Monday, June 29, 2020

Babes and Beans

It's been a week of babies and gardens at this farm! A trio of Yorkshire piglets were delivered and are settling in just fine. They are small and too new to be set into the pig pen, so their short quarantine is in another pen where they are set up with good food, a small shelter, and fresh well water to learn to be a Cold Antler Farm Pig! You can see them here piled up on some hay in the old dog crate that used to be Jazz's (my passed Siberian Husky I adopted in Knoxville) with a MY GRASS IS BLUE bumper sticker fading and flapping in the wind. They are sweet babies and will eat strawberries right out of the palm of your hands! My girlfriend was here for their delivery and helped carry the squealing babes to their new quarters. I don't think she was prepared for how loud they can get when they feel confined! But glad to have some new blood on the farm with a proven breed that delivers the bacon.

And the gardens are doing so well! Already enjoying sides of green beans in butter and diced basil over goatcheese! Peas have been coming in strong and so have all the lettuces and greens in the kailyard! It's been a good year if you remember to water, the strain of the drought is making some of the blossoms wither but the fruits like tomatoes and berries should be strained enough to be extra flavorful if they don't drown or dry up.

Went to a local You Pick for strawberry picking on Saturday. For $3 a quart it's hard to say no and together we made jam, canned it, and froze two big bags of ripe berries for the winter. It feels good to start putting up for the cold months already, though it does make me nervous about firewood - which isn't brought in or started yet. One stress at a time. I need to also enjoy settling in piglets and jam on the end of a spoon or spread over some homemade bread!

Still haven't made the June mortgage. It's a little scary, and I am constantly worried I'll fall back behind but if I stay relentless in my promotions and emails and work and hustle I know I can make it soon. Sometimes all it takes is one really lucky break in sales to make an entire month's goals. And with 2 days left, I can still make this month happen. Gods willing and pigs squealing, may it be so!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Summer Light

Breakfast around here is never complicated. Most mornings it's just coffee. I am not the kind of person that wakes up hungry. And since right after that first cup is consumed there is usually a lot of physical work to be done — I get right to it. But yesterday started with rain and I slept in an extra hour, lulled by the sound of it against the box fan in the window. When I woke up I had that magical cup of coffee and I wanted breakfast. I knew I wouldn't be heading out on a run in the rain. I knew the chores could be done a little slower. So I grabbed two fat eggs off the spiral rack in the kitchen and a large slab of bacon end in the fridge. I sliced off a few pieces of bacon off the pig brick and set them into a skillet to fry. In a large mug I whisked the eggs with cream and added a little salt and pepper as air filled the eggs, promising a fluffy scramble when it hit that sizzling fat. Once plated and doused with enough sriracha to cause concern - I sat cross-legged in the living room to enjoy it the way I love best - in a bowl with chopsticks. If I have it, I throw on a dollop of sour cream to cut the heat but this morning I just poured my coffee over ice. That was a fine summer brekky. My farm's eggs and bacon, fueling a day of work indoors and out. It still hasn't got old.

They say you don't realize you've been in a slump till you're out of it. That's true for me. The second half of winter is when I stop running and hiking. It's when I just want to eat cheese in the dark and fill cold days with comforting meals and eating becomes less about fueling the day mindfully and more about an anxious response. But with the sun bright and running nearly every day I am starting to feel more like the summer self I crave all March. A body that has no problem running six miles in the heat after a mug of coffee. Skin tanned, scarred, and bitten by bugs but bright in its own way. And this farm...

Guys, I don't think she's ever looked better.

Maybe part of it is falling in love? Maybe it's looking at this house and land with the fresh eyes of another person? Maybe it's finally trying to figure out how to pay this month's mortgage instead of trying to stay no farther than three month's behind? Maybe it's just eggs on a rainy morning... but I feel out of the slump. The farm looks it, too. The place was never without care. Even at my saddest moment's the grass was cut and the sheets got washed, but right now walking around the farm feels like a team of professionals helped plan it. The pasture is green and lush and the lambs and goats are romping along in it. Their electric netting stops a few feet from the garden where it meets the horses' gate so moments happen like last night - where I walked outside to check the garden at dusk and just beyond the hanging snow peas and tomato blossoms a fat ewe ripped into grass to the sounds of owls and crickets while a horse beside them nickered for hay. And those horses look so good and have been ridden so much! Everyone on the farm is being active! And with meat birds and piglets on the way (having piglets delivered for winter shares) there are projects and meals to come!

