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!
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.
Today I trained my hawk using pieces of heart I harvested from a lamb recently slaughtered here on the farm. It was born here, nursed here, was herded by my dogs, ate my grass, and died for meat and pelt. It's hide is salted and curing in a friend's threshing barn. That lamb watched me ride my horse past him. Watched me practice archery in the high field. It saw gardens and piglets, campfires and songs, stories and prayers. It will be enjoyed over many meals - mostly holidays - and its woolly skin will be tanned and then become a blanket I will use to stay warm this winter. Which will mean sleeping beside a roaring fire in a small farmhouse on the side of a mountain.
It is 2016.
You can grow up to be whatever you want, ladies.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
When I started raising animals for food harvest days were harder. They're still hard. But with the years of experience, the animals behind me, and the meals and memories intertwined with all of it - there is more beauty and appreciation than remorse. It is hard to explain and easy to feel. There is this switch that happens, that I really believe every farmer feels, during the slaughter process. It's some level in our brains that is only pulled down by going through the awful business of ending a life. Once that is over and the beast is skinned, disemboweled, beheaded and prepared to hang in a locker - it is now an impressive accomplishment. Agony alchemized into the kind of pride our grandparents lived for. Something old and important. I am sad to see sweet lambs die. I am also really fucking proud. Not of choosing an individuals death, but the story behind those lives. Farming well is hating every single time that lever has to be pulled and then thriving off the rush.
Guys, raising your own meat is some high-end, bittersweet, splendor. It's a sacrifice very different from your garden or your laying flock of pet hens. It is emotionally and physically messy. It's decision with consequence. And it means intentionally killing the same animals I woke up three times a night this past spring to check on to ensure their safety. Perhaps the same animal I brought into my bathroom with a space heater - holding them as I angrily blinked through tears - hoping they wouldn't die from the bad luck of being born at the wrong time on a cold night. And that hope was because I wanted to give them three seasons of grass, forests, sunlight, and rainfall. I wanted them to grow strong enough to be worthy of that one horrible day I always knew was coming.
To some people all of this is horrific. I understand. I was one of those people. I was a vegetarian for most of my twenties. But a decade of farming has taught me a feral maturity. There is something child-like and naive now (to me) in the minds of people who are against eating livestock for reasons of "kindness". It is as foreign a concept to me as people who choose celibacy in a world riddled with child abuse. Yes, your abstaining means you will not have a child and therefore never abuse it. But that doesn't help a single kid quivering in some monster's bedroom closet does it? It just makes you feel like you're not part of the problem. Farming ethically is moving past the illusion that animals aren't living in concentration camps for assembly-line efficiency. It's doing something to stop it. Providing an alternative to those who don't pretend they don't love being part carnivore. You like animals? Fine. Don't eat them. But know it's a philosophy as simple as a child drawing a circle with a crayon and then labeling it "circle" in graceless, akimbo letters. Hard to argue with but tragically missing out on the scope of what art and mathematics actually are.
I kill animals at this farm. They die to feed my friends and neighbors. They die well, fast and with professional hired guns who travel to this farm instead of me tailoring them to some cement facility where the water bill for the hosing could halt the L.A. drought. Blood is never hidden here. I don't hide the evidence. It sinks into the same ground these sheep were born on. It feeds the grass that their mothers and father eat. It feeds the most vicious consumers on this farm - the vegetables - who thrive off a compost of blood, bone, and dead earth turned into black gold by writhing worms. I'll never understand why vegetarians feel any sort of moral superiority in a salad over a steak? The death that fed those leaves makes that single bullet look serene in comparison.
The lambs are all hanging now. They are being cut and packaged at local butcher shop and in a few days will go to the four families who purchased them in advance - completing the promise I made when they were sold in the spring. It adds to my own worth and sense of accomplishment. There is real honor is handing over something so artistically-complicated as a box of lamb chops. I want nothing more than dozens of savory meals shared around loved one's tables to come from all this, including my own. The stories and lives shared around those meals are the reason we do this. It's culture and connection - what happens around a table. I so look forward to it. And to eat with the wisdom of their sacrifice and that primal lever in my mind.
Trevor and I were driving home from the big city of Saratoga, having just watched The Accountant. It was a gorgeous NY night. Under the full moon we made our way on the winding roads between civilization and the farmland towns we call home. We both loved the movie. As we headed towards Greenwich we talked over twists in the plot and silly trivia about Airstream trailers and cantaloupe target practice. I was in a great mood because that is what movies do to me. (It's also what caffeine does to me, and I just swilled a coffee.) Movies get my hackles up and teeth sharp. After a good movie I'm like a puppy who just discovered a mirror. I'm high on that deeply-personal thrill I just got in public. At all the emotional exhibitionism. At my humanity reflected with all the bells and whistles of professional storytellers on a big screen with a bunch of strangers sitting around me just as rapt and nervous.
I want to connect with people after a shared movie, especially if I went with someone and not by myself (which I never mind doing). Going to a movie is sharing something big. It's a modern version of listening to tales around a campfire under the stars - primal and necessary. Which isn't to say you can't get the same kicks sharing stories around a campfire in 2016 - Gods know I do - but I want that movie magic. I want to pay money for a ticket the same way I want to pay for a book to support a writer. Going to see The Accountant Opening Weekend was important to me. I'm so glad I roped Trevor into coming along. The man is not a movie fan, but surely he can appreciate a thriller after a long weekend of traveling to friend's weddings and constant social activity. I had somewhat of the same - having just said goodbye to my parents who stayed all weekend. They were wonderful and we had a great time (also going to the movies together last night - movies are important to Woginrichs of all ages). It was the best visit I have had with them in years. Maybe that was part of my great mood. Stories, family, friends, connection... I wanted to hear my jam and sing along.
