Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Rest Cure

I’m trying to continue my optimistic mood. There is much to celebrate around here! The farm is working towards the May mortgage payment. The gardens are being planted with greens and peas and other cold crops. I spent the day mostly in the sunlight or with warm wind at my back while I worked on fencing, raised beds, cleaning up winter deadfall and trash and the regular chores. This is the time of year after the snow and before the green so everything feels like a wet sponge with the appeal of a old sock, but there’s promise in the dampness - summer isn’t too far away.

A week of warmth and sunshine would be a rest cure. Sadly, the next few days will be more of the rain and muck we all associate with spring. The lambs don’t seem to mind and neither does Cade the goat, who is now getting weaned slowly off the bottle and already living with the flock. But goats aren’t sheep so he’s let out of the pasture to go one a walk with me and the dogs once a day.

I am working to get any sort of income into the farm. Promoting what I can on social media and here on the blog. I am in the interesting position to be nervous about the future, and not the present. This is actually good news! Instead of pacing around the farm trying to figure out how to make up lost time and old house payments I am worried about making the one due next week, without the weight of past payments behind it. So sure, I’m still stressed but it’s about staying on track and not running with my heels being bitten. So if you are interested in any handmade soaps, pork shares, pet portraits, logos, or gift certificates for art or design - do email me! Every sale goes towards staying ahead of trouble and keeping the farm safe into summer.

In other news: I got pictures and word on a ram for the ewes. I have CDT shots and tail docking on the schedule, along with the regular work appointments with the farrier coming up. This is all great and every day is one with sturdy boots and hands back in the soil and weeds and those are things that make me very very happy. I know this time of waiting for summer is necessary and it’ll be weeks before the leaves are all out and the lawn needs to be mowed but every day I remind myself we’re all a day closer.

One day at a time, right? That’s how we carry on.

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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.

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Thank you,
-j

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Sunshine

Sunshine is rare around here in spring, especially April. More often than not April is a cruel month of cold rain after a long winter. But today the sun is out and every mare and hog and hound at the farm got to spend time out in it! The new lambs are settling in and have adventured from their little paddock out onto the hill. There a combination of woven wire and electric netting gives them an area to graze along with the very excitable goat kid. So excitable it is a small miracle I was able to snap this quick photograph since Cade was climbing all over me while the ewes munched their brunch.

It'll be well into May before all the trees have green leaves. It'll be well into June before the first cuttings of hay are harvested. But on this northern side of the month of April I am grateful for what I have survived and what I have ahead to look forward to. Hopefully a healthy and loving summer of hard work and continued luck on these six scrappy acres!

Friday, April 24, 2020

MORTGAGE UP TO DATE!!!

I am so happy to share that for the first time in years, in longer than I can remember actually, the mortgage is caught up! This farm is safe! I was able to get the loan and as of yesterday the money was out of my checking account and to the bank and every sale this farm makes going forward is for NEXT MONTH'S mortgage! Hoo! I feel like I can let out such a sigh of relief! This is a huge deal and feels like a second wind hitting me with warm air. So long have I been scrambling just to hold on. Now I'm caught up. Now I'm looking forward.

It's been such a morale boost around here. In the last few days the farm has exploded with good projects. New gates are getting set and old trash thrown away. Raking, gardens, little things are being cleaned and made new again. The ewes are doing well and little Cade (the goat) is learning to reside with the sheep. They romp around and tomorrow if I can get everything working I'll be setting up the first big pasture grazing for them with some borrowed sheep netting. I need to test the fence first but it'll be in the sixties and sunny and while it may be the only nice day ahead in the ten day forecast I will take it!

So what now? Now is the waiting game for warmer weather and a greener home. Now is the time to scrimp and save and make sure I get that May mortgage payment made as soon as possible so I never fall back into that hole again and the anxiety it builds in my heart. Now is a time to start planning rams and moving horse pastures and filling in groundhog holes and planning those gardens that will start feeding me greens into the spring and early summer.

So things are looking up. And the farm is well. And if I can stay ahead of the troubles this farm will slide into summer singing. There's been some hurdles, but I am getting over them. I hurt my right hand really bad yesterday and was unable to use it at all. Today I can somewhat use it. Tomorrow I hope to have half use of it. But every day I just take my time doing the chores and even if things like bucket carrying take twice as long that's okay. Adaption is the name of the game.

Right now all I am dreaming of is a gloriously hot and humid summer. I am praying for gentle thunderstorms and fireflies, long runs and cold drinks. And instead of looking towards all that with the weight of paying for the winter's mortgage I am looking forward to earning what is ahead.

