Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Back In The River

This morning, and most mornings these days, I am in the Battenkill River. I am there close to 6AM - before most of the morning chores and the day's work. I am hoping to catch a trout with the small set of skills I have acquired over the years as a fly-fisher. It is a large hope.

It's quiet and lovely. The Battenkill is perfect in its lack of activity. There are no kayaks, canoes, or tubers yet. There are just us anglers and very few of us on weekday mornings. The river is so clean that I can see the trout twenty yards away and cast right to them. Sometimes they swim right up to my fly, sniff at it, and take off. Sometimes they bite and I try to hook them and fail. Sometimes I just want an excuse to stand in the river at dawn and not look crazy.

I just spend an hour or so, and rarely catch a fish. Today I got a few bites and learned what flies to use in that place and time. Yesterday I caught some brown trout, two small ones, and released them back into the water. It was a thrill worth the wait and the work.

P.S. I am selling my fiddle and some antiques on Facebook, if you are interested in some unique items or instruments, please let me know via email or FB. Thanks!

Monday, May 30, 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.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Goat Life Hack #494

Everything is a hammock is you want it bad enough.

Hersteading: Art and Friendship

I met Miriam at the Tae Kwon Do school we both attended. She and I knew each other from those classes, and we chatted from time to time, but it was when she found out I had a farm she emailed me asking if she could take photos? I agreed and a friendship started between us and her family.

That was 2013. Over the years she has taken over 5,000 photos of Cold Antler Farm in every season. She has been here for horse cart rides with Merlin to the Stannard Farm Stand and has walked beside me on hawking adventures with Italics. She has been to the butchering of chickens and pigs, the shearing of sheep, and the weeding of gardens. She met me not too long after I had left the corporate life for the farm life and only knows me as the scrappy woman trying to keep her Creative life pumping blood to all the corners of hope and force it needs. She's been a true friend, an amazing artist, and a photo journalist of one eccentric life on the side of a mountain. She is about to share it all with the world.

Miriam has a show called Hersteading, and it opens to the public in a few weeks! There she will have her favorite and most-powerful images of this One-Woman-Farm up for display. On the 18th I will be there as well, to do an author talk about my experience on the farm as a Jill of All Trades and have books available to purchase and sign. Please join us for this celebration of art, friendship, and farming! All events are FREE to attend, no purchase of books or art necessary.

Hersteading.

a photo project about Cold Antler Farm by Miriam Romais
On view at Saratoga Arts, June 11 – July 31, 2016
July 9, 6-8pm
Opening Reception for 10×10 and Hersteading exhibitions

July 18, 6-8pm
Artist Talk • Book Signing • Reception
Artist talk and slide presentation with Romais and homesteader and author Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm.  Exhibition catalogues will be available for purchase and signing, as well as Jenna’s books thanks to Northshire Books. The Reception (7-8pm) features a delicious tasting from Bon Bon Brazil, with Druthers providing beer and yummies.

The Theatre Gallery at Saratoga Arts 
320 Broadway • Saratoga Springs NY
www.saratoga-arts.org

Hours: Mon-Fri, 9-5pm + Sundays in July, 11-5pm, with extended hours on performance nights (check events calendar for evening hours)

Shearing Day!

I came down the stairs around 5:30 This morning and as I turned the corner into the first room the smell of sheep hit me, hard. I didn't have any ovine house-crashers in the house, but I did have a mountain of freshly-shorn fleece in the corner. Threats of rain right after sheering had me bring the wool inside to protect it. I had yet to bag it up for the mill. So after last night's humidity, walking towards the coffee pot was a lot like walking through sheep soup, but you know, everywhere.

It is moments like this I am really grateful my roommates are sheepdogs. Not a lot of humans would put up with a house smelling like that. Gibson was padding right beside me, and while I usually cringe at wordplay, I looked him right in the eye and said, "I have to warn you, baby, it smells like warm ewe." The border collie didn't care. Gibson would do whip-its of that stench if he could.

This past Thursday, three good friends were able to sneak away from their work in order to help me with my own. Miriam, Cathy, and Trevor got here in the afternoon heat to assist shearer Jim McCrea with the flock. There were seven chubby sheep to shear, four of them were British Longwools with staples decent enough to spin. The other three were the Scottish Blackface, a meat breed known for wool that makes fine rugs, tartans, and general weaving. But the good stuff is the stuff off the backs of Sal, Joseph, and the two new ewes purchased from Patty last fall. They are all Romney(ish). One ewe is a purebred Romney and the others are half Cotswold, Border Leicester, and Merino. Those four fleeces are the ones worth spinning.

So when the shearer arrived in the late afternoon, we got to business. A makeshift pen was made to hold the flock. All fourteen sheep headed into it for grain, save Brick, who understood a trap when she saw one. Miriam let Gibson outside and it took me and him not time at all to get the renegade into the pen. She slid through and Trevor shut the gate behind her. Jim the Shearer clapped for Gibson. I was insanely proud of that small gesture.

