Monday, April 24, 2017

New Kid

Last night a nice couple came to take away the kids to their new home. The two goatlings were picked up and placed in the arms of a grandmother in the back seat of the two-door pickup truck. The older woman had raised goats in the past and when handed the little babes she glowed like a new mother. She knew how to hold a goat and I was happy to see them sold to a farming family that had generations of goat experience on hand. And so last night was the first night in a while without goat kids running around the farm house. It was so oddly quiet and calm.

And then Bonita gave birth to this big boy, just moments ago. Here we are again!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Marnie's Knocked Up

Marnie was not happy. The ewe was feisty, just flipped on her rump, and one of her horns was stuck in my bra. This was a very compromising situation for both of us but I wanted to see her nipples. The shearer would be here in a few days and I wanted to know who was and was not pregnant. She had a milk-filled udder and I beamed as a horn sliced into my skin. Within moments I had a new scratch and she was trotting back out to the field to join her flock mates. I shrugged, the trade of a little skin for that information was fair. More lambs were on the way.

The Sunday had been long. Starting at sunrise with milking and chores and plowing onward with extracting honey, feeding bottle kids, farm repairs and a short run. The sunshine was a drug. It had been so dark for so long and now there is grass and it feels like another world.

I had a lovely time with some readers yesterday who came for Chicken 101, a signed copy of Chick Days, and a tour of the farm. As muddy and brown as the mountain is right now, inside the farmhouse was delightful. The kids were bottle fed by the guests. They held chicks in their hand from the warm brooder as we went over feeding and housing and transitions from new homes to new coops. It was a lovely day. But today there was no company - just pregnant livestock and the thrusts of spring.

The hammock is hanging from the King Maple. I was out there with a cider as today wound down, listening to an audiobook when some friends drove past. Trevor and Alex were hiking mount Equinox in Vermont and when the saw me in out there they pulled in to say hello. I was glad to see them and little Malcolm (that’s what the little goat buck was named) ran up to them. We chatted as Merlin chomped hay behind them, the geese honked, and the farm started to turn green as we spoke. v Things feel better.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kids For Sale!

Goat Kids for sale! The kids here are healthy and hardy little dairy kids. They are Alpine(50%), and Nubian/Boer. I have one female and one male right now. All are $100 picked up now as bottle babies, or $150 if purchased post-weaning when they are on grain/hay. Please email me if you are interested. More kids expected soon!

Please share this on social media if you are in the Northeast area!


Share on Facebook

You Gotta Have a System

The service at this bar is terrible...
I am getting back into the swing of morning chores. Today the whole drill took an hour, which is a hell of an improvement since the day after the kids were born. It took twice that after the hangover that is winter chores. How is it every single year it takes adjusting into spring? If you're interested in what a morning is like on this One Woman Farm right now, here's the AM rundown.

I wake up in a pile of collies and the occasional cat. Remember that scene in The Lion King where Simba jumps around the pile of lions to wake up his dad? It's like that, only Friday plays the role of Simba by pouncing around me, Gibson, and whatever feline was stupid enough to sleep with us instead of the guest bedroom. Growls and yowling ensue. We go downstairs and I let the dogs outside and let them relieve themselves while the cats bitch for kibble. I feed those two and set up a percolator on the stove. I feed the cats first both for reasons of low self esteem and volume control. The coffee pot is set on stove top and burner turned on. Primary mammals of House Woginrich all have their most-pressing needs met.

Next the birds in the living room brooder need clean bedding. Got to do this every AM unless I want the house to smell like a barn. (I use hay instead of wood chips - less dust and easier to access here.) The chicks get fresh water and chick feed. They are easy clean up and see to. The brooder has a divider so the new babies from the heroic postal worker (see last story post) are under a heat lamp and the older Silkie Bantams are off-lamp and enjoying some new treats now like freeze-dried mealworms! The ducks are outside, kinda. They are on the porch just outside the French Doors and have hay bedding to refresh too. They also get clean water and feed. This is the fastest way to take care of 40 animals* before coffee.

I join the dogs outside and feed the sheep and horse first. The sheep are mostly in a large pen now to give the grass a chance to grow. They get a bales of second cut  which are waiting in the back of the truck instead of the barn (time saver from the night before).  I make a note to call Othniel from Common Sense Farm about another hay delivery. He was supposed to come yesterday but it's spring at his farm too and he just had a new baby girl! Mazel Tov!

Merlin comes running from the far field at the site of me carrying hay up to the sheep. Gods, that is a beautiful sight. He has the entire 3-acre field to run around on. I was looking at him this morning in the rainy mud and fog. His strong outline on the shockingly green hillside. He was born in the wilds of Cumbria on rolling hills. Now he has found a home with his own space that must feel something like it. I know a lot of horses who spend their days in stalls and tiny turn-out paddocks. Merlin can run full speed across his own mini-moor. It makes me happy.

Next up are goats, birds, and pigs. The pigs are fed and checked in on. Their water and bedding replaced. They are on their way to freezer camp soon, in pairs, by appointment. The two biggest go first next weekend.

My entire flock of chickens are free ranging. They have feeding stations though, and I make sure all the birds have access to a mix of bird chow and scratch grains. No one comes running to it since they are all around the stream eating the small worms brought up from the rain last night. Who wants cereal when theirs sausages? The geese also don't care. They are eating grass by the kitchen garden and Saro is still resting on a large nest of eggs. Fingers crossed.

Aya Cash is in her mews, head tucked back asleep. She was fed yesterday evening and won't need dinner till later. I just make sure she's okay.

Bonita was still pregnant and showing no signs of labor so there was nothing to do with her but get her some hay for breakfast. Ida was ready for milking. Here is where we need to give it up for Ida. She doesn’t even need a stanchion or to be tied up. Right in her pen I set a pail below her, squatted on my haunches, and milked her out in 4 minutes. If I was using the milk for myself or cheese or anything humans would consume it would be a far more intense ordeal of stanchion, udder washing, massage, milking, and then back into the pen. Right now I am quickly getting her bag empty for some quickly-strained kid milk and some soap practice batches. Made the first trial batch yesterday and am happy with them! Now 85+ animals** are cared for before coffee. I really want that coffee.

The years of Goatery involved in that last sentence are astounding. I swear this is why People homestead. The satisfaction I got from that quick chore was on par with the half marathon I ran in September. Why? Because Ida was born here. I bred this goat, raised this goat, trained this goat to be milked calmly, got this goat a buck to breed her, and now she has given me both kids to sell and/or raise and milk in the pail. It took a while to learn to milk well (a season if I am honest), but now this small chore makes me feel like a low-rent superhero.

Only after everyone outside is sated, watered, milked, and settled in does the farm go from rowdy to silent. Everyone is eating now. I can hear the songbirds. A raven from this farm's mated pair flies across the sky above me. Everything is gray and wet I wish it was bright and sunny. I grab my camera from inside and take pictures of the spring flowers. Friday pees on them while I try this. The flowers are still pretty among all this mud.

Chores are mostly done. I go inside the farm house and it smells like sacred coffee. It is amazing.

