Tuesday, August 27, 2019


I’m sitting in my mechanic’s waiting room, typing on my laptop. The truck is in for inspection and I am really, really, hoping it passes. Only a few days left in the month to figure it out if it doesn’t. So nerves are a bit high. The good news is I got to the county seat and she’s registered through August 2021 - so jumping this inspection hurdle means I can focus on getting firewood and the mortgage paid. I wish things weren’t so stressful, but at least the stress keeps me motivated and busy.

But all of these stresses are low-grade and no different than any other farmer in this county. We're all getting together plans for harvests, hay, firewood, and fuel. Everyone who lives in a rural area has this same mindset of getting to a solvent, safe, space to let out a sigh of relief before the snow dares to fall. And even though it'll be ten years at this farm (TEN YEARS) of proving to myself I can pull off winters on this mountain - it doesn't get easier.

I have arranged for firewood delivery this week, hoping the man that will drop it off can still get here. Having even just one cord stacked before the first frost feels like progress. It means I need to earn the money to replace what I spend on it ASAP but sales have been slow and steady and encouraging. I try to make at least my daily minimum a day, keep orders moving for handmade soaps and artwork, while keeping the farm and CSA customers happy. Feels like a juggling act for the ages. But I have learned to juggle better than most.

Wish me luck with this inspection. If the truck doesn't pass then I need to cancel tomorrow's dental appointment to fix a cracked tooth and focus instead on getting her street legal. May have to change firewood plans. It's all balls in the air. But I can't say I'm bored. Never, ever bored.

UPDATE: Truck did not pass. Needs a new power steering gear and some other minor repairs to be street legal and $500 is the bill to make it pass. Canceled the dentist appointment. Trying to figure it all out. Like I said, never bored.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I got a letter in the mail today. No return address. No first name. A very hard to read last name. It was from a reader who told me she (assuming) was upset I had blocked her on Twitter, as she has always been a supporter of the farm and even came to fiddle lessons years ago. She was clearly hurt and I was very confused. The letter did not include an email, a twitter identity, or any way to contact her.

Guys, If you are using social media to interact with me, that's great. But if you are doing so with an anonymous, pictureless (or picture that isn't you or a human being) I have no idea who you are! I don't know that the person asking me about my farm, animals, life, etc is someone I have met or a total stranger. It is so frustrating dealing with anonymous accounts on here. It's lose/lose. If I block (or mute you) it's usually because I have no idea who you are and don't like dealing with people that avoid a public life online. Especially if that person is asking about my farm.

I'll anwser pretty much any question to another public person, author, verified account, etc. But I've learned to be super wary of people that don't use their real names and pictures online. Outside of extreme personal safety reasons, I don't get it.

Not telling you to use your real name or picture if you don't want to. But don't expect people who make a living being any level of a public figure to embrace your comments or respond. We get so much shit. I tend to lump you all into "not safe"

If you have been blocked by me online there's a 90% chance it wasn't an act of aggression, but safety. Please use your real name, real picture, and let me know who you are. You know so much about me, practically the last ten years of my life. But the internet isn't a safe place always for people like me, and I am only acting out of the best practices I know. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Pet Portrait Special Offer!

Want to get a custom ink and watercolor pet portrait?! Buy one and get a free sketch of a friend's pet (or give them the portrait and you get a free sketch)! Send me an email and I can set you up! Trying to make 2 sales today to reach my goal so I can start planning for the truck and firewood and make this month happen!

Don't want to buy art but want to kick in a dollar to the blog, you can do that here

Garden Luck and a Truck

My neighbors have left for a long vacation at the peak of their garden's bounty. Their loss is my gain as I have full permission to gather whatever I want or it will rot from their community plot in town. I already had an amazing meal yesterday with their green peppers and tomatoes making a summer stew with my sweet Italian pork sausage. All I had to do was fry up some of the sausage till brown (adding soy and sriracha, coarse salt and pepper) an diced chucks of tomatoes and peppers. It made a natural stew from the meat juice and tomatoes so all I needed to to make it perfect was serve with a dollop of sour cream. It cooled off the heat of the spicy meat and made a perfect dinner from my own community. If you need a quick dish - I can't suggest it enough. It's filling with a kick. The kind of meal that fills you up, doesn't weigh you down, and can be made in under ten minutes.

Right now my mind is on my truck. So far, it's been running well and despite a power-steering leak I need to keep refilling until it can be addressed - it is okay. I depend on that truck as my only vehicle, and the thing that makes the hay, feed, post office runs, and milk pickups possible. It needs new tires to pass inspection (due in ten days, as is the registration) so I found a local place that sells used (but in good condition) tires for $55 a piece (mounted and old tires discarded). The tires, the inspection, driving to the county seat before the clock strikes September 1st is what is needed to keep me on the road. It'll be a couple hundred bucks and driving all over the county and that's if everything goes as planned. It has to happen before the first cord of firewood is delivered and stacked, and sadly, before I can mail out the mortgage. The good news is that I have 11 days to left to figure all of that out. And if I make the daily income goals, plan well, and keep things moving I can probably make it all happen. I think it means getting rid of my health insurance - as I am already a few months behind and suspect my insurance company will drop me soon anyway - but not being insured I am used to. Not having winter heat or a truck and a roof over my head- that I need to deal right now.

