bed, but YOU WILL. That farm is farm counting on you. You don't know this yet but some of the decisions people will scorn you for the harshest will be the reason you get through the hardest times. A dark horse, talons, and time will save you from the worst depression you ever experienced. And while you are shaking from tears at 3AM too afraid to knock on your guest room's door to talk because you're scared of depending on another person for comfort, some one out therewill assume you are living in an ungrateful paradise and there's nothing you can do about it.

There's going to be so much cruelty. You won't be able to handle it.

A few people are going to hate you for reasons you will not understand for a decade. They will obsess over your life like a personal Kardashian, watching every choice and purchase and decision. They will expand pictures of your animals, body, and home to look for clues you are a bad person. They will assume the absolute worse about everything you do and ignore anything even remotely positive. And their reasoning for doing so is because you were dumb enough to share your life online - and by the way -  you don't deserve it in the first place.

Never has it been easier to hide behind an anonymous handle online and disdain a public person. It's why sites like GOMI are thriving. I know you are hurt by and scared of these people, but please have compassion. People that choose to troll anonymously are not happy people. They are just as scared as you are and just as vulnerable. Those comments are their form of free therapy. They're just people. You know how after a horrible date or fight with your mom you sit down watch 5 episodes of Gilmore Girls and polish off a bottle of Cabernet? That's what 99% of them are doing with a snarky comment. You are their Stars Hollow and wine. Watching a 20-something's train wreck is a delightful distraction from judging their own.

To be blunt, some people are going to hate you because you let them in and then you let them down. You became someone they cheered for and then you fucked up, or weren't grateful the right way in the right amount of time, or changed in a way that felt like a betrayal. And unlike their real life friends and family they can talk to about this sort of thing, you are a character with a plot twist. They can say things about you they could never say to sisters, or spouses, or their mothers and they need to do that.

Right now someone is reading this that doesn't like you and wishes you still allowed comments on the blog so they could tell you how awful you are instead of doing the dishes, eating a salad, drinking a glass of water and going for a walk or calling a friend. You can not help that. Trolling is the scavenger culture of the internet. It feeds off the carcasses of other's because it has no idea how to hunt for their own lifeblood. It's not going anywhere.

Keep Going

I know how for many years everything you do will seem like a mistake. You've spent all of your twenties and most of your thirties making bold decisions towards the life you wanted and then feeling the need to explain and/or apologize for them. But you are not that girl anymore.

You are going to become a woman who has managed to remain self-employed on her own farm for nearly 7 years. You are the woman who bought this farm by herself and managed to keep it out of the bank's grasp for a decade (and I promise they are trying very hard to get it back).

You're going to raise food for friends and neighbors. You're going to keep bees and grow vegetables. You're going to learn to breed and herd sheep. You'll learn to milk goats and make soap and cheese. You'll learn to play instruments, fly fish, hunt, and shoot arrows! Jenna I know this sound crazy but in ten years you'll ride fast horses and train wild hawks!

And here's the best part, you're FINALLY out of the closet and allowing yourself to fall in love! And it's because of those years and experiences I just listed! All of that growing food and growing up has chiseled away the parts of you that allows hate in. And that isn't about blind pride or achievements - it's about learning to forgive yourself and love yourself as the woman you. Easily the hardest accomplishment of your entire life.

Listen here lady, keep going. When animals die, keep going. When storms hit, keep going. When the bank drives by to knock on your door, keep going. When people send the state police to your door because you wrote online that a chicken died in the night, keep going. When she doesn't like you back, keep going, When you scream into the dark, keep going. When you feel so lonely and yet unwilling to receive love, keep going.

You are going to be okay. I know because I've been here the whole time.