Thursday, May 30, 2019

Crunch Time

I have 2 days to earn half my mortgage and have my check postmarked. Holy crow this is crunch time. Yesterday I made some headway, and that headway had to go to the electric bill, gas for the truck, 100lbs of feed, and phone company. The reality of needing to earn money through this blog and farm is that I am not able to just earn it for one expense. All the income I make through part-time work and what I offer has to cover every aspect of the farm management, insurances, utilities, student loans and home ownership without government, spouse, or family assistance.

What can you do? Right now so many offers are constantly being advertised on Twitter but if you aren't on there know I offer:

Handmade soaps
Pet portraits
Classes in fiddle and archery (that come with bows and fiddles!)

All of this is just an email away. This is a key time to support this farm if that is something you would like to do or are able to do. Note: if you buy soap or art from me the wait is long due to catching up on previous sales from this very tight year. But if you are not in a hurry to get soap or art, both are amazing ways to get a gift and support CAF.

And to those of you who already have - through purchasing something or plain ol' sending a contribution towards the blog - all of that means so much.  Thank you! I do my best to send as many thank you messages and notes as I can. I hope these messages of asking for encouragement, sales, and help fade away soon. I hope my luck changes. Right now I need to do whatever I can to keep my home of 9 years safe and not back in the hands of the bank. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Little Lambs, Little Cars, Friend Visit!

Woke up to a morning of chores in gentle rain, and now that has cleared off and the lambs are grazing on the hillside, the horses are chomping on their morning hay, and the dogs are enjoying a mid-morning nap. A good writer friend from out of town is visiting for a bit and I am so excited to see her later this afternoon! She'll be spending her time in Washington County between a few farms and this one is excited to prepare the guest room! Last time she was here there was such an intense heat wave (and this house doesn't have AC) and we ended up enjoying the river. This spring has been so cold and wet we may end up enjoying a fire?! 

In better news I have sent the first draft of a 38-page proposal to my literary agent and she is going through it in hopes to help me prepare it for the marketplace. To get a book deal would be a game changer for this farm! It would have the mortgage caught up, new equipment, and I hope - a new small vehicle to be more mobile. And by "new" I mean a used hatchback that is safe to drive farther than an hour away from the farm. I love my truck. She's been my sole ride for almost 4 years now, and I plan on keeping her. But the age, the breaking down, and the fact I am certain I can't go farther than 30 miles away without a rental car means it is time to find something small and sturdy for upstate New York.  Retire her to farm plate status and keep her for hay and town trips.

If one of you has a used (but dependable) Subaru or VW or Volvo or something that fits two dog crates and has 4WD let me know! Can't buy anything now. My bank account probably couldn't even cover state taxes on a used vehicle - but that is the dreamy thought I have for what I'll do with any advance money if I do sell a book. Oh, and buy a working washing machine!

Okay! Enough dreaming. Here's the goal right now: I have three days (counting today) to make this month's mortgage payment on time, splitting that up into three smaller daily goals. This is how it gets done, something large becomes smaller, daily, tasks and decisions that add up to the outcome I need. If you are at all interested in seeing this farm make it through, and want to help - the best way is to order something! Get a pet portrait! Get or donate a share of meat! Take a class! Or hell, if you just want to throw in $5 towards the blog you are reading now, you can do that here: and good gods does every small action help and I am grateful for all of them.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Small Adventures

photo by tara alan
Ever since the electric wire was set into the horse pasture, Merlin has stayed put. Almost a week without his rogue grazing in the lawn and that is a tiny victory! The lambs are still being bottle fed three times a day and the pigs are being very pigish. I have a lot of nettles and scrub to clear this week and a house to prepare for a friend/writer coming to visit later in June. So my day-to-day has a lot more weed whacking and dusting than usual - but all of that is for happy reasons - a farm coming back to life as summer grows stronger and friends are taking time to visit. It's a nice feeling, for sure.

I'm still trying to save up for a mortgage payment, which I am about a third of the way there. Four days to make it happen before the bank can pull the ripcord on a possible foreclosure. Every month until I can make a double payment, that is the race I am running.

