Friday, February 14, 2020

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

Want to make a one-time contribution?
https://www.paypal.me/JennaCAF

For a monthly contribution to the blog and to be a regular patron:


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Warming Up

Today was a long day of preparing for a few quiet days off. I have plans for romance and adventure, and I am hoping both go well. But a farm isn't something that wait for either and today was spent doing three times the usual client work and emails than a usual work day to make up for it. I also ran out to get the feed, hay, and groceries needed in case the coming cold makes it for a weekend more indoors than out and about. I have been really lucky this winter with the plumbing. I am hoping that luck continues a few more days!

I am starting to plan out this farm season and I think I want to try raising meat birds on a small scale again. For myself and perhaps some local pickup customers. I also won't to double the amount of lambs raised from last season and have Auburn the hawk released before mid May. This way I won't have a hunting bird until fall, most likely and let me focus more on the horses and farming I have in mind. Friends have some projects in mind with me as well. One handy friend wants to rebuild the deck off the living room (sorely needed the current one is in very bad shape, has been since I bough this place). Another friend wants to help me cut down some brush and make space for pigs to roam in new areas. I want to have bees here again, but I may have missed that timeline to purchase a nuc. I want larger gardens. I want to possibly raise a male goat or alpaca for packing, as in backpacking with - a dream I started back in Vermont a long time ago and wasn't prepared to follow through with. But these things are all swirling in my mind. It doesn't mean they will all happen but they are active. A few months ago I was in such a dark place I couldn't image thinking about spring. Now I am thinking greener thoughts.

The firewood situation is getting hairy. I am done with all the utility, truck repair, hay, feed, and insurance bills for the month but only halfway to the mortgage and no cash for firewood. I will get to both. I have to. Sales have been picking up and I have been living in a warm house with running hot water all winter. That isn't always the case here so I already feel ahead of the game. One day at a time and soon there will be mud and lilacs and distant thunderstorms. I crave them like bourbon after a long hike.

I hope all of you have a lovely Valentine's Day tomorrow! I will be spending mine and the whole weekend with friends and food at our farms. It may be cold but our hearts and spirits are warming up.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who has sent letters, emails, messages, and social media comments letting me know you're still out there reading. Those messages are why I am still here. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Carry a Hammer

Art by Milo Mars
Remember when I told you about the reader who sent me a notecard asking me to please write more? She sent me a thank you card yesterday for doing so, and you have no idea how much I needed that little boost!

It was a rough weekend - for farm and personal reasons. Two of my closest friends lost one of their close friends. I sat in a state police office, filing a harassment complaint. The weather hit hard. My truck broke down getting hay. My nerves broke down shortly after.

So getting a letter in the mail with a few sentences just sharing that she was happy I was writing again, and how her electric blanket was like her version of the space heater in the bathroom… I know it doesn’t seem like much but knowing that there are still readers out there who want a connection has been a powerful reminder.

It has encouraged me to write more, both here and to really bare my teeth and focus on this new book. I care more about this new book than I’ve cared about anything I have ever written. It is taking so long to feel good enough to send to my agent. But I will get there. I will write this book. It’s the book I so needed ten years ago when I was so afraid of all of you, and more so, myself.

Back to my truck. I was stuck Saturday in my friend Patty’s driveway in my 1989 f150, tires spinning from ice and then she stalled out. Since I was on a hill and sliding backwards and the brakes did nothing I panicked and stomped on the emergency brake, which snapped into place and stuck, broken. The last few days of worry over friends, winter, wood, bills, and already still paying off the last truck repairs… I started feeling the uncontrollable shaking and tears and weight in my chest from a panic attack. They come on like an assault over every security. By the time Patty walked out to my honks she saw a shaking, crying, woman in her stuck truck unable to even make it up her driveway. She talked me down, leaning her calm and kind arms on the driver’s side door through the open window. She talked my foot off the brake and assured me it was safe to come out and no one would be hurt if I left the truck alone. She walked me up to her farmhouse, holding my shoulder, helping me not slip on ice.

We got into her farmhouse and she let me cry it out. She went through all the simple steps to get the truck unstuck and repaired. For people with anxiety, not nerves, but real anxiety, this is better than anything short of a prescription pad. To have someone listen and help solve the issue that caused the attack to occur (even if it has nothing to do with the underlying anxiety) is a godsend. I don’t know what I did to deserve Patty and her husband Mark. But they have been in my life since Patty showed up at a local Barnheart book event in Cambridge a lifetime ago.

The truck remained unable to drive but we got it to slide down the driveway and off the main road. She helped me get hay for my animals and loaded it into her truck, and she drove me to get anything else I needed in town while I didn’t have a vehicle. She took me home to my farm and helped me unload and stack the hay out of the weather. And I felt a lot better. Yes, because I had all this farm could need for a while and didn’t have to worry about my truck at the moment, but also because I have a friend like her in my life. I have the luxury of breaking down every once in a while and being okay.

Part of what keeps me going when times get like this is the hard data that I made it this far. That I bought this farm in 2010 when I was a terrified, inexperienced, attention-hungry, overly-enthusiastic, highly-imperfect human being terrified that she liked girls in a world that told her to just find some strong farmer guy to take care of her. And now, a decade later, I am still often terrified, but more experienced. I’m still attention-hungry and overly-enthusiastic, but tempered by a mountain farm that taught me patience and self-reflection. I am still off-the-charts imperfect, but I am not scared to like girls. In fact this is the first Valentine’s Day I’ve looked forward to in 37 years. Keep going, it gets better.

Yesterday while I was finishing work inside I heard a sound I’d know anywhere. Taylor, my pickup truck, was pulling into the driveway. The dogs barked and I whooped! Patty came out of the driver’s side and threw her hands in the air in victory with a hammer raised above her head. THIS IS WHAT FIXED IT! She laughed like silver coins rattling, so bright and happy. I couldn’t believe she did it, and I hugged her so hard. She saved me having it towed to my mechanic and more truck bills on top of the regular winter struggle. I cried again after she left, but not from fear. From grace.

You gotta judge yourself not on the fear sliding backwards in driveways or the lowest points.You need to judge yourself on the people in your life, their character and love. My friends and chosen family in this small farming community have helped me become such a better person, and such a stronger woman.

