Just wanted to let you know you can still order signed (by Gibson, too!) copies of One Woman Farm, Barnheart, Made From Scratch, or Chick Days from Battenkill Books here in town. Email or call Connie to place and order and they can even giftwrap them and send them to a receiver's address to save you the hassle. You're supporting a small business, a small farm, and spreading the Cold Antler Farm hollercall. I think all the books are great gifts but One Woman Farm really seems to catch people's eye and welcome to them to my farm and story in a wonderful way. I hope some of you who already have copies consider ordering them as gifts and those of you who want something special for yourself...Well, don't be a Grinch and TREAT YO-SELF.
15 East Main St.
Cambridge, NY 12816
I am sharing this again to urge anyone on the fence to sign up and join the tribe! So far five women have already signed up, leaving only five spots left. If you are even on the fence or nervous, grab this workshop because it is a life changer. I'm not saying I am a life changer, I'm saying becoming an archer is. You see the world different, you walk taller, you learn a discipline and an art that holds your head higher and allows a focus and meditation few sports can match. You can lose yourself in a run, you can ride a horse for therapy, but your mind is totally open and clear when an arrow is pulled back to your lips. Everyone coming is a complete beginner, so no worries about being worst or best. This is about learning to shoot traditionally and for yourself, and who knows. It may open your world to hunting, or competition, or the SCA like it did for me. Anyway, One spot left and I hope you take 'em fast!
I am happy to announce a new event here at Cold Antler Farm! Hopefully this will become a tradition like Fiddle Camp. On May 3rd and 4th, 2014 I would like to host an absolute beginner's archery event called Arrows Rising. It's two days of learning the skills, techniques, and equipment needed for traditional archery. That's right, traditional is what I said. We'll be learning the recurve and longbow, not compound bows and instinctive shooting. There will be no training wheels or sights, instead just wood and string, arrows, eyes, and targets. The event will include a wooden, artisan-crafted long bow at a poundage and length suitable for beginners. Yup, you get a bow.
This may be the event I am most qualified to teach here, too. As a professional archery instructor, a team member of a traditional archery team, and a safety marshal for the Society of Creative Anachronism I have been teaching and educating beginning archers for some time now. You'll learn not how to pull and release but how to position your entire body, mind, breath, and heartbeat for the target. You'll be among other beginner's as well so no worries
Day One will include an overview of safety, gear, types of bows and arrows. You'll get to know your bow and learn the basics of care and feeding, stringing it with a bow stringer, and how to measure yourself for arrows. You'll get to learn the safe way to shoot with others at a range environment. You'll get the basic lesson of instinctive shooting as well. The day will end with target practice (supervised) and a talk about important books and resources for the new traditional archer.
Day Two will be shorter, but include a group breakfast at the Burger Den followed by a fun tournament with prizes. We'll wrap up around noon or 2PM at the latest and you'll leave not only with your own bow but the knowledge to shoot well, shoot true, and all the skills you need to practice at home or your local archery range (you may not realize you even have a local public range!).
If you want to sign up I am only accepting ten people. I encourage total beginners to traditional archery who always wanted to take up the sport to attend, you really will enjoy it. If you are already an experienced archer, I suggest letting the folks who never touched a bow before take the first slots and you are welcome to attend the tournament Sunday or come and shadow at the talks and practice on Sunday.
SIGN UP BY MESSAGING ME ON FACEBOOK OR EMAILING DOGSINOURPARKS@GMAIL.COM
May 3rd and 4th, 2014
Cost: $350 (includes bow!)
No Camping On Site
Workshops are not refundable, regardless of date change, weather, or any other reason, but all sales of workshops are good for credit towards other events of similar value or less long as I am hosting events and farming! Understand this before you sign up, please.
Ah, yes. The week is over. The weekend is nigh. There is the sense of freedom, of possibility, dare I say…romance? Certainly here next to the roaring fire with a sheepskin adorned in front of it the wine glasses are clinking and two hearts are thawing near its fiery embrace.
Or, you know, you're defrosting some old pig hearts to feed your hawk.
No, there's no romance here these days. But there is a lot going on. Mostly animal related. There was a goat escape today (just little Ida) which was met with many games of tag. Ida is totally happy to sprint after GIbson and together they run around the side yard and woods, taking turns chasing each other. It's absolutely darling to watch, but soon as Annie emerges from her den (the living room) Ida goes stiff as a deer right before the headlights smack her. Maybe it's Annie's wolfish appearance or perhaps just the strangeness of a new animal? (Gibson is outside as much as I am) but Ida has no interest in Husky Tag. Which, let's be honest, is probably for the best. I'm pretty sure that game would end with a heart attack killing a very happy 14-year-old dog with a goat haunch in her mouth.
I picked up Ida and dumped her gently back into the pen with her mama. Both goats seem happy to be the best-kept animals in the barnyard. And I say that in the sense of the animal's choice. The sheep, horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and humans all have shelter, food, water, and space - but only the goats have the sense to tuck into a warm pile of hay and spend a rainy day inside - coats dry and bellies full. Everyone else - from this human and her sprinting dog to the trotting horses on the hillside - to the chickens by the stream bed searching for salamanders and the pigs in their muddy slush - none of us but the goats act civilized. We all have the same options but only goats keep themselves looking good all the time.
