Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We're Not From Around Here

This originally was posted years ago, but I am updating it for Jenna 2016. I'm not the same girl who wrote it. But I am the woman who loves that version of me. And much of it remains the same.

We're Not From Around Here

We're not from around here. I know you see us all the time, but trust me, we're from another place. We lived our whole lives right next door to you, but we left some time ago.

We found another place and it suits us just fine.

It's not far or hard to get to. Chances are you pass it all the time when you're driving too fast to work or throwing another frozen dinner in the shopping cart. You can't get to us that way. We aren't there.

We're the ones in the next aisle buying yeast, flour, sugar, and coffee. We buy provisions, not groceries. We learned that food tastes better when you grow it yourself. We started with just a few recipes then learned to chew at a trot and now the idea of Lunchables and drive-thru hamburgers makes us tilt our heads a little. We're not above them, not by a long shot, we just don't have those where we're from. Or maybe we did and forgot about them? I can't remember. It's easy to forget about such things when you hop the fence to go where we went. There isn't a lot of shrink-wrapped circular ham there.

We're from this other place. It's just like yours but the naps are better. We came for a bunch of different reasons but we all set up shop in the same community. It's not a physical location, of course. (It's much better than that.) It's a place in our actions, our decisions, our conversations, our hope. It's a place in our hobbies, our skills, and our secret desire to know what a warm egg feels like in lanolin-wet palms. It doesn't matter where we came from or who we were before. This new place kinda took us all in and showed us how to calm the hell down.

What? You're confused? Oh, well, you probably saw us there and just didn't realize it. Remember when we didn't answer your texts because we were in the garden? Or that time we gave up a weekend in Nashville to make a chicken coop? Or last Saturday when we spent the whole day at that indoor farmer's market talking to the people at the wool booth we'd never met before, but felt like we knew while you kept telling us the movie was starting in thirty minutes... That's where we left to go. Sorry we missed the previews we were talking to our neighbors.

You can spot us pretty easy. Our men aren't afraid of facial hair and our women have been known to grab goats by the horns. Our children go barefoot and so do we. We're the quieter ones, in the corner, feet propped up on a second-hand coffee table in a fourth-hand wool sweater. That's one of us, right over there. See him? The one with the guitar slung over his back, and the black dog following his bike? See him now? He's the one with the saddle bags on the back wheel overflowing with a half bushel of tomatoes. No, he's not a tomatoes fetishist - he's canning today. He'll be eating fresh organic marinara in January pulled off the larder shelf. He'll let the black dog lick his plate when he's done. Yes, I'm sure. He's from where I'm from. We know our own.

See, where we come from people aren't scared of dirt—not even mildly abashed by it. My people will spend an entire August morning with a potato patch. We'll also spend an entire October night in front of a bonfire with home brew and fiddles. My people know how to darn a sock and bake a loaf of bread. They know how to cast on and be cast away. Sure, we'll join you for dinner in a restaurant, but we'll probably opt for pasta. Where we come from food animals know what sunlight feels like and have felt grass under their hooves. We don't eat the animals from your place. We saw what they saw before they died.

We're not from around here, but you'll see us everywhere. We're walking down the streets of Montreal, Chicago, Seattle, and L.A. We're waiting for a Taxi on the Lower East Side. We're mucking out goat pens, chatting at farm stands, jumping on the back of our horses and riding the L Train. We're everywhere and right next to you all the time, but we left that place and now we're gone. None of us are going back.

We thought about it. It passed.

HOOOO! You should see this place. Man, it's so beautiful. I mean a Wednesday afternoon at 3:47 is fall-down-the-stairs stunning. We learned to see this. We watched the fireflies come out on the porch and missed Trivia Night at the bar. Truthfully, we barely go out anymore. It's a side effect of the new place—there's just so much to do and we're scared if we let ourselves get distracted we'll miss the fireflies. We can only take so much tragedy, you see.

And hey, this place we went to—it's yours too. To be perfectly honest we're getting a little tired waiting for you to show up. Yeah, what you heard is true. The work is hard and the hours long, but I promise it's the best quiche you'll ever taste and the coffee is amazing. When you're ready we'll show you how to hop the fence like we did. It starts with a mason jar or a day-old chick in your palm and the road map kinda unfolds from there. Somewhere past the cloth diapers and the raw milk we're hanging out, yes there, over past the used trucks and beat tractors. See the bikes and carts along the barn? Keep going and you'll find us.

We know when you start coming to our place you'll get it. You won't want to leave either. And we'll wait. We've got another saddle in the barn. We planted an extra row of beans. We put aside a few spare jars of tomato sauce and let the hens know there's more breakfasts on the way. We'll make room. There's always a place for you at the table. (And just between you and me, If you want to get on the black dog's good side, let him lick your plate...)

Photo by Miriam Romais

Monday, December 5, 2016

Give Music!

Buy this postcard for $250! It comes with a FREE fiddle, case, rosin, strings, spare strings, and a bow plus 4 hours of one-on-one absolute beginner lessons here at the farm! You can give this postcard (or one like i draw for you) as an XMAS gift to be redeemed any time you want!

In the Spirit!

It is snowy here and I hosted a little Yuletide Gathering this past weekend, so I am in full December Mode people. I have a wreathe on the front door, fir boughs in the house, a Scottish Pine decorated with crows, antlers adorned with twinkle lights, and the Celtic Christmas playlist on shuffle. I dove deep and I am loving it.

Which means I should be thinking about cards, right? If you want to send a card to CAF, do! If you email me your address I'll pick a few at random and send along some cards as well. I'm not handing out my actual address on here but 99% of mail finds me if you just mail it like this, since I think I am the only Woginrich in the entire state.

Jenna Woginrich
Cold Antler Farm
Jackson, NY 12816

More updates soon. Right now I am scrambling with a couple of issues with the house (furnace broke down that heats the hot water, pipe burst, room flooded, toilet isn't flushing, etc) and if I'm not dealing with that I am working on freelance, farming, or hawking that bird that needs to spread her wings.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

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.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Be Your Own Disney Princess


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Almost Dark

It was almost dark. It seems night comes faster here than anywhere else in the world. I live on the east side of a mountain and in winter around 3PM the sun is gone. Well, not “gone” but on the other side of my hill and fires need to be lit. It was closer to 4:45 when I was walking up my road. I had Aya Cash on my left fist with her hood on and a rabbit in my right hand. Well, most of the rabbit. She had swooped down on it and killed it fast around 3:45, but spent an hour eating its entire head and right forearm before she felt full enough to walk home. So if you happened to be driving down my mountain at dusk you would see a woman with a hawk and a decapitated rabbit covered in sweat heading home.

Still, I was proud of her. The rabbit easily weighed more than she did. While she ate I sat down on my hunting bag among the thorns and read some Harry Potter. When a bird takes her first rabbit (this is like you free base jumping out of a Redwood to kill a deer with your bare hands) you don’t rush things. You let her eat until she is full. That meant watching a hawk take apart a jaw and skull piece by piece while reading The Prisoner of Azkaban and thinking about farm chores. When she was nearly full it was almost dark. I picked up her, the rabbit, and carried both home on the overworked Pineo glove and slipped her hood on. There were serious deer hunters all up and down this mountain today and my “big kill” was the cottontail I planned on splitting with a hawk named after an Actress.

