Sunday, March 31, 2019

Old Friend

A few days ago I restrung my fiddle and replaced the battery in my tuner. The fiddle was already wiped clean and fussed over, as was the old case I have had since I lived in Idaho. Even free of dust the case is so beaten and the stickers all over it are fraying. Rightly so, as it has been with me for over ten years, throughout this country from Idaho the New York. The old Smoky Mountain stickers are fading right next to the Sandpoint and Vermont ones. One clasp is broken entirely so I use and old dog collar as a belt of sorts to keep the thinner neck section shut. It is as scrappy as this farm and my fiddler's education. I like it.

I am keeping a small handwritten journal of my practice sessions. I titled the journal 50 Songs Till Summer, and the goal is to relearn and sharpen 50 beloved tunes to the point of flawless playing from memory by June 21st. Through out the journal I mark songs I am working on, giving myself little musical rewards when I hit a certain goal. For example, when I have memorized and perfectly performed the first five songs I am working on - all in a row without a single mistake - I am rewarding myself with a new container of Hill Dark Rosin. In ten songs I will replace the broken bow I am using, which I stepped on by accident last fall. It still works but you can't adjust the tension since I somehow stepped on the frog.

These goals are all depending on if I have the funds to get such things, but I am pretty sure I can figure out the rosin at least. The bow won't be a fancy bow, by any means, but it will be encouraging to have these small victories and presents to look forward to. And I am glad I am at a point in my life where I am not interested in picking up new hobbies or instruments. I want to get better at the things I have.

As for my playing? Well, If I am honest, the notes that first came out were awkward and tired as a drunk cat. I cringed, trying to remember how to match the balance, tension, fingering and sawing motions. After twenty minutes or so I could hear pieces of the D scale fall into place. It was like jumping off a stone bridge into cold water - relief.

My old friend is coming back to me. Some things can't be helped and some can. The new strings, the bridge alignment - these adjustments are better after the weeks of neglect. Other things like the way the cold of winter altered the shape and curves of the wood - even slightly - that changed how a note sounded. I played through it. Adjusted. Practiced.

I got through many renditions of Ida Red and Rain and Snow. One or two of them even sounded good. I decided that the rest of this week was theirs. I would play those songs a lot, so many times the dogs would confuse them with their own names, and get back the trust of that fiddle through regular conversation. It's like starting a relationship from scratch after three months of the silent treatment, literally.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Laughing At Coopers

While walking today I saw a Coopers Hawk and laughed in delightful defiance at the site of her. It was like seeing Winter himself trip on a banana peel. It felt good to laugh, like I had been holding my breath. The walk was partially a celebration as I had already been into town and handed Wendy at the post office my mortgage check. I asked her to please get it out today, and postmark it too. She happily obliged. I had pulled it off. If I was lucky I would even be able to make the health insurance payment before the end of the month. I would try. Holy Crow, would I ever try.

I was on my way to Shushan. A little village tucked beside the Battenkill River. There's a few houses, an old train station, a post office, a general store and antique shop. That's it. But part of this celebration was going to Yushak's for a lunch to go and eating it beside the river while I rested before walking the four miles home.
I wouldn't have been able to laugh a few miles ago. A mile into my walk—as I was crossing the small highway at the bottom of my road for the dirt roads across from it—I heard the familiar sounds of the mail truck. It turned up my road. Anxiety hit me like a hard slap.

How can I explain this to you? Have you ever left your pets or children in the care of a new babysitter and an hour into your date night you see sirens of ambulances head towards your home? Your rational mind knows that there is a very little chance that their destination is your house, but it could be. What if my mail carrier was holding a foreclosure notice in her mailbag right now. What if I was too late? What if there was any number of threats in red envelopes? What if bad news was happening and I was a mile away.

I felt the waves of a small panic attack start to invade my logic like little tremors. Anxiety doesn't care about logic. It certainly doesn't care about statistics. I wanted to run back up the hill for the relief of knowing what was in the mail. I wanted to know that on the day I finally mailed the Hail Mary mortgage I managed to skate past danger once again. I needed to know.

I forced myself to keep walking. Anxiety is the entire reason I walk. I have too much energy, and my brain uses most of it to worry. I knew if I tired out my body, if I made myself walk, the waves of panic would leave. It was a matter of being too tired to use energy for stress.  So I made myself listen to the audiobook of The Wise Man's Fear and keep walking.

