Friday, June 30, 2017


A few weekends back I was sitting in the kitchen of Livingtston Brook Farm, after helping load hay in their barn. It was a hot, humid day and all of has had unloaded about 400 bales into Patty's old threshing barn. Once done we had all gathered in the cool farmhouse, we handful of other plucky volunteers. It was a group of mostly horse ladies and kind neighbors, a good crew. As Patty handed out plates of her warm berry pie and ice cream we chatted and enjoyed the reward for our given time. As beers were clanked and pie swallowed, Tabitha from Long Shadow's Farm was looking at an alert on her phone. She then said aloud, half joking, "Anyone looking for a horse?"

I perked up. Merlin had been alone at the farm with just sheep to keep him company for years. I was looking for a horse, had been for years, but not in any position to take the purchase price of a good animal or the medical needs most free rescue horses. I wanted that dream situation of a horse that needed a good home, was already trained to ride and drive, was younger than Merlin, and didn't come riddled with behavior or medical expenses. But as the saying goes: there is no such thing as a free horse.

But there was such a thing as Mabel.

Tabitha showed me the photo on her phone. At first I thought it was a Gypsy Vanner. A mare with proud red and white splotches and built sturdy as a brick house. Feathered feet, a proud red mane, and that short thick neck all draft horses share. This was a mare to be reckoned with. "She looks young?" I said. Tabitha nodded. Around here most animals that need rehoming for free are older pasture pets, unsound, or have never been trained or worked on. This horse was Amish broke to ride and drive, 10-12 years old, and needed a new home.

The story was sad, but not tragic. The owner loved her like a daughter and took amazing care of her, boarding her at a wonderful stable in Saratoga. But for personal reasons she needed to let her go, as it didn't work out as expected, and find her a place where she could live a good life.

Mabel has a lot going for her, but was hard to re-home due to some mild arthritis. She is sound at a walk. And when she's up to it trots and canters but needs some extra medical care like a daily supplement and, on occasion, an injection every six months or so. I had long talks with Patty, Tabitha, and the owner about the whole situation.
So last weekend Patty, Tabitha, and I drove out to meet her, evaluate, and ride her. Between then and today - the owner came to Cold Antler to inspect the place, meet Merlin, talk to my farrier and vet, and generally do the homework you do before rehoming an animal you hold dear. Everyone agreed this was a dream situation - three acres of pasture and a companion horse, run in shelter, an on-farm owner. Today Mabel was delivered to the farm and met Merlin. Both are thrilled with the situation!

I bought Mabel for one dollar. I signed the paperwork and Patty trailered him to Cold Antler this AM. And now the farm has a second horse to trail ride and drive with, at least within Mabel's ability. Mostly I wanted a partner for Merlin and an animal a guest could hop on so they could see my world from the best vantage point I can offer - the saddle. I am thrilled to have her and feel lucky as hell she came into my life.

And now I am going to head outside and spend some time with the herd.

For more pics and videos of Mabel, head over to twitter! I'm @coldantlerfarm 

Also: I should note that the owner and I agreed if for any reason I chose not to keep her she will pick her up and take her back. So if it doesn't work out - she simply goes back to the owner. But I don't anticipate any problems and we have an arrangement to take care of her needs.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Good Place

For a decade now I have been writing about my life as a homesteader. What started as a fever dream on a rented Idaho cattle ranch has developed into this home in the mountains of New York. Between then and now are three states, three different farmsteads, and now I am nesting into this little 6.5 acre spot on the side of a mountain.

Back then, everything about farming was new and exciting. A mason jar could get my heart rate up and new chicks at the post office was more exciting than Christmas morning was as an eight-year-old. Over the years farming went transitioned from my dream life to my everyday life. This isn't a bad thing because while highs and lows have come and gone, that love for this life never faded. Ten years later there are new events that still get my heart up. The skills I have collected and worked on keep growing and expanding off one another. If you told the 24-year-old version of me that by 34 not only would she own a draft horse but know how to harness and drive it - she would not believe you.

The farm is in a good place right now. I mailed off the July mortgage and it's June. I know that is normal, but it took a while to get ahead, even by a few days. It's freed up my mind and heart to focus more on planning instead of catching up. Which hasn't really settled my anxiety but has replaced tired fears with more anticipatory adventures. The good news is it isn't anything a nice long run and a sip of bourbon after a hard day can't fix.

