Monday, February 8, 2016

Solid Medium

So some updates for you fine readers about recent events. Two days of ProPen G and the lip on the ewe Brick is coming around. She'll get at least 3 more days of antibiotics to stave off any infections from the tear, and all the sheep are due soon for their CDT shots, in their bloodstream a few weeks before lambing. So I'll wrangle them one by one and get them ready, feel them over, check teats and trim hooves. Basic flock care, one sheep at a time.

My string of bad luck isn't improving though. Yesterday on the way to a volunteer event a few towns over the passenger side rear leaf spring on the truck literally flew off. This is on top of my baling twine repairs and it was a pretty low point in my day - running late, picking up pieces of my truck off a side road, and trying to just keep positive. I am taking it to my mechanic today to get an idea of repairs. It needs a lot of work these days - shocks, leaf springs, and while none of the repairs are complicated or very expensive - they sure do add up. Things like this, the emergency vet visit, the butcher's bill - they just get all the normal bills behind and scare the crap out of me. So I am running a sale on logos on Facebook for March designs and working as much as I can with the part time job, but hours were reduced to a quarter of what they were. So that was another bit of bad luck. Just when I needed that income most, it was gone.

These aren't real problems, just the reality of the life I chose. I do share them here. Along with stories of horses and hawks and snowstorms and lambs. Like so many of you commented before in the Trained post a few days ago - you appreciate reading about the bad along with the good. I appreciate that you are reading, that you care, and that you commented to say so. It is so nice to hear from you guys on here.

So I am off to the mechanic. Wish me luck. Wish me sales. Wish me a ewe with a healing lip and weather luck with this snow coming this week. And wish me that constant positive slant, which has been fighting alongside me like a trusty sidekick all week. Not everything has been bad. Common Sense delivered hay here so the barn is stocked for the snowstorm. That saved me making many smaller trips with a truck unable to handle the burden on the broken springs. Yesheva came up and helped me with that ewe as well, when I first saw the bad lip. Patty and Mark invited me over to watch the Superbowl, which was nice to eat nachos and watch the game and cheer with friends. Life is pretty solid. It'll get more solid as I put my shoulder into it, earn a bit more, get through the hurdles of truck repairs and such, and just get on with it.

Not a pleasant update, I suppose. But could be worse. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stay Classy

Carving With Spoons

Today:

Wake up at 6AM after a night with 2 hours of sleep

Farm chores: feeding pigs, chickens, geese, horse, flock of sheep, dairy goats and prep for slaughter truck.

Lay under truck and fix a rusted pipe connection with duct tape and baling twine. Spare money already spent on vet visit for puppy 2 days ago.

Help slaughter 2 pigs.

Drag 100 pounds of guts, bones, heads, and such a half mile away into the woods to a giant pile for the locals.

Go into town. Load hay and feed bags.

Come home. Get invited to a movie. Get excited about hope of Leonardo Dicaprio and popcorn.

Do a last minute run around farm to check all for water and feed. Realize your best ewe, Brick, has a tear on her lip hanging off like an Elvis impersonator.

Cancel any plans of a social life. Call friend and tell her I can't do the mobies. Call farm neighbor who is better than most vets when it comes to sheep and goats. She is coming with her med kit and 10 years experience with goats and sheep.

She is here in 10 minutes. Together we wrestle (she falls over onto the mud and I am stuck almost inverted holding the ewe with my head down).

Together we clean up, medicate, mend, evaluate the otherwise healthy and pregnant sheep right there on the muddy hillside. We high five. Her knee hurts and I have a headache from panting upside down.

My best ewe gets up and walks away, much better off. She was purchased in 2010. I am praying for a daughter out of her this year.

It is 3PM and I have not showered or even started freelance work yet. Clients can only wait so long. My night is going to be graphic design here in the farmhouse.

I still have a headache. But I also have a hard cider.

So what is all this? This is one day on a farm that lives and breathes animal life and husbandry. It is sorrow and sacrifice. It is time and sweat and a rush of blood to the head. But it is also amazing friendships that transcend the everyday. It is baby lambs in your arms, and pulled pork dinners at Game Night, and it is the promise of more life and wealth ahead if you can keep your head in the fight.

None of this list was a complaint. It's just a postcard from one farm, on one hillside, and one life being carved out of an Ash tree with a spoon. Not easy, but possible if you're stubborn enough.

I am nothing if not stubborn.

