Monday, April 30, 2018


The electric company shut off the power. Electric fences are all down, freezers down, no water, no internet (I'm at laundromat Wi-Fi in town on my kindle). I am terrified. I want to curl into bed and give up and that is exactly what I can't do. It'll be very dark in a few hours.

update: thanks to sales driven through Twitter things are looking up! Going to arrange something with the power company soon as I get back to the farm. All hail landlines!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Let's Go

It's a soggy and muddy morning here at the farm. Gibson is beside me, his wet fur damping my hip as I sit on the living-room floor in front of the computer to write. I like the smell of wet dog, always have. It's comforting and homey. The coffee is perking post-chores and I am very excited to grasp an oversized mug and partake. Nothing else warms you from the inside out in weather like this than a good drink and outside work behind you.

Things at the farm are moving optimistically forward. There are now four happy lambs here, and possibly more on the way. I've contacted the shearer to come for his annual visit and have a butcher to call soon as well for a pig or two. The sound of chirping chicks is background percussion of this blog post. The brooder here in the living room is life and noise indoors.

Outside the house Aya Cash is molting like mad and dropping more and more feather's every day. The goats are shedding their winter undercoats and (hopefully) pregnant and showing soon. I am running a lot, my therapy and anxiety-fighting activity of choice. I am up to about 20-30 miles a week and it feels good to have a body that can do that for me. I'm grateful for her. There's a barrage of water out there now and even snow in the forecast for tonight - but by Wednesday it might reach 80° and I beyond excited for that! Till then I'm trying to keep up with the quickly-mounting list of spring chores as more babies arrive and the gardens begin demanding their good work. Even an operation as small as this requires my everything.

Everything. What a word.

This farm is what I wake up and live for. It's not just my home, but my entire empire of passions.  One address that holds a woman's hope and force. This farm is where I write, design, and draw. It's where I hunt, ride, run, explore, and grow. It's where I learned to saddle a trail horse, train a hawk, herd sheep with dogs, and butcher my own chickens for Sunday roasts. It's nourishment for hand, heart, and head.

But it is also the source of all my anxiety and fears. There's no safety net here and I am dealing with the realities of not selling another book anytime soon. Luckily I am taking on as much freelance work as possible, and hopefully word of mouth will spread the logo and illustration sales that help support the farm work here. The encouraging part is even when things are like they are now, I have managed to keep just ahead of the wolves at the door. Making a mortgage payment (albeit a late one) every month but regular payments tell the bank you're not going anywhere. I cast new grass seed in the lawn, an borrowing a power washer for the house's siding. I want to stay here as long as I can with the animals and life I built.

This is not a complaint. It's my choice. No one ever said it would be easy, or get easier. But here's what does accumulate naturally: my self confidence. I am nothing like the girl who bought a black pony. Creating and keeping this place has sculpted a woman who is proud of her work and home - however humble. I'm not done telling this story or unearthing the resourcefulness that keeps it afloat. I owe it to me, to the dogs, to the three new lambs I just bartered for, to the bank, to you.

If I can keep going so can you. So let's go!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Kids!

Three new lambs arrived today! Meet the new guys, bought in for fall meat customers. They are Romnies from a local farmer and I am so pleased with them! It was pouring this morning, but by noon the rain pulled back and made the walk to the lamb pen up the hill only mildly muddy (only fell down once!) And those guys are in the lamb pen with Benjen the goat. Bette is still inside, being too small to stay in the fence and still on the bottle - but that Winter's Bottom Kid is finally all grown up outside with the other kids. Err, lambs!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Horse Power

I am checking back in to talk a bit about driving over at Patty's farm, and a lot about Mabel. First off, I need to express how wonderful it felt to drive two tons of horse at the end of thick leather lines under a bright spring sun. To be outside! To be with friends! To have defeated winter and be holding this accumulation of horse power in my hands! Hoo!

And by Horsepower I mean the two harnessed Percherons at the end of the lines, but I also mean the half decade of riding and horse stories I have piled into my heart. I was the girl scared to move at a trot on a horse's back outside a ring with an instructor and a helmet. Now I am this woman asking two horses she knows by name to whoa after trotting across a field with nothing holding them back but 182lbs of farmer. The power you get from these animals is the confidence. I am so much stronger than the girl who was scared to trot indoors.