Before I make my cup I pour the fresh milk into bottles and feed the kids, who are now wide awake. They eat and  jump around the farmhouse. After their bellies are full I put them outside with Gibson to babysit while I take out their pee pads and replace them with fresh dry ones. I woke up an hour earlier. I can feel myself wanting to crawl back into bed. This means finally making a large mug of coffee, which I do with the gratitude of the ages. It tastes amazing and I sip it slowly.

Soon the kids are back inside and ready for another nap. These early goatling days are just bursts of play, milk, and then another stretch of sleep. The dogs get their breakfast now. They eat bowls of kibble and I refresh my cup. I give myself some time for news, politics, pop culture and videos of last night's Late Night talk shows. I check on my horcruxes. I write this blog post. In a short while a long stretch of design work will follow. I make notes of mechanic & farrier appointments, clients to catch up with, that hay delivery to remind about, and general life notes. I write my to-do list and income goals down on paper, my boss. The day is just starting and I have maintained a kingdom before caffeine. It feels lucky and right.

Thanks for coming along on morning chores with me!

Share on Facebook  


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. 

 *30 chicks, 5 ducklings, 2 dogs, 2 cats, one primate. Goat kids are still sleeping in dog crate.

** 9 sheep, 5 pigs, 2 adult goats, 30+ mixed poultry, and a hawk.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book, Soap, and Art!

Farm Combo for auction! Signed copy of CAF, original drawing of Gibson (which he signed, too) & goats milk soap! Bidding starts at $30! You just leave your bid in the comments and highest bid between here and twitter wins. If you don't want to bid publicly, email me. Shipping is $6

The Heroic Postal Worker

I am not sure if there is much wisdom in leaving a house with two dogs, two cats, thirty chickens, and two goats in your living room, but I had laundry to do.

One of the skills you hone as a feral mountain woman is how to manage April. It's a month of extreme ramping-up on a homestead. Unlike growers who deal with the madness of June here in the Northeast - April is the monster month for small livestock farms. This barnyard was fallow for months. Now it is bursting with new lives, sunshine, and possibilities. It's as exciting as it is exhausting. It's also dirty work and I had some laundry to do. If I put it off any longer I'd stop passing for a human woman.

So I left the house with all that going on inside and I wasn't worried. The chicks were in a brooder with a secure wire cage top. The goats had just filled their bellies with milk and had spent and hour running around - and were now asleep in a dog crate on pee pads. The cats were asleep in an upstairs bedroom, having no interest in watching chick TV with dogs hogging the remote. And Gibson and Friday are adults. I trust them home alone together. I loaded the pickup with a basket of laundry and some Tide, started up, and headed down the mountain.

As I was heading south a small black hatchback came up the road. Seeing other cars on this road is rare to begin with so that raised some eyebrows. And since everyone who lives up here knows the vehicles of the neighbors - this wasn't one of us. The guy inside was making a face usually reserved for telling people there’s a shark in the water. He locked eyes with me and I recognized him, but not sure of from where? He waved at me and stopped in the road. I backed up my truck to meet his window.

“I thought it was you!” He exclaimed. “So glad I caught you, been calling all day, I have your chickens.”

This was a surprise since I had called the P.O. yesterday to check on their delivery and they said no chicks had arrived yet. Confused, I went back into my emails and dug up the note from the hatchery. It said the birds would be delivered on the 18th, and arrive 24-48 hrs later. Okay, so the 19th was the soonest they could arrive and since it was the 18th I had one less thing to worry about today. Yeah! Clean Laundry! Human Woman!

Only it wasn’t the 18th. It was the 19th. I had the date wrong. Let’s hear it for me.

He wasn't able to call me (since clearly it was the 18th), I had unplugged my landline so I could write without interruptions. I also despise talking on the phone to anyone. I'm not alone there, I'm sure. So the calls didn't get through. My landline is rarely plugged in.

But it worked out. Timing is everything, and we caught each other and the birds were just fine. If you never ordered poultry in the mail - know they come in an impossibly little box. This isn’t cruel,—as the birds themselves are so small three chicks can fit in the palm of my hand—but shocking when you know the space 25 adult hens take up. It's a time-travel clown car, chicken post boxes.

They also aren’t starving or suffering in the post, since they JUST came out of their eggs with a full yolk sack. You can read more about the safety of shipping chicks here, if you are interested.

I thanked the postal worker profusely, who had decided to deliver them himself after his shift instead of letting them spend another night in the travel box. (Talk about a good guy.) I turned the truck around and put the new plucky birds in the brooder with the Silkies (who seemed pissed about their spacious digs becoming a nursery) and made sure everyone had food and water and a warm place to tuck in.

Then I did head off to my friend’s home to enjoy some human company and do some laundry. Because managing April is a task I get better at every year, and it deserves clean sheets.

(I will be baking a pie for this post office.)

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. No chicks were hurt in the typing of this blog post. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Come in, sit down.

Welcome new readers and old friends, I often post this: Come in,  Sit Down, which means introduce yourself here on the blog by your name and location, and maybe share a little more about yourself as far as homesteading dreams or goals are? If you don't feel comfortable giving your name online, you could always just leave your location and perhaps a suggestion for the blog. It's a way for me to see who I am writing to and say hello. It makes the place a little more friendly on this side, as you know so much about me, but I know so little about you. A simple introduction makes it feel like I'm talking with a group rather than writing to the sky. If you never comment this post is an exception worth making. You might even make a friend or two...

It's also a way for you guys out there to connect with other folks with like interests. If you're sitting in your Sausalito apartment dreaming of mini angus bloodlines and rototillers you might just see another name from Sausalito a few comments down dreaming about coop plans and explaining his container gardens.... and before you know if you've made a farming friend. The internet is great—you'll never hear me say otherwise—but it keeps us inside a little too much. It should be a tool to network and learn from, not a replacement for three dimensional conversations and relationships. (I am talking for myself right now as much as anyone) and by saying hello here you might just spark book clubs and dinner potlucks, meetups and work parties, farm visits and advice, or just someone to grab coffee with in the Philadelphia Barnes & Noble and pour over the new issue of Hobby Farms together while chatting about why your husbands think chickens are ridiculous.

So come on inside, pull up a chair, and say hello.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Full House

It’s been a long morning. I was up at 6:30, but that isn’t early enough. I was still washing dairy pails and trying to train the kids to take the bottle (one has it down!) two hours later. The farm is now bursting with new life and animals. Chores that took twenty minutes a few weeks ago now take hours. There's so much more to do and while that is exciting — it is humbling realizing how beat I felt by 10AM.

Nothing whips you into homestead shape like April. Brooders, duckling pens, seedlings, kids, feeding schedules, lambing, kidding. I called the post office around 8AM and found out the chicks have not arrived yet, but I was fully prepared to settle in 25 chickens in my living room among nickering goat kids learning how to use their fancy new legs. Life is messy right now. And loud. But as the morning is winding down and I’ve scratched a few items off my to-do list, I feel a bit of breathing room. I'm checking in with you.

The kids are a cross of purebred Alpine does and a Nubian/Boer cross buck. They are big and hearty. They are also for sale, since I don't think I will be keeping a kid going into fall. At least now these two kids. The doe is the one with the erect ears and she is $100, the buckling is $75.

