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  • Writer's pictureJenna

Summer on the Books

This is my favorite time of year. It has been since I was a little girl. September, Autumn, this whole season contains my happiest childhood memories. The ramp-up preparing for a new school year might as well be a holiday because school included books. We got to borrow books to take home (textbooks and library books) and sometimes even buy books (I understand how other women feel about their wedding days because of the Schoolastic Book Fair) and pair new books with a couple pairs of crisp Levi’s and a new champion sweatshirt from the outlets in Reading, Pennsylvania… it was a time to reinvent yourself. Sure, I was the chubby little brunette that talked too much all summer, but now I’m the chubby little brunette with new sneakers and this wide-eyed excitement to start a new grade, make new friends, be in another school play! Even with a summer birthday and all the big holidays I was raised with celebrated in winter, I adored fall. And when my parents would take us to a local farm for pumpkins, when I learned that you can be outside on a crisp day riding in the back of a tractor wagon on route to walk among pumpkins you could take home and carve….

I was a goner.

Fall is and remains the most exciting time of year for me. And I am so happy to share that this past weekend I got a cord of dry hardwood, seasoned and ready to burn delivered. It’s outside on this rainy morning covered with a tarp as I write. I also got 30 bales delivered, bringing the barn up to about 50 bales stored. I need to get in another 100, but at least the barn is starting to fill up. I am still working towards earning the August mortgage, but it took until just two weeks ago to make the July payment, and so I know it’s going to be an uphill battle. And part of me wonders about the sense of getting in firewood and hay for months ahead that haven’t happened yet while still owning a house payment for summer and I do light up with anxiety, but this is the way of things up here. Hay and firewood is cut and sold now. You buy it now, or earlier.

I am close though, to August. I am hoping to make that mortgage payment soon if my luck slings better this week, and then basically start my pre-hibernation preparation. Which means, lots of time at home celebrating this season the best way I know how: with harvest foods and treats and time outside with the animals. There’s been a lot happening around here lately worth celebrating.

Thanks to this community and good friends, there has been so many improvements to the farmhouse this summer! Nothing fancy, just kismet and small changes adding up. I spent yesterday using my neighbor’s power washer to give the house it’s second shower of the summer. I am stunned at how much brighter and cleaner the place looks with clean white siding and sunlight.

The first shower, the one I used an industrial power washer for, ended up breaking a $700 glass door, and then we had another month of near-constant rain. It was a real mood killer. Knowing I have to find a way to sell another 3 logos to repair it, made me want to punch a wall. But the new door got installed last week and when I look outside at the porch I redid last summer… it feels like years of neglect are passed.

Why so much power washing? Well, the shade from the giant maple tree outside trying to swallow the house whole gets you a lot of green siding. But this summer a kid I knew when he was nine, (who is now an amazing arborist in his 20s), gave up a Saturday to climb and trim back the branches that were on top of the house and give more sunlight to the siding. Now when ice and snow weigh down that tree I won’t be praying it doesn’t take out part of the roof or a window with it.

The kitchen, which has been torn apart and needing serious floor repair work for two years now, is repaired and back together again! I walk downstairs to make coffee and my bookshelf of homesteading books is back and stacked. Plants and pumpkins, fresh bread bartered with neighbors, This morning I made coffee, the rain falling outside gently, and everything was where I wanted it and the floor wasn’t sinking into a wall and while a few straightened boards might not seem that unmooring, it was. I didn’t know if the house was warping out of foundation issues or shoddy work, and luckily, at least so far, the house is sound.

So there’s a brighter look about this place right now. There’s a clean house and horse-grazed lawn. There’s a repaired floor, new glass door, trimmed trees, and little living improvements inside. Neighbors were throwing out padded dining room chairs that looked like they belonged in some gothic country estate in Prague, so I 100% replaced my old breaking dining room chairs with them! And a $38 bucket of floor paint and cleaned rug later - the dining room looks the best it’s been since I moved in.

I didn’t get to redo my bedroom (and by redo I mean paint the fading ocean blue falls and get a new duvet cover) because that was too much for the budget and a woman can only do so much, but this all feels so much better around here. Two years ago at this time, there was so much that needed to be done I couldn’t even comprehend it. Now things are getting fixed, looking better, things are in the right drawers and the light bill gets paid on time and all these smaller things add up to a smoother, healthier, and happier adult life around here.

Even the kitten is thriving. He has his shots and boosters, and I am squirreling away $20 cash or so a week in a coffee mug to pay for his castration in January. The appointment is made, And let me tell you something, having that kitten around has been such a much-needed joy enhancer. This farm used to be loaded with dogs and cats, horses and lambs, goats and chicks…but I no longer will purchase any animal I don’t feel financially prepared for, so there’s no new ponies or puppies, and Merlin and Gibson are not long for much more of this world, but a stray cat that needs a home? When my other cats are both over 10? It felt okay. It felt like a joy I could afford and something to cuddle and love and make rainy mornings like this less about anxiety and more about the things I love most about this life.

So I am struggling, but struggling uphill. There is now 2 cords of firewood here, and 50 bales of hay, and if I can get more sales in this week I can pay the late mortgage and get summer ’23 on the books for good. Then I can really appreciate this fall, this magical time of year. It will be such a relief to get over that hump so that’s what today is dedicated too - making sales and taking care of business.

And maybe once that is paid I can look up at the sky for a new hawk, and start lighting fires in the evening to fend off the cold, and tuck into writing this little book I am working on about fly fishing and falconry - maybe even meet someone new? Honestly, all I want is to feel safe. It’s all I ever wanted.

Well, that and a new trapper keeper and book fair dreams, but I’ll settle for a first date.

I hope your Septembers are less chaotic and safer than mine, but wanted to check in to show you what the farm is mostly doing right now - which is repairs and stacking hay and wood. And that I do it with the unshakable belief that I can get through another winter. It will be lonely and hard and the holidays are feeling worse and worse as I get older, but I will get through it. I always have. I always believe.

Okay, back to work.

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