Wednesday, December 17, 2014

KALE: Under A Foot Of SNOW!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Downtown Cambridge has a collection of shops, cafes, and businesses that make me darn proud to be a part of this community. In the past few days I have been down to Battenkill Books twice to sign copies of books and I have decided to make hand-drawn bookmarks for ALL books people buy from Connie, so please do get in any last minute orders! But to be in a bustling bookstore in your own little town, with a table of cookies and hot chocolate, kids and dogs running amok, and carolers (CAROLERS!) in the streets singing outside! It made me so darn happy. A sweet little sight in a small town with a big ol' heart.

Snowy Indie Day Today!

The snow hasn't melted yet around the farmstead, and I'm enjoying the winter warmth. Snow outside and a fire indoors, good food in the oven or slow cooker, homemade wine and good friends visiting often. This is what the holidays are all about! Friends, food, and Yuletide cheer!

Today a reader from New Hampshire came for an Indie Day. He is just starting his homestead and laying the foundation down for a good barn, but wanted to spend a day talking about bees, chickens, and rabbits. So that is what we did. A few hours inside and outside the farmhouse talking. We visited my hive and animals and I shared my stories, books, and suggestions. But I am just one homesteader and there are as many ways to do things as their are farmers to do them. So next we visited local beekeepers and farmers. We spoke with the amazing folks at Common Sense and saw their Cote/Coop setups. Their they use an awesome method hard to explain when not in person. A system of feeding tables that are rat proof on pedestals and water buckets with nipples. They have poo hammocks under the night roosts on pulleys to lower into buckets. It is genius and the way I would design my next coop if I used a coop again (Birds here are all free range and sleep in the barn at night). Then we traveled to Patty and Mark's place to visit her animals and rabbitry. Patty has been breeding meat rabbits for over a decade and knows those animals well and has her system down pat. She shared her knowledge and showed off her beautiful farm and tractor she's restoring from the 40's.

I love these Indie Days, and wish I could host Indie Weeks! To be here for a day and see the farm, meet the animals, and talk over evening chores or with tea by the wood stove, that is all wonderful, but I wish someone from a city or suburb could spend a whole week here and get a taste of the rhythm of farm days. It would be a happy rattle, I think, to spend a day around animals and wood stove needs instead of meetings and commuter trains. Or maybe they'd learn after a few days how wonderful microwaves, thermostats, and warm toilet seats are after a few days here and happily set the farm fantasy aside! Either way, what an adventure!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Keeping Chickens IS NOT for Sissies

This morning's fox shooting had me thinking all day about responsible chicken keeping. Predators are a threat to any free-range flock (and plenty of penned ones, too!) but a loaded gun isn't the hard part about keeping chickens. The hard part is choosing to take that step into the realm of livestock, a different relationship than pets. Livestock are animals we keep for food, or, have historically been raised for food even if the animals in your care are considered pets. It's a harsh line, but a real one. You may love your trio of hens but if you are leaving your rental in Brooklyn and can't take them to a new home, don't expect an animal shelter to take them in. But this is happening all over, and sadly proves that some people don't have what it takes to take up raising backyard chickens.

One Shot with the Shotgun

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Great Manky Fox Hunt

Gibson ran to the sliding glass doors, barking like a manic off his meds. My first guess was the pegs were out, enjoying a romp in the snow. But when I came to the window I saw a scene no farmer likes to witness. A manky fox was tearing apart a chicken not thirty feet from us. The fox was winning the fight with the bird, but it didn’t look much better. It was thin and sickly looking, his pelt drab and seemed more the size of a cat than a proper fox.

With a chicken keeper’s haste I grabbed my little .22 rifle, the firearm I am the most comfortable with and most accurate. (Had I stopped to think I would have grabbed the .20 gauge and finished this story in one pellet load) I stepped out on the porch and aimed at the fox's lungs right behind his front legs, and shot. As I pulled the trigger he turned and instead I hit the dead chicken. Feathers exposed and I screamed an expletive that sounded a lot like "What the Fox!" Then I loaded another round in the chamber and must have hit the theif. He dropped the bird and took off into the low brush and bracken around the stream. I pursued with a whoop of triumph.

