Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday!

Thrilled to announce that this little girl will be arriving on the east coast in early June. She's a stockdog pup from fine folks out west in Idaho and I was able to do a partial barter for logo design to buy her! (That on top of making small payments over the past few months) I didn't want to announce her until it was a done deal but this little gal is moving in soon and will be such a happy addition to the farm. It's been five years since a puppy was a part of this homestead and it is such a boost of energy, joy, and fun! It's exactly the boost I needed after the last two rough winters and I am beyond excited to raise her. She's named Friday, after a favorite movie of my father's and mine - His Girl Friday. I hope she's just as whip smart, fast-talking, and keeps up with the boys!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Barn, Sweet Barn.

Photo by Miriam Romais

Cold Fronts & A Dead Chick

So a cold front came through this week, and it had me lighting a fire in the woodstove last night - a seasonal record! Frost warnings littered the weather reports and all after the kailyard, kitchen garden, and little chicks had been growing strong for weeks. Last week days hit nearly 90 degrees and people were tubing down the Battenkill. I wore a hoodie all day yesterday and was torn on wether or not to install heat lamps in the chicken tractors.

I didn't use the heat lamps and they were fine. I did find one dead chick this morning out of the 80 or so chicks in the tractors but I am pretty sure it was the one who seemed to have a broken or non-working leg the night before. In the morning he was gone but the other birds (who are almost all feathered out now) were bright and bushy tailed. They had blankets and tarps over the tractors and insulating hay to sleep on. No one was wet or dew-damp and it was so encouraging to know a chilly night wouldn't bring them low.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Arrows Rising 2015: 2 Spots LEFT!

This June 20th & 21st! There are many spots open for this Summer's Arrow's Rising! For those of you on the fence about taking up traditional archery, I hope you consider this weekend-long event held here at Cold Antler Farm in beautiful June. It's two days of everything traditional, and comes with a longbow (25lb draw) hand crafted in the US by a Veteran. You're not only supporting this business, but his, and taking up a sport people of any age, gender, or size can learn to be fantastic at with practice.

Arrows Rising is the name of the entire weekend, but that Saturday morning will start with a story. I will share my own reasons for taking up archery and it has nothing to do with Katniss, Brave, or the Avengers. I read a book one of you fine Antlers suggested to me several years ago and the the culture of archery and bow making was so rich and storied the bow went from being a weapon to a legend. It didn't take long after reading the first three books in the series that I had looked up some online bowyers and archery supply shops and sent from emails to my local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The rest, as they say, is history. A self-made history at that. I've shot on the same traditional team for three years now. I've gone from a girl very low the East Kingdom's rankings with a cheap bow to a Marshal in the Shire of Glenn Linn, and MUCH higher on the rankings list. My love for the sport echoed into a part time job last summer at the British School of Falconry in Manchester, Vermont. There I taught archery professionally, showing folks who never held a bow before the ways of instinctive shooting, safety, and basic practice field commands.

Very much of those lessons will be repeated for these beginners coming to Arrow's Rising. There will be an in-depth talk about equipment, bows and bow types, strings, bow stringing and measuring your bow for your body. We'll talk arrows as well, and how to outfit yourself once you get home. Basic safety equipment will also be covered, and while I will have spare gear to lend I strongly suggest that people attending Arrow's Rising invest in their own hand and arm protection. A simple armguard costs very little as does a finger tab. But really all you need is a sturdy pair of deerskin work gloves, and a long sleeved shirt. These will protect your hands and be very appreciated by Saturday afternoon!

Saturday after equipment is covered we will head outside for safety demonstrations and field rules. Since Cold Antler is built into a mountain and goes through forest and stream side we will have several areas with targets set up. You'll shoot stationary at close range to start, gaining distance and confidence. The first day will end with us sitting under the king Maple out front and reviewing the history and tradition of archery, share our stories of why we came, and relax and rest our arms! A tour of the farm and animals will then happen for all who wish to meet the crew and a campfire will be held that night for folks who want to return for music and more stories. Bring a folding chair and an instrument!

