Wednesday, January 29, 2020


A few days ago a letter arrived in the mail from a reader. It was a small notecard asking me to please update the blog more. I read it quietly by the mailbox. Then I read it again. Then I stuffed it into the inner pocket of my canvas vest and walked back to the farmhouse to process what I was feeling.

A few years ago a message like that would have made my hackles rise. I would get indignant or pressed. I knew this wasn’t that kind of letter or intention. The writer just missed reading about the farm. I took some time to be grateful anyone is still checking in.

I have been having a hard time coming here to write. Mostly because I have always (and only) wrote about what I was feeling and happening at the farm at the time of entry. When I was new to farming and falling in love with it, everything was exciting and new. Over the years it went from a dream to reality to a sometimes-nightmare to what it is now - which is everyday normal life. And right now writing about everyday things is hard while just trying to make it another week.

This has been the hardest winter I’ve ever had. Both financially and personally, getting through each day has been a constant lesson in resilience and compassion. The resilience is easier. I have created a work ethic that never lets me slip. It took a while to forge it, but my days are entirely planned and work is set into a structure and goal system I need to follow. If everything is falling apart in my life, as long as I achieved those items on that list I can fall asleep at night.

The compassion is harder.

I am ashamed to admit that almost everything I ever accomplished came from a place of very high self confidence and very low self esteem. This is a horrific combination for a blogger. It means I believed I could accomplish anything, but the woman accomplishing it was garbage. I didn't think I was good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, anything enough. And now as I reach my northern thirties I am too tired to resist my own compassion. I need it. So I let it happen.

The main thing getting me through this winter is allowing myself to accept my own kindness. To take time to rest, to eat good foods, to be held, to sleep in, to stretch, to stop drinking, to not beat myself for everything I can't achieve or pay or be - and be grateful for what I can offer. And maybe that love will carry me into spring. It'll find out how to get more firewood paid for. It'll help carry the soil to feed the King Maple in the front yard dealing with erosion and age. It'll raise lambs and pigs and glasses of ale when the sun is back and the days are long and warm as a lover's arms.

But right now it is hard to write the same sad story over and over. It isn't because I don't care to check in. It's because it is kinder to simply do the work to make things better than it is to write about how afraid I am. It's another small compassion. Please be patient with me while I allow it.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Farm, Work, Body

It's a new year and I have never been more disciplined. Every morning I wake up and do the usual work of the farm my body and brain have adapted to. It's no longer any sort of thought to carry bucket of water or flakes of hay. Not any more than it is to brush my teeth or wash and moisturize my face. But once that work is done I sit down with a cup of coffee by the wood stove and work on "the list" which is both my savage grace and my boss.

The list is a notebook where every morning I write down the three aspects of my life I need to have in order that day to fight back against the anxiety of losing the farm. It is split into three sections now: farm, work, and body. The farm to do list is all the normal things. The AM chores, farrier appointments made, hawk weighing and notations, tracking feed and hay needs, the usual. But I turn it into actionable items like "Check water levels in pig's paddock" or "Inspect hooves on mare" and by the time I am sitting down to the list I have checked off so many small things it feels like a morale boost, which it is. I need to feel that I am being productive and useful during these dark months. Firewood is burning fast, income is coming in slow, the coldest days are well ahead of me and I know Winter's Bottom will hit and kick my ass. So seeing small deeds done feels good. I need it.

The second part of the list is a prioritized list of writing, design, soap orders and illustration work. I could be on my death bed, but I still need to work on 3 people's items a day minimum. This hard rules has kept me productive during the hardest times - the holidays - which tore me up inside this year in ways it never has before. But I still inked pet portraits, or packaged soap to mail, or worked on logos because I had to. It was on the list. Get through three and then you can crawl into a blanket fort with the dogs and watch Imagine Me and You for the 23rd time. But work first. And I did.

And the last is body. I am trying to stop eating from anxiety and fuel that energy into other things. I am not running like I do in the summer but I get a few miles in every week and take more time to stretch and do "farm yoga" which is basically rolling out a mat in front of the wood stove and trying to stretch with a pair of border collies licking my face and laying below my downward dog. I drink a lot of water (yes, it is also a to-do check, I am desperate for morale) and I stopped drinking alcohol and month ago. I stopped eating carbs last week. Again, it's for my well being and a way to control something and feel like I am gaining some sort of progress in a very uncertain life. I may be 2 months behind on the house but I am saving money and dropping pounds. I'll take any sort of win where I can get it.

That's where I am at. I've become a soldier of this farm. I want to keep it, and I want to make it better. I want to fix the roof and repair the fences. I want to scale it to a place I can tend and remake, even if it means just three raised beds and 3 new lambs in the spring. I want to finish this book proposal because I am writing a book (trying to) about what this farm helped me accomplish as a terrified woman lacking in identity and confidence. I want to write about how it turned me into the person I am today and how the fight to keep it changed how I see everything. Including how I see myself. And I want to do that inside a house without mold on the siding and a mowed lawn with the bills paid. I could care less if I never see Paris or never have more than a couple hundred dollars in the bank. I just want to be healthy and safe and whole.

So I stick to my lists and my silly rules. I try to be dedicated to my work no matter what. I am hopeful for better things ahead and warmer weather. I am still here.