Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Grass, Eggs, and Teeth

Teeth and grass, that is what I was thinking about today. I recently found an old iPhone from 2012 of mine in a drawer. I charged it and saw it worked okay, even if the screen was broken. It didn't work as an actual phone (no plan or sim card) but it would dial 911 in an emergency and since my camera is broken, I could use it for pictures for here and Instagram. While looking at the photos I saw pictures of this place back then and what struck me was how lush the lawn was. I had forgotten. Since farming I have walked over the soil in places so many times, and rain from the hillside eroded, most of the soil and earth that allowed for grass in a lot of the front lawn area under the maple tree. It's where I go to fill buckets several times a day. I hope to reseed and add topsoil over the summer, the best I can. But I probably would have not even noticed if it wasn't for the time travel the phone granted. I'm not sure I am grateful for it or not?

Part of me is really proud of this farm and how wonderful it can look in July. That's when the lawn is greener and the gardens are lush and I don't have to worry about heating the house or cooling it. And with some flowers in the wash bin by the door and a little paint here and there it is lovely to me. Plain, but lovely. I was especially proud of it last summer when my friends Danielle and Sarah came to stay. I had just mowed the lawn and the siding was power washed and door painted and the pictures they took while here make me beam.

But this place in April, when the mud is just drying out and the lawn is packed clay and we are a long way from July, I have to give myself permission to be patient. Growth is slow.

Eggs are not slow. My hens are laying well every day, at least half a dozen eggs. They are keeping me and the neighbors supplied. This is important because I think the bulk of my protein for a long while will be coming from scrambled eggs, at least 2 meals a day...

Today while eating some trail mix I bit down on an almond and a large chunk of my molar broke off. It was painless, since it's the same tooth I had a root canal on a few months ago and the nerves are gone, but I hadn't been able to get it filled in properly because it's another couple hundred dollars over the initial root canal cost which is already more than a mortgage payment. So over the months it got weaker and weaker now I am worried that it will expose the roots and get reinfected and need a second root canal. It is now the third broken filling/tooth in my mouth hiding back in the molars. My dentist said the combination of genes, my under bite, and grinding in my sleep I didn't realize I was doing until a few years ago is what caused most of my problems.

I am doing what I can but right now, like everything else, it's a problem that has to be dealt with in order. I don't know what to do but not eat anything that requires chewing until I can afford to fix it. That, on top of everything else that is going on, allowed me a good, long, cry. The kind of cry you hold in for a long time while you roll up your sleeves and pretend everything is okay. I am literally falling apart.

I wish I had different teeth. I've had bad teeth my whole life. Far as bad body parts go, I'll take it. They are something that can be repaired and replaced. But to me they are a reminder of failure and status. There's a reason people on TV have veneers, dentures, whitening, and straightening - because a person with a smile in order is a person with their life and health in order. If I ever "make it" in any sort of way I am getting a new mouth.

Tomorrow I will call the dentist and tell them what happened. Hopefully they can patch it, or do something that I can afford to keep the actual root canal safe. There is nothing I can do about it tonight but write about it, which is what I am doing here to help with my anxiety. And also, to ask for help.

What I mean by that is help relieve the anxiety through kindness. If you can send a kind word through email or social media, a cheer, encouragement, please do. I don't always reply but I do always read them. It really means so much to me. It's the difference between setting my shoulders into the plow or setting it aside.

Want to help with the farm in general, well if you ever bought soap or artwork or meat shares and want some more (and are not in a hurry for any of them) do let me know. Sales are what make bills, the mortgage, all of it possible and what I need most.

I hope to write about new books and lambs and piglets and summer gardens soon. I hope to get through all of this. But tonight I just want someone to say it'll be okay because this is getting scarier every year. And while I do think all of this will be worth it, and that I will find a place of comfort and peace on this farm - right now knowing this night will be okay is all I need to get through the worst feelings of doubt.

Thanks for reading all this.

Still here.