I put Aya back in her Mews and brought the rabbit inside to skin and separate. I only wanted to keep the back thighs. The rest was hers. Aya would feast tomorrow on the rest of this rabbit but I wanted to but out and vacuum seal the thighs for the freezer. It didn’t take long and before I knew it I had written with a sharpie on plastic “Rabbit Legs - 11/26/16” and set them among the lamb chops, hams, and chickens in the freezer. It was the first wild game added to the coffer and it came from a wild animal I had trapped, trained, mentored, released, and hunted beside. I felt a pride that could make a sponge drip.

In other new: I think Gibson has a broken toe. There is nothing for it other than rest and pain meds. But I am without the most important member of my livestock management team. The good news is that Friday is here and ready to step up. She doesn’t have his instinct but the sheep have been trained to see border collies as Authority Figures. If I tell her where to run, lay down, and stay she can work temp.

That is all the dispatch I have for tonight. If you read this, do comment. It makes this mountain seem smaller when strangers paying attention say hello. If you don’t want to comment publicly, just email.

Come Learn the Fiddle!

Come learn the fiddle! A 4-hour private class for you and a friend is on sale for $375 - and that INCLUDES a fiddle, case, bow, rosin, spare strings, and more you take home. NO MUSICAL EXPERIENCE OR ABILITY TO READ MUSIC NEEDED You come here to a small farm, spend 4 hours outside among the animals or inside by the wood stove. I have never had a single student leave without knowing their first notes, scale, and song!

Gift Certificates available too! Email me for details!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Snow Day

A storm is passing through. It came early in the morning while I was still asleep and the farm was still dark. I woke up to inches of wet snow covering everything. It was striking, even in gray morning light, to see the color of my world change. I wanted to creep deeper into the covers and dogs, and pulled Friday under the covers with me. She is limp as a drowned rat when she’s tired and the only protest was a sigh. I gave her a hug and felt Gibson’s heavy head over the covers. He wanted in. By this time Friday was realizing morning was here and I knew I had a fire to light, animals to check on, and a farm to tend.

Today was a surprise day off. The fact that it also was a snow day was luck. I had scheduled the day weeks in advance for the second part of a fiddle lesson weekend with Heather. Heather was coming for lessons from Gettysburg, PA and was planning on spending the night in Cambridge but the weather reports were ominous. She ended up heading home early and I used the free time to rest up. I stoked the stove and watching some Gilmore Girls while drinking coffee (apropos) after all the necessary work was done.

In the late afternoon I stuck a chicken in the oven with some onions and potatoes, put some hardwood in the stove, and grabbed my shotgun. I had shells for small game in one pocket and deer in the other. The wind was finally dying down and instead of gusts of white air and ice like I had experienced during chores, things were calmer. I sat out with my gun on a saddle pad in the snow for an hour and a half at dusk. I didn’t expect to see a buck or a bunny, but I was ready for both. It felt amazingly quiet. Occasionally I would hear the distant gunshot from another hunter but mostly the world seemed insulated and personal. The ground showed prints and promises and I did my best but it didn’t take long for my feet to feel numb and my face turn red. As the sun disappeared I headed home. It was nearly dark when I walked inside to my dogs.

If I have one wish for you, it is that you someday get to walk inside a warm house after hours in a cold wood. That you can dry your boots by a fire and inhale the smells of roasting meat and vegetables. It was such a beautiful moment, that. Sometimes I think this whole farm is about the moments I come inside and know comfort, under its rawest terms. Blankets feel softer, food tastes better, drinks hit quicker, life seems simpler.

It was a very nice Sunday. A reminder what I am fighting for.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Snow is in the Forecast!


Friday, November 18, 2016

November Rain

Folks, Thank you for your readership, book purchases, sharing posts and essays and all you do to keep up with this farm. For six years now this little farmhouse in Jackson has been my home. Through thick and thin, it has been the place good food has been grown, community built, books written, and stories shared. And do you want to hear some good news? I'm not going anywhere.

Since 2014 Cold Antler Farm has been touch and go. It still is touch and go, if I'm being honest but the reason I am certain I'm not going anywhere isn't because of some fiscal luck or fancy opportunity that came my way. It's because this morning I realized I have been running scared for two years, and I am still here.  There is comfort in a track record. Every time the wolf has been beating down the door I rallied and figured it out. Sometimes it was luck. Sometimes it was you. Sometimes it was pushing myself in other areas - like running the Half Marathon or facing some demons. But 6 years at this address has made me stronger. I'm a better farmer, writer, and woman than I was before I signed the paperwork to buy this house. And as I write this the lights are still on, projects are being pitched, the fire is burning, and the animals are fed.

I am working hard on logos, future farm sales, illustrations, Birchthorn, and freelance work. I am getting my voice out online through social media, videos, and platforms yet seen. I am aggressively pitching sales of fiddle classes, pork shares, logos, and artwork. This month has been the hardest on record so far. I think with the political climate being what it is, speaking publicly about politics was a dangerous choice. Some people no longer what to own my books or read this blog because of it. Some are upset they purchased logos from me. Not because they are unhappy with the work, but because of my politics or social media.

So this November I ask those who do wish to support CAF, to do so. If you think a logo, fiddle class, or an illustration would make a nice Christmas gift, do let me know? You can email me for details about gift vouchers and available times. If you are strapped for cash and too far away to attend a class please share a favorite blog post or book rec online - that is just as amazingly helpful. If you want to pitch in five bucks for the words and pictures I post here for free, there is a donate button below in this post. And if you just want to send some words of encouragement - Lord knows I could use them right now.

Thank you for reading, even through this particular November. I'm still here.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bucking

Let me tell you a story about friendship. Not just run of the mill friendship, but the kind of dedication that deserves commemorative statues or benefit concerts.  Community is the reason this farm still exists and manages to function. At best, I am the Ringmaster of this Circus. But neighbors, farmers, friends, readers, and customers are the ones taming lions and trapeze swinging.

Yesterday was the established pickup day for Chucky. Chucky is the Boer cross buck I was buying from a neighboring farmer. I use the term "neighbor" loosely since the farm is about 30 minutes away from mine. We worked the deal online and digitally shook through Facebook (that isn't a thing, we just agreed). The farmer who was selling me the buck had just been through surgery and was unable to drive to deliver him. Okay, new problem: how to pick up buck in rut without a large enough crate or trailer to safely transport him? I didn't want this guy riding shotgun. A horny goat that regularly pisses on his own face and beard for some caprine eroticic sex buzz wasn't my idea of an ideal passenger. So I could borrow a large crate, trailer, or hire someone to deliver him. I was figuring out the options when the amazing Patty Wesner said "We'll go pick him up. He can go in the back of the truck!"

What she meant was her truck. Her brand new Toyota Tundra. If my pickup was a fox with mange, she was rolling in an obsidian dire wolf. Sitting in it felt like the cockpit of a space shuttle. It was a modern marvel. It was so pretty and new. It was not the kind of vehicle used to transport animals into scat porn.

But Patty wasn't hearing it. She was fine with using the bed of truck with its equally-fancy cap on it to bring Chucky back to my farm. And so yesterday we got this handsome fellow into the back of her truck and now my girls have a gentleman caller for the next few weeks. To his credit, he was amicable and sweet the entire time we moved him from one farm to the other. This morning he was wagging his tail when I delivered hay for the little herd's breakfast.

So thank you, Patty. Thanks for being the kind of Farm Gal who doesn't balk at using a truck for farm work. And thanks to the that snazzy Tundra for delivering Chuck to his love nest without issue.

\

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cold Rain

Note: Writing this half awake after a very rough couple of days. Zero editing on all this tonight so expect more typos than usual.