Mark my words, some day these worries will be behind me. I will figure out how to be successful as a writer, an artist, a farmer and a person in general and I'll have it easier while still having what I fought for: this farm. That, or I'll try as long as I can. And I am a very stubborn woman, so I am hoping it's a while longer that the try still roars.

To end this post on a happier note: I got to do something every special last night. My good friend Tara and I have been hiking and slowly working towards the goal of going on small adventures together. Last night we got to do a trial run here on my mountain! A neighbor with a lot of land and trails permitted us to hike and camp on his land, which was only a half mile from my farm. So I was able to hike all afternoon, set up camp in a beautiful meadow, filter water from a stream, cook dinner, prepare a campfire - and then walk home to feed the lambs and check on the farm before returning to the mountain Hobbit Homes we had made. Training Wheels Backpacking, but I'll take what I can get.

We stayed up till nearly midnight by the fire making smores and catching up. We watched the stars and hoped for fireflies (Not yet, it has been such a chilly dark spring) but it all felt like a real adventure to me, all of it. In the past eight years this is the second time I didn't sleep in my own bed. I know it was only a camp site a half mile away but it is emotional and physical distance from the place I haven't been able to leave in years. With the downsizing of livestock, learning new fences, and making time to do things like this camp out I get to feel adventurous while still being a farmer at heart. And to wake up in bright meadow at dawn, heat up water for some coffee and oatmeal and watch the mountain wake up...

It was wonderful.

And I need this kind of activity to keep me from sucumbing to anxiety, to keep me on my toes. Backpacking is free - at least once you've gathered all your gear (most of mine was loaned or bought used or part of my gig doing outdoor gear reviews for magazines) but once you have that a vacation is just sweat, gas money to the trailhead, whatever snacks you pack AND I can bring the dogs. To some it may seem even more isolating that being on the farm alone - but to me it is a chance to explore a wide world that has been getting smaller, get back into my summer shape (15lbs to drop yet) and learn to love this region of the world I call home all over again, from a wilder eye.

So I'll farm and I'll hike and I'll hunt and I'll ride and hope that the work I am doing will end up in an easier life on my nerves and never on my heart. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Escape Pony

I walked around the far pasture shuffling slowly and head turned to the ground. If any neighbors drove by they might think the Zombie Apocalypse had finally arrived. I wasn't undead, I was frustrated. I was scanning the edges of fences and posts for yellow insulators long abandoned or pieces of old electric wiring - the kind used for string fences. I needed to set up an electric barrier fast.

I was scavenging for what I needed because spending money at the hardware store on new wire and a new charger was out of the question. I had already spent a third of all the money in my bank account today paying towards the electric bill's balance, a prescription for my lymph node issues, feed, and some AAA batteries. I needed to not spend another nickel until the farm made some sales. I've got till the end of the month to mail the mortgage payment and what I have now in my checking account couldn't pay for half of a Yeti Cooler. Zombie life here I come. 

Merlin has been escaping through extraordinary feats of ponyism. He's learned to leap over low fences and slide under high ones. If the space between two areas isn't electric he will find a way to push through it. He is liquid, fitting into spaces most equines would never dare tread.

His reasons for wanting to escape the paddock are because over half of his normal grazing area has been fenced off. He feels shorted. I've been giving those areas time regrow and heal from years of overgrazing with sheep, horses, goats, you name it. So the whole front area of the pasture has been seeded and sectioned off and Merlin wants in at those precious new shoots of grass. He's been a very ponyish pony lately. The mare has been perfect. Mabel wouldn't so much as cross a line drawn in chalk.  Merlin has a parkour that astounds.

So I have been slowly thwarting his escape routes, every day he finds a new one. It is a miserable game of chess and makes leaving the farm stressful. I worry he'll get into the road. So today I watched him leap over a divider and knew it was time to start electrifying the entire 2 acres he is in now, starting with the easiest areas to escape. It was the area without woven wire, just stretches of t-posts. I was using non-electrified horse tape, 2 inches thick which he minded for a good long while until the grass literally became greener. So now I had to get a wire across that 40 yard stretch of pasture.

