Thursday, July 30, 2015

Not like this.

Afternoons like yesterday's make it impossible to believe that somewhere, in some climate-controlled office, people are designing iPhone Apps. That isn't a slam on corporate culture (trust me, I've done my time). It's actual incredulousness. It is literally unbelievable that just a few hours away from where I stood, staring at acres of hay - a city like New York is bustling with so much button-pushing activity. What a beautiful contrast. What a marvelous state with a contrary convergence of escape routes! I heart NY.

So type away you the few and proud, app jockeys; out here some of us are in the fields. Yesterday was a 90+ degrees and we'd be moving bales of hay with our bare hands. Most of us volunteers are in long pants, long sleeves, sunglasses and hats. We get rides out to the field and back on one of the big hay wagons and its the closest I ever felt to being a romantic version of a train-jumping hobo woman.I am surrounded by views designed for movie endings, friends smiling and slapping shoulders, and a work out that would make a hot yoga instructor throw up.

I love haying. I love the toil and I love that all day out there all we talk and think about is the river. When the work is done and all those bales are brought into the barn and stacked, we get to swill switchel and then peel (yes, peel) off our clothing and dump it into little biohazard bags in the back seats of our cars. Then we get suited up and enjoy the river. Gods bless the Battenkill - clean and clear and so close...

But long before we get to feel that first dive into the water we hay. That means us of humankind walk out into a giant-ass field where a semi-working baler has managed to lay the new squares out before us. Far as we can see are heavy things to lug and the sun is beating down. 300 to 350 of those bales need to be pickup up by us, stacked into piles of 5 or 6, and then a team of people on a large wagon come out and load them into the giant hauling boxes pulled by tractors that remind me of the cages on the side of a package of animal crackers. The sides are so high and the bars so thick, I expect a pacing tiger to be in there with us as we make our 4th trip back to the field and do it all over again.

We are the tigers. Us women and men out there, all of us helping each other out and earning our complaints and joys alike. We give up a few hours because no one farmer can do this alone, be it stacking into a barn or loading from the field. I never turn down an afternoon of haying if I can help it. It's proof positive that communities like this still exist, and always have.

That fellowship is the reason I am out here, because I don't know if it can exist in air conditioning. Not like this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Haying Today at Maple Lane Farm!






Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This is it.

Of all the emails I get sent, one variety is getting harder and harder to read. They are the letters from people who are certain it is too late for them to change their lives and start homesteading. These are not elderly people, disabled people, or impoverished people. They are just people who have made up their mind that choices they made thus far are solid brick walls in the way of something they want. The letters always begin with how they wish with all their heart they could sell their home and move to a farm but their current circumstances make it too complicated, political, and possibly divorce-inducing to up and leave. It's heartbreaking.

And it isn't heartbreaking because these folks are in victim of life's cruel game. It's heartbreaking because of their certainty. It's bad enough to think of yourself as a prisoner of your past, but to write it down and send it out into the world... that's practically making it binding.

I'd like to say this to all of you who are certain your life can't change. It can. It may not happen fast as you like or as easily as you like, but it can.  Because for every letter I get from people who feel it is too late to farm I get three times as many from folks who are making it happen. These letters are celebrations and not one of those letters starts with "So, we won the lottery and..." No, they are all letters of long journeys, ten-year plans, long waits, retirement farms and/or drastic choices that made a lot of friends and family uncomfortable. The only difference between the first set of people and the second set is the ones on farms never bought the lie. They made it happen because they decided it could happen.

If you are in a house you don't want to be in, don't send letters condemning it as a prison. Thank the gods you have a house to begin with. Imagine if you wanted to live on your own farm and you were homeless?  You have a home! And if you have enough spare cash to buy a bag of potting soil and some seeds, guess what, you just started a farm. It may be just one pot of peas on the windowsill but who cares? Imagine if you set aside 20 dollars a paycheck to buy a container, soil, and a plant? In one spring you could have five different types of vegetables ready to harvest by fall. By September you may have a pair of hens laying eggs in your backyard. These are small and inexpensive purchases. You don't need a perfect raised bed garden laid out with gravel walkways or a coop from Williams-Sonoma. Turn a cinderblock on its side and fill it with dirt, instead herb block. Get a few pallets from the warehouse on the corner - get some nails - chicken shelter. If you are reading this, then you have the internet and therefore ALL the information you could ever need to do these things! How lucky are we to live in a time where horse carts can be bought online?! Amazing!

