Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Morning chores were a wonderland! Snow has been falling gently through the night, covering this place in a blanket of powder. Every tree was heavy with inches of snow and the temperature *just a little below freezing, making it comfortable enough to do all the feeding and water buckets in a sweater instead of insulated layers.

The dogs ran and played, bothering chickens and geese, and the horses were coaxed out of their pole barn for morning hay. I got a fire lit, soap orders packed, and soon as all the loose ends of work around here are done I'll be heading into town to See Wendy or Martha at the Post Office.

Most days those ladies are the only people I talk to in person. While I never stop yammering on social media it's rare I get to talk to most people in person during the work day. Town is for the post office, hardware store, laundromat, and occasionally the brewery where my own tankard is on the wall waiting for me to walk in. Cambridge is my village, but it's a few miles from this mountain and the farm tucked around a sharp corner. Yesterday I left to get hay. Today I'll mail out soap and art. But 90% of the time I am here. And that's a good thing. When homesteading is your goal in life and you managed to figure a life where most of it is at home: ding ding ding!

I also wanted to check in and thank everyone who sent words of advice, encouragement,  contributions, and emails about the dental situation. I am hoping to get the surgery next week and have tooth 14 root canaled if at all possible. You have no idea how much light it is to get a nice note from a reader, or friendly DM on Twitter in support of the farm. Thank you so much. I hope it is taken care of soon and I can keep the tooth as is.  I'll certainly keep you posted.

But for now: back to work!

Monday, November 26, 2018

New Kitten!

Cold Truths

The farm got through the cold snap tired but okay. I am proud of how far I have come when it has to do with bad weather and managing this home. The house's water, heating, and pipes all did fine. Faucets were left dripping on the worst of the nights and I slept downstairs by the fires, tending both wood stoves and keeping things in the right concern. Not a single beast or spirit went hungry, cold, or distressed. The lambs had extra hay in their shed and the pigs were buried in a nest of straw in the barn. The horses were their usual selves: Mabel in her blanket and Merlin with his woolly coat. The dogs shiver when outside too long when it's really cold, being accustomed to household temperatures and not the outdoors - so the only real issue with the cold is two bored border collies (boreder collies?!) but they had chewies and their own indoor missions to keep them occupied. Friday likes to monitor the actions of a baby possum that lives under the crawl space of our kitchen. Gibson watches the windows like a sentry, alerting me of any winter walkers in their down jackets walking down the road. The hawk is almost trained to fly free and came inside twice a day for weighing and health checks. All were well in this storm.

I called and made an appointment for a root canal in early December. The pain is getting unbearable at certain times and my doctor won't prescribe any antibiotics anymore, saying I need to get the surgery. The reality is awful that without health insurance a root canal costs $1300 and the antibiotics cost me $10. A dose of the antibiotics can knock out the infection for weeks but then it returns, worse than before. I know I need to get it done but it means not making a house payment this month, which will knock the farm into the danger zone. I am trying to figure it out but right now I am just letting myself a good cry. It's a cloudy afternoon and bad weather is coming. There is nothing I can do about it today besides go to Rite Aid and get more ibuprofen and avoid eating anything too complicated or chewy.

The good news is that I have the appointment. And if I can't figure out how to pay for it then I can cancel within 48 hours without penalty. The other option is to have the tooth removed for a couple hundred dollars but then I won't have an upper molar (the rest have been removed) and it will cause the entire top of my mouth's teeth to shift.

So why share all this? Because that's what I do. Because that's what I have always done. Across this country people in all sorts of middle-class jobs and lives have to decide between healthcare and regular bills. And because part of choosing (and this was entirely my choice, I am not a victim in any way) to leave a regular paying gig for self-employment and zero health care. That's the cold truth of it. This was my choice. If it means having the molar pulled and messing up my teeth, well, that's what will happen. All I can do right now, today, is work on the jobs I already have and hope some freelance payments make it here sooner than planned.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for being there.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Happy Thanksgiving from Cold Antler Farm! We are in a true cold snap here in the Northeast! Last night dropped to 4° and both wood stoves in the house were lit into the night. I slept downstairs to tend them, the dogs and I enjoying a movie marathon in a pile of blankets. I didn't sleep great, and was already up before sunrise, so I suited up to go hunting at dawn instead of dusk. Walked right up on a doe bedded down (I was up before she was) about 50 yards ahead of me. I waved. She stared. And I spent the rest of the morning seeing just her and some rabbits and squirrels (which I did not have the right gun to shoot at, though it would have made a great feast for Dash!). Came inside after a few hours to hot coffee with eggnog instead of creamer. Why not?! It is a holiday!