I am expecting Bonita to kid soon. Between office work and chores I poke my head into her pen and can already see she is nesting and preparing for the delivery shortly. In a few days this house will be quite the menagerie.

I have a couple coming for some chicken 101 classes this weekend and besides the chicks indoors and signed books waiting for them - they are going to be slammed with cute overload. Goat kids are adorable, just little deer-like pixie beasts that flop around the house. It's a real happy check I can cash in, every single time I hold them. I hope the sun is shining and they see how amazing a backyard flock can be!


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Photo of the very frazzled me taken by Patty Wesner.

Logo and Illustration Sale!

Hey there readers, this farm has got to make some income and fast, so if you are in the need of a logo or want to commission a pet illustration, this is a great time to support the farm and I'm offering sale rates to encourage you! My illustration style is very much like American Animation, which adds some whimsy and fun to the artwork.

Logos and illustrations are on sale and a fun way to give a very special gift. Logos are great for small businesses (the goat logo you see here is custom art by me and on a food truck in California!), events like family reunions, and graduates looking for a special touch to a resume. Rates are flat. I do the work between farm responsibilties (between chores)

Custom pet illustrations are drawn, colored, and mailed to your home and suitable for framing. Gift cards for logos or illustrations can be bought at a lesser expense now and used when you are ready in the future. If you are interested please send me an email.

Payments are made via Paypal and super easy to use!

Also, I have some really adorable goat kids you can buy....

Monday, April 17, 2017

TWINS!

Ida gave birth to two gorgeous twins! A doe and buck, and both are healthy and BIG!

The Big F

Woke up early this morning to get a jump-start on work here at the home office. Proud to say that by 8AM I had finished all the farm chores, got work done with three design clients, and just came in from checking on my dirigibles in the goat pen. The Silkie chicks in the farmhouse are feathering out and growing bolder. The Khaki Campbell ducklings are outside in a little pen. A new shipment from Stromberg’s Poultry shows up early this week with a pile of heavy layers. I am planning on keeping a dozen or so and raising the rest to sell as started pullets for backyard chicken keepers in the area. I find that a lot of people are willing to pay $15-$30 for a healthy and laying young bird instead of the hassle of keeping a brooder and time that goes into raising them the first five months. If I play my cards right that will cover the last bits of the Kiva Loan for the pickup I bought a while back.

All is well here. Well, mostly so. The usual low-grade panic settings are purring along. I have ran out of creamer and am drinking my breakfast black, but besides that I can’t complain. Complaints are rolling in about leaving Facebook, though, but only from my mom.

Guys, I deactivated my Facebook account for my own mental health. It was too much. Too many people to keep track of, too many groups, clubs, conversations, and updates. I was spending too much time on social media and was starting to get creeped out by the weird messages from guys, people monitoring when I was online, and the politics of strangers. It got to the point where every single time I signed on to Facebook I was gritting my teeth hoping to just check my messages and sign off fast as possible. Also, Facebook was a place that made me feel bad by the constant comparisons I was forcing into my head. I would wake up perfectly happy and content with my lot in life and then fifteen minutes of scrolling through people's life advertisements and I was questioning my choices. Enough.

I am a little nervous about the audience there not coming here to check in on the blog, but not enough to sign back up. Nothing gets me more defiant than someone threatening me, and Facebook felt like a threat these past few years. This abusive partner explaining that if I leave I'll end up up alone and broke in the street without the constant updates of random pregnancies, dead dog announcements, and vacation photos. I'm active as hell on Twitter though, and urge you to follow me there for many daily updates, farm photos, etc. I'm @coldantlerfarm

So I'm off the addiction that is The big F. I’ll build up my readership on other platforms, get more work published in larger media formats, revamp this site instead of neglecting it for the dopamine rush of Facebook, a keep going. I am nothing if not a master of keeping on. 

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Good Things

I snuck this photo of Gibson, watching the goat's pen in the barn. He is looking in the direction of the sounds of grunts and nickering from Bonita and Ida on the other side of the wall. We spent an hour there this morning. I sat on a bale of hay in the warm light of spring. Gibson lay at my feet, his tail wagging softly. I brought my banjo, a gift mailed to me years ago by a sweet reader. She saw I had to sell my old banjo when things got tight, and wanted to replace it. There was a catch, though. She made me promise to never sell it. We both kept our word. It's one of my most treasured things. It's older than the dog in the photo, I believe.

In that sunny barn I played waltzes and old-timey tunes. They were not perfect but the more I practiced the easier they came. The goats couldn't stop watching me when I started to strum but about ten minutes later they made nests in their straw-lined pen and chewed cud. Any moment a kid might be born to the sounds of songs as old as this farm.

As I was playing. As my dog lay beside me. As the goats chewed. As the sun warmed my back. As the music swirled from the barn - as all this happened an Ameraucana hen was laying an egg in a nesting box a few feet away. I could hear the grunts of the pigs in the distance. The sheep on the hill baaed. Merlin snorted. My small world felt safe and perfect.

I have set up my entire life to facilitate moments like this - and I am telling you even with all those ten-thousand decisions - perfect moments are rare. All the more reason to love them, pray they come again, share them here.

I hope your Sundays are full of good things.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors.

Learn The Fiddle (and take one home) for $200

Have you always wanted to play the fiddle or shoot a bow?  I am offering one-on-one classes here at the farm. These are half or full-day events meant for complete beginners in archery or fiddling. You can come not knowing how to read music or nock an arrow, (in fact I prefer it) and leave with a your new instrument or bow in hand. The point is to come with an open mind and a sense of humor. I have yet to have a fiddle or archery student not leave this farm being schooled enough to play a tune or hit a target. This is a chance to learn a skill, support the farm like me, and come see the beautiful mess that is CAF. Right now, you can sign up for a half day with fiddle or bow for $200.

Both day's cost includes the tools needed -  fiddle (plus case, bow, supplies) or longbow (for your right or left hand, string, 3 arrows). If you buy a workshop as a gift in the next few days I'll overnight you a hand-painted postcard to give to the receiver. Classes are set up by you so a day in the spring, summer, or fall you wish to learn and travel here is up to you. Can be set up after the holidays!

If interested email me!

Bitches & Honey

Life aint nothing but bitches and honey
Woke up early and excited to run to the barn and check on the girls. The sun was out, the weather was warmer than it’s been in weeks, and yesterday I managed a 10k without blisters causing me to limp around the farm for a few days. (Which is what happened earlier in the week when I ran five miles last weekend without the right socks. Guys, I was feeling good and I didn’t even have coffee yet. Magic happens.

Still no kids, but possibility is thick in the air. The does are at the point where they are rubbing and biting their bellies, grunting, leaking viscous fluids and have udders tight as drums. In my years of goat breeding experience with Alpines, I have learned this means kidding can happen in fifteen minutes or two weeks.

I have some good news to share! This month I have been working my tail off acquiring design clients and a few illustration ones. Thanks to that and some budgeting I have been able to catch up on some bills this April. That is a BIG deal and a sigh of relief. I am now just one payment behind on the farm, and when I can manage that I will officially turn into Wonder Woman and ascend to a higher astral plane. Well, probably not, but I won’t have as much trouble sleeping at night. It all feels close enough to touch.

