Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Small Huge Step

Last night after evening chores I did something I have not done in over seven years: I spent a night off farm. You read that right. Until last night I had not slept anywhere but this home because getting away was impossible. There was a surplus of complications and responsibilities and a deficit of desire and resources. But things are slowly changing here and shifting slightly. I was able to load up the truck with the dogs and drive half an hour into Vermont to my friends' home on a mountainside. There I set up my tent on their land, joined them in an amazing chicken dinner, and then we sat outside under the stars with a campfire until we were all ready for bed. While out there we watched a red fox hop along the edge of their property and stars fall from the sky. We talked, laughed, and shared the little adventure I was having - my first night away. When all the feasting was over and the conversation became mostly yawns the happy couple returned to their cottage and me and the dogs retired to my 2-person tent.

This was not an adventure of epic proportions. This was just 12 hours off farm, after evening chores and back in time for regular morning feeding. But it was something I couldn't do until recently. It is why I sold the sheep and goats (along with needing to cut back on expenses). Not because I wanted to camp one night, but because I needed to get to a place again where I could. As I venture back into the world of dating I want to be able to get away a little.  I want my farm and the fine work of it: but as long as I am single and there's no Cold Antler Farm television series paying my mortgage or a NY Times bestseller being published: I needed to change things up.

And the best part of the small trip: I wasn't worried. While over in Vermont sleeping under the nearly-full moon with Friday and Gibson around me in a snug pile: I knew things were okay back home. I knew that none of the lambs had escaped their pen and were in the road. The sheep that did that had been sold. I knew that there was no baby goats to worry about or does needing milking at 6AM: they had been sold. I knew the pigs were sleeping under their straw in the barn. I knew the horses were fine in the field. I knew the hawk was sleeping in her mews, full from a crop of quail and on her perch. And I knew the cats had run of the house and could care less if I was gone half a day. They had food, water, access to inside and out. I had made this camp out possible because I needed it, wanted it, and taught myself a night away was possible. It's a small huge step. A level up.

Future adventures will be as small, an overnight backpacking trip. A day trip to a B&B with the dogs. Nothing that doesn't involve them as I can't imagine going anywhere without them. Gibson is turning nine and we have never spent a night apart, not one. Friday, the same at 3. We're a unit that isn't going anywhere but that's okay. This is enough for right now. And I'm glad we all made it.

Oh, and when I got back this morning everything was just fine. I let out a sigh so long yogis felt it across the sea.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Butternut, Bacon, and Brie!

This farm does a fine job of feeding me on a budget: meet the Triple B Treatment! I grew this butternut and raised the bacon. The brie came from Aldi ($2.99 a wheel, bless them!). To make this meal at home half a butternut and after you scoop out the seed area, take the meat and cube it up into chunks. I coated them in a bowl with some bacon fat (from the bacon I fried up to a half-cooked status on the stove top earlier and set aside), butter, salt, and pepper. I baked them until soft, about an hour at 375. Then I removed the skillet from the oven and placed some chunks of brie and the pre-cooked bacon to finish and melt together. I set them back in the oven a few minutes to warm up and bubble. Fairly easy and inexpensive for this farm since the squash and bacon and condiments were here. The cheese was a little fancy but I sure do love the discount grocery Aldi around here - what a perfect trio for a comfort dinner on this rainy night!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Falling Up

It's the Autumnal Equinox and things are moving slow, but steady here at the farm. I am in my usual mode: low-grade panic. I got some bad new yesterday at the dentist that I need to schedule another root canal at a dental surgeon because it's a molar and the tri-root tooth can't be worked on at my dentist's office. Right now I can't even worry about it and need to focus on getting more firewood and the wood stove fixed, along with the usual bills and chores. But the good news is that there is a little wood stacked, a half cord. And there is a wood stove being repaired and friends to help figure out the warped iron and work of it. In August I was able to mail a mortgage payment, and I am in the process of working on another while getting whatever firewood in I can along the way. I emailed a neighbor that logs with horses and offered to barter a logo for his business for some wood - he seemed interested and that would be ideal! It's a shot at least. I want to have a cord and a half stacked and ready by Halloween - which is still half the firewood I need but at least enough to make it till Yuletide. I am really hoping for a mild winter.

In other farm news the lambs are scheduled to be harvested in December and the butcher set the date. The butternut squash harvest is hearty as ever - possibly the best veggie crop this farm ever grows - and I started piling them all up at the side of the stove near a basket of Joseph's wool. I was going to go off hiking with Friday today but instead spent the day working on my own wilderness: my lawn. I mowed and weed whacked. I cleared out the area behind the barn for fall campfires, setting up tiki torches and clearing shrubs. It feels good to do the simple chores of maintaining a place - keeping it as presentable as possible. The Hobbit in me demands a pleasant little place ready to offer hospitality and several meals to any that enter. And since today is Frodo and Bilbo's birthday as well as the Equinox - it seemed fitting to spend it at home.