Sunday will begin with a quick review and some more practice. Afterwards we'll try a trekking shoot, where we walk over forest and along the stream hitting smaller targets. You'll learn to shoot through cover, down a ravine, and kneeling as well as the traditional archer's T. There may very well be a demonstration of mounted archery with Merlin!

So that is the plan, the entire weekend come a few weekends from now and again in the fall. I hope to fill up all the spots soon and encourage women, men, teenagers and best friends to sign up together if they want! It's a great bonding experience and a sport many of us can take up at any age. Basketball courts and swimming pools don't really change but the archery field and equipment is made to fit YOU. So do not feel you aren't athletic enough to try. Folks of any size are welcome, I just ask you bring plenty of water, a chair to sit in, and understand we are shooting come rain or shine!

This June 20th & 21st! 
10AM-4PM
Campfire Sat
No camping on farm
The full price is $350. 
This includes both days and longbow.

Let the grey geese fly!

Email me: Jenna@itsafarwalk.com to sign up!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tiny Flags

This morning is beautiful. After chores were done and the animals were quietly munching and crunching, when the goats were milked and the day was officially on its way—I stopped to look around. The sun was hitting the green grass. Cersei and Jaime were romping around the yard. The ducks waddled past the geese and the chickens in their tractors ate and jumped and drank and napped. Everything seemed perfect. In the next few hours I knew I would do what made me happiest - I would run, shoot arrows, and ride my horse. When I can spend a day moving across the landscape by my body and by horse, and then quiet the mind into the meditation of practicing archery and focusing on that target... I am happiest. I can't relax without a tired body and head. And I get to run on this mountain road, and ride that beautiful horse, and shoot arrows at a straw target all here in my backyard. This is my everyday vacation. This is my dream come true. This is home.

I know this, and sometimes I forget how long it took. Cold Antler Farm started in 2007 with a rented home in Idaho. I had no land, just a few chickens, some gardens, rabbits and an insatiable desire to farm I called Barnheart. It wasn't a passing fad. It wasn't a pipe dream. It was who I was. And I was going to get there.

When people ask me for advice on what they can do to get to the same place, my answer is usually simple. I respond "Plant something" and I mean it. If you live in a studio apartment and can't tell an angus from an ayrshire - plant something. You don't need to know breeds of cattle or have a garden plot in your city's limited urban garden. You can go to Home Depot, buy compost, a pot, and some seeds and plant something. It doesn't matter if it grows or not, what matters is you actually made the choice to act. I think this is the biggest hangup people have following this dream. They think that the choices all need to be big, romantic, and successful. They don't. You don't need to be 24, flip off your boss, join WWOOF, and travel to Peru to herd Alpacas for your summer. You need to choose to spend $26.78 on dirt, seeds, and pots instead of pizza and beer and try. No excuses. If you don't have a window, buy a grow lightbulb and a desk light. Figure it out because if you give up on growing a sprout in one pot what makes you think you'll last a season on a farm? Be ruthless with your trying.

It's about slowly moving priorities and resources. It's about how every week you end up buying one more indoor pot until the superintendent tells you that "You know, if you really like growing stuff you can use the courtyard? or the Roof?" and you start hauling 50lbs backs of topsoil up the elevator with pre-cut 2x4s. It's being consistent, and stubborn, and not letting the 13 jillion mistakes you will make stop you.

It's also about listening to yourself. Not your snarky in-laws, not your disapproving parents, and not your coworkers who crack jokes in the breakroom about you wearing the same shirt twice a week because you didn't have time to do laundry on the weekend because you were too busy building a chicken coop. It's about caring more about what makes you happy than what makes you socially acceptable. That's the real work of changing your life. That's the hard part. Not the hoeing gardens and moving hay bales, that is just body and time, but the work of overcoming the meeker parts of us that hold us back. That's the back breaking.