I'm not out of the woods. There is still that forever anxiety of making the bills. I know I write about money a lot, it's because it's the thing I worry about the most. I have my home. I have my health (so far). Figuring out how to make a living every month is the low-grade panic I still have. But it's the kind of panic that helps more than it hinders. It makes every morning a mission, every day a set of goals to make to keep the farm moving forward and feeding people. Sometimes people write me and tell me not to talk about money. That people don't want to hear about it. Well, until I don't have to worry about it you're gonna hear about it. Best you find another farm blog, as there are thousands. This one is about just making it and being grateful as hell I did. And that gratitude makes the reins on my pony feel magical and walking out to the chicken coop feel like a red carpet. The struggle sweetens the pot. Hunger is a good sauce.

I still have a ways to go to make this month's bills, but even if they are late I will be just a few weeks behind and not months. Outside dapple light is falling over the pumpkin and potato patches. The lawn is freshly cut, making even the dandelions and plantain look elegant, all cropped neat. After this coffee is downed I'll finish up the late chores (bedding replacement and fences get worked on after animals are fed and watered) and then hit the pavement for a solid run before heading to the post office to mail out soap and artwork. My girlfriend will be here soon and I am so excited to spend time with her on this piece of land in the mountains. She makes my home feel like something more, something safer. I feel like when I am around her I can actually relax. She calms me like a shot of whiskey, just as fiery.

There's a lot to do today. A piglet hut to construct. An old coop to clean out and prepare for twenty meat birds. There's gardens to weed and early crops to harvest. It's the time of year where trips to the market are for four, butter, seasoning, garlic cloves and olive oil. Everything else is in the field or freezer. I know I'm still trying to make the month but this feels insanely wealthy, it always has. And with over a decade of farming in my bones now, it still fuels me to keep going and keep up the work of this place.

Bowls of eggs with a side of iced coffee. Who knew it had the power to rocket hope?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

June's Almost Over!

Hey there! Do you like having a body free of germs, gently moisturized by a 3-ingredient bar of pure handmade goatsmilk soap that also keeps a woman in her home with working utilities!? ME TOO! June is almost over and this farm has yet to make this month's mortgage before falling back behind, something I do not want to do, at all. So! Offering a sale on soap bulk orders!

SALE ON 10 BAR ORDERS! Usual price for 10 bars and shipping anywhere in the US is $75. Soap is $6 a bar and shipping in a medium flat rate priority mail box is $15 - now on sale for $65! I still need t sell a lot of soap but all sales help pay the bills, the mortgage, and keep dog food in bowls and lights on in this farmhouse! Message on social media or email me at

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Quick Update

June is already heading towards a close. The days are long, the fireflies are flashing, the days are hot and I am up at 6AM for chores, coffee, and a run. There isn't much new to report outside of a few young meat bird chicks and moving sheep fencing around. Lots of sun and not a lot of rain so buckets are carried to the gardens and the horses are drinking more than their usual amounts but they seem otherwise unbothered! Lots of time in the shade swishing their tales. I get it. My hammock is the embodiment of a swishing tail in the shade.

No mortgage paid for the month yet but I am getting there, with bills taken care of through most of this month I am about halfway and hopeful. Part of me is very scared of getting behind again, it was such a hard few years being always scared of foreclosure. But another part of me knows all there is to do is keep doing what I can, be smart as possible, and keep trying. So I do.

Hay was delivered yesterday to patch up the holes where pasture is lacking. It is mostly to supplement the horses, but the pigs also like to chomp on hay every few days and I like to add a little variety their diets. Pig feed can get boring, even with the occasional baked good or kitchen scraps.

I am grateful I am back to my regular running, sometimes more than once a day. It soothes me so much. On hot days like this is reminds me how warm my body can get and still be okay, and that metaphor helps when anxiety feels overwhelming. It forces me to be tired in the right ways, which I am very grateful for.

Hoping to update soon with good news and good tidings. With a paid June mortgage and miles on my shoes and stories of campfires and trail rides and dreams of a September hawk and October perfection. Right now it's about making it to Sunday. And that is fine by me.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

One Short Life

The last few weeks have had this farm looking the best it has in years. The lawn is mowed and the fields are lush; so grass is growing and being thwarted in all the right places. The lambs are hearty and hail and my little pack goat is fitting in like a gem. They are all enjoying the portable fences, which have replaced the old woven wire that was sagging and useless most of the time. I don't have to worry about them jumping out if I leave the farm. I don't have to worry, at all. The horses are sleek and shiny and more friends are joining me for rides on the mountain. It's been so nice to share them and use them, which the more and more I meet people with horses around here the rarer that seems to be?! I don't understand why you'd want a horse if you aren't going to ride it, but then again there are people who furnish entire rooms they don't use in their home so whose to say. Around here, we ride.