Hearts on the Tailgate

When I cam home yesterday from town, I noticed that the exhaust pipe on the back of the truck was on the ground. The device that held it up had rusted loose and from the looks of it, was already makeshift repaired once. I didn't have the energy or will to get below it and start troubleshooting. I was feeling defeated. I came inside, lit a fire, and went to bed.

This morning when the butchers came to slaughter two of my six pigs, I had a cup of coffee in me and the advantage of daylight and some perspective that a shot of caffeine and vitamin D offer. I literally propped the pipe back up on it's hinge with masking tape and baling twine. I had to chuckle at that, since last month Modern Farmer magazine wanted to ask me how many uses I had for baling twine and if they could publish some of them. I told them somewhere around 300, at least. Now I can add truck repairs.

It was a bloody morning here, as slaughtering pigs always is. They are shot in the head and then their throats are slit and the ground turns red and stays red for months. Between these flashes of snowfall and bitter cold days followed by stretches of warm spells I imagine the earth itself exhaling and inhaling. Blood used to be a messy and scary thing, now it's just food for soil and very small part of a story of an animal's life. Grass will grow there in a few months, as it has over countless farms and battlefields. The earth must be fed, too.

I always check the pig's livers for spots and ask the butchers who come for their thoughts on the animals and their weight. We laid them out on the tailgate of the truck I had just expertly repaired and they were given clean bills of "that's a fine liver, eattemup".  I keep the hearts, too.  If I don't eat them the hawks will. The conversation around the carcasses are so casual, so everyday. I sip a mug of coffee and help carry feet or heads over to the tarps where they will be removed for composting. There was a time when I couldn't imagine laughing and enjoying hot coffee while sorting body parts. Remember, I was a vegetarian for nearly a decade.

I'm going to take this truck for a trial run into town and see if how my handywork does. After that, it's a very mild afternoon of freelance work. If the sun warms the roads up a bit I might head out for a jog just to make sure my legs remember how to move up mountains. After that the dogs are I are curling up with a movie.

Friday is just fine and never had any problems from the foam, so I am grateful that little sprite is okay. She's just 38 pounds. I never thought I'd have a dog so small. But here she is, and she is mighty.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Trained

I have been trained by enough readers of this blog not to share bad news. The only outcome is judgement. If I talk about fears involving money; I am begging for help or asking for a handout. If I talk about losing an animal; I was a bad care giver and I don't even deserve to grieve. If I share a story about a sad event; I am pathetic and looking for attention. If I talk about anything controversial - from not liking cats to national politics - I am somehow offending a stranger. One time I tweeted about about not thinking highly of adult coloring books as the new national pastime and I got a half-dozen twitter and facebook messages about my "hate speech" towards coloring books. I refused to respond to those messages. I draw the line at arguing with adults about color books.

This might be just 10% of the emails and comments I get, but that ten percent tears me apart. I have gotten to a place in my blogging life where I am scared to write anything raw anymore. Scared to post pictures of my flawed house, messy yard, or anything flawed with animals or my own highly-imperfect self and life. As a single woman it is getting downright scary to read the things men will say in an email with no name attached to it.

I read once (in a quote I don't know the author of, sorry author) that writers need to have a thin skin to create anything beautiful and a thick skin to share it with the world. I don't have a thick skin, at all. Which is why I ride draft horses, hunt with hawks, shoot a heavy bow, study martial arts, run for miles, and have a farm - because I am trying to become the strong woman all of you think I am. That I dream of being. That I am not. I'm just a broken person like everyone else. A broken person who taught herself that writing makes the bad feelings go away. Or, used to.

So I'll say this. I had a horrible day. I wanted to write here on this blog about it, but winced soon as I opened the post screen. The fall out that might come back to because of it, just the fear of it alone, made me feel like a kicked dog. That fear of going to bed expecting the trigger storm of comments and emails and blog posts and phone calls was an even worse feeling. There is nothing as sickening to me as being scolded by other adults as an adult. Because I believe every word of it alone in the dark on a cold night.

I have been trained to shut up. Tonight I am shutting up.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Friday Swallowed Rogaine
Poison to Cats and Dogs

As I explain in this very embarrassing video, it would be the easist thing in the world not to share this story. So, please be kind. I am sharing it because the information might save a cat or dog's life. Today my young borer collie bit into a can of Women's Rogaine foam after a cat knocked it to the floor. (Shakes fist at cats!) Few people know how dangerous just the FUMES of this drug is to cats (it will kill them) and how it can slow down a dog's blood pressure to the point of dying. This is the story of what happened tonight. The dog is fine, but it was a hit to the heart and the wallet.