Last night I sat in a friend’s living room in Cambridge and listened to her talk about her lost friend. I hope I was in some way of use to her, and made her feel better. I hope if I ever write a book that pays off this farm I make sure Patty and Mark have the most comfortable elder years a human being can experience. And I hope all the people that remind me that even at my most vulnerable and weak moments, that I am loved, that they know I love them too.

Happy Valentine’s week to all of you out there. Thank you for listening. Now go love someone, be kind, send sweet notecards, and carry a hammer just in case.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

SNOWSHOEING!

Hiking With Friends is Better

Get Your Pet Mailed to You as ART!

Hello from a very chilly farm! The storm came and this farm was ready! I am inside from a little adventure with Friday. We went on a snowshoeing trip around our mountain and then came home to rake the snow off roofs, feed the animals, and check all the water and hawks! All is well here, at least so far. There are no frozen pipes yet(though tonight will be down to 2°). And I still have about a month of firewood left to earn up the money for more on top of the other bills. I have truck repairs (Had new wiring to the battery in the truck last week) and between towing and the parts and time it was over $280 dollars. So to help earn up that money on top of all the other bills like the mortgage, electric, firewood, etc - I am offering a sale on sketches!

If you want to help out this farm fast, send an email to me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com and in the email send a picture of the pet or farm animal (or wild animal) you want to have sketched. The cost is only $20 (via PayPal) but the catch is the sketch is a surprise! Not sending proofs to you for approval, but I promise it will be based on your picture and a fun, animation-style version!

My goal is to sell 10 of these this weekend. That's $200 towards bills. I already did this same sale on Twitter and earned half of what I need through pet sketches alone so if I can keep it up I can make up the rest and get back to focusing on lights, the mortgage, and heating!

IF you want to add-on to the sketch, it is $40 for it to be inked and some basic shading and line work. Full color is $75 - and that means watercolor and ink. All are 9x12" and shipping is FREE anywhere in the world. Mailed in a stiff cardboard mailer. Thank you for reading and considering!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

space-heater prayers

A snow storm is settling in and I am prepared for it. I'm about to do one of my new favorite pre-storm rituals, which is this: after the firewood is cut and stacked inside, the animals fed, mare blanketed, and the barn crew safe from the ice and wind I go to a little spa space. It's just my bathroom. But I close the door and crank the space heater and set a towel on the floor in front of it. I take a hot shower (which isn't always a given here in winter, this house has seen some very frozen pipes in winters past) and then sit with my towels in a little ball of warmth by the heater until I'm plain hot. Till I need to take off the terry cloth and put on some lotion and maybe even a face mask and sit there in this little warm oasis of extreme comfort before the roof raking and ice-breaking begins. And I'll read, or watch a video on my tablet, or I'll just message the girl I can't wait to see next weekend and remind her how beautiful she is. And for a little bit, in this very old farmhouse, I forget how much winter is ahead of me. How much I still need to cover car repairs and new firewood deliveries and all the bills and banks and woes. I forget about how scary it can be and breathe slow. I take a moment to be grateful for the hot water and the hardy animals. I take a few more moments to be grateful for the neighbors who provide the hay and feed I need to sustain these critters. I take long moments to be grateful for the friends, readers, and promise of warmth ahead outside this little room of space-heater prayers.

May we all find our way to warmer times.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Auburn and I

picture by Katie H.

gather wood and sit

I am grateful for the mild weather most of January gave us. There wasn’t a week of nights 20 below zero. There wasn’t a storm that caused trees to fall or ice coat the farm like a test. There’s been days in the 30s and 40s and mild snowfalls and I have been able to hunt with the bird, do ground work with the horses, and yesterday I even went for a short run outside. Today I hope to walk a 5k with Friday and pick up some hay after the morning client work online. It’s been this every day.

But what I want, what I hope for? I hope for the kind of security that lets me start planning for spring. The kind of luck that lets me start planning spring chick and seed orders. The kind of luck that lets me sigh and not be behind on the mortgage and scared of losing my home or being scolded by strangers for not doing things the way they have. I hope for the kind of luck that starts saving for a new vehicle. I hope, mostly, for the kind of luck that encourages and invigorates me to write, draw, teach, and make the things that bring the luck I need. I don’t expect luck in the form of any kind of magical gifts. But what I need is the will to make things happen. I think that is what has been lost most of all in these hard winters. The desire to find the version of me that never gave up on her dream. That always figured out the next bill, or the next step, and rewarded herself with jars of strawberry jam she canned or a quiche from her hens’ eggs.

That person is still here but she’s cold as hell. And she’s trying to gather the energy to make it through the month safely, and it makes all the creative energy I muster and have to go towards other people’s work - logo and pet portraits and art - not my own. And at the end of the day I just want the lights to stay on and the house to remain warm. It’s scary here. And I worry writing about that prolonged scariness will just invite more criticism or the same “Just get a job!? Emails I always get from people that don’t realize I do have several part-time jobs because I don’t write about them here in detail.

Mostly I don’t write here because I’m not at the place yet where I can be excited about chicks and seeds and I am not sure I will. I don’t know what will happen to me or this farm. I don’t know if I will sell this book. I don’t know what March will be like. But I know today I can work on the people I have planed to work for. I can promote what I have to offer. I can take care of my animals, my home, my body, and be there for my friends. I can do the kind work of being a person not interested in hurting anyone else. I can be patient with people. I can gather wood and sit quietly.

I am not sure these are the posts you want to read. But I am still here.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Signs of Spring

It’s a slow start today. Most mornings start slow this time of year. In the summer months I wake up to open windows, sunshine streaming past the lace curtains and this boiling blood excited to do everything at once. I want to do the chores, plant things, ride horses, run for miles, swim in rivers and fall in love. In the winter… Well, last night I made and ate a Hawaiian pizza and watched Netflix. Both have their merits, but I miss the part of me that buzzed in the morning.