It took about an hour to find, set up, and get the fencing, insulators and wiring all in order. I don't have any other chargers that work but the pigs'. So in an act of reckless choice I unhooked their charger to use for Merlin's fence. I know this is asking for trouble but I am hoping one night doesn't get me a runaway sounder. I set it up and used my fence tester to make sure it was hot. It was.

I am hoping this does the trick. I'm glad I was able to set up that fence without spending a dime. And now I am going to get back to the stress indoors in hopes for less stress outdoors. And hey, at least it wasn't raining. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Blossoms and Storms

The little lambs that have been sharing the farm house with me are finally sleeping outside in the lamb pen on the hill. The first night they were outside I also camped out with them, sleeping under the stars with my dogs in a tent. We got out of our nest three times that night to check on them. I was mostly worried about predators because Ser Pounce is so very small, but they were fine. I still need to add 2 more sheep to the flock this summer but these three are hail and hardy and sheep are back on Cold Antler soil!The apple blossoms are falling like snow in the wind after thunderstorms. They decorate the nursery pen on the hill. It feels like summer is stalking me and I love it.

Good news! My test results came back and I don't have any of the five tick-borne diseases I was tested for! And just as good news: the heat is on! The last few days have been hot enough to work up a glorious sweat just doing light yard work outside! Thunderstorms are every day (the mild, benign, northeastern sort that cool off a hot day) and I am back to running and hiking regularly.

If you remember last year when I decided to sell the dairy goats and breeding flock of sheep, the reason was for a little more freedom - financially but also time wise. I think at the heart of it I missed the small adventures of not being so tied down to one place. I have no desire to leave the farm or stop raising food - but I do want to be able to travel and hike a bit. That is what this summer is about. There will be small, brave, solo backpacking trips with the dogs and whatever I can carry on my back into the local state parks and Appalachian Trail. There will be camping, fly fishing, beautiful trips that cost me nothing since I already have the gear I need to be comfortable outdoors. It's not exactly amazing travel plans - I am talking about a few nights in the forest within an hour of the farm - but for me it is a big deal. I hope to spend one weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire when the lambs are older. I hope to enjoy the trail with new friends. I hope to feel healthy and safe.

Besides the usual fears of making the bills, this farm is okay. I am healthy. The animals are well. All my limitations right now are set by what I can earn and create. That is an amazing place to be. It makes you resourceful, careful, frugal, and most of all: grateful. I am hoping for more of this, all through the long hot summer. And as someone who spent the last 5 months heating a house with wood on many cold, dark, nights I welcome the heatwaves and harvests to come!

P.S. All of the recent photos here and on social media are thanks to a cracked-screen 2010 iPhone I found in a drawer. My most recent camera, a reader-gifted Canon G9 - sadly has broken so I am without a camera or new phone for pictures. I'll do what I can when things are better to have better images for you. 

P.P.S. If you want to contribute towards this blog, the medical tests, the farm, any of it - it is always appreciated and encouraging.  Do so by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Blood & Kailyards

It’s been an interesting couple of days. Since being tested for Lymphoma I have been to my dentist for x-rays to see if there were any complications/infections in my teeth. There are not. I have also been tested to Lyme and other Tick-borne illnesses and waiting on results. I am glad to be taking care of this, having the tests and appointments, but also quietly dreading the bills. It's hard enough making the money every month to fend off the worst of the stalking threats. Now this.

While waiting to figure out what is going on with me, I am actively trying to ignore it. I’ve hoed up and started setting up the kailyard behind the barn. It’s been such a cold and wet spring I haven’t had the weather or want to get out there and clear up and compost. Now I am. I have spinach and lettuce and kale to plant and tend. I have 8 plants of butternut squash to start my fall squash pile with. I have all the laying hens raised as chicks outside all day foraging and being proper chickens (though they do tap on the glass doors at dusk to come inside to sleep in the brooders at night. I let them.