March and April were emotionally exhausting here. The combination of the end of a long dark winter, bad news, and the very shaking state of the farm caused enough anxiety to make cocaine look adorable by comparison. (I’ve never done cocaine, but from what I hear it’s expensive self-absorbed anxiety on-demand.) I was fraught. I am still focused and promoting logo sales, fiddle lessons, archery classes, and illustrations like mad on Social Media. Also - I am deleting my Facebook account as soon as I gather the courage to do so, so please do follow me on twitter @coldantlerfarm if you want 5-20 updates, quips, farm pics, and such a day. There’s a lot more about the farm there. Like this pic I posted of Friday with a small frame from the hive. The bees didn’t survive the winter, but they will be replaced and honey harvested for mead!

If you need to contact me outside facebook please use twitter or just email me. Easy!


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It really helps. You have no idea how much it helps.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Waiting on Kids

Right now I am keeping a close eye on my does. This back of Bonita shows you how ready to pop they are. I am hoping for 2 sets of twins. I just got back inside from my night rounds of the field/barn/mews and both ladies in the goat pen were laying down on their straw chewing cud, absolutely not giving birth. Today was sunny and kind, weatherwise, and I was in that barn between freelance work and breaks to ride and run. Still no kids, but it should be soon.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Thank You

Readers,

Every once in a while I will suggest you consider subscribing to this blog. It's entirely free to read the posts here, see the pictures, and share the adventure. It always will be. But all authors, artists, musicians, and creators depend on the people who appreciate their work to be patrons on some level.

If you own my books, thank you. If you share my blog posts, thank you. If you have come to a workshop or event here, thank you. And if you simply want to kick in $5 a month towards feed and hay - I thank you. It's a small way to both encourage me and help keep the lights on.

Like NPR stations, I'll be here to tune into whether you wish to subscribe and be a patron or not. But I do ask if you enjoy what you read here and do not already subscribe - to consider it. Or if you stopped subscribing for whatever reason, you sign back up. This is a time that the farm needs support from those who wish to see it remain the home of Cold Antler.  Please only do so if you feel the writing has value (as entertainment, inspiration, etc) and you can manage it.

Thank you,
-j


Spring's Inside

Outside this farmhouse it has been gray and muddy and unpleasant as can be. April's always unpleasant. It's a month of messy transition and as far away from October as possible. I always feel a little lost in April. I decided to bring spring indoors. Why wait?

There is a happy little brooder with chicks and ducklings. Khaki Campbells and Silkie Bantams. A few weeks ago I planted some snap pea seeds in a large container near the glass windows.I cleaned up, restrung, and tuned my banjo and I have learned it is nearly impossible to feel down when you can hear the chirping of babe fowl beside bright banjo rills. There's new life, seedlings, music and a house no longer in need of constant fires to keep it warm. Hunting season is over for my hawk and she is enjoying this pre-molt feast in her off season. There's a rumor next week will bring sunshine and days in the 70s. If that is so I will celebrate with some longer runs out in this beloved county of farms and fields. Everything is coming back to life.

Still waiting on the rest of the lambs in the flock. But while I wait for them, looks like Bonita and Ida are ready to start having kids in the next few weeks, perhaps even sooner. I don't want to anticipate it too soon, but I am washing to milking pails and getting baby bottles prepped. Kids will be such a fun thing to have in the house and if they arrive before the big Poultry Swap in May - will be easy to sell. I am toying with the idea of keeping one male to castrate as a pack animal trained for hiking. Just toying. But the combination of mountain breeds and sturdiness of Boer, Nubian and Alpine will create a very handsome beast indeed.

Also, just a note. If you want to see daily updates, three times as many photos, and lots of other stuff about my interests and personality - follow me on Twitter. I hope to phase off of Facebook soon. I'm @coldantlerfarm there.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Getting It

Goals aren’t stories. This is tricky because we so want them to be. Books, movies, marathons - we’ve been trained to see all of our achievements as ending points. Doesn’t matter if it’s your everyday life or a TV show you’re watching to distract yourself from it; we see a goal met and want that to be the stopping point. Kill the bad guy. Kiss the crush. Happily Ever After or a morality play - we don’t care. We just want to know how it ends. We worship ends.

If you’ve been reading my story for a long time, you’re rare. Most people stopped once I bought this property. Makes sense. Act 1: Girl falls in love with farming. Act 2: Rented Farm is threatened! Act 3: Girl figures out how to buy her own farm. The happy ending.

But it wasn’t the end. That one goal was met before I even knew myself. The following seven years on this land and what has happened within them have changed me more than everything and everyone who happened before it.

The Getting It isn’t us. It isn’t our story. Think of something you worked your ass off to accomplish? Congratulations on getting it. You graduated from that school. You landed that job. You married that person. You earned that tax bracket. You named that baby. You signed that deed. Then what? Did credits roll the theater lights come on? Of course they did because even when a part of your story is neatly tied up and notarized, life goes on. It's called Tuesday.

Goals are called milestones for a reason - they're just marking points. I don't care how large or small your dreams are - they're chapters at best. Your story is never what you did, it's what you're doing next. It is always what's ahead. Sometimes it's tangible things like plane tickets and sometimes it's a sum of intentions. A goal can be a passport. It can also be forgiveness.

Take everything you ever did that you are proud of and write it down in order as it happened. All those goals - intended or imposed - can probably be contained in one word. That's what I think the point of this messy life is, to learn your book's title as a trait noun. What do all those little movies and chapter titles add up to for you? When you close the book what one word could tell it all? Victim? Leader? Outcast? Cynic? Charmer? You only get one word for a book title and you don't even get to pick it. Other people do. It's how you're going to be remembered.

But if tonight was it? If this was when your book closed - what would your title be? If you're honest with yourself, really honest, it means you have the ability to still change it.

Over the years I have watched my own title change from Dreamer to Fool and now it is deeply embossed as Fighter. There is pride in that but mostly fear. The pride is in resourcefulness. It's in the quiet thrill of still being here on this farm living a creative life. But the majority of it is fear. Fighting is fucking scary. It's knowing you are going to get hit over and over again and at any moment I could tap out. I don't know how much more of this Endurance Test I can take.

The main sense of comfort I get is from realizing anyone who has ever made it in any of the arts did so by not stopping. Few people get lucky. "Overnight sensations" have been auditioning for ten years or have enough rejection letters from publishers to insulate their bathrooms. And my bar for success isn't anywhere near that lofty. I just want to get to a place in my professional life as a farming writer that going to bed means excitement about tomorrow instead of the gut punch fear of losing it. Solvent would be a dream book title.

All I know is tonight I want to keep Fighter and there's some serious comfort in that. It means that even alone and late into the evening, I'm not folding.  It means success, however defined, is more believable than failure. That's the only reason to fight, isn't it?

If every goal I make from now on is riddled with claw marks, so be it.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution.

Stand Off


Gibson and the turkeys are NOT getting along this spring. I blame hormones. On the look out for some hens to add to the flock!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sunshine on Strings

Spring is in the air at Cold Antler Farm. Right now the windows and doors are open and sunshine is pouring in. Amazing how a day of nice weather can change your outlook a bit. In spent the morning working on chores and design clients, but after a few hours of that and a short trip into town to take care of some signed copies at Battenkill Books, I was ready to soak up the sun.