  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Spring & Early Summer Workshops!

I am happy to welcome you to the farm for a series of spring livestock workshops! On a Saturday afternoon in April and May and a Sunday in June there will be events hosted here at the farm welcoming the public for lessons and classes. You can either purchase a one-time pass or a Season Pass for the entire year. Details below. Sign up for all events by emailing me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com 

Also, know that you can buy a Season Pass on sale for ALL EVENTS for a year from time of purchase for $250 a person, with an addition $100 for each family member that joins you. So a couple can come to all events here for a year for $350. It is a way to make this farm a knowledge CSA of sorts, paying for a year of events and classes up front and coming to make your share pickups whenever a topic strikes your fancy. Later in the summer will be archery an workshop, dulcimer and fiddle days, Antlerstock, Prepping for Sane People and more!


Sheep and Wool Day!
Saturday April 2nd 2016
9AM -3PM $85 a person
Bring a bagged lunch!

Come for a day all about lambs and wool, flocks and drop spindles, fiber farming and living with a fully fleeced flock. Sheep are raised here from lamb to ram, for both wool and meat.  By this time there very well might be a bottle lamb in the house, lambs outside, or a ewe ready to give birth. It is a muddy time and don't expect the beautiful green in the photo above but if you want a real look at small flock keeping - this is it. I'll talk about my ups and downs raising sheep, basics to know getting into the stock, and we'll take some wool off the sheep and learn to turn that raw wool into clean, carded, and spun yarn! If you are a beginner to homesteading or are thinking about upgrading your backyard farm beyond a coop of chickens and hive of bees and are considering a pair of sheep take over the mowing - this is a great introduction. A great gift for fiber lovers, too!

I will try and get my Sheep Shearer here to come this day as well and do a shearing demo. Though I can not promise that just yet, it is a real possibility!

Chick Days! 
Saturday May 7th 2016
9AM -3PM $100 a person
Bring a bagged lunch!

Thinking about getting chickens to add some cluck and spunk to your backyard garden? Finally ready to take the plunge into homesteading and want your gateway drug to livestock farming? This workshop is all about beginner backyard chicken keeping. We cover brooder basics, breeds, housing, feeding, transition from brooders indoors to outdoors, and adult care. The day is based on the book I wrote, Chick Days, from Storey Publishing. There will be a farm and barn tour, probably lambs and kids mucking about, and plenty of mud so dress for a day on a farm in the northeast if you attend!

There will also be an overview of raising pastured meat birds. The raising of brooder to outdoors is the same for both types of chickens, but it is important to cover the care of a pasture tractor meat bird verses a coop and free range egg bird. Learn how this farm does it and what may work for your own farm or backyard.

There will also be chicks of egg and meat birds here available for you to take home of various laying breeds! Everyone who attends is welcome to take home three chicks, so bring a warm box to bring your babies home in!

Goats and Soap!
Sunday June 5th 2016
9AM -3PM $100 a person
Bring a bagged lunch!

That photo above is from last summer's Goat Day! Goats & Soap is a two-part workshop that starts here at the farm making milk-based soap from scratch and meeting the goats that make it all happen. We go through the safety, tools, ingredients and process of making a lye and milk soap and we get to meet my little mother/daughter herd. After lunch we venture to my goat mentor’s farm, Common Sense Farm, three miles south of my place right in Cambridge NY. Yesheva, is there as the goddess of all things Caprine and she knows goats folks. She goes through everything from what to look for in breeding stock, to feed and housing, to bucks and mating season. She is patient and calm and wonderful as an asset. She even has goats for sale sometimes from her herd. Sign up for all events by emailing me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Broadripple is Burning

Friday, January 29, 2016

Unimpressed With Winter

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The In-Between

I drove home under a thousand stars. Maybe it's the older glass, or maybe it was just the size of the cab, but the sky looks bigger from the bench seat of an '89 F150.

I was listening to Lord Huron and could not stop smiling. The moon was so large, and as I drove past School House Pond it created the line of reflection usually reserved for postcards and movies. Sometimes this world is so goddamned beautiful. I never grow tired of realizing that.

This is an in-between time for me. I'm in-between books, in-between jean sizes, in-between falling in love, in-between stages of me. So much possibility and potential is ahead. So many stories to learn and tell. I am excited. I was so glad to be on this particular road, on this particular night, with the people and places that have fallen into my luck. I can't shake the feeling of how much better things are going to turn out, how the struggling times are behind me. How change is running right beside this old truck on this perfect night like a dark animal.

I get these hints all the time.