I walked past farms and houses. I walked past pigs and turkeys, deer and squirrels, and I saw many birds. So many ravens and crows right now are collecting anything stringy and soft for their nests. I saw the ravens near my farm taking the piles of black fur that I brushed off of Merlin yesterday away in their beaks. Somewhere near my farm baby ravens would hatch among black pony fur. This didn't make me laugh at all. It did make me smile like a good glass of whiskey tastes.

While walking I met a great dog named Winnie and watched

When I made it into Shushan I ordered a sandwich and grabbed a butterbeer off the chilled shelves. I walked over the to river and sat beside the water. No one else was there, as it was a week day and March. Trout season would see it packed but right now it was just for me.

I sat and ate and listened to my book. Good gods it was lovely. The butterscotch soda and amazing roast beef was perfect. This is all I want in life. I want a home that feels safe, even for a little bit. I want a body that can carry me across roads to new towns. I want to be able to enjoy good simple food and hear stories. I let out a long sigh.

By the time I got home I wasn't worried about the mail. My brain was too tire to race me there. I walked up the mail box and pulled out a letter from a friend in the PNW, a student loan payment reminder, and an LL Bean catalog that looked like clothing for white people on boats. No pressing threats. I was also too tired to feel anything close to fear. I was grateful for the walk.

It's now almost dinner time and I am not hungry at all. I got soap orders packaged, evening chores done, and this written to you. Now I am going to take Friday for a 2 mile walk to end out the day. When rainy days come in the days ahead I won't be out for ten miles so I better enjoy it now.

Thank you for reading. And thank you for your kindness, support, stories, encouragement and interactions. I am grateful for you, too.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Saddle For Sale

Collegiate Saddle for sale. English, trekking style. Nice high padding. Older but in good condition. Recently cleaned, scrubbed, oiled and in good order. Has been fitted with new bio leathers, stirrups, and rubbers. Also comes with a gently used large padded faux-fleece girth. Make an offer via email or social media. MUST SELL!

A Fiddler's Shame

I have pulled my fiddle out of the case and carefully removed the old strings. One was broken, it happened earlier this winter. I slowly removed them and carefully cleaned the dented and small instrument. It's been sadly neglected. The last time I played in public it was three tall mugs of beers in and too loud. I didn't know any of the songs at the Celtic session in town. They mostly played contra dance tunes, New England style of folk music. Everything I know is from southern mountain music. Songs like Shady Grove, and Blackest Crow, and Rain and Snow and Wayfaring Stranger. These are not like the high and fast reels of coastal Canada and below. I fumbled and was tipsy and basically embarrassed myself as a musician. My friends were supportive and clapped when I played but that was a kindness for my bravery. When I saw a video of that night I cringed and haven't played since.

But as the days grow a little longer and a little warmer I am finding myself missing music. I plan to start from scratch. Start with basic scales and the simplest songs. Play Ida Red, the song I teach beginners, twenty times a day until my fingers can draw it out like a yawn with my eyes closed. The only reason I was shamed out of playing was because I wasn't prepared, and I let my playing slack to the point of being unable to keep up with new tunes. Time to remedy that.

I'll start as a beginner, relearning all the old songs and slowly adding new ones. I seem to crave it like food by noon each day, and now that my fiddle is prepped for new strings and clean it is only a matter of time before I rosin a bow and get to it.

Things have been encouraging, but moving slow. It seems that every single time I make some headway there's money in the bank something comes up. The electric company sends a threatening letter, the internet/phone bill is due or it'll be disconnected, Friday's vet visit for worm meds... usual life stuff. I am exactly where I was a week ago with my bank account. I was not able to buy in any lambs or piglets. I have kept the fires low and only after dark, because I am not getting any more wood until late summer.

The bank account being in the same place isn't necessarily bad news. It means that I am not horrifically behind and was able to get in the sales I needed to cover a couple hundred dollars worth of urgent needs. If I am realistic, and lucky, it will be a tiny miracle if I do pull this month off and I don't think there will be any way to cover health insurance and the mortgage at this point. Which is a bummer but I have gone years without having any insurance at all. Having three months of it was already a small victory, and you know how I care for those small victories. They got me this far.

I know it isn't fun to keep reading about hardship. It is even less fun dealing with it here by myself. I ask for patience with things like soap orders or artwork. I am doing my best to get them out but I really need to get all of my energy towards keeping this farm out of threat of any possible foreclosure, which legally the bank can move forward with if a check isn't postmarked by the 31st. The roof over my head is my number one concern right now. More than updates here, or anything else. I hope to report back with good news as soon as possible.

Till then I will be practicing on a dented fiddle and finding music again as time allows. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Pork Shares Still Available! Lamb Sold Out!