You need to imagine this scene. A scrappy red fox slinking through the snow-heavy bushes. Me, in breeches and kilt, sporran and felt hat. Not time for a coat, just a wool sweater and rifle in both hands I stalk after him. My eyes dart through the foot-deep snow and brains, and I see his ears pop up over an snowy rose bush and slide back down. This is something out of a cartoon, I thought. He is gone before I can try another shot.

And so I crossed the cold stream that divides us, my rubber boots making me feel immune to the challenge. I ran through briars on the other side, the canvas of my kilt fine armor for the task. Gibson barked from the house. Annie slept.

I followed him, taking a shot again and was nearly certain this time I hit him. I saw his head and body duck. He ran off across the street and into the think brush of the neighbors 200+ acre property. I set down my rifle and walked out into the road, and saw his clever footprints next to mine. There was no sign of bloodtrail. He was long gone, or under thick brush. I let out a frustrated sigh. The fox was dead, dying, or scared off and most likely the last of those options.

He would be back and if I didn’t get him once or twice a day a chicken would disappear from this farm and those splendid eggs would be just a photograph. I’d also need to start all over with new birds, an expense and time suck I wasn’t wiling to give up for a fox. For a coyote, sure—the song dogs are welcome on this property—but not a fox. I walked back to the scene of the crime and followed the feathers and prints to the dead rooster. One less crow welcomes the dawn.

The roo was in bad shape, so instead of dressage him for the crock pot I tied him with a piece of twine to the same tree I saw him being killed at. I buried the twine in the snow and left it there, tethered in place as bait for return of the fox. My hope is his strungle with the tied foot gives Gibson enough time to sound the alarm again and me to take aim with the right gun. My .20 gauge is right by the glass doors now. Lesson learned.

Hopefully I'll get him or already did, and if that sounds unkind then you either don't raise chickens or can afford to buy all the free-ranged eggs and chicken dinners you'd like. Things are tight here, and the chickens are my livestock and therefore in my care. It's my responsibility to them to thwart whatever predators I can, so they can raise more chicks and keep the breeds and chicken story alive here at Cold Antler Farm. Plus, I always wanted a fox head on my wall. I wonder if taxidermy is a skill worth learning for extra income? (This is how I think now...)

Hopefully the hunt ends soon!

December Eggs

December eggs are a beautiful thing to see here on this small farm. A few of the Antlerborns have started laying again, near the darkest time of the year. I am finding two or three a day, and they are such a treat. No eggs have been found since October and I have been buying eggs at the farm stand down the road. But yesterday I had a great second breakfast of eggs and my own pig's bacon and it was a feast of gratitude for this woman.

Winter eggs, what a thing. Folk songs should be written about such grand happenings!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Different Sort of Grown Up

I took a glance at this blog today, something I rarely do. I write it, and post to it, but actually scrolling up and down it like a reader isn't something I do. What I saw made me so happy here on this snowy rock this afternoon. Outside the world is gray and bitter and the snow isn't stopping. But inside this little farmhouse with three rooms on the first floor, there is a wellspring of creativity! I see art, design, illustration, photography, music and prose. I see story telling and books and fiddle tunes being fought with around the edges. It's such a nice change from posts of worry and fear, something I find myself doing when I make the mistake of focusing on all the frays on the quilt instead of the patches. I have become a different sort of grown up.

Last night I was working with Italics in the farmhouse. He and I are getting closer and closer to hunting weight and skill. He landed on the bench with my fiddle and I got lucky to snap this picture. I adore it. It shows the heart of this farm. The harsh melody that is a creative world that allows things like slaughter, martial arts, archery, falconry and rifle season. It's human and animal, but wood and brass and not plastic and toy poodles. This little farm is a manifestation of who I am, or who I want to be. It's what all our homes are, really.

In the mail this week I got some cards from readers. I got new blog subscribers. A man from Wisconsin mailed me a handmade Osage Orange horsebow and arrow. What woman in this country gets ancient weapons and cards with puppies playing on them delivered in the same day? Another reader send an email that floored me, about such an upturned life and personal goals I was humbled by it, and ashamed of the blog post I wrote about not living vicariously. I feel so damn lucky to have you readers. I know a lot of authors have webs tires and blogs, but I don't know many who have the relationship we have. You are welcomed in this house, in this life, at this farm. Your cards, emails, gifts, donations, book purchases and patience are helping fuel this little fire on the mountain.