We have a few days of rain ahead. But today was vitamin D to the max. I haltered up Merlin and brought him to the post to really get into that spring shedding. With the help of some shedding blades and brushes he is a little less hairy. We did some ground work as well; the kind of natural horsemanship my farrier Dave taught me. A few days of ground work is necessary before the first spring ride. I also like the mountain ground a little firmer on our trails. I was just on them hunting with Aya Cash a few days ago and downed logs, ice, and deep mud have a ways to go before firming up. So today was mostly a brush down and some lunge line work. After I was done grooming the beast the ground looked like a mastodon exploded. It kinda did.

Also today: I took my dusty banjo off the stand in the corner and cleaned her up with the detail work of a used-car dealership. I put new silver Gibson strings on her, too. Once she was tuned it only took a few moments to relearn some favorite songs. I played out in the sun while the dogs ran circles around the turkeys. A nice moment in all the muddy chaos around this place right now. I am continuing to remain positive and productive as I can. Things are more uncertain then they have ever been.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. It really does help keep the lights on.


Could you keep me in the sound

Friday, March 31, 2017

Honing In, Haunted Houses, & Friends

Yesterday as I was carrying water to the horse’s trough my head was going through the end-of-day to do lists. I had finished up work with three clients, mailed an illustration to Minnesota, and sent out notices to advertisers and publishers. the usual hustle of chores, work, pitches, and goals that keep this farm running. As I poured the water into the black tub, Merlin came over to see if some how this new water was also possibly grain, and as her dipped his head in for a drink I looked at his feet. He is due for another farrier appointment soon, but the trim would be short. His round dinner plate feet were sturdy and even on the slick hill. The farm was a mix of hardening mud since the temperature had dropped so fast over the last few hours. Snow was on the way.

Gods, I love this horse. His face has gone whiter every year, his mane less shiny, but he’s solid and strong as ever and I can’t wait for those hopeful summer days of riding, archery, running, and swimming in the river. I want this scary time behind me. I want the stronger, leaner, meaner version of me from last summer.

This was a tough week here. I got turned down for a opportunity I had placed all my eggs into. I foolishly assumed it would work out and it didn’t. So what had been all anticipation and eagerness Monday turned into despair and confusion by Weds. I panicked for a good 15 minutes and then stopped and sorted it out. My plan B reflexes are now honed, five years into self employment. I sent out some emails and contacted some people with the right connections. I put myself out there. I know this all sounds vague, but that’s because it’s all the muck of publishing and self promotion and nothing is official yet. Hell, nothing is even unofficial yet. But wheels are turning. Perhaps that bad news was what I needed to jump-start some other projects. That is the way I am going to look at it. If you want to live like this Optimism is the only drug that gets you through times like these.

After chores were done and the farm settled in for the night, I grabbed a green box from the chest in the living room. I called Gibson and we headed out to visit our good friends, Tara and Tyler, over at their amazing mountain homestead in Vermont. If you aren’t familiar with these two world traveling, green constructing, adventuring, entrepreneurs- get into them. They blog out of Goingslowly.com

Anyway, I was heading there to enjoy their hospitality of a warm house on a hill. Their tiny home has a little wood stove called The Squirrel and Gibson slept on it while we chatted and unpacked the items inside the Green Box. It was comforting to hear their own personal concerns, putting mine in perspective. We bitched about life the way friends do - that venting of anxiety, hopes, the future and reality's harsh truths. We all needed it. And then we got to leave Vermont for a little thanks to the game we were setting up - Betrayal at House on the Hill.

The lights were turned off and just lanterns and candles filled their home. The speaker system was hooked up to scary music and we roleplayed three adventurers - a priest, a fortune teller, and a teenager - exploring a haunted house together.

We got so into it, forgetting all the things that brought us down earlier that day. What a gift. What I love about modern board games like this is how transportive and clever they are. We had so much fun, and to end a week fraught with serious doubts, laughing around dogs and firelight and friends was so needed.

Friends mean so much to me and this farm. The night before I was at Patty and Mark's, watching Firefly on their giant TV feeling like I was in the movies. A few nights earlier my pal Trevor the Carpenter and Miriam, Chris, and Keenan (friends from back when I was more active in Taekwon Do (finances got too tight to keep going, but I really hope to return when things pick up) and we played ticket to Ride and just laughed over beers and stories and competitive railroad tickets. 

I found these people in a small, rural, area and they changed my life and grounded me in a way I feel is rare and lucky. I know a lot of hopeful future farmers out there are nervous about coming to new areas as outsiders, not finding community or a place to belong. But your tribe is out there. Maybe you'll meet as farmers, neighbors, internet gaming buddies, coreligionists, or people you chat up in line at the Agway. But they are out there. I found all of these people by accident, coming into my life through my passions of farming, martial arts, and writing books. I found them being excited about life and their equal verve and joy resounded back.

People attract people into their lives that compliment their natures. We all have different stories and particulars that set us apart, but at the heart this crew of adopted family is one hell of a song. We encourage, support, and care about each other in all our creative endeavor. It's how this farm has made it this far. It's why I am hopeful it'll make it a little longer.


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. It really does help keep the lights on. Gaming photo taken by Tyler Kellen.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

All, Because of the Internet

After morning chores I sat down at my computer to see to some design clients. I had already communicated with two of them before feeding the flock. One is 30 minutes from my front door and the other farming in the UK. The first emailed me from his home before commuting to work, and the second was just considering the notion of a late lunch across the ocean. Both had questions about changes to ongoing logo designs. I addressed them in my dirty Carhartt jeans, makeup-free face, and hair braided and hidden under a knit cap sent from a beloved reader in Pennsylvania. All, because of the internet.

I feel so lucky to be following the homesteading dream at this time in history. We are all lucky! I have an international design and agricultural research station right in my living room. Thanks to the web I am able to make a living from this farm. I can contact publishers about books, magazines about freelance, clients about logos, and customers about lamb, pork, and fleeces. I can talk to blog and book readers, build my readership, and learn more about their stories and farms through social media. I have arranged for chicks to be delivered (ordered online) and just launched an eBook which over 120 people have downloaded from Amazon already to enjoy. Amazing. All of because of the internet.

I’m so very grateful for this double-edged sword. Cold Antler Farm wouldn’t be possible without it. Long before I ever had my first book deal I was writing about my adventures in newbie-homesteading on various blogs. And I sold my first book to Storey after going to their website (from an Idaho farmhouse with dial-up) and reading the requirements for a book proposal. I wrote one up that weekend, had an editor friend at my office proof it, and then mailed it with a designed logo for my book idea on the package. They contacted me about a week later. All, of because of the internet.

As much as us homesteaders like to accept the Luddite ideals and simple living - I can’t say enough good things about the technology I use every day. I like being alive at the privileged and lucky time in history to pick and choose what I want to use, gadget wise. I don't want to use a cell phone, but I have this 7-year-old iMac in my living room and it’s where I can watch movies and TV shows, play games, design logos, and write books. It’s where I sit a few hours a day working. And I love that my twitter is always open to keep up with the news, quips, politics and stories of the people I follow.

