(this was written yesterday, 10-16-23, but this blog platform is down so posting a day later.)
It’s been an eventful week here at the farm. Lots of time spent either working with the animals and house, or outside an hour or so a day hoping to still catch a bird to train this year but it's looking bleak. In six weeks of trying I have only seen one red tail and the times she was in a place I could trap her, I wasn't trapping. I hope my luck turns, but I need to be okay with a third year without a bird. Hard times and bad luck come in threes.
The furnace repairman just left. I had the oil-burning furnace that is responsible for the farm’s hot water (and hopefully one day when things get better, heat back-up on coldest nights) hadn’t been serviced in a long time. It needed a proper cleaning and inspection, especially after it just stopped working this past weekend.
I was able to get it to work again and heat the house’s water after a lot of line bleeding, youtube videos, and phone calls with handy fiends but it was a reminder that this thing isn’t like a kitchen table, it’s a machine with moving parts and basically a domesticated bomb in my stone and dirt basement, so having someone give it a cleaning and let me know where it stands, functionally, seemed important.
Turns out the furnace is okay, if very dirty. It was cleaned and the filter replaced and now there’s some new issues with the venting system but one thing at a time. I handed him the check for $185 and thanked him, but also felt that sting. I’m still trying to get hay for winter in. I’m still trying to earn enough to pay last month’s mortgage before the month ends. It's always something.
So furnace repairs aside, monday I went to a neighboring family farm to pick up 6 hens (and a bag of feed) I saw for sale at a great price on a local community message board. They were three production red gals and five strikingly beautiful silver wyandottes, a breed I love and haven’t had on the farm for years. I haven’t bought in a single bird these last two seasons until now, letting the home brewing of future generations come from my flock. But predator losses from two summers back still stung and it was time to bring in new blood, and 8 birds all a year old or younger for $8 each was a steal. I am happy with the choice and when me and the grandmother I had bought the birds from were loading the last of the pullets into the back of my Subaru, I turned to her smiling, holding a bag of feed and she said “I want you to know I like Taylor Swift.” With a smile. At first I thought (does my reputation precede me…?!?!) and no, there’s literally a sticker on the back of my car that says, in simple text “I hope you like Taylor Swift” which looking back makes the whole interaction a lot funnier!
So there’s some new blood in the flock, and the new girls are already settling in and getting used to a completely free-ranged life on the farm. I think they love it, and my roosters seem thrilled for the new candidates for their little sororities they run. This addition of birds puts the flock around a healthy 25 birds.
Earlier that day, one of my closest friends, Becca, left that farm to return to her home on the coast. Becca and I dated a few years ago, then didn’t talk for two years, and then after a big breakup she reached out to reconnect in the name of support and friendship and we’ve been gay besties ever since. The weekend with her was so wonderful, reminding me what truly makes me happy and that’s taking care of people. I love to host things, cook, create a space that feels comfortable and safe and homey. We did some farm work, she ran a local 5k (and then 10 miles the next day around the county), but mostly we cooked and talked and caught up. And those conversations holding steaming mugs of coffee by the wood stove in the morning are why I love her so much. She helps me see things differently.
She sees my farm as an asset, something I worked hard to keep and have been making more beautiful every year. She sees it as something that should attract the right people to me, not push them away.
Since I came out and started dating, all I do is apologize for my farm. I need to stop. This is the life I chose and it’s beautiful and fufilling and meaningful to me. But when I am dating someone, I am always guarded, always waiting for them to say it won’t work because of my lack of ability to travel, leave for a weekend away, be a regular person that does things like vacations and Christmas with family and like that.
People, regardless of gender or sexuality, are taken aback when they find out how local I live, it’s practically a living history museum to some. But I need to remind myself that this farm isn’t my dirty secret, it’s my life’s passion and where I have grown, changed, lived, loved, and had a small and beautiful life. Someone else, somewhere, wakes up wishing they could trade in all their time in an office for a quieter life on a mountain farm, I just know it. Maybe they have traveled, have done incredible things, and now want to come home to a wife in the shire that is making butternut soup and serving it with fresh bread their neighbor baked in exchange for a dozen eggs. To someone, that sounds like heaven, not prison.
So I wait for her.
And even if she never shows up, or I never find her, the idea that it could happen any day is enough to keep planting sunflowers and squash. It doesn’t matter if my life from here on out is just hawks and puppies or grandchildren and disneyworld. Whatever my life is, there is always the very real hope in my heart that things will get better. That small changes and hard work already bear fruit. This place is slowly healing, as slow as my broken ankle, but measurably so. It’s no longer a place of constant chaos and the writhing of fighting demons and change, it’s a place that now gets filters replaced and the roof slates mended. It’s a place where buying 8 chickens at $8 each is a fraught decision. It’ a place where buying a new fancy hooded sweatshirt is a once-a-year purchase. It’s a place that has figured out every problem, every repair, every sad day, every issue and keeps going and if the girl who held Antlerstocks a decade ago could see where she is now she’d fall to the ground in awe that I didn’t give up and came out the other side of it all feeling stronger, happier, and still motivated.
If you’ve been following my story this whole time, thank you. It means so much. I want to make you all proud and write more and more, and hopefully have new words out after this winter, even if it’s just a self-published project, but I am not giving up on my words or this place. I’ll earn back that $185 soon as possible, start saving for a house payment, get more hay in (or at least enough to get by) and keep being the woman who maybe can’t go with you and your friends to New York City for the weekend, still has the skillset to ride a fast horse and pull a hawk out of the sky. I have books, my fishing, my yoga practice, and hope that this winter might not be alone by the woodstove but maybe getting to experience someone new.
I guess I’ll see. But the point of all this, the farm keeps going and I believe it will keep getting better if I don’t give up. God hates a coward.