Now, for miss Mabel. This girl has been nothing but a delight since she arrived last summer. I bought her for a dollar off of a sweet woman in Saragota who realized this half Belgian wasn't the right fit for her. She is no beginner's mount and would have scared the white from my eyes if she was my first horse. Mabel is strong, fast, and a bit jumpy. She's leader of the pack and a force to be reckoned with in the pasture. Every sheep, songbird, chicken, and groundhog knows she's in charge.

Yesterday I took that same strong lady out for some extended grooming and tacking up. I wanted to go on a quiet trail ride with her alone. I was thinking just a mile at a walk, something light and fun. But five minutes into that walk the nieghbor's granddaughter was with her friend on a fast golf cart with a running German Shepherd! Mabel was freaked out, to but it likely, and tried to run home.

I remained calm. I kept her still. She didn't bolt, buck, or rear but she did crow hop and snort. She wanted that horse-eating golf cart out of her sight. The girls stopped the cart and I asked them if I could walk Mabel over to inspect it, see it was okay? They obliged and soon me, Mabel, the dog, the girls, and the cart were fast friends. I was proud of both of us ladies - horse and human alike - for making it a successful ride even if it was cut short. We faced a problem and solved it.

And our tank gained a little more horsepower.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Learning To Teamster!

Had my first ever experience harnessing and ground-driving a team of horses today! My friend Patty Wesner got a second Percheron, a mare named Ruby. She's a stunning black beauty and calm and true. I learned to drive horses thanks to Patty and Steele, her gray gelding. When she invited me to help learn to harness and drive I was excited, but cautious. I am confident on the back of a horse where I feel in control, but driving has always been the scarier mode of transportation to me. It only feels safer when things are going well, but a runaway cart with a spooked horse (especially on a road with cars) is a crap shoot of terror unless the horse is rock solid. If something goes wrong on a ride I am 4 feet off the ground. If something goes wrong in a carriage - I'm possibly on the last hell ride to my demise into a semi truck. Let's drive horses!

More tomorrow on this adventure! 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Chirps and Mountain Views

I got an email from my neighbors this morning. A wonderful couple who just returned from their winter migration in Georgia. With them came the sunshine (which they said they were happy to bring with them as a gift) and as we made plans for trading eggs for bread we shared stories from the winter. One of them would be stopping by in a minute to pick up eggs. I said sure, stop on by and don't mind the wee goat. 

When she stopped by to barter she pet little Bette Midler as the lamb scuttled around her legs. We chatted, talked the cold and the distance. It was nice.

It wasn't until she left for her errands in town that let out this exhalation of relief. I remembered saying goodbye to them at the start of winter. I told them I would see them when they came back to the mountain and to have a wonderful respite down south. But when I said that there was real fear in my voice. I had no idea if I'd still be on the farm in come the spring. I intended to, but intentions are worth the air you speak them into.

But I made it. I'm here. And not only did I get through that winter with the bottom of -20 degree nights and burst pipes - I managed to keep the farm and my wits through it all. Thanks, of course, to the readers that supported me through sales and scary times. And also through the power of this community - farmers, plumbers, firewood deliverers, feed sellers, friends, and plenty of podcasts. I felt lucky and grateful. I smiled after that sigh. The sun was shining and this was something to celebrate.

I had gone for a run earlier in the morning. A nice 10K; six rolling miles of farm and field. My area of Jackson, NY (just north of the town of Cambridge) was so excited for the sunshine. I ran past butterflies and chattering squirrels, past crows and redtails, and even (I swear to you!) a boy painting a white picket fence. With the vitamin D from above and music in my ears I allowed myself to feel safe for a while.

I allowed myself the permission to be proud of a morning of chores and miles, of the new delivery of baby chicks to the farmhouse this week (Thanks to Strombergs!) and the tuned fiddle by the kitchen door. These are small things and moments - but they shape the season's turning.

After the run I changed and took Merlin out for a ride. He was feeling his oats because it took ten minutes to catch him out in the field! Mabel watched, standing still, as Merlin and I paced around her. But after his initial hissy fit I slid the halter on and promised him just a nice walk in the woods.