But this morning there was bird song. Different bird songs. The kind of songs you hear when you have to check chicken butts first thing in the morning for pasty bums. The kind of whistles and calls that snap pea vines swirl around and banjo tunes are plucked with. It’s slowly becoming warmer, brighter, and better. I am slowly preparing this farm for another season of hope and work.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Compassion

A few days ago a letter arrived in the mail from a reader. It was a small notecard asking me to please update the blog more. I read it quietly by the mailbox. Then I read it again. Then I stuffed it into the inner pocket of my canvas vest and walked back to the farmhouse to process what I was feeling.

A few years ago a message like that would have made my hackles rise. I would get indignant or pressed. I knew this wasn’t that kind of letter or intention. The writer just missed reading about the farm. I took some time to be grateful anyone is still checking in.

I have been having a hard time coming here to write. Mostly because I have always (and only) wrote about what I was feeling and happening at the farm at the time of entry. When I was new to farming and falling in love with it, everything was exciting and new. Over the years it went from a dream to reality to a sometimes-nightmare to what it is now - which is everyday normal life. And right now writing about everyday things is hard while just trying to make it another week.

This has been the hardest winter I’ve ever had. Both financially and personally, getting through each day has been a constant lesson in resilience and compassion. The resilience is easier. I have created a work ethic that never lets me slip. It took a while to forge it, but my days are entirely planned and work is set into a structure and goal system I need to follow. If everything is falling apart in my life, as long as I achieved those items on that list I can fall asleep at night.

The compassion is harder.

I am ashamed to admit that almost everything I ever accomplished came from a place of very high self confidence and very low self esteem. This is a horrific combination for a blogger. It means I believed I could accomplish anything, but the woman accomplishing it was garbage. I didn't think I was good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, anything enough. And now as I reach my northern thirties I am too tired to resist my own compassion. I need it. So I let it happen.

The main thing getting me through this winter is allowing myself to accept my own kindness. To take time to rest, to eat good foods, to be held, to sleep in, to stretch, to stop drinking, to not beat myself for everything I can't achieve or pay or be - and be grateful for what I can offer. And maybe that love will carry me into spring. It'll find out how to get more firewood paid for. It'll help carry the soil to feed the King Maple in the front yard dealing with erosion and age. It'll raise lambs and pigs and glasses of ale when the sun is back and the days are long and warm as a lover's arms.

But right now it is hard to write the same sad story over and over. It isn't because I don't care to check in. It's because it is kinder to simply do the work to make things better than it is to write about how afraid I am. It's another small compassion. Please be patient with me while I allow it.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Farm, Work, Body

It's a new year and I have never been more disciplined. Every morning I wake up and do the usual work of the farm my body and brain have adapted to. It's no longer any sort of thought to carry bucket of water or flakes of hay. Not any more than it is to brush my teeth or wash and moisturize my face. But once that work is done I sit down with a cup of coffee by the wood stove and work on "the list" which is both my savage grace and my boss.

The list is a notebook where every morning I write down the three aspects of my life I need to have in order that day to fight back against the anxiety of losing the farm. It is split into three sections now: farm, work, and body. The farm to do list is all the normal things. The AM chores, farrier appointments made, hawk weighing and notations, tracking feed and hay needs, the usual. But I turn it into actionable items like "Check water levels in pig's paddock" or "Inspect hooves on mare" and by the time I am sitting down to the list I have checked off so many small things it feels like a morale boost, which it is. I need to feel that I am being productive and useful during these dark months. Firewood is burning fast, income is coming in slow, the coldest days are well ahead of me and I know Winter's Bottom will hit and kick my ass. So seeing small deeds done feels good. I need it.

The second part of the list is a prioritized list of writing, design, soap orders and illustration work. I could be on my death bed, but I still need to work on 3 people's items a day minimum. This hard rules has kept me productive during the hardest times - the holidays - which tore me up inside this year in ways it never has before. But I still inked pet portraits, or packaged soap to mail, or worked on logos because I had to. It was on the list. Get through three and then you can crawl into a blanket fort with the dogs and watch Imagine Me and You for the 23rd time. But work first. And I did.

And the last is body. I am trying to stop eating from anxiety and fuel that energy into other things. I am not running like I do in the summer but I get a few miles in every week and take more time to stretch and do "farm yoga" which is basically rolling out a mat in front of the wood stove and trying to stretch with a pair of border collies licking my face and laying below my downward dog. I drink a lot of water (yes, it is also a to-do check, I am desperate for morale) and I stopped drinking alcohol and month ago. I stopped eating carbs last week. Again, it's for my well being and a way to control something and feel like I am gaining some sort of progress in a very uncertain life. I may be 2 months behind on the house but I am saving money and dropping pounds. I'll take any sort of win where I can get it.

That's where I am at. I've become a soldier of this farm. I want to keep it, and I want to make it better. I want to fix the roof and repair the fences. I want to scale it to a place I can tend and remake, even if it means just three raised beds and 3 new lambs in the spring. I want to finish this book proposal because I am writing a book (trying to) about what this farm helped me accomplish as a terrified woman lacking in identity and confidence. I want to write about how it turned me into the person I am today and how the fight to keep it changed how I see everything. Including how I see myself. And I want to do that inside a house without mold on the siding and a mowed lawn with the bills paid. I could care less if I never see Paris or never have more than a couple hundred dollars in the bank. I just want to be healthy and safe and whole.

So I stick to my lists and my silly rules. I try to be dedicated to my work no matter what. I am hopeful for better things ahead and warmer weather. I am still here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Keep Looking Up

A few nights ago I stood outside under a dark sky shining with a million stars. I had an armload of firewood and it was very cold. I let out a long exhalation I watched my breath swirl and rise like dragon smoke up towards the Milky Way. I followed the warm air and caught a glimpse of Pleiades, my favorite constellation. I’ve watches those seven stars since my first winter on the farm. They always make me feel safe. I like how small and simple they are, but so very out of place. If the sky was the human body and the stars and planets freckles and scars stretched across us, Pleiades would be a scar left from a vaccine - tiny and always present.