The three bottle lambs are doing so well. The smallest one, named Ser Pounce, had a rough start and was very skinny and took a while to train to the bottle. Now he’s a small tight ball of energy that rivals a kitten! Podrick and Lyanna are also doing well. When it is over 50 degrees they are outside in the lamb pen on the hill. Otherwise - in these windy, rainy, and sleet (yes SLEET filled days) they are inside on a pile of hay in the dog crate in the living room. Across the room from the chicks gathering at night, of cats curled up by the wood stove, and of me and the dogs sipping tea and watching a movie before bed. Quite the peaceable kingdom, even if the outdoors are savage lands.

So I am moving this farm towards its goals, CSA, customers and seasons. I am worried about what is going on with my body but it isn’t like the flu - not anymore. I am able to go on gentle hikes and walks, but I am not running. I am sleeping more than usual, but not a worrying amount. I am trying to rest and heal. I have these medical costs to deal with on top of the normal farm bills and mortgage and that has lit a fire of frugality and shameless promotion. I am actively looking for art and soap sales. I am hoping these warming months will encourage people to come here for fiddle or archery lessons. I am also looking forward to long hikes, hot runs, cool rivers and the real heat and humidity I so love.

Basically I am trying to keep the farm going among all this dreariness. This has been one of the coldest, wettest, springs on record (since 1895) up here. Grass won’t grow. Mud collects and pools. What I would give for a sunny afternoon on dry earth… A chance to get some pasture back I already fenced off from the horses (who are not happy about it) and to play fiddle with the lambs once they are outside full time on the hill.

Hoping for luck with better health, easier times, and a lighter heart. For now I am grateful for the hoe and bottle - meaning gardens and young lambs - they are keeping my heart turned towards the farm and better, easier, warmer days.

I am best at the keep going. So I am going to keep. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Scare

Yesterday I decided to go see a doctor about a swollen lymph node under my collar bone. It had been sensitive for days, inflamed, and I was starting to get the same reaction near my throat. I felt tired, unusually so, and weak. I was worried I was in the early stages of mono or Lyme. I have health insurance for the first time in years and decided to have it checked out. I thought I would have a boring office appointment and be home for lunch.

What proceeded was a day of being screened for cancer. It was a terrifying couple of hours from the concerned physician at the clinic  explaining to me that a node so inflamed rarely meant something good to being sent to the local hospital for chest x-rays and white blood cell counts. I ended up getting hours of tests and driving all around southern Vermont in the rain.

I am very relieved to say the tests came back negative for signs of Lymphoma. I found out late in the afternoon. That releif will set me back about $600 in medical bills but was worth every penny. To know that fast that I was okay, instead of worrying and saving up for the tests over months - I am so grateful I was able to get results back soon.

Now I am not sure if my body is fighting off some sort of infection, a root canal that's reinfected? I go from feeling like the top left corner of my body is fighting with itself to fine. Today I feel mostly fine, if a little foggy. I did a gentle hike with Friday to clear my head and process what happened yesterday. When you're being screened for cancer there usually only two outcomes to that process. Yesterday the news was lucky. Who knows how many lucky days any of us have left?

So I walked with Friday in the new spring woods. We stopped at a view overlooking farms and mountains as far as I could see. My body brought me there and home, and without any pain. It was a celebration and release of that tense day yesterday. And the joy of knowing those bills were being sent to my insurance company and not a demand for payment on the day of service. If that was the case I couldn't get tested.

Quite the day. And now I am back to the work of soap and art and the farm. I am bottle feeding three little lambs - all are doing well. I have a lead on some more. I am so encouraged by your kind emails and letters. People are contributing to the farm in so many ways and it really, really, makes a difference. I am very grateful for that, too.

Back to work for now. I'll call the dentist Monday morning to see about x-rays for the broken fillings above root canals. I'll figure out what is wrong soon as I can. And be gentle while I wait.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Gibson to the Rescue!