Okay guys! Still looking to move shares of pork! Get some amazing meat for yourself or buy a share to be donated to my local food bank/elders' home!

This farm needs to make the sales to stay solvent and the clock is ticking louder by the day. I have less than ten days to pull things off towards this month's safety net.

This is the time to support the farm if you are at all interested in doing so. Please send an email. I'll be in touch withe everyone who isn't clearly a troll!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Preventative Measures

It's been a gray day on this farm. Right now the rain is falling steady and I am just inside from evening chores. Paws are wiped. The candles are lit. The wood stove is sputtering to keep the chill off the rainy, windy, weather outside. Despite the weather things are steady, if not gaining on the mood front. I made the whole Kiva Loan payment on time, keeping that promise to my lenders. Now I can focus on the mortgage, and gods willing, the health insurance. Sales are at a trickle which is a damn fine flow better than no water at all. I have a ways to go to make it. Fingers crossed.

And you know Murphy's Law never needs a reason to not come calling... Soon as the payment was made to Kiva I took Friday out for a nice walk before the rain came. She stopped to do her business and what I saw was not pleasant. She has worms. Not a tragic case but she has them for certain and I made the call to the vet and was told she was also due for her rabies shot so tomorrow she heads down to the vet clinic. Never a dull moment on a farm. Keeping me on my toes.

The good news is that I was able to get hay loaded up in the truck and unloaded before the rain. I was also able to get some needed house repair supplies at the hardware store. I saw the weather report was calling for intense rainfall between tonight and Saturday, and I already saw what a rainy morning can do to my basement. A few days back I was able to reroute the sump pump but the hose was so damaged from Gibson's teeth (certain it was a deadly black snake I guess) that when water came out it spit and squirted most of it like a sprinkler system. I got a new cheap hose at the hardware store and replaced it from the basement out to the drainage area outside. Finishing that up felt like a very good preventative measure.

Preventative measures seem to be how the ball game has changed here. While things never go as planned I am getting better at preparing for most of them. Yesterday when the truck started and promptly died, I didn't call the mechanic. I lifted the hood and saw a relay box has slipped off the clamp and was laying in a weird position. I set it right an tapped it a little just for encouragement and the truck started again. I wouldn't even know what a relay box was if I still drove a newer truck. I'd also be without a farm since it was $400+ for a payment and insurance (not including gas and repairs) on the past Dodge. Taylor might not be pretty but I know how to dance with her. I love her. If things ever pick up I'll get a smaller car to jet around with for things I need to do. Right now that isn't the plan. RIght now the plan is hold on for dear life to what I have, keep it close, mend and make do, and work hard towards better things.

If I wake up tomorrow to that intermittent hum of a sump pump motor and find it working well I will raise my coffee mug high to preparation. Here's to all of that. And to March going a little slower so I can keep the hustle moving and the bills paid.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Eggs and Partners

Lambs of springs past, now being born at Moxie Ridge Farm
Spring is slowly stalking this farm. This morning I collected the 6th goose egg while the four geese that reside here walked up into the horse pasture to nibble on the very first exposed green bits of grass. Snow and ice is still splattered everywhere, but those nibbles are bites of hope for easier days ahead. Easier on the the weather, the mind, and the body. I'm collecting the eggs to save for a farm friend that wants to barter for rabbits. I am gingerly planning getting back into rabbits and have a new used hutch system reserved from one of Patty's older setups (needs a new bottom) and beautiful stock from a local lamb and pork customer who has a hankering for some geese. I pick up the giant eggs and carefully bring them inside to set in a protected cabinet. If all goes as planned and luck keeps shining on this farm, by June I will have a green landscape I need to mow, slick horses running on the hill, rabbits in hutches eating hay, piglets and lambs running about, and a sense of belonging I am always clawing towards. That is what I want, what I am actively praying for.

There are ten days left in the month to make a mortgage payment. Not this month's, a late payment. This has been the MO for a while now and will be until I catch some sort of amazing break. But right now the farm is in survival mode to keep ahead of foreclosure, the electric company turning off lights, the internet provider from shutting off my services, that kind of thing. Yesterday I sold a logo and all the money went towards a loan repayment with Kiva and the electric company. Those were the loudest screaming needs and once those are satisfied I can focus on the mortgage, lambs, and if I am lucky - keeping my health insurance. It seems unlikely that I will. I can't not pay back my loan, or not buy in the lambs and pigs I need, it's not an option. The health insurance - while wonderful - it seems selfish compared to those louder screams. That said, I am going to try. It makes riding horses, hiking, working with hawks feel safer. It makes everything feel safer. But that feeling might be a luxury I can't afford when the alternative is losing home.