This winter, especially this holiday season, has been very hard on me. I haven’t been doing much outside of working on keeping this place mine. My days are to do lists and self promotion and the work of the farm. Even with scaling back the livestock and expenses it’s been hard catching up from this summer’s medical bills and truck repairs on top of the usual expenses. I lost my health insurance and can’t afford to renew it. I’m sadder than I have ever been and while I know it has more to do with daylight and serotonin than emotion, there is plenty of heaviness to Christmas around here. It’s a lonely time. It’s a time I need to reflect and gather myself and remind myself what I am doing here and why.

I know that all sounds sad. I know I have not been updating here much. But please know how important Cold Antler is to me and remains to be. This farm is the reason I am the woman I am today. It’s the reason I grew up, hard and fast. It’s the reason I found my strength and stubbornness. It’s the reason I finally came out of the closet and started trying to find love. It’s the reason that after a decade I am still here - even if the place is scrappy and I never bought the kind of furniture you see in magazines or the kind of grown-up life I was told I was supposed to have. But this place - the work and the seasons and the animals - made me. It didn’t gently sculpt and form me, it threw me around like a small boat in a storm. But I got through. I’m starting to see daylight. And I feel that what is ahead can only be better if I can keep going and not give up.

I want a flock of sheep again. I want stronger fences and gates. I want chickens and gardens and the hum of honeybees. I want kisses on my forehead. I want river swims and summers where I smell more like horse sweat and soil than my own skin. I want hawk wings and hunting scars. I want warm nights by the fire and October bonfires. I want to remain here and learn what lessons it has for me yet. I want to keep running, and hoping, and being.

This Christmas I am sad, but I am more grateful than that. This place is dirty and imperfect, but it is mine. I made it. It made me. And as this winter roars onward I hope to make it through still holding the deed into spring, when the light is back and my body is less tired and change swirls me back into a friendly sea. And I think if those are my thoughts, that is good. If I can feel this bad and still look forward I will be okay.

May we get through and feel safe. Happiest of holidays to all of you, wherever you are. Keep looking up. Keep finding the stars that ground you. They aren't going anywhere.

Friday, December 6, 2019

This is the hardest it's ever been.
This is the saddest I've ever felt.

I'll be okay.
I just want this winter to pass and feel safe and warm.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Hibernation Drawing In

As the holidays approach I'm of two minds. Part of me is trying to relax and lean into the celebrations and the seasons, and the other part just wants to hibernate through them. If I don't try for the first, I'll default to the second. Which means I need to go out of my way to stick to small goals, keep the farm humming steady, keep myself surrounded by friends and dates and stories and song - and not allow myself to whole up and stay in. I think this winter will be long, cold, and hard. It will be like that for the whole upstate area. And I can either choose to start giving up now and crawl into blankets and eat cheese in the dark or keep running, working, trying, asking, hoping, kissing, laughing, wassailing, and cheering. I hope you all find the urge for the same. We'll get through this.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Weight

It's been quite the November here on the mountain! It started with mostly just panic and fuss, all the work of getting ready for snow and the keeping the farm safe and comfortable. But there is a little bit of hay in the barn, enough to last a few weeks. There's firewood, as I wrote last post. And this woman is slowly working towards making the money for a mortgage payment before the month is over - which would keep the deed safe through the holidays. I am trying to balance all that work and the farm's needs with taking time to keep running, and keep my heart a little lighter than it has been previous holiday seasons. This time of year weighs really heavy on me but all of that could be lifted with a little luck and company, two things I am eager to find under that crusty cover of ice that is late November. I have plans for Thanksgiving by a farm fire in a loving farmhouse with amazing friends. I have a bird to fly. I have deer to not shoot because I am the world's worst deer hunter (But I will try). And so far I am stay optimistic in the fray of it all.

Stay warm out there. I will check back soon!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Colder Weather

Winter is officially here. Snowfall forecast for tomorrow and lows well into the single digits. I am glad the snow and true cold is only for a few days, by the end of the week things should be kinder, weatherwise. I am sitting in this farmhouse at a comfy 65 degrees, thanks to the wood stove that has been growling all day. There is hay in the barn, a few weeks worth. There are 2 cords of firewood stacked beside the farmhouse. The mare has her blanket. The hawk has a full crop of quail and flew for an hour earlier in the day. I will let the pipes drip all night and hope that nothing freezes, though a cold this fast and hard may very well do just that.

I have been very overwhelmed lately. I think the time change, the hovering darkness, the fears about being ready for winter and heading into the holiday season (always a sad time for me) all collected into one pile of darkness for me. To fight back against it I spend time running, hiking, outside and moving. I hunt with the hawk and work with my hands. I stick to my daily goals and stay productive as possible. But the weight of this time of year feels like walking through life with a 60lb lead vest. And the usual worries about money and making it and feeling safe didn’t feel like something I wanted to share on here. It’s the same story, hard work and hope. But the deadlines for my agent - which isn’t really a deadline as much as it is an expectation to create something sellable and good - is both a daily inspiration and burden. Every day, no matter how much I do, I feel like I am never caught up. Taking breaks to do anything else makes me feel guilty. And this is the time of year I need breaks the most. So I am in this place of hard work and hope and trying and distraction. I am balancing that with the inspiration to try and write something beautiful folks like you would want to read. On top of that there’s a farm to run, a house to heat manually, a dog in heat, a truck on its last legs, and a winter storm about to hit.

Can’t say I’m bored.

But I am also not depressed, just very overwhelmed and extremely focused. Every day feels like swimming underwater in cold water and the breaks are little loud gasps for air. All this is working towards that magical book deal, that small respite to catch up on medical and house bills. The kind of money that can get me a new (used) car to get through 2020 with. It’s all unfolding at the pace of Jenna - which right now is very much like a tired bison in a storm. It won’t stop moving forward - but it sure as hell isn’t moving fast.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Step 100

October has been sweeping by in a rush of winter preparation, mild anxiety, and dutiful progress. I'm not where I want to be as far as firewood, hay, and bills are concerned. But I am where I wanted to be in the way of opportunities, dutiful determination, and work. I have been keeping up with fulfilling at least three orders a day between soap, illustration, and logo work. I am taking on whatever jobs I am offered and already contacted my wood delivery guy to start preparing my second cord. There is hay set aside in a local barn for me. The butcher dates are set. The bad news that the truck's frame is beginning to rust away means I need to start saving for a new used vehicle. (Something reliable and 4wd I can use to go farther than 25 miles from home!) So the month has been getting up, fighting against the entropy of time, and keeping myself moving and sales coming in.