Cold rain gets inside you. Like a virus or an incorrectly fitted thong - it’s going in. Unlike snow, wind, or that lovely petrichor-inducing warm rain - cold rain is a soul sucker. You can have a $500 parka on (I don’t) and a state-of-the-art-heated pickup truck (I don’t) and you’ll still get dragged into the bone chill. That was today in a nutshell - cold rain.

I was running on zero sleep. Sleep has been hard to come by for over a week. It didn’t help that it’s nonstop since Monday morning. Yesterday included herding, catching, and wrestling two sheep into the back of pickup truck for a farmer who was buying some stock from me. It involved much falling down in the mud and we were both out of breath. Getting sheep to walk into a stock trailer isn’t hard. With a dog and some grain, it’s effortless. But this guy had a wooden transport box on the back of a Toyota Tundra - and these sheep were not going to leap up into a mutton coffin of their own free will. So as a team we carried them to the truck and loaded them. You know that scene in Jurassic Park where they are holding the door shut as the raptors slam into it? That was us.

I am purchasing a dairy buck from a neighbor and friend who is moving. He and his wife don’t feel safe here anymore with Trump in office so they are selling stock and leaving the country. We met through this farm and have bartered and work together for years. Being transgendered in rural America doesn’t feel welcome, even in a blue state. We didn’t talk about that. Instead we talked sale details, pickup times, etc and while the conversation was quick and the deal struck easily - it was way more draining than holding back sheep who are trying to escape from plywood.

Feeling low, I took Aya Cash up the mountain for a hike and hunt. I hike, she hunts. But today instead of releasing her right away I sat with her. I found a downed tree overlooking a ravine and I just sat with him. This is another way to hunt together. Sit and watch the forest and wait. I don’t have a cell phone. I didn’t bring my iPod. All I had was her and the cool air and some sunshine. I breathed deeply and took a minute to salve up this week’s burns. She enjoyed the wind in her feathers and a fat mouse saw his end. After an hour I called her back with the lure with a chunk of lamb on it. Getting her back on the glove involved a swipe of talons on my right hand but only drew a little blood. I slid the hood over her head and we walked down the mountain home. A small sacrifice for solace.

Last night the moon was so bright the farm glowed as if it was snowing. Maybe it was the moon that kept me up? It’s been a week of sleeping less then 3 hours a night so I doubt it. Instead of feeling exhausted I just lay there anxious. There is so much going on with winter, the election, family, my work, this farm…

Around 3AM my Kindle beeped to let me know an audiobook I had preordered months ago was available. I lay up listening under the moon. Then moonlight faded into gray and rain. Chores were dealt with earlier than usual, at first light. I listened to the author as I carried hog feed and hay bales. I still had that rush of nervous adrenaline from the night worrying and was partially grateful for it. People call anxiety free cocaine for a reason. I was up and working hard.

Since I couldn’t fall back asleep I plowed through ten clients worth of work. I prepped illustrations for mailing. I corresponded with logo clients and sent changes and emails. I tried my best to catch up with people who requested more information. I almost sold a share of pork. It was the usual punching under water that is self employment. That is not a complaint, for the record.

After morning chores and office work I loaded up some roosters for Common Sense Farm. They do poultry butchering on Tuesdays and for $3 a bird you can drop off any chickens alive and pick them up a few hours later weighed and bagged. I took advantage of this, since I don’t have a chicken plucker or scalded, the $9 to have three fat roosters readied for Freezer Camp seemed like an amazing deal. I didn’t want to waste the trip into town so I got laundry ready, too. By 12PM I had tended the farm, completed work on a dozen projects, did two loads of laundry, and was ready to pick up my chickens.

Back to that cold rain. It was now pouring. The gang at Common Sense was outside under a tarped area of trees in the woods. They had crates of chickens, turkeys, and ducks and were efficiently dispatching and preparing the birds for customers. Mine were almost ready, and I was told I could go wait in the seedling greenhouse. Othniel pointed to a small plastic poly tunnel that had a wooden shack attached to it. Out of the shack’s roof was a small smokestack of a wood stove. It looked like heaven.

Heaven was right. I walked into this small, bright, greenhouse and my mood changed so fast I got emotional whiplash. Outside was cold rain, blood, death, exhaustion, and anxiety. Inside was rows of green seedlings and the embrace of a wood stove so big I could crawl inside it. This was such an upper. The plants were so fat and happy; kale and lettuce starts on tables. In the center of the warm greenhouse was a wooden table with a crock pot of cheesy potatoes and some mugs of tea. This was the break room for the workers at the Poultry station. It was dry and around 65 degrees and I sat next to that stove on a cement block and closed my eyes and listened to the rain. It was like sitting with the hawk in the woods. Quiet and alone. But it had the added kick of being a refuge in a harsh few days. I spent a lot of time trying to take it all in. Appreciating the stove and the seedlings, but also the dirty jackets arranged nicely on makeshift hooks in a row. The used clear-doored mini-fridge that held coffee creamer and half-eaten sandwiches - running off one of the many extension cords. It was a club house. I felt safe, warm and suddenly very very tired. I would have slept in the corner happily if I didn’t have more work waiting at home.

Right now things are tiring. As much as I need to curl up into a ball there is still much to do for winter preparations. I will have a whole winter to curl up between farm chores. I can write in chunky sweaters and hock logos under the covers - but today there was more work to do.

My chickens were done. Othniel let me know as he warmed his hands by the stove. Back out into the rain and home.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Pork for 2017!

I currently am raising five pigs for prepurchased shares of pork from co-owners of said pigs. They are doing well and should be ready for pickup mid winter. But I am getting ready to plan ahead for spring. If you would like to purchase a quarter, half, or whole pig to be raised in 2017 on this farm - contact me now! My prices are very reasonable, possibly the lowest for farm-raised pork and INCLUDE the professional traveling butcher, smoking, and packaging of meats. References available. Four years of customers. Let me grow you good meat! If you are interested email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com

Your consideration is appreciated!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I Am Living Your Dream Life

This morning I walked outside to the crisp, autumnal, flow of an upstate New York morning. I tended to my small farm, a farm I bought. This is my land, and I walked outside my little white house like a proper Hobbit about to start on her adventure. I was adorned in a red plaid flannel and hand-knit hat. A hat knitted from my very own sheep! I grabbed hay from the red barn and fed it to those woolly beasts and my handsome horse. The same horse I could slide a halter on, tack up, and ride up a mountainside with a hawk on my fist and coffee in my thermos. (That is a real Saturday morning possibility here.) Instead, I fed the dairy goats and the chickens. I tended to the pigs and refilled the water tub their noses had turned cafe mocha I inhaled the air deeply. It was a swirl of wood smoke and ice-tipped grass. I smiled at the ten-thousand choices that lead to that hard-won attar. Then came inside and cooked a breakfast of bacon and eggs I knew by first names. Food grown right here fortifying me for a day of stacking and splitting firewood, mending fences, and sharing my story. What a dream. What a magical, lucky, life I live.

This is all horse shit. You know that, right?