It was already a busy farm day when I got Patty's message. I was just home from a trip into town to mail off some soap packages. Before that I had my farrier here trimming the horses' feet and spent an hour sectioning off my pasture for better rotational grazing/regrowth. I felt the farm part of the day was done and was planning on an afternoon of writing and design work. You know, the kind of gentle, quiet, work done hunched over a computer screen with a cold drink and music playing. But when I went to my computer to check my messages I read:

I need help. Bring Gibson - the lambs got through fence

I didn't think twice. I wrote back I was on my way and Gibson and I jumped into the truck and headed to Livingston Brook Farm.

I wasn't too worried. If there's one thing I am used to it is sheep escaping. Gibson, Friday, and I have helped return many a stray sheep to this farm. But most of the time it was animals that were born, lived, and knew my farm. It's a whole different story when the lambs are brand new to a place and have no idea about the lay of the land and no familiar shelter to call home. Patty picked up her three pasture lambs this morning. They escaped during the re-homing process. They were in a strange place and out of sight. This is scarier than sheep outside a fence. This is three animals that have no idea where they are, why they've been taken there, and suddenly loose and wild in the big wide world.

So you call in a sheepdog.

When we arrived at Patty's farm no cars were in their familiar places. The horses were restless. They snorted at Gibson and pranced alongside us as we jogged towards the far field. I saw Patty's truck out in the pasture - she had driven in the direction they had ran.

I called out and she seemed okay, but worried. She had a recording on her phone of the lambs' mothers call and was, I think, just happy that reinforcements had arrived to help. She explained she was unloading three very boisterous young Romney ram lambs out of the back of her capped pickup truck and they found the one spot in the fence to escape and made a dash for it. They took off into the woods, across a stream, and away from her property. She lost sight of them in the fray and now they'd been gone about half an hour. She didn't know where they'd gone off to.

We split up, her driving with a bucket of grain to neighbors' homes. Gibson and I took for the road and decided to walk along the long, winding, driveways of adjacent properties. This area of the county is real farm country. Where I live - on a mountain road - there are small pieces of yards and lawns cut into the forest - but this was a place where people mow with tractors and 30 acres is a driveway. I didn't know where Patty had gone but I took Gibson where I thought sheep would go - to grass on a high spot.

Gibson and I followed a long driveway for a while and then I decided to cut into the field, walking up a small crest of hill. Then, by luck or tactics, we both came across three lambs laying down in the middle of the grass in the sun. I was certain Patty didn't see them if she drove by. They looked like a pile of brown dirt, almost level with the ground in tall grass. What luck! They were here! All together!

I told Gibson to move forward and the sheep exploded up from the ground, taking off. Gibson made a wide circle around them and gave chase - keeping the trio of runaways inside the perimeter of his herding. It was a beautiful thing to watch. He ran with such focus and intention. It reminded me of the lessons we took together when he was a puppy. We had found the sheep. They were okay. We weren't even a mile away from the farm! We could get this to all work out!

Soon Patty's big black truck crested the hill. I waved and pointed to our prizes. She poked her head out of the window asked what was best to do next? My first thought was for Gibson to herd them into the garage up the hill towards the neighbor's home. But I could tell Gibson had the sheep under control. He had been a living fence for about five minutes now, weaving and chasing and keeping the lambs more and more trustful of me and less of him. As they got closer to me the idea of grabbing them made the most sense. We could scoop them up and carry them to her truck.

Moments later Patty came out to us with a few leashes in hand. Together - two women and a dog - we were able to catch all three ram lambs and carry them to her truck. It probably only took another ten minutes but felt like The Battle of Woolterfell.

To Patty's credit she caught the first one and then grabbed the second with the other hand! I nabbed the third. Mission accomplished! Gibson, who had been running, trotting, or sprinting non stop in the sun had his tongue out halfway to his chest. He needed to cool off, fast. He's a damn good dog but not used to this level of intense work

I called Gibson into the pickup, he was panting up a storm. He had not herded this hard in a year. On the way back to her farm I had her let us out at the edge of her property where the Livingston Brook winds through her pastures towards the Battenkill River. Gibson knew what to do. He slid his over-heated body into the stream near a culvert letting the water slowly float him towards some soft stones. He floated like Baloo the bear and drank as his black fur floated around him. It was the prettiest thing I'd seen in years. When he felt better walked out to be beside me.