Alas, there were no jams to be had. Trevor had taken over the job of DJ, and in an 1989 F150 that means scrolling through his phone's library connected to the truck's speakers via an adapter. Not some Bluetooth gadget, but a tape in the cassette player physically connected to a headphone jack via a wire. He kept playing sordid, sad, music. Stuff by The Tallest Man on Earth and Father John Misty. (Two bands I enjoy, but not after an action movie when I happened to feel immortal and really appreciate that black belt I spent a few years earning. Also, coffee.) I listened along for about ten minutes of dodging deer with weak headlights and then demanded he stopped playing break-up music and put on something with a beat. Finally, he switched to The Gaslight Anthem's Mile Davis and The Cool. In the first few drum rolls my bloodstream went neon. It's the kind of music made for driving in an old pickup under a full moon. I turned it up, he sang along, and I got that double-hit of a new movie and new music in the same night. Those two potion ingredients let us clumsy primates feel immortal for 90 minutes at a time. Nothing connects us, seeps into us, IS us as much as songs and
stories. I get to feel 23 again when white-knuckling a movie theater
seat or singing at the top of my lungs alone in my car. Because as long
as you can get lost in stories or song you're still capable of a scrappy
inspiration from your fellow man. The Accountant was fantastic. Gaslight Anthem was perfect. They are both proof positive that people will always be my favorite animals.
I'll update on the farm in the morning. Right now I am back at my little house. This cove tucked into the side of a mountain with a pair of border collies inside and a couple dozen animals outside to feed, ride, hunt, and live beside when the sun comes back. I have stories to share with you guys about the slaughter and fleece-tanning of four lambs. Of a neighboring farm coming to collect Monday the ram to service their flock. Of getting Aya Cash to stop shoving her talons into my palm and a killer homemade pizza in a cast-iron skillet. But for tonight I just want to write a love letter to the two things that keep me writing, keep me going - movies and music. It may seem miles away from a single woman on a farm in the middle of nowhere but nothing is closer to home than chords, end credits, and my heroes behind screenplays and Gibson J-45s.
Sing under that moon and tell some stories. The rest of Humanity is counting on you.
Hay is in the barn, finally. Parents are visiting from PA. Ram was loaned to another farm for breeding, got him on their trailer. Fences worked on all morning. I will have more to share soon as I have more time to write. Check back in the AM.
October is a month for ghosts, for sure. Thanks to Twitter I discovered this author and his book, and have enjoyed it when the sun goes down and the wind picks up. It is a collection of American stories - the ghosts people believe in and the places they haunt - but the real depth of the book is looking into the history of these people and places. The best review I saw said - "Come for the Ghosts, Stay for the History" and I agree. It's digestible and easy to sit back and relax with - but spooky enough to appease that October itch.
More updates from the farm later today. It's already been an interesting morning with neighbors, horses, and goat in the living room but all news is good news. Getting ready for a visit from my parents this weekend and the slaughter date for few lambs. Patty and I will be preparing fleeces for tannery together and I hope to explain that process and get some pictures.
Still haven't got another cord of wood in, but hope to soon. It has to wait for some other bills to be addressed first but I am continuing a sale of artwork and logos. If you see a lot of posts about that here it's because out of ten people who might email about artwork or a logo for more information, maybe three respond back? And out of those three, maybe one actually becomes a sale. But you don't get any sales without asking! So I will continue to offer the art sales and services here. And in my line of work (publishing) everything can change with an email from my agent or a surprise interview. I remain optimistic, relentlessly so.
What does a door mean? What could a couple feet of wood, screws and hardware mean? Well for this farm it means a lot. Patty came over this morning and she brought an 80-year-old door that was in her barn. She scrubbed it with bleach and brought some screws and power tools, too. That door was a mighty gift. It is going in the same place a door once stood, back when this 200-year-old house was built and created for a world of fireplaces and low-ceilings. Cold Antler is heated by wood and the work horse stoves that keep it comfortable in the cold times can not waste heat sending it upstairs to the bedrooms and offices.
When winter comes this house closes down the upstairs. I move to the downstairs and sleep under wool blankets and sheepskins a few feet from a real fire. It sounds primitive to some, and heavenly to others. But this door permanently closes off the entrance and upstairs - creating a living space cut off by seasons and a threshold.
I am so grateful for this door. It is a gift that will make nights warmer, guest happier, and life easier on this little homestead.
Ever waned to learn to play the fiddle? Think you have no musical talent? Can't read music? Intimidated by that instrument and its history of music, lore, and story? Well, I have taught over a hundred people this instrument right here at Cold Antler Farm. Come see the place you've read about in books and blogs and leave a musician. It's easy.
How does it work? You buy a fiddle package and a set a date for a 4-hour intro lesson. You learn parts of the fiddle, tuning, your finger positions, your first scale, and first song. Most of all you learn what it takes to go home and tune, teach, and play yourself BY EAR. I teach in the southern mountain tradition of folk songs, but the information can translate easily to bluegrass, Celtic, french Canadian, etc styles of playing.
Right now I am offering a sale on lesson packages. This package INCLUDES THE FIDDLE! So you literally need to come with nothing. You leave with your fiddle in case, knowing how to play a tune.
