Friday, August 16, 2019

Clean, Run, Lists

When things are stressful, as they have been all through this spring an summer, I make sure to take time to do the things that are actively taking care of this home. Domestic chores are just that, chores, but they also leave you feeling like you accomplished something that ticks a box towards having your life in order. All day I cleaned, mowed the lawn, did loads of laundry, straightened up and put away things laying about. These are small acts that give you a sense of order - the illusion of control. I need them when I am so worried.

Another thing that helps is running. I don't know if it's the time away from the computer or the actual physical activity but I know when my heart hurts the best thing for it is to make it distracted too. Run and get her pumping again, don't let anxiety do the bulk of the cardio, ever.

Lists, too. Lists are a godsend. My daily to do list shows me how I am keeping promises, mailing out work, taking care of something bigger than myself. I list the amount of income I hope to make (sometimes I make it) and the miles I ran, the chores done, the fences fixed, the bills paid or appointments scheduled. Sometimes all that gets done in a day is I make 10% of what I needed to to feel okay - but I made that eye doctor appointment finally, and the animals are fed and good, and I got two soap orders mailed, and I can see on paper that even if things aren't ideal I am doing something good in my day towards something better.

So right now as I am trying to figure out this month I am cleaning, running, and making lists. I am doing the things I know I can do. And right now that's what is keeping me grounded and sane as fall is starting to plow into my every thought and firewood and hay seem as faraway as possible.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Night Chickens

It is a novel thing, being woken up by the sound of a cackling chicken downstairs in your living room. By 6AM the pair of birds I call "The Night Chickens" are squawking in the fresh daylight to be let out of the pen in the living room and outside to chicken about on the farm with their friends. They aren't captives. Every night at dusk they peck and ask to come inside the sliding glass doors and gently walk over to their pen and perch on top of it. All summer this was their M.O. The reason being that a weasel one night killed four of their friends and they survived and so returning to their coop was terrifying and the pen they were brooded and raised in remained safe. So, being a total sap, I let them in one night and they jumped right back into it. Then a routine became a habit and now The Night Chickens (a buff orpington and silkie bantam) are a part of the daily ritual of this farm.

At least until this started happening. They now demand to be let out at first light and while I am no slouch sleeping in - I don't like the idea of waking up to their VERY LOUD demands. So tonight when they saunter in I will return them to their coop and begin this long awaited break up. Sorry Night Chickens, time to become regular ol' farm birds.

Morning chores this morning were something from a storybook. The first apples are dropping from the trees and fall around the edges of the lamb pen. I keep the lambs penned and night and when I am not home but when I am here, usually working or writing inside, they are out grazing. I let the horses out of their paddock into the grazing area and they munch on the apples and swish their tails to music I can't hear and the lambs putter about like the worst percussion backup you can imagine. Roosters crow, hens squawk, the piglets in the barn snuffle around the sows. This place wakes up slowly and then wakes me up fully. 

It's now officially mid August and I need to really hustle and focus. Two weeks to make this month's bills,  buy in and stack the first cord of firewood, and get my truck new (used) tires and inspected. The goal for today is to earn $100 towards the bills and $100 towards those tires. That is what I will be writing down on my daily to do list. Besides those goals I have a batch of soap to make with the milk I have from Northern Spy Farm. I have 2 pet portraits to finish and mail out the door. I have logo clients to update.  I have hay to pick up and pay for. I have the usual evening chores and house work and the same routine that makes up our days as all of you have as well.

It's a good, messy, life and I'm giving it my best shot. Sometimes that means chicken pity and some times that means chicken tough love. But hopefully, it always includes chickens.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Ghosted Mare

I am grateful it is still early August, at least technically speaking. This morning the farm was a crisp 53° and the first leaves are starting to collect below the birch trees. When I was outside doing the chores with the dogs I could feel how everything is working towards Autumn and I made a mental note that I need to get the first cord of firewood stacked and ready by Sept 1st to be on track, with a second cord ready by end of September. I know I am months away from needing that heat, but for obvious reasons of budget and timing - the sooner the better. And as I walked to the barn with the pigs' breakfast bucket I went through my other lists in my head - the way all of us start our mornings. How I need to make an eye appointment for a new eye prescription. How the truck needs new tires to pass inspection. How before I get firewood delivered I need to clean out the woodshed and store the garden tools somewhere else. What is good about all this is how I am learning to plan and manage well in advance - a skill that took so long to actually truly learn. But that is how we grow, slowly.

Last month I was offered a free horse. A beautiful Fjord mare that was a little rough around the edges and needed a new home. Originally I was going to take her on as a trial, just a month, and either send her back or keep her. I thought about it a long time. My reasoning being that Merlin is in his mid-twenties and Mabel is only 12. Who knows when a trained, beautiful, animal will just be handed to you like that... and it was tempting. Really tempting...

I chose to not take on the mare, even for a few weeks. I didn't downsize my herds and sell my goats to jump on something else to fill that void. As much fun as it would be having a new small draft I needed to be realistic about the cost and time another large animal would take. This is simply something I can't be certain I could afford right now. Maybe my life will be very different in a few months or years - but right now I just want to pay my bills and start stacking cord wood. That's enough excitement to carry me into September.