Twitter connections have proven to be the most amazing professional leads, in my experience. And because of it I have reached out to people I would never get to talk to without it. The NY Times piece from last month started as a DM on twitter by the writer. I’ve met so many amazing authors there and have been invited out to their homes and events. All, because of the internet.

As much of a pain in the ass as technology can be, it’s worth it to me. To know there are people who care about the farm. To know there are people who know me better than they might know their own cousins? Just because I am able to be honest here about this One Woman Farm? Amazing.

I have made lifelong friendships over this blog. I have championed and shared 6 books. I started out in a rented farmhouse on the other side of this continent, and now I am on my own piece of land I own and am fighting to keep. I don’t know how much time I have left here. Last month was rough and the farm is threatened. But there is still hope. I don’t know if tomorrow I'll sell a book or get a foreclosure notice in the mail. Things are never boring, that's for sure.

I do know that because of this farm I have been able to love every day of my life here, even when scared or anxious. I’ve been able to photograph and document the ups and down of a feral life and even pay off 20% of this little house and land, as a single woman. This farm has given my life meaning, community, and a reason to get up and fight.

Sometimes people tell me that they felt they could also farm or get their own piece of land because they saw me do it. That is the highest compliment I could possibly ever get. To know someone else took a stab at their dream because they cultivated enough courage from this place to see it in themselves? That is more successful to me then keeping an address or a dark horse. And it’s all because of the internet.


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. It really does help keep the lights on.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Stay Positive.

Even when the odds (or chickens) are against you...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Summer Is My Fuel

Good news to share all around from this scrappy farm on the mountain! Birchthorn backers got their books this week and the novel launched on Amazon for download. Over 50 copies sold the first day, and if you were one of those people - thank you! So far the feedback from readers has been wonderful and encouraging. I had no idea how to write a novel and it was the hardest writing I have ever done. I am not sure I am cut out for it, since I wrote and rewrote that small story for over 18 months to puzzle together. A lot of struggle for what takes just a few hours to read. But it seems most people enjoyed it, and that was my highest goal. I have a whole new respect for anyone who tackles fiction. This is why George RR Martin takes decades between books! How is he not insane?!

In other good news: I am just a few sales away from making another mortgage payment this month.  If I can do that before the 28th (bank deadline) the farm is out of hot water going into full blown lambing, kidding, planting and milking! I believe I can pull it off, and that is the only attitude I can have in this situation. My coffee is hot, the sun is shining, and winter is almost behind us. Bodes well for this Reckless Optimist.

Guys, I can not tell you how much I am looking forward to summer. Summer has become my driving force as I try my damnedest to look forward without fear. I think of days waking up to milking and farm chores, then (already dripping sweat) heading to the river to dive into the water as if it is my own private oasis. I bring a book and a fly rod and read and fish and dry off in the sun for an hour. This is my air conditioning. After that, head home by 10AM to sit down to work in front of the screen and take breaks when I need to step outside and scratch Sal's chin or watch the kids use the chicken tractors as trampolines. This is paradise.

My summer days are the perfect mix of sitting down to work on creative projects and feeling that fever-dream energy of endless sunshine. Running 10 miles at a time and training for a marathon. Shooting arrows till my arms burn. Feeling all that summer hibernation weight fall aside and loving the blessed humidity. I will always love humidity. It brings green lush life to this mountain. It brings fireflies. It brings thunderstorms. That amazing sheen of life on a world that had to fight all winter just to keep fires burning... Summer is the pay off.

I am writing you this morning with a smile on my face. The novel is out, and people seem to like it. The farm is at the home stretch of being okay. Winter is almost over. Almost time to run free.


Get Your Copy of Birchthorn Now for $4.99!

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo was taken by Miriam Romais.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Birchthorn Has Arrived!

For those of you who backed the Kickstarter, the eBook has been mailed to you for download! Enjoy! For those who did not and would like to read this historic, paranormal, thriller - the eBook is now available for Kindle download on Amazon for $4.99!

My highest goal for the project was to create an entertaining story including the community of this blog. I hope you are entertained for a few hours!

Monday, March 20, 2017

I Don't Want to Travel


If you want to feel out of place tell your friends you don’t want to travel. The looks you’ll receive in return will run the gamut from shock and disgust to quiet pity. Admitting this is pretty much declaring ignorance and isolationism. It’s tripping down the stairs while crawling back into your doomsday bunker. Good, self-actualized people travel. If they don’t, they want to.

Somehow getting on a plane and going far away became the highest form of purchasable enlightenment. To experience real life is to experience it somewhere else. As a homesteader I chose the opposite. I haven’t left this farm for a single night in over five years, but I think my experiences have been just as life changing as the inkiest passport.  

To love travel is to love the feeling of being uncomfortable in a controlled environment. It’s a very expensive roller coaster ride. You board the plane knowing that some new experiences will slide out of your comfort zone, but they are usually still choices you made. We’ve all seen the Instagram feeds of zip lines, SCUBA trips, long hikes, and drinks on the beach. Whatever the itinerary it’s understood there’s a safe hotel room booked, plenty of cash set aside for meals, and soon they’ll be home again to explain to you how the temperature of beer served in restaurants varies based on region.

I see these pictures and feel nothing. No sense of envy or desire. I always saw travel as something anyone can do with enough money, time, and the will to book a flight. By its nature travel is flirting. There is no commitment to the destination, only pleasure. Guest is a title travelers learn to accept. That word makes me cringe.

If travel is being recreationally uncomfortable in a controlled environment - I chose the opposite. I’ve spent half a decade being cozy in a very volatile environment. I nested hard on a few acres on the side of a mountain. I run a four-season livestock farm alone. 

Imagine taking yourself out of your regular career and sticking yourself on a mountain farm with a flock of sheep. You have lambs to raise, a horse to ride, pigs to butcher, poultry to sell, vegetables to grow,  honey to harvest and your without a spouse, children, or family members. It's just you, baby. You and the network of fellow farmers and friends you managed to cultivate. Now throw in hobbies like falconry, fly fishing, river swimming, archery, home brewing and the fiddle. Welcome to your new vacation! Now don’t leave for 20 seasons and see what kind of person you turned into after all that. Beer temperatures vary based on exhaustion levels.

Both sides sound romantic and unrealistic to most people. Few people can afford the time or money to travel the world or buy Heidi’s Grandfather’s place on the side of a mountain and get rid of their cell phone. The traveler and the homesteader are two sides of the same escape fantasy. Rivendell or the Shire? Do you want to relax around a different culture without responsibility or dig into your own so deep you’re weeding your tomatoes for fun?

I see how people could assume my farm is a cage. Some people bluntly call it that to my face which is a funny thing to hear from people who will get in trouble with another adult if they aren’t sitting in a particular chair on Monday morning.

I don’t want to work a job I tolerate just to afford two weeks of entertained distraction from the previous fifty. If that means choosing this life that feeds me, needs me, and keeps me learning from mistakes and celebrating constant resourcefulness - so be it. My vacations come two hours at a time every day. I can leave my computer to ride my horse up mountain trails outside my front door. I can gear up for a hunt with my hawk. I can choose to take a ten mile run across the landscape I know as well as the sidewalks I strolled to school as a child. I can just nap in a hammock or watch a movie. Not as sexy as a story about band I loved in a Dublin bar, but tangible every day. I chose commitment over flirtation. It suits me.