I'm not sure how much I'll be participating in Thanksgiving this year. I'm heading out to meet friends later, and am ready with a giant round loaf of sourdough, but eating anything too chewy isn't happening. My tooth is actually pounding. I am taking antibiotics and a lot of ibuprofen and I'll call the dental surgeon tomorrow, but there's nothing else I can do for it today besides Orajel and whiskey.

I am somewhat glad for the cold. It has chopped up the Holiday into work zones I am taking on like tasks that win a game. The day is blocked into fire chores like stacking wood inside and stoking fires and gathering kindling and animal chores: checking on water levels and making the rounds with the buckets 3X a day. I have some basic hawk training to do with Dash, a woodland walk and feeding him on the lure. I have the regular house and farm chores, too. And all of it planned out for me in my list book, my saving grace of order in a pretty chaotic life. It's all a distraction from the holiday and my stupid molar.

Off to work with the bird, get a shower, and head out to be properly social for a bit before returning to fire tending and illustrations. I hope you are warm, well fed, and well in general today!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Every evening, a few hours before dusk, I set outside to the farthest corner of the farm and wait for deer. It's hunting season and I am still trying to get that first buck. At this point (years into trying) it is less about excitement and more of a quiet breathing hope. I want a deer. I want him in the freezer to make the weight of food expenses and security a little lighter. I want to know I can achieve that skill, from the shot to the butchering to the meat wrapped in white paper. The reality is I can't stop life and take three days to sit in a stand or travel to farms with better odds. The holiday season has me working from around 8AM till 3:30 on obligations and clients waiting for logos and animals waiting for dinner could care less about venison. So I am trying, but not thirsty. Mostly it has become a quiet time to sit still in the forest without distraction. I think of pretty things to write. I plan out dinner. I try to ignore the dull ache from this molar that needs a root canal.

I know I need to get it done but am trying to put it off. I called my dentist for some antibiotics for the pain and he said he'd only fill the prescription this last time. I have to get either the molar removed or the canal. So that's become a higher priority but the roof over my head comes first. Once I get a mortgage payment in I'll start setting aside what I can for tooth drilling and plugging and hope this Rx gets me through the holidays without any pain.

The good news is I've been here before. My genes may be garbage when it comes to teeth but they are top notch when it comes to resourcefulness. And with most of the firewood in I can shift focus to this. And since the farm now is mostly animals being raised for the freezer instead of carried through into a breeding season - that also frees up time, money, and resources of mind and spirit.

While feeding the lambs on the hill today I felt this real pang knowing they would be gone in a few weeks and for the first time in nearly a decade I would be without sheep. Sheep have been the cornerstone of this farm. They were what fueled my dreams, brought me border collies, kept this farm moving and spirits high. But before I can have a flock like that again I need to reseed pasture, redo all the fencing that failed over the years or focus on electric. I needed time to get away and sleep through late March nights without the fear of frozen lambs.

But I feel that guilt. That same feeling of not doing enough that I wrote about yesterday. And when I feel that I need to remind myself that regardless of how I feel, it has been enough to keep me here. It's been enough to carry this farm since I signed the papers and took it on. And even though it is always harder than I want it to be - it is mine. Entirely my choice, my work, my gift to have.

Things work out or they don't. Teeth get fixed or they don't. Farms carry on.


Good morning from a snow-covered Cold Antler Farm! Happy to report the truck started, the animals are well, the coffee is peppermint mocha and I am in a very fluffy blue sweater. All I want to do now is light the wood stove and watch Gilmore Girls.

Alas, this woman has work to do. Making two big batches of soap, finishing two portraits, work on two logos, and taking a big load of art and packages to mail at the post office after the roads clear up. I hope your day is just as beautiful, productive, and ends with kind dogs and possibly Gilmore Girls.