I woke up today with a weird feeling. Both excited about the spring and all the plans of warmer weather, and the very real notion that time might be up here. It is getting harder and harder to keep the ship floating (or more honestly, plugging holes in the boat). To beat this metaphor to death: the landfall I am hoping for seems less realistic every day while I get better at mending. I don't know what that ends up as? What I do know is I hope to keep writing about it, whatever the outcome. And as I am heading towards my 37th birthday this summer I no longer want to do this all alone. There was a real moment of sadness during coffee today when I thought about how I have no idea what it is like to have a partner in life, for support and to share the burdens and joys of making a home or working towards a goal. Being broke is something I am used to. I gave up the idea of financial security when I came out as a full-time farmer, but I never thought I'd be going solo for so long.

That is where I am at right now. Determined and lonesome. A little scared about making it into summer, or what might happen. The usual. May luck carry me a few weeks more. 

Monday, March 18, 2019


dreaming of Spring Greens and Donuts
Good morning from a crisp and sunny Cold Antler Farm! I am finishing up morning chores and checking in between tasks to write (and warm up my hands). I had a lead on some lambs, bottle babies I'd have to feed, but the seller found someone else to buy them while my truck was being repaired and I couldn't get to them in time. Maybe that's for the best, as right now all income needs to focus on the mortgage after I earn back these recent repair bills, but the price was so good it makes me wince I missed them. But the good news (and in this life you must focus on the good news) is that lambs are popping up for sale everywhere. Few people are able to deal with bottle lambs and the time they take so I will try and jump on some more as they become available and I'm able to scoop them up.

I was able to worm Merlin this weekend but the Mare is trickery. She sees that apple paste tube an acre away and scrams. The trick: I buy 2 jelly donuts. I give her one and let her enjoy every perfect bite. Then I make sure the second has been filling-scraped-clean and instead piped full of apple paste. She eats it up like candy. Donuts have gotten me far with Mabel. Merlin, on the other hand, doesn't care for donuts. He's more of a fruit guy.

Things are shaky but optimistic. I have until the end of the month to cover the farm and keep her safe, and I feel like it's possible to achieve the sales to do it. What else can I think? It is frustrating to be right back where I was this time last month, dealing with truck repairs, and behind on everything. But if there's any comfort in that it's that I got through February and was able to retain my farm, health insurance, heat my home and keep all the animals healthy and content.

And I also need to remind myself that this May will be nine years on this farm. That's going to mean well over A HUNDRED mortgage payments made. I managed that so far by myself, mostly self-employed, and following this dirty dream. When I wake up nervous I need to look at the statistics and remind myself who I am dealing with. I wouldn't bet against me. Not yet.

If you are interested: meat shares and handmade farm soaps are still available. Private beginner lessons in fiddle and archery are available.  Logos and illustrations are available. Just send an email!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Gibson's Birthday!

Happy Birthday Gibson, who turns 9 today. We have never spent a night apart. We have never spent more than 7 hours apart, actually. We never will. He is my best friend, soft and gentle herder, farm hand, blanket, story, and song. I love you.


It was 65 degrees here yesterday! What a gift that was! I saw turkey vultures for the first time soaring (the REAL bird sign of spring) and local sap is running like mad. I got the horses their spring worming paste and a new block of minerals to replace the crumbles of their old one. Merlin is shedding hair like nuts. Mabel is slowly getting her old coat back as well.

Mighty proud that the sump pump had issues and water was filling the basement by the bucket full after a morning thunderstorm here, and I was able to repair the hose and reroute the water as if I was making toast. This house isn't anything fancy but it is solid, and I have learned how to mend it when it needs band aids. At least so far. 

Yesterday afternoon I even got my truck back from the mechanic. They added another relay and road tested it several times. It seems to be okay now and once I got it back I took her right to the laundromat/car wash in town. I had been waiting 2 weeks to finally get this laundry done and while the clothes were agitating I hosed off her dust and vacuumed the cab and today I'll clean the windows and dash. She's back and she's all I got. As much trouble as she has been this winter I can be grateful that this is a truck I own in full. I am paying for maintenance and what I spent this month on her repairs is what I used to spend in one month to pay the loan and high insurance on my old truck, which I didn't own. So the bright side is as rough as it has been, at least it is my own truck in that driveway and as far as I know she's okay to drive to the post office later to mail out some soaps.