Things are okay. I'm feeling better than I have in a while since I stopped drinking. I am in my third week without alcohol, an experiment of sorts as well as a way to save a little money. I am planning on doing Sober October as well, and that'll be two months without a sip of anything, and it's been fairly easy but makes my evenings a little more anxious. Without a delightful distraction of a cider my brain worries more and the nights seem a little colder - but I think my liver will thank me in the end. I needed a break and want to focus more and more on my health, which is my only form of health insurance right now!

In a few days the month will pass. I'll call that surgeon and see how long I can put off this appointment. I'll figure out the firewood (I paid for almost all of the last delivery, another slow and steady update!) And before the cold comes let's hope I have that fireplace ready and roaring and the peace of mind that comes with a full woodshed and hay in the barn.

And I saw the fox again yesterday morning. He is young and strong and gorgeous as he struts across the far field. Mabel doesn't like him and snorts at him. Merlin doesn't care.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fire(wood) Sale!

Hey guys! Running a sale on pet portraits, Soap, Classes and logos right now! Trying so hard to promote them and classes here on the blog so I can mail in a summer mortgage payment ASAP and get the first bit of firewood stacked. It's about scrappy preservation right now and even selling a single bar of soap helps! So if you're interested in supporting the farm please drop me a email at

Monday, September 17, 2018

Wood Stove and Dentures

My friend Patty said she'll be stopping in check out the wood stove and do some repairs! I need to get part of it replaced, and have the part, but having trouble getting it in there thanks to seven years or so of constant heat warping the bits and pieces. I am hoping her technical genius and bevy of power tools can do what I can not. She'll be by to look at it around noon, I hope. There's a chance this wood stove will be repaired by nightfall! Fingers crossed!

In a bit of bad luck I am dealing with the onset of another abscess, and I hope, an easy repair by my Dentist. I am not writhing around in pain, but dealing with the dull ache that I am all too familiar with. The kind of pain that slowly builds from gums to your jaw and towards your ear and never goes away unless thwarted by intense antibiotics. The good news is it's in the area of my mouth that had a lot of dental work last spring. I am praying it's just a repair to an old filling and not a future root canal, but either way, now I have to plan around dental bills and that's discomforting while trying to earn up enough for firewood and hay along with the regular expenses of running the house and farm. I called the dentist this AM and they wanted me in there at 2PM but I explained I couldn't afford the trip today (which isn't the most dignified thing to do) and then asked if I could get an Rx of antibiotics for the infection/pain? I'm waiting for a call back.

I am glad this is Hobbit Week and it starts so gently with meditation and stretching. It will help me be calm, focused, and aware that everything I do today is towards feeling better. And fasting works out pretty well when chewing hurts! I share this because it's the reality of this farm, these finances, this life. Yes I am posting about a week of Fantasy-inspired self care based on a favorite children's book. But I am also dealing with really adult problems every single day. And I like that balance. I like that meditating in quiet breaths tonight will help me focus. I like that I will be listening to the audiobook while I do my daily chores, morning and evening. And I like that by the time I reach the end of that map the pain should be gone - by dentist or science or pills.

I'd consider dentures, honestly, if I didn't already have four root canals in my mouth repairing damage already. There should be a bench with my name engraved on it at my dentist's parking lot. You can't win every throw of the dice in the gene game. I have bad teeth and just need to keep taking care of them. So I will. 

Hobbit Week

It's the start of a new week and I'm working on getting back into the swing of clients, deadlines, and goals from a wonderful weekend off. I had an amazing 6.8 mile hike on Saturday with my friend Tara (and I am still sore from the 2900ft climb and climb back down it!) up to Mount Equinox. Sunday was spent on the farm, being a true Sunday. I relaxed and walked with Gibson in the woods here on this mountain. I read library books. I made pizza and ate ice cream and have been feeling like the kind of person who stopped running so much and has been eating pizza and ice cream: so hell Hobbit Week!

Hobbit Week is a holiday I made up. It's a week of positive self care and change inspired by the work of Tolkien. I made a map of The Shire and I carry it with me all week. On the back of the map are daily goals to get to one location on the map to the next! The goals are set to my own body and needs. For example: to get to Hobbiton today I need to dedicate 30 minutes to yoga for this sore body, 10 minutes of meditation to clear my head, fast until 2pm to clear out my gut, and then only eat fruits and veggies today. If I manage that by nightfall I have made it to the next location on this little map. Once those goals are met I paint in the sections I have "traveled" and by Friday night I should make it all the way from the Shire Homesteads to Bree!