Monday, November 19, 2018


A lot has changed in my life since starting this blog but few things make that as clear as days like yesterday. I woke up to a broken oil furnace in the basement (what I use for hot water) and the truck wouldn't start. Years ago I would panic and then instantly hit the blog; writing about how scary that was and not knowing what to do, feeling stranded, worried about costs and being my myself. And to the magic of the Internet's credit: comments, advice, texts with friends and emails came pouring in. We got through so much together. It gave me the ability to feel cared for, gather some some deep breaths and feel okay. Then I'd go through the action steps of  calling a tow truck/repairman or asking friends to help. Which is not a bad thing, at all! By all means call and ask if you are in (or without) hot water!

But 36-year-old Jenna didn't feel the urge to write about it. She didn't have to call anyone. She just wanted to get it back to good. And luckily the truck broke down while at the Wayside General Store in Sandgate. I was meeting my friends Dave and Laurie for breakfast and so I had arrived at a friendly place full of friendly faces. The battery was dying after four years of solid work. Dave jumped me and I had the juice to carry me home.

I knew how to get a jump. I am now a woman who carries cables and a trickle charger behind the bench seat. I got the battery replaced at NAPA back in Cambridge. When I pulled into the farm's driveway I started the hot water repairs. I knew how to turn off the furnace and safely tinker with it while scouring YouTube videos for the right troubleshooter. While doing that I found out I need to replace the filter. I make a mental note to grab one next time I'm at the hardware store. By noon I had hot water flowing from the taps and a working truck again. I say this in my driest Paris Geller voice: Bully.

My brain took in the $127 for the new battery and added it to the daily income goal, hoping I could at least break even with the day's sales. I scoffed at the idea as I made notes on my daily list and let out a long sigh. Okay, keep going. You got this.

When I bought this place in 2010 everything about farming, home owning, repairs, insurance... all of it was new and I was learning it alone. No spouse or in laws to call. No relatives or family nearby. Just a sole wild Jenna trying to figure out how to keep the gears moving. And while I did fail miserably at home-owning competence, I succeeding at making friends. Soon I knew people who knew what I didn't and cared enough to help. I did my best to return that help whenever possible. Lather, rinse, repeat and this girl had herself a network.

I know how to fix more problems than I did when I bought this place. More importantly, I learned how to fix myself. I wish I could say that was from learning some meditation technique or wisdom based down through the ages... it was mostly me making mistakes and being too stubborn to quit or change. That furnace has been giving me guff for years and I know it the way I know Merlin. That truck might not be much to look at but few repairs cost $127 dollars on modern vehicles, even replacing batteries.

Today my friend Othniel came up from Common Sense Farm to deliver the last half cord I had paid for and he brought along his industrial power washer. While I stacked the wood the house got a bath. The plastic siding was growing mold large enough to soon require names and classifications.  Today that hose smote it. I once again live in a white farmhouse, not a green dapple.

While he washed the house I went through the day's list and felt that panic seep in. The low-grade panic that haunts the edges of the day. I constantly worry I am not doing enough. I looked at what had been accomplished so far:

Strip Bed√
AM Chores (stock fed, watered, fresh bedding if needed) √
Make Coffee √
Emails and Socials Checked √
Dating Apps Checked √
Grocery Shopping √
Pay Verizon Bill
Soap-making Supplies Restocked √
4 Pet Sketches Sent for Approval √
Buy Feed √
Make Soap √
Package 2 Soap Orders √
Half Cord Wood Stacked √
Cat Litter Box Cleaned √
Change Sheets √
Train Hawk √
Blanket Mare √
PM Chores √
Make Dinner √
House Bath √
Paint an Illustration
Write Blog Post
Shower (clean sheets!)

This day started at 6AM and won't end until 8PM. After this post is done I need to paint that illustration. I didn't make any sales today so that means tacking today's goal onto tomorrows. Right now I want to move the bank account from the land of three digits to four. Once I'm in that world I can start thinking about a house payment. But it's list like this, written every morning, that combine the work of farm, household, business, and social life that keep me in line.