I thank you, all.

Luceo Non Uro.

Bookmarks Created!

They are stained with tea, burned on the edges, and hand drawn with ink and pencil. They are going to the five folks who ordered signed books first at Battenkill! A nice little fire burst of creativity here, one of many ways to stay warm with winter!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Give a Special Gift to a Farmer This Year!

I am running a sale on all logos, a cool and unique gift to give a fellow farmer for the holidays! I can design and email a voucher that you can print and set into an envelope. The voucher allows that person to help design and choose a brand for their farm, all expenses paid. Email or message me for details at

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fiddle & Drum

It's a snow day here, the storm that was supposed to come with yesterday's rain came today in the form of fives inches of constant, delightful, gentle snowfall. I have been working indoors and taking breaks from the computer with two old friends, my fiddle and drum. Ihave been playing an Irish song called the Scartaglen Slide and working on being more fluid with it, more easy. It's a tricky tune with a tricky tempo but the challenge of getting it better has been half the fun.

I'm a musician, but not one of any consequence. I play music to please myself, and play it scrappy and lightly. The fiddle is my weapon of choice and teaching it to new players is one of my favorite things about Cold Antler Farm. Good food and good music, both made from scratch, might be the most wonderful combination in the world. It doesn't matter if both are imperfect, it only matters that you eat and play with deep-rooted joy.

I am not sure I ever shared the artwork I tattooed into the goatskin head of this little drum? Indian ink was hand set with a metal calligraphy pen, inspired by the dogs in the book of Kells, this wolf arches his back to the four corners. Old Alchemic symbols of the elements and knot work surround him. I have carried this drum across five states and have played it at college drum circles, outdoor music events, and just for fun in front of the computer to record some homemade music. I wrote a little song called Fireside with a tin whistle, egg shaker, dulcimer, and this little drum. Enjoy it with some photos of this little farm going from late summer into winter here in the mountains! The time of year being fireside matters most!


If you are a regular reader of Cold Antler Farm, and enjoy the stories, photos, music, and journey of a woman and her farm, please consider making a contribution as a subscriber to this blog. This is an entirely voluntary system, the blog will always be free, but if you are willing and able to contribute a few dollars a month, I truly thank you. It is a way to pay for the writing on this blog, if you wish to. These add up and can make all the difference in keeping a creative life solvent. Right now even the smallest nod towards the farm could make all the difference for me and the animals this winter. I thank all of you for even considering it, and so appreciate those who already do subscribe. Again, this is optional and the blog remains free for all!

Gibson & I Invite You to Battenkill Books!

This holiday season you can give any of my books (all are currently stocked here at the shop in my little town) as a gift fro Battenkill Books! Connie will take your rode (online or over the phone) and then email me to come down and sign copies. Not only will you get a signed, messaged (and if you ask, Gibson's paw print!) in the books - they will WRAP THEM FOR YOU as well. I am glad to sign all and any of my books but I got to say that One Woman Farm makes a beautiful gift for the farm-curious and my newest book: Cold Antler Farm is the most raw, spiritual, and honest book I ever wrote about the emotions and stories of living on this little mountain farm. Call or order today, and the first 5 people to make orders will also have mailed a special little gift from Cold Antler Farm itself: hand drawn bookmarks of a farm animal, signed by me. I'll let Connie Know!

Battenkill Books 
15 East Main St. 
Cambridge, NY 12816 
(518) 677-2515

Get Yer Goats!

If anyone is interested in a purebred Alpine kid this spring, I'll have 2 pregnant does giving birth and taking deposits on any kids for those interested in dairy goats. Deposit is $50 and if the goat doesn't birth a sex you are interested in, you get your money back. Does are $150 each, so hundred cash or paypal on pickup. Bucklings are a $50 (no can on pickup, just take the goat!) Bloodlines all from Common Sense Farm, a commune and dairy near me where you can visit all the relatives!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stop Reading This Blog

An Hour Warmer

Today was what I consider a normal day in my life now, a reality that I still have trouble believing at times. I say that not because it is anything of great import or special, but a world apart from the life I once lived. I thought I would share it, all the good parts and the bad, so you may get a better idea of what this feral woman is up to on a Monday here in the hinterlands.