I got a lead on some bottle lambs, and spoke to a farmer about piglets. It seems like getting a hold of stock for the summer won't be an issue. I may be trying some new breeds out to see how they do and using the pasture in new ways. The geese started laying eggs and I am collecting them to barter with a friend for rabbits. I want to breed rabbits again, and have a new set up I can put together for them soon as it has a new floor installed. I also want to plant a lot of sweet corn and move the horses off the front pasture by the house. There will be a lot of repairs and work to do to see this all through, but I can't wait to be outside with a list of outside chores instead of just indoor chores. And with clean socks and a clean truck... I feel a spring in my step.

Right now I am working on selling the last of the meat shares so I can buy this stock and start bottle feeding lambs! And I need to earn back the money I spent on the truck while still juggling the same monthly bills and this new habit of having health insurance. I am working on it. I have my income goal set for the day, my list of work to do, my silly hope, and 2 very good dogs. With all this and hot coffee, what can't I accomplish?!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Truck Update

Just spent $370 on truck repairs and it literally died five times on the way home from the mechanic. This is the only vehicle I can afford right now and it needs to go back to the shop tomorrow. I'm going to let myself have a good long cry about this and take a walk.

Nine Miles

past springs had kids in the living room, but lambs will be here soon!
Morning from a farm that feels a lot more like spring than it has in quite some time! The chicks in the brooder are getting feathery, the peas I planted are sprouting, and I have been spending more time outside walking...sometimes even in sunlight!

You just don't realize how much you need time in the sun until you force yourself to meet him every day. After a winter of so much dark and cold and time indoors—to walk and actually feel sun-warmed skin and start to work up a sweat—to need to squint from the brightness of glare off snow... what a wonderful gift of realizing how much I missed all of that.

I walked nine miles yesterday, my most yet. Since the truck has been in the shop for a few days (needed a whole new fuel pump and filter) I walked all the way to Shushan to visit Yushack's store and get some supplies. It sure changes your grocery shopping when you know you have to carry all your groceries four miles home. But I did bring back what I needed and then took the dogs for a walk up the mountain quick. I'm sort of a walkaholic now, if you can forgive that hacky phrase.

Walking on trails and roads has been changing how my body deals with hunger, anxiety, and food. I move so much now I am basically a machine in motion, and food becomes more fuel than anything else. This is how I always dreamed of living. Like a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail - tired and always hungry and sleeping without stress. I've been slimming down and eating without any restrictions and I've not felt this good in a while. I'm sure a month without any alcohol is also a big part of that, but all of it is helping me feel better. Being sober, lots of water and exercise, and not counting calories or feeling guilty about eating half a small pizza after walking nine miles... and still losing lbs... I have to admit I'm a happier woman than I was mid winter. And stress is a lot less.

Well, it would be a lie if I said I was without stress. I am still trying to stay ahead of any bank threats and keep the farm moving till I manage to land some sort of real luck - like a multi-article freelance contract, book deal, or family of 5 that wants private archery lessons for a whole weekend. But I will get there at some point. In the meantime I just racked up a $370 truck repair bill and that doesn't include the tow truck, but at least with all this walking I am too tired to not sleep through the night.

In the meantime, this little farm is working on catching up on soap and illustration work, logos and freelance writing, selling CSA shares, pitching article ideas to editors, considering rabbits and bees again, planning the kaleyard and possible sweet corn on the hill and new pasture ideas... A lot. But I do well with a lot on my plate. I always have.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


Taylor during a summer sunset, not yesterday...
Yesterday was a sunny and bright day here in the W.C. I got outside for over 6 miles of walking with my hounds by my side and after a morning of cleaning up around the farmhouse I loaded the back of my trusty pickup with bags of trash and sorted recycling fore the dump and a basket of laundry for the laundromat. Most Saturdays I make time for this exact combo of home chores. I don't have a lot of clothes I wear so a weekly washing is important, and no one wants bags of trash in their mudroom enticing possums and other bitty mammals, now do they? So with cheery spirits I pulled out of my driveway - full of hopes of discarded garbage and clean sheets and....

The truck died 200 feet from my house.


I attempted to troubleshoot and restart the truck, I even got it to back up 5 feet, but then it was done. One of the gifts of having an old truck like this is learning a lot about them. I already knew it wasn't fuel, the fuses, or the battery. I did know that the fuel filter was overdue for being changed as was the regular oil change. There was some problem with the truck getting what it needed to start, starved of gas, and so it acted as if it was out of gas on a nearly full tank.