This dog. A thousand tiny gods could not offer me eternal life in exchange for him. What a perfect beast. He was a true hero. He was there in a pinch, performed, and saved the day. If he wasn't with me we'd still be chasing those lambs.

We got the three runaways into their shed with shade, water, grain, hay and a scolding. Patty set up the fencing to a better system. We went into her kitchen to clink glasses of iced tea in celebration. We got the livestock back and home safe. They weren't lost, or in the road, or feeding a generation of very grateful coyotes. The shepherds managed to keep the flock. Honestly it was a shame it was too early to drink.

I am glad the sheep are back, but really it was all Gibson. A trained herding dog became the transportable fence we needed and did so without hurting the sheep or himself. He worked hard and I gave him two glazed donuts on the way home (his absolute favorite thing in the world).

And it felt wonderful to be helpful to Patty, and to be useful and there when she needed the help. That woman has rescued this farm so many times. I hope she always knows she can count on me to do the same. That's what friends and farmers are for.

And very good dogs. 

Good Morning

Morning all, thank you for the kind messages and encouragement that came my way since the last post. I want to be clear that while the post was very personal, it wasn't meant to portray that I am unhappy, in danger or without supportive and wonderful friends. The post was about a very unconscious and normal sort of isolation women feel at a certain age when they don't fit into assumed roles. There is a sadness to it, of course, but please do not think I am saying my town isn't great - it's just adapting to a changing society the best it can. As every town is.

I wanted to also share that the farm is becoming brighter, greener, and more alive as I search for more lambs, plant, rake, prepare for summer guests and friends and do the everyday work of making this place scrape by. I have projects indoors and out. I am slowly working towards a new book, repairing fences, planning around restoring lawns and teeth - all the regular things!

I so appreciate every email, letter, card, message, contribution, story, DM and interaction. But what is most important to convey this morning that I am okay, and writing about the times I don't feel okay - is important to feeling that way.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Selfish, Broken, or Trouble

One time a man came to my door and asked to talk to my husband. He was perhaps in his mid fifties? He had gray stubble and an impressive beer gut and held forth with the confidence of a boy about to climb into his tree fort. I stood in the door, nervous. When I said there wasn't a husband here right now he asked to talk to my mother, Mrs. Woginrich.

Confused, I asked what he wanted. I was 28 and had not owned the property very long. I didn't know why this complete stranger knew my name or why he thought my mother (who lives hours away in Pennsylvania) was visiting me right now? He balked when I said it was just me here. This wasn't the correct anwser.

He eventually explained he was looking for permission to hunt on my land. Since someone recently bought the property he needed to talk to the Jenna Woginrich listed on the tax map. It was a woman's name so he assumed it was an older lady, a wife or widow, not a twenty-something in ripped jeans and bare feet.

I explained that I was the owner of this property and neither my mother or any sort of Mr. Woginrich lived here. I was the one hunting the property now and two is a crowd on six acres. He left after that, disgruntled and dazed.

That was the first of many times people would act uncomfortable around me when they found out I lived alone on a farm on purpose. I've been asked by neighbors, strangers, road crews, and bar patrons the same question for years: who is my husband?

When I explain I don't have one - everything changes. When straight men find out I'm alone they either take a step closer or a step back, but never remain in place. I am not claimed and therefore fair game to chase or a distasteful thing that should be avoided. Either way, I am not safe.

When straight women find out they change their tone. Almost 90% of the time it's a faux you-go-girl-approval masking their discomfort. I don't take it personally, but it is as loud as a stop sign. I am not claimed and therefore undesirable for partnership or a possible threat to their marriage. Either way, I am not safe.