It was such an oddly warm day yesterday, so I took advantage of not having to focus my life around heating the farmhouse. It was a little vacation, and I spent most of it doing odd jobs around the farmhouse, inside and out. The big project coming up is cleaning out the goat pen, which has become not just the goat pen but the Antlerborns' Winter Chicken Coop.
I have a horse cart to fix, just a new wheel, but I've been putting it off like it's radioactive. I'm not sure why. I think because it seems like such a "fun" thing at the moment when there is so much to do to get ready for winter, to sew, to mail, to design. So it sits out there. I'll get to it soon.
Italics is doing well, eating from my fist which is a great sign and that shows real trust between us. It was a big step to get to that point and now it is a matter of slowly adding more experiences and distractions as we work towards better communication. Progress is not fast with this kind of thing, but anything moving forward is good!
P.S. After posting this I got several emails from falconers about not feeding hawks pork or pig organs? I could understand not feeding anything cured or salty, or anything processed commercially, but why is a freshly defrosted antibiotic-free pig heart bad for a bird in small training sizes? Please email me if you know!
So I have the bird, the gear, the energy and the will. But what happens first in the training of a hawk has nothing to do with hunting or flying to gloved fists. What happens first is a timeless stand off between falconer and bird. I am calling it The Hunger Games (homage, of course).
When you trap a migrating bird it is already hungry. It has been moving hundreds of miles a day at times, eating just what it needs to keep on the move. My bird was no exception and when it was trapped you could tell he had a mostly empty crop and was on the thin side. He wasn't in the kind of shape where you instantly release him back to the wild, but he wasn't the star quarterback of his high school either. He could use a few meals in him.
But a captured bird, brand new to a human partner does not realize he isn't in danger. He still sees us as big monsters, possibly confused as to why he isn't dead yet. When trapped most birds go into shock, exposing their underside. This is a kind of raptor suicide - it means they give up and want it over with quick. They expect to be eviscerated. But instead they are scooped up, given a new outfit, and brought to their new abode. It's like being kidnapped and put in a hotel suite. You're clad you haven't been BTKed but aren't exactly trustworthy of your abductor. (I know fellow falconers cringe at my comparing raptor capture to kidnapping, but let's be honest here…)
So that is what Italics is in the middle of. He is in this new place, unharmed, and confused. He has been through a lot this Monday and honestly, eating isn't really on his mind. But feeding him is ALL that is on my mind because the first hurdle in training a bird is getting him to eat. And not just eat, but eat from my hands. This sounds simple enough but some of these birds would rather starve to death then let us feed them. They have never shared food in the wild, never ate so close to other predators, and asking them to take some meat from our hands is a huge request. Some birds take up to a week of being on hunger strike to accept a meal and that scared me. Italics wasn't in that kind of shape. He wasn't a fat bird with a big crop full of squirrel meat. Ed said he had about two days in him before we would have to resort to other feeding methods. Some birds never allow you to feed them and they released back to their stubborn lives. The falconer traps again, I assume.
Anyway. I started trying to feed Italics that same day. He wasn't interested. On the second morning, he also wasn't interested and had lost 18g of weight. I started to worry. He wasn't in danger but I wanted to know it would be okay, that he would be okay. That night I went into the mews after dark, lit a candle, and had rich and red meat from a pigeon breast. It was the tastiest thing I could offer, in 2-inch strips. I removed the hood and instead of freaking out or acting up, Italics just regarded me. In the flickering light he saw the food I had to offer him and wouldn't eat it, but he didn't try to bite or foot me. So I took a strip and set it near his beak in an annoying way, and he opened his mouth to snap at it. Some caught in his mouth and he flicked it away.
So this progressed for another hour or so. He accidentally biting into the meat, then flicking it away until I realized the pieces were too big. So I put a pencil-eraser sized bit of meat on my fingertip and rubbed his beak - which he snapped at enough to take part of my finger with it, but it was small enough to taste. He swallowed it! Relief washed over me. This was great. And through that second night he would eat anything that happened into his mount, but would not take food from me. Still, my hungry bird ate a fine meal and was no longer in danger or too stubborn to train. This was great news.
And even better, he didn't object to the hood at all. He let me place it back on his head. This downright surprised Ed. Most birds pitch a fit over a hood, but not Italics. At least not yet in the dark. Daylight may be a whole different story!
Last night I fed him again, and this time he took meat offered next to the beak, actually chose to take it and eat it. I didn't have to trick him. He accepted food from me. The next goal is to get him to take food I set on my gauntlet, right from the fist. To do this Italics has to bend over and show me the top of his head which is a huge act of compliance on his part. It shows that he trusts me enough to put his most fragile part of his body in danger, and feels safe enough to eat from food offered - not dangling near his beak. We will get there, and when we do we can start training in more light, outdoors, and I can start training him to come when called. When I have a bird that returns to my fist when called I can start hunting with him. But there is a lot of chances, plenty of risk of the bird flying off, and other hurdles to cross first. But so far things are going well. We are still in the Hunger Games phase of the story but little by little, we are learning to trust each other. That's enough for me just three days after capture from the wild!