So you want a farm and have no idea how to get there? Plant something today. Plant it knowing you might very well fail, kill it, and then plant it again. Buy some books on the homesteading aspects you like most and stack them right on your coffee table for the world to see. Subscribe to a backyard chicken mailing list or forum. All of these things are small actions but each of them is another prayer sent out into the world. A tiny flag stuck into the ground saying "This is what I want" and the more flags you shove into the ground the more you realize how serious this is to you. And the more your decisions change towards the life you want. Maybe you'll take your profile off Match.com and switch it to Farmersonly.com? Maybe you'll take that job that lets you commute from the country instead of the next floor in the city gig you are in? Maybe you'll just spend the next clothes budget on Carhartts instead of Calvin Klein? It all builds on each other. It is mental composting so you can plant your dream.

If you really want a farm you'll end up there. For better or for worse, you'll be there. If you really have Barnheart and not a passing case of farm lust based on the last documentary you saw, you'll find your way. But know it isn't money, or location, or age that makes it happen. It's those little choices and the strength to shout from the rooftops this is who you are.

And maybe one day you'll wake up on a Tuesday morning wearing the same shirt for the 5th day in the row and smile.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

New Vlog! Easy Goat Cheese How To

Friday, May 15, 2015

Today


Alarm goes off at 3:30AM
Get up
Let out dogs
Check Bonita
Feed cats
Get ready for turkey hunting
Lyle arrives at 4AM
We head to local large farm
Hike in the dark with guns
We split up
I set up decoys and call birds
I hear gobbles in the trees
Turkeys fly to another farm
I watch the sunrise
I read from the Havamal
We leave among misty mountains at 6AM
Come home - 6:30 AM
Pick off ticks
Feed chicks in tractors
refill their fonts
carry water to horse
carry water to sheep
let sheep out of paddock to graze
Feed horse hay
Feed rabbits
Feed dogs
Collect eggs
Water kailyard
Grain and water goats
Milk Ida
Bring in milk to strain 7:30AM
Wash dairy dishes
Eggs and bacon
Check emails
Sell logo
Sell Fiddle Camp Spot
Email my bowyer
Check Bonita
Waste time on Facebook/Twitter
Emails again
Buy flat of veggie starts at Stannard's
Water but not plant them
Nap with Gibson 11AM
Wake up to kids 1PM
Skip Lunch
Bring kids inside
Milk Bonita
Feed bottles to kids
Set them up in dog crate with towels
Feel Anxious
Run three miles
Shoot 50 arrows
Press 50 pushups
Put away archery target
Feed chicks in tractors
Refill their fonts
Carry water to horse
Carry water to sheep
Put sheep back into paddock to grain
Feed rabbits
Get horse out of paddock
Groom Merlin
Pick Feet
Tack horse up
Ride up the mountain
Look for fox I shot the night before
Find no fox
Let Merlin graze on mountain, take in view
Ride home
Untack horse
Curry comb horse
Let Merlin into pasture to graze
Cover chicken tractors in case of rain
Milk Ida and Bonita
Prepare bottles
Feed kids again
Walk dogs
Look for fox
Email final logo files to client
Set milk for morning chevre
Make steak dinner
Drink a hard cider
Update blog

Next:
Night Rounds on Farm
Put away laying pullet chicks
Turn on Barn Radio
Watch movie on Amazon Instant Video
Feed kids again before bed in easy chair
Put them in dog crate with diaper sheets
Go upstairs to bed
Sleep like I mean it by 9PM
Up tomorrow at 5 AM

Some Chicks Are Smarter...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New Vlog! Giving Up My Smart Phone

Base Camp on a Cold Night!

An odd little cold snap has come to the Battenkill Valley. This morning it was 31 degrees! No big deal and actually a delight to the goats, horse, and sheep but a fright for the chicken farmer with 3 week old little ones on pasture. These birds are not just for me but for a few friends who live nearby. They have entrusted me to raise up some fine freezer birds for their larder and that extra responsibility has me upping my chicken game to new heights.