It didn't take long for the seven adult sheep to be shorn. I had a small table with beer growlers from the Argyle Brewing Company and mason jars to pour it into for the helpers. I set out a container of garlic chevre and crackers if anyone felt peckish. Miriam and Cathy also brought snacks to share, so this shearing day had some Craft Services. Cathy's handmade salsa, I am still thinking about it.

The three males and four females went fast, under the expert work of Jim and his apprentice. Miriam was able to snap some photos for her project of the farm (more on that later!) and Trevor managed some impromptu, accidental, mutton bustin'. But the work got done, the new fencing was set up to organize the field into managed grazing sectors,  and the fleeces were safely stores inside from the threat of rain. 

After shearing was done I was feeling great. A slight buzz from the combination of heat, work, and beer had me feeling wonderful so after I paid the shearer ($8.50 a sheep plus travel costs) and said thank yous and goodbyes to my friends, I headed out for a four mile run. When I came home from that I was a happy, tired, mess and had a shower with mint soap. In a perfect world I would be under the King Maple, swinging from the hammock chair, watching the first drops of rain fall while I sipped some iced tea and swayed.

The rain never did come and the gardens wailed. I still swayed. I'll take an imperfect day on this farm any day. Especially, these days.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fire Sale!

Hey Folks, These are services, items, and farm goods I have for sale! I have 2 days to make this happen, so that I can mail in a mortgage payment before June 1. If you or someone you know might want or need what is offered below, please consider buying, suggesting, or sharing this stuff with others!

One 1/4 Share of (2016/2017 fall/winter) Pork remains!

Logos! Logos are on sale for designs starting in late June. You wait longer, but pay less!

Illustrations, from postcard sets to full color commissions, on sale!

Goat Kids for Sale! La Manch/Alpine Buck Kids - $50 each!

Fiddle or Archery Package Days: Learn to shoot or play the fiddle, spend 4 hours on the farm and learn the beginnings of a new skill! Comes with fiddle or bow! Stay all day and learn both (great family activity!)

Do you have a blog, small business, or product you want to Promote on Cold Antler Farm for a whole year? I have ad spaces to fill and readers get a much lower rate than businesses! So message me and get your words and work out there!

Raw Wool! Bags of Romney and Romney/Merino Crosses.

Pastured Chickens - pre order birds for later this summer, raised outside and processes locally.

Support a Creative life: consider subscribing to Cold Antler Farm by contributing monthly for as low as $5 towards the blog! This is like an NPR support option, volunteering to contribute to the blog, which is free to read.


Email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com to order or talk about anything above!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Shearing Day, Join Me!

Shearing Day is coming up, May 26th! The shearer Jim McRae will be here in the mid afternoon and if you are local and have some free time, considering coming to be a part of it! What is there to do? Well, two or three people work with the actual shearer to hand over sheep as they are shorn. Others can help skirt the wool and prepare it for the mill. Some others can just laugh at the rest of us as sheep slip through our hands or go from woolly to naked, and enjoy potluck foods, iced coffee, or BBQ if I get it all together in time. Some folks from Kiva will also be stopping by as part of their Ag Tour upstate. So there's a chance there will be sheepdogs, sheep, shearing, wool skirting, beer, bbq, and New York City Kiva reps all at the same time. It's a fun afternoon and the most important day on a small fiber operation's calendar! So email me if you want to join in?

Friday, May 20, 2016

A String of Three

So Monday night I spilled a 1/3 of a cup of seltzer water on my laptop. It shut down and it didn't start back up. It was a real bummer and what followed was driving down to Albany with a friend to pass off the dead macbook to a repair guy. He still has it, and on it are all my design and illustration programs, photos, and recent work files. I am writing you from the 2010 desktop in my living room I mostly just use for watching movies and TV shows through streaming services. It doesn't have any design programs on it. If he gets it to restart it's a $300 fee. Yikes.

So clients are waiting. I am waiting. Bills are waiting. Stress is high. Nothing new around here, to have that panting lurch of being in a tight spot. I'll figure it out.

But wait, it gets better! On that same trip to Albany a filling cracked in half. Boy Howdy, did that hurt. I was sitting by a fountain outside a Ten Thousand Villages store and eating a piece of beef jerky (Like the lady) and BAM! I contacted my dentist.  It will be repaired in June, but till then I am on a pretty lame soft-foods diet.

They say bad things come in threes. It's true. Tonight, my truck stopped working. It won't start. It has to do with the starter and I don't think it is an expensive repair, but it means limited mobility. If it doesn't start tomorrow the guys at Bains will come with a tow truck and see to her, but who knows what that will cost. I hope not a lot.