We rode up to the top of the mountain. I took in the view of the gray trees without leaves, the brown earth just starting to look green again. Would we be here for the summer?

Even at a walk he was huffing, so we took it slow. As someone who just hours earlier was ready to throw up around mile 5, heading uphill along a highway, I could understand. He found his air and I found my seat and we even trotted a little. It felt amazing to be back in the saddle, back on the horse that taught me to love riding and feel at home on a pony's back.

As we headed down the mountain I had to remind myself of some lucky things:

You have a body that you take care of and takes care of you. You have a farm that you take care of, and takes care of you. You have kind neighbors, a promise of warm sourdough bread in the morning, a date with friends tomorrow, and the sun is shining. As easy as it is to get caught up in the fear of the keeping, there is the joy in the having. And if I don't stop on the back of a dark horse and recognize that I may forget.

Luceo Non Uro.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Lambs and Chicks

I am fighting this glum weather with sunny plans and music. I have my fiddle out and set beside my computer's work station. Every so often I pick it up and play a tune. I can't stress enough how much better I feel when I make time in my work day to drink a lot of water, exercise, and play music. It doesn't have to be gallons, miles, and hours of songs. A few glasses, a nice walk, a tune on the fiddle and I'm a better, healthier, kinder me.

New chicks will be delivered via post soon, probably tomorrow morning! I'll head down to the post office with the dogs and use the trip to mail out some soap as well, checking two items off my to do list with a grin.

I'm very excited, guys! New chicks lift up the entire mood of this farmhouse! Their songs remind me that while yes—it is still gray and snowing here in Veryork—by the time these birds are ready to move outside there will be green grass and sunshine. I can't wait for that boost. And like seedlings planted, or gardens plans drawn, these little steps towards production are in motion. And those steps are what turn a house into a farm. If you are using the land you occupy to grow food for yourself and others, congrats, you're farming. Welcome to the club.

In more cloudy news: I am getting suspicious that the other two ewes I am hoping will lamb, won't. This means buying in lambs like I did last year. I like the local Romneys available (like the ones pictures from last year) but would rather sell animals born here than ones I had to buy in. So fingers crossed for more lambs, kids, flowing milk, and wool in the next few weeks. In the meantime - I'm focusing on the work that pays the bills these days - design and illustration, as well as farm plans like dairy, eggs, lamb shares, and shorn beasties.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Bad Rain & Good News!

The wind outside is intense. Angry weather is roaring through the valley and even with the protection of the mountain some trees are down in the forest and large limbs have fallen near the driveway. Every few hours I head outside with the dogs to check on the horses and the flock, the sounder and goats, the poultry and hawk, and start the truck in the race against a possibly-damp distributor cap.

So outside is a howling mess but inside is a kinder, quieter, mess. Right now Bette the lamb is curled up by the wood stove, a defrosted quail beside her for Aya Cash's dinner. The dogs are close to me, curled up as well. I'm already feeling worn down from the day's client list and phone appointments; but generally optimistic. Here's why!

Good news! The weekend was a success and I was able to mail a mortgage payment this morning! This is the uphill clawing needed to catch up, and I will hopefully mail another this month to be even safer. Between this and a phone call this AM with some questions about taxes I had with my accountant - a HUGE sigh of relief was exhaled. May this weekend hopefully keep me (fingers crossed) ahead of any danger to my home.

More updates soon. Let's all pray no lambs feel the need to be born in the slurry outside!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Keep On!

My goal is to make enough money this weekend to mail a mortgage payment to keep the farm solvent and safely mine, even though it is behind. The 15th of the month is my cut off, and while I've been able to send in a house payment every month - it hasn't been enough to catch up. I'm trying to earn that through the work and skills I have to offer and in spring that means selling soap, classes, logos, and pet portraits.

So if you want to support this scrappy farm - now is the time! Logos, illustrations, classes, soaps! I can also offer signed books in bundles with soap orders, speaking events, dulcimer classes, fiddle lessons, etc! Email me at

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Digging Up The Positive

The farm is slowly thawing, with tiny shoots of green just starting to hint at their occupation. When you live halfway up the eastern slope of a mountain daylight is scarce, especially this time of year. If there's cloud cover it feels like sunset starts around 5PM as the sun starts to head west and shade the farm.  But this morning the sun was shining and there wasn't frost like yesterday morning. In bed I heard birds singing outside as I started to come to. It feels like change, I hope for the warmth promised by experience and rotation - more and more the older I get.