These birds are starting to get their adult, insulating, feathers but do not have them yet. They may have been fine on dry hay last night out of the wind but I played it safe. I installed a heat lamp, covered the entire thing in wind-proof tarp, and before I went to bed I covered them up with a heavy quilt. I snapped this picture of the camp right before the quilt went over top the meaties. When I looked out my window at the dark farm I had to giggle at the sight of the glowing green chicken tractor. Do you know those images of fancy mountaineering tents in catalogs in dark wilderness where the only light is the glow of a tent? That is what it looked like outside. So I nicknamed it basecamp with Gibson, who was disappointed he couldn't see the chicks he likes terrorizing as he runs circles around the tractor...

This morning as I removed the gear I was a little worried a few chicks would be dead but they all made it. This little measure of prevention only took moments and I already had the lamp and extension cords. Now I need to build a second tractor, and more as they grow into their adult bird size. Whew!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Come All Year!


Everything Chickens
An All Day Workshop - July 11th

This is a full day workshop at the farm, covering all things backyard chicken. The workshop will run from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM and have an hour lunch break. The day will cover all things poultry from small backyard to sprawling fields. Interested in a few backyard layers for eggs? Perhaps you want to add a small meat bird concern to your already content laying flock? Want to start raising pastured poultry in chicken tractors this year? Perhaps you are just chicken curious? All chicken inclinations are welcome here!

The morning will begin with raising chicks -information vital to both egg and meat birds. We will talk about chick care, brooder design, temperature control, feed and feathering out. There will be chicks here to learn to inspect for common diseases and ailments. When the brooder section is completed there will be a discussion on getting new birds used to their new coop or other chickens and assimilating them into your own spaces, lifestyles, and restrictions. What works for a sprawling backyard in the suburbs is not the same as what works for chickens in your rooftop garden in NYC - but chickens belong in both places!

The afternoon will focus on PRODUCTION. Why do we raise chickens? For eggs and meat of course! First topic to cover after lunch will be a healthy laying flock and the responsibilities therein. How to choose the right birds for your needs? Should fancy breeds stay in show homes? What can handle a Maine winter or a New Jersey seaside summer? All of these chicken questions and more will be answered.

The later afternoon will be about raising meat birds, and will include a slaughter demonstration from bird to freezer wrapping. If you are not interested in meat birds you can leave and that is fine, but for those of you interested in learning this skill you can get a step-by-step process from harvest to thawing for recipes.

Cold Antler Farm is all about making animals part of your normal life. I want folks to know how to raise a chick, slaughter a broiler, or run a small chicken tractor operation of 10-30 birds a year in the backyard for your freezer storage. No eggs are healthier or better for you than homegrown eggs! And no roasted bird tastes better than one you knew as a chick in your palm!

The day will end with a serious discussion on the importance of having food at home, both with uncertain times ahead and your own personal health and responsibility. Nothing involving tin foil hats, but a realistic talk about the rise in food prices, the morality of chickens being flown to our grocery stores from overseas, and the GMO animals filling every fast food corner store. Take back some of your health and make the world a better place for feathered and human friends alike!

Date: July 11th 2015
Location: Cold Antler Farm
Price: $100 a person
Spots: 15
OUTDOOR EVENT - RAIN OR SHINE

Photo by Miriam Romais

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Monday The Ram

Monday is the ram here, at least these days. Before him was Atlas and this coming season should be some new blood, named Cloud. I think Common Sense Farm and I will swap and I am a little intimidated! Cloud earns his name. He is a huge mass of white wool and horn. But I think Monday will enjoy heading to a new flock down at the Commune!

Photo by Miriam Romais

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's Okay to Run Away....

As long as you're running towards something better.

How to Make a Cup of Coffee

It’s 7Am and I am sitting down with a hot mug of coffee. It isn’t fancy. It’s the kind that comes in a blue metal can at the grocery store. But it is hot and strong and spiked with creamy goat’s milk. The morning chores are all done. Strained milk is chilling in the freezer while the pails, half-gallon jars, and strainer rest on the drying rack. It feels good to have it all done. Coffee tastes better when things are done.