So tonight I am going to eat some yogurt at home and work on illustrations like a champ. Those pencil and water color commissions are few and far between, but they do add some income and they don't need to be scanned. I can take a snapshot and work at my desk while binge watching You're The Worst for the third time. Which is a show I adore, so so so much.

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Vlog: 5 Myths About Backyard Livestock

Bee Art!

I illustrated this last night, while thinking of all this bee business. It was really the only thing to do while I was waiting for company to come and the power was off. A blackout came, thanks to high winds and rural power lines by big trees. So I turned on my crank radio, sat by the comfy wood stove, and painted by the last of the daylight. This bee was the sketch/watercolor result. It is on 9x12" bristol board. If you want him - feel free to email me and I'll mail him to you for some agreeable rate.

A Monster With Two Heads

It's almost 10AM and I just finished the morning chores. I know, that's late. But last night I hosted a Game Night with some new and old friends (we played a farm favorite, Lords of Waterdeep) and guests were still tallying up points at 10PM. It wasn't till around midnight till I fell asleep, so I didn't get out and about until 8AM. Slow start for this time of year and this particular life.

Getting started means letting the dogs out to romp and pee, letting the kids out to do the same (by the by, the kids are now named Jack White and Jack Black. I call them the Jacks) and going about the morning chores of feeding pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits,  geese,  turkeys, chickens and one loud horse. By the time the coffee was drank and the last of the stainless steel milking pails were set aside to dry, it was 9:30. Now the kids are asleep in a borrowed plastic dog crate on clean bedding. The dogs are asleep after full bellies of kibble. The cats are asleep from their dawn rounds of critter killing and delivering their murder victims to the front door looking worse than an avian Elizabeth Short.

Some of this homesteading stuff I have down. I feel really confident about my gardens, my goats, and now my sheep. I feel savvy around my horse (not all horses, mind you, but mine). I know dogs better than any other living species, including humans. And so far the cats haven't mutated to their desired dream size to kill me in my sleep.

Other things I don't have down, and the lessons come hard. Bees are one of those lessons. I am writing you with over 16,  itching, hurting, stings on my thighs, hands, and butt.

This past Saturday I installed the nuc of bees I had pre-ordered with some friends. A few of us went in on the hive, planning to share the honey for mead in the coming years. It was exciting getting up and driving to Betterbee to grab the hive, just after dawn. I had music blaring, and was listening to Coleman Hell with the windows down. I felt good. I had chores done, coffee injected, and was greeting the sunrise with aviator sunglasses and the mild high you get from going out to get new livestock. I consider bees tiny livestock.

Now, If you don't get there early you could be in line for hours. So many people come to pick up honeybees at that location, and I am grateful it is literally the next town over. So I was loaded up and on the way home by 7AM. Music playing, friends chatted with, life was good.

A nuc is different than a package of bees. A package is a box of several thousand bees with some feeding syrup and a queen in a small, sealed, box. They are not a true colony yet, and there is no honey or brood to protect. You buy these and literally dump them into their hive and that's that. I have done it a dozen times between my own hives and friends - and so I was feeling overly confident about this nuc sitting in the back of my red pickup. I would do the same, right? No problem. Open it, put the five frames into the hive, and that would be that. But it wasn't.

A Nucleus Hive is a mini-bee hive. You are paying more for it because it is already established and producing a village work force. So these are bees that have been separated from an existing hive complete with brood, honey, and a laying queen. This means you are not dumping desperate refugees into a Habitat for Beemanity Hive. You are committing a the insect equation of human trafficking. This village was kidnapped, separated from family, shoved in a windowless-white-van of a box and now is seeing sunlight for the first time at a brand new location. They are pissed. They have something to protect. One does not simply "dump them into" a hive.

Well, and idiot does. Enter me.

I had on my bee jacket, veil, and gloves. But I also had on skinny jeans and no smoker. This meant that my lower body had tight clothes with little protection. I had no smoke to confuse the bees. I just opened the box and started moving frames. The first few stings came fast. Then I realized I couldn't stop, I HAD to finish moving the hive. Frame by frame I lifted them out of the van and into the their new digs - the whole time being stung. Had I suited up, smoked, and done things right I would have been fine. But I assumed it would be like every other time I installed bees. It wasn't. Thank the Gods I am not allergic.

The next few nights were cold, I noticed dead bees around the hive but the bulk of them seemed fine. I fed them some simple syrup to help get them through, and I sincerely hope they make it. My luck wasn't good here with weather either. It's not going to be the sunny, bright, week last week was. It was snowing here this morning. Little taunting flakes all over the black backs of my dogs and gathering around the hive. It has since stopped but it made me wince. They might have gotten me good, but I don't want them to freeze.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Photo-Tommed

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bruise

I don't remember getting hurt. I just remember that after the horse ran away everything that followed was a calm and certain reaction. When the saddle was put away, Merlin brushed and fed, and put out in the pasture - I remember rubbing my left elbow with my right hand and wondering what happened? He must have been bumped into me when he side-jumped in fear from the saddle bags he saw on the ground. I thought I moved out of the way fast enough? Apparently not. When a thousand pound of agita wants to teleport and your elbow is in the way - it gets hit. Now, just a few days later, it is hard to move my left arm and there is a hot bruise that I am pretty sure will cover most of the real estate beside my elbow and upper arm. Nothing is broken, but it really smarts.

