Friday, June 28, 2019

Carry Through

Life right now is a lot of nerve and verve which isn't a bad thing. I am balancing anxiety about making this place work with the intense dump of energy I have for the heat. I am so happy it is finally hot outside again, that simple chores outside drench me in sweat and the is bright and the air is wet. Mornings are a little milder and that is when most of the chores are done and I get out for a run. Today I ended up going for a ride and then running a 10k around noon and while I am sun burnt and sweat for days - it felt so good. So much of winter is being cold in ways you can not understand - inside and out. Summer I feel alive again.

I have around 48 hours in this month to make it clear through and am very close. I am grateful for that, but also feeling proud that while every month is right up against it - through luck, kindness, contributions, sales, or plain luck I have made it this far. I can never take that for granted or assume that will be the case, but every time the bank clears the check for a house payment or I manage to keep mailing in that health insurance check - it feels like proof on paper I am able to keep this place my own. And if the time it takes to retain that solvency is the fuse that leads to something bigger - whatever that it - that is my religion now. Hope.

But so far - it's work and miles and horses and heat. That is what carries me through. I have little secret goals and things I am very excited about this summer happening in the larger world of pop culture and politics - but small things like making a bill and riding a horse up on a mountain are what holds me up. I have allowed a lot of change and acceptance since I started farming here, but the reasons behind the actions are always the same. I'm in love with this place and this life. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Hogs and Hawks

I have been feeling a surge of energy recently and I think I can thank running and the longer days for it. When I am outside moving, listening to music, everything else shuts off. I can daydream, breath easier, every stride has a purpose and every day I run a little farther. Running costs nothing but time and when I am home from a long one I feel relieved as jumping into cold water. It was a slow start getting back into the swing of things this summer - but now as the solstice shines in I am hoping this energy is here to stick.

In farm news, a small litter of piglets has joined the farm! The first-time mother successfully gave birth without problems. This is my second time farrowing, and the first time was so flawless and easy. This one was more cruel, with some piglets dying shortly after birth. It's been a decade of raising livestock and the highs and lows still slam into me on a regular basis. I am as terrified of them as I am grateful. No day passes that doesn't contain an entire soundtrack of emotions. There are little accomplishments like harvesting the first snap pea, learning a new fiddle tune, a new birth, and sunshine returned after such a long, cold, time. But there are also losses, and mud, and rain that seemed to last for weeks. I'm not sure how healthy living in a roller coaster is but it's never boring.

This weekend I may be getting a new hawk! A local falconer is going to college and won't be able to train up her bird for fall before releasing it back into the wild. I'll be taking over training with the bird, and the family that currently keeps it is coming over to help prepare and update my mews first. So it's a weekend of construction and possibly even a new hawk in my life! A falconer without a bird is a sad thing, and I am very happy to have talons in my life again and someone to feed all the quail in my freezer to!

So that is what is going on here. New additions and stories. I am working on notes from my agent about a book outline and trying to catch up on all the soap and art orders. I am promoting sales like nuts on Twitter. I am trying to make time to get away from the farm - if only for a few hours a few nights a week - to go into town and meet up with friends new and old. I still have time to make the mortgage this month on top of the butcher's bill - and if I am lucky that will happen and I will just make it another one. Only now it feels less like scratching and clawing to survive and more like scrappy pride in being resourceful. Coyote life is for me.

Oh, and the fireflies are back. I missed every single one of them.

Sunday, June 16, 2019


When things are stressful I find myself wanting to be around people more, at least these days I do. And for the past few days I have been making time to be out around friends and enjoying conversations, a beer, stories, and music. Wednesday night a friend bought me a drink in town, Thursday I got to see Mark and Patty, and today I was able to meet up from an old riding friend at the farmer's market in town. It was pouring rain but we sat in the cover of the train station and told each other what was going on. My biggest news was writing projects, dating, freelance, and the general uncertainty of the farm. And all of these people, the town, the stories and shared places make even the most tense moments on this farm seem more manageable. Being less alone means feeling less alone, and I am so glad to be catching up after the long winter in ways I have not when fires needed tending.

The farm is humming and the first fireflies of the season came out to shine last night!The lambs are slowly getting weaned off milk and grazing more and more. The horses are being ridden more often on the mountain trails with friends. The heat is making me feel so much more active. Evening runs are now pushing 6 miles and the time to zone out to music is as powerful and recharging as time surrounded by friends. There seems to be more balance these days - which only took me around a decade to develop. Better late than never.

As for the farm I have to figure out butcher bills, more lambs, a house payment ASAP and try to get it all done while avoiding any truck repairs. The remedy for all of this is hunkering down Monday through Friday to work the part-time writing and art gigs I have collected. There's a collection of editors and my agent - art and soap customers - and locals who have purchased meat shares or want a dozen eggs or what have you. 