Anxiety is part of my life and partially a gift. It keeps me running on just enough extra energy to accomplish things. Now that things are finally catching up to solvent, plumbing is (mostly) repaired, and there aren't cars driving by taking pictures from the bank my nerves are focused on keeping things that way. So I'll keep up the work of offering logos, illustrations, shares of meat, piglets, lambs, fleeces etc. Maybe some of us are just born nervous?

In other exciting news I got the first proofs of the hardcover version of Birchthorn! The book is lovely, cloth bound, and has a nice black jacket. It's being printed shortly now that it is approved and will be in the mail this summer to the backers, followed by the printing of the paperback this fall. I look forward to getting it out to all who supported it.

It's been mild up here. Looking forward to some real heat in the air. I've only been to the river once to fly fish and not swam at all. It's been to long of a spring and now that the Solstice has past and it still is rarely above 80, it makes it seem like a pre-fall before the light is tired enough to give into September. Has me thinking about firewood, which is good. My goal for July is to have a cord stacked and new boots. My recent pair is starting to fall apart from the inside!

Happy to report good news and honest nerves. Excited for the book to be in backers hands and that long campaign finally completed. I hope all of you are excited for this weekend! I'll be teaching archery and tuning up my fiddle.

Monday, June 26, 2017

At 39 Patty realized no one was going to buy her a horse, so she bought one for herself.

At 50 she started learning to drive carriages and trained her own Percheron, Steele by herself. Steele weighs a ton.

At 58 she bought her first horse bow & is now setting up a mounted archery course on her farm.

Be like Patty.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Excavation Day!

It's been a week of fighting a cold (or pop-up 30s allergies?). I haven't been running or working out much because of it and little tasks like moving buckets full of water up a hill became tiring much faster. I'm glad to say that cold has began to slide off. My head is clearer and eyes are brighter, which is surprising since most of the day was spent around a broken toilet.

With the mortgage finally caught up I felt it was okay to work on priority number 3 for this farmhouse. (Priority number 2 is earning the next mortgage payment!) P3 was repairing plumbing and a friend of fellow farmers Patty and Mark who happens to be a pro plumber stopped by this morning. We took the toilet apart and off the pipes, dug up the septic, and had adventures with a lost snake (the tool not the animal), cut and repaired pipes, and enough digging to feel it in my shoulders. It was 4 hours of work and we're still not done but this Angel in Coveralls named Dan busted his ass trying to help with drainage blockage. I found the above treasure while looking for the septic lid.

At the end of it all I asked him what I owed him and since he didn't solve the problem he refused payment. I sent him home with some pork chops and he'll be back at 7AM. The good news is the rate is reasonable. I can pay him tomorrow after we fix the issue (I am being positive about this) and that is a good feeling.

And honestly, how often do you get a chance to really clean behind a toilet tank? Today I got that chance. Livin' the dream.

In other farm news the place has found its summer rythem. My days start with my boss, which is a small spiral notebook including the day's to do list. Because I'm kind to myself at 6:30AM I write down "Make coffee" every time to have something joyous to check off. Then the list of morning chores is done, checked off animal and task by animal. Some days items are added by need. For example: Trim goat feet, scrub hawk mews, make soap, or weed potato patch might be added along with morning food and water resources. Today the goal was just to get everything done before the mechanic arrived so I could help him dig and pass him tools. I'm glad I stuck to that list because plumbing waits for no woman when it gets fussy.

Many good things are in the works. No news or reasons to crack open bottles of champagne but I am optimistic about these things as well. What's the alternative? 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Piglets for Sale!

If you are looking for piglets, I have plenty here looking for new homes. They will be ready for pickup in six weeks, and will be wormed and electric fence trained before you take them home. (Both on wire and electric pig netting I ordered this morning). All the piglets are black (save for this little guy) and are from a mixture of Tamworth, Black, and Yorkshire lines out of Joshua Rockwoods's stock at West Wind Acres. If interested in reserving a piglet or four do contact me at this email.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Space Coop

I messaged Patty first thing in the morning after chores, asking if she wanted to come and help put together what I have been calling the "Space Coop." She was game.  She said she would be over around 10AM, between the thunderstorms hitting our corner of Veryork all day. I was grateful, since my ability to assemble or build anything is pretty awful. As a carpenter I am a great farm blogger.