This is good, guys.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Only Good News!

Monday's Legacy Returns to CAF!!!!



For a change of pace, how about I only share some wonderful news this morning!? The sun is out and the temperature is set to reach 60. After days of gray weather, snow fall, frosty mornings and horrific news about this pandemic every time I turn towards social media - we are all in need of some happy farm updates!

Sheep are back at Cold Antler Farm! A small starter flock is here of three ewes, all beautiful and brawny thick little Dorset Crosses. I found them listed online and the price was too good to be true, $125 for all three! I was there to pick them up the same day after hours of repairing the sheep paddock's fencing on the hill. I am very happy to report that every bit of replaced woven wire, insulator, electric wiring and even the charger was scavenged around the farm. There is something really satisfying when you hit the point in your farming journey that you can build a safe paddock from scratch, knowledge, past mistakes, and local parts! Once that was all sorted I set a fresh bale of good hay, clean flat-back bucket of water against the shed, and set some grain down in a feeder for good measure.

Once the trio of ewe lambs (two white and one black) were set in their shelter I made sure Gibson saw sheep were back on his farm. Oh my goodness how his eyes lit up when he saw woolies back in his domain!

These lambs are what I hope to keep over this summer, flush with good feed into fall, and possibly keep them all as a future breeding flock. I miss lambing. I miss walking up the hill and seeing sheep covered in a wooly jacket of fresh snow. I miss the feeling of carrying hay uphill and making sure they are all safe and prepared for storms. I even miss waking up and walking the fields by lantern light at 3AM in March to search for lambs...

And to make this story end even better, Lee of Moxie Ridge farm (the farmer to whom I sold my breeding flock to a few seasons back when I needed to cut back on the farm for both mental and romantic reasons - hard to spend the night at your girlfriend's place when you need to be up to milk goats at 6AM....).... Well we are still great friends and he is selling me Monday's son Jojo! I get a bit of this farm's greatest ram back here on the hill! Monday, bless him, passed away at Moxie Ridge last fall I was told, but what a great life for a fine sheep. And what is left of him is a tough little Scottish Blackface/Romney boy that will be here to become the father of future flocks!!!

Guys! Sheep are back at the farm! A new line, a fresh start, a new ram from a sheep I adored! And besides the fresh sheep there is other good things to share!

1. Auburn the red-tailed hawk has been released back into the wild! After the best season I've ever had with a falconry bird she is free and back soaring the skies of Washington County!

2. I am seeing someone wonderful, a woman I hope to spend a lot more time with. Quarantining with her is absolutely lovely. When I am with her I feel a stillness in my heart and mind that steals away any fears or worries. We are working on this spring farm together.

3. I may have secured a loan with a good rate and no payments until summer to catch up on the two more mortgage payments I need to make this month. It isn't certain yet, but it looks very possible! This could mean that by May 1 this farm could be in the best financial shape with the mortgage it has been in years.

4. As far as I know I am healthy. My temps go from 97-99 depending on what I ate and what I am doing but nothing besides needing more water and activity and sunlight. Being as careful as a person with extreme anxiety can be.

5. Gardens are planted, at least all the cold weather crops. Seeds are in the ground and the potato patch is next! Inside the farmhouse are tomato seedlings and peppers. I can not wait to start weeding! Which is something gardeners only say when the soil is black and nothing has come up green yet.

6. Horses are coming out of winter shedding and starting to work in the saddle again. Sunlight and horses ate a balm like no other. Hopping up in my kilt on that black pony, even though he is 26 now and gray in the face, he brought me so far.

7. The laying pullets are outside and in the eglu cube learning to be chickens and they are all doing well and I love seeing a buff orpington's golden feathers in the sunlight again. Pure gold.

Okay, so that is all the good news I have for right now. I still didn't get any check from the IRS but it should arrive in the mail with that idiot's stamped name on it anytime in the coming weeks. It'll go right towards the mortgage for April. I may enter May working to earn that month's house payment!!!! So get yourself some art and soaps, meat shares, logos, whatever! IT all helps this place get solvent!