The most common thing I hear from people who discover my book and blog is that I am living their “dream life” or they are living vicariously though me. I am flattered and understand the sentiment, but that is never easy to hear. It gives me far too much credit. It assumes my life is heroic and not compulsive.  Words like dream life and the mantle of your vicarious astral projection is a fucking terrifying responsibility. Mostly because what sounds like a fantasy in print, isn’t. It isn’t magical or lucky. It’s the combination of white privilege, stubbornness, naiveté, and the accumulation of ten-thousand selfish decisions that put my lifestyle above any other alternative realities. Everything in the above paragraph is true — that all happened just a few hours ago — but it is not the whole truth. The whole truth would read like this:

This morning I woke up alone. The house was cold since the fire went out around 2AM and I had slept until 7:07. The first emotion I felt was guilt for sleeping in. I walked outside to the crisp, autumnal, flow of an upstate New York morning. I tended to my small farm. The same farm that keeps me up most nights scared I will not manage to keep it. This is my land, for now, and I walked outside of my little white house like a proper mess. I was in the same red plaid shirt I had been wearing all week. A hand-knit hat covered my greasy, unwashed, hair. I grabbed hay from the red barn and looked up at blue sky though the holes in the slate roof. I paused and worried it wouldn’t make it through another winter. I fed the hay to those woolly beasts knowing that two of them are sold, four of them were slaughtered, and the rest need enough feed stored to make it through winter. Oh look, my very own horse is standing next to them. I need to call the farrier because he is due for a trim and is standing in the soft mud that makes hooves chip. I sigh and let out a weak smile. He’s the same horse that turned half my readership on me because he was seen as idiotic to buy after just quitting my corporate job. The same horse so few people know saved my life, a story too hard to admit. Sure, I could slide a halter on him, tack up, and ride up a mountainside with a hawk on my fist and coffee in my thermos, but that idea seems so overwhelming right now I wouldn’t believe it if I saw it in a movie. What I really want to do is crawl back into bed as soon as the animals are fed and watch a marathon of Orange is the New Black under the covers. (That is a real Saturday morning possibility here.) Instead, I fed the dairy goats and the chickens. I tended to the pigs and refilled their water tub their noses had turned filthy. I inhaled that air deeply, because I don’t want that feeling of sleeping-in guilt to pile on with an anxiety attack. I count 4 deep breathes and smelled wood smoke and ice-tipped grass. Ice? Smoke?! Shit, winter is almost here and I don’t have all the hay and firewood I need. My eyes go wide. Breathe, woman, BREATHE. I force a smile at the ten-thousand choices that let me huff my drug of choice - resourcefulness. Then go inside and cook a breakfast of bacon and eggs. I feel guilty for eating too much in one sitting. But at least I’ll work it off because I have a day of physical labor paired with design work. I will not have the binge session on Netflix. I might be selfish but I’m not stupid. I have too many clients to catch up on. Maybe I’ll catch a lucky break. Maybe by 3pm I’ll have a bill paid or book a fiddle lesson? I better get to promoting more. Are Facebook ads worth it? If I need to listen to another person on Facebook tell me they are no longer reading my blog or buying my books because I voted for Hillary I am going to snap. Where is the hand cart for moving firewood? Does it still have air in all the tires….

Listen, there are plenty of times I fall into the romance of my own story. I am proud of it. When things are on the upswing I do feel like that first paragraph. A little fiscal security and a new book deal or magazine article and I am residing on cloud nine. If I write something like that it is because that is what I am feeling.

But you know what? I am even more proud of that second paragraph because even with the starker reality; it’s still what I want. I might wake up alone, guilty, and cold in a place I struggle to keep - but there isn’t anyone else or anywhere else I’d rather be. My life is messy and anxious, but all that mess was my choice. I own it and wear it and it fits me perfectly. Every morning I wake up with the real fight to keep this dream, our dream, alive. All I want is to get better at it and feel more comfortable in my own skin. That's my dream life.

That wasn’t a joke up there, my biggest thrill really is discovering my own resourcefulness. This spring will mark five years of working on this farm full time. FIVE YEARS! I have driven past storefronts that have open and closed in that time. I have seen neighbors foreclosed on. I've seen constant evidence that the struggle is pointless and I should give up. But I am still here. And without depending on anyone but my own wits. Of course, I make a living from book sales,  blog ads, graphic design, farm goods, and such - but that is how I make my money. I don’t get any government assistance or tax break. There isn't some trust fund or 401k to fall back on. It's just me and my big mistakes and little victories. I am still open for business.

I am lucky about some things. I am not up to my ears in college debt or maxed out credit cards. And even at my most stressful of times I would rather be shaking alone here than in some heated loft with a person I wasn’t in love with. Maintained comfort scares the shit out of me. Pass me the slate tiles, please. I’ll figure out the roof or buy a blue tarp. I am not quitting today.

Maybe someday I’ll become the woman in the first paragraph for longer stretches of time. Maybe I won't. I don’t know. All I am certain of is that working for this life is what gives me purpose. If I am honest about my story, I don’t see how I can fail as long as people will still listen. My success has very little to do with how many readers I have and with who those readers are. If I can cultivate a community that believes this is possible - that encouragement is priceless. I feel you expect me to be honest and would rather cringe at my blunders than get day after day of paragraph one. Writers like that can give you diabetes. My words might be harder to swallow but even a bad meal tastes better than horse shit.

If you're also on a farm "living the dream" or doing anything that others assume is lovely and perfect - I am sure you can relate. No one's life is perfect. Some of us are just better at faking it. If my life was perfect I might go insane from how boring that would turn out to be. I like my flawed, scrappy, life because it's my honest life. I like waking up with the hope that possibilities are swirling and love could be just around the corner. I like treading water and feeling restless. It's real. It's mine. It's now.

Now go out there and forgive yourself for being a goddamn mess and work on making your dream happen. The decisions you make today can lead you to some wild places. Just don't forget it's a fight as often as it is a dance, and if you can be just as happy punching as you are waltzing you may have this life thing figured out.

Anyway, I am working on it.
Thank you for being a part of it.



Friday, November 11, 2016

Hay Pickup

I picked up a truck load of hay with Friday. The sun as bright and the sky was blue. When all was loaded I went into the farmhouse and had coffee with Mark and Patty. We talked about the election. We talked about You're the Worst. We just talked as friends over coffee. It was a nice change for me having spent most of the time since the election running, doing push ups, or sit ups. I just wanted to be exhausted and feel strong at the same time. If that makes sense.

I love my friends, my dogs, my farm. My goals over the next few months are highly personal, but the import of them seems even moreso now. I have a lot to get off my chest and I'm really lucky that I found writing as my way to feel less alone in a very turbulent world. Expect to hear about most of that here. Expect the next two years to be a wild ride if you keep following my story. 

In related news, I found a buck for my does. He's a nubian cross and ready for pickup soon as I gather the funds to purchase him. Sadly, he is being sold to me by a local friend who happens to be Transgendered. He and his wife are leaving the country. They don't feel safe anymore. We were talking this morning and it was heartbreaking. You know what he was most upset about? It wasn't the hate or the fear he's experienced - it was the apathy. The fact that so many people didn't vote, don't care, and won't be bothered to consider how that affects people outside their own social bubble.

Sun bright. Blue sky. We're not alone. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

4:47AM

4:47AM and I lie awake. The two dogs next to me are deep asleep. Their limbs akimbo, their breathing steady. They are the picture of ease and I am overwhelmed. Everything has gone into safe mode. I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel tired, or hungry, or drunk, or scared. I don’t feel guilty, or privileged, or victimized, or sad. Right now there is only shock and I am as electrified as I am numb. My mind is reeling inside a coma patient. The election results have swallowed everything, like distance.