The good news is that the farm is healthy and so am I. I am heading out on a run soon, about 5 miles, a favorite summer activity after chores and coffee. After that I am packing soap orders and working on some logos for clients before heading to the snake ridge, possibly, for a hike with Friday. It's summer so I want to move. ten or fifteen miles a day across the landscape, especially while hiking, is a joy I can't get enough of. I am grateful all the things I like to do around here are free, at least once you have the sneakers, boots, and fishing license.

Haying season has begun! Over 400 bales lifted this last week, getting it up in the barn with neighbors is a good feeling. I never mind the work, but I always mind the people who volunteer to help and complain the entire time. There's always one. But grumps aside, I was able to hay alongside my girlfriend this year and I have to say I prefer sharing a load. Creating a mountain together, what a thing. What a thing!

The truck seems to be running okay, but I know she is on her last legs. Rust is getting worse. She needs new tires. I am pouring in oil every week to make up for the leak that has been repaired three times now. But I can't think about a new vehicle until I get through some basic bills here. Once the (LAST!!) payment to a credit card is made this week and my truck insurance is in I'll be back to a double digit bank account and building up the mortgage, feed, groceries, gas and such from there. It is always scary not being sure how this farm will make it. IT is scary not being sure if I can manage to keep the mortgage up to date and not fall behind again. The faith is in the work, the continued trying, the proof of ten years of making it so far and the blooms in the peonies along the yard's edge. There is much to look forward to. A whole summer and I refuse to let money be the thing that turns every month into a slog of fear instead of gratitude just to be able to run and walk and enjoy this one short life in this one short body.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Something Good

June has become all about the weeds, as it has been since gardeners ever planted the first seed. Mornings are about waking up, coffee, feeding animals, and then WEEDS. I like it. Time in the garden slowly weeding is a meditation and a time to focus on something else, like an audiobook or podcast and mindlessly pull out baby grass shards and jewel weeds while learning something or getting lost in a story. I'm not the best person when it comes to details, so I set a timer for each bed making myself stay put for at least ten minutes in each smaller 6x6 garden area to really focus. I use a weeding hook I hold in one hand and crouch there like a cat about to pounce. If anything, it's good for the butt to squat and crab crawl around so much.

And weeds aren't the only garden battles to fight! The beetle problem seem to be falling away but new challengers arrive like curious chickens, snapping geese beaks over the fences, aphids, groundhogs, and other various thieves in the forms of wild birds and vermin. Little things are done to deter them. Dingle Dangles that clatter on the fences. Diatomaceous earth helps protect young plants from beetles and bugs. Soapy water on leaves can deter the aphids. A plastic hawk set up keeps the little birds away and confuses the crows. It's all a distraction from the larger world which feels like it's falling apart. This small space I can at least pretend to control. I can water and weed and care for it. It's something good in all the madness.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Scared of Heights

Here's a lesson for sheepdogs everywhere: don't climb up into the hayloft if you're afraid of heights! Which was what Friday learned when she came along with me to get hay yesterday at Livingston Brook Farm. She usually has zero issue leaping up hay bales, but yesterday was different. The usually packed loft is a city of hay. You could leap off the loft and land safely at any point. But this is right before the first cutting of June, and all that is left in the loft is the stragglers of last summer's hay. So the loft is barren with a handful of bales making a smart little step ladder up to more in the loft. Friday came into the barn with me, and watched me scramble up the simple narrow (2-bales wide) steps to the second floor and I thought she wouldn't follow. After throwing my third bale out of the loft window she was beside me. I laughed and applauded her bravery and together we looked out the barn's high door to the green and lush farmland around us. Grateful for this chance to get the last of the hay, and looking forward to filling the barn up again in a few days time.

Then it was time to leave. So I easily walked down the happy stairs and Friday just watched from above. I patted my leg and called to her, but she laid down on the loft's floor watching me with her little eyes and ears over the edge. She didn't want to come down! This was not a mighty height, just a few stacked bales, but something about the once-filled hayloft being empty and seeing all those hard planks below kicked in her self-preservation. She wouldn't budge.