Merlin was tried loosely to his hitching post outside. I had secured his saddle and breast collar, and slung the same saddle bags we have used for years over his rear end. His bridle wasn't on yet, just his halter. We were on our way to the neighbors to deliver eggs and goat cheese, a home warming gift. I realized his saddle bags needed some straps of leather to secure them to the saddle so I stepped inside to get them. I found a long piece of leather a minute later. I cut it in half for each side of the horse. Three minutes later I was outside again. Merlin was gone.

Well, shit.

When things go down my usual anxiety-ridden, over-thinking, brain changes. It turns over like my F150's engine, growling quick. Damnit, the only time I'm not worried is when something bad happens. I stay up worried about money, love and death in a safe little bed, but when things go down I shift gears and focus. I like it when all you can do is react and solve a problem; when anxiety is useless. I think the apocalypse would be the only scenario I could actually relax in.

I called out Merlin's name. Nothing. I checked his pasture, the yard, the neighbor's yard. No sign of the horse. All that was left were the saddle bags, a trampled mess on the ground. Clearly they had slid off and that spooked him enough to bolt. I was just so grateful he wasn't in his bridle. If his bit or reins got caught in something it could mean real panic and even injury. I grabbed some grain in a bucket and set out for the same trail we have ridden hundreds of times. If he was scared maybe the repeated trail ride would be his go-to route. About a 1/4 mile from the farm, I found him eating grass behind some rose bushes.

I grabbed his halter and walked him back to the farm. I set him back on his hitching post and showed him the saddle bags. He didn't seem to mind them. So I put them on and secured them with the straps I had found. He seemed fine with it. So I took the lead rope off the post and was going to walk him around a bit to see how he did with the attacking saddle bags, and he lost it. Soon as he noticed the weight on his but he started spinning in circles. I calmed him by standing in front of him, palm on the length of his nose, breathing deep. He slowed. I took off the saddle bags and threw them over my shoulder. "Come on, you big baby. We'll walk together and I'll carry the goods."

And so we did. We walked as a team, me singing to him quietly. I watched his ears flicker and listen, felt his body calm and breathing return to normal. The neighbors weren't home, so I set the carton and jar on the porch and we walked home.

The plan was to ride, not to catch and walk a horse like a dog. So we returned to the driveway and I set the bags on the grass. I found my stick and flag, used for ground work. I wanted to see if he was with me or still anxious. I should have put the saddle bags inside, because soon as the flag moved him in their direction he did that insanely fast side-step that took out my elbow, I guess. It was the only time we made physical contact of any import.

I put the bags inside. We tried again. And we ended the day with a short trail ride just to the place he ran to and back home. Stick to the plan, ride the horse. If he realized that running away, acting up, freaking out, and being scared ended with that saddle never being used it would leave a wrinkle in his brain I didn't want. And if I was too scared to get on a horse, then I would stop riding them. Neither would do. Maybe you would have done differently. You weren't there.

And so after that short ride we came home, he was seen to, and I rubbed that elbow. Now I am worried I'll die in my sleep from internal bleeding. First woman to die from a bruise caused by accidental equine shoving. Where's my apocalypse?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Farm Update!

Good evening from the farm. I'm taking a break from some logo and illustration work to pop in and let you know what is going on here, animal-wise, at Cold Antler. It seems like the lull of winter feeding and the slow heartbeat of chores hit a speedball, because all of a sudden I am outside every few hours and the work keeps coming!

Goats: My plan is to just keep the two does, Ida and Bonita. Bonita is at a regular milking schedule now, and producing less milk than in previous years but it might rev up in the next few days. Ida still has not kidded, and doesn't even look that round in the belly but she has a huge bag that loaded up and I don't think it's a sympathetic lactation. Hoping she has a nice little doe, but honestly I'll take anything if it means moving past the baby stages and getting into regular milking schedules with both goats. I just made my first chèvre of the year and it was the creamiest, most mildly-tart, most perfect cheese I ever made! I'm kinda looking forward to selling Jack soon so I can have all that milk to myself for soap and cheese!

Sheep: The flock is doing well! All seven adults and seven lambs are enjoying the now greener world around them. There are four ewe lambs and three ram lambs, all the ram lambs are sold to folks who want them for the freezer. The ewes will stay here to add some younger blood to the flock. Monday is going to need to be swapped out for a new ram in the fall, so that is going to either be a trade with Common Sense Farm or he'll be sold or traded to another Blackface farm. If interested, let me know. He's a goodie! Every ewe this year had twins or triplets!