Interested in setting up a Fiddle Day?
4 Hour Half Day (8-12AM or noon-4PM)
1 person: $250
2 people: $400
each additional person: $120 each.
Full Day (hour lunch break) 8-4PM Includes all 4 hour skills plus shuffling and droning
1 person: $375
2 people: $600
each additional person: $120 each.
Weekend Long Fiddle Camp
(local campground stay, not on farm) 1 person: $475
8Am Sat - 3PM Sunday
Includes all of day class plus shuffling, droning, second song, new scale, etc.
It is really hard to start these morning reports without talking about weather. Weather is everything here. It's what plans the entire day, maps out each morning, and is the decision-maker for the evening plans. Being a homesteader there is no fighting that, and it may be the biggest difference between people who live this life and those who don't. If your work means being indoors without anyone outside needing their breakfast delivered - you can wake up, get dressed, and only experience the elements on the way to your car. Here I am outside working at every dawn. And how cold the night was changes everything from diets to firewood types. I wouldn't trade in farm life for anything, but learning all these counter attacks took getting a lot of bruises. Knowing the weight of firewood best suited for a slow burn means flashing up pine and birch for cold mornings, first. Knowing how much cracked corn or extra grain to feed when the temperature drops so no one is wasting extra calories staying warm - that takes noticing a shiver. It's been nearly a decade living beside some of these animals - I am still learning.
This day started in the twenties, coldest yet, and before I sat down with my first cup off coffee (bought a sale brand and bought decaff by mistake.... ugh) I was outside with the crew. I brought hay out of the barn for Merlin and the flock, but they seemed more interested in sitting in the sunshine that was just coming to the mountain. Dewey wool lets off a smokey emission in the first sunlight, just like cold wet ground does. Seeing fog lifting off the backs of sheep or being blown aside by the swish of a horse tail still knocks me back with its simple beauty. Of course weather is everything.
There's a fire inside this house and I need to spend most of the day inside catching up on freelance work. It's an illustration day so I will mostly be lining up a checklist of people's work to create, email for approval, and prep for mail. Yesterday I didn't sit down to an email interview and some logos until after 5PM. I had spent the day doing the most mundane, necessary tasks. Things like laundry in town, groceries, vacuuming the truck, and taking care of some accounting. Today I need to really see to getting that hay delivery in the barn, the leaves off the lawn, and preparing for the slaughter of some lambs later this week. I am really proud of this year's crop - and excited to deliver the meat to the friends who bought it. This is the first year I am sending away hides for tanning as well - an extra small source of income for the farm. I'll keep you posted!
Is it possible that this coffee could make me more tired? I will never misread a label so important ever again.
I am running a sale on artwork, fiddle lessons, and more to prepare for winter on this farm. Please give these options a look over for your holiday gifting needs! Give a loved one a weekend of fiddling in Washington County - or your in laws a logo for their home-brewed beer! Gift Vouchers available as well! Email me for any details!
I am running a sale on logos pre-purchased 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
Do 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!
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!
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!
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.
For the past two days my life has been about the song Ida Red. It’s one you probably don’t know, but it means a lot to this farm. Ida Red is the first fiddle tune I learned and it's the first tune every student learns at this farm. (It's the name of one of my Dairy Does, too. Since that goat was born during the first winter Fiddle Camp.) It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend-long fiddle camp member or a one-day workshop attendee - that song is the first music any aspiring musician plays on this land. It's tradition, and over the past 48 hours I have played or heard this song about two hundred time.
Friday and Saturday hosted two very different types of students and both traveled from far away. One came from Ohio and the other New Jersey. They emailed me, made plans, and paid online for a day on the farm to start learning this old instrument. I offer the whole package: violin, case, bow, lessons, and place to learn. They have to come with an open mind and a sense of humor.
I ordered them student fiddles and prepared the farm for long hours of instruction. It means doing chores earlier, making sure everything is okay for 6-8 hours away from me. But prepping the place for company is easy. It's the students themselves I am never sure about. Beside their left-or-right-handedness I know nothing about them.
Some new fiddlers show up and soar through the lessons from their first glide over the A string. Others struggle. They furrow their brows and try to understand why their wrists, brain, and fingers can’t dance together. Why they can’t make music out of this weird configuration of wood and metal? I try to hide my smile, because I know it is the ones who struggle that end up being fiddlers. Every squeak and squawk is a victory roar to me. And this farm is nothing if not a safe place to make mistakes.
I am proud to say so far not a single person who came to my
intro-to-fiddle workshops has left without playing their first scale,
song, and understanding shuffling and droning.
I do apologize for not posting yesterday. I was spent. A full day private class here runs from 9AM into the evening if the players choose, but most students are too tired and finger-tip-sore by 3PM to play much longer. So we might walk around the farm, this scrappy little corner of a mountain. Maybe spend some time beside Merlin or the sheep - mostly go from strangers to acquaintances. It's really enjoyable for me - to meet some of you and share a little of this life. It's not a magazine spread or a vacation - more of a disheveled musical boot camp - but everyone so far has been game for the challenge and left with a grin on their face and an instrument in their hands.
Looks like rain for the rest of today and I hope to treat it like a Sunday. Temperatures are about to dip into the mid-thirties here so a frost is possible. I have wood inside to light a fire tonight and hopefully will order more soon. The goal towards winter has been a crawl, trying to make sales is tough, but once or twice a week I manage to sell a logo - which is a big help. I am remaining really optimistic about running into better luck soon. I'm due for some, for sure.