The week includes running, fasting, healthy eating, and meditation. The fact that I have a physical reminder of my journey, daily goals, and a plan to do it around work and weather make it even more real to me. I carry the map folded up in a favorite leather pocket copy of The Hobbit. If you want to see more pictures of the map, they are on Instagram and Twitter!

On with the Journey!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Wood, HO!

So glad to announce that I just unloaded a half cord of firewood! I was delivered from a local farm, my friends at Common Sense (as well as 20 bales of hay). May not seem like a big deal but that half cord is progress and a promise. It means I am now just 3.5 cords away from a warm winter, 1/8th of the way there. Since the check just cleared for mortgage payment I explained I didn't have the money to pay them just yet for the hay and firewood. They're friends and explained that it's fine, pay when I can. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have neighbors like that, and I'll hopefully earn the money for the half cord and firewood this weekend. But just knowing that there is some firewood here! Hoo! What a great relief. Between that, the house payment, and bit of warm and humid weather going into the weekend it is such a relief and so encouraging!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Plod On!

Things here are plodding towards solvency! As the weather turns from crisp to summery again (temps over the next few days back in the 80s!) I'll be enjoying these last weeks of "summer" out on the trail whenever I can, and maybe even an overnight campout before the cold really sinks in.  The camp out would be on a friends' land and a big step for me. Don't laugh - but this one night of camping local (after evening chores and back in the AM for morning chores) would be the first night in seven years I haven't slept at the farm. Even just a few miles away in a tent with my dogs, curled up with sleeping bags and novels, but even though it's just a few hours away it's a big deal to me! By true winter the only farm animals here will be the chickens, horses, hawk, and pigs. The lambs will be in their new homes/freezers and if I arrange for someone to check on the critters I could get away for an overnight trip with the dogs for sure. Nothing big. Things like this camp out, but it's a step towards a freedom I sorely need both as a woman getting serious about dating and putting herself out there: and as a return to backpacking. I have learned this summer how much I miss those woods. 

I'm glad to report I've been able to mail off a mortgage payment and soon hope to start stacking firewood and feel like this pic of puppy Friday from a few falls back! One thing I will change about this fall is less fires for vanity in October. Some nights do get cold, but often I like having a fire at night just to settle down beside. I figure if I skip out on early fires on forty-degree nights I'll have a little more play on the -20 degree ones sure to come again like last year! It's easy to want to load up a woodstove on a chilly autumn night but maybe I can save it for company. I want to savor firewood, it's been so hard to get a hold of this year and as I type there still isn't any here yet. I hope to get the first delivery soon. Even a cord is like 3 weeks of relief in my head.

Tomorrow is the day to Vote, New York! Get out there!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

My People

The third canine I saw today was a red fox, leaping through the air like a gymnast after a fat red hen behind my barn. I'd be upset if he wasn't so beautiful, a perfect moment caught after morning coffee. The dogs ran after it and the hen lived, but even if she didn't I would not be shooting that fox. My fox shooting days are long behind me. No predators see their end from this farmer, we are on the same team far as I am concerned: trying our damnedest to do whatever it takes to make it through the winter. Good luck, fella. Stay warm.

The day stayed cool and cloudy. I spent the morning with the usual tasks and chores and then worked through packaging some soap orders and illustration work. In the afternoon I saddled up for a ride to take in the view from the top of the mountain. From Merlin's back I could see the valley all the way to Peak Rock across the Battenkill river swamps. Only counted five yellow trees, it is still summer in color and that makes me exhale a little relief.

This morning I shared that fear about firewood, which is a good fear to have. Tonight may dip into the thirties and even if I wanted to light a fire for comfort I can't. The stove is in pieces awaiting repairs and there isn't enough wood. But I know there will be. I called Common Sense Farm last week to check in on the first cord I ordered and they said they'll deliver it when they have time and I hope it's this week. I hope I can figure out how to swing the bill, which I will, I always have. But I will feel so much better after a day of stacking oak and hickory and knowing that my stove is ready for me, waiting.

I feel more like a writer again, more than I have in a long time. I'm working on this romance novel and there's no kickstarter, no patrons, no publisher, no deadlines. It's at only 10k words now but when I sit down to work on it I smile. When I was riding Merlin I thought about the prologue and the coyotes and wolves that open the story, talking over dinner in Cambridge NY. I love telling stories, and this one is so fantastical while being personal. It's on my time and my passion and it feels so good to have something to build piece-by-piece.