I returned to the trap ten minutes later and was a little bummed out to see the bird on the pole, still sitting and watching the world go by. It was around 7AM and even though we were in a rural area, people were leaving for work, hunting, and school. A big yellow bus drove by and I clenched the wheel of my truck tight enough to whiten the knuckles. I was so close, had wanted this so long, and if a rickety bus send this bird packing I would be back to road spotting. I watched the bird as the bus rambled past. It didn't move. I left.
I drive all the way to Cambridge (a fifteen minute trip) and got a cup of coffee and bought some grain at the feed store. When I couldn't take it anymore I headed back to the trap site, past hills, ponds, and farms that looked ready for their L.L. Bean photo shoot. When I was within a hundred yards the truck crawled along the road, and slowly the telephone pole came into sight. It was empty!
This was a great sign, and perhaps my hungry bird had headed for the trap. I pulled over and acted fast, getting my gear bag out of the back seat and headed down the slope of the ditch. There he was! And he was certainly trapped. One of the loops on the top of of the cage had been stuck on a talon. I literally had a tiger by the toe. As I gained ground and got closer he flapped his wings and opened his mouth wide, as he leaned back exposing his white stomach. This was sign of shock, and he would be as easy to handle as a kitten. Well, a kitten who might grab me with a foot capable of squeezing with 400lbs of sharp force, but I tried not to think about that.
More traffic was picking up on the road and I didn't want people stopping and asking questions. What I was doing was totally legal, but folks aren't used to seeing weekday morning hawk captures on their way to drop off the kids at school and I didn't want to invite any debate, small talk, or fuss. I wanted this bird safe and on our way to Ed's house. I had done this twice now. I guess Third Time really does pay for all, doesn't it? But this time it wasn't about releasing, it was about gathering. So I came up to the bird and got a closer look. He had one foot trapped but the other was up and lashing out. He was a scrapper. I grabbed a leather fake bird on a string (called a lure to falconers) and let him hold onto that while my left hand gathered both legs to keep us both safe. Within moments I had him off the trap, his talons taped shut, and a length of panty hose with a hole in it wrapped around his body. This seems so barbaric, but it is all about safety. A bird with claws and flapping wings in a truck is a disaster - either the human or the bird will get injured. If feathers broke or he was harmed I would be in big trouble with Ed, and feel deeply ashamed. Which is why I didn't put him in a dog crate or cardboard box, since all he would do is thrash. I slipped a hood over his eyes so the world went dark.
I packed all my gear and got into the truck. I did it. It took weeks, a whole community, friends with binoculars and offered time, and last night's stake out but I had a wild passage red-tail in my possession. I just took one small step for a woman… I thought of Ed's talk about hearing the moon landing the last time he trapped a bird. December 2nd 2013 wasn't as eventful. It was Cyber Monday. I just got one hell of steal….
I held him against my body, his head resting on the crook of my left arm as I called Ed at 7:30 in the morning. His wife picked up and handed the phone to her husband, who sounded a little tired and surprised to be hearing from me. "Ed, I GOT A BIRD!" I exclaimed and he sounded (for the first time ever) genuinely excited for me. "Oh, good! Wow, good good good." and I knew he was as shocked as I was, being so late in the trapping season. We made arrangements for me to head right to his farmhouse in south Cambridge and I told him I was on my way.
The drive to Ed's farm was a blur. I barely remember any of it, just that for the first time in weeks I wasn't looking up. I was looking at this beautiful, scared, quiet animal in my arms. To go from an observer of hawks, a casual appreciator to their companion? Or rather, their hunting partner? This was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment, eagerness, and awe. I knew the bird wasn't very large, maybe 2 pounds? But he felt enormous in my arms. So much potential, so many stories, lessons, mistakes, and adventures ahead. It was like holding a potion, equally dangerous and horrible as it was beautiful. I wasn't scared though. I just wanted him to be okay.
I pulled into Ed's driveway and was rushed inside. It felt like those old clips of ER where people run into the double doors with stretchers to the Operating Table. And there was one, kind of. Right there in Ed's kitchen was a laid out towel, scissors, leather anklets, grommets, jesses, and a tool box. Ed and I weighed the bird while it was still safely wrapped and made note of it (982grams, a little under 35 oz). Ed said it was a large male, noted by the smaller feet than females and his weight. We undid his taped feet and removed the stocking and the replaced my too-big hood with one Ed himself handcrafted. Ed thought it was an old, damaged thing but I thought it was the most beautiful hood I had ever seen. Green and dark leather, beautiful closer ties and a decorative top knot. It fit the bird well.
Ed worked masterfully, the 60 years of experience shining through. He was entirely focused on the animal, not at all interested in me or the story. I have learned that falconers are a friendly lot but the birds always come first. Always. Pat offered me coffee and I gladly accepted. I had not showered, was in 4-day old insulated work pants and didn't even remember to put on a bra. I looked like a homeless person who stole roadkill in pantyhose and scrambled away in her dented truck.