Thank you to the fiddlers who came this weekend. Thank you to the three folks who are scheduled to attend yet this fall (there are still open weekends before Thanksgiving) and to the trio of ladies coming to learn about soapmaking too. I'm excited to share my world with you for a bit.
Short post this morning, but I wanted to share how thrilled I am with this morning's fiddle workshop! I teach classes in groups and one-on-one. Every once in a while the student coming just gets it. Amy (who traveled here from Ohio!) has been CRUSHING it. She just headed into town for her lunch break, but since we started at 9AM she has learned her first finger position, notes, her first scale,and FIRST SONG! It might be a record!
That photo is Gibson with her new fiddle, which was set up and tuned by me - but now belongs to her. I feel that teaching a brand new person on a brand new instrument is good. People who pay for both the lesson and the violin feel invested. They made the choice to learn and went so far as to commit through getting an experience, a couple hours of lessons, and their own instrument. The pride I feel when someone leaves here holding that case in their hands like an old friend is huge. Inside the case is an animal they tamed, something they wanted to do a long time and finally figured out.
Tomorrow another student comes from another state. I am so happy I get to do this as a part of how I make a living. Growing people food feels amazing. Teaching people music does, too.
I called Othniel over at Common Sense Farm about the hay delivery and he was busy at another farm and unable to deliver. "No problem," I told him. There wasn't a rush to get it right away and so I headed to another hay bank to get a small load in my pickup. I a glad to have put some hay in the barn a today and soldify plans for more.
I was also able to pick up a large pile of dry rounds from Tara and Tyler's place in Vermont. They are trading the wood for some pork and eggs from the farm here, and I am grateful for the barter. When I got home there was plenty of sun still shining and I had energy to spare. Not the good kind, the nervous kind. So I went for a quick four-mile run with loud music, and then came home and split all the rounds. I still feel jumpy. This is why people call anxiety "free cocaine."
While there are not heaving stacks of hay or wood, there is more, and that's enough for tonight. I look forward to relaxing with that ukulele for a while, which is not something I thought I would constantly be picking up, but I am. For something that reminds me of islands and oceans, it fits in perfectly with this scrappy farm. Moments to tune, minutes to learn a new song. I find myself learning by accident, finding chords and songs while watching. I am a fiddle player - it's my fell pony of instruments - but I get ukes. I'll put info on the book/instrument I am using in the comments. Native Ground is a sponsor of this farm and I am happy to spread the word about their books. They are how I learned to fiddle, play the banjo, and now play this mighty little beast of leisure.
Yesterday while in town on my way back from Vermont I stopped in at Common Sense to talk hay. I arranged for 30 bales to be delivered. I am looking forward to adding that to the barn soon and thickening up the stores for winter soon as I can. Living with animals sends a sense of urgency down your spine when mornings like these dip near the 30s, even if the leaves are still green. I have firewood to pick up after lunch as well. Slowly this farm is getting ready for another cold spell.
This week I got to spend time with hawks, horses, and hounds and even on the overcast day it made my mood brighter and eager. There is an excitement I feel working beside these personalities. The clever hawk and my stubborn horse, we find a way to communicate and achieve tiny goals together - sometimes as simple as flying to a fist or taking in a view.
Patty and I were going to go out pheasant hunting this morning but something came up, so I am here taking care of some emails and clients before I head into Salem to pay a bill and pick up some feed. This morning all the farm animals were a little slow going (from the chill I guess). Merlin lumbered to the hay I offered while sheep trotted lazily beside him. Perhaps they were a little drunk on ground apples?! Whose to say.
I have two fiddles fresh out of their shipping boxes to tune and prepare for this weekend. Two students are coming to spend a day each and tuning starts now. New fiddles take time to set into fresh tension. I'll be tending to that between errands, chores, deliveries, and splitting wood this evening after supper. I hope to end the evening cuddled up with mint tea and good company.
I saddled up Merlin after returning from visiting goods friend in Vermont. I was over at Tyler and Tara's place, and got to catch up with them for a bit and surprise them with some delivered lunch. But when I returned to my small farm what I needed was that horse. I got a stressful bit of news today the kind you can do nothing about but wait. So instead of moping indoors I decided to get on that dark horse and hit the wind. Things make more sense a few feet off the ground.
We didn't ride very long, maybe an hour. I wanted to go over familiar trails and take in the view from the top of our small mountain. I am so lucky to have access to such places, and a neighbor who lets me trot around his snowmobile trails in his off season.
When we got to to top of the mountain - what a view! Blue skies, rolling hills, and the touch of color early October brings. From up there I sat back, resting my hands on his rump as he munched the grass and I ruminated on my day. It was clearly fall and the chilly morning had proved that, but I realized I had a little more time than my shady home had me believe. At the bottom of the hill the leaves in the yard—on the trees along the road—they all seemed so yellow and fading. But up there the perspective of so much green still glowed time and chances. It was calming.
I am worried about firewood, winter, keeping all things going strong. This is something I have managed mostly by scraping by over the past few years. I know that isn't how things will be forever, that I am sure of. But right now there is good news and bad news in equal measure jogging outside the perimeter of my life. What can I do but turn on good music, dance, sing, and focus on what good could come - and not what bad might arrive? What will happen will happen. I'll deal with that my mind, body, and wits can handle. The rest is up to the Gods, luck, and the mood of a black pony on a fine fall day.