Pigs: Just two pigs here about to be butchered soon for shareholders, the last two of the six wintered over here. Then I'll head south to Joshua Rockwood's farm to get some piglets in trade for fiddle lessons for his wife! A great barter and a way to meet some fellow farm folks in the area. Gotta say I miss seeing piglets scurrying around!

Chickens: I didn't buy any laying chicks in this year, but two out of a huge nest of eggs in the barn just hatched under a black, rumpless, jungle fowl hen! I am hoping the flock here does what it does last year and raises up new stock on their own. I am good in eggs, for sure. Getting around five a day (that I can find, new laying spots are found every so often like treasure chests). I do have a HUNDRED meat birds coming in soon from Freedom Ranger Hatchery next week or around then! Right now the only chicks in the brooder are ten American Bresse I got from Common Sense Farm. Hoping to keep them around for a breeding group, or maybe just for the table. They are rumored to be the best tasting poultry on earth. Looking forward to doing the research!

Horse: Just Merlin here. No other pony but I wish he did have a companion and I had another to ride. It isn't in the budget right now while I try to catch up on the mortgage. (I am considering rough boarding someone else's horse so he can have a friend who pays rent, though!) I rode him Sunday and I'll admit I was nervous about it. IT was my first time since that bad fall in April. But solid groundwork and paced work got us just fine. Oh, and plenty of bug spray and a properly fitting girth - so I am back in the saddle!

Dogs: Gibson is perfect, as always. Friday is healing up well, but still wears her punk rock bandage to keep it clean. We rode around in the truck today as a trio and it was delightful. Friday sits right next to me, sitting straight and looking out the windshield at the world. Gibson stands to the passenger side and makes sure the glass has plenty of smudges from his nose. They are the happiest beasts on the farm, hands down.

Cats: Still assholes. Bo and Bree are fine, good friends.

Geese: Saro, Cyrus, and Ryan are guarding a nest right by the woodpile outside the kitchen. No goslings yet but they seem really into it.

Bees: I pick up a nuc on Saturday morning! New hive will be set out by the kailyard. Excited to start with these guys, and excited to see those bees around the kailyard and veggie patches (coming soon, not planted yet).

Rabbits: I have four rabbits now, one Giant Chin buck and three does. I bought the 2 new does at the Poultry swap and they are both Flemish Giant crosses. Both does are spotted and one came bred to a Flemish Giant. The bred one, she already started a fur nest and there should be bunnies soon. The other one was bred to my buck as well. If this buck doesn't produce it's time to get some new blood in here.

Turkeys: Bryan and Lucas are doing well. I wish I had some hens for them, but they seem good enough being bachelors. They have DESTROYED the side porch outside the living room though. It has way too much turkey poop and Operation Move Drumsticks is in the works to clean, re-carpet, and set up a fence so they no longer can use my porch as their little poop pagoda.

Gardens: Kailyard is stocked with kale, lettuce varieties, spinach, and other cold-weather crops. All of them greens I eat a lot of. The kitchen garden outside the kitchen will be planted with potatoes, tomatoes, basil, onions, squash, and more. I focus less on growing a grocery store like the old days and more on growing the 10 things I eat all the time. It saves money, and it actually gets eaten and stored (potatoes in bins and baskets, pesto in freezer, sauce in cans, etc).

I think that covers it? There will be a new hawk trapped and trained in September. I have been very active with my archery practice with my 50lb recurve. I hope to return to TKD classes soon as finances and time allow. I'm a black belt in my school and should be helping teach and work with newer students as a thank you for all the advanced students who got me to black. Besides all that - my life is this farm, these words, daily yoga, a lot of distance running, and my usual obsessions with pop culture and music. Radiohead's new album is out, so get into that. And what else is there to share with you guys?

Remember to look up. You never look up.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

15 Things My Mom Doesn’t Realize She Taught Me

1. Sunglasses 
I never, ever, leave home without sunglasses. Not in any season or weather. It makes driving easier in vehicles with older windshields that have bad glare at night or in the rain. Also, who wants to squint? Also, they look cool.

2 . Sunscreen and Makeup
My mom is in her sixties and has less wrinkles than farmers around here in their 30s. Bam.

3. Always Carry a Book
I can’t picture my mother without a book. Her bedside had a stack of biographies, novels, history and politic and religion books by it. Now I judge people who don’t read in their spare time. She does too. (She also thinks coloring books for adults are stupid.) I am sure that the reason I became a writer was for her approval. Books mattered in a holy way to her.