Not everyone can or will live on a farm that wants one. But the luck sure does live among those who don't let their circumstances stop them. Small choice are seeds. They lead up to larger decisions that change lives. Part of making your dreams happen is understanding that it is the hardest work you will ever do but what is the alternative? Regret? I've made a thousand mistakes here, but I regret none of them. What would haunt me is living a life where I never gave myself the opportunity to fail at a dream. Trying is what matters, hope is what matters, and taking that away from yourself is the ultimate tragedy to me.

So you'll never have your farm? Why? Because you won't have a country estate and gamboling beasts in the field tomorrow? Well, you can have a package of seeds today, or a rabbit hutch today, or start looking at the WWOOF page today and instead of going on vacation in Disneyland you can take the family to Italy to pull weeds and eat around the table at night with a dozen new friends.  What are you waiting for?

If you're looking for a sign. This is it.



Monday, July 27, 2015

Hot Coffee & Raining Apples!

It never gets old, that feeling of walking into the farmhouse after morning chores and smelling coffee on the stove. I always am pleasantly surprised at my own groggy preparation. Without thinking, as automatic as getting dressed and letting out the dogs to pee, I put some fresh grounds in the percolator and set it on the stove. This place is a wonderful contradiction of old and new. There is no drip coffee maker here, no espresso machine or Kuerig. There's just the old, flat-bottomed, stove top perker and I love it. There is no better way to enjoy a cup of coffee.

It's been hot this week and forecasted to get hotter. It'll be nearly 90 degrees but the hotter it gets the more I am reminded about winter preparations. I am in the process right now of trying to sell a new book, finishing up a novel for editing, and doing as much design, workshop, indie day, ad sales, lessons, and side projects as possible to prepare! The post below shares ways you can possibly help if so inclined. I'd sure appreciate it. But I have learned over the years that focusing on what stresses you out is the number one way to perpetuate it. So while I am advertising these workshops, lessons, etc a lot and hoping for the best response I am also enjoying the reason I work so hard to keep this farm: moments like this one I'm about to share.

This morning after the chores were done and the coffee had sated my morning roar - I went outside to walk into the sheep/horse pasture without the dogs. They were inside enjoying kibble and naps, but I wanted to give the ovine/equine side of things a morning treat. The apple trees are BURSTING this year in Washington County and I wanted to grab a heavy branch and shake a few dozen apples down for the gang. I walked in through the gate, where MOnday was standing to greet me. As far as bottle rams go, he's a star and seemed to nod to me as I passed him. I ran my hand down his back, checking for his condition inside that thick wool (he's a brick house, no worries there) and to say hello. I patted my side and he followed me uphill, knowing exactly what was to come...

I grabbed a particularly lush branch and shook it, hard. Out on the pasture apples rained and thumped about. The sheep baaed and bleated and ran to me in a happy stampede! Merlin backed out of his residency in the sheep shed and came trotting over. God's Body, may I never see a prettier sight in my life than a black draft horse coming towards. Everyone munched and mawed and I sat down there took in the moment. A girl, her flock, her horse, a bounty from her own trees. The view of the white farmhouse with a humble pile of wood already stacked. The lawn recently mowed, the water tubs all filled. I had a lot of work ahead yet today - farm, writing, and design - but what a pleasant burden that is? So I sat next to Sal and watched him chomp those apples in half. I scratched his ears and thought about the day I drove him to that rented cabin in Vermont in the back of my old Subaru. Almost a decade later, here we are.

And by the Gods, here we will stay.

Winter is Coming!