But Patty, oh man, Patty has the ability to follow directions and solve problems with grace. Watching her build something from scrap lumber or repair a barn wall is like watching a natural at the cello play a concerto. She just gets it. She can create.  And she can look at directions and make things happen - be it a new pie recipe or a chick brooder made of old glass door frames. It's a gift I don't have and was happy to have her help.

 She arrived between the storms and it took us 2.5 hours and a lunch break, but we got the Eglu Cube built! It is the nicest piece of chicken housing this farm has ever seen. It will be home base for the Silkie chicks, whom I hope to breed in the future. Friends on Twitter have named the head male Falkor. So Falkor and his ladies will be moving into their new digs tonight.

I'm most impressed by how well thought out this coop is. It's built like a cooler, with the same thick, double-walled industrial plastic (cool when hot, warm when cold) - but for CHICKENS! It is vented, with doors to nesting areas and outside pens, and safe from predators and bad weather. It's also mobile. You can easily kick the wheels into gear and place it on new ground. I am impressed. These Silkies get an Eglu Cube and Scratch & Peck Feed - some fancy fowl!

When we took a break from building I got to share with Patty the good news. I called the bank this AM and the farm is caught up on the mortgage for the first time in a long time. Thanks to this weekend and the community here and on twitter I have weeks of work ahead of me. A lot to do and mail, but still, what a relief to be hired by so many people. I am still sending out thank yous and emails as I have time. The power was out for a few hours today, so I will do my best to catch up but if for some reason I missed you - know it is the community around this story and blog that sustains and encourages this farm. Thank you from the bottom of my misanthropic heart.

I'm still here. Still farming. Still going.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Update: Saturday Afternoon

I am so amazed at the support from the blog and twitter. Thanks to the readership this farm is already in a better place than it was this morning. So many people reached out and offered to buy logos or illustrations, enough that I feel I have some skin to put into the game when I call the bank first thing Monday Morning. It will either be enough to get out of the woods or at least give me a place to start the conversation - and the confidence from knowing that conversation can happen at all is enough to help me sleep tonight. I have tried to respond to all the emails and comments, but if I missed you know how much it means to me. Know this farm is because of those who want to read about it, follow my story, and support a feral woman. I am feeling hopeful.

The Letter

I have been farming at my homestead in Jackson, the township area outside the village of Cambridge, New York, for seven years. As a single woman I have purchased this farm, raised good food, taught classes, and wrote books. I’ve followed my passions here. I've fallen apart here. I built myself back up here. This is the place that created the woman I am today. This is home.

Today a certified letter arrived in the mail. A notice of foreclosure. Making monthly mortgage payments is all well and good – but if you are always a month or two behind when you send them - you are still behind. And every day you are behind adds up as default. I haven’t had the ability to earn enough in one fell swoop to cover the back payments. I thought I was keeping the wolves from the door by making regular payments, but the wolves are not waiting any longer.

I have a few days to gather the money and I don’t want to do a crowdfunded charity if I can avoid it. I have zero problem with people using these, but I feel that I have skills and work I can offer instead.  I'd much rather have a folder of 30 clients wanting something I made and the ability to give something of value in return for hard-earned money.

So here is what I am going to try. I am going to design a voucher for a pet art commission or logo and offer them to you to purchase.

The pet art/animal commissions are $100 for full color artwork mailed anywhere in the world. They are on 9x12” Bristol Board. Please Email me at dogsinourparks(at) if you would like to purchase or gift one to someone who could use it.

The Logo Design vouchers are $200. It is a flat rate for a custom logo. Please Email me at dogsinourparks(at) if you would like to purchase or gift one to someone who could use it.

These are both $50 off the regular price. If you buy one from me you can use it anytime in the future or the person you gift it to can for a drawing or logo. If I can sell enough to catch up it will literally save this farm. It’s made it 7 years and I really, really, want to see it make 8.