It's 40 degrees and the sun is shining! I'm checking in here while my coffee perks, and going to make the morning report quick since I need to hop in the truck to pick up more hay. I am trying to gather a healthy amount in the barn before the first frost. Right now stocks are low at the farm but there are three locations within 10 miles I call hay banks, places I can pop in and buy 20 bales at a time as finances and planning allows. Ideally I'll have 100 bales here and more in banks available. Right now, it's just a regular run 3 miles south to Common Sense Farm. Gibson will be beside me, riding shot gun.
I was working with a specific logo client until 9PM last night, so getting a slower start to work this AM. They needed ten different designs emailed ASAP for a conference happening Thursday downstate. I was happy to oblige then and I am happy to take a slower morning now. I'll pop back later this afternoon with more details on this riveting Wednesday.
Yesterday afternoon included a walk in the woods with Aya Cash, who seemed okay with it and my arm is getting used to being a perch for miles at a time. We did our longest flights to the fist, and I think she'll be ready for more distance at bigger fields soon. She had a feast of mice last night so she might be too full this AM for anything but morning weighing and notes. Not an issue since I'll be the hay delivery gal. I am hoping to make some time for Merlin today. Go see the colors from the top of the mountain and feel some speed under me. That picture is from his walk over to me this morning. You can see he is a little whiter in the face, but sill handsome as ever.
This morning Gibson was at my bedroom window, whining softly at the turkeys who were strutting below him. The sound of their Ornithomimidae feet rustling wet leaves woke him up. The sound of his pathetic desires to bother them woke me up. But he was just watching in silent understanding that I could still sleep. There was no farm ruckus to report. No reason to bark or wake me, just the usual goings on. Still, he wanted to be out there. Who did those toms think they were? Walking around without his direction like destitute fools? He turned his head to look at me and whined once, setting a paw on the windowsill like a Dickensian orphan. He looked back outside. I sighed. "Do you want to go out?" I asked, half-mumbling a whisper. He turned, walked beside my bed, sat down and set his head on the edge of it. He stared at me. "Fine." And at that he trotted downstairs.
Friday didn't move from her spot beside me, sprawled on her back with her head on a pillow. She knew I wasn't talking to her. "Fri?" Her eyes half opened and she turned to me like some hungover lover. "He's already downstairs." She stretched, yawned, and lazily got up and hopped off the bed to wait with him by the front door. I had moments, just moments, before they both ran back upstairs and launched onto the bed to use whimpering kisses to get me out of it. If I wanted to use a sink for a face wash instead of carnivore saliva, I better get up.
I let the dogs out. How many British people with border collies watched us Americans enthralled with Lassie and shake their heads? He barked when a kid was in a well? Well isn't that's adorable. Aren't Americans so easily impressed by their clever dogs? Meanwhile, over in Dorset their sheepdogs were figuring out the third quarter budget.
My house spells like tomato sauce and that isn't a complaint. Yesterday I spent a sawbuck on a case of spotted and bruised fruits from the farm stand and ended up turning my kitchen into a lazy experiment. I made a saucepan of traditional red sauce on the stove. The kind where you boil water and get a bowl of ice next to it and shock the skins off. I cut them open after and removed seeds and inner liquids, leaving just the flesh for the saucing. It was a as violent as any pig slaughter, maybe more so since there was no sense of sacrifice. These were a week away from being garbage to that farm stand and they were thrilled to sell them to some homesteader who had time to make 15 pounds of fruit into sauce. That made it seem ever more vulgar. Maybe it's the homesteader in me - the having seen so many living things turned into food - that it bothered me how flippant and fast these once-gorgeous, full bodied tomatoes turned into anemic corpses in a bowl. Oh well, where's the basil?
So I made a stove top sauce out of the best, skinless, all-meat tomatoes. It was pretty easy. A skillet was already full of caramelized onions and garlic and was popping on another burner. I added just that and some sauce spices to the now warm and soup flesh. That was it. All that was left to do was stir it so nothing burned and let it simmer and evaporate what was left of the water.
I got a tip on Facebook to take the rest of the lot - the bulk of the tomatoes - and make sauce the easy way. Here is what Heather McKnight Hamilton told me. Her word is good.
THE SKINS! and the seeds! so much good stuff in there for you and for
flavor. This is what I do - saves so much work. Halve the tomatoes. Put
one layer in huge roasting pan (aluminum ones from dollar store are
perfect) throw some sea salt, fresh cracked
pepper, peeled smashed cloves of garlic, drizzle olive oil. Roast in
325 oven until juice is released and evaporated. let cool slightly,
puree in blender. seeds, skins get blended in and you'll never notice
them except for the extra flavor and nutrients. can or freeze. DONE!
That is what I did, that's it! Now I had so much sauce it the house it was ridiculous. I had only consumed coffee and a beer in the late afternoon. I was starving and had two boxes of 99cent spaghetti in the larder. I was guessing I had enough food here to feed 4 people all they could eat until they exploded with enough sauce to can or freeze. I needed reinforcements. I emailed Trevor and told him to come over if he wanted to commit suicide through Italian food with me. I had some hamburger in the fridge and browned it the same skillet I had done the oil and onions with. Then I poured the quart of sauce I had made on the stove (the fancy skinless one!) into that. I wasn't waiting for Trevor. I made myself a plate. It was amazing. The combination of food I had waited for, worked for, and knew would continue feeding me when snow was on the ground - good Lord does it not add to the flavor profile! Trevor ate twice as much as me when he came over. We chatted about his adventures in Timber-framing and work. I caught him up on things going on around here. I live and work alone, but this house is never not full of people. I met them all after I retreated to a farm on the side of a mountain - exactly where I was told I'd never meet anyone. Phooey. All the tomato skins and bruises went into the slop bucket. The pigs had that alone with some slightly-off corn with their pig chow and were thrilled. I tried to get a photo for you but it was a massacre. That was the best of 37 photos of pigs trying to eat. Here's another one!