I feel like most of my posts here, at least right now, will be the same sort of checking in. Letting you readers know I am okay but struggling and trying my best to make the next step in the larger plan. That larger plan is selling a new book I am so proud of this house will float. It's about getting my mind and body into the happy, calm, state of a regular runner who isn't afraid of whiskey. It's about loving my dogs, hiking on new trails, making new friends and maybe at some point falling in love before I die. But right now it's just step 100 in the marathon. Thousands ahead of me, but on the path.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Hold on Loose

Every day here is about small goals. About keeping things safe, getting the work done, and reminding myself why I chose this life to begin with. Sometimes it takes escaped pigs to trigger that exact reminder, which is what they did for me a few days ago.

The electric fence was down and the piglets found a weak part of the fence and squeezed out - their mother's did shortly after. But there wasn't a panic about it, not from me. Years of raising pigs taught me how much they ache for comfort. It was a blustery day so soon as their bellies were full of apples, grass, plants, and acorns they would want their nest in barn. So I made it as comfortable as possible - soft hay for days, clear well water, plenty of sweet grains and scraps in their feeder. I repaired the electric fence. I stuck around long enough to watch the first pig saunter in, and then the rest.

Hold on loose and don't let go.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Make An Effort

I can feel the way the colder months are settling in, and for the first time in my life I am scared about it instead of excited. Usually fall is my favoite time of year. Even with all the anxiety of winter prep—the wood, hay, bills, etc—it was still my favorite time of the entire year. I loved the crisp weather and the Hallow's history and the feeling of wanting nothing more than warm blankets and a cozy fire and hot mug of cider to end the day. But I have been swimming in Hygge for years. I have perfected it. It doesn't stop the feeling of loneliness or sadness that the darker time of the year brings on. It doesn't make the days longer, or warmer, and it doesn't pay the bills or tell you that you'll be okay. Which, in the end, means I have two choices. Either change the cycles of the earth or change myself. I bet you can guess which one isn't budging?

So I am making every effort to me more active, healthy, and positive as the daylight fades. I am still running several times a week. I am doing my best to eat well (though there is more pizza in my life as darkness falls around 6 instead of 9). I am keeping up with the daily tasks and every time I get dressed I hear the voice of Tan France saying "MAKE AN EFFORT" which I do. I dress in my own style, I do my hair, I like a red lip and favorite pair of boots. I listen to new music. I stretch. I drink the water. And I make the effort.

Things are shaky here, and I am still a long way off from making the monthly house payment but I'm trying like hell. I have an afternoon of artwork ahead of me. I have logos to update. If I make a sale I'll spend $5 of it on a mug of cider and listen to the Celtic Music Jam at the brewery. That's my Thursday night here in Jackson. I know things are going to get tough on my heart and in my head - but I'm ready for combat.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

October Air

Yesterday evening my friend Natalia came up to the farm to go on one of our regular rides. She's a teacher so now that school is back in session it's been harder to find time, but we manage and I'm glad. I love riding solo on the mountain but there's something kind of wonderful about tacking up both horses, putting some beers in the saddlebags, and going on a small adventure just to catch up with a friend. We ride to an open field and let the horses graze while we sit in the grass and talk. She's learning to be more comfortable and confident on and around horses, and it really shows. I'm so proud of her and of my two good mounts- both having their own quirks and attitudes, but game to carry us on mountain roads when we ask. It's a lucky feeling.

The farm has a cord of firewood stacked and dry, and I hope to get another delivered in the next few weeks, well before Hallows. I didn't make a mortgage payment for the last month so that's where my attention is, as usual. Once that is settled I can focus more on hay in the barn, butcher bills, medical bills and that sort of everyday debts we all are dealing with. But there is firewood. And the animals are all doing well.

I'm spending any free time I have to myself out trapping, looking for a kestrel to be my new bird once Auburn is released back into the wild (hopefully sooner than later). She's almost ready. I want her hunting well and in great physical shape first - which we are working towards!

I admit most of my writing energy is going into two powerful sample chapters for a book proposal, and the blog hasn't been well attended. For that, I'm sorry. I am trying to navigate a tough financial time, fall and winter farm preparations, and a somewhat confusing personal life all at once. But I'm healthy, running miles every day, trying my best to be a better version of myself and be a little more daring with my heart.

October is in the air, and I hope this month is as amazing as I know she can be!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

STACKS!

Good morning from a farm with a GIANT pile of firewood outside to stack! I got some delivered last night! It meant taking half the money currently to my name out of my bank account but I can't tell you what a relief it is to have that to begin stacking! And just in time, too. Tonight there's a frost warning (first of the season) and may be in the low 30s tomorrow AM, which means I will get to wake up and light a fire and it won't just be from the dead fall I've collected from the side of the road coming home from my runs. I still need to get more firewood, but even having that small amount here is a comfort. I also talked to a local farmer about a hay delivery, at least 30 bales, which I can stack in the barn for the horses and pigs over the winter.

So today I stack. And today I plan. And today I get to sigh a little with relief as I start the uphill climb of winter prep and paying bills and working on the projects and goals I have for a better Thursday. I hope you also are waking up with some hope in your hearts!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Fire(Wood) Sale!

FIRE(wood) SALE! Do you want to help get an order of firewood delivered to this farm? It's what I depend on for winter heat and so far I have none stacked - the most behind I've been by September. I am offering the next 5 people a painted pet portrait for $50 to buy it! Send me an email or DM on Twitter or Instagram to order!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Heat

As we're making our way to the middle of the month I am only thinking about getting firewood delivered so I have some security in my heart and hearth. Slowly I am getting there. It's been such a hard summer and every month feels like I am inching towards just making that stretch of the finish line. It's been exhausting as it's been encouraging. Exhausting because I have never pushed and tried so hard before to make this place work - and encouraging because I *just* make it every month. And when I say just I mean razor thin margins. And the things that keep me motivated are the animals and people counting on me. The desire to keep this particular roof over my head, and the dream I've been holding onto for years. Every day I hope to make a sale that covers the costs of daily feed and hay and the usual gas, groceries, utilities and such and then adds a little more padding to the pot. Yesterday was encouraging. Today has not been. That's how it goes in the world of freelance luck-and-go. But I am working towards that delivery of firewood before I start saving for the mortgage. And once I know some heat is stacked and I'll be okay if a frost hits early - then I can hunker down and focus on the usual work and usual goals. One day at a time. That's how this farm rolls.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hog Dog!