It didn't take long to have the bird totally outfitted in anklets and jesses, hood, and ready to stand on my gloved fist for the first time. I set him up and he sulked, drooping as if someone had set him in a bowl of half-formed Jell-O. But then he stood up, as if his entire life was spend on large monster's hands. Ed was impressed, I think so anyway. He said some birds flop and sulk for hours before taking to the fist. This guy was already perching like a pro.
And so, with my hawk on my fist I was handed a cup of coffee and asked to sit down. Have you ever sat at kitchen table and sipped French Roast with a hawk on your left hand? Me either. At least not until that morning. It was strangely comfortable. Ed and I talked a lot. He wanted to make sure I had a plan for training starting tonight. He had some words of advice and we had the little problem of getting the bird home to my farm…. but we rigged a perch for the passenger side seat of the truck. The bird went from total restriction to riding shotgun in under an hour.
And this is how this adventure begins. Two animals, one goal, and a lot of learning in-between. Right now I have a wild animal in my care, and he will remain a wild animal. He is not a pet, but a partner in the hunt. In a few weeks of training, time, and luck we will go from strangers to pack mates. Two loners learning what it is like to think as a team with the hunt on our mind and big fat hope in our hearts. I like this bird, very much so. I named him, too. I call him Italics. It seemed like the right kind of name for a hawk manned by a graphic designer-cum-author. The word always sounded like a bird of prey to me, anyway. The tilt, the hint of the word Talon, and the almost slinky nature of the word seemed to fit him. And it does. So I have a bird in my mews. And now the real work starts.
The first time I ever went hawk trapping I was with two Master Falconers and I was trying to act cool. Outside I kept up the act pretty well. I was mostly quiet, slightly smiling, but generally acting as if it was something mundane like an office carpool trip to an offsite business lunch. I doubt I pulled it off because I was vibrating all over inside my Carhartts. All I kept thinking about was the following two things:
1. I have someone managed to get myself to the point in life where Hawk Trapping is a normal Saturday morning activity.
2. Holy Crow, I could be going home with a bird tonight!
I couldn't help the excitement building up in me. It has taken nearly a year to get to this point in the process. It was early last February when I emailed my state's Department of Environmental Conservation and requested a study/information packet. That simple email was all it took to get a photocopied tome in the mail (my study guide) and forms to fill out asking me to pick a location in the state to take the entrance exam. This was all free, and all just words and paper at the time. I figured if this was something I was serious about I could always take the test and go from there. Taking an exam wasn't going to end with being handed a hawk, but not taking it meant I surely couldn't get started. So I studied. I studied and read books, articles, and watched documentaries. I emailed a friend of a friend who hunted with red tails and I asked if I could tag along. I was starting a dream the only way I knew how: jumping in as if you belonged there all along. So I hit the brush and watched birds dive for rabbits, I studied, and I signed up for a test date in the spring. I was on my way.
I took that exam four months later and scored a 91% (I needed at least an 80% to pass). What followed was forging a relationship with a sponsor, fellow falconers, and starting construction on a mews around my birthday in July. I worked part time at the British School of Falconry this summer and suddenly between the new acquaintances and work, hawks were becoming as normal in my life as horses and sheep. Friends came after work and on the weekends to help build the mews, the weathering area, and what was all paperwork and books last winter was becoming tangible in front of me. As summer wrapped up I finished gathering my supplies and gear. I had a Game Warden inspect the mews and sign off on it as raptor ready. Then it was a matter of waiting for my State and Federal Apprentice Licenses. It took until mid November, but I got them. I was finally ready to start trapping, the last step in preparation and the first step in actually working with a wild bird of prey. All of that had lead to this moment. I was about to head into the fields and forests of Washington County looking for a juvenile red-tail hawk start training.
As we finished loading up the last of the traps, bait, and doubled checked for bottled water and our binoculars - Ed shut the door on the truck and said with confidence, "Well, the only thing holding us back is fear." We drove off looking up.
Sitting in the back seat of an extended cab pickup truck, watching the sky and tree line, while listening to the banter of two old friends was wonderful. I have been new at enough things to know the real learning happens here. Books, videos, and hands-on experience is great but it is the comfortable conversations where I find the real wisdom, warnings, and inside jokes. I listened to them talk, and I asked a lot of questions. I worried at times asking things would sound like I did no research or was more ignorant than my beginner self actually was - but hearing their answers was worth any collateral judgement. You can read about things forever, but hearing an anecdote was gold to me. I can read how-to books forever, what I want is a witness.
We set a few traps for birds we thought might be legal (sometimes it is hard to tell) and on one particular stakeout I asked Ed the last time he went out trapping red tails? He thought about it, and then replied the last time he was out he remembered being in a truck watching a trap just like this, but he was alone. He turned on the radio for company and heard a voice say, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…"
I beamed. You can't make this stuff up, people.
I didn't catch a bird that day, or even see a legal animal. We saw plenty of red tails but all were adults, and all of them had the signature auburn tail. My bird would be young and have brown and white striped tail, totally different from the matures (which falconers call Hags, short for Haggards - which is the actual term for an adult hawk). It was a little disappointing but not really. I had learned the ropes, and knew what to do if I felt like venturing out on my own. It was a good first step. And it was full of good stories and great people. I felt a part of something I wanted, and that was enough for me.