Every day here is one step at a time. Every day is checking off that list, hustling, planning, praying, and hoping. And every day I am working towards bigger goals - slow and steady. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Clean, Run, Lists

When things are stressful, as they have been all through this spring an summer, I make sure to take time to do the things that are actively taking care of this home. Domestic chores are just that, chores, but they also leave you feeling like you accomplished something that ticks a box towards having your life in order. All day I cleaned, mowed the lawn, did loads of laundry, straightened up and put away things laying about. These are small acts that give you a sense of order - the illusion of control. I need them when I am so worried.

Another thing that helps is running. I don't know if it's the time away from the computer or the actual physical activity but I know when my heart hurts the best thing for it is to make it distracted too. Run and get her pumping again, don't let anxiety do the bulk of the cardio, ever.

Lists, too. Lists are a godsend. My daily to do list shows me how I am keeping promises, mailing out work, taking care of something bigger than myself. I list the amount of income I hope to make (sometimes I make it) and the miles I ran, the chores done, the fences fixed, the bills paid or appointments scheduled. Sometimes all that gets done in a day is I make 10% of what I needed to to feel okay - but I made that eye doctor appointment finally, and the animals are fed and good, and I got two soap orders mailed, and I can see on paper that even if things aren't ideal I am doing something good in my day towards something better.

So right now as I am trying to figure out this month I am cleaning, running, and making lists. I am doing the things I know I can do. And right now that's what is keeping me grounded and sane as fall is starting to plow into my every thought and firewood and hay seem as faraway as possible.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Night Chickens

It is a novel thing, being woken up by the sound of a cackling chicken downstairs in your living room. By 6AM the pair of birds I call "The Night Chickens" are squawking in the fresh daylight to be let out of the pen in the living room and outside to chicken about on the farm with their friends. They aren't captives. Every night at dusk they peck and ask to come inside the sliding glass doors and gently walk over to their pen and perch on top of it. All summer this was their M.O. The reason being that a weasel one night killed four of their friends and they survived and so returning to their coop was terrifying and the pen they were brooded and raised in remained safe. So, being a total sap, I let them in one night and they jumped right back into it. Then a routine became a habit and now The Night Chickens (a buff orpington and silkie bantam) are a part of the daily ritual of this farm.

At least until this started happening. They now demand to be let out at first light and while I am no slouch sleeping in - I don't like the idea of waking up to their VERY LOUD demands. So tonight when they saunter in I will return them to their coop and begin this long awaited break up. Sorry Night Chickens, time to become regular ol' farm birds.

Morning chores this morning were something from a storybook. The first apples are dropping from the trees and fall around the edges of the lamb pen. I keep the lambs penned and night and when I am not home but when I am here, usually working or writing inside, they are out grazing. I let the horses out of their paddock into the grazing area and they munch on the apples and swish their tails to music I can't hear and the lambs putter about like the worst percussion backup you can imagine. Roosters crow, hens squawk, the piglets in the barn snuffle around the sows. This place wakes up slowly and then wakes me up fully. 

It's now officially mid August and I need to really hustle and focus. Two weeks to make this month's bills,  buy in and stack the first cord of firewood, and get my truck new (used) tires and inspected. The goal for today is to earn $100 towards the bills and $100 towards those tires. That is what I will be writing down on my daily to do list. Besides those goals I have a batch of soap to make with the milk I have from Northern Spy Farm. I have 2 pet portraits to finish and mail out the door. I have logo clients to update.  I have hay to pick up and pay for. I have the usual evening chores and house work and the same routine that makes up our days as all of you have as well.

It's a good, messy, life and I'm giving it my best shot. Sometimes that means chicken pity and some times that means chicken tough love. But hopefully, it always includes chickens.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Ghosted Mare

I am grateful it is still early August, at least technically speaking. This morning the farm was a crisp 53° and the first leaves are starting to collect below the birch trees. When I was outside doing the chores with the dogs I could feel how everything is working towards Autumn and I made a mental note that I need to get the first cord of firewood stacked and ready by Sept 1st to be on track, with a second cord ready by end of September. I know I am months away from needing that heat, but for obvious reasons of budget and timing - the sooner the better. And as I walked to the barn with the pigs' breakfast bucket I went through my other lists in my head - the way all of us start our mornings. How I need to make an eye appointment for a new eye prescription. How the truck needs new tires to pass inspection. How before I get firewood delivered I need to clean out the woodshed and store the garden tools somewhere else. What is good about all this is how I am learning to plan and manage well in advance - a skill that took so long to actually truly learn. But that is how we grow, slowly.