I hope you are safe and sound. I hope you are finding joy in your own farms or dreams of farms. I hope you are staying positive, active, cared for, loved and safe. Keep your chins up and wash your hands and summer will find us. She has to.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Onward

Among all the chaos in the larger world the farm moves onward. Seeds are being planted. Hundreds of pounds of compost being moved to new gardens. I started looking for lambs today online. I am putting the word out here and with friends and local farms. I am hoping for a flock of 4-6 and keeping at least 2 ewes over winter, hopefully bred. I miss lambing, and I am thinking about Romneys! But honestly, I'll take what I can afford after this month of catching up and chasing tails. One tip is to look on local markets for farmers that don't want to deal with bottle lambs. I can deal with them, and last year they saved money for the extra effort. This is how I move on. This is how a farm moves forward.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Winds

It's amazing how quiet a farmhouse can be on a cold April day, even with so many little souls inside it. There is baby Cade Finch (the pack goat I am raising) asleep in the dog crate. Friday and Gibson are also napping. The cats have been curled up for hours, tucked into their favorite secret corners. Outside there are fast-moving clouds in a spring wind, but don't let that imagery fool you. That wind has teeth. It is chilly, and there's snow in the forecast for tonight. I have the last of the firewood burning in the stove. I am warmed by both the chai I made with milk and honey not too long ago and the logs I split and carried inside. The horses have hay and are snacking as they let this wind pass through their manes. They are shedding like mad and robins and crows are collecting their hair for their nests. Gardens are planted with cold crop seeds and warm-weather seedlings are sprouting indoors. I am looking for lambs. I am moving soil. I am getting this farm ready for a spring of plants, production, livestock, soap, barter and sales. It feels good.

I have one of the three mortgage payments I need to make completed and registered with my new bank. I have saved up half of another one. I am hoping to make it, so that this farm remains safe in all storms; weather or financial. I can only work with the resources I have and the things I have to offer and sell. So every day I try to make that happens, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I didn't receive any stimulus payment from the National Covid Response and probably won't get anything until a paper check arrives at my door since I filed by mail and don't have any bank account info on file in a recent tax return. If I do get it, that will cover another payment. Fingers are crossed.

I am healthy. No one I know has gotten ill from this either, at least not anyone I know locally. I am remaining optimistic as I can. I am still making and mailing soap. I am still getting up to feed pigs and train horses. I am still planting, hustling, trying like hell. I know we all are. I wish us all nothing but warmer weather and gentler winds.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

97.9

Today was the kind of spring day I dream about midwinter. I spent hours outside clearing brush, raking, mucking poop and prepping gardens. It felt wonderful to see cleaned up lawn space just waiting for grass seed and warm rain. It felt like a homecoming waltz, padding piles of good dark soil in the raised beds. Since I am more home then ever before (and that is saying a lot for a homesteader) I am cleaning out drawers and dusting inside. If nothing else, this time away from friends and town has helped me become more organized than any spring before.

Kindness has been abounding this week. Friends and neighbors reaching out and asking how each other are doing. Two friends gave me hand sewn masks to wear. I set one in my truck for trips to town, the other is backup. So far Washington County has been taking this seriously, but without malice of any sort. People give you plenty of space in public but nod and smile as they jump out of your way. It’s odd but not rude, and normal life right now.

I have been birding a lot! Learning to identify and appreciate the small birds that aren’t hawks, keeping track of everyone that attends the feeder, and making notes and talking about birds with friends. It has been a lovely and calming distraction from the news. This morning a friend told me about her first red bellied woodpecker at the feeder and it was like hearing about a live concert. I found and cleaned up my best pair of binoculars and have been taking time to learn calls and feathers and between that meditation and seedlings - it feels good. It feels good to be reminded that life is happening everywhere.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Mortgage Sold

My farm’s mortgage was sold to another bank. I found this out by reading the notice in the mail after coming back to the farm from errands today. Irony of ironies, I had just mailed a house payment that morning via a paper check. The new mortgage company’s letter explained they acquired my delinquent mortgage. They explained I not longer send payments to my old bank. They gave me numbers to call and a pile of paperwork about taxes and insurance and things made for accountants.

Panic set in, hard. I tweeted. I texted friends. I cried. I paced.

Then I called the woman assigned to my loan and talked for half an hour about what is happening. I can not tell you how helpful she was. She explained that their bank was not able to foreclose on the farm now if they wanted to, that no bank wants to do that ever, and they are not trying to take away my home. When a loan is transferred the homeowner has 60 days of space to learn this, figure it out, and come up with a plan and it is illegal to foreclose on someone during that time. There’s a pandemic, but my late payments happened before that. And while there may be assistance or options for April and May, I still need to catch up on earlier months to be safe.

What is happening now is a serious need to catch up as soon as possible. If I can get two more mortgage payments in we can work out a new payment plan, possibly refinance, possibly get a loan modification. So that is what I am going to try and do. I already sent one in today. (I was old my old bank will cash and transfer this payment to the are one.) So two to go before May. I’m a third of the way there. On first base. That is something.