4. Wonder Women 
My mom adored Jackie O, and Mrs. Kennedy's image was more recognizable to me as a seven year old than most of my cousins.We had books about her, visited shows about her at museums, the house had collector plates and photographs. Growing up Catholic in the 60’s, Jackie was it. I have a fond place for her in my heart. Anna Kendrick is my Jackie O. I get it. But Anna can't ride a horse. Yet.

5. Vote.
Always, always, always vote.

6. Science Can Only Bring you Closer to God. 
We were always encouraged to understand the history, science, and reality of the world around us and it was never to conflict with religion. God was never presented as a character, but something bigger and more complicated. I’ll never forget asking about evolution vs creationism as a kid and my mom telling me in a flippant tone, “Of course God created evolution. You’re a Woginrich. Think.”

7. Fashion is Art 
Fashion isn’t about vanity, it’s our cultural history. It is art. It is worth paying attention to. Took me 30 years to embrace that. Now I devour Vogue as much as I devour any farm lit. I will name a horse Wintour, just wait.

8. Seafood is (Mostly) Gross.
We ate things with 2 or 4 legs growing up. Her father was a butcher. She did have shrimp at parties and occasionally ate tuna salad, but that is it. Seafood is bug meat to me.

9. Be Brave.
She was the first female  Political Science major at her college. The same college I graduated from a few decades later. She took on a whole new career in education when her kids grew up and taught for years. This is tough stuff, and part of why I feel I can do this crazy farm thing.

10. NYC is THE CITY
As a child we’d take a lot of trips from our small town in PA to NYC. We’d walk 5th avenue, take in art museums, see Broadway shows. We did a lot of family vacations to the shore or even Disney, but trips to NY just to soak it all in was my favorite. My love of art, animation, and comedy was so encouraged by this. In college I’d take the bus into the city all the time, just to see Demetri Martin do a one man show at UCB. I'm a proud New Yorker now, and that city is part of that pride.

11. Swimming
My mom loves to swim, and we all grew up learning to swim soon as it was legal in our local pool association. I hated those 8AM swimming lessons then but now all my summer days are spent in lakes and rivers and feeling safe in deeper water and loving my time there is a real gift. 

12. Starship Troopers is a Modern Classic 
This is a movie that my mom loves. She’s got a thing for giant bug movies. I bet she’d beat any giant bug in a swimming race.

13. Present Yourself Better 
If her house was on fire, her eyeliner would be set. I’m not that extreme but my mom is the reason you will never see me in public in pjs, slippers, ugg boots, or sweatpants. When you are out in the world, try. It shows respect for yourself and others. Plus, you feel better.

14. Tradition
She might not think I care about family traditions since I live far away and our views on many topics are polar opposites - but the heart of carrying on traditions that respect and honor your past, ancestors, family history, and story matter more to me than anything.

15. GO FIGHTING IRISH!
There is no other college football team. This is not up for debate.

[Happy Mother's Day, PYW]

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Meet The New Kid!

Bonita had a big single buckling! He's huge! As tall as Friday and in great shape. He's eating well, running about, and looking healthy as any goat farmer can ask! He's got the size of the Alpine breed and the gentleness and tiny ears of the LaMancha. He'll go to a new home soon as he is sold (yours for $65, but while he is here he needs a name. What do you think I should call this monkey? Best name gets a postcard mailed with his illustration on it!

P.S. Tiffany who posted at 10AM on May 3rd, you won the fox. Email me for mailing info, please?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Torn Pad, Kailyard Planted.

Friday cut her dewclaw pad running around the farm like a fox on fire. She didn't even notice it, not until she came inside the farm house after morning chores. Little red paw prints coated the floor from the blood running off the fresh cut. I am used to this from Gibson, who in six years has cut his paw twice and once had it split open from a slammed tailgate. Paw pads are tough, heal well, and don't need much fuss for a small cut but this needed attention. Fri never had to be forced to be aided that way and so I wasn't sure how she would take it. It went as well as expected.

The trust of border collies amazes me. She let me scoop her up in my arms (she is only 40lbs) and carry her into the bathroom. Fear of the pain and the instinct to clean and care for her own wound was strong, but she let me hold her in place while I cut away the muddy and bloody feathering on her front leg, wash it with warm soapy water, rinse out the cut with a sterile syringe (without the needle, so it was a mini water gun) and apply anti-biotic cream, bandages, and vet wrap. I did it the way the vet taught me from visits with Gibson. I could tell she didn't need stitches but she did need to keep it clean. She was shaking, she was hurt. She stayed with me and let me take care of her.

Gibson and Friday are invaluable here. Gibson has become an amazing worker with the livestock. If I walk outside and see less then fourteen sheep, all I need to do is look at that dog and point up the road to the neighbor's pasture. Gibson is off like buckshot, Friday trails behind him (more excited to run beside her hero than herd sheep), and he gets them back with a beautiful, natural outrun. He lays down on a dime. He cares more about pleasing me than chasing stock. Friday, she's another story. And now with a badass armband accessory I think her own origin story is just getting more punk rock. She'll start proper herding training with Jim McRae in a few weeks, I hope. If he can fit us in, he is after all a sheep shearer and this is the busy season.