I woke up the way I always do, under a pile of wool and sheepskins, my dog Gibson curled next to me under the covers. It is light outside, a break from getting up at 5Am for hunting. We are sleeping downstairs lately, a few paces from the wood stove. If it is really cold I make a mattress of sheepskins and blankets and sleep right beside the stove, but this morning we were on the daybed. Our combined heat sent steam up into the fifty-degree farmhouse air.

If you read this blog you know the routine that follows: coffee is set on the stove, the fire is rekindled,  and nI get dressed in the armor that puts the fight in this dog. I slide on a camisole and long underwear top over my gooseflesh arms. I pull on thick riding breeches over my legs. Then I pick out a wool sweater to finish the first layering. All of this gear (save the riding breeches) was used or well worn. Over those go a work kilt and a canvas vest. A good hat covers my head and thick wool socks slide over my feet. I am ready.

Chores are done outside next. The world is LOUD outside. All the animals want to eat, and so they tell me in their own voices. The sheep baa, the horse bellows, the goats bleat, roosters crow, geese honk.... If it wasn't for Right to Farm Laws the police would be here for the racket, I'm sure.

As the house warms up so does my body. A wiser version of me would get up an hour earlier, and have a house and hour warmer, but I slept in till 6:30. So I go about the first business outdoors, feeding Merlin and the Sheep. The horse and sheep are closest to the house and a 60lb bale is taken off the back of the pickup and split into thirds. One third to the horse, one third to the sheep, one third to the goats which will be fed on the second trip outdoors. This trip is just the horse and sheep though. The animals munch on Nelson Greene's second cut and I prepare the grain mixture for the sheep. A third a bale won't be enough in this weather for six sheep, so they will get more forage and their morning meal. In a bucket goes corn, sweet feed, and mineral mix. They are fed and I note their water level (or in this case, frozen water level) and head inside to warm up a bit and have some coffee. This is the time to get one cup in, the dogs walked, the house a degree warmer. After that I head back outside to carry water buckets and refill frozen containers. The large ones for the sheep and horse are broken with a heavy maul. The smaller water containers come inside to thaw by the stove. It only takes about fifteen minutes for the ice around the edges to thaw enough to slide out the frozen bucketcicle. It is refilled and the animals are sated.

In an hour the pigs, sheep, goats, horse, poultry, rabbit and inside animals are fed. It is a cold bit of work, but enjoyable. The sky is gray and it is around eight degrees. When I come inside to enjoy my second cup of coffee I know that every animal has had breakfast, a warm place for a clean and dry repose, and water to spare. This is the magic that turns a loud farm of whinnies and bleats into a quiet place. Not even the chickens coo and cluck as they pick at grain and cracked corn. Noise is a wonderful thing but eating is better. I am not looking for a meal yet, and find myself growing less hungry every day. I usually wait till 2Pm to have one meal of the day, though I am trying to start with a better breakfast. I make a note to start tomorrow earlier with some oatmeal and honey. For today, just coffee and later... hot chai. I have words to deal with now.

I write for a few hours, working on the novel Birchthorn. Over 15 thousand words into that novel now, and it is coming along at a farmer's pace. I imagine it'll be finished by late spring at around fifty thousand words, a chunky novella. The new section will be uploaded tomorrow morning to the blog for the Kickstarter members. When that is done I update the blog a bit. A mention of the importance of Game Night inspired by a post I saw on twitter. The farm is quiet but the tweets can be heard.

After the writing was done the house reached a comfortable 58 degrees and it was noon. I turned on the little space heater in my small bathroom with a shower stall. I took a short shower and it was heavenly. Hot water is more appreciated after an hour in the cold with firewood and the smell of male goat pee and a few more hours sitting still at a computer. After the soak I gussied up a bit an then got right back into my farm clothes after the shower. I felt cleaner. My head felt clearer, too.