If artwork or a logo isn’t your thing, I offer archery and fiddle classes at the farm. there is also an option on my blog, to subscribe as a patron for $5 a month for the writing.

If you just want to make a one time contribution to the blog - there is the option to use

And what is the plan if I do manage to save this place in a weekend? The plan is to keep writing, farming, freelancing, and working until I gain the solvency doing what I love. And if I fail, then I fail. If my writing or products created from this place are not valuable to people than that is what should happen and I accept that. But I’m going to keep trying. And hoping to make the break that makes a name for this place that makes all the difference - whatever that may be.

Note: If you do not want to support the blog, that's fine. The blog is free and has been for all ten years of content. I do ask that if you dislike me, this farm, or my work you keep your comments/emails/tweets to yourself for a few days. Please respect my candor, if nothing else. I am trying my best to earn the money I need from people who want to support the farm. I want to use work, and repaid loans like Kiva offers instead of crowdfunding if possible. If asking for that opportunity offends you, I don't know what else to say.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Power of Micro-Loans!

So happy to share some great news! I JUST sent in my last loan repayment on my beloved pickup truck. Thanks to the magic of micro-lending, 63 different people loaned my farm small amounts of money. Those small gestures of faith and friendship 2 years ago added up to the total cost of buying, taxes, tags, and registration of a used 1989 F150. That truck is my baby, and what I depend on every day to move meat, hay, feed, and myself around Washington County. As of today my only auto expenses are a small insurance bill (around $48) and gas/maintenance. As someone who has dealt with auto payments most of her adult life this is a true reason to raise a glass tonight!

Kiva was the program that made this possible. Thanks to their website I was approved, loan launched, and funded in under 24-hours. I was able to set up repayments I could manage and it made all the difference to this small farm. And the people who loaned the money to me had the choice of either returning the repaid money to their bank accounts or lending it to someone else. This is the magic of Kiva. I have been able to help many people over the years by re-lending the same fifty dollars all over the world. I've helped farmers over and over, seven loans as of this morning (Just sent $25 to a woman needing pig feed in the Philippines!) and that was money recycled through Kiva.

It feels good to accept loans from people who want to help you, it feels great to repay that loan, and it feels even better to use my money in my portfolio on Kiva to help others.

Soon I'll launch another loan through Kiva for farm repairs/improvements. It'll help me to buy equipment, fencing, and farm repairs without having to use the money earned through logos/soap/illustration and other creative means for anything but catching up on the mortgage. As I prepare for that launch I ask that you consider loaning through Kiva - if not to help Cold Antler to help people all over the world take care of their crops, beasts, and families.

There's enough bad news out there. Let's help each other where we can.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Round 'Em Up!

Gibson has turned into a swell piglet wrangler. They have been getting a little too adventurous around the farm and are learning the dogs don't go into their den and staying closer to the moms. But catching this action shot made my morning! See photos like this, and many more each day, over at twitter. I'm @coldantlerfarm

The Jump

It started with me standing at the edge of a waterfall in Tennessee. Abrams Falls is only three stories, but it's amazing how high that feels right before you decide to jump off it.

I was fresh out of college and had spent the year working my first real job. I was a web designer for HGTV in Knoxville. Born and bred in the northeast, the decision to move to the South alone was the biggest I'd made in my life so far. But I did it. I got an apartment, adopted a pair of Siberian Huskies, and now this young woman hopped up on adrenaline and corporate health insurance was standing on the edge of a waterfall feeling invincible. My real life was just starting.

...And I was possibly going to end it by jumping off a wet cliff. Why? Because my friend Heather and I had hiked several miles to this mountain spring in the glorious summer heat and we brought towels to enjoy a swim as a post-hiking treat. While we played with the baby trout swimming around our knees in the shallows, we witnessed several frat guys jumping off the falls and having a hell of a time. I decided I wanted to do it, too.

So I climbed up the craggy trail and stood at the edge of the falls, the water rushing around me as my legs wobbled on outcropped rocks. I knew I had to run and jump. There was about six feet of clearance needed to not end up skewered on large rocks directly below. From the comfort of the ground that distance looked easy to clear. Up here, not so much.

I jumped.