I hope all that food talk wasn't too much. These daily updates are going by the seat of my pants. As for today? It's a workday for me. I work on design and illustration between farm chores five days a week from home. Saturday and Sunday I take off. But being just a Tuesday I have invoices to chase, clients to bug, more episodes of Archer to laugh at, new work to solicit, ads to sell, an agent to hassle, and a house to keep in some order. I haven't had any coffee yet. I haven't even gone outside yet. I had nightmares Friday gave birth to a litter of ferrets and the internet yelled at me for being a monster because somehow my dog got ferret raped. Imagine waking up to a genius dog, ferret baby night terrors, and smelling spaghetti? Welcome to Tuesday.
Oh, yesterday Storey Publishing sent me a copy of their new book Farm Dogs, to read and review. I'll write about it here but so far I just read the Border Collie pages and was instantly impressed. Jan knows dogs - this is not some coffee table book. It's an actual dog expert explaining which herding animals, terriers, and livestock guardians best suit your like and farm. The dogs posed for this. More talk between the author, Storey, and me over on Twitter. Okay Antlers, I got a hawk to weigh, a farm to feed, a work day to plan, and at some point I need to hop in the shower before anyone from the general public sees me. I look a mess. Enjoy your day, drink more coffee than the Surgeon General suggests, and be nice to each other. Danger Zone!
P.S. this post was titled Tomato Murder and Ferret Rape - per the weird dream. But I wasn't sure that would come across as offensive -using such a loaded term as rape in a dream-reference/jokey way. Sad that I didn't even flinch at the term murder.
Tonight after work I'll be making and putting up sauce! The local farm stand down the road has cases of tomatoes for ten bucks. Not a bad deal for a mix of reds, pastes, yellows and heirlooms! They are "seconds" which just means imperfect. But in the sauce pan bruises don't matter baby. I am so excited for a homemade sauce dinner over some pasta and a house that will smell amazing as it simmers all afternoon. I'll try not to drool on my keyboard in the meantime.
My morning started by walking down the stairs and stepping into the aftermath of an explosion of canine diarrhea. It was on the carpeted stairs. It was on the walls. It was on the railing. I have no idea when it happened in the night but I know it did happen, as my bare feet had plenty of evidence to prove it. Ten years ago that would have made me freak out. This morning I just shrugged. I mean, it was a Monday. What was I expecting? Roses and a cucumber water? I have lived with animals - pets, livestock, and wildlife - for nearly a decade. It takes a lot more than body functions to get a rise out of me these days. It's not like I was out of coffee or something.
Speaking of poo; when I walked outside there were piles of goose crap on the front steps. That is where my three geese now spend the night, right in front of the door. I know what some of you are thinking: "I would never put up with that!" and that is because you are not a single woman living alone in the middle of the woods, who shares that fact online, and who listens to WAY too many true crime podcasts. I will sweep away goose poo with gratitude knowing anyone who would consider breaking and entering would have to deal with Cerberus to get through the front door. And would cause a ruckus of 100 pounds of poultry just stepping onto the property.
Friday's fine, if you're worried about her butt. Last night she got into some snacks set out for Game Night and I don't think her 40-lb frame was ready for that much sliced Kielbasa. She's got plenty of water and the mess is now cleaned up, the carpet soaking, and coffee perking. Friends came over Sunday night and we enjoyed catching up and I enjoyed hosting - but in the fray of conversation I didn't realize she had snagged too much sausage. What do we play on Game Night? We play Games like these.
Outside the farm animals seemed less exciting, which is good. I would be far more worried about lambs with brown rears than a pilfering pup. But the flock of 14 sheep and the Dark Horse that hangs out with them seemed chipper despite the muggy damp of the morning. The goats ate their hay with proletariat gusto. I hauled water and hay, slopped the pigs in the woods (my friends last night brought 3 bags of saved food scraps!) and that made the squeal with joy! That saying happy as a pig in shit has never been spoken that have seen a pig in cupcakes.
It's very grey around here this week. The weather forecast is all rain and cloud cover. It's encouraging knowing I have plenty of work to do inside. I sent some pitches to Reductress this AM and am updating you fine people about the goings on at the farm - and after that I have some clients to email logo files and illustrations to. It's a lot easier to focus on all the stuff on screen when there's a steady downpour and the coffee keeps coming. I have about four hours of work ahead before a break. I'll be watching Archer Season 5 while I draw and design. I think the coffee is almost ready? I better wrap this up...
Yesterday when I went to pick up hay I had a nice chat with Patty and Mark over at Livingston Brook Farm. Patty asked if I wanted to join her and their dog, Harley (a Large Munsterlander) to go out pheasant hunting a morning this week? I jumped at the invitation. I love pheasant and I love the casual nature of that type of upland hunting. Unlike stalking deer or turkeys, it's a social hunt where you can walk tandem with a friend and talk and laugh while a good dog does the work of flushing birds in the brush. I hope we get to go soon on a week day morning when the local gamelands are less busy. Even if "busy" is just another pickup truck.