Sunday, April 28, 2019


The most common feedback I get these days is permission to quit. It never comes from a place of ill intent. The senders of these emails want to see me find a sense of peace and less panic. They want me to know that I owe nothing to the readership and they enjoyed the story regardless if I keep the farm or not. Some want the trying to stop, as if it makes them anxious. Others are genuinely worried about my mental or physical health. But most of you read quietly and keep your opinions to yourself. I assume a great many of those of you reading quietly also understand if I wanted to start changing directions.

That said:

I got through this miserable winter and am slowly getting through each and every month. I am almost through this one. A few more small sales and I will have the mortgage to mail in. Today a person came to make sure I was here and take photos of the house. That always hits me hard, a reminder that mailing in a late payment every month isn't a victory - it's treading water until I am past caught up and saving for the future. Solvency is the dream of this farm and thousands of others. I know a lot of you out there are also trying to make it, to keep your land and animals, to manage whatever scraps are left of the American Dream we were promised.

I am not quitting. I am not giving up. I am not selling the farm. I have a real chance to pull something good off this summer and I will figure out a way to pull that off. I do not care if this is the hardest stretch of my life and every single month is a panic and prayer. That is what I signed up for when I put my story online to share with strangers. I made that unofficial handshake, that I would keep telling the story of this farm in the hopes you keep reading about it. I can't tell you how powerful that is, knowing that someone out there is listening. Even if you read this blog hoping I fail and lose the farm, it is comforting knowing someone is reading this. Maybe you find life a little less lonely reading this, too.

I feel close to being okay. I've come so far. I've grown up so much, changed so much, got stronger and harder and far more focused and determined. I hope I can figure out these next few days. I will try.

You can always count on me to try.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Little Rituals

Last night a thunderstorm and high winds ripped through the farm deep into the night. I know because I was woken up by Gibson slamming into me, and it wasn't his usual desire to be close while scared of the noise. It was as if he was trying to get through me to the other side, shaking as if something had shocked him when lightning struck. Friday was so wigged out she chose to sleep on a dog bed on the floor - giving up her prime spot to not be bothered. I wish things were easier on him, but he has to ride through it. And in the morning we both know things will be easier, the mind and body can focus on work, and a belly full of food and a job to focus on takes away the anxiety.

Wait? Am I border collie?

Huh. Well, I woke up with Gibson beside me and Friday watching the window at the sorry sight that is a mug spring farm. Water was pooling all over, the hill was a mudslide. The horses heard us getting ready because they were close to the open windows and Merlin hollered for hay. I was glad I repaired the sump pump. Flooding was likely, if not certain. Here goes the day...

The month is halfway over and I am scrambling to figure things out. I haven't been posting as much for that reason, which is what I tried to explain. I'm 20% there and I have 14 days to earn the other 80%. I'm doing my best to stay on top of things, the farm coming first. This morning I watched the geese (4 of them here now) guarding their nest as I walked by them with buckets of water to refill the horse trough. The chickens are laying eggs like mad. The horses are almost half shedded out. The other Day a friend came over to ride Mabel while I road Merlin and the black rope reins are now splotched with her white and brown hairs. Both the horses are barn sour to be left alone in the pasture if the other is taken out, so I am trying to take them out together while I get my riding legs back and get used to a muddy ground instead of a frozen one.

The chicks I am raising indoors are doing well and outside all day. Then at dusk they jump to the door to be let inside to their roosting spot in a brooder in the living room. Chickens never stop impressing me how clever they are about where they belong. All I need to do is open the door to the brooder and let them inside and they jump inside the wire cage and rest in the hay together. It is a lovely little ritual. This is their home, too.