Last month I was offered a free horse. A beautiful Fjord mare that was a little rough around the edges and needed a new home. Originally I was going to take her on as a trial, just a month, and either send her back or keep her. I thought about it a long time. My reasoning being that Merlin is in his mid-twenties and Mabel is only 12. Who knows when a trained, beautiful, animal will just be handed to you like that... and it was tempting. Really tempting...

I chose to not take on the mare, even for a few weeks. I didn't downsize my herds and sell my goats to jump on something else to fill that void. As much fun as it would be having a new small draft I needed to be realistic about the cost and time another large animal would take. This is simply something I can't be certain I could afford right now. Maybe my life will be very different in a few months or years - but right now I just want to pay my bills and start stacking cord wood. That's enough excitement to carry me into September.

I know the woman I was just a few years ago would have taken the horse no matter what, figured it out as I went along. But the woman I am now is learning boundaries with myself, and what is and isn't going to support my goal to keep this farm. So there won't be a new pony or any new additions to the farm that aren't being raised for CSA customers. (Well, maybe some new laying hens but nothing with hooves.)

So as August hits the mid point all I want to do is make the money I need to be warm and safe and my truck pass state inspection. I want my thrills to come from quiet places, right here with the things and animals and people I already have. When you're always looking for validation outside yourself free ponies seem like the most amazing thing in the world. When you start learning you and your life are fine just the way you are - you don't mind saying no thank you.

Wish me luck getting to September and may the wood be stacked and weather be kind.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Moving Forward

This weekend was wonderful. Truly.  Friday kicked off with a carriage ride and friends new and old, sharing stories and getting to know each other. That evening I sat beside a fire sharing a meal of pork I raised with people I truly care about, all of us savoring the last bites of summer over smoked roast and sumac cocktails. Saturday evening I was gifted the company of a good friend, and we talked late into the night about new lives and new adventures - about how much our stories have changed in the past few years, and not talking about those changes with trepidation but excitement. It was a cheer leading/therapy session and the next morning we got freshly fried donuts from the King's donut cart in Cambridge. And Sunday night, HOO! Sunday night new friends introduced by others came to see the farm and enjoy pizza and games and it was another late night of stories and shared lives and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it all. I'm so lucky to have this community around me, these friends so close and willing to enjoy this farm with me. Friends that will jump into the saddle, or hike on the mountain, or just DM through Instagram that there's extra bbq in town drive down and join in. Ten years in this town and I feel a part of it in a way I feel people can only dream of. It's Stars Hollow and Cheers and Twin Peaks all at the same time.

And the movement. Oh, the movement! This all started with long walks in the spring, then hikes in the forest, then days running up to 14 miles on hot roads in very worn running shoes. All of it in a blur of to-do lists and tiny hopes and the work I know how to do. All of it constant and always moving forward.

And here I am as August starts and the real pressure of winter begins to settle on mornings with the first falling leaves and tired light. I need to start thinking about firewood and hay storage. I need to start thinking about how the hell am I going to get through another month. I need to start thinking about all the 13,000 scary things that usually motivate me... but you know what? Not right now. Because right now I am happy.

I'm so happy here. Happy today. Happy with the life I've built and the world it created. Happy with the woman it carved me into, the skills I learned, the people I met, and what I now consider a normal Monday. I couldn't stop smiling on my run this morning. I don't know if anyone has smiled so much with a single-digit bank account after a late mortgage check cleared. But I was beaming. I pulled it off again. I mailed that payment and it was accepted which means I have four weeks to figure out the next month. And while I can't buy a tank of gas right now - I can start trying. I can start hustling and making sales and maybe by the time I am going to sleep my bank account will be in the triple digits because a sale came in. I don't know. Maybe it'll be negative and tomorrow I'll wake up on fire.

What I do know is there isn't a single other person in the world I'd want to trade stories with. As hard as it has been - and it has only got harder - there's never been a day I wanted to take back the burst pipes or toothaches or throws off horses or any of it. Every day has been a lesson and every year I become more comfortable and confident in the woman I am. That's the gift of this homestead. All this time I thought I was learning to be more self reliant and safe from a dangerous world. But by embracing this small farm all it has done has created a person hungry for more community, connection, and experiences outside of it. I thought I was the one doing the cultivating. I was a fool.

Cold Antler Farm was creating me the whole time.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Drive On

A perfect morning spent with friends new and old over at Livingston Brook Farm! Patty took me, Natalia, and Travis out for a morning drive and I was able to introduce them to each other. (Turns out everyone has someone in common and before long evening bbq plans were made.) It was a magical morning of harnesses and horse sweat and a blue sky stretching over the entire county. Travis would reach out of the wagon and grab Sumac blooms to make iced tea cocktails with later. I snapped photos with my cameras and let myself enjoy the conversation and the clip clop of heavy hooves on field and road. Not a bad way to start the weekend. Not bad at all.