Hints like the way the wind caught under Anna Kendrick's feathers and she maneuvered just right at the last minute to land perfectly on my fist. She looked up after that trick of wind and so did I. Above us were at least 30 crows, circling and silent. They came out of nowhere. We were just a bend in the trail from an open pasture perfect for rabbit hunting. But the crows weren't focused on us. Confused,  I gripped her jesses a little tighter as we rounded to the opening in the trail and there was a huge bald eagle, just above us,. She was being chased by the murder. I had never been more grateful for quiet crows. They were chasing away the eagle that would have chased Anna to death had they not warned us. We skated.

And other hints, too, like the time I rode Merlin up a winding trail and doe spooked us. Instead of running away she ran alongside us and Merlin moved so fast to race her I didn't have time to be scared. My body just knew what to do, trained by hours on the trails. Heels down, head leaning over his strong neck, body tense, ready to fly. The deer skirted away to the right and those five seconds will always be perfect. I am over panicking at what is scary. My body knows what to do now.

It's this place, these animals, this luck. It's the new friends and these cold, holy nights. It's the knowing that so many good things, amazing people, challenges and familiar seasons will be holding my hand in this coming year. I love the uncertainty and get drunk on that hope.

There are seeds and chicks, piglets and lambs, miles to run and trails to explore. There's a better me in every sense and the good friends who raise their glasses beside me as this winter howls down to a dull growl under sheets. There is no other person in this world I would rather be, regardless of how scary that can be at times. But I know now to look up, to lean forward, to keep moving and win those races against wild odds. I can see the signs, beat the edge, and am ready for what is ahead.

 I can take a hint.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Flame Keepers

Some of us grow up loving animals, and as children we dream of being vets, trainers, educators and zookeepers.

Some of us grow into adulthood needing animals, and we pursue a life that lets us share our homes with dogs, cats, parrots, etc and consider pets family.

Some of us realize soon after that, that we weren't looking for paycheck or a pet, but something a little more storied, old, and feral - a connection lost to 99% of the modern world.

And so we became the trail riders, shepherds, teamsters, hunters. We are the mushers, cowboys, farmers, and falconers. We are those drawn to partnerships in work with animals. Hard work.

We are the ones who want to sweat, run, explore, hunt, and work beside dog, horse, and hawk. We get high off the smell of used bridles, x-back harnesses, and leather jesses. We sit in duck blinds at 4 AM. We yell "Away to me" at sunsets as our dogs circle out. We move livestock across mountainsides. We explore forests and fields from saddles. We plow rows, pull sleds, seek game, and see the world through a teamwork most people only know as fairytales.

We were the weird kids who never wanted dolls, just stuffed animals. We are the teenagers who read too many novels - never doubted we too would go on long journeys with familiars by our sides, fighting demons and learning songs.

We are not cat people.

We are not wearing pawprint sweatshirts.

We do not accept that our passions are part of history, fantasy, or unrealistic in the 21st century.

We are flame keepers.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Vlog! Is Farmer a Dirty Word in Your Family?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday's Facehugger

Oh, this? This is just my Facehugger. 
No, you may not take it.Ohana means family...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Do Not Live in New Jersey

That is true, and only matters because this weekend the fine people of The Garden State are preparing for a hell of a snow storm. Here it will just be very, very, cold.

One of the things that makes it warmer is the kind emails I am getting from folks online. A truck driver wanted to remind me about stacking up on spare wood and to bring the dogs inside. I do need the stacking up reminder, but my dogs literally share my bed (they have never spent a night outdoors). It's getting down to 5 degrees tonight and since Anna Kendrick is down to flying weight for hunting, she is here in the living room with two cats, three dogs, and this typing primate. She's asleep on a high perch, one leg tucked up under her chest so it looks like she is balancing on one clawed foot. I'm watching a binge of Mental Floss List videos while I finally wrap up the day's work. I am bushed.

But I just learned where the phrase Paper Towns comes from. Agloe, NY for the win!

I have never worked as hard as I have these past few weeks. It's a mix of the winter farm slog, part time work, freelance, and music lessons. I am making time for my off-farm/on-farm job with Orvis, working on their website promotions and such. But that means I get up, get a fire going, tend to the indoor animals and then the outdoor ones - and then make a lot of coffee and head upstairs to my little office/tack room. There I work 3-5 hours a morning with my remote desktop set up. This was the time I used to work on the blog, videos, logos, writing books, etc. Now it is a flurry of phone calls, emails, meeting set ups, and coding work. After a hectic morning up there I shut down the company laptop to get lunch or run errands. Yesterday I picked up bales of hay and feed. Today I had meetings at the corporate office in Vermont and didn't get home until 6:30PM. Till I geo evening chores in, worked on freelance graphic design projects, and wolfed down a meal of PB&J - I was exhausted. I am grateful for the work, and eager to take on more (since this off-farm gig will be depleting half the hours soon), but this week has an emotional bottleneck I am having trouble getting through.