Last night I was visiting friends to use their washing machine and their farm was already starting to look green, out in the open fields that all face to the west. It's an odd feeling to be jealous of geographical placement, but there I was. I was grateful to use their machine, and for the clean sheets and towels, but coming home to the farm last night was hard. Panic is washing over me, and I wrote about it in more detail and then deleted the post. I don't know what good comes of focusing on the negative. Every day I wake up with a farm of animals that need to be fed, with a list of clients to address, with soap to make, packages to mail, and besides promoting what the farm has to offer - all I can do is the work itself and be calm and certain things will eventually get easier. And I need to remind myself that they are getting easier, day by day.

Keep digging out. Be patient with how dirty and tired you get trying. Be kind to yourself. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spring Flirting

Morning chores are behind me and the dogs are eating their breakfast of warm rice, a cracked raw egg, and kibble. I'm on my second cup of coffee and planning the day. We're in this shoulder season before true spring and it's like flirting.

While feeding the animals I was breaking  ice from water stations and crunching on frost across the dead lawn, but by mid afternoon I'll be out in the sunshine on my run convinced river swims are moments away. The whole thing is confusing and I like it. I should be heating the house more but I'm not. It seems like the fire times are behind me. I should be outside preparing for new life; lambs, seeds, chicks, and clean lawns. I raked up winter hay scattered around the yard for an hour yesterday. All I accomplished was making brown earth with snow clods on it less hay-scattered but green stuff will come. Ya gotta have faith.

I'm still waiting on two ewes to lamb. I have kids (I hope!) on the way as well. Spring butcher dates to arrange, banjo strings to tune, seeds to start, and brooders to clean. The weather is cold enough to allow me to hesitate on those things. But I am certain in the coming weekends there will be chicks at the post office and pitchforks of compost filling beds just waiting for cold-season crops.

Right now I am enjoying daily soap making, thanks to the goats of Northern Spy Farm in Vermont. My friends Dona and Brad let me pick up milk when I need it since they already freshened their Nubians and my freezer stash from my Alpines has dried up. The soap pictured above is a new experiment: bar soap! It's made with milk, coconut oil, olive oil, lye, honey, honeycomb, and oven-dried and ground spent grains from the local brewery's maple porter. It makes a scentless, exfoliating, soap of local goods. In my Norse animal mold it is just lovely. Already sold six bars on Twitter last night!

Follow me on Twitter if you want to hear about dating life, pop culture, and see more pics of the animals and farm. Right now I am keeping that part of my life off this blog but happy to share in that more casual space. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Escapes and Teamwork!

I'm just back from a trip down my mountain road in search of escaped ewes. Spring means breakouts here, and I was in the shower when the alarms sounded. The system works like this: Ewes of young, athletic, ability leap or crawl under downed fences from winter windfall. Older sheep like Joseph, Brick, or Monday don't feel like exploring but still feel left out. Joseph is attached to the ladies and lets out a bawling baa that everyone in this house knows that something is up. I was halfway through moisturizing in the steamy bathroom when the dogs exploded with barks about Joseph's complaints. Goodbye self care, hello herding.

We got into the truck, me barely together with wet hair and blotchy skin from the hot water. A quarter-mile down the road I could see the fluffy sheep up in the forest, heading for the road. I pulled over and the dogs ran down into the forest, leaping across the stream, and ran up the mountain after the flock. It took moments for the woolies to turn on their heels and I shouted praises to Team Cold Antler!

The flock is back and my afternoon will include at least an hour of fence repair, looks like. Not the most fun way to spend a morning that isn't snowing or raining, but I couldn't be more proud of the dogs. They live like kings and work like dogs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Get Me Going

As I'm typing an April snowfall is happening outside the window. The farm is sated from evening chores, the house is somewhat orderly, and my to-do list is checked off. So there is this feeling of low-bar accomplishment and determination. I got through this mud season day. I got the work done, the animal's settled, the place warmed up. What is left of a day fire is turning to coals in the stove and I am planning my first order of meat birds for spring. But in this snowfall, in this spring prep, I am thinking about summer. About how good it will feel to be sunburnt and bug bitten. About how great the sweat will feel and weeding before a thunderstorm will be. It's enough to get me going, I guess.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Hot Shower, Clean Sheets, Fresh Coffee.