Travel if you want to. Don't travel if your couch and a Game of Thrones marathon makes you happier. No one is winning if they're chasing someone else's idea of happiness even if they were tricked into thinking it was their own.

The truth is you can't buy enlightenment from a travel agent or garden it from the vegetables in your own backyard. We grow over time. It doesn't matter if you're in an Ashram or Akron - becoming a better person is putting in the work of getting older. For some it's raising babies. For others, it's taking up political causes, art, athletic endeavor or public service. Finding what you want out of life and working to keep it is the trick, without being sold any fantasy as salvation. You can't speed up life lessons by changing your coordinates or refusing to chart them. But you can feel happiness if you learn how to read your own damn compass. Mine points to here.



Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo was taken by Tara Alan.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chicks Ordered

First chick order of the spring was arranged yesterday. Two dozen egg laying hens are coming in the mail from Stromberg’s Hatchery. They will get here closer to the end of next month. I already have plans set for their brooder I’ll arrange here in the farmhouse. The spot is picked out for the wooden box with the heater, close to the pot of snap peas I planted. That little pot already has inch-tall shoots coming up which is a beautiful thing next to the glass doors holding back a foot of snow. Chicks and snap peas, these are harbingers of summer coming in few months. Dust off the banjo and relearn some favorite waltzes and you have a powerful combination of tools to welcome the Solstice. Winter is almost behind me, and I say good riddance. A box of chicks coming in the mail is no different than starting seeds - it is the intention of keeping on. It's choosing to grow.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ides

This would be a wonderful and important time to support this blog and farm, you just can't know. This month is a scary one and if you enjoy what your read here, consider contributing towards the words. If you can't, no fuss. I will always keep this blog free. But I will ask for contributions towards the words, especially when its most needed to keep the place going. If you already have, thank you.

If you do contribute to the blog, please write a note explaining what you would like to read more about this spring? I will take notes into consideration and write about what people mention the most frequently.

https://www.paypal.me/JennaCAF

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

STORM!

What a storm. 20"of snow and the farm is literally plowing through it. I hope you are all safe, your animals are comfortable, and we all remember how glorious July is when it hits us in a few months.

Lots of updates and photos over on twitter!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Logos!

I am offering a sale on logos, $50 off, all this month. The price drop is to help get this farm solvent and safe going into spring. I am happy to answer any questions and send you all the information if you email me. The logos are flat rate, meaning there is no hourly charge at all. You send me the company or farm's name, details on the style you would like, and I begin a sheet of comps. It is all done online, and so your location doesn't matter - it's a way to support this farm from afar and make your own brand look amazing!

Don't need a logo? Consider buying a logo gift certificate. You pay the sale price and I email a gift vouvher they can send me at anytime in the future for a free logo design! A great gift for friends with farms, to use in the future for yourself when you do need a logo, or as a gift to grads for their resumes and personal stationary/websites going into the professional world. Logos can be tee shirt designs for family reunions, an inside joke or quote you want to frame for a friend, the possibilities for custom design work on endless.Thanks for reading and considering!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Training Horns

Sean Connery, this year’s first (and so far only) lamb is doing so well. His tail is almost cropped. His training horns are very dashing. Today he walked with the flock past the fence into the woods a while to gnaw on bushes and see the view from the mountain. He’s growing up sturdy and Brick is such a great mama.

This shepherd still has four ewes (I hope!) to go. Tonight the lows drop to single digits. The hawk is already inside on her perch. All the animals have been given extra bedding and the heated lambing shed on the hillside is ready for any newcomers. I will be staying up till midnight, checking the flock through the night. Snow is possible, not much, but enough. Enough to cover the ground with a half inch on a 5 degree windy night - lamb killing weather. So wish this farm luck as the season marches on like the drunk lion it is.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing and photos are worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Underhand Pitches

It’s International Women’s Day. A day dedicated to celebrating and appreciating the women in our lives and the women that we are. What an odd thing? I'm not being flip. It is genuinely odd that a gender taught to be quiet, nice, and agreeable would be given a pride day and expected to actually celebrate it. I can't think of anything I have been told (over and over again) is more unattractive as a woman than being proud of yourself. 

We’re taught not to boast. If you live a life you are proud of you’re supposed to sit quietly and wait for praise. It doesn't matter if you're the happy mother of two in a small town or the CEO of a Fortune 500; every black-mold infested corner of society wants women to be humble above all else. Pride isn't something you should claim. How dare you take time to share what you have accomplished. That is the message constantly slung at women through underhand pitches our entire lives. We are supposed to wait to swing.  Chances are lobbed at us with a smile, "Go ahead and hit it sweetheart, you earned it" and only then do we endeavor to accept recognition. Only when it is permitted.

Here’s what I have to say about that. Stop waiting and boast.

I'll start:

It all began with a fiddle. I moved cross country alone ten years ago, from my first job after college in east Tennessee for a job in the Rocky Mountains. I missed Appalachia so much that winter I ordered a cheap fiddle on eBay with no idea how to play it. All I knew was I wanted that place back. Mountain music was teleportation I could afford. So I taught myself. It took a few months and patient dogs, but I learned to play. Now that instrument is an old friend, something I can pick up and play anytime - breathing a heartbeats into this quiet farmhouse. I can play songs that are slow and sad or bright enough to dance to. I started teaching hesitant beginners, making the wildness of the fiddle tame and manageable to others. Over a hundred people have come to this farm to learn to play. I am proud of those songs.

I am a homeowner, at least so far. It's always touch and go being self employed—there have been some serious scares—but for the past six years I have managed to pay off 20% of my mortgage and five of those years, I was self employed. That is no small accomplishment. I did this alone. I did this without a spouse, checks from in-laws, government assistance, or borrowing large sums of money from family or friends. Month by month I figured it out. I am proud I bought this farm as a single woman and am keeping it as one.

Outside my front door is a dark horse behind a sagging fence. He was born in northern England. Through luck and circumstance he was sold to me on a 2-year payment plan which I paid off in full a few years back. Merlin is his name. I have learned to ride because of him. I learned to tack him up and fit the human inventions of bridle and saddle to a half-ton of stubborn sentience. I can leave my property on horseback via saddle or cart. I have an animal I trust and care for that saved me from the worst times in my life. This was unimaginable to the 25-year-old girl looking at glossy photos of Fell Ponies in a bookstore coffee-table book a decade ago. I'm proud of the ownership, skills, trail stories and the animal.

There’s a hawk resting here on a perch above me. I learned how to trap, train, and hunt beside her and others in four years of training as an apprentice falconer. It amazes me that the girl too terrified to look people in the eye at the slightest compliment can now take a beast from the sky and train it to fly to her fist. When I look up I don't see wildlife, I see roommates. I'm proud of the time, the training, the hunts, the game in my freezer, and the hawks that touched my life.

I learned archery by joining a local historical society and joining their longbow team. I learned the skills of hickory and yew, sinew and string. I learned the tools, the care, and even landed a part time job teaching archery a few years ago a local resort. Now the longbow is as much a part of my life as the bow of my fiddle. I teach beginners the stance, the aim, the way anyone of any age can learn to meditate and become strong from this ancient weapon. I'm proud of every shot.