Compared to what I used to do in an office, this is 4 times more intense. The combination of the certainty of a direct deposit and knowing I was one person among hundreds working for the same goal felt like I was the crew of a giant ship. I could get coffee three times a day. I could take an hour lunch. I could leave at 5PM and not even humor the thought of a work email. Now I wake up and fall asleep thinking about this farm, the needs of the place, the money I need to earn, the work I need to prepare for. And even when the paper is littered with cross-out items it doesn't feel like enough. Like I am simply. not. doing. enough.

 So to remedy that feeling I make my lists and I have to finish them. It took years to learn this discipline, again, through mistakes. But this list will be completed. And even if today meant just emails and queries, bills and errands, and no income I do have this list done. I am a woman with a trickle charger in her F150. My water is hot. My house is heated with a stove and fire and an oven with a roast I got on sale that will make 5 more meals, easy.

I think that feeling of not doing enough can't go away. I think it is part of me. And I think it'll take becoming someone else in another ten years to learn to ignore those feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. But tonight I am warm. I have work, a shower, and clean sheets to look forward to. I am going to flirt online with people who I'll probably never meet and aren't interested and the fall asleep whispering sweet nothings to Friday while the snow falls on my white house.

And tomorrow I will get up and try again.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Before The Storm!

As usual, let me begin a blog post by talking about weather! A true snowfall is coming through, tonight and into tomorrow. Anywhere from 4 to 10 inches, but a snowfall regardless. I am just inside from evening chores and preparing for the storm. Things are solid! The pigs have full bellies and defrosted fresh water and the barn door tight! Mare has her blanket. Merlin has his coat. The hawk has been worked with indoors, hydrated, fed, and set outside in his safe mews. The lambs have a full bale in their shed. The chickens have 5 stations outside the weather to perch in. The dogs are fed, the human is fed, the stoves are fed. I am down to 2.5 cords of wood but the house is WARM! I am well tonight. Feeling healthy, ready, willing, and hungry for this storm!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Snowfall and Dog Paws!

Woke up to a new sight: snowfall on the tree branches outside my bedroom window! It didn't last long, sadly, but the cold rain that came after made morning chores the kind of challenge I adore. The work of outside care, making sure all the animals are settled and fed, followed by warm mugs of coffee by the wood stove.

That tiny dream came true and fueled me through a morning of illustration work that is just starting to wind down now. There's a chicken roasting in the oven and a hawk is perched here inside, having just finished his flying lessons for the day. Little Dash is coming along well and slowly learning the commands and suggestions a falconer asks of him. The only restless spirit in the house right now is Friday, who wishes she was out digging trenches in the mud. No dog living or dead has loved digging like this happy monster.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Morning to Celebrate!!!

There's a hint of snowfall in the forecast and the temperatures are finally dropping! This morning there was some frost on the horses' backs and I could walk across the pasture without slipping and sliding on mud! It's a small victory, but what a morale boost! And this farm is finally comfortable with the firewood supply! This is a morning to celebrate!

And on top of all that fine news a reader named Cathy mailed me a camera! I am figuring out how to use it and soon as I do I will be able to post new pictures here of the farm at a higher quality than my Kindle Fire! I have hot chocolate, hay bales under cover, wood stacked inside, feed stores for the lambs/pigs/chickens.... I have new books to read (thank you to my sister who mailed me a new novel) and basically everything a Hobbit requires for a snow storm. Dogs, cats, hawk are content and the flannel sheets are on the bed.

And yes, I know that I have basically just been writing about fears of winter prep, firewood, money, and such but that's it's all I think about. I wake up and think about what I can try to sell, what I can manage to pay towards student loans, electricity, save a little for the root canal. The to-do lists and the daily income goals I make through sales, freelance, the farm... That's my entire world right now. It's my job. And about a thousand times more consuming than any office job ever has been.

The stakes are always so high and the fear right up against it all - but man, the strength this farm has given me makes me stand eight feet tall. I've been here for nearly a decade. I bought this place as a single woman. I kept it. I will keep it. And for at least this weekend I will be ready for cold mornings and snowfall and enjoy that buzz of the first true storm that makes this barren place of dead trees and brown fields turn into a magical land again.

I'm going to keep going. If you want to help with that, please do. Send an email or buy some artwork or soap. Those sales and blog contributions are all I have to make a living off of right now between lamb and pork shares. It's certainly needed and may be what carries this place through into December. And then I figure it out from there, month by month, as I have since I signed the mortgage papers.