Winter is coming and this gal needs to get important truck and house repairs ready going into fall. A lot of life has stacked up at once and so I am in the process of getting things back to a civilized place. There is also firewood to stack, chimneys to clean, and hay to buy in bulk. Want to support this small farmer giving it her all? Well I am here asking for your support! The farm needs it, more than ever. How can you do that? I suggest one of these things things!

1. Hire me for some graphic design work! I specialize in branding. Get a custom logo for your farm, event, tattoo, whatever! Rates are on sale to strike up more business! Email me to sign up!

2. Come to a workshop or event at the farm. Here is a list of ALL the events coming up at Cold Antler Farm! Join us for one, or for them all. You can pay per workshop or get a Season Pass on sale for $250. That pass lasts a year and includes Fiddle, Archery and weekend long events like Antlerstock (bows and fiddles are extra).

Can't come to the farm and don't need a logo? How about buying a workshop for a local who can attend, scholarship style. How about a logo as a gift for a friend starting her own business or small farm? Logos and workshops make great gifts and keep the farm humming with activity!

Full list of events here!

3. Put up an ad on CAF! Do you have a small business or want to promote your own blog? Buying an ad gets you eyes of my audience and is a great way to support CAF. Ads on sale as well.  Email me to sign up!

5. Choose to become a Clan Member, Clan Cold Antler is the folks who sign up for a monthly subscription, a voluntary way to compensate me for what you see here writing and video wise. This blog and the vlogs will always remain free but some folks like to offer payment as a way support the creator. If you do sign up as a subscriber and send me your email address I will invite you to a private Clan Blog which includes additional content. This month it included the outline and intro of the new Merlin book I am working on as well as extra photos from the Cantrip Concert.

6. Not in a place to do any of these things? Well that is fine, your readership is such a gift in itself! But there are ways to still help that cost you nothing at all. There are ever-changing ads here you can click and learn about the sponsors, some of them offer a small financial kickback. Write a sponsor of a permanent ad who has been on the blog a long time and thank them, via email. You can share the blog with friends, like and subscribe to the videos on youtube. You can just stick around, say a prayer, and keep watching to see how I do here in Veryork.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sae Will We Yet

I got an email from the guitarist of the band Cantrip early last week. He wanted to let me know that there would be another small house concert over in Arlington, Vermont. This email was a quiet thrill. I was so happy one of my favorite bands was going to be back here to play live. I immediately contacted Patty and Mark over at Livingston Brook Farm and told them about it. If there was one event not to miss, it was seeing these gentlemen playing the fiddle, pipes, and guitar right in front of you. The last time they performed it was amazing and I wanted to share it with the folks I love. I knew Tara and Tyler had already gotten the word (they were also sent the email via the band), and my hope was that all of us would get together for the small potluck and music on that fine night. Did, we, ever.

Patty and Mark picked me up at my place the night of the concert and we were off. We drove the twenty minutes over the state line in this little shire that is Veryork and ended up finding a dirt road with a hand-painted sign that said "CANTRIP" on it. We turned with gusto. I was so excited and more for Patty and Mark than for myself. I have never heard music played so well, with such love for the story and song, so close and I knew it would be a hit with my friends. We parked, were greeted by a happy mutt named Chloe (who looked like a flatcoat retriever but was a golden/black lab cross) and we made our way to the little yellow house in the clearing. There were off and on showers and sunlight and it made for a magical feeling to the whole night. Outside was a campfire blazing and tables and chairs lit by Christmas lights. It was one happy scene.

What followed was a night to remember. A fabulous and intimate performance by Eric, Dan and Jon. I was sitting about 10 feet away from their voices and instruments, Chloe curled up at my feet being scratched, as the music came out of them. The house was warm and wood-paneled and the sound was just as warm and inclusive. There were maybe 50 people there, a small show. I wish I could convey the smooth clarity, the bright guitar, the howl of the border pipes and the absolute magic of Jon's green 5-string fiddle. Mark and Patty were slapping their knees, clapping, and tapping their feet. Tara and Tyler were there in the front row smiling wide as Cheshire cats. The band played their entire new album, The Crossing, and included stories and jokes. That's a skill in itself, talking to a crowd of strangers well and making them feel part of something.