That’s phrase comes into my head and I grab my beaten copy of Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I am well aware how horrifically pretentious that sounds, but it’s the only book of poetry I ever bought. It is ten years old, chewed on by dogs, thrown in countless moving boxes across America, and somehow made it to this nightstand in upstate New York. I pick it up.

It feels familiar and dishonest in my hands. I bought it to impress a guy right after college. A guy in the “real world” of desk jobs and 401k plans. I don’t think I wanted him as much as I wanted to intellectually excite him. I never read any of the love poems, anyway. I’ve always been more of the Despair Type. Love is private and vulgar. By its nature it is special because it is exclusionary; a reliquary for lucky assholes. But despair is something all of us can get behind. It’s for the masses. Come and get it.

You swallowed everything, like distance.

I reread that line for the jillionth time. It’s probably my favorite thing a human has ever written. Whatever that says about me, I’ll own it, but in bed I read The Song of Despair as if it was about America. About the country I thought we were. I read it as if the relationship was the election, as if the excitement and flirtation was the hope.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force

Hope and Force I knew intimately. I quit the 401k Desk Job Life four years ago to run this farm. I did it on impulse, thinking that was romantic or heroic. I should have planned better. You need money to run a farm and keep a house from falling apart. A lot of money and the most money I ever had to my name couldn’t buy me a gently pre-owned Volkswagen. But I’m still here. I figured out how to scrap up a living from raising livestock, freelance design, fiddle lessons, and the occasional book deal. The farm’s lights haven’t been shut off yet nor has it ever been foreclosed. (There have been threats of both.) I’m always broke. I’m never bored. I am usually happy.

I created this life as a single woman. I built this blog and community over a decade as a single woman. I published all my books as a single woman. I bought my house and my vehicles as a single woman. I learned to hunt, cook, and grow vegetables as a single woman. I earned my black belt as a single woman. I learned to shoot a bow, become a goddamn falconer, and ride a draft horse as a single woman. Yes, there was community, friends, teachers and neighbors - but I became the woman I am today without spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or family. And I was certain yesterday morning I was voting for the first female president of the United States as a single woman. God forbid I’m proud about any of that. I am constantly told how selfish I am for doing any of this while not being someone's wife or mother. Accomplishments you don't share are unbecoming.

the hard cold hour in which the night fastens to all the timetables

My friends left around midnight. There was no point in staying up and we had reverted to our phones and tablets. This was supposed to be a celebration. They arrived with bottles of wine and bourbon and we hugged and whooped up at the stars, but as the numbers came in our diaphragms disintegrated. Our hearts and lungs sank into dread and the weight of that turned our party into a wake. You don’t want to raise a glass when it’s still your ceiling. The numbness came on when I saw them drive away down the road towards their home just over the state line in Vermont. The consolation our states were blue, wasn’t.

Sadness stunned you

There is just the rising chest of a border collie and the rain I can hear falling outside the open window. Occasionally I hear gunshots. I assume they are celebratory and I try to imagine what they are celebrating? My whole life felt like it was proof positive women could accomplish anything these days. That even the most unreasonable dream can be grasped if you’re stubborn and dedicated enough to claw uphill for it. I am an idiot 90% of the time and I managed this fantasy. Surely someone as smart and qualified as Mrs. Clinton could handle the tweets of a sloppy Hotelier.

But she didn’t. Not because she couldn't, but because she wasn't allowed. And I don’t feel proud, or scrappy, or capable anymore. Not on this unimaginable morning. I feel like someone turned the houselights on in the play I was in the middle of acting. And in the audience all I can see are so many angry people that do not want me on stage. How dare I even stand up there. Who do I think I am? 

It is 4:54AM. Even sleep feels selfish now.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Six Weeks for One Second

I had no idea where Aya Cash was. Not really. When you let go of your bird to hunt the only remaining tether is your relationship. You hope it's enough.

The last place I saw her was only a couple dozen yards away but the woods were thick and the trail wound in steep slopes. I was walking on the clumsy human part, the ground. She was up in the air. I whistled her four notes which I stole from a childhood movie; Iron Will. In that dog sledding movie four notes got the team motivated and ready to go. I whistle that to Aya and wait.

I heard bells.

They are bright and sound like silver. I turn around and she is coming at me. I put up my glove hoping she'll land on that instead of my hat (sometimes she lands on my hat) but as soon as she sees there isn't any lamb in it she Top Guns some insane maneuver at the last minute and lands in a naked birch branch above my head. She lands and her new jesses look too new, like a kid wearing jeans the first day of school. She shakes her tail and looks down at me. Her look is easy to read. "So you going to put up some grub or what? I am waiting..."

I find a thick branch about the length of my body (all 5'2" of it) and start hitting the brush below her. Now she is watching intently, seeing things I can't even imagine. If a rabbit is within 100 yards she will know. Then I hear the explosion of wings and cloven air and silver brightness. She is in the bush and her wings are all akimbo and awkward. She looks like a preteen trying out for water polo = but he hawk version in a bush. For a second I think something amazing has happened, like she caught a black squirrel or grouse. She pops up her head and regains some semblance of balance and in her feet is a fat white-footed deer mouse. A mouse. What noble quarry. I whoop like she took down a ten-pointer.

We just started hunting together. I am thrilled with anything she eats that she associates with hunting alongside a person. We can work up to larger quarry. The red tail was caught on September 22nd. We spent two weeks learning each other entirely indoors. Then she learned to fly to me in open spaces on a long leash called a creance. Two weeks ago she started flying free. Now we were in hunting-partnership mode. She ate the mouse in a gulp and I put up my fist and called her. She flew to me.

Six weeks of work and it all comes down to that second a hawk makes a decision. Six weeks of weighting, training, time, measuring, fields, leashes, talon scars.... six weeks of my life for on second. My heart swells and pushes against my ribs. I feel it hurt, not sure if it is happy anxiety or relief. We are doing this, two species connecting impossibly.

She landed on my fist. I wrapped the jesses around my fingers. I feed her some lamb from my pocket and I can see the crop she is starting to gather. I smile. I slide on her hood and we walk down the mountain home.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Homemade Pierogi Recipe!

Yesterday was Samhain, a holy day on this farm I have celebrated with friends since college. The main event is a silent meal called Dumb Supper. Friends come and sit around a table only lit by candles and oil lamps. Music is playing, but always something meditative and calming. (Here that means songs like Iron and Wine's Dead Man's Will or the like.) Everyone brings their own meal, but it isn't potluck style. The meal is made in memory of a specific person - so it's their famous dish or favorite food. Sometimes it is elaborate, sometimes it is simple. I have had guests bring nothing but an orange soda or a bag of oyster crackers. The point is less of the food and more of the story, because after the candlelit meal is eaten in total silence, everyone willing shares what they brought and why. Memories of the dead are brought back to life through the culture of food. It's a beautiful way to keep them alive.

I decided to tackle the pierogi, a food my Slovak grandmother and her parents before her grew up eating. I also grew up around a lot of Ukrainians, Polish, and Germans and everyone seemed to know some version of this perfect treat. The filling is what always changed. I always had them with a basic mashed-potato filling. They were usually boiled and served with brown butter. Growing up this was one of my favorite foods and I associate it with home above all other dishes. It was so popular that during our town's annual festival local churches sold them frozen by the dozen so people who didn't want to make them from scratch could have them for big holidays ahead.

How to make Homemade Pierogi. 
The pierogi is an Eastern European potato dumpling. You can boil them or fry them (I suggest both actually). This is an adaptation of a recipe I found online and failed at because I am horrible at following directions. Today I retried it and nailed it using my gut, tasting everything as I went, and adding more egg, butter and oil. The recipe is two parts: filling and dough.

