Friday, August 31, 2007

four day weekend

I'll be away from the internet for a few days. Starting tomorrow I'll be on a small vacation. I'm planning on watching lots of deadwood and gilmore girls, writing, baking, and playing music that annoys the dogs. Maybe I'll smash Lookout Mountain but I'm not making any promises. You kids be good.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Some day, when I have a dozen Suffolks in the pasture I'll have a border collie. And that border collie will be a working dog that shares my home with the no-good rebellious sled dogs. I have already decided his name - Saven. Which is the 6,000 year old Scottish word for Halloween. He'll have yellow eyes, an all black coat, and putz around the farm with me. I can't have a third dog now. I can't have a third dog so much that I turned down a malamute/wolf hybrid puppy a few weeks ago because I know what I can handle. Yes, Jenna Woginrich turned down the chance to have a pet wolf. But I know what I can deal with - and a third big dog can't fit in a subaru, and I can't walk three dogs and stay in control. Jazz and Annie are everything two housedogs can be, and recently came back from their annual check up with rave reviews (minus Annie needed to drop 6 pounds and Jazz needing some dental work). But as far as overall health, they're gangbusters. More dogs means everything gets a little thinner, less attention and personal care. Adding a third dog to the family would make things too hard on me and the Siberians. Who wouldn't understand why Saven got to run outside off leash? And Saven wouldn't understand why Siberians are allowed to jump into a packed car with the sled tied to the top and be outside all day in the winter while he stayed in...

Oh, dogs. If you only knew the half of it this week.

But yes, Saven will be the border collie I hope to share my life with when my life is at a constance. Border collies seem to need more routine and solid ground then Jazz and Annie do