In other good news, I planted over 108 kale, lettuce, and spinach plants in the kailyard. The started plants all came from the good people at Stannard Farm and are fed well by last year's goat pen muck, well composted and black and rich. It was a morning of hoeing and pitching the compost and planting but I am very happy with the spread.

So glad to see the response to the little fox. I'll pick a winner tomorrow randomly. Just scroll and then close my eyes and place my finger on the screen. I'll try and do small gifts like this more often. You guys do so much for me, from buying books to signing up for the monthly subscriptions. I so appreciate it.

So wish that scrappy pup a fast heal. She's hopefully not going to need the vet's time but if it isn't closed up in three days we will. Dogs are top animal around here, after primates like me. They get the best, as that is what they give me.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Little Fox

This little fox is sleeping tight, and hand drawn, inked, and colored on a postcard. It is ready to mail. If you would like this little guy to show up at your home with some words of encouragement, just leave a comment here. There is no price for the fox. The fox is a gift. I want to send it off with kind words to a random reader as a thank you for following along here with Cold Antler. Leave a comment and I'll pick someone and announce it in the comments, and then ask that person to email me with their address or the address of someone they would like to send the fox to. That's all for today, from rainy Jackson.

Any Moment Now...

Last night, just after Game of Thrones ended, I headed outside with Gibson and Friday to check on the goats. Ida and Bonita are ready to kid any hour now, and I think Ida will go first. This morning she had a stream of mucus coming out of her hoo haa and was rubbing her belly along the barn wall. They have a clean place to give birth and the farmhouse is ready for babies and the kickstart to dairy season. All the steel pails, buckets, strainers, filters, and bottles are ready to go. Their is a dog crate with soft hay in it ready by the wood stove. I have years of experience at this now, and so far have never had a problem with kidding season (or anything!) with these two goats. I can not praise Alpines enough. They are great mothers, great milkers, great producers (I can expect around 2 gallons a day soon from these girls), and at this point: great friends.

Wish us luck with this kidding season. I am going to run into town or some grain and minerals for the girls so I am stocked, get a fire going inside on this rainy day while I work on illustrations and logos, and spend the day working and checking on goats for little ones.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Homesteader Life Hack 456

Those bear-shaped honey containers you bought in bulk a few years ago? Well, guess what? A standard baby bottle top and nip screw on perfectly. Not a bad runner up in a pinch.

Poultry Swap!

Just back from the adventure and wonder that is the Annual Poultry Swap! It's pretty much a holiday for this little farm, and an event I think I have only missed once since I moved to Veryork. It is a little chilly and rainy out here in the savagelands, but that did not deter the hundreds of people who gathered at the blessed event. People of all ages, sizes, tax brackets and farm-experience came to see the big show.

 And I can't believe how much bigger it gets every year! What started as a couple of pickup trucks selling and trading fancy fowl has turned into a thriving grass-roots marketplace. It's the kind of bazaar of scrappy little businesses selling livestock, plants, cages, and saddles you'd expect to read about in some post-apocalypse novel. There are lambs in big crates and goat kids running down the market aisles. There are highland calves on lead ropes being walked out of trailers and parrots and puppies in crates and cages. It's a real country affair for people looking to buy and sell animals they raised to help make ends meet. I love it.

I was looking for new breeding does (rabbits not goats) and hopefully some turkey hens. It didn't take long to find two gorgeous half-flemish does (one bred!). I snatched them up and looked everywhere for turkeys, and sadly they were all $50 or more. That is too rich for me, so Lucas and Bryan remain single until I find some better prices on Craigslist.

It was good to see friends and fellow farmers I knew well. Lots of dogs, too (I brought Friday). There were gorgeous horses (a horse show was being held at the fairgrounds at the same time).  And the human animals were a joy to watch as well. The kind of  plucky people who wake up before dawn to feed their own farms and serve their kids breakfast before packing up a truck of hope and hoping to make a killing at an animal yard sale.

I'm home now, of course, and the new does are already set up in their outdoor, on-earth, hutches. They seem to be doing just fine. Friday is asleep hard in her crate. I think the whole thing was a bit shocking for her to take in, but after some original nerves she walked proudly through the crowds and got to play with Swanson, my friend Ejay's nice lad of a border collie. And by "play" I mean sniff and raise a lip to because Friday is kind of a bitch. Literally.

I got 2 flats of vegetable 6-backs, all kale and salad greens to populate the Kailyard with. There is an amazing pile of fresh compost for it, since yesterday me and my friend Trevor pitched muck into a pile for a few hours after we finished a 4-mile run (for fun!), but what the hell. You only live once. My body isn't sore yet from the mucking but I know by the time Game of Thrones is on I will feel like a piece of burned oak that was once a human woman. Stiff, tight, and hurting. But in a good way.