I feel like I am about halfway to where I need to be and since the month is about halfway over that seems manageable. I think there will be a lot more running and more time outdoors with friends. Both of those activities cost nothing and make me feel tired and happy. Which is still possible to find - that happiness - even while being scared of the mail truck and unsure of what is ahead.

When there's more news to tell I will share it. In the meantime I hope to be moving fast across the landscape, listening to good music, talking to good friends, and keeping my head and heart in line as summer starts to nest.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


I can say this, I am not going anywhere. Just because the bank is threatening me doesn't mean I am leaving, selling, or quitting. In one day I have managed a third of the sales I need to make a payment. I believe I will make the deadline, and I will keep finding ways to make it. At some point this has to get easier and if it doesn't then I'll get better so it IS easier. But do not think for one second I am selling, or giving up, or leaving my farm. If you want to help you can. If you want to sit back and watch me pull this off you can. If you want to jeer and tell me I'm an idiot you can. But Cold Antler Farm is my home and no matter how dark and scary it gets I have made it here ten years alone knowing nothing about rural living and I made it to this point and I refuse to throw in the towel over something like money. I will find, sell, create, write, accept, tell, freelance, farm, story, and song my way however is legally possible.

Cold Antler is home.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

20 Days

Got a very bad certified letter in the mail today. Farm is on final notice from the bank. I have 20 days to make mandatory payment or that's the beginning of the end. Internet/phone is still down. Please be patient with email replies and work. I will address everything as soon as I can.


I woke up the the sound of three lambs bleating below my bedroom window for their morning bottles. The trio's pen gate had been left ajar and at first light my three lambs made their way to the house and situated themselves below the window where dog heads were poking out. Don't let anyone tell you sheep are stupid. They aren't. They are survivalists.

The dogs were up all night barking and sleep was hard to come by. I didn't know what was going on? Maybe the weasel was back? A deer or Barb the local mountain bear had made her way into the farm? Nope. The old tree by the driveway finally broke in two and fell in the night. I found it this morning. Luckily it broke off into the pasture and not in the driveway where my truck was parked!

I finished farm chores fast and headed into town for the laundromat, which is where I am updating you now. My phone and internet service was shut off and is in the process of being restored. Since the internet is 100% the way I get income and talk to clients - I have been driving to my new "office" several times during the day. All of my sheets are clean though, and right now blankets an throws are being dried. The silver lining of free wifi at the laundromat is a lot of clean linens.

Been a hell of a week though. Within the last 48 Hours I have had the plumbing stop draining, $500 in medical bills without a diagnose, a fallen tree, my front door fall off the hinges, no internet or phone service, and the stress and try of getting it all back together.

But in the meantime I have been burning up some extra energy and anxiety out running. These days of more hot and humid weather seem to demand I run and I am putting out some 5k and 10k days, hoping to get up to an average of 6 miles a run soon. It makes me feel better in every single way - both losing weight and losing stress. To be totally soaked from sweat and tired from work makes those moments after a run feel amazingly calm and clean. A cold shower or dip in a river, fresh clothes, a cold drink - it is better than any sort of AC. These days walking into AC feels like walking into a morgue. I hate it. I especially hate it if I didn't run or sweat. Feels like something for corpses, not animals.

Today is about catching up on work, running errands, preparing for piglets and the butcher. It's about getting sales and getting tired. It's about repairing broken doors and moving dead branches and keeping this place moving forward another day.I hope your goal is the same and a low smoother than it is here!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Small Dirty Paradise

It finally felt like summer today. The thermostat hit the eighties, I went on a long lazy run, and I got to mow the lawn! It's been two whole days without rain and my town's annual Hot Air Balloon Festival which always gives this little gin joint a shot of activity. Between the tourists, the balloons, the heat, and the longer days this finally reminded me of what summer feels like. It made me want to jump in the river (I did not, it is freezing and high from a month of record rainfall and low temps) but I wanted to, and that is a welcome desire.

The farm is slowly getting on track with the season. Getting a hold of hay is hard, as we are all waiting on this year's cutting to start and everyone is out of last years. I am grateful I set up fences to allow the pasture to grow in sections and in the morning the horses get their cereal and fresh grass to graze. The lambs get their bottles (and also are starting to eat grain) and one of my pigs is very pregnant and the butcher gets here later in the week for the boars. It's a week of grazing management, bottle feeding, slaughter, and the occasional lawn mowing and all of it to move towards the goal of feeling safe at home.

And flushing the toilet... The amount of rain water has either flooded my septic system to the point of super slow drainage or it is blocked. I need to call a plumber but I'm not doing that until I mail in my health insurance bill for the month. In the meantime there's a lot of peeing in the woods.

Maybe I'll date a plumber? That would be a real jackpot. 