With creative work and chore work done I checked emails, which is pretty much an act of hope. I check to see if anyone has sent word of work, through signing up for classes and workshops, looking for design or writing freelance, and like that. No one had any word of income coming my way, so I set into small-time entrepreneur mode. I extended some discounts on sales, spoke with a possible show hog client who may need a logo, and posted some stuff for sale on craigslist. Then I started another tactic, checking with ad sales I am soliciting and folks who I have content agreements for. I scheduled some writing assignments for later in the week for myself. It's about an hour of business correspondance, all done standing at the kitchen computer, my 2002 eMac. That old computer in my farmhouse kitchen is how all money comes into this farm. Besides a few random voluntary blog subscribers through paypal, it was a day without any other income. Things being how they are, that is concerning but not scary. Not yet.

I never checked the weather though. That was a mistake.

I headed out to get the four things the farm needed most: hay, feed, fuel, and friends. It was around 1PM at this point and even though farm, blog, and writing work was done there was more to do outside the property. My trip in the truck meant I'd be seeing to all four I called Gibson and we headed out to the little two lane highway that our errands made.

The truck stalled on the way. Can't worry about that right now.

First trip of the day took us north to Hebron to talk to Nelson Greene, a tireless flirt and a sweet man. In his late 70's he has no problem at all hitting on me and goofing off. It's our schtick and I joke right back. What can I say? The man sells great hay. I figure in your late 70's you can get away with a lot, and he does, and I adore him for it. I loaded up hay quickly and then walked over to his shop where he was working on repairing an old Papa Bear, a beast of a wood stove. Now, it was in the high teens, and here was this giant of a man, welding a stove in the same work shirt and pants I see him in, in all weathers, and a thick cap. Most men his age were not out in their shops welding new walls on a  wood stove, most men his age weren't outside at all. And most men would have scrapped that rusty stove for junk, but Nelson doesn't say no to any repair projects. We chatted and talked Border Collies and cattle (his old border collie, Sport, is a dog of legend around here) and he told me that someone told him recently about "cow tipping" and had I ever heard of it? I laughed and said only people who don't live around cows think they can tip them, but let them try. He shook his head and laughed, a dairyman his entire life and never once would he consider trying to push a ton of heifer over.

With bales in the back of the truck handed over I headed south to Salem Farm Supply. There I walked in with Gibson and we picked up a few things for the farm. We got 150lbs of feed, and some small errands inside. Gibson shopped on his own while I looked around at the holiday stuff out on display. Farm stores do not sell fancy holiday stuff. They sell lights and some hearty ornaments and tree stands. When at checkout the folks who run the joint showed me their "ugly holiday sweater contest" and brought out this hideously wonderful sweater. I grinned like the Grinch! They explained that when a local business is wearing it you are supposed to drop in a few bucks in their charity collection buckets. I laughed and said I just handed Nelson Greene all my cash and would be back later in the week. As I left they turned on a dancing Santa Hat which lit up and played carols. Gibson was certain this hat was possessed by a demon. His eyes got huge and I was worried for a second he would try and eat it. He didn't. He just backed up slowly out of the cash register area making the sign of the cross.

When we left the store building at Salem Farm Supply I walked over to the loading dock area where the grain is set into your truck. The man who brings out the grain is usually very terse. Not in anyway mean or disrespectful, just quiet and not into small talk. When he saw the bales in my truck, the load of grain, and the sky above swirling with the promise of snow, he suddenly felt chatty. "Getting ready for tomorrow?" he asked, smiling. I knew what that meant. I had a car full of feed, for many types of animals. I remembered I forgot to check the weather...

"How much?" I asked.  He knew what I meant. How much snow was on the way? Usually I check the weather every hour or so, but the morning was a mess of monsters, money concerns, and cold weather. I didn't check the future because I was dealing with the bitter present. We talked for a while about the weather and I adjusted the day's plan because of it. When I got home around 3PM I would start chores early. I'd get the pigs a full fresh bale of bedding and extra feed. I'd make sure all the buckets frozen since the morning were defrosted again, ice broken, and comfort prepared well before dark.

I drove past Patty and Mark's place to see if they were home for a visit. They weren't, so I left their driveway and turned back south towards Cold Antler. Last trip of the day was to Stewart's, our local chain of gas stations/ice cream parlors and there I got some diesel and gasoline and coffee for myself. It isn't great coffee, but it's our coffee. I drink it with gusto.