For women residing in small farm towns the correct anwser to who are you? is daughter, wife, or mother. This is an unwritten, but well-understood rule. If a woman isn't one of those things she is either selfish, broken, or trouble. Someone either purposely avoiding the adult responsibilities of marriage and motherhood or someone not fit to fill them.

This unwanted caution is not loud. No one goes out of their way to be unkind. There is a veneer of politeness out here that is necessary in rural places. You don't need to know who the person plowing your driveway voted for or sleeps with as much as you need snow removed. But the unspoken assumption is women my age should be straight, married, and raising a family. Not doing those things waves warning flags and every year the flags wave harder.

Which is wildly aggravating because if I was a 27-year-old man who moved here from out of town, bought land, started farming, wrote books, paid taxes and never showed up on a police scanner—I would practically be voted in the new mayor. But I'm not. I'm a 36-year-old woman alone on a mountain with animals. I'm one step away from neighborhood kids telling each other I'm a witch and daring to knock on my door at Halloween.

So I own it. I don't want a husband or children and I'm okay with being alone. I would prefer to be in a relationship, but that seems pretty unlikely anytime soon. I have twice as many Twitter followers as there are people in my town - which, in case you were wondering, is the perfect algorithm for not getting laid.

Being a public figure in a small town is one thing. Being a single, newly-out, woman in a small town is another. There are things people do now they didn't used to do.

I drive a big ol' red pickup with a rainbow decal on it and everyone knows what that means. I'm damn proud of the work it took to put that sticker on my truck. Happy to let others know (who may not feel comfortable being out) I'm here. I'm here as your neighbor, as your farmer, as a fellow homeowner, as a friend, whatever. But I'm here. Reactions were mixed.

Small things started to happen. Not just because of that sticker, but because word gets around in a small town like fog on a cold night. People that used to wave when I drove by stopped waving. Women at red lights go out of their way to avoid eye contact with me, as if looking a gay woman in the wild will be met with a leer? Men blatantly stare like a hyena is driving a truck. No one paid attention to me before that sticker. I used to be a part of the background and now I'm one of "them."

Conversations changed. People that used to always joke about "new single men they met" do not talk about "new single women they met" the same way. Once I came out all joking about dating and sex shut off. It's not that they are upset, not at all. I think people aren't sure how to joke around anymore when identities change (to them). This quiet tension breeds a hissing caution that screams YOU ARE DIFFERENT NOW.

I am well aware that careful distance isn't homophobia and I'm not saying it is. My sexuality has very little to do with people's general wariness of me. Mostly I am avoided because I am single and past the age most women are partnered up. I think being a woman alone is far more off-putting than being gay.

I don't know what to say to this? I'm not single because I want to be. I'm single because I haven't met someone I love that loves me back. Pretty much the reason anyone is single. But when you're single for a long time in a little town; that is where the broken comes in. I must be alone because something is wrong with me. That, or I am something to be avoided altogether. So I am.

Which makes me so much more anxious around strangers now. I don't know how they feel about me when they find out I'm not partnered, that I run a farm alone, that it's not successful. I worry just existing in the same space will be seen as aggressive.

I avoid talking to other single women at all costs. I am afraid that anything I do or say will be seen as hitting on them, any sort of kindness or compliment or eye contact will be rejected, that I disgust them. They terrify me.  I never used to be afraid of people when I didn't want them to love me.

It's primal, lizard-brain, reactionary thinking. I know this. We all know this. So much of this is subconscious and never with ill-intent. No one means to ignore or distance themselves from women that don't make us inherently comfortable, that do not fill a social role. But that doesn't mean it isn't happening and it isn't isolating.

I moved out here to follow my dream of being a farmer and to find a safe place to hide from the person I knew I wasn't ready to be yet. I threw myself into sheep and horses, hawks and arrows because I needed a distraction from who I was, which was alone. And as long as I'm a part of this social primate species that lives in packs and hunts by daylight - I'll be considered an outsider for a very long time. At least in this place where belonging to a tribe's social placeholder is more important than any bumper sticker or tax bracket.