Milking Ida was just a half hour ago but it seems much longer. There goes that time travel again, my favorite drug. I felt it hunting with a bundle of wool and clay and I feel it sitting on the stanchion and milking a goat while a brooder of chicks across the barn sing their morning demands. I am in kilt, tank top, and sandals. It's been so warm here lately. My hair was back in a bandana and NPR was on the barn radio. A reported talked about police brutality in another state and it might as well be two hundred years away for how far it felt. I change the station to classical music, and not because I have no empathy for the trials but because once I have granted myself awareness of the news my ability to change or help it stops. I do not allow myself to wallow in the pornography so many call 24-hours news these days. It is tragedy wrapped in shiny paper, horror stories selling soda. My life is here and my community is here and this is where I can effect change and offer service. I used to think it was my duty to hear the news and be upset by it. Now I feel it is my duty to live a life that will never make the morning reports to people driving to their air conditioned offices. I went feral.

I listen to the music and milk the goat.

Milk streams into the steel pail and rings. I love that song. Bach plays on the radio and I love it as well. It is only made better by the animals around me. I hear the deep trill of “Grook…groook….groook” and smile. Just above me, outside the barn, is Odin the raven. The large bird has been spending most of his mornings at this farm. He is so large and loud and swoops around the naked locust trees and blooming wild apples as if they are his playground. I keep milking Ida, who is eating her breakfast of grain and allowing me to empty the half gallon of milk she has to offer into the pail.

Ida is the 2-year-old daughter of Bonita, my first milking goat and the still-very-pregnant animal in the pen beside us. She is so fat I could rent her out for toddler dirigible rides if she floated. She watches me milk her daughter and patiently waits for her turn to jump onto the stand and eat her breakfast. She isn’t being milked yet but I want the does down with the routine of morning milking, which is one at a time on the stanchion. Bonita so looks forward to her morning grain and minerals and I so look forward to her kids. Their is nothing cuter than baby goats, nothing at all. And to think I NEED to bring kids into the world so I can enjoy a perfect cup of coffee or the goat cheese omelet with tomato and basil I had for breakfast yesterday morning… It feels like I am cheating at life. Kids, coffee, and the best damn eggs in the world thanks to the flock of hens outside. And here I am, sipping that coffee. It tastes amazing. It is creamy but not heavy. It isn’t sweetened with sugar, just the bitter bite of roasted beans clashing with that perfect milk.

Goat’s milk isn’t like half and half or cream, it’s literally a whole different animal. It is a milk as rich in flavor and as filling as whole cow’s milk but has the consistency of 2% milk. I know some of you put off by the idea, but that’s because you probably are connecting the flavor to store-bought goat’s milk or goat cheese. No. No, no no no no. Fresh, raw, chilled goat’s milk has no taint. There isn’t a tinge of sourness or that “goaty” snap people describe when eating chèvre fro the store. The reason is the lack of heat. Fresh from the goat, their milk is creamy and delicious and tastes exactly like cow’s milk. But unlike cow’s milk - once it is pasteurized it begins to change in ways that effect the flavor. It starts turning to a liquid cheese at 140 degrees and while it won’t hurt you (and some love that flavor) it isn’t what you are used to pouring over your Wheaties. But fresh milk. Raw milk is perfection.

So what went into a cup of coffee on a Monday morning here at Cold Antler? Well, two years ago a goat was born. And that goat grew up, was bred, and gave birth to a darling buck a span of days earlier. That buck was sold and the money paid for a flat of vegetables in the garden. And because of that buckling every day a gallon of milk is on tap thanks to his mother. On this particular morning some of that milk sloshed into a cup of coffee to energize the farmer who had a whole farm to bring into the day before most people have even hit their snooze button a second time.

I know this life isn’t for everyone. I know most people think it is too much work, too financially unpredictable, and too constraining to home and stock. It is true that I never stop maintaining the place for more than a few hours. It is true that money is as unpredictable as summer storms. And it is also true that the three-hour trip to a friend’s house last night was as much “getting out’ as I ever receive. It has been years since I spent the night somewhere besides this farmhouse. Folks who need to hop on plains to feel correct in the world would despise this lot. I know. But for those of us who feel more connected to Bach and milking goats, to those of us who choose time travel as our drug of choice…. to those of us already here.