I know the woman I was just a few years ago would have taken the horse no matter what, figured it out as I went along. But the woman I am now is learning boundaries with myself, and what is and isn't going to support my goal to keep this farm. So there won't be a new pony or any new additions to the farm that aren't being raised for CSA customers. (Well, maybe some new laying hens but nothing with hooves.)

So as August hits the mid point all I want to do is make the money I need to be warm and safe and my truck pass state inspection. I want my thrills to come from quiet places, right here with the things and animals and people I already have. When you're always looking for validation outside yourself free ponies seem like the most amazing thing in the world. When you start learning you and your life are fine just the way you are - you don't mind saying no thank you.

Wish me luck getting to September and may the wood be stacked and weather be kind.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Help and Subscribe!

Readers,

Every once in a while I will suggest you consider subscribing to this blog. It's entirely free to read the posts, see the pictures, and share the adventure. It always will be. But all authors, artists, musicians, and creators depend on the people who appreciate their work to be patrons on some level.

If you own my books, thank you. If you share my blog posts, thank you. If you have come to a workshop or event here, thank you. And if you simply want to kick in $5 a month towards feed and hay - I thank you. It's a small way to both encourage me and help keep the lights on.

Like NPR stations, I'll be here to tune into whether you wish to subscribe and be a patron or not. But I do ask if you enjoy what you read here and do not already subscribe - to consider it. Please only do so if you feel the writing has value (as entertainment, inspiration, etc) and you can manage it.

Thank you,
-j

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Moving Forward

This weekend was wonderful. Truly.  Friday kicked off with a carriage ride and friends new and old, sharing stories and getting to know each other. That evening I sat beside a fire sharing a meal of pork I raised with people I truly care about, all of us savoring the last bites of summer over smoked roast and sumac cocktails. Saturday evening I was gifted the company of a good friend, and we talked late into the night about new lives and new adventures - about how much our stories have changed in the past few years, and not talking about those changes with trepidation but excitement. It was a cheer leading/therapy session and the next morning we got freshly fried donuts from the King's donut cart in Cambridge. And Sunday night, HOO! Sunday night new friends introduced by others came to see the farm and enjoy pizza and games and it was another late night of stories and shared lives and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it all. I'm so lucky to have this community around me, these friends so close and willing to enjoy this farm with me. Friends that will jump into the saddle, or hike on the mountain, or just DM through Instagram that there's extra bbq in town drive down and join in. Ten years in this town and I feel a part of it in a way I feel people can only dream of. It's Stars Hollow and Cheers and Twin Peaks all at the same time.

And the movement. Oh, the movement! This all started with long walks in the spring, then hikes in the forest, then days running up to 14 miles on hot roads in very worn running shoes. All of it in a blur of to-do lists and tiny hopes and the work I know how to do. All of it constant and always moving forward.

And here I am as August starts and the real pressure of winter begins to settle on mornings with the first falling leaves and tired light. I need to start thinking about firewood and hay storage. I need to start thinking about how the hell am I going to get through another month. I need to start thinking about all the 13,000 scary things that usually motivate me... but you know what? Not right now. Because right now I am happy.

I'm so happy here. Happy today. Happy with the life I've built and the world it created. Happy with the woman it carved me into, the skills I learned, the people I met, and what I now consider a normal Monday. I couldn't stop smiling on my run this morning. I don't know if anyone has smiled so much with a single-digit bank account after a late mortgage check cleared. But I was beaming. I pulled it off again. I mailed that payment and it was accepted which means I have four weeks to figure out the next month. And while I can't buy a tank of gas right now - I can start trying. I can start hustling and making sales and maybe by the time I am going to sleep my bank account will be in the triple digits because a sale came in. I don't know. Maybe it'll be negative and tomorrow I'll wake up on fire.

What I do know is there isn't a single other person in the world I'd want to trade stories with. As hard as it has been - and it has only got harder - there's never been a day I wanted to take back the burst pipes or toothaches or throws off horses or any of it. Every day has been a lesson and every year I become more comfortable and confident in the woman I am. That's the gift of this homestead. All this time I thought I was learning to be more self reliant and safe from a dangerous world. But by embracing this small farm all it has done has created a person hungry for more community, connection, and experiences outside of it. I thought I was the one doing the cultivating. I was a fool.

Cold Antler Farm was creating me the whole time.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Drive On

A perfect morning spent with friends new and old over at Livingston Brook Farm! Patty took me, Natalia, and Travis out for a morning drive and I was able to introduce them to each other. (Turns out everyone has someone in common and before long evening bbq plans were made.) It was a magical morning of harnesses and horse sweat and a blue sky stretching over the entire county. Travis would reach out of the wagon and grab Sumac blooms to make iced tea cocktails with later. I snapped photos with my cameras and let myself enjoy the conversation and the clip clop of heavy hooves on field and road. Not a bad way to start the weekend. Not bad at all.