Kids will be born any day, as both my goats look ready to pop. I got a good feel on them, their bags, and their temperaments during hoof trimming a few days ago. They both have that tired-eyed and quiet hum of mothers feeling that birth is long overdue - but not fussing with impatience. They have a cleaned out pen with fresh hay to bring those babies into the world.

More news when there is news, have a good one guys.

photo by Pat Wesner

Saturday, April 30, 2016

See Them As Trees

...When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are... -Ram Dass

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Bear: Part 2

I didn't wake up in the night while the bear rummaged about. I was fast asleep, listening to Louis CK standup off Youtube as my lullaby and curled up with the dogs on the second floor. The dogs didn't hear (or care) and so no barking woke me up either. I imagine the only sounds on the farm were Louie and the occasional grunts of a large ursine beast.

When I was outside for early morning chores, all I saw was the mess. There were shells of goose eggs scattered all around the woodpile, and my three geese were watching from high on the hillside with the sheep. Clearly the bear had found the nest and snacked on all 15 eggs and the geese took off for the highlands. Imagine those old movies where the family watches their house burn down at a safe distance? It was like that.

The eggs were the lightest bit of damage though, the trash bins were scattered to the four winds. It looked like my yard just hosted an outdoor rock concert. My first thought wasn't a bear at all, but raccoons, or perhaps the two pigs in the woods broke out of their pen? But I could see the pigs looking at me from their Pigoda and the goats watched quietly from their pen. I cleaned up the mess, threw the egg shells on the compost pile, and looked around the place for some sort of sign or track. At this point things were so dry and in need of rain, there was nothing on the ground to prove anything, but my head went back to the raccoons. But then I remembered how often a raccoon would rather snag a fat chicken then rummage through garbage? And that so many times coons had come and pilfered food and never once knocked out a trash can in the past? Then it hit me: bear.

I had a small package of pork to deliver to the neighbor's so I walked over. It was a thank you for letting me ride on their property. Because of them, I can have an adventure on horseback right outside my front door on hundreds of acres of trails instead of just riding around my 6.5 acres. After he thanked me for the gift he asked me if I saw the bear? I had not, but he sure was at my place - I told him. He nodded. Apparently he went right now the mountain ripping apart bird feeders, trash cans, compost piles and feed containers. Yikes.

So besides some minor damage and the reminder that I live in a place where several-hundred-pound animals can walk right up to your kitchen window looking for dinner - all is well.

Sorry these posts are coming few and far between. Dealing with a lot of stress. But writing is what makes me feel connected and better, so I hope to be more present here. 

WTF

I left for two hours to do errands in town and do laundry. I came home to this in my sheep pasture? Who the hell dropped off a goat!? I do not want another goat. This is not my goat. Is it your goat and lost? There was no note on the door, no email, no DM, no anything. Come get your goat.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Bear: Part 1

This was not a good week to be a goose at Cold Antler Farm. Not at all.

The geese have had a nest by the wood pile next to the kitchen. It's a safe little place, tucked right next to the house by the mews and the stacks of firewood. About a dozen eggs were being sat upon, hoping for a hatching of goslings to take to the Poultry Swap in May. About ten feet from them is the garbage cans. Both cans and the nest are less than fifty feet from my small 2-car-garage-sized barn.

I came home from the brewery early. Or, earlier than my friends who stay well into the wee hours. I get up with the sun around 6:30AM right now and staying up until 1Am isn't appealing. So I came home, and when I pulled into the driveway with my pickup, there was not a weird thing going on, at all. There was no panicked sounds of animals or grunts. There was no weird smells. I had been sober as a Judge for a while before I even turned the key in the truck. All was quiet on the Cold Antler Front.

I let the dogs out to pee. I checked the goats to see if any kids had arrived. I counted the flock for all 14 sheep. I made sure the pigs didn't topple their water (I hate waking up thirsty at 3Am, I imagine a pig does, too). So, as far I as knew, the farm was well and good when I crawled upstairs into my bed at 11PM. Honestly, I was so happy about that stair walk, it is embarassing. I had been sleeping on the daybed in the living room all winter, and to have the big full bed, the open windows, the fresh air, the clean sheets, the sprawling GLORY that is a big bed in a clean room... I was more drunk on comfort than anything. And this was the same day I had ran eight miles and fell off a horse. I was ready to sleep.

And while I was sleeping the bear came.

I live on a small mountain, up a winding road. Bears are common, as is bear hunting. There are packs of Plott Hounds that chase bear across my farm fields come fall. I watched them run across corn fields and have seen cubs climbing trees. I love this. I have no qualms with bears as they rarely cause problems. But that night while I slept one bear was on a mission. That mission was calledL DESTROY COLD ANTLER FARM.