At home the stove had all but gone out. Just embers and the temperature had dropped back to 55. I got a fire restarted with some dry kindling and pine twigs from the spruce trees outside. It lit up again in a second. I checked email and got a "maybe' about a design job and that was enough to buoy my spirits. I sat down and worked on some other design projects, one very important. I was doing some cards for folks donating to the Mission Nadia project over at Firecracker Farm. The Daughtons asked if I could make up something as a thank you for those who donate towards the adoption of Nadia. I share this here incase any of you would like to check it out, and support a worthy cause. Then it was off to chores again, afternoon, pre-storm, edition.

The animals were all ready for another meal. I repeated the morning routine and then spent some time in the pig pen. The four pegs out there were growing thicker and hairier. They were not at harvest weight yet, but coming along. I poured some corn into their feeding bowl, which they promptly spilled and started eating out of the dirty hay from last night's bedding. They were busy so I went to work moving in new hay, filling feeders and water troughs, and getting them settled for the snow. I sat in their pigoda and watched them eat. I tried to get better pictures but they are not still creatures. But you can see a side shot of the big male. He's around 140lbs I'd guess. Another month or two, then off to the folks who co-own them.

By this point it is dark and I am growing tired. A gal can only do so much. The firewood was still needing to be pulled inside for the night. The hawk needed fresh water and training indoors. I had been bringing Italics in for flight practice to the glove and lure training. After we work inside I set him on my fist and we watch a movie together. He is growing used to the dogs now, and used to me again after the long summer molt. I hope to be hunting with him again in a short while.

The day ended around 8PM, and yet I am still up. I wanted to write this, catch up with friends online (Guild raid at 8pm-10pm), and there was this post I wanted to share. IT matters to me that I can come here and share a Monday like this. A Monday with men fixing wood stoves in the cold, with pig pen pictures, with dogs scared of Santa Hats, and with the fine work of keeping all the balls in the air. Tomorrow is a new day, a snow day (expecting close to a foot) and I will need my rest for shoveling, roof raking, and that bowl of oatmeal I promised myself. But for now I am happy to curl under those skins again with my dog, and be warm, tired, fed, and happy. The house is 60 degrees and in that den it will be 80 degrees or better of solid rest, a good six hours or so. What a joy that will be! In my dreams I think of wonderful things, and it is as if I am there.

I'm glad I stayed up later than planned. This farm is now an hour warmer.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Highland Hairdo

Plaid On!
One Week to Make It!

A while back I posted this for Plaid Friday (explained below) and have decided to continue to offer the discounted rates a while longer. I have a week to make another mortgage payment to keep the farm on steady footing and will offer these rates until that money is raised. I also have a meadowbrook horse cart for sale. If any of this strikes your fancy or you have a spouse, teenager, or friend who would love a day at a farm learning the fiddle or shooting a longbow, consider these for gift options!

So, Plaid Friday! If you aren't familiar with this campaign, it is all about supporting local businesses and building community. In contrast to Black Friday, which seems to be a benefit to larger corporations and box stores: this is a day to mindfully support someone in your own town. So if you are running into your local business area, try and throw a little coin in the direction of some independent shops or services as holiday gifts. And Plaid Friday doesn't just have to be about your town either. Supporting any local community business is a step in the right direction! For example: hire a local plow guy to take care of your sister's driveway in Idaho for a month. Call in some local cookies and flowers to your aunt from a small business in her borough in Manhattan. Or choose to stay at a cozy cottage from Air B&B. You picking up what I'm putting down? Where will you support a small, local, entrepreneur this Yuletide?!

As for Cold Antler? What will I be offering as a Plaid Friday Sale?

How about Any single-day workshop (minus the cost of gear for said workshop) for $60

How about a Three-Workshop Pass for $150

How about Your Choice of Fiddle Camp or Arrow's Rising 2015 (with fiddle or bow) for $250
Or BOTH EVENTS for $400

How about any Indie Day for Two People (10AM-4PM on the farm) for $200

How about a Season Pass for $200 (or renewal of yours!)

See details of events here, adding more every season!

Email me to sign up! Paypal only (unless barter or silver)