I'm okay with this. I'm fine with people keeping me at a distance. I'm fine keeping my distance from them. But to pretend it isn't exhausting is a lie. Everywhere I go I know people that look me directly in the face and smile think I am selfish, broken, or trouble. Eventually it changes you. It makes you more afraid and more bold at the same time. It makes you wistful and defensive. It makes you hopeful and lonely. It makes you someone who thinks women are avoiding eye contact at red lights when the truth is you're too afraid to look.

Sunday, May 5, 2019


Podrick! First lamb of 2019!!!
I can not tell you how loudly I cheered in this living room when the farmer I emailed about delivering large bales (3'x6' of hay) to the farm was willing to barter for graphic design work. He was an ad on Craigslist, and was hard to find to begin with. People are almost out of hay up here, and all of my usual sources were out and politely explained I needed to get my bales elsewhere. I found this farmer in a nearby town and after he explained the price and delivery rates I countered with an offer of my logo work. A farm is a business, and sometimes people want a logo or a flyer or tee shirt design. Eric let me know he did need some graphic design work done and would deliver the bales the next morning. On a handshake we traded a few hours of my time and professional skills for all the hay I need for quite some time. I also didn't have to spend a dime, which is a HUGE bonus. I needed this kind of good news.

To celebrate I did some planting in the recently cleaned up Kitchen Gardens here at the farm.  Lettuce and other springs greens were planted alongside some kale. Not the biggest garden push but a start and food in the ground. They say a garden is the strongest act of hope you can offer. My hands have soil on them and the gentle week of rain is encouraging them on.

And the big news: the first lamb of the year is here! I still need three or four more but I bought a bottle lamb this morning at the May Poultry Swap. He's a darling little cross of Icelandic and Dorper, I think. They weren't really sure. His name is Podrick. I hope he has company soon as I can find them for sale around here. I need to make more stops at sheep farms, phone calls, and such. But to have sheep back! Even a singular sheep! This is also great news.

I am still dealing with broken teeth. I am eating just soft foods. I have a checkup with my endodontist this week and I'm terrified he'll need to redo the root canal. I am trying not to think about it if I am honest. The good hens of this farm are laying well and the chicks I raised to add to the flock are outside now - being scrappy CAF hens like the should. I have all the scrambled eggs I could eat.  I am grateful I am not in pain.

I wrote yesterday on Twitter that the problem with always figuring things out is eventually everyone assumes you'll always figure things out. That even if every month is a white-knuckled struggle the fact you keep doing it is all the proof they need to not worry about you. I get more messages saying "I'm sure you'll be fine!" than I care to admit. These are worse than messages where people urge me to throw in the towel, at least those people are being realistic about how dire things are. Even the guy who wrote to tell me it was pointless getting root canals if you can't cap them because you'll lose the teeth meant well.

I feel like people that send me the most panic-inducing emails are the ones that don't have to worry about being home alone all night, or have a regular checks coming in. Guys if your advice is "Oh well, you're screwed" it's okay to keep it to yourselves...

So on this Sunday I am trying to figure out what I can figure out. I have plants in the ground, a lamb to bottle feed, and feelers out for more. I have a mortgage and livestock to raise. I have a mission to wake up to and fight to keep every morning. And this bit of luck - the hay trade and new lamb - these things bring in a fresh wind of confidence. Not the kind of arrogance that assumes I'll be okay - but a rung on the ladder out of panic.

If you are out there and can support this farm, please do. I need the help. Holy Crow, do I ever. This year has been the hardest and I just want to get through each month, I'm fine with it being hard I just need to know I'll be okay.

If you want to: contribute to the writing or buy some soap or artwork. And if money is out of the question because your as up against it as I am - send a nice word of encouragement via email or on socials. I always ask for that during rough times because I need it. I need it as much as I need to make sales. Maybe one or two of you will do so, and when that happens the world seems kinder and the readership feels realer and I feel so much less scared.

Thank you for reading. I hope this spring leads to something better. I am getting there slowly with this hay and lamb and some planting. Fingers crossed and hands dirty in hope.