No new firewood ordered yet, but I did sell one logo this weekend and got an email this morning about someone interested in the sale - which is encouraging. I have 2 people coming for fiddle workshops this weekend - one from Ohio and another from New Jersey. How cool is that? I get to meet some of you readers right here in my living room and a few of you leave with fiddle cases. Not a bad get! Not bad for either of us.
If I can check in more than once a day I will, but I am mostly active on Twitter and Facebook for yelling into the void. Facebook is mostly pop culture, politics, and movies. But Twitter is where you'll see extra photos of the farm, animals, ag stories, and such. So follow me there to see Friday attacking leaves, me attacking tomatoes for sauce later this week, pheasant attempts, and some such.
Have a fine Monday you beautiful people. Grow something, pet something, plant something, eat something!
October is here! I'll be updating every day this month, specifically about preparing for winter. I'll be doing so with my coffee in the morning, before I dive into design clients and after farm chores. Hopefully that means every morning you can check in and see the progress here. Or, what I hope to be progress if things go as planned and luck is on my side.
As of yesterday I finished stacking the first cord of word that was delivered to this farm. It's out of the weather and in the storage space beside the house and under the side "porch" near the hawk's mews. Besides the cord I purchases, my friend Trevor stopped by last week and while I was stacking armfuls of the maple and oak (cut to fit my smaller wood stove), he was chopping up some older rounds that had been sitting near the woodpile. A woodsman by trade, Trevor knew how to deal with the locust, which he said "Lasts two years longer than stone" with a smile. Locust is a real tough wood, all right. There are locusts posts still in the overgrown fields of this farm that have now turned to forests. Generations of deer have walked beside the ghosts of old fences, not knowing those petrified pieces of locust are standing where a calf and cow probably once stood half a century earlier. I love that this small space, just 6.5 acres, has so many stories.
So out of my goal of four cords I have one and face cord. Trevor turned that locust into a lot of seasoned firewood. And my friends Tyler and Tara have also offered to let me snag some seasoned firewood from their farm they have downed over the years and need to clear. Basically whatever I can load into my truck, split, and stack of a downed tree is mine. It could be as much as a cord! I am talking with them about getting ready to pick up the first load in my truck.
My truck is doing so well. It passes inspection, has new (used, but in good condition) winter tires, and despite a small oil leak and stone crack in the windshield that needs to be repaired, she is doing well and working like a sturdy draft horse. I am so grateful for her, and that I have a good 4WD vehicle going into winter.
Gibson and Friday are currently outside investigating the lambs. They are scheduled soon (4 of them) to be harvested in the coming week. The fleeces all sold and between them and some hopeful sales on the logo and illustration side - I'll be able to mail in a mortgage payment soon and get another cord of firewood delivered. People ask why I don't harvest all my own firewood from the farm? Because I don't own a chainsaw, am scared of chainsaws, and can't do it all. This fall I am putting up tomato sauce, canning, splitting and stacking wood, slaughtering lambs, collecting winter hay, running a blog, a small business, design clients, training a hawk and hopefully running until it snows. Buying a chainsaw, learning to use it, and harvesting my own firewood just hasn't been on the list due to my fear of swiftly rotating blades and my general clumsiness. I don't know why I am so defensive about buying firewood? I guess because if you live the life I chose, you are not only expected to do it all - but not admit why you wouldn't.
On that note, I am off to pick up hay in the previously mentioned pickup truck (which I now just call Taylor, since it's a 1989). Hopefully I'll beat the rain. I'm listening to the newest My Favorite Murder podcast with Gibson riding shotgun. I got coffee in my thermos, a job to do, a farm to secure in about 70 different ways, and friends coming over for a Game Night tonight.
After chores were settled and the farm was entirely on the exhale, I packed up my gear and bird and headed west to Livingston Brook Farm. Today would be Aya Cash's first day flying on a creance. A creance is a light, long, lead for a bird of prey in training. You use it in open fields, places my farm doesn't have. It's unsafe to put a raptor on a long line anywhere near a tree or post it can be tangled in that a human can't access in seconds. For Aya's safety I spent the morning doing things falconers do to assure a safe training session. I started the day inspecting her from talon to crest of head. I weighed her, and noted the time and feeding schedule - and noted it was also probably too high. Not a huge concern when your bird is on a lead, but if this was a free-flying hunting day it would be a certain farewell. A fat hawk has no reason to depend on a clumsy human like me. Aya was a little chubby.
After she was inspected, weighed, and recorded it was time to prepare for travel. Unlike dogs who can just jump in the car and ride shotgun, hawks need some accommodations. A hood is slipped over her head, which keeps her calm and makes it easy to breathe but impossible to see. Some falconers have stopped hood training red tails. My sponsor and mentor is old-school and is an accomplished hood make, so I have learned this skill. But even with the hood on my bird travels in a "Giant Hood" or a hawk crate. Think of your dog's crate but with a perch and less sunlight let in. These are for short trips and safe travel. The bird can't break feathers or freak out. Patty made me a giant hood for Yule a few years ago when I just started falconry. Aya is the third hawk to travel in it.
We made it to Livingston Brook Farm quick. Patty let me use her kitchen to attach new bells just mailed to me from New Jersey for Aya. A woman who attended Arrow's Rising a few years ago (who is also a falconer) agreed to trade some lamb for the new hand-made bells. They ring so beautifully and delicately, not clunky or brash. We set up the bartered bells and headed out to her fields to try some longer flights to the glove.