I have lived here for ten years. And while I am three months behind I have paid for the past ten years before that - over 115 payments cashed. This new bank doesn’t want to foreclose unless forced. This is all good news. But holy shit is it scary being the only one in a household with this weight on my shoulders.

Why write this? Because I’ve shared every single aspect of following this farm dream for over a decade. Because I want people to see how hard it is, but also show it is possible. This blog has never been one to pretend everything is perfect. My books haven’t done that either. Following a homesteading, farm, tiny house, or self employment dream is worthy of all your sweat and tears - but I will never sugarcoat how terrifying it can be at times. And I hope seeing this place make it through all of the past and future encourages and inspires those who think it can't be done. If I can do this, any of you can. All of you can.

Here is some good news. I am healthy. The animals are healthy. I am working every day on soap orders, art, taking care of my animals and bills. I am not giving up. If my dream has to change then I may have to sell things or figure out a roommate or a thousand other options but it’s still my dream and it’s all I have. There is no plan B. There is not moving back in with my parents. There is no magical trust fund or inheritance or amazing new high paying job. But there is me. And the past ten years has taught me that I am remained here, made it through all sorts of trials and tribulations and the rewards have been the meaning I’ve found in my own life. To be stronger, smarter, and better at this every year regardless of how it changes or changes me.

So right now I a going to put away the feed and groceries from town. I am going to change the sheets on my bed and clean the house and take care of my farm. I am going to sit down and figure out the most frugal budget and my assets I can part with and catch up on this home because it is my everything and I’m all I’ve got. Yes there’s a community in real life and online. Yes there’s support. Yes there are options. But at the end of the day I go to asleep in this farmhouse alone like I have every night and wake up facing the new day alone and regardless of that changes I have come this far and I am not letting scary letters and the whims of giant banks destroy this place.

Now to do the next thing that solves this. And to remain.

P.S. Your emails, comments, and notes from the last post are all being read and helping me feel connected to all of you. Please keep sending them.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Highest Stakes

For the past ten years I have lived on this little farm that felt so separate from the entire world outside it. Not exclusive, but separate. The reasoning being that in a world where all my peers were living a drastically different and modern lifestyle - I had chosen to live dramatically domestically. As the rest of society churned and swayed with commutes and offices and remodeling kitchens and buying seltzer machines and concert tickets I was home, milking goats and raising pullets. I was making my own cheese and learning the banjo. Friends were getting married and traveling to Europe and my passportless ass was living like the turn of the 19th century; shearing sheep, driving horse carts, training hawks, planting seeds... You understand, as many of you have as well.

There is a peace of mind and wholeness of spirit that comes from staying put. When I left my full time job to work from home it felt radical and brave. But now I am in a pandemic, alone, and it doesn’t feel brave any more. It feels scary and uncertain because while I was the one living month-to-month by the skin of my teeth I knew the majority of you were safe and partnered up and stable and certain. I knew I was a risk, this whole farm, but that my readers had it together and if I failed at this farm I could leave and return to an apartment and desk job if I had to. But now all those office jobs and that buzzing world past the threshold of this farm has come to a stand still. We are all homesteaders now.

We are all trying to figure out what to do and how to make it. And while I am glad I have this small homestead with water and food and social distance - it isn’t the same. There isn’t whimsy in it, there is now the stark jab of survival that isn’t sugarcoated with the safety of a functioning society and I hate that I am mostly alone.

Being alone in the woods during an International crisis isn’t like in the old days. I’ve got the modern marvels of both Tiger King and nonstop news to read. There is a helplessness to it. All I can control is what work I have and the small goals and lists I make every day. In that way nothing has changed. But what has changed is how much harder, more than ever before, sales have been. If I do make sale it’s for $20-$40 bucks for some soap and not the big logo or art sales I used to make. No one needs a logo in a pandemic. So I am making a lot of soap and doing my best to only go into town a few rare times to ship goods.

I am mostly writing here to use up some energy and share my fears. I would like to hear from you, if you could? Send me an email, a twitter or IG DM? Reach out and let me know how you are doing and how you are coping? Are you also alone? The more people that can connect the better I think we all will feel. Or I hope.

Today as rain falls on this farm I am staying home. I am not going to do the basket of laundry in town. I am not going to mail things at the post office. I am going to eat what I cook or bake. I am going to hug my kind dogs and talk to the girl I miss so much my ribs ache. And I am going to try and make music, and art, and read stories or watch enough episodes of British Bake Off to be reminded of a time when a baking competition was the highest stakes of the day.

I miss you.