We are home. And a cup of coffee with a good story is enough.

Photo by Miriam Romais

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tractors!

Look at this! Thanks to amazing friends who came over for an afternoon at the farm, we created this small, inexpensive chicken tractor for the Freedom Rangers! It's 8x4ft and the little nuggets love it! The farm is raising a lot of chicken this year. I am hoping to raise ALL of my own winter supply and offer birds to friends and neighbors. These little guys are safe, on green grass, under a nice sunny sky and loving it!

This tractor was made with three 2x4's a few pieces of PVC, some screws, and chicken wire. Thanks to zip ties and some scrap lumber the door was made. Chris, Miriam, and Keenan helped (with Chris as project leader) and it took us about two hours form start to chickens inside. I don't have plans to share but the idea is simple enough. We faked it awesome. It's a 4x8 wooden base with PVC pipe hoops covered with some chicken wire. One end is covered with a plastic tarp for weather protection. Right now about thirty nuggets are inside but over the weeks ahead we will build a few more and the plan is to have just a dozen or so birds in each, on pasture, up on the hillside where the sheep and horse have been grazing. Joel's taught us all how herbivores should be followed by flocks of birds (just like in nature) and that is the plan on this farm!

Calling to Roosts

I picked up the small bundle. It was on the grass before me and when I reached out to grab it I couldn't stop smiling. I was outside, at dawn, and that little wrapping of wool was all I carried besides the gun over my shoulder. They were all I needed.

The bundle was made of a green wool blanket I had sewn into a heavy cloak and inside it there was a hand-thrown mug with a broken handle. The broken handle was my handiwork, too. It was all wrapped up with a soft cotton rope. That rope made a fine handle. I held it in my left hand. The shotgun over my right shoulder was borrowed, but beautiful. A Weatherby from the 80's, just as old as I was, and if I was lucky I would shoot it at a turkey this dawn.

Mark Wesner has been teaching me the fine art of spring turkey hunting these past few weeks. He started with showing me calls and scouting farms for future hunts back in April. As the season approached we walked fields and called barred owls in the evening to see where the toms were roosting. Now that the season is here we are meeting before dawn to walk into the woods and edge of fields while the world is still dark. There we can hear the male turkeys gobble from their roosts and hope they fly down and come to our calls. Mark has a gorgeous turkey call a friend made him. He's a master caller and if I close my eyes I see a far hen strutting next to me and not a guy in full camo. That sounds like a joke, but it's really a bit of magic. How can some wood and chalk sound exactly like a bird?

We didn't get to take any shots at birds and the calls were not bringing in the boys. All three hunts this season had the toms leaving my calling and Marks for actual flocks of hens on another property we didn't have permission to hunt. But killing turkeys isn't the reason I get up early and go on these hunts. I get up because of the time travel.

I get to spend a quiet morning walking woodland paths, weapons over my shoulder, excitement in my belly. I get to listen to animals far away wake up and start their days. There are does in far fields, ravens and herons overhead, and foxes and groundhogs ambling about. Being quiet means stillness and nature finds you when you slow down enough around her. Mark taught me the difference between the calls of a wood thrush and a hermit thrush. He showed me the difference in coyote and fox scat. When the hunt is over in a spot he pulls out a large beloved Stanley Thermos and we drink coffee and listen to farmer's cows bellow in far fields while sharing stories of past hunts. It's all timeless, and magical, and wild and real.

Hunting has become my favorite outdoor pastime. When you hunt you are not observing nature, you are a part of it. You are learning but also participating in such a visceral way it excites mybody chemistry while calming me more than any zen retreat ever has. The meditation and energy waltz with you, and the stalking, the calling, the waiting.... it is everything that makes up all the other animal's lives in this world. The hope is for a large tom you can take home and enjoy with friends. A way to nourish yourself and others, both with calories and words, but the real adventure is walking paths with little bundles and loaded shotguns. That is what hunting is to me. It's little moments that don't make it into the campfire stories or third beers.

It is the sunrises. It is the friendships. It is the hope.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

First Cheese of the Season!