Long story short: Aya wasn't interested. She was too heavy, as I had noted. But more importantly, she didn't panic or try once to fly away. She took in the new farm with wide eyes. She listened to tractors, turkeys, chickens, and the sounds of far off horses but she didn't try once to fly away. She sat on her perch and managed a few short flights to the fist. We'll try again in a few days at lower weight. I promised her I'd drop some weight as well, as it was only fair.
Training such a new bird is an adventure and a privilege. Falconry has taught me a lot about hawks, but a lot more about myself. I am not a detail-oriented person and I am not always diligent. But you can't be a falconer and not book-keep, not pay attention, not depend on details. I am grateful for what these beautiful birds teach me. I am a better woman 3 hawks in.
It's a very drab Tuesday morning here at the farm. Outside rain has come an soaked the 6 bales of hay I picked up last night. It was a bummer but at least it was only six bales and not sixty. I came home too tired from watching the debates at a neighbors farm and the sky was starry and clear. That's what I get for not checking the weather before bed. Farmers are weather junkies, and I forgot to take my pre-sleep hit.
The good news about drab days is I am always more focused on indoor tasks. Being self employed means being my own pain-in-the-ass boss but at least this pain-in-the-ass boss had arranged for three design clients updates, a content farm, and a list of afternoon work planned out. Being inside on a rainy day makes sense and makes me happy. If I can get through tomorrows task list I can spend the morning taking Merlin for a ride perhaps? I miss that guy. So much hawking on the mind, and paying gigs takes priority over pony rides. But perhaps tomorrow I'll back a breakfast burrito in the saddle bags with a thermos full of coffee and hit the wind.
I have several lambs already sold and being butchered in a few weeks. The meat is called for, but the fleeces (tanned hides with the wool on them) are available for $200 to anyone interested in buying one or several. They will be skinned after being slaughtered and the skins cooled, salted, and prepped to to be shipped to a tannery in Pennsylvania. It takes up to six months to get the fleeces back but when they arrive I will ship them to those who buy them. If you are interested please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been raising pigs here for half a decade now. I love it. I love the animals, their sturdyness, their look, sounds and even smells. Pigs only stink when kept in stinky conditions (or when the quantity is beyond capacity). But in general they are clean, mostly kind, respectable beasts I enjoy watching grow and play and be pigs.
I started by keeping one or two in the barn and then expanded to an outdoor area with a shelter in the woods. Now piglets come in little sounders of four or five instead of a pair in the barn and I have grown pretty accustomed to their behaviors and lifestyle. But there is always an exception to the rule and this recent group has been driving me crazy. That picture is what use to be my lawn.
They are escape artists of the highest order. If you turned them over you might find little tattoos on their wrists connecting them to some KGB-style secret society of spies. These pigs have escaped every fence, electric netting, wire, and enclosure I have created until recently, and when they are loose do you know what they do? They dig.
That used to be my lawn by the barn. Now it's ready to plant pumpkins or corn. Their rooting was thorough and proper. And the five, 50-lb animals managed it in just 2 consecutive nights! Imagine if they had a week to their cloven schemes! It would look like my home was a construction site.
The good news is I have finally outsmarted them and they are up in the woods in a pen, safely behind a very effective electric fence reinforced with woven wire fencing behind it. I learned this clan needed the doubling down since just a few strands of electrical wire (all I ever needed in the woods with past piglets) was something they either jumped over or scooted under. But these guys are on lock down for good and haven't escaped once since this new protocol was enforced. I am heading out to check on them now, so hopefully there won't be an update here soon about how wrong I was...
My parents are coming to visit in a few weeks. My home and lawn is already not up to their standards but now that the backyard looks like heavy machinery had its way with it I can only imagine the fun conversations ahead.... But really, I don't care. I don't care if the area around the barn looks like a heavy horse plowed it up. It the grass doesn't come back I just scored a pumpkin patch in the spring, and can enjoy some really nice pulled pork while carving those jackolanterns next October!
Good morning from a chilly farm! First morning near freezing here and it isn't even October! I lit a fire and am enjoying some coffee here with the dogs. This is the transition season at this farmhouse. A time to get sweaty and overheated stacking firewood so you can be cozy and comfortable come snow fly. A time where I still sleep in my upstairs bedroom under warm covers, because the upstairs hasn't been shut down for winter (Why heat a second story just to sleep?). I am hoping to order a second cord of wood this week if I can manage, the first cord is nearly all stacked and in. The local farm stand had a 50lb bag of potatoes for sale for $20 so I bought it as part of winter storage. Potato soup tonight by the fire with a scary movie and sweet dog!? Yes, please!
The blog of author Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm. Where pop culture meets agriculture! Here she writes about her adventures following her crazy dream life as a self-employed writer, homesteader, archer, falconer, equestrian, martial artist, hunter, spinner, brewer, geek, and real-life Game of Thrones Extra. She loves movies, music, running far, and eating animals.
On twitter @coldantlerfarm
And when the children are safe in bed, at one of the great holidays like the Fourth of July, New Years, or Halloween, we can bring out some spirits and turn on the music, and the men and the women who are still among the living can get loose and really wild. So that's the final meaning of "wild"- the esoteric meaning, the deepest and most scary. Those who are ready for it will come to it. Please do not repeat this to the uninitiated. -gs