We all left inspired and happy. All of us picked up their new CD and on the ride home Mark blared Tom Tom, his favorite tune of the night. We had such a wonderful time and if you get a chance to see them as they tour about New England this time of year - do so. Their music is exactly what the band calls itself - a cantrip - a bit of Scottish magic. They're masters at what they do and it's a tragedy to women across the nations of this green earth that none of these men are single.

Keep playing guys. You make me want to learn the pipes!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Learn the Fiddle!

Ever dream of playing the fiddle? Love old time music, bluegrass, or celtic playing? Well why not learn?! This is an ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS COURSE. Looking to fill the last spots of Fiddle Camp on Sept 12th ASAP. It's a full day of beginner fiddle lessons here at the farm, outdoors in the fall color with animals all around! COMES WITH FIDDLE, CASE, and BOW. Price is $225 a person but will offer discount if you sign up as a pair!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Perfect Night

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

One Day at Cold Antler Farm

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Just Do

I'm just back from feeding all the meat birds in their tractors, checking on the pigs, and making sure that the goats have had plenty of feed and fresh water. This was a chicken/pig/goat chore trip. That's one way to make sure those three things are settled in for the evening without feeling overwhelmed to take on all the chores at once. I'm back inside to finished some writing goals for the day, including updating this blog, and then I'll be back outside to check on the sheep, horse, and rabbits. I like this system of small jobs and rewards outside when work is done inside. It's a balance that suits me.

The farm can be overwhelming at times, but only when I let my whelm take me over. When I plan, when I do things one at a time, when I cross things off the list in my head - things get done. A lot of people confuse the dread of work that needs to be done with the actual doing of things. It's a lot harder to fret about tasks than to do them. So I stopped fretting. I just do.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Library Talk Tonight! Scottish Music Thursday!

Tonight at the Bennington Free Library there will be a talk about my book, One Woman Farm. I'll be there to do a reading and share stories from my homestead. It's at 7PM and hosted by the Bennington Bookshop and Library alike. It's probably air conditioned, too, so there's that.

Thursday night in Arlington Vermont is also a big night out! The much adored Cantrip, a Scottish group I saw a few years back at a little house show/potluck is returning for a repeat performance and once again it'll be a house show with a table of food made to share. It's a CD release party.
Details on their Facebook Page!

Goats and Soap! What a day!

Yesterday's Goats and Soap workshop had a bunch of new faces and friends arrive at Cold Antler. We spent the 85-degree day outside here under the shade of the King Maple - learning to make milk-based soap from scratch and meeting the goats that make it happen. The photo above show's Yesh, my goat mentor, telling stories from her own experiences of the caprine kind.

I love teaching these classes. I like speaking in public, telling jokes, and sharing stories. And being able to do it here at my farm is something the 22-year-old version of me could never believe would be true a decade earlier. Lucas, if you look to the right, is right with us all. He can't turn down a crowd either.

It was a kind and lovely crowd! Folks coming from Vermont, Mass, and New York to see just how tricky, expensive, and hard it is to make soap this way. Making soap is information they could get easily online for free, but they don't come to Cold Antler just to learn a skill. They come to see the place they read about in books. They come to meet the animals. They come to see lye cook milk in person with the safety of distance and observation from someone who did it before. They come to pet Merlin, scratch Friday's ears, and maybe hold a throwing axe, fiddle, or bow for the first time. I hope Cold Antler remains a place of learning new things for a long time.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The 50th Vlog...

The 50th vlog is coming up next. I can't believe it. Almost a year in and over a feature film's worth of editing - all on youtube. I ask you readers, what do you want to ask me for the 50th Vlog? Please submit questions here. Leave them in the comments and I will pick some to address. I want this vlog to be about you guys - the community. Why do you follow a girl in NY scraping by? What do YOU want from the blog/vlog? Has this site ever helped you? Please leave a comment if you have a minute. Your feedback is needed.