My friend Dave, the same hero from before, was over shortly after I emailed him because he is a saint and he helped me get the truck back in my driveway and out of the road by towing it up the hill and showing me how to steer without power steering, which should be included in every "arm day" for every gym person. Then he gave me a ride into town to get all the feed I'd need for the pigs and a gallon of milk (for myself) and here I am stuck at the farm while I wait for the tow truck in the morning. I just hope it's an inexpensive fix. Right now I only have a couple hundred bucks to my name while I save up for another month of bills and the mortgage and I'm worried that won't even be enough to get Taylor running again.

But right now, in the middle of a snowy Sunday morning, I know this. I know that myself and the animals have all the food and comforts we need. The house is warm and I have bread rising to bake later. I just fed the dogs a breakfast of eggs and kibble and the cats are running about like they always do pre-nap. It is snowing outside, but it's a late winter snow that wants to be rain, and the forecast is for kinder weather ahead. This truck issue can't be dealt with until tomorrow so instead I will try and sell meat shares and soaps and start saving for repairs and bills. That is what I can do today. That is what I will do.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Shares Still Available!

Still have one lamb share and two half pig shares for sale! Get yourself some New York State small farm meat from Cold Antler. These shares are for piglets and lambs coming this spring, raised here, and price INCLUDES butchering, smoking, and packaging! VERY COMPETITIVE RATES!

And if you want to make a HUGE difference to this farm and community, but are too far away to pick up a share, you can purchase a share to be raised here and donated to my local food bank to feed people in need! Just send an email to inquire!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Heroes With Pigs

Yesterday afternoon I found myself driving the truck on some farm roads outside of town. I was trying to find the location of a farmer, Dave Brushett. Dave mentioned he had some nice square bales for sale and I was buying. My usual hay banks were getting politely conservative about their quantity with winter still hitting hard in March. So with directions described in an email from Dave pulled up on my e-reader, I headed out to the new roads after lunch. I should mention it was a cold day. The high was forecast to be around 16° and Dave's farm was a hundred acres on the top of a sweeping hill. I'm so used to my tiny farm being tucked halfway up a mountain, protected from high winds and the worst of March weather. This was a wilder place, even just a few miles away. I felt the wind hit the side of my truck as I made the third turn off a small country highway and saw the landmark described in the email: a big red barn and a regal white house. His place was the cabin a road behind it. Almost there.

And then my truck sputtered, coughed, and died.

It just died. As if some magical being watching had a remote control and simply turned it off. It felt like it had run out of fuel but I knew there was some gas in, I had slid a few dollars worth in the night before? What gives? unable to get it to start I grabbed my gloves and decided to walk the mile or so in the wind to the cabin on the hillside.

One of the disadvantages of not having a cell phone is not being able to save yourself this kind of hike, but I was prepared. I had three layers, the outermost being a wool sweater my friend Tyler handed down to me and a scarf my mom bought in Paris. Over that I had on a big hooded Carhartt canvas vest, insulated and tough. My fleece had snug on my head and boots laced: I was a bundled-up hobbit on the hillside with my eyes on the prize. No matter what I needed to get some hay and myself back to the farm and that truck running again. My plan was to get to Dave's, ask to call my mechanic (number is memorized, of course), and if needed - maybe a ride home?

Dave was already in his truck planning to look for me, since I was over half an hour late. I waved from his driveway and quickly explained the state of the truck. The first thing Dave did was offer me his lunch, which I declined having just eaten at home. When I declined he asked if I wanted to take it with me? Insanely kind, but if there was one thing I have covered it's calories at my farm.

Dave, a father and grandfather, burst into Dad Mode. We drove back to the truck and he said it was most likely about fuel. That if I was running on a low tank eventually condensation and water build up and freeze and block fuel lines. He was right. Because we drove back to the farm and within moments he was adding gas from a fuel container and stabilizer. That was enough to get the girl started and up the hill to his farm. There we loaded up the truck with the bales I came to buy and he showed me his sow and her new piglets. They were the brightest thing in the barn.

So many farmers around here are farrowing, kidding, lambing, and calving. This is my first winter in almost a decade not joining them. I don't regret selling the breeding sheep to Lee at Moxie Ridge or the goats to the homesteaders last fall. But I do miss them and the work. I already talked to my friend Dona of Northern Spy Farm about helping with kidding this spring. She agreed, and I'll be so thrilled to have those babies in my arms again.  It's just not spring without them.

