Winter life here on our little homestead is so different from summer. As I type, the trees outside my window are swaying dramatically in the wind and rain is pelting down. The sky is deep grey, and I find myself feeling sluggish and unmotivated. The only heat sources in my studio are a plug-in radiator that has very little effect and a huge propane blower that is very loud and the propane fumes give me a headache. So, it is very easy for me to procrastinate going out there, choosing to write a blog enry instead. This is increasing my internet visibility after all, so it counts as "marketing."
That said, I have been very focused on my business in a variety of ways. Last week, I met with a woman from the Small Business Development Center, which offers FREE advice for people like me. I occasionally take business workshops or go to seminars, but having someone sit with me one-on-one and address my individual business needs was invaluable. She spent 2 hours with me, discussing my goals and making some financial calculations that resulted in a precise hourly amount that I need to charge my clients in order to be viable. It is several times my current fee, so we discussed how to promote myself differently in order to get into the appropriate market, which is high-end custom architectural mosaic.
We decided that I need a new business identity for this purpose, along with a separate website just for my fine art and architectural work. Since this meeting, I have been obsessed with defining this new identity and making this important transition. I feel ready to focus my energy on fantastic installation work, and to let go of many of the many little items that I make for recycled art festivals and holiday bazaars. I will continue to do these, for now, but with more mosaics and less minutae.
Still, I am constantly creating inventory for upcoming holiday sales. I have a new crocheted hat design that is very fun. I'm cutting and repurposing sweaters into stockings, hats, and mittens every night. Then I carry them around with me, embroidering the seams whenever I am sitting for any length of time. I pulled out my linocut supplies last night, so I'll be using old designs to print holiday cards. I have all of these materials on hand, so I want to use them up. This may be my last year selling sweater items and other random things.
The farm is quiet now. There are only 3 turkeys, and they have been going obediently into their coop when I coax them in, around 4pm each day. The chickens are barely laying, and I've been meaning to get a light that will operate on a timer. I do have to make sure they are locked up tight every evening before dark. One disappeared on a recent night that I came home late, and I find raccoon tracks in the mud of the chicken yard every morning. The goats have thickened up, and they like to stay indoors when it rains, so they are staying out of trouble. I just borrowed a truck and brought home a winter's supply of hay.
Using wood heat is probably the biggest effort for me during the winter. I move and stack wood onto the back porch a couple of times each week. Then, every night, I need to wake up every 2-3 hours to add wood to the fire or it will go out. Our newfangled woodstove burns too hot and cannot be turned down. This is the most difficult thing for me, as a person who relies on good sleep for sanity. To go to bed at 10pm, get up over and over, then wake up at 6am - I just feel zombie-like all day.
I'm still harvesting carrots and tomatoes now and then. Last week I cleaned the chicken coop and used the bedding to mulch the veggie beds. I noticed some chard re-growing. Mike has been mulching the perennial beds on the weekends, working all day in the cold and rain. I've been trying to cut up and freeze or cook the pumpkins. We don't have an appropriate place to store pumpkins; nothing cool and dry. They are on the covered porch, but still in the damp air, so they won't last all winter. We could put them in the cabin, but we would be likely to forget them down there. We have made pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin soup (only I will eat it), pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, and of course, pumpkin pie. We have been straying from our only-homegrown diet, buying convenience foods more and more often. Anouk is the biggest challenge, since she will rarely eat what I make. I keep cans of green beans and pineapple on hand for her, and along with milk, that makes up the bulk of her subsistence.
In other news, I am turning 40 in a couple of weeks. But I think that deserves its own entry, if I decide to make my thoughts about it public. Forty. I just don't know if I'm ready yet.