I ended up having to sit beside her as she belly-crawled, on her own, down each of the four bale stairs to the floor. It was hard not to giggle. The steps were safe as could be but for her, it was a moment of having to trust me and face a fear and when all four paws hit the planks she lit up and smiled back at me like a wolf. "That wasn't anything at all, Lady!" as she trotted off to see what the barn cats were up to outside. What a little firecracker.

I am in spring cleaning mode. Friends that recently painted a room gifted me their leftover paint and are teaching me the right way to paint a room, which in my case is the bathroom. Taking off baseboards to paint and learning to work with electrical outlets and such. It's been a wonderful lesson and really makes that room look brand new. It's something I wouldn't have been able to do without the offer of paint and now I am learning some new homeowner skills. Lord knows this place needs a woman's touch.

Besides hay and paint: things are pretty standard around here. The fireflies are out early and the barn owls hoot into the night. I am still worried about making the month and falling behind. The farm is settling into June under unsteady footing. Yesterday I was able to sell some soap which got the farm out of the red, but just, for the first time in this month. Now my mind is set on making daily income goals and keeping things safe and sound. I did make a small donation of $10 from the sale to BLM as I said I would every day this farm makes sales. I know it's a drop in the bucket, but every drop rises the level.

Luck to all the brave ones today, fighting for a better tomorrow.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Bright Red

It's the first day of June and everything feels like it's on fire. America is at a turning point, a time when you can stand up for equality and fight injustice, or sit still and do nothing.

My platform is small. My audience is small. But I do have a few thousand people I can reach through social media. I am trying to use my voice there for good. But most of the time I feel helpless in how I can help affect change. But that shouldn't shut me down, or give me the lazy permission to give up. There are places and people I can donate to when I am able to. There are books, authors, videos and lectures I can educate myself with. There are everyday conversations with everyday people I can speak up in. There are things I can do, that you can do, that we all can do to help change the system in America that feeds racism.

I am trying to figure out how to do that and how to simply pay the bills around here. But every single time I post about something this farm sells, something made from a white woman safe from pandemic and prejudice, I feel like an ass. How insanely unimportant I am in this, my farm is in this. But the reality is we all have to keep paying our bills and figuring out how to keep our banks accounts in the black. I am not there today. This farm is starting June in bright red. I need to fight my own fight just to keep this place from sinking back into delinquency or danger. And I will. But keeping my farm above water isn't exactly the most pressing issue in the world right now.

So I will be donating part of what this farm earns this month to Black Lives Matter. I will be using my voice on social media more to educate and make people in my position (the majority of us white, female, farmers or future farmers) aware of how they can help as well.  I will still be running my one-woman business and hoping to have luck there just staying safe. But not without bringing attention to resources and voices more needed than my own.

I will still be sharing stories of the farm, hiking, nature, gardens, and the work and animals around it. I will be spending a solid 4 hours today just weeding. I will share the story of a giant ask tree that fell in a storm a few days ago and how my friends came together to help repair this place and even secret a little firewood. I will talk about dealing with internal and external struggles, as I always have. But I will also talk about what is happening outside this farm. In places my old pickup can't carry me too. And the people who don't have the luxury to write about weeding and tree removal because they're in the ER with tear gas complications.

And it is also the first day of Pride. June is the monthlong celebration of gay pride parades, events, celebrations, parties and city streets painted in rainbows. As a gay woman, that is practically Christmas and I love seeing my Instagram feed filling up with online gatherings and events and every company under the sun celebrating civil rights for LGBTQ folks when just a few decades ago you'd never even imagine a Fortune 500 company saying a single word in support of queer people. But you know what brought on that change... Stonewall. Riots. Fighting for civil rights. It was mostly people of color in the queer community that stood up against the corrupt and demanded visibility and freedoms other citizens took for granted. As a lesbian I can't imagine celebrating pride and ignoring what is going on in cities across the world today.  Remember, and note, it was after the 6th day of riots in 100 cities that the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1968.

I encourage you to use your own voices I your own families and communities as well. Don't discount the power you have. Don't forget simply standing up in a conversation where someone says something racist or untrue and saying, "I don't think that's correct. Why don't you explain what you mean?" usually shuts someone down who doesn't want to admit the reasoning behind and off hand comment that drips of racism. This is no time to be shy, or meek, or want a break from the news and conflict. This is a time that every one of us can stand up for peace and equality.

Move forward in love and kindness. Take care of your and others. Stand against hate. Open your arms and hearts to different views and lives. Don't assume the worst. Be open to hope.