Over the following weeks I went out trapping more and more. Hours and miles, in every weather, sometimes for long full days of road and branches. Whenever me and Ed had his Jeep loaded up and were about to head out into the wild, he said the same beautiful phrase. "The only thing holding us back was fear." I loved this. It felt like encouragement and permission.
My brain was set to hawk. I could be driving down a highway going 60 MPH and notice a red tail perched on a branch at the edge of a field 400 yards away. They now stood out as bright as polka dots on bar codes. I saw them everywhere. I never saw a juvenile. We all though the same silent thing. It was too late. I got my paperwork too late and the migration had passed.
I started catching birds, and grew as amazed as I grew frustrated. I was getting good at this, learning the timing and the baiting. I had caught, handled, and released two hags at this point. Thanks to the lessons from the backseat, and from tips and tricks learned on the fly, I had the ability to literally take a bird out of the sky. It was an honor and a rush. I learned these birds and how they were put together, how they thought. I knew what it felt like to hold one, to release it up into the sky and have it fly from my arms. If all that testing, building, and paperwork was only for that; it was worth it.
And all this lead up to Sunday night. I was out driving around with company, hoping to capture my bird. My hopes were not too high though as I had not seen a juvenile the entire time I had been out trapping, and I was trapping every single day. I was used to the disappointment and frustration. I did not expect a bird this year at all. But I am far too stubborn to throw in the towel because of negative reinforcement. I'm the dog that is kicked and learns to weave past feet. So, I was still out trying. Friends were with me, supporting me and encouraging me. They had fresh eyes and bright hopes, too. And when a bird was spotted and a car-mate said she saw a barred tail that wasn't red - my body started that excited humming again. This could be it!
Traps were set and we drove off. We returned and saw the bird was on the bait, but not trapped by any means. He just flew away as the car approached. As he took off I saw that tail and finally knew what a juvenile looked like in real life. There was no mistaking it for a hag. This was my bird, exactly what I needed.
So we left again. When we returned, he flew off again. We did this four times and finally we returned the last time to the bait eaten and the bird gone. It was nearly dark and so he was off to roost. I was crestfallen. My friends were, too. But we did all we could and I was encouraged to return in the morning to see if I could get him at first light. After all, he wasn't migrating in the cold dark. He would be there at sun up, and if I was there we might just have our second date.
I returned the next morning with a freshly baited trap and a hot cup of coffee. He was there. Perched on a telephone pole not thirty yards away. I quietly got the trap out of the back of the pickup, set it, and drove away. I watched him in the rearview mirror as the first rays of sunlight filled the valley in South Jackson where both of us dance partners were about to tango. As I headed down the hill he del out of sight and I planned to return in ten minutes.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
So a few months ago (maybe two?) I decided to go Paleo. It's a diet choice that removes grains, processed foods, white potatoes, and excess sugar from your diet. Lots of meat, vegetables, and nuts and berries. thought I would update you.
I'm not very good at it.
That said, even being not good at trying, is trying and the results are coming in slowly. I have lost weight. I'm almost ten pounds thinner just from removing grain from my diet (this was actually a lot easier than I realized it would be), but I still have vices like sugar. So I'm not the purist I could be, but here's the thing: I feel better already.
Yes, I do eat some crap, but not anywhere near as much as I used to. In fact, I'm eating less in general. Now that I am not messing around as much with my glycemic index hunger in general has left me. The meals I do sit down to eat are meat, animal fats, lots and lots of green stuff, cold water, and I never need a second helping. I am full. Now a normal day for me is coffee in the morning (with cream and or that vanilla garbage, don't judge) and then sometime around 2PM I get hungry and have a meal. I don't eat dinner unless I am invited out to a friends house and then the helpings are really small. It's not fasting, my body just isn't in need to empty calories like it used to be.
I'm cutting back on caffeine. I used to start my day with enough coffee to choke a rhino but right now it's just adding to anxiety with the jitters. A cup in the morning is sometimes overkill, but habits die hard. I find myself opting for caffeine free drinks more and more. Weird.
Today I'll have chili and corn around lunchtime when I am hungry. So I am still eating some hearty stuff, not just salads with chicken on them and a side of berries. When I started this I ate WAY too much meat, probably to compensate for the lack of those grains I was so used to eating. Now I eat half of what I did in the first 8 weeks. I love meat, and eat the best I can find most of the time, but my body taught itself what it needs and right now I am interested in 80% vegetables and fruits and 20% meat. It is working for me.
So more updates as I continue on this little side adventure in diet and nutrition. Like I said, I'm not good at it but I am also new at it. And even making a flailing attempt at it is improving my health, so that is a quiet victory even without being as strict as I could be. So I'm sticking with it for the time being and trying to combine more exercise into my life as well. I know my life seems really active, but in the winter no where near as much. So making some time to get to know my yoga and workout videos better isn't a bad idea.
1. The Clan Blog is not "the best stuff" only for paying customers. It is extra stuff, like Facebook is extra CAF stuff.
2. Anyone who already subscribes to the farm is welcome to join in. If you can not afford the annual fee, simply do not pay it. There are options as little as five dollars a month.