I didn't run. I should have run. I just used my shaking thighs to launch myself and I hadn't cleared that crucial distance. I will never forget watching those rocks rushing up at me, knowing I was going to die. I closed my eyes and accepted the mistake.

A second later I was surrounded by cold water. I looked up at the sunshine above me, liquid light at the end of a tunnel of green water. I moved all my limbs slowly. I felt my head. I was still underwater and I think, in shock. I didn't think about breathing. I was suspended in awe.

When I finally swam up to the surface all those frat guys were around the ledge, faces white and horrified. A guy made a measurement between his thumb and index finger and said, "You were THIS close. We all thought you hit the edge. We came down to fish you out!"

I walked back to the trail head feeling ethereal. I was certain I'd float off if I wasn't weighed down by the luck that allowed me to survive. It coated me in a cold sweat, like dew. How was I still alive? How did I still have time? I shouldn't have any more time?

The next day the local news reported that two grown men died at the same falls. Not from jumping off, but from swimming too close and getting pulled under by the force of falling water. It scooped them out of the world in an instant, a hunting undertow. It took a harnessed SCUBA team to pull out the bodies. They were trapped by the pressure.

Read more »

Thursday, June 8, 2017

50 new. I taken. I gone.

My morning started with death. While doing the morning rounds I noticed only 8 of the 9 sheep were out. The oldest ewe, Split Ear, who came here 6 years ago wasn’t accounted for. It didn’t take long to find her in the pole barn. She had died in the night, by all accounts peacefully. I sighed and got the chore cart I usually used to load hay bales with up into the field. She would need to be buried straight away. It was a somber way to begin a sunny day.

Martha called from the Post Office this morning. It was some time after the dead ewe was removed from the farm and hay was fed but before milking. I could barely hear the ring from outside the farmhouse.

Side note: I need to get one of those landline outside ringers I see attached to the old dairy barns around here. They still sell them on Ebay, and they are loud as alarm clocks. I ran inside and pulled the yellow receiver off my wall-mounted yellow dinosaur.I played with the cord as I turned down the stove so the boiling-over coffee would stop vomiting.

”Jenna, I have your babies." Was what the voice said to me. I thanked her and said I’d be down in twenty minutes. My chickens had arrived.

The sun was out and that’s a novelty these days. My county is about 6 inches above the seasonal average for rain. Great for growing hay/horrible for harvesting it. But today there were rays of light and clouds of fog coming off the road and trucks. Sun was hitting wet things with such force it demanded changes in physical states. I wasn’t going to argue. Time to get moving.

The chicks were 50 meat birds from Freedom Ranger Hatchery. Sturdy little nuggets and all arrived in good health. It didn’t take long at all to take them outside to a chicken tractor and get them settled in with feed, water, and extra electric fencing around the perimeter. I had learned that just because animals are inside a pen doesn't mean predators can't get to them.

As I worked on settling in the babies the sows from the pig paddock watched in interest. Were these chicks snacks or neighbors? They grunted and the little piglets above them on the muddy hill darted around. With the boar out of the picture it was just the ladies and their combined litters. All the piglets born were hail and spry. They sleep together, nurse together, raise them as a combined unit. Good for them. Don’t say that rural America isn’t progressive.

This is farming. Before I had my coffee I had held a funeral and set up a nursery. It’s not for everyone.

Later in the afternoon my friend Tara would be arriving. She’s launching this amazing new food site called The Woodland Kitchen. I am so proud of her, beyond proud. She’s traveled the world, nested in Vermont, and now wants to share her passion of food. Her site will be about local foods and seasonal meals in her world and I thought she’d want to be a part of the process of harvesting a pig. I invited her to photograph the process and blog about it if she liked. She was game.

Tara arrived and shortly after the butchering crew did as well. It amazes me how fast they work. From the pull of the trigger to the time the animal is skinned, gutted, and halved and being set into their truck to be returned to the shop is under an hour. Tara took some photos and was okay with the whole endeavor. Not everyone is, but as a cookbook author and world-watcher - she was fine. Soon we were bagging up leaf lard, cheek meat, and liver into separate bags to share for recipes. Around here things with names go to things in recipes pretty fast.

And just like that the farm's tally changes. My brain slides the clumsy census abacus around a few knocks. 50 new. I taken. I gone.