So big ups to those of you who take a few minutes to send encouragement. It matters. And none of my animals can talk so your tweets, comments, and emails mean a whole lot of good.

So that is my life. It's to-do lists, weather reports, and a frozen farm. But then there is of course this blog, and the vlog channel, and other responsibilities such as teaching TKD again (which I have been on sabbatical from for months due to things being too tight for martial arts travel and classes), other organizations and groups, and the social entropy that is missing out on dinner invitations or dates due to nights too cold to let the house go without a strong fire. It should be no surprise to hear I am fighting a cold right now, either. Running amok doesn't lend itself to the best self care.

I am kind of grateful for a home that needs such tending. As much as I am running around chasing my tail, I am forced to just sit down at night. Which is why I was able to catch up on all the internet talk about New Jersey and this storm, check my local weather, and let out a sigh of relief. There is so much going on a huge storm would be, well, exactly that.

I'll take the reprieve.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Forgot to Latch the Door...


I was upstairs in my office, and I smelled him before I heard the dogs bark. The door was unlocked and could be pushed open. Dash, the buck saw myself and 3 dogs enter and decided to follow us a few moments later. Friday was crated, Gibson was with me in the upstairs office with the door shut, and Annie simply did not care that a full grown goat walked into her house. I headed downstairs for a coffee refill and discovered this.

You know, Tuesday.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Get Your CAF On!

Are you looking for a Graphic Designer, pork, kids, lambs, poultry, or season passes to all the events this year at Cold Antler Farm? Then I am your girl. Trying damn hard to wrangle up a Mortgage Payment ASAP. So if you are looking for art, food, learnin',  music.... this is THE TIME to get on board!

Designer: Logos are reasonably priced, dozens of clients satisfied, and it makes your farm look better while supporting this one. Design work can also be posters, shirt designs, tattoos, house signs, business cards, invitations, gift prints, etc.

Pork! Have a large share available for the spring piglets, your share gets you 50lbs of butchered and packaged pork from a pig you co-own and I raise!

Kids and Lambs: Coming this spring! Adorable animals - get your deposit in for a Cold Antler Dairy kid (La Mancha and Alpine Crosses coming in May) or a purebred Scottish Blackface. There will also be half wool sheep/half meat sheep mxes available for freezer lamb.

Pastured Poultry: Want to pre-order 5, 10, or 15 birds? Chicks arrive in the spring (slaughtered in the summer and late fall). Price includes birds, feed, care, and butchering. You just come pick up the birds!

Season Passes: All events at CAF for a full Calendar Year coming up, new events starting in the spring and include some winter rescheduling! There will be dulcimer and fiddle classes, goat care, soap making from scratch, archery for beginners, backyard chickens and MORE!

Also available - Indie Days! 4 hour one-on-one classes on whatever country skill you are looking to learn. Everything from sheep and knitting to archery to fiddle 101.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vlog Collaboration!



Hey Folks! I am working on a little music video and I want it to feature readers of my books and blogs who have started a farm or homestead in the past 8 years. (Since the blog has started). I want to share the story of as many readers as possible who have taken the leap!

What I need is a 10 second video clip, no talking, of either the farmers or your animals - or both. Action is good (dog running with sheep, horse in field, you on tractors) or still life is fine - what you feel works (house at sunset, kids watching pond of fish) Besides the video clip I just need the names, farm, and date of operation to present.

Ex: Jane and Jon Doe
Merry Acres Farm
Idaho City, Idaho
2010 - Present

Email this to dogsinourparks@gmail.com

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Gender is Farmer

It’s almost 5PM and I am salivating at the thought of dinner. It’s my one meal a day and when I think of that defrosted slab of beef my heart races. Most days I wake up, consume enough coffee to fuel light aircraft, and then head outside for chores without breakfast. Food comes a lot later when my task list slows down and I can sit and savor. But today I was running behind schedule a few hours and feeling wolfish. I craved that meat like a lumberjack stuck in a mine for three days that had to dig himself out.