My nights have all been based on spending time with my hawk, getting ready for the season ahead. Having a bird you can trust in the forest means trusting her in your living room first, at least for me. We sit and watch movies with the dogs, her on my fist. I practice putting her hood on and off, touching her feet and bells, talking to her, getting her used to the primate she hunts beside. Falconry is technically all about the field - the pursuit of game. I love the entire path to get to that point just as much.

Living with predators, writing about predators, learning and reading and knowing I am also a predator. Yes, I have put down my gun. I'll share with the hungry fox and wave to the trotting coyote. It took me a long time to find my people. I don't need to scare them away.

First Chilly Morning

I've never gone this far into fall without firewood stacked and ready. Worried.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

That's Farming

Chores are mostly done, save for the buckets currently filling with water as I type. I need to do a second set of water rounds because of the heatwave we've been saddled with. The horses are especially thirsty, and drinking extra gallons every day. The lambs have become crepuscular, and as early as 8AM are under the shade of the apple trees, heavy with fruits ready for picking. The chickens don't seem to mind the heat at all and run about after the August flies. All in all, the animals are doing well. I'm personally thrilled with this hot introduction to September. It feels like when your professor grants you a surprise extension on your paper, some won time. If it was forty degrees in the morning I would be dealing with a whole different set of anxieties - but the heat has me focused on work and plans instead of panic. I am grateful for it.

My good friend and fellow Washington County farmer, Patty Wesner took a look at the stove and has figured out a plan of attack for it. We are going to have to take apart sections that had fused together from heat over the years, but she thinks we can get it done. That is really encouraging!

I have been writing, a lot. Working on this side project for self-publishing which is a romance novel set in genre fiction and I am having so much fun with it. I have no idea how it'll turn out but for now it's a way to spend my evenings feeling thrilled with characters and story. Fiction isn't my strong suit and I am trying to take my time and plan this chapter by chapter. Either way it's fun and has replaced drinking a glass of wine and watching movies into the evening. Taking a break from alcohol for a while to see if it changes up my productivity and health. So far, it's going gangbusters.

I am still in the scramble to make ends meet, but what else is new? The point is to keep the scramble up and not lose focus on why I am trying so damn hard in the first place. And when the weather breaks, and another house payment is mailed, and a cool September morning drapes her mantle over this farm I will tack and saddle a horse and ride up to take in the colors of fall. I will pull a thermos from the saddle bag and take a deep swig of coffee and know that there's firewood stacked, a stove in working order, wolves are just pacing around the door instead of scratching at it, and I am still standing. That's farming.

P.S. Running a sale on soaps for repeat customers! Email me if you'd like some more! Makes a great gift going into the Holiday seasons! And can make you pumpkin honey soap for fall! 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Claw Marks

Sometimes after a meal here I need to stop and realize what just happened.

My morning was fueled in the usual way; a cup of reheated coffee from yesterday's percolator. Fortified, the dogs and I headed outside into our small dirt empire. The collection of animals and plants I have been tending since the snow melted. The daily work all through the wet summer points towards mornings like this. Once everyone was fed and water carried - I collected a large pile of cherry tomatoes off the now-sagging plants. I threw ones that had already burst from ripeness to the hens at my feet, which had formed around me well aware of the drill. They stole little tomatoes, the size of cantaloupes to them, and ran away like school children playing pranks.

I brought the fruits inside and set them in a bowl. In the fridge was some breakfast sausage from the pigs I raised, left over from yesterday as well. I set it out on the counter along with a few eggs I had collected the evening before. Basil from the garden was in a mug of water, waiting for meals to add it's sweetness to. The only thing I hadn't raised or grown for this breakfast was the mozzarella cheese. I was going to have a sausage, tomato, basil and cheese omelet.

I cooked the omelet and sat down to enjoy it, sharing it with my hard-working dogs. I drizzled some sausage, fat, and egg over their kibble bowls and we all ate together in the living room in contented silence. As each bite hit my lips I could see my dirty feet, cross-legged in my lap, and smile at the life that brings such hedonistic meals and hard work together like so.

I worry so much about the keeping of this place. But I worry because of mornings like this and the life I created and how the holding onto it means more than anything I know. But I wanted to share that this morning I woke up to this intense anxiety that September has arrived and I have no firewood, a stove in need of repair, and am still earning summer mortgage payments - but you know what? I only have that panic because of mornings like this. Because it fuels every day with worth and meaning and deeds that give a human being a reason to wake up and keep trying.

Some day this story won't be about struggle. Some day it will be about love and adventure and the wealth of contentment that comes from knowing your roof is safely yours and watertight. But right now I am glad for mornings like this, for meals like this, and for a place that I will hold onto so tight I leave claw marks when moved.