There's a lot of life here now, far more than death. The piglets, the chicks, the ducklings and silkies. There are still more animals to come and go but among the green and the hope of this place the blood and bodies are rare. Part of that is luck, but mostly its doing the same thing for years on end. As a new farmer I made mistakes that meant animals died. Proud to say death comes far rarer these years. An old sheep dying quietly in her sleep is okay. A pig harvested for people who ordered shares of him is okay, too. The chicks will be in the freezer here and freezer of friends soon.

Personally, I am working to sell another book and share more of my story. The time between book sales has gone from months to years. I learned to be resourceful. I learned to share and sell skills and items besides words for profit. In a few weeks I am teaching beginner archery lessons here at the farm. People who bought shares of this particular pig will be notified. Right now things are so tight I can't actually leave the farm until some income comes in, but that's okay. I have what I need. The animals have what they need. There is food and sunlight and work for all. There's a new proposal to work on, designs and illustrations, and my weekly fitness goals to smash. I got a lot of books to read, rivers to fish, roads to run, a farm to care for, a hawk to fly, and a horse to ride. and most of all, I got a place to fight for. I still feel like I am proving the endurance test that lets me stay here. That proves this is home. I can't wait to pass it. To get there.

I think this is it for me - this writing thing. It's part of every day and there's a stack of six books I managed to publish so far. I want to see that stack grow. I want to keep up a life of good deaths and hope in the form of fluff balls like those chicks. I want to keep getting better at understanding all of it.

I think it might be love.

Saturday, June 3, 2017


It's midnight in New York. I'm wide awake.

I'm just home from visiting Tara and Tyler in Vermont. They're home from a few weeks of visiting relatives in the Midwest. I missed them. We made plans earlier in the week to catch up, and I offered to head their way. I figured crossing half the continent was enough travel for them this month. So after the evening chores were done and the farrier had packed up - Gibson and I jumped into the truck.

Gibson just comes along. He's always with me. He's a ghost at people's homes, asleep in a corner or silently sitting beside me. Since he's so well behaved it's expected he'll come along for a night like this in another little farmhouse. 

I live a few miles from the state line. Around here everyone calls it Veryork, a weird spot in America where half our lives are in Bennington or Manchester and the other in Albany or Saratoga. That is the radius I spend most of living in. The ride was less than half an hour and I was at their driveway. The same timber-framed cottage I helped raise and the same people I've known all these years. I parked Taylor, Gibson jumped out of the bench seat, and inside we went.

Tara had just made fresh bread. The house smelled amazing. She also cooked up some bacon, sliced up a giant ripe tomato, and set out lettuce and mayo. BLT's were on the menu and as we hugged and swapped salutations I reached into my rucksack and pulled out a package of bacon from my own pigs. A future BLT night was on Cold Antler.

We ate, we caught up. We talked about their trip, our work, our lives. We ate and laughed, cracked beers and jokes. Things family do. And then Tyler pulled down their giant screen (that takes up a whole wall) and turned on the projector. We watched Get Out on the big screen, with an intermission for Tara's homemade cherry pie.

So I got home late. This is a late Friday night for me these days. A movie at a friends' place, my dog sleeping beside me, dinner, pie.

That's where I was tonight.

I don't want to be anywhere else.

A short while ago, right before I sat down to write this, I was outside with a flashlight, searching every corner of this farm for ducklings. They usually put themselves to bed before dark, waddling into the barn and tucking into the space between the goat pen and bales of hay. It feels safe. It's the best spot. If I had to spend the night in the barn that's the place I'd choose, too. But they were not in the barn and so I started looking for them.

I did it while checking on the other animals, mostly by listening. Chickens know to be silent after dark, but not ducks. They hear footsteps and start to let out shuddering peeps. That is what I was listening for as the beam from the flashlight walked around the pens and fences.

Around me were fireflies, the sounds of the stream, the tree frogs - all the inhales and exhales of a forest and farm. I heard the blowing of air from Merlin's giant nostrils and turned my beam toward his pasture. His black outline and brown eyes caught the light, glowing silver and green. I smiled. I thought of the old superstition of seeing a female horse before bedtime and the bad dreams they could bring you. Merlin's a gelding, not a night mare.