And Cathy, of the camera mailing, please email me so I can send you a winter's supply of soap!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

All Sighs

It's been a long time since the ground was solid and the sky was bright. Which is a sentence I am writing about the weather, but might as well be about the election. I hope all of you got out and voted! I was at my poling place first thing after chores today. The place was packed, not usual for a mid term. I am on pins and needles waiting to see how it all shakes out. Politics mean a lot more to me these days. A lot more.

But yes, the weather has been a trial. It's been raining for a long time, day in and day out. Milder weather and the deluge has turned this farm into a mudslide and I am going through straw like crazy keeping everyone comfortable and dry where they bed down at night. There are towels by the door and I've been keeping up with the laundry and mopping but good heavens this farm is looking exactly like all of us look between transitions: rough. Nothing in nature is expected to bloom year round, right? Once snow comes this place will feel as perfect and right again as it did in late June. It finds its place in the gear slots of my heart. It keeps digging in.

After last winter, you think I would have changed my tune but I can't help it. I am excited about the first true snowfall. I am giddy about the idea of waking up to my world covered in white powder and making my way barefoot down the old stairs. To light the wood stove and start a pot of coffee and then head outside from a cold house into that perfect snow with the dogs to care for my animals. And then return, to a house suddenly so much warmer after being outside than being in bed and sitting beside that domesticated fire and sipping hot coffee and knowing that for the day all in my care is safe, fed, warm, okay. I want that feeling back again. I crave it. And as the mud pools and the earth stays warm I miss it.

There's now two and a half cords of wood stacked for this farm. I'm a month behind on the mortgage, but catching up and a lot closer to solvent then I was a few months prior. This morning after voting I went to the laundromat to clean my sheets and comforters. I took a hot shower when I got home. The world may be rain and mud and politics but tonight I will be clean and warm and tucked in close with dreams of snowfall and the steady released sigh of knowing that there is wood, candles, stoves, coffee...

Tonight I hope we'll all be okay. We'll all sigh.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Meet Dashiell! My New Hawk!

Just trapped this looker recently. Dashiell (Dash!) was 955g at trapping. He was caught right outside Cambridge, a few miles from my property on route 313. He has small feet, a big heart, and already is comfortable at Cold Antler Farm! So glad to have this little guy to restart the hunting story all over again. Wish us luck!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nesting Season

It's full-blown Nesting Season here at Cold Antler Farm. Days are shorter, muddier, colder, and wetter this fall. I am so glad the stove is up and running and that another cord and a half (three cords total!) will be delivered to the farm, all paid for! Knowing that my heating needs are met, at least for a good chunk of this winter, is such a relief. And because of that relief I can focus on other things this farm needs to do. Basics like keeping the bills paid, animals comfortable, and house pleasant enough not to scare away strangers.

I'm hosting some friends of friends' from out of town this weekend. Her and her husband are coasting through town and I was asked if I could handle guests? I am always thrilled to have visitors but feel I need to prepare them for the farm. This isn't a Haycation/Glamping situation. It's a small old house that is always happy to offer hot food, strong drinks, and clean sheets but it is still a home heated by (mostly) a single wood stove. There's no TV, microwave, washing machine, and I live with four mammals beside myself in this house and if you're allergic to cats or dogs... well, you're not going to have a good time. So I try to let folks know upfront. But the upside: you wake up to crowing roosters and the singing of a creek each morning. The blankets are heavy and beds are comfortable. The dogs are kind and the horses usually don't buck very hard. It's a fine place to rest if you like backpacking.

My trusty Canon Rebel I bought years ago finally kicked the bucket. So I am without a digital camera right now and hoping to get one used again soon. If anyone has a quality used camera to offer for sale or barter, let me know. Looking for Canon or Nikon, SLR. Email me!

The truck has an appointment to fix an oil leak and I am saving up for a root canal so most of this farm needs minor repairs, but whose doesn't? And both of those things are more important and urgent than a camera right now. But I figure asking never hurts and if someone has a five-year-old Rebel they want to trade for lamb or pork futures, I can ask. Never hurts to ask.

Okay I am off to get a load of hay in the truck and clean off some muddy paws from my farm dogs. You guys stay warm and well!