3. If you feel like you already donated in the past and would like to join, email me for an invitation. I will happily send it.
4. If you have questions, please ask, as stated in the announcement.
5. DFTBA and please follow Wheaton's Law in all things, online or otherwise.
It's cold here. Really cold. I don't remember November getting like this in the recent years but this week has had several days flirting with single digits. This morning i got an email from Connie (owner of Battenkill Books) letting me know she was a sister suffragette in the war against the chill via wood stove. She also woke up to a 53 degree home, so we had that in common. Wood heat isn't constant, but when you get into the groove and you finally get your place into a comfortable range, there is NOTHING like it. To know your house is warmed by fire, as ancient a comfort as human kind can achieve, and that it is a fire you build, maintained, and possess. It is worth any hardship.
I didn't head to any malls today. I didn't even hit the Tractor Supply in Greenwich. I did get new tires though. I originally went to buy used tires but they didn't have any in the odd bastard caliber of my Dodge Dakota, so I had to buy new. I explained I could only get two and the woman behind the counter and I figured out a way to make it possible to buy four. It took three forms of payment and a handshake but I drove home feeling like I owned a new truck and have one thing off the to-do list. It's also a huge boost in safety, since my last set of tires were showing the wires under the rubber…. It was time.
The farm is getting through the cold just fine. Nothing is tougher than those ponies. Merlin and Jasper have prehistoric coats and a shelter built into the mountainside. It feels like ages since I road Merlin, though it has only been two weeks. I place a riding moratorium during deer season. the last thing I want to do is be on four legs when people are out hunting. I miss it. When I'm not on a horse a part of me is gone.
I am still driving around looking for a passage red tail. I am starting to give up. There is always next year, and there is no rush. There's still a chance for luck, but I feel like the hundred hours I put in should have provided me with a charge by now. A lesson in patience and pleasure delaying.
Thank you to the Clan Members who signed up. I'd hug you if I could.
Clan Cold Antler is an idea I came up with to support the farm and create a new revenue stream. It's not an original idea by any means, it is inspired by The MSB over at The Survival Podcast. So what is Clan Cold Antler? It's a Farm Support Membership Club and it comes with some serious perks!
Joining the Clan gets you the following things:
Access to a Members-Only Private Blog with Weekly Postings
Let me be clear. Cold Antler Farm, this blog you are on now, is FREE. There is no membership needed to read it ever. But I wanted to create extra content for people who support me in a signifigant way financially. The Clan blog is a place to vent, recharge, and share some information about the behind the scenes life at Cold Antler Farm. Since it is private I feel comfortable there talking about things I glance over here. The first post is the real deal response to the "get a job" comments I receive so often. Juicy. Also, Clan comments are welcome on this blog. I did the math and if I only posted once a week (I'm sure I'll post more) you end up paying $1.25 an essay. I don't think you can buy a Diet Coke for that price anymore?
A Farm Tour Ticket
This isn't a workshop or Indie Day pass, but an invitation to come see the farm and take a tour of the joint when you are in the area. Come meet me, the sheep, horses, dogs and see the place in person. Stay long enough to share a cup of coffee, swap stories, and maybe even say hello to a hawk if I am able to pull off that mircale..
All workshops are discounted 25%! This doesn't include the cost of gear for said workshops (bows, fiddles, dulcimers, etc) but for the cost of the class itself. This makes things like Fiddle Camp, Arrows Rising, and such really affordable events if you already have a bow or instrument!
Blog Sponsor Discounts!
I'm getting in touch with all the advertisers on this blog, as well as people who have their own small business and want to offer a discount for the Clan Members. I will set up a place to copy and paste coupon codes for businesses that want to offer you guys special discounts. If you have an Etsy Shop, or small business, and want a chance to get it to a niche audience, you can get a listing here if you offer a discount to the readership of the Clan!
My Sincere Gratitude!
While you are getting deals, special content, and an invitation to the farm - mostly you are getting my sincere appreciation. My readers buying words are how writers have made a living since before ink was first pressed into paper. I will keep Cold Antler Farm free, and it remains the heart of the blog and 99% of the content I provide. I truly appreciate folks who have subscribed to this blog, volunteering payment for the time and energy that has gone into the last seven years of posts and sharing a life and a dream.
I would like to think the real reason folks would join the clan is for a chance to get more involved in my story and to know they are really and truly supporting a single woman trying to make it happen out here on the land and behind the keyboard. For you support you are welcome into a deeper level of the story, to my farm, and to hopefully get a great deal on stuff you already buy.
I know my life isn't conventional and is often confusing, but it has perked some interest and for that I am so amazed and grateful. I am always forced into constant resourcefulness. It keeps me scrappy, and it keeps me honest. So I invite you to join the clan, help support this farm in a rough time, and stop by for some coffee sometime. I adore my readers and the lives they share with me, and this seems to be a way to grow community as well as help keep things solvent. Buy a clan membership as a gift for a loved one, friend, or family member and give me your address and I'll send out a postcard welcoming them to the community and inviting them to stop by.
Clan Cold Antler has an annual membership fee of $65.Email me at email@example.com to sign up or ask questions!