Yesterday morning I was able to enjoy a spike of warm weather and lots of time with Friday chasing these little goobers around the homestead! the piglets have a home base in the barn with their siblings, but this pair of runts - a black and red set of troublemakers - are always leaving the crew and having adventures together. This is fine if I'm home working inside on writing or working outside on fences, but not if I need to leave for town. Free range is fine when it's supervised by humans or canines, but not otherwise. So when I need to leave for the post office or hardware store I need to herd them back to the barn and shut the door to thwart any explorations and let them nurse and nap. This means: FRIDAY!

While Gibson is the Sheepdog in Chief - Friday is the Siren of the Sounder! She has her ears and eyes trained on stray piglets and can always find them in the pasture or woods when I want them back in the barn, safe and sound. She is attentive, never bites, and is fast on her paws. Watching her seek and herd them back is a real joy. Who knew I had a hog dog?!

Between these piglets and the lambs I got to enjoy the type of morning that made me fall in love with farming to begin with - which is working beside animals to raise other animals to produce food I am proud of. It felt good, and Friday got to be useful in ways she rarely is without a backpack and trail map, and I got to let out a happy sigh.

Monday, September 9, 2019

I Will

Last night I started a fire in the wood stove from deadfall I collected around the yard. It wasn't cold enough to need it for heat, but it was nice to have it for comfort. The temperatures were in the low 40s, clear starry skies, some wind. It felt like fall. I was spending time with my good friend Tara, who was visiting for the weekend so we could catch up with each other. Beside the fire she enjoyed soup and tea and I enjoyed some pasta I whipped up, a night of simple food eaten in. She told me about work, romance, her summer. I shared with her all that is happening in my life. It was a lovely visit and a gentle reminder that good friends are worth far more than their weight in gold. Gold is just a rock, a shiny burden. Friends help you carry them.

Speaking of fall and friends! Natalia, a friend from Cambridge, has been riding with me all summer. If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen pictures of our adventures together here on the mountain. She's learning, but naturally comfortable with horses and Friday night she and I went out after her work around sunset. It still feels like summer on the mountain, and she snapped this picture of Merlin and Mabel grazing in the high field while we enjoyed our take-out dinner of handmade PB&J and hard cider. But to sit in a field and talk, watching the sunset and my gorgeous horses that just carried us to that beautiful view... I am reminded why I deal with all this stress about the farm and making it happen - because in a few months everything could change. Because it could get so much better or so much worse - and to hold onto this life with all I got while it's mine to have.

I feel really lucky to have the women in my life I do right now. So many strong, beautiful, powerful women that encourage and support me every day. I hope they all know how important they are to me.

Friday I mailed a house payment, and that is a very good thing.  Barring any complications with ti, the farm has another three weeks to exhale. Also, the truck passed inspection, thank goodness! Now 100% of my focus is getting the cash together for a firewood delivery of dry, split, hardwood on top of the usual feed/hay/bills and other regular expenses. I have the guy on-call to deliver and soon as I can manage that I'll be thrilled to be stocking the woodshed. If I can get a cord stacked every 4 weeks through December I will be okay.

One month at a time. I will make it.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

All I want is to mail this mortgage check. Get a cord of firewood stacked. And watch a scary movie with a cup of coffee on a rainy fall night knowing I get to stay here and be warm. That's all I'm thinking about.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Lesson Embers

The biggest decisions of my life were made out of fear. I used to see that as a flaw. It felt like something to be ashamed of. We’re taught that broad gestures and risky life changes are acts of bravery made by strong people who know exactly what they want and exactly what they’re doing. That was never the case for me.

Not one year of this farm came from swagger, it all came from varying degrees of panic. Everything I chose—from buying a farm alone at 27 to quitting my safe day job to training my first hawk—was a combination of self preservation and regret management. I needed to distract myself from what I wasn’t ready to accept while remaining vigilant of the dream that I had centered the entirety of my self worth around. I ran away to a farm to hide from myself, and the place I was hiding in defined who I was.

That said, it was never a cage. It was always a secret garden.

I chose to hide from the world for years on this farm because I was so afraid of myself, and being isolated meant I didn’t have to deal with it. That is what I convinced myself I was doing. What actually ended up happening was the opposite. That isolation became a pressure so intense it forced atomic changes. It was in the act of remaining here, on this farm, for nearly a decade that forced me to be a stronger woman. And it wasn’t a fairy godmother waving a wand and turning my rags into a sparking dress - it was violent and awful, a writhing werewolf transformation from a terrified girl into a powerful woman.

But now I howl.

Ten years on this farm has been a gift. The most important being the work of caring for animals. When you make yourself a caregiver,  every single day, for nearly a third of my life - it changed me. Being distracted by the needs of a hundred other small lives meant I could never allow myself to sleep in, or have a sick day, or ignore the work outside in all weather. It meant no vacations. It meant no travel. And it meant every singe day I was avoiding my demons by playing farmer I was instead forced to dance with them.

When you raise animals you are forced to constantly deal with life as a reaction. An animal became sick? Either heal it or you’ll be disposing the body. A storm is coming over the mountain and tearing down trees and removing power - start up the propane stove outside for hot coffee and start sawing limbs and repairing fences. The bank sends someone to talk to you about your third month behind on the mortgage threatening a short sale if you don’t pay up fast - pace and sell whatever you can offer legally to make at least one payment to keep the door only covered in scratch marks instead of bite marks.

Those knee jerks and panic attacks, the constant resourcefulness and fire-smiting… do that for a decade and when you turn your head to look back you realize that the forest fire that you’ve been running away from for so long has started to consistently return to pasture. You can squint past the smoke and charred earth right behind you and see green. Those years that were hell and now scarred over and healing. The fraught moments that made sleeping past 3AM impossible are now lesson embers.