That's going to be a hell of day, guys. The day I feel really safe here. If you have that, savor it. If you know tonight your roof is tight, your bills are paid, you have money in the bank and there isn't a chance of losing your home, savor it. If you have someone that loves you sharing your life and work and trials and stories, savor it. I know for a lot of you that is just a humdrum life. It's a normal Sunday night to know there's a new week starting and work is at 9AM and your spouse has the day off to mow and go grocery shopping - and that kind of everyday security is what I crave. The caveat is I want it here. I want it on this farm, from this work, from my own skills as a writer, a farmer, a designer, and an illustrator.

But one day I am going to make it. One day when the farm isn't under threats from banks. When I have more than $20 in my bank account after the mortgage is paid. When I know for sure I have everything I need to make utilities, health insurance, grain and feed bills and someone to talk to before bed and plan out the week.... I feel that isn't too far away.

Or, if it is, then the years of learning to balance skills and costs and making it almost a decade here alone still feels like good work. Because while it's always been a struggle and recently, a horrific one, I am still here. Next May will mark ten years and eight of them working at home as a full-time creative freelancer and farmer. And you know what? I regret none of it. This place has changed me entirely, given me strength, resilience, self-assurance and esteem I could not have found anywhere else. And as of tonight I still own this lawn I mowed. I still have customers, and people to feed, and a place where I wake up every single day with this fire to keep trying to find that safe place in the same nervous corner of this mountain I have been trying at for a decade.

So it's another month of work. And another month with butcher bills and that precious monthly payment that is always late but always dependable so the bank so far lets me stay put. Their patience is impressive but so is this little farm that is still starting mornings with coffee and a promise and slowly carving this woman out of petrified wood so she can dream of kisses before bed and lazy rivers and a savings account in her small dirty paradise.

I don't know what this life seems like to you. Most of the time I don't know how it seems to me, but I am grateful I am still here and able to live a harder life alone doing what I love. And while it may seem sad or lonely, overwhelming or fruitless - most of the time it is simply mine. And a life a person can call theirs with their shoulders back and chin up is worth a week of peeing in the woods.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Whew & Weasel!

We made the month! I mean, I just barely made it, but oh good gods what a relief! I mailed out the mortgage check! Once it is cashed I'll be back to a 2 digit figure in my bank account again, but it has been mailed! The relief is like taking two fifty-pound feed sacks off my shoulders after carrying them for 2 weeks uphill. Now I just have to wait to make sure the bank cashes it and there isn't any issue with that, since it was postmarked a day late - but I am hoping it clears and I am back to the solid work of earning the next one.

Whew. That is the word of this day, whew.
This happened because of you. Thank you. Your emails, your letters, your purchases of soap and meats and logos and pet portraits. Your patience, your contributions to the blog, your readership. This is a farm that depends on her online community. It only exists because of it. Thank you so, so, so much for sending your kind emails, comments, tweets, Instagram notes, and a very special thanks to Maria whose 3 beautiful canvas paintings of Friday, Merlin, and a hen with her chicks arrived today. I wish you guys knew how much larger you make my world. Some days I don't leave the farm or see anyone. I don't talk to an actual person at all. But to know there's a readership sitting in front of screens all over, watching and cheering - it makes things feel so much less scary. 

In less happy news, a weasel came into the farm the last two nights. One young Buff Orpington pullet was taken and a meat bird, but I think that is the worst of it. The birds that were taken were in the chicken coop closest to the house and while the metal gate to the run was closed, the actual coop door was not. The weasel figure out the wire door, which seems like a very weasel thing to do. But last night when he returned I was ready and me and the dogs met him and his little ferret eyes face to face at 2AM! He ran like hell with Friday on his tail. No birds were lost last night. Which is another relief in itself!

Right now it's mid afternoon here and the sky is gray after a short chilly morning of sunshine. The lows may dip into the thirties. It is such a false summer and everyone is nervous about all the cold and rain. Hay isn't being cut, it's barely being grown. Crop reports from all over the Northeast and Midwest are showing at least a 2-week delay in progress. I am wondering if this will effect food prices into the late summer and fall? 

In personal news: It's Pride Month! I've never been to any sort of parade or event, but maybe this year I will? I am going to try to focus on my running and maybe even go on a date if luck swings my way - but if I'm being honest a flag on the farmhouse and a possible weird first date is probably the extent of my romantic life. But a gal needs something to run for.

In author news: My agent has my completed book proposal and she and I will work on it until it is ready to shop around. This is a big step, and what I have been working on when I haven't been in a frenzy about making the bills. Just having the shot at telling this larger story behind Cold Antler and the little girl who grew up to be a feral mountain woman - that is exciting enough. Perhaps I should run for her, and not for a rando date? That seems better.

Thank you again for reading along. Thank you for being part of this story. I have four weeks to pull this all off again, and so many orders to catch up on. I mailed out four packages today and my student loan payment. I am making soap and painting this afternoon while the natural light of day lets me see what I am doing with my paint and brushes. It's good to have these goals to work on.