Come to Cold Antler Farm this winter for a special workshop called Words & Wool. It is a knitter's circle and writing workshop dedicated to the small homestead or farmer's blog and the marketing and promotion of it. Come learn straight from the shepherd's mouth how I built, promoted, and expanded my blog. Ask me questions about publishing and writing professionally, learn how to sell or pitch ads and giveaways, how to deal with trolls and critics, and keeping yourself inspired to write. If you like, bring a sample of writing to talk about and share with the group for a healthy and kind critique. Tell your story with eager ears listening....At the very least get some ideas for your personal, non commercial blog for your friends and family. It's a day dedicated to expanding your own brand and business, and getting the word out about your own website as another, vibrant, source of income for your farm and family.
And as for the wool? Bring a knitting project! If you are coming along to listen and talk, you might as well have something to work on near the woodstove. Other knitters will be on hand to help, give advice, share patterns and teach you the basics if you are new to the craft. Expect a comfortable day, indoors mostly, here at the farm. The class starts at 10AM and goes till 4PM, and if you want to stay after the class for a private party of creamy potato soup and bread fresh from the Bun Baker wood stove you are welcome to it!
If you are planning on coming and already signed up months ago, please email me to confirm you attendance!
Email me if you are interested, cost will be $100.00 for the whole day, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch for a midday knitting break. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along!
A few days ago I sent out an email asking for your letters. What I got in return was amazing. Letters from people all over the world, in so many different situations, stories and backgrounds. Your emails are helping me get through this rough time, one of a lot of self doubt and fear. I have hundreds to read yet, but I am getting to them as I can and try to respond to as many as possible. A few emails came to me about this post in particular, so I thought I would republish it (and perhaps update it a little). Out of all my posts this is always in the top five of my readership. So in honor of the holiday weekend with so many people running around to leave their loved ones for stores and sales, I thought I'd repost something for us. It's okay if the rest of the world doesn't get it. After all, we aren't from around here.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, all of you. Be safe, be well, and most of all: be of use.
We're not from around here. I know you see us all the time, but trust me, we're from some place else. We may have lived our whole lives right next door to you but we left quite some time ago. We found another place and it suits us just fine.
It's not far or hard to get to. Chances are you pass it all the time when you're driving too fast to work or throwing another frozen dinner in the shopping cart. You can't get to us that way. We aren't there.
We're the ones in the next aisle buying yeast, flour, sugar, and coffee. We buy provisions, not groceries. We learned that food tastes better when you grow it yourself. We started with just a few recipes then learned to chew at a trot and now the idea of Lunchables and drive-thru hamburgers makes us tilt our heads a little. We're not above them, not by a long shot, we just don't have those where we're from. Or maybe we did and forgot about them? I can't remember. It's easy to forget about such things when you hop the fence to go where we went. There just isn't a lot of shrink-wrapped circular ham there.
We're from another place. It's just like yours but the naps are better. We came for a bunch of different reasons but we sort of set up shop in the same community. It's not a physical location, of course. (It's much better than that.) It's a place in our actions, our decisions, our conversations, our hope. It's a place in our hobbies, our skills, and our secret desire to know what a warm egg feels like in lanolin-wet palms. It doesn't matter where we came from or who we were before, this new place kinda took us all in and showed us how to calm the hell down. What? You're confused? Oh, well, you probably saw us there and just didn't realize it. Remember when we didn't pick up the phone (even after twenty rings) because we were in the garden? Or that time we gave up a weekend to make a chicken coop? Or last Saturday when we spent the whole day at that indoor farmer's market talking to the people at the wool booth we'd never met before, but felt like we knew while you kept telling us the movie was starting in thirty minutes... That's where we left to go. Sorry we missed the previews, we were talking to our neighbors.
You can spot us pretty easy. Our men aren't afraid of facial hair and our women have been known to grab goats by the horns. Our children go barefoot and so do we. We're the quieter ones, in the corner, feet propped up on a second-hand coffee table in a fourth-hand wool sweater. That's one of us, right over there. See him? The one with the guitar slung over his back, and the black dog following his bike? See him now? He's the one with the saddle bags on the back wheel overflowing with a half bushel of tomatoes. No, he's not a tomatoes fetishist - he's canning today. He'll be eating fresh organic marinara in January pulled off the larder shelf. He'll let the black dog lick his plate when he's done. Yes, I'm sure. He's from where I'm from. We know our own.
See, where we come from people aren't scared of dirt—not even mildly abashed by it. My people will spend an entire August morning with a potato patch. We'll also spend an entire October night in front of a bonfire with homebrew and fiddles. My people know how to darn a sock and bake a loaf of bread. They know how to cast on and be cast away. Sure, we'll join you for dinner in a restaurant, but we'll probably opt for pasta. Where we come from food animals know what sunlight feels like and have felt grass under their hooves. We don't eat the animals from your place. We saw what they saw before they died.
We're not from around here, but you'll see us everywhere. We're walking down the streets of Montreal, Chicago, Seattle, and L.A. We're waiting for a Taxi on the Lower East Side. We're mucking out the chicken coop, chatting at the farm stand, jumping on the back of our horses and riding the L Train. We're everywhere and right next to you all the time, but we left that place and now we're gone. None of us are going back. We thought about it. It passed.