Homesteading changed from the passionate novelty of my twenties into the everyday work of my thirties. I stopped writing about it as if I was crushing on the new girl in town sauntering in a sundress. Now I write about it with the certainty and security of a hard-earned marriage. The work of the farm stopped being a blog, books, and workshop vehicle and started becoming an actual brand. And by brand I mean literal, burned, permanent marking on who I am, invisible runes tattooed up and down my spine.

I was playing dress up with authenticity and stumbled into the back wall of my wardrobe into Narnia. One day it was real. It was mine. Finally.

These are the thoughts that take up most of my time these days. The book I am working on selling now is about who this farm made me into, what it taught me, how I needed it to become who I am today. It's a love story about realizing happiness isn't something you get from travel, or religion, or love - but from accepting who you are and where you are at the exact moment you are in. I am starting to find that in myself and be kinder to myself because of it.

It's September and I just want to mail this mortgage check so I can exhale for a few days. I don't know if I can pull that off without the luck of a freelance check coming in ASAP. I still have no firewood stacked for winter, so no heat at all. And I am constantly waking up worried. But I have a lot of faith in the woman that's carried this with her for the last decade - and knows worry the way some people know regret and that's the better option. At least for me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Trucks & Trials

Happy to report that the truck is going into the shop today for all the repairs and surgery it needs to pass inspection. And that is only possible because I got very lucky with a Hail-Mary small loan offer. But it does mean that by sunset today I should be driving home in an inspected, road legal, 1989 pickup truck that is safe and sound from danger and the law. I had it's registration, insurance, and such all updated in August so this is the last hurdle in the most pressing issue on the farm right now and the sigh of relief is long and real! Without a truck I can't do any of the other things I need to keep this place lit, fed, and solvent. It picks up hay, feed, runs orders of meat to customers and soap and art to the post office. She's the roaring heart of this small farm. I am so grateful and happy she will be okay to drive again soon.

In less good news, I am three days into September and didn't manage to take care of August's most important bill (a mortgage payment) or get firewood delivered. My goal is to make both of those things happen as quickly as possible, for my mental health and peace of mind above all other needs. Then I need to focus on a hay delivery of at least 25 bales to start stocking up for winter since my usual hay banks are not available like earlier years and I can't just buy-as-I-go through the cold months. So planning is different this year, but the good news is all I need to focus on is 2 horses and piglets going into snow fly. There won't be sheep here through the winter again this year - both to save costs and to satisfy lamb customers and clients.

More news as soon as I have it. Today is about catching up on work after the Holiday Weekend, making soap, writing for my agent's deadlines, hope, force, and gritted teeth going into some hard trying.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Inspection!

I’m sitting in my mechanic’s waiting room, typing on my laptop. The truck is in for inspection and I am really, really, hoping it passes. Only a few days left in the month to figure it out if it doesn’t. So nerves are a bit high. The good news is I got to the county seat and she’s registered through August 2021 - so jumping this inspection hurdle means I can focus on getting firewood and the mortgage paid. I wish things weren’t so stressful, but at least the stress keeps me motivated and busy.

But all of these stresses are low-grade and no different than any other farmer in this county. We're all getting together plans for harvests, hay, firewood, and fuel. Everyone who lives in a rural area has this same mindset of getting to a solvent, safe, space to let out a sigh of relief before the snow dares to fall. And even though it'll be ten years at this farm (TEN YEARS) of proving to myself I can pull off winters on this mountain - it doesn't get easier.

I have arranged for firewood delivery this week, hoping the man that will drop it off can still get here. Having even just one cord stacked before the first frost feels like progress. It means I need to earn the money to replace what I spend on it ASAP but sales have been slow and steady and encouraging. I try to make at least my daily minimum a day, keep orders moving for handmade soaps and artwork, while keeping the farm and CSA customers happy. Feels like a juggling act for the ages. But I have learned to juggle better than most.

Wish me luck with this inspection. If the truck doesn't pass then I need to cancel tomorrow's dental appointment to fix a cracked tooth and focus instead on getting her street legal. May have to change firewood plans. It's all balls in the air. But I can't say I'm bored. Never, ever bored.


UPDATE: Truck did not pass. Needs a new power steering gear and some other minor repairs to be street legal and $500 is the bill to make it pass. Canceled the dentist appointment. Trying to figure it all out. Like I said, never bored.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Blocked

I got a letter in the mail today. No return address. No first name. A very hard to read last name. It was from a reader who told me she (assuming) was upset I had blocked her on Twitter, as she has always been a supporter of the farm and even came to fiddle lessons years ago. She was clearly hurt and I was very confused. The letter did not include an email, a twitter identity, or any way to contact her.

Guys, If you are using social media to interact with me, that's great. But if you are doing so with an anonymous, pictureless (or picture that isn't you or a human being) I have no idea who you are! I don't know that the person asking me about my farm, animals, life, etc is someone I have met or a total stranger. It is so frustrating dealing with anonymous accounts on here. It's lose/lose. If I block (or mute you) it's usually because I have no idea who you are and don't like dealing with people that avoid a public life online. Especially if that person is asking about my farm.

I'll anwser pretty much any question to another public person, author, verified account, etc. But I've learned to be super wary of people that don't use their real names and pictures online. Outside of extreme personal safety reasons, I don't get it.

Not telling you to use your real name or picture if you don't want to. But don't expect people who make a living being any level of a public figure to embrace your comments or respond. We get so much shit. I tend to lump you all into "not safe"

If you have been blocked by me online there's a 90% chance it wasn't an act of aggression, but safety. Please use your real name, real picture, and let me know who you are. You know so much about me, practically the last ten years of my life. But the internet isn't a safe place always for people like me, and I am only acting out of the best practices I know. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Pet Portrait Special Offer!

Want to get a custom ink and watercolor pet portrait?! Buy one and get a free sketch of a friend's pet (or give them the portrait and you get a free sketch)! Send me an email and I can set you up! Trying to make 2 sales today to reach my goal so I can start planning for the truck and firewood and make this month happen!