Girl's Day Out!

Friday and I hit the road today, a girls' dat out. I wanted to take her to the Merck Forest Trials in Rupert, Vermont and then take a trip into Manchester. The plan was to do chores, pack the car, and head out for a day with a puppy. That's what happened. We got to the trial around 10AM and while we didn't stay long, we did stay long enough for her to meet plenty of people, dogs, and sheep and I got to meet two artists from the Sendak Fellowship. My relationship with ex-neighbor Maurice Sendak is the fact I go deer and turkey hunting on his old farm on Scotch Hill, but it was cool meeting artists and realizing we had mutual friends.

After the trials we went to the Northshire Bookstore, a real treat for me. The Northshire allows well-behaved dogs so Friday and I went browsing together and I got to buy a fancy cup of coffee and talk books with people from all over the world. Since Manchester is hosting a HUGE horse show with people attending to compete from Brazil to England - I had many accents and smiles loving on my little girl. She was so well behaved! I was proud of her, even if her benign mood had to do with being tired from a morning of illustrators and sheep. My only purchase, besides a cup of coffee, was OK Computer on vinyl. I love all types of music and especially Folk and Bluegrass, but OK Computer is the most perfect record of all time to me. It's been with me my whole life, and I still think listening to Let Down in your car in a snowstorm at night is the closest you get to transcendence. It'll sound great on the record player.

Let's just reflect that I live in a place where you can exit a sheepdog trial and buy Radiohead records within the same hour. With your dog. This is where I belong, bitches.

After the store we went to Orvis, just to putz around. We didn't buy anything but I got to meet some folks and so did she. It was fun to check out the fly selection and look at the giant trout out in the pond. I miss that place sometimes, it was 4 years of my life.

I came home to chores, work, emails, a 3 mile run taunted by deer flies and a jump in the river. I'm writing now with my Westinghouse Fan, river-wet hair, and a smile from my living room. Tomorrow is Goats and Soap - biggest attended workshop of the YEAR so far. I am pumped to teach it, and to show off the goats and all they do for this farm.

I hope you guys are well and kicking out there. This gal is tired and happy.

No Surprises.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Jenna Effin' Woginrich

I'm so street.

Dark Horse

I have fallen in love with writing every morning all over again. All this week I've been diving head first into this new manuscript, one I haven't even sold yet, because I have such a crush on it. It's all about what Merlin did to me - the changes he helped create in me. What he showed in me that turned me into the woman I am today from the confused and scared girl who bought him. I feel like I'm writing a screenplay, the images and story is so vivid in my mind. I work on this, on finishing up Birchthorn, and the blogs and it never feels like work. I am a writer. It's a compulsion I cant help.

Yesterday's ride with him was perfect. When the laptop was tucked away in the saddlebags and we were just moving, it feels like my own legs are carrying me. Perhaps this is where the myth of the centaur came from? It doesn't seem so far fetched when you know the animal so well. The road to becoming this close was backwards and twisted - so many idiotic beginner mistakes. I'm so proud of all of them.

The book I am writing about him and I is not for horse or farm people, it's for women scared to become. While Merlin is the reason I was able to change and grow so much in the past three years (note, also the past three years I was learning to be self employed, dealing with anxiety and body issues, and terrified of losing my farm) He was the most solid part of that time. And learning to ride a thousand pounds of black horse is what always showed me I could overcome the next obstacle. So far I have. And for those people who would read the book - perhaps their Dark Horse is something entirely different - but the story should carry. I hope so. It's the most important thing I've wanted to write so far, the most raw, and the most real.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Highland Riding

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Win a Strumstick!

I am so happy to announce this giveaway from Cold Antler Farm Sponsor, McNally Strumsticks! They are giving away one of their instruments to a U.S. reader/viewer and all you need to do to enter is leave a comment on the youtube video or here on the blog. Winner will be announced next vlog episode (49). So watch, enter, and hopefully win this beautiful and down-home simple instrument that ANYONE can play in a few minutes.