Dave followed me all the way to the gas station and back home to Cold Antler, making sure there was no more issues with the truck. I learned to never have the tank below half-capacity in very cold weather and he got to not only make some cash and help keep a farm gong - he also kept this farm going. They say not all heroes wear capes. Well, that is very true. Hell, some heroes farm pigs.

The truck is working and hay is here. It's a dark-green second cut and enough to last my two horses a while. I'm damn lucky to have these kinds of neighbors and friends. And lucky to have broken down a short walk in the wind from help. Also, lucky as all get out to have the truck working without a trip the the mechanic! That Ford is the arteries of this farm - pumping in feed and fuel and getting me around town to places like the post office and my tiny social life.

That's the biggest news I have for today: a small adventure and a kind farming friend. But hopefully soon I'll have lambs and piglets here of my own bought in to raise all summer and get this place back into full production. There will be green hillsides before we know it. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Black Horse Sun

The check cleared and the sun is shining! This farm moves forward with another month of chance and hope! Right now as I write to you there's a fire roaring and the house is heating up after a night of good sleep. I didn't wake up worried. And the trick seems to be making myself physically exhausted, as I mentioned before. Yesterday I walked each dog down the mountain road and home, a 2-mile trip each time and one half being a climb in elevation. My body isn't used to moving across the landscape so much. It has been months since I really hiked or ran beyond a few miles a week. The last 2 days I've gone 9 miles all together. My shins hurt from the run, my thighs hurt from the walking uphill. My body is slowly getting back into a state of locomotion and actually feeling tired—the NEED to sleep because the body demands the rest—seems to be the only thing that helps the anxiety since I have stopped drinking. I'll be a month without a sip of alcohol soon. Not sure how long I'll stay off the hooch but right now I am liking these good sleeps, bright mornings, and clear-headedness.

Anyway, back to this morning. I woke up in a chilly house (50°) but the sounds of baby chicks in the brooder and knowledge that I did the ultimate act of preconceived kindness for myself (prepared the coffee maker the night before) felt like waking up in a hotel. Okay, that's a stretch. Felt like waking up in a very posh glamping platform tent. And camping is the right metaphor because this past summer I bought a Kelty sleeping bag on clearance from REI, for backpacking. Turns out it is way too heavy and impossible to compress for any reasonable backpacker but it is WARM. On nights like last night I used to load up the daybed with blankets and wool fleece and now I have this bag that cleans up and heats up in moments. Around 4AM Friday realizes the warmest spot is in that bag and she paws at me until I let her in. The bag is roomy enough that we fit in there together, snug and snoring, head on the same pillow and creating enough heat to melt ice on the roof. Good lord I love my dog.

And after I roll out of that sleeping bag I have to shuffle over and make a fire, heat up coffee, and get ready for some physical activity outdoors. There are people who have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail whose winter mornings are more civilized. Hoo! Do I love it though! I love the way the coffee and fire warm me up. I love starting a list of work and goals. I love solving problems, searching for spring lambs, watering seedlings, feeding chicks, collecting eggs, scratching pigs, and inhaling that amazingly warm summer scent of sunshine on the back of a black horse...

This place is wild and safe for a little. I am working to keep it that way. May the sun shine and spring find us all sooner than we could possibly fathom. And till then, more coffee.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Soap Sale!

Hey there readers! I am offering a soap Sale! Get6 random bars (plus the $14 flat rate USPS box shipping) for $45 and will throw in a signed book with one random order picked out of a hat! Help out this farm, get clean, order soap! To do so just email me at and put soap in the subject line. I would love to share some of the products this farm makes to start getting ready for another month as we all march towards spring!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Spring Forward

Last night, sometime around 2AM, I was outside in a snows squall looking for a chicken with missing butt feathers. Friday had already chased off the fox/fisher that had chased the hen off her roost. I could hear her in the night. I could see the feathers in the snow. But even with my headlamp I was having trouble locating the bird. It turned out she wasn't on a bank of snow or the hay covered by the tarp - she was on the roof of my truck. I picked her up and brought her inside. I was so tired and knew a chased-hen wasn't going to calmly return to the place she was nearly ganked. I set her inside the dog crate and tried to go back to sleep. My brain wasn't having it.

I don't know what it is about those early morning hours of 2-4AM but my mind is running at a faster frame rate than logic. Things that seem so easy to overcome in daylight are terrifying. I started a full-flown panic attack. Worried that I won't be able to make it through another month. Worried that something bad will happen. Worried that every choice I made that lead to this farm was a foolish escape from reality or a prison sentence of loneliness and isolation. I couldn't fall asleep till around 3:45 and when I did it was from exhaustion, not peace.