Don't want to buy art but want to kick in a dollar to the blog, you can do that here

Garden Luck and a Truck

My neighbors have left for a long vacation at the peak of their garden's bounty. Their loss is my gain as I have full permission to gather whatever I want or it will rot from their community plot in town. I already had an amazing meal yesterday with their green peppers and tomatoes making a summer stew with my sweet Italian pork sausage. All I had to do was fry up some of the sausage till brown (adding soy and sriracha, coarse salt and pepper) an diced chucks of tomatoes and peppers. It made a natural stew from the meat juice and tomatoes so all I needed to to make it perfect was serve with a dollop of sour cream. It cooled off the heat of the spicy meat and made a perfect dinner from my own community. If you need a quick dish - I can't suggest it enough. It's filling with a kick. The kind of meal that fills you up, doesn't weigh you down, and can be made in under ten minutes.

Right now my mind is on my truck. So far, it's been running well and despite a power-steering leak I need to keep refilling until it can be addressed - it is okay. I depend on that truck as my only vehicle, and the thing that makes the hay, feed, post office runs, and milk pickups possible. It needs new tires to pass inspection (due in ten days, as is the registration) so I found a local place that sells used (but in good condition) tires for $55 a piece (mounted and old tires discarded). The tires, the inspection, driving to the county seat before the clock strikes September 1st is what is needed to keep me on the road. It'll be a couple hundred bucks and driving all over the county and that's if everything goes as planned. It has to happen before the first cord of firewood is delivered and stacked, and sadly, before I can mail out the mortgage. The good news is that I have 11 days to left to figure all of that out. And if I make the daily income goals, plan well, and keep things moving I can probably make it all happen. I think it means getting rid of my health insurance - as I am already a few months behind and suspect my insurance company will drop me soon anyway - but not being insured I am used to. Not having winter heat or a truck and a roof over my head- that I need to deal right now.

Every day here is one step at a time. Every day is checking off that list, hustling, planning, praying, and hoping. And every day I am working towards bigger goals - slow and steady. 

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

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. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Frenetic

New piglets were born on the farm, new little guys running about! Auburn the hawk is molting her feathers. The horses are avoiding flies by staying in the pole barn during the hottest stretches and I am doing my best to catch up on art and logo work. Most days here now are a string of chores, running, desk work, and then during the hottest part of the day a dip in the river. I hope for the mail to deliver a long-awaited freelance check or someone emails about a large project but mostly it’s been doggie paddling through the month trying to keep my head above water.

July is winding down and things are precarious. This is the first time I haven’t been able to post mark a mortgage check, with not enough sales coming in and too many bills going out. I hope to make it happen in the next few days and have it slide under the feet of any wolf at the door, but it is what I am thinking about the most right now. No one ever said a farm/freelance life would be stable. And certainly no one said it would be windy successful - but it has so far been enough. When the dates tick by and it isn’t - it makes a woman nervous.

But nerves aren’t a bad thing. They mean you understand the gravity of the situation and the consequences that they entail. I know how on edge this place can be. I’ve made this farm work from that edge, barely keeping balance, but proven myself a capable acrobat in this circus. And the longer I manage to pull those trapeze moves the more I manage to remain optimistic and calm during these most doubtful times. Which isn’t nothing. There’s a real power in learning how to keep life moving a trot - yes it’s frenetic and uncomfortable but it’s still moving forward. I’ll slow down to a walk when I earn it.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sighs Instead of Sweat

The month is almost over and I'm in the usual fraught stance to make it happen, and keep all things moving forward. With August on the way it is time to start planning for winter firewood, which I know seems soon to some of you but not to anyone on a budget with a wood stove. The animals are doing well and I made some choices involving livestock that I think benefit the farm if not my fun - such as declining to take on a horse for a month to help train and work with. It would have been a blast having a new mare to saddle up and ride and learn from but I declined knowing how hard August is probably going to be - even taking on a horse for a few weeks wasn't the best choice. I need to focus on fall. I need to keep my eyes ahead.

July has been an overall wonderful month, at least with my personal life. Lots of running and feeling stronger and more confidence than I have in years. There were not any surprise with the truck (though the month isn't over!) and despite it needing work on some power steering issues that keep cropping up - she seems to be just fine. I went on a great first date. I got to see live music, catch up with friends I haven't seen in weeks, lots of riding the two horses I do wish to keep on the mountain, and yesterday a litter of piglets was born!

I have a few days left to mail off the mortgage check, to keep things safe. I am hoping that with the heavy promotion of sales on social media that I can make that happen. SO far I have, but this is the most behind I've been this late in a month. I know that can all change in an email, or twitter comment, or if a freelance check magically shows up at my door and that's the kind of optimism that has fueled this farm for years between book deals and lucky breaks.

I'm close to a lot of very good things. I can't see the finish line but I know it's around the next few turns. Today, and the next three days of the month, will be about making it there however I can. So I can wake up on August first with a sigh instead of sweat. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Still here.

We're in the middle of a hot one, guys. The heat index says it feels like 108° and my morning chores left me so covered in sweat after mild effort - I believe it. Most of today will be spent indoors in the shade with a fan. I have work to catch up on and orders to complete, but the heat really saps creativity out of me like rolling around in a damp blanket. Which, let me be clear, it's complaining. I love hot weather and practically worship it all winter. But what it does do is make my head a little slower, like I'm two drinks in without taking a sip. I'll keep today's post short for that reason.

I had some guests here from NYC come and take a 2-hour intro to archery class. They were so very nice and seemed to have a good time! All of us got to sweat out the morning on the mountain. I love teaching beginners about archery, and fiddles, or anything really. It's the excitement in their voices, the thrill of hitting the target, the time spent outside. I get to share this small place with the larger world. It is genuinely lovely.

As for the rest of my day: besides an errand in town to pick up some feed and extra water rounds about the place - I am laying low. Not running. Not hiking. Not doing anything that takes too much effort whatsoever. I'm trying like mad to promote sales and support on social media to make what I need to pay the mortgage and this plumbing bill. I am staying optimistic, as much as possible, that I will continue to be able to keep this farm chugging along. That has been the majority of the theme for the last decade. Still here.

Still here.