 Dough 
8oz container of Sour Cream
2 tablespoons of butter (melted)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons veggie oil.
3 eggs
4 cups of white flour
salt and pepper

Filling
5-6 medium sized potatoes
1 stick of butter
salt and pepper
optional: diced onions or cheese

Make the Filling First
For the filling just make some basic mashed potatoes. I skinned, diced, and boiled 5/6 medium sized white potatoes. I strained them when soft, mashed them up, added a whole stick of butter and salt and pepper to them. Taste the mashed potatoes when you make them. It is okay if it feels too rich, it is meant to be a filling inside dough in small tablespoons at a time. If you're crazy add some diced onions or cheese to this. I don't suggest adding meat. This is a killer vegetarian dish (not vegan), and hearty enough to satisfy a carnivore like me. Stick this in the fridge to cool down while you make the dough.

Dough
Take the sour cream, the melted butter, veggie oil, and 3 eggs and whip them together in a bowl and set them aside. In another, larger bowl take the 4 cups of flour, about 2 teaspoons of salt, and the baking powder and mix them together. Add the whipped wet stuff to the dry flour bowl.  Mix by hand until you have playdoh-textured dough. Set is aside for 15 minutes to think about its life choices. Pour yourself a drink and forget about yours.

Making the Dumplings
Now all you need to do is get some of that dough in your hands. You need to roll it flat - and while you can take it all and use a whole table making a sheet of dough ready to cut into circles to make the dumplings - I suggest taking a ping-pong sized handful of dough and rolling it flat one at a time. Take those little circles and place a spoonful of your mashed filling inside. Fold them over like tiny calzones and pinch them shut. I use a fork to decorate and seal the edges as well. This is an important step to make sure they don't open up later.

Put a lightly-salted pot of water on the stove and get it boiling. Drop in just one or two dumplings at a time. Let them boil just until they float to the top. I am talking like 2 minutes. If you let them soak like a murdered lobster they become slime balls. Take out with a slotted spoon. Set aside boiled dumplings. They can cool for a little and dry off.

Get out a frying pan and put some veggie oil in it. Turn up the heat and get the oil hot and poppin' and GENTLY add the (now cooled and dryish) dumplings and fry till lightly browned. Set aside, once cooled you can freeze them for easy fast-food later this winter or eat them all like a possessed werewolf like I do.

If you are ready to eat, set on plate, salt as desired.  Want to do it right? Pour browned butter over them serve with fried onions! Your life is now changed forever. You are welcome.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Farm Dogs - Book Review

When the book Farm Dogs came in the mail, I should admit it was not what I was expecting. If you are like me, and you spend a large chunk of your bookstore-browsing time in the farm and garden sections of shops - books with titles like this are common. What the usually are is coffee-table fodder. Beautiful and transportive, but lacking real information. Usually glossy spreads of posing border collies looking at a Wyoming Sunset from the bed of an old Ford, but rarely helpful in the task of actually choosing a working dog. Not this book. Farm Dogs: A Comprehensive Breed Guide to 93 Guardians, Herders, Terriers, and Other Canine Working Partners by Jan Dohner is exactly what the canine curious needs if looking for a true farm dog.

I started with the Border Collie section, since they are the dogs I know best. Jan was spot on without reiterating the same five things anyone can tell you about this herding breed. She went into things like startle reflexes, behavior around cats, and fear reactions. She makes suggestions throughout the herding section for other breeds if you “think” you’re the fit for these dogs but what you really need is something more like an English Shepherd (all around small farm working dog as opposed to sheep herder). Which isn't to say Border Collies aren't for you (Lord knows they weren't always for me) - she just knows what your farm needs in the k9 department. It is a fantastic resource.

She knows 93 breeds, and knows them well. Covering rare finds and up-and-comers in the working dog world. This book is not for your coffee table - it is for your reference library. If you already have a working dog this will only help you understand him and his kin better. And if you are an informed future-owner - you couldn’t make a better investment. A great guide that is easy to read and worth its weight in premium kibble.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hope to Kill

She isn’t watching me and I’m glad. When she’s flying free I don’t want to exist. I want there only to be sound and hunger, motion and light. A falconer's job is to become a ghost at this point in the game. At other times she needs me to be a dog - flushing rabbits or causing a racket. Right now my job is to be still and quiet. I am not corporeal until she asks.

She’s high above me in a treetop, perhaps forty feet? I can see her head bob and swivel. She is looking at the same naked trees and overgrown fields as I am. They are scattered with squirrel nests and rabbit warrens. There is no game about either of us can see so I decide to start walking away. I want to see if she’ll follow me of her own free will. I make it about fifty yards when I whistle her two notes. It’s a slide from a low note to a higher one, the same song she’s heard every time I have called her to food. I hear the bells of her anklet turn towards me. They are tiny, silver, bells that jingle like something from Yuletide prop closet and even half a football field away she is clear and bright. The sound reminds me of what a really, really, nice acoustic guitar sounds like when a D chord is played. She swoops through the trees and lands right above me, looking down expectantly. I did whistle, didn’t I? I smile and reach into my game bag for a small piece of lamb. She takes him greedily. Lamb will do just fine.

The lamb’s name was Elijah. Sounds vaguely biblical but this year’s lambs were all named after Characters from the show Girls. I can’t help but think that both Elijah and Aya Cash were born here in a cold, New York, spring. Aya was in a nest with siblings, the bets of her reaching her first birthday were around 1 in 7. She is chance and wildness. Elijah however, he was planned and domesticated. I raised his father from a lamb, bred him to a purchased ewe, banded his tail, fed him supplements, gave him shots and watched him grow. He was raised in the safest and most-pastoral of circumstances, yet here he is. Part of his shank is on my leather-clad fingertips hours away from being hawk poop. Aya is gulping him down happily. If it seems vulgar or sad - feeding an animal you knew to another animal you know - it’s not. That's just farming. Sometimes it’s a hawk. Usually it’s a person. This time it's a domesticated animal I knew named after a fictional character on HBO to a hawk named after an actual human being in California. Apologies to everyone.

Aya Cash is feeling good. I think I found her flying weight, around 975 grams. She is eager to hunt and eager to return to me - she doesn’t give a fuck as long as food is the end game. Aya doesn't care about HBO, lambs, farmers or actors. She cares about the sound of those two notes coming from the one other animal she trusts.

We hunt, fly, and hike for another two hours. I am so close to the farm I can see the white specks of my sheep running down my hill from a mountaintop away. I need to be a living perch and carry her on my left arm all the way home. If you want to know what that is like, hold out your left fist with a cup of water balanced on it and see how long you can hold it still and even. I hiked 90 minutes with that coming and going. Your body changes to the stories you tell it.

I call her back to me a last time this day. I slip on her hood and she is instantly calm. We are heading home soon, and she'll sit on the perch in the living room while I fuss over human things like dinner, farm chores, dog feeding and emails.  No kills for Aya today. Yet it's a privilege to see her make decisions, and to be a part of them. I like it. Makes me feel part of something old and feral.

I have never sat in on a writer's room for a TV show or shifted through a comedians notes - but it is all the same to me. Pop culture and agriculture and hunting culture are just people hoping for stories. You dare to throw something out there - all of it circumstance and luck. You hope you kill. And if you do, you really fucking hope you get to do it again if you are lucky.