Today it was windy, ten degrees below freezing, and every single animal in my care needed defrosted water and full stomachs. Add to that chore list the tactical offense of living on hillside coated in ice. My only pair of decent gloves were covered in puppy slobber and frozen within minutes. I kept on with the chores with crunchy fingers. I carried hay bales and buckets, broke through ice with staves and boots, and hauled fifty-pound bags of feed to stations all over the farm. Later I came indoors, worked in my office a few hours at a computer, and then got picked up by a neighbor for a ride to the mechanic where my 1989 F150 was waiting. I was more excited to be reunited with her than I was on prom night. Ten days without a vehicle is a bummer out here.

I spent the rest of the day in garages and feed mills. I loaded a couple hundred pounds of feed, more hay bales, and stopped at a local auto parts store for some TLC for my gal. Picture me walking in with knee-high muck boots, torn jeans, a worn sweatshirt covered up by a canvas Carhartt vest and a tired smile. I had on a knit cap with holes in it and my red hair was wild and needed a comb, badly. But my efforts at trying to appear somewhat snazzy were there. Worn down eyeshadow and pink lip balm were fighting the good fight. I told the clerk at NAPA the exact type of coolant, Radiator Stop Leak, and funnel size I needed and left in a hurry. I still had another hour of outdoor chores, writing deadlines, and freelance clients to tend to. I also had firewood to chop, a household to heat, dogs to feed, and that blessed slab of beef dangling before my hopes like a carrot on a stick. Basically, I had this specific life to live and all the crazy tasks that go with it.

While out running these errands, I heard a talk on the radio about gender and politics. About how traditional gender roles play such a part in the conscious (and subconscious) messaging during an election year. I’m sure it does, but I quickly changed the radio over to music. I started singing along to The Struts. That earlier chatter had nothing to do with me. Gender?

Please, my gender is farmer.

When you run a farm adaptation is the name of the game. It doesn’t matter if you’re single like me or manage a household of seven, your gender doesn’t apply. Any farm—especially a diverse livestock operation—requires a flexibility that takes those traditional ideas of masculine and feminine and throws them out on the compost pile. In the last 48 hours I had chopped firewood and tinkered with a furnace. I grabbed escaped goats by the horns and repaired electric fences. I also sang Katy Perry songs in the kitchen while kneading dough for a perfect chicken pot pie and spent an hour reading a romance novel with a cat in my lap. I did dishes and mopped floors and I called the butcher about slaughtering pigs. I planned out an outfit with a skirt, tights, and high heels for a business meeting for my off farm tech job, and I tossed shit-covered boots by the woodstove to defrost.

I wear torn flannel shirts and excessive eyeliner, simultaneously. I do physical labor with sharp tools and I knit hand spun wool by the wood stove. I midwife and I slaughter. I use eyelash curlers and whetstones. I read Vogue on the toilet. And I do it all without giving gender a second thought.

It couldn’t possibly matter less. The farm is who makes the demands and whatever skills are needed, I obey them. Sometimes they are what people think of as feminine and gentle, like holding a blanketed newborn lamb in my arms while feeding it a baby bottle and cooing at it like a new mother. Sometimes they are what people think of as masculine and tough, like stalking deer in the forest with my father’s hunting rifle and cursing at being in the wrong wind at the right time. Gender has nothing do with it. At all. It can be a decoration or a statement, but at the end of the day caring about gender on a homestead is just furniture and wallpaper - the frame is what is holding up the house.

And it has always been this way. Sure there were conventions and little roles people would play when company came over or on their trip into town; but those same quiet farm wives were butchering chickens and milking cows by hand beside their husbands at home a few hours earlier. They were driving teams of horses if they were better at straight rows, and their men were weeding the garden if they had better eyes. And those same avatars of traditional masculinity know what it is like to cry wildly beside a dead mare and her stillborn foal, or spend hours mending clothes with needle and thread. A life lived that close to the cycles of a farm has too much going on to worry about what the cover of a magazine should portray. It is entirely about necessity.

If we're talking about sex, I see myself as a straight woman, but only in those rare moments like zooming through profiles on eHarmony or watching Jason Batemen in that Mumford and Sons video. Most of the time I see myself as Jenna: human being with shit to do. This farm calls and I answer and my gender doesn't enhance or hinder it. I'm a horseback riding, wood chopping, truck loving, deer hunting, pie baking, makeup wearing, flannel clad, badass falconer archer with high heels in the closet and goats in need of milking.

Yeah. My gender is farmer.

And special thanks to Cameron Esposito for her "My Gender is Fighter Pilot" joke triggering this post in my brain.