HOOOO! You should see this place. Man, it's so beautiful. I mean a Wednesday afternoon at 3:47 is fall-down-the-stairs stunning. We learned to see this. We watched the fireflies come out on the porch and missed the newest episode of CSI. Truthfully, we barely look at the television anymore. It's a side effect of the new place—there's just so much to do and we're scared if we let ourselves get distracted we'll miss the fireflies. We can only take so much tragedy, you see.
And hey, this place we went to—it's yours too. To be perfectly honest we're getting a little tired waiting for you to show up. Yeah, what you heard is true. The work is hard and the hours long, but I promise it's the best quiche you'll ever taste and the coffee is wicked good. When you're ready we'll show you how to hop the fence like we did. It starts with a mason jar or a day-old chick in your palm and the road map kinda unfolds from there. Somewhere past the cloth diapers and the raw milk we're hanging out, yes there, over past the used trucks and beat tractors. See the bikes and carts along the barn? Keep going and you'll find us.
We know when you start coming to our place you'll get it. You won't want to leave either. And we'll wait. We've got another saddle in the barn. We planted an extra row of beans. We put aside a few spare jars of tomato sauce and let the hens know there's more breakfasts on the way. We'll make room. There's always a place for you at the table.
(And just between you and me, If you want to get on the black dog's good side, let him lick your plate...)
I drive along the roadsides, in all weather, looking for my bird. Me, the radio (EQX), and the lonely road. This video is just driving in the rain, some random song, and the countryside I live in. No words, certainly no hawks. Today I saw one bird, set out a trap, but I scared it off by not being patient.
Falconry is teaching me a lot of things, mostly about myself.
And for a while things were cold;
They were scared down in their homes.
And that's how the story goes,
The story of the beast with those four dirty paws.
Every day, for hours, I am outside in my truck with hawk traps, scanning the countryside for a juvenile redtail. As a new falconer, this is the bird for me to start with and I am not allowed to buy, borrow, trade, or raise one from a hatchling. I need to obtain a freshly trapped bird on it's migration south. This is ridiculously hard for me. I don't know if I missed the migration or if it is running late. I do know I have seen harriers and juvenile bald eagles, which are other migrating species all over the place. But the brown-striped-tailed redtail little is eluding me. But not for my trying. That's for damn sure.
This is the last step towards becoming a practicing falconer. I went through the year-long application process. I had the help of a village creating the mews. I gathered supplies, food, gear, scales, and everything else and now I am down to the art of trapping a wild animal so I can bring it home and teach it to be my partner in grocery shopping. the only thing holding me back is the actual acquirement of the bird - which right now seems so unlikely. I feel like my chances are akin to being told that every day six strangers will throw a quarter into an Olympic-sized swimming pool and I can keep the quarter if I manage to glide past it underwater and it lands on the small of my back. It's statistically impossible, but not "actually" impossible. But Brigit knows I have no fear of long odds. I'm also a lot more stubborn than any hawk out there, for that I am certain. Right now there is a downpour outside and I'm not trapping. If there's a break in the weather I'll make a small loop around the area but that's it. I'm kind of relieved to have a day off. Hope is exhausting.
The upside: my raptor knowledge and awareness has shot through the rough. I can tell you the difference between a redtail or a harrier at 200 yards. I see birds everywhere. I am always looking up. I must see several dozen red tails a day now, nearly all haggards (adults) I can't trap. Though I have trapped two now, they were released. It is funny that a year ago holding a hawk in my arms felt like something from a storybook. Now handling wild adult hawks feels as normal as picking up chickens. There isn't fear, nor is there a lack of awe, just comfort. These birds just feel a part of me now.
I got a hold of a copy of S, the new book by JJ Abrams. It's not about directing movies, television or creating worlds. It IS a created world. I am in love with this. You are buying what appears to be a library book stolen from some Highshool Librarty. Soon as you open it you come accross the notes of two people - corresponding baclk and forth in the margins. They argue over the meaning of the work and so it begins: pages of clues, mystery, hints and more. There are so many things inside this book, things you pick up and work with to figure out the story behind the story. There are maps on napkins, newspaper clippings, postcards, snaphots, letters and scraps. It is all one masterpiece, and the most fun I have had sitting down with a book since I picked up the first Harry Potter book as a teenager.
Buy this book. Buy it for friends, for gifts, sure - but do yourself a favor and buy it for you. You will not regret it. It is amazingly fun, and less than dinner and movie for sure. Oh, and here is a fair warning: it is NOT something you should get as an ebook. You need to feel this, touch the ACTUAL napkin and legal papers inside, page through pages, decode clues, set out the inside stuff like a crazy person setting up his victim shrine on the coffee table. It is a rollercoaster in an armchair. It is wonderful.
JJ, you are married, make movies, and live far far away from this Civil War era farmhouse covered in snow. But tonight, we have a date.
Enjoy the story of a young writer living in Washington County with her fancy dogs, sheep, lots of chickens, fiber & meat rabbits, geese, ducks, turkeys, a hive and a garden. Expect to hear a lot about mountain music, the civil war, local food, and my friends along the way. It's a big time folks.
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