I am putting together a book proposal, working on logos and portraits, gathering up leads on lambs and piglets, calling farriers, butchers, and veterinarians. I am going through all the motions a woman would go through on a spring farm as if this is exactly where she will be when summer hits. I hope that is the case. And I hope I have better news soon, at least news that things are still scrappy and constant. Things have to get easier at some point. Or maybe they don't? Maybe that's not what I signed up for and would be a fool to assume?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


Checking in quick to let people know I am okay. I am trying to spend every single day working, walking, practicing music and figuring out how to get through the month. There are lambs and pigs to secure, a book proposal to write, art and soap to create, and sales to promote. This is what I am focusing on with all I've got. If you have a kind word of encouragement, it is priceless. It'll be a while before I am out of the woods but right now I am focusing on foraging herbs and making fires to survive while in it.

Thursday, April 4, 2019


I am a bit worried my blog posts are getting a bit too dire to keep posting them, and I don't want every single post to be about the same concerns related to the struggle here. I will be checking in more when things are better, but things are not better yet. Right now I need to put all my energy into making sure things are okay today. I appreciate your understanding. Posting often on Twitter. Not as much on Instagram since my camera broke when dropped 4 feet a few weeks back.

Keep going out there. I will too.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Sturdy Bread

These last few days have felt like waking up from a long nap, just as slow and sore, but insanely grateful. Spring is really here. The nights are still chilly, but my firewood made it through. I am out now but that is okay. I can collect little scraps of dead dry from the lawn and make a cheer-builder at night if I want. The bank cashed my mortgage check, which let me exhale for the first real time in weeks. They only cash it if they aren't moving forward with any foreclosure proceedings, and so when I saw my bank account plummet this morning online I hugged the dogs. I raised my mug of coffee high to any ancestors that might take any passing interest in me. I mailed my health insurance check yesterday, had it post marked for the day it was due. I don't know if they'll let me keep it or cancel it for being a week late. I will find out. If it does cash and I manage to keep it another month I'll have less than ten bucks to my name, but I don't care. I can earn back the money towards the next month's goals slowly. Today, I celebrated this find spring day. I let myself enjoy the exhale of getting through March.

I did the best thing I know for my own worried little heart: work. I did all the morning chores, which right now focuses on keeping the pigs penned and not exploring the wider forest. I carried hay, grain, and feed. I carried buckets and when I needed a break I pulled the little tin whistle from my pocket to play a tune. Once chores were done I set into the logo clients I have scheduled, five this week to work on. I have a donkey running logo, a knitter's croft set of comps, and a beautiful dragon family crest to design. I inked a woman's grinning dog and sketched another clients cat. I made a batch of soap that should fill two orders once they cure. This is my trio of winter work: design, draw, and make soap. Every day some part of that is worked on. Slowly I am catching up on orders and clients neglected during the worst of the last week's worries. It felt good.

With most of my clothes in the laundry pile I dusted off an old canvas kilt and tied it around my waist. I forgot how much I love them. How they fit me like a second skin, the most comfortable farm clothing there is. I have them in a few sizes, and thank a thousand tiny gods that the one I grabbed was too big for me. I welcomed the tiny boost of confidence, feeling my summer body slowly coming back to me. (I am still walking every day, at least 4 miles.) I let it hug my hip bones as I went along with the spring work. Besides chores and inside work; I tended pea seedlings, and collected eggs. I paid for and picked up some hay. I baked bread, went for a long walk with Friday, and wrote with Gibson sleeping by my side. Later in the afternoon I practiced my fiddle, shot 2 dozen arrows off a light bow, and worked with the horses. Feeling overly confident, I tacked up Merlin to enjoy a short ride. As I trotted him away from the barn Mabel hollered in protests as if I was taking him to slaughter. He flicked his ears back to her and yelled back. Two horses hollerin' and mud under our feed. Not a bad way to spend a spring day.

I am now into April, the creepiest month, my least favorite. But I am here. I am still here, and with good work and high hopes. Things feel better and if I am lucky and smart I will get to stay here. I have good projects of all sorts ahead of me. I have shoots of grass, two healthy (and loud) horses, and all the flour and eggs I need to survive off french toast if I have to while I save up for another month. Which starts today. Which starts in earnest. Which starts with coffee mugs raised high and bow strings and old kilts and horse neighs and good, sturdy, bread.