We're all doing the same thing.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cold Nights A Coming

Winter is on the way. The farm is slowly preparing and I am hosting a sale on every skill I have to help keep this farm farming. It's a literal FIRE(wood) SALE. This is what I have to offer you readers if you are interested in supporting the farm. Come learn the fiddle, or buy a lesson and instrument for someone else. Get a customized pet portrait, a logo, or a voucher to gift one to a friend. And if you have a small business - consider the logo/ad combination.

I appreciate your consideration. Come learn an instrument. Come scratch Gibson on the head and tell him he's handsome. Come feed Merlin a carrot and play your first scale on the fiddle. And if you are too far away for a class - consider giving the gift of custom design or artwork. 100% of sales go towards preparing this homestead for winter. 

For prices and details, please email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com

LOGOS
I am running a sale on logos prepurchased for 2017 - meaning you buy a logo now at half price and start the design after January 1 2017. The sale is literally a fire sale - to get firewood and the chimney cleaned before October. You can also buy this as a GIFT and get a printable PDF voucher emailed

FIDDLE LESSONS AND FIDDLE
If you want to learn the fiddle here at the farm, this fall is the time to do it! I provide half and full day classes and it COMES WITH YOUR OWN FIDDLE. And you can come, bring your spouse/kid/dog - enjoy Autumn in NY! Special rates now for coming as a duo. You can each get a fiddle or share one for the lesson. This is a great way to learn a new instrument in a casual and fun way and leave with your own violin and the ability to play it. I have never had a single person not leave playing their first song! You can also give the 1/2 day class, violin, and lessons here as a package as a gift!

LOGO/AD DEAL
Do you have a small business you would like to promote on Cold Antler Farm (the blog?) The blog reaches a large audience in the niche world of homesteading and creativity. Ads for readers are a fraction of the cost of larger businesses. And I am willing to offer a LOGO DESIGN and design the ad if you purchase space before the weekend!  

ILLUSTRATIONS
Want a picture of your dog turned into an illustration? I offer sketches of pets (with free shipping) on 9x12" bristol art cardstock. Also offer inking and coloring with watercolor! Message me for details!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Stubborn Love

I have a soft-spot in my heart for ornery, stubborn, beings. I fell in love with Merlin when I realized he was just as difficult to get close to as I was. Learning to ride him was learning him. There are horses far more amicable and bidding out there, and I understand the argument that this makes them better stock. But I will always smile when I think of the second time I tried to ride him on my own and he wouldn't leave the driveway - having figured out that the last time he did that we were gone for an hour up a mountain. I know his bucks and hops, his ears and snorts, his eyes and hooves. I know that wonderful mess as well as I know me. I love him more because of those faults.

Which is how I also feel about my truck. Right now it won't run, and judging by the weather report it probably won't run again until Monday. How do I know? Because it's damp out and she's been sitting in that damp for 24-hours in the driveway without being started. One of this horse's crow hops is her need to be ran at least twice a day when it rains or snows - because if not the wiring that causes the engine to turn over doesn't - it has expanded with moisture and the sparks just aren't happening. And yesterday I got so wrapped up in writing and photos and work that I didn't remember to turn to stir the pot. IT won't be sunny and warm again until Monday. Unless I want to pay several hundred dollars for a tow and repair - that's just how it' going to be.

I don't mind these minor inconveniences. I don't mind living beside stubborn things. I kind like it, at least at this point in my life. As much as I wish the truck would run I don't need it to run for 48-hours. There is plenty of hay, feed, and stuff to do. I have a horse to ride, hawk to fly, fences to repair, a house to pretend I know how to clean, etc. I'm not worried. But I did have to turn down an invite out with friends tonight, and I can't meet people over the weekend who aren't willing to travel here. Which is okay since I am hosting dinner for Samhain, as traditionally I have the whole time I lived here. Perhaps being grounded a few days before the Holiday is best. A good time to reflect.

I could argue that some more I guess, but I'd just be being stubborn.

Amazing. Watch This.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

First Snowfall of the Season


The Trick

The first morning walk outside isn't about chores. It's about the farm as a whole. I don't worry about carrying feed or refilling water, not yet. The first trip around the farm is to greet the day and see what's up out there. It's for the dogs stretch their long legs and for me to gather information. What is the weather like? What will it be like in five hours? Who is begging for their breakfast and who is silently chewing their cud on the hill? I count heads and watch bodies - is anyone showing any signs of lameness or injury? Is anyone acting weird? I notice levels of water or discarded hay not consumed the night before. Was it because that specific cut from that specific person's barn was too yellow when the lawns are still green? Did the horse eat what the sheep would not? How area those goats doing? Are they showing signs of being in heat? I walk and consider these things. I have learned this is 90% of farming - paying attention and applying that data.

I used to just head outside armored with wool and coffee. I'd jump right into work, just checking chores off the list as if they were math problems to complete and not living systems. Which meant I might be busy feeding sheep hay and water and not even get to the goat with a sore foot until 30 minutes later. Clearly the goat needed attention before he sheep needed hay.

I learned over the years that working smarter means a perimeter check of sorts. It means seeing who needs what, when, and in order of import. So when I do get outside to the actual chores (usually a cup of coffee and some emails later) I know exactly what to do. Time isn't wasted and priorities are in order - I know who needs water first, who needs grain first and what kinds. For another example: my pigs are sick of pumpkins and so are the sheep. What was gnawed on as a happy treat is now being used more as soccer balls. Only the chickens seem to peck at them now, and even they seem a little lackluster in their efforts. Oh well, to everything there is a season. Even the spice of pumpkins.

Snow is in the forecast for today. I am not sure how much or if it'll turn to rain in 30 minutes, but some. The good news is the temperatures are rising a bit later this week and that means I will have more opportunities to stack wood and make room for some more if I can get it ordered. Last night I heard a horrific crash and the wood I had stacked under the awning of the side porch all collapsed. It was frustrating because it basically means an hour of tomorrow has been stolen. Oh well, no sense in getting upset - just stacking better and (more importanyly) removing from that stack better so as to not weaken the integrity of the structure. Don't play Jenga with firewood, kids.

I also need to order more hay, get that in the barn... This is what farming on any level is - whether you have 3 sheep and a flock of chickens or a hundred head of Jersey heifers — it's about keeping a ledger in your head about everyone's status. You care most about the present, followed by the future. You can't focus on the past save to learn from your mistakes and fail better next time. On this cold morning of anticipated snow and warm wood stoves - I am focused on the present and excited for the future. That's the trick. If you're living this life and it isn't exciting you - if you don't wake up every day with a little buzz to make things better - why are you doing it?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ready for Snow?

It was snowing when I carried my second armload of wood into the house. Flurries, but snowing. Tonight the farm will get into the low twenties - coldest night of this Fall - and I might spend my first night downstairs by the fire instead of up in my bedroom. That is what I was thinking about as I headed back outside for more firewood, shutting the Second Door behind me. The Second Door is what I call the new door Patty installed that keeps the downstairs toasty and the upstairs divorced of the wood stove heat. It is amazing what a difference it is making here. You walk into the house and it doesn't seem so different than outside (maybe dirtier in my mudroom entrance?) and when you open the Second Door a fall of good smells, warm air, and firelight greets you.I am proud of the level of coziness this small home offers. In a short while the light will only be from the flickering computer screen, fire, candles and jackolantern. It's like moving aside all the big coats in the wardrobe and then BOOM Narnia is waiting just on the other side. Only in this version of Narnia most of the animals are taxidermed. Sorry Mr. Tumnus.