I was thrilled to find the seven eggs in the barn, tucked into corners and old rabbit nesting boxes. They were blue, green, and brown - my Easter egg hunt of the day. After weeks of snow and storms the hens were finally laying again and what a bounty! I slid them into my pockets with a grin before continuing my water rounds from the goat pen to the pigs. Or, where I hoped the pigs would be...

I just wanted those pigs to be minding their fence, which I rewired yesterday after I noticed three had escapade and were loose all over the farm. Thanks to Gibson and Friday they were back in their paddock in no time and busy with dinner grains - good dogs like those two make all the difference on this One Woman Farm. Second stroke of luck this morning: the pigs were exactly where they were supposed to be, thank Frey.

As I carried the buckets to the four black porkers (growing too slow for my taste if you'll allow the side comment) I thought of the possibility of baking some kind of mini soufflé later, thanks to my recent egg surplus. A complimentary dessert to my Sunday dinner thanks to the hens. I already had a big braided loaf in the oven, the kind that was boiled first and brushed with oil and sea salt before baking. I had defrosted a small ham steak for dinner and some goat cheese from last summer. The idea of a meal from these hands: fresh bread, my farm's meat and goat cheese, and a dessert of whipped eggs felt good enough to make my mouth water. Not a bad meal for a gal with two low digits in her bank account till she makes some sales. There are many ways to be rich.

I came inside and decided to spend the holiday with some self care. One of my favorite indulgences is a long, hot shower. I scrubbed myself down with the goats milk soap I made, another gift of the land. Another way to feel wealth. I felt my sore thighs, trying to be gentle with them as I washed. I noticed all the black and blue marks, the scratches, the scars. A farm woman is a range animal, for certain.

I wasn't upset at the sight of those flaws at all. Yesterday those legs carried my hobbit frame across eight miles of landscape, a truly great run in the sunshine! I ran to the town of Shushan and back! I came home to a strength workout followed by my first ride of the spring on Merlin (after I herded pigs). We weren't out long but I laughed as my thighs stung on his back. I was too happy to feel a gallop under me for the first time in ages.

I continued the Self Care Sunday with changing my sheets, something I do every time I shower and a mug of hot coffee. I hope I never get to a point in life where a hot shower, clean sheets, and a fresh cup of coffee isn't enough.

In other news: Bette the lamb is happy and healthy. Benjen the goat buckling is still sleeping indoors with us at night, but outside all day doing goat things. No new lambs yet, and I hope for two more at least - but I have the name of a local guy selling out his flock and hope to get some lambs from him at discount to raise for the customers I have. The promise of that shepherding work is good enough to make me feel like the farmer I intended to be.

I need a rooster, if you can believe it. This farm is oddly silent in the mornings. Falkor the Silkie rooster doesn't crow alone and he only minds the three hens in his care. I may have a lead on Craigslist, but I sent out the call for a mature rooster on Twitter as well. Here's hoping the word gets out.

The rest of my Sunday will include practicing Whiskey Before Breakfast on the fiddle, and possibly harnessing up Merlin in his collar and lines for some ground driving. I am trying to stay put and enjoy the food, activities, and goodness of this farm today without interruption of errands or off-farm adventures. This place is everything I worked to have and fight to keep. It gets all of me today.

Support Welcome! If you ever want to pitch in for hay/feed or just general morale support or writing contribution you can do so at: If you don't, that's fine too.

Easter Wishes!

To those of you who celebrate Easter or Passover, enjoy this day! This farm is celebrating in a small way by baking some braided bread and defrosting goat cheese for a delightful meal. I am grateful for the stored flour, yeast, salt, and cheese. Planning ahead for tough times and ensuring full bellies on a sunny day before hens are laying or gardens can be planted. I am not Christian but feel a day of rest that celebrates the work of hands and animals on a small homestead is festive enough to warrant some restful downtime. I hope your Sunday is relaxing and spent with family and friends that bring you nothing but kind and grateful feelings of Spring!