When morning arrived the night terrors had passed. The sun was shining on a freshly snow-covered farm. Within moments of letting the dogs run outside to play I had coffee hot on the stove and was watching the six new laying hens in their brooder eat their feed, beside them some snap peas I started in a small planter. I baked a frittata with my hens eggs and enjoyed it thoroughly. With some sleep, food, coffee, and daylight everything felt so much better. The vitamin D, caffeine, chirps, seedlings... the fact that in a few days the clock strikes forward... I felt so much calmer. I was happy with my choices. I felt like I belonged.

But I realized I need to burn more energy during the day. I need to fall asleep already too tired even fight back against the adrenaline of panic. So today I started running again, a modest 5k. After that I made sure to hike on the mountain with the dogs. Together I managed to move 5 miles across the landscape, in the cold, with this body. By 5PM I was showered and took a 45 minute nap and woke up feeling so much better. I need to burn off this anxiety. Being outside does that. And without the work of gardens, lambs, piglets, goat kids, etc right now I need to create time outside. So I did. I am glad I did.

I am springing forward, ahead of the clocks. I am raising some new hens while protecting others in the night. I am planting seeds, running roads, hiking at sunset, and resting my body more. There's a good chance I'll wake up doubting and afraid again. That's okay. That's part of this experience. But the truth isn't fear in the night. The truth is how you feel with the certainty of morning.So here's to hopefully finding another light in the dark, for all of us.

Sunday, March 3, 2019


We made it! The farm made it! I mailed in the check at least. And once it cashes I will have about $9 in my account, but it is MAILED! What a relief! I spent the next 24 hours decompressing in relief. The exhale that comes with figuring out another month, knowing for at least a few days I don't have to worry if the bank cashes the check. So I had a proper weekend. Little promotion, barely any non-farm work, and a lot of time walking in the woods with the dogs. In a few days the clocks move forward and grant an extra hour of sunlight, making it not truly dark here until 7PM. Spring is coming and now is the time to dig in and try like nuts to catch up on all I have fallen behind on.

I can't thank you enough if you read this blog and encouraged me. Thank you for keeping up. Thank you for buying soap or artwork, lamb or pork, or just kicking in a few bucks towards these free words you are reading now! Slowly, and never simply, this farm will get to year ten. Starting in May this farm is heading into its TENTH YEAR! Ten years of making it last, keeping the dream alive, of friends and farming and trails and stories! Please keep reading and watch what happens next!

And as always I try to remind you - for faster updates always check in on Twitter for the newest of news! I update there dozens of times a day. Here once every few, unless things are more exciting. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Sun And Luck!

The farm is within spitting distance of making the mortgage and the sun is shining. I am feeling very hopeful in general. I think a huge part of it is the community online, reaching out to offer kind words, buy soap, hire me for logos, etc. Another part is the past few days of sunshine and time on the mountain! I have been getting sore in the legs again, for the first time since I lost Dash and spent a nervous day searching all over the mountain for him. I got a great workout that day but it certainly wasn't pleasant. Yesterday was smiling dogs and hot coffee and time outside on the mountain as a break from the computer and the farm.

Yesterday was an example of a very good day here. I farmed, I made soap, I mailed out soap, I worked on 8 logo designs, I handed over writing to my editor. I pitched articles and I promoted my work, all of it. I promoted the meat I raise and the soap I make. I promoted my skills in writing and design. I wasn't afraid to ask you or others to hire me, to get a portrait, to read what I have to say. And to do all that and still have an hour to walk among the snowy trees and soak up rays... Amazing!

The farm is within $200 of all the goals for the month and for putting last year's bills to rest. All of them. And I did mail in my health insurance which means I will have maintained it for 3 months straight, a record for this farm since being self employed in 2012.

And in more exciting news, there are bigger things rumbling under the surface. I am working hard on a new book, the most personal and important thing I have ever written. If I'm lucky I'll be able to sell it and share it with a lot of people who will find comfort and inspiration in the 3,000 mistakes and fears I made ahead of them! And with the days getting longer and actual sunlight in the mix I feel so much more optimistic then I did in January. Back then I was literally writing to you with two holes in my teeth big enough to fit a peppercorn in (both are repaired) and unsure if I'd have the firewood to stay warm. Well I am whole and warm and the sun is out and I am a few sales away from knowing this farm is safe and ready to work like mad for spring. Time for chicks and lambs and piglets and more!

If you want to contribute to the farm, here's the link. You use this to purchase soaps, workshops, illustrations, design work, meat, etc!