I hope to raise the temperature into the mid-sixties (wasn't home for a few hours, so the temperature inside was 59 when I got home) before I call it a night. My need for creature comforts is such a low bar these days. I like to spend my luxury preference points in other ways. I learned a long time ago when it comes to household temperatures it's a strength to not have a preference to be warm or cold - just adapt. Put on a sweater or jump in the river. Work outside or run so far you are just grateful to not be moving anymore - puts me to sleep like a baby. If that sounds badass, it isn't. It's just learned behaviors picked up six years into this little piece of land.

So am I ready for snow? No. Not really. I wish I was but there is still more firewood and hay to collect. I am still looking for a dairy buck for my goats, too. That said - tonight there is a warm fire, full human and canine stomachs, and enough hay and feed that no animal here is going to bed having to prefer not to be comfortable. The goats and pigs got extra straw to snuggle into. The horse and sheep got a nice dinner too with supplemental grain. And the chickens have been eating their regular rations and moving from the trees to the barn to keep the chill off their feathers. Aya Cash had her dinner of a few mice and I'll probably bring her inside for a movie later. I really have no right to complain, just the will to prepare.

You guys stay warm, too.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Soap & Mitts!

Such a wonderful visit yesterday with some readers from Ontario. They are friends that work together in an office, and one of them happened upon my book in the library - One Woman Farm. She read it and then loaned it to her coworker. Nothing extraordinary about that I suppose. People share books all the time, right? But then something really cool happened that is a reality of the reader/author relationship in 2016. They said, “Let’s go meet her!”

Many authors are accessible, especially in the world of homesteading. Many of us teach classes or workshops. Knowing this, they googled me, found my blog, saw that I held events and planned a trip. They found a hotel in Lake George and pulled into my dirt driveway yesterday AM.

Together we toured the farm, shared stories, made milk-based soaps step-by-step (in which they scented with mint and pumpkin spice and buried small jewels into!). I sent them home with a signed book and two-pounds of soap and directions to head home via the lovely Saratoga Springs so they could grab a meal and some Deathwish Coffee. It was a fun, half-day workshop and I got to meet some of the people who took the time to read about Merlin and Gibson, my sheep and my heart here on the farm.

Also, I was gifted this hand knit pair of mittens from the wool of New Brunswick sheep! As someone whose knitting skill set ends at hat and scarf - this is pretty much magic to me. Thank you so much for being a part of the story, ladies! My antlers (and hands) will not be cold today.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Win A Chicken's Dream Treat Cupboard!

One of the blog's sponsors, Chubby Mealworms, has created an awesome free giveaway for your chicken-keeping readers! Enter for free to win a Three Pound Tub of dried meal worm treats for your birds (or other pets who enjoy wormy goodness) - which adds an important omnivore quality and protein boost to their diet as well as the pretty undeniable fact that chickens LOVE THESE THINGS!

There is no cost to enter and it literally takes seconds. You fill out a small form and click enter and then the nice folks over at Chubby will send the lucky flock a ridiculous pile of treats in the mail. I don't know if chickens appreciate surprise packages via post, but I know I do! And with winter coming soon there is nothing like comfort food on a cold night. So do your flock a favor and take a moment to win some free goodies actually worthy of a chicken dance.

ENTER HERE!

Free Flying!

Good morning from Cold Antler Farm! I do apologize for missing a few days of posts. I had some unexpected (but wonderful!) issues come up and they required my full attention since Friday. I had a visiting journalist and his family come to the farm for an extended interview about my life and passions here in Jackson. The family made the journey from PA and they were wonderful and kind. They also came with some very impressive fiddle skills for a fireside jam on Saturday night! It is so comforting and encouraging to be around other writers making their dreams work.

We talked a lot about this scrappy place, the people who inspire me, and Aya Cash (my hawk) - who got to fly free for the first time on Friday! A month of training and partnership and hard work and I finally let her go. She was put up into a tree without a fetter and when I called her back to my glove she came, again and again. She was rewarded with fat mice on a rabbit lure and I was rewarded with a feeling I don't think I can articulate without witchcraft. I will spend my life trying.

Farmcentric updates include visits from old friends, people where popping in and out all weekend here and there. I saw Weez McCarty of Coyote Crow Farm. She dropped off a station-wagon (a whole face cord) of firewood she bartered for some pork. Cathy and Tim Hoff of Laughing Lab Farm also came by, and man did I miss seeing their smiling faces. The Hoffs were here for a very special reason, to pick up their lamb they purchased from the spring. Friday I picked up the boxed lamb and had the honor to present and deliver the lambs to their families. I drove one lamb to Bennington yesterday for a Connecticut customer who met me there, and I have 2 deliveries left for some locals. Then next step in the lamb harvest is getting the curing hides to the tannery for turning into the gorgeous fleeces they will become in a few months! A great year for this small-scale shepherd. And I was also also to visit with a local farmer and sell the two ewes I needed to move. He is picking them up in a few weeks!

So I have been interviewed, shared my life with strangers who became friends, possibly got a buck deal in the works for my goats, trimmed hooves, flew a hawk, tended to the farm, picked up and delivered lamb shares, sold sheep, moved pork, stacked firewood, and basically steered the farm toward a better place in three days. I also am in cahoots with one of the sponsors of this blog to announce a giveaway later today for all you fine chicken keepers, and I have some ladies visiting from Ontario any minute now for a soap making half-day workshop and author talk and visit. (You can do this, too - just ask). They are leaving this farm with 2 pounds of milk soap, signed books, and hopefully some good memories of this scrappy love letter on the side of a mountain.

Things are good. The farm is slowly getting prepared and getting things in order for winter. I am still selling logos and illustrations (mostly on Facebook), and farm updates are on twitter all day since I am at my computer doing graphic design when I am not outside. My afternoon will include a hunt with Aya Cash (our first real hunt!) and then the rest of the day will include my usual position of working on logos while watching something on the computer - right now I am working through Edgar Wright's list of top 1000 movies. (Which I recommend!) I am not working in order, but picking up films of interest I haven't heard of before. I respect the hell out of that man.

Enjoy your fall days ahead and wish this place luck. Luck is it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One Woman's Trash...

Yesterday and today were busy as hell. Days oddly warmed and therefore packed with work indoors and out. It is only Tuesday and I am ten-clients in to this week already and preparing a large art mailing down at the post office. I have art to mail as far as Germany and as close as New Hampshire. I have also been working through logos - all of this is done indoors and last night as thunder rolled and an odd storm pushed through the valley - I was celebrating a little victory. A friend of a friend had about thirty pumpkins she didn't want. They were leftovers from decorating for a party, and so I got to roll up with my truck and get as many as I wanted (as well as some apples and squash)! This is a great thing because I am feeding five pigs and they LOVE pumpkins! You can see that from the photographic evidence above!

Also, Aya Cash had her longest flight ever on the creance and is coming to the lure with real drive. I think she is ready to fly free. I might let her go as soon as Friday, and then the real rest of our partnership begins. At that point she can either stick with me by choice or take off. But watching her zoom across the yards of open field at Livingston Brook Farm last night was a real thing of beauty. I can't hide my high, the joy of seeing the hours and time pay off. Tonight we're just going to watch a movie together, her on my fist while the dogs chomp their kibble. But these past few days I got a few lucky breaks and the results of all these weeks of work with the hawk are coming to a new chapter in our story.