I walked the familiar paths. The flashlight danced and flirted with the fireflies. The half moon was bright enough I didn't need it, but it was a way to direct focus. I checked on the sows and their piglets. They were all tucked into hay and breathing deep. The boar in the barn was out cold. The sheep were in their pole barn on the hill. The chickens roosting. The ducklings didn't peep.

I walked to the mews to check on Aya. She was inside, resting like a queen on her throne. I had spent the day scraping, raking, painting, organizing and cleaning her space.  It looked tidy in there with the gloves and hoods on pegs in a neat row. As I was checking to see her feet and their grip on the perch I heard a duckling's whisper behind me.

I turned. They were in the bushes beside the house. Not a bad place for a camping trip but I wanted them in their barn. I wanted them in the safe place. So I grabbed a large walking stick against the mews and tapped their rumps gently. They stumbled out and soon there was a line in the moonlight - farmer and staff, flashlight and fireflies, and ducklings making their way across the lawn to the open barn door. Now everyone was in their safe place. Now it's my turn.

My safe place is here. Yes this house and this land, but mostly writing. I can't imagine not doing this, not sharing this story. Not because it deserves to be shared but because it's a compulsion. And as far as addictions go this one is pretty cheap and reliable, I'll take it.

I'll be thirty five in a few weeks. Which is great, but a number like that demands a certain amount of looking around. Here's what I see: married friends, their kids, career advancement, and world travel. I see women my age at a different place. For years I felt I had to compare myself to that. Then I felt I had to vocally announce to the world I didn't compare myself to it. I'm exhausted from both.

I'm at the fortunate crossroads of not wanting to be anyone else at a time society seems to expect me to more than ever. I don't want to raise children. The idea of a wedding makes me ill. I don't want to date your boyfriend or girlfriend or have your career. I don't want your passport. I don't want to have your body, your hair, your pets, or your living room set. I am entirely content with the story I wrote.

Yeah, there are still things I dream about, and people, and places I want to stand and feel wind. There are books and conversations yet written and shared. But there's also this duck-sleeping-between-the-goat-pen-and hay-bale contentment knowing that a night with friends, pie, movies, and laughter fills up all the cracks inside me. That safety of knowing fear isn't motivation anymore. That hunger to change and grow and keep expecting things to surprise and delight me is what's ahead.

Women haven't had this kind of 35 before. 

I feel like life is just getting started. It's a weird alchemy to try to explain but it makes me feel lucky. I hope I always keep this feeling. I think it's the trick to the whole thing.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

A Good Pack

When I was in high school a new store opened at the Lehigh Valley Mall. It was called EMS and it sold all the coolest backpacking and climbing gear. I was a lifeguard in the summer and worked at a rock climbing gym in the winter and this was a dream come true. I bought this inexpensive canvas rucksack back then. I remember having it loaded for day hikes with my Golden Retriever mix, Murray. I remember filling it with some bouldering gear and my climbing shoes to bum with friends out on the rocky ridge by our high school. It's been with me ever since. It came to college with me. It bummed around the art campus until I felt it looked too shabby and out of place with the tech-pack phase that was going on then. The teal I loved looked embarrassingly weird. I threw it in the closet.

Then I moved from college to Tennessee, and it came along in the U-haul. After that it came on hikes in the Smoky mountains. From there it moved with me and my Siberian huskies to Idaho, and then Vermont, and now to this farm in New York. I just found it last week hanging and covered with dust in a storage area.

I washed it. I sewed a patch on it. Now it's my summer bag. What always has the essentials for a day on the job around here: first aid, water, sunblock, bug spray, snacks, wallet, etc. It's like a purse but the kind you can strap to your body and get lost all morning in the forest beside.

Why share this? Because I was looking online for a new backpack before I searched for this. I stopped shortly after seeing what the newest trends were. Now packs come with all sorts of water bladders and built-in rain covers and enough hooks and ladders to keep a filing clerk happy. What I needed was something to hold things. And it no longer is exciting or fun to buy new when you can take care of what you already have. It's how I feel about the farm. It's how I feel about a lot of things. And I'm proud of nearly 20 years of service from a good pack.