I learned to farm. How to raise sheep from lambs, chicken dinners from eggs, honey from hives, clothing from wool, bacon from piglets and salads from seeds. The knowledge of homesteading came loud and slow. I wrote about it for ten years here, TEN YEARS, with equal parts criticism and praise. I don’t believe either side, but inhale the middle deeply. Farming is the love of my life. It gave me the freedom to pursue the passions that give this shorty life meaning. The collage of skills that come with a homestead are too long to list. A few are brewing ciders from this farm's apples, baking fresh bread from scratch, midwifing a goat, or butchering a rabbit. Farming taught be to be human in an ancient way. To live with seasons and time as stalking monsters and perfect gods. I am proud of every single mistake, more so than the accomplishments.

I learned to stand up and fight, both for my intellect and body. A decade of being told how awful you are by strangers online has created a rhino skin against the anonymous. They mean nothing. I also became a martial artist as an adult, dedicating years to learning to protect myself and teaching other students. I have my named recorded across the world in Seoul as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I am more proud of this than my college education.

This is some of my story. I've done other things, too. I've earned a BFA in design, published five books (soon my sixth - my first novel). I ran a half marathon. I own the title on my pickup truck. I paid off 4 credit cards, re-negotiated my student loans, and trained a border collie to herd sheep beside me. But out of all of this, I'm mostly proud that I’m still here. I'm proud of the dozens of people I have met along the way. Every paragraph above is a set of faces, friendships, mentors, and bar stories. I became me along the way.

Okay.

How did reading that make you feel? I guarantee if you are a woman and read this you either felt bad about yourself or bad about me. That what we've been taught. I know because I read all that aloud to myself after writing it with enough self hatred to lubricate Scottsdale. Is this empowerment or self indulgence? Am I scaring people away? What if they realize I was scared the whole time? Do they know this is ten years of fear of regret, not Disney Princess adventures? Am I a hero or a child? Am I living the dream or avoiding responsibility? Etc, forever into anxiety and sleeping pills...

Women reading this, I am asking you to worry less about what people think and be proud of what you have accomplished. Stop apologizing for it. Stop being quiet about it. If it means doing so on a random holiday that grants you permission (exactly what I just did) then let this be our collective invitation. Stop waiting for someone to announce you to a stage that doesn’t exist for an audience that isn’t waiting for you. It’s not happening. You need to write the play, build the stage, invite the audience, hand the announcer you hired the card with your name on it - and then take the applause knowing half the audience hates you for doing it in the first place. Welcome to being a woman in 2017.

It’s time to ignore the chastity belt on your self esteem. It's time to create, to sing, to march, to shout, to live a life not hindered by permission - especially your own. Celebrate your stories and the mess that got you there. Be brave about your mistakes and forgiving of the ones you can't wait to make next. All the best stories start out this way. Stop listening to other peoples'. Write your own and brag like hell about it.

I want to hear it. I need to hear it. Millions of women like me are howling for it. The forced humility we have been taught is bullshit. Be proud of the good work you have done and hold your head high. We're all counting on you.


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo of me and my hawk was taken by Miriam Romais.

Farm Update

Good morning from Mud City! The farm today is mostly water, and while I wait for new lambs I wanted to share this picture Miriam Romais took of Joseph, Sean Connery, and Chase the rooster. This little guy's a bit soggy right now, eating his breakfast in the rain - but otherwise in good shape.

I am still waiting on more lambs. Usually they are a few days apart, but perhaps Brick was bred an entire cycle ahead of the others? It's possible since Monday was off the farm in all of November serving a neighbor's flock (we switch rams to keep the breeding varied). Lambs could be here in ten minutes, ten days, or next month. It's my job to keep a vigilant eye and hope there is luck coming my way with twins or triplets.

In other news the farm has managed one of the payments needed this month and I have a plan in place to make more. For details on classes, illustrations, logos and workshops, etc please defer to social media. And if you have zero desire for a logo, don't want an illustration, or can travel to the farm for a class and wish to simply contribute here as a way to compensate for the writing you enjoy, I have signed up for paypal.me/JennaCAF That link will replace the troublesome (and depending on your browser, invisible!) paypal donation link on the sidebar. It is encouraging to see a dollar thrown into that pot. It shows there is an audience happy to support a blog like this. Not a bad way to shed some light on a muddy day.

More lamb updates on the way as soon as they arrive!

 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lambing Season

I got around three hours of sleep last night, maybe 3.5? I was planning on going to bed around midnight and waking up at 3Am and 6AM (my usual lambing check times) but this weekend the chill is too real - 15° today and that's the HIGH! So when I noticed a string of (what I thought) was a mucus plug coming from a hogget ewe - I knew I could not tuck into sleep. I put on coffee and was outside 6 times that night.I cleaned the house up, did dishes,couldn't rest - from what I have read and heard, being on Lambing is a lot like being on meth.

If you follow me on social media, you saw the madness. I was posting all sorts of stuff to keep my brain entertained. Mostly making lists. It was fun, but man, am I feeling the drag of only a few hours of sleep. Tonight will be tougher. lows below zero, four ewes to go, and a house to keep the pipes thawed, fire roaring, hawk safe, and dogs comfy. I managed to get a lot of work done yesterday, art commissions mailed out, logo clients caught up. Today my to-do list is lighter. I am going to try and get a nap where I can so I am ready for the ring tonight. It's Jenna vs Lambing2017.

Why the all-nighters? Because I don't have a lambing barn. I have two sheds. One is large and holds the whole flock (or a bossy horse), and the other is what you see above. A small shed with a heat lamb and hay and when the next new mama is with lamb she'll go in here with a gate. It's a comfy lambing jug for the new ladies or wee lambs. Could I shove all the females in the large shed and lock it with a gate and heat lamp. Sure. But the point of a smaller lambing shed (jug) is to keep the mom and offspring close and alone together - so no other ewe can try and "adopt" the lamb who isn't producing milk yet and the likelihood of the new mothers abandoning the newborn is less. So having them all in the same bulk container doesn't solve the problem of necessary attachment going askew. And if I filled the larger shed with jugs it would mean no shelter for the other sheep who might need a respite from wind, rain, and cold.

So this is what I do. I check every few hours for the duration of lambing season. It's once a year. It's tough but this is the life I chose. I don't have to worry about raising kids or a spouse or getting to the office on Monday AM. I am here. The mandatory presence is okay.

Sean Connery, the new (and so far only) lamb out of Brick is doing well. He's tough, having spent this new cold world beside his woolly parent and enjoying his breakfast on demand.

I hope you are all staying warm and have good support around your lambing/kidding/whatever you raise. I joked on Facebook with a local farmer that we need to start a Farm-Midwifery-Potluck-and-towel wagon. When one farmer is done with their babies coming into spring they volunteer laundry and meals for another farmer in the fray. I think it is a fine idea. Though to be honest, if you showed up with food here I'd say thank you, put it in the fridge, and be happy that was 30 minutes of napping I gained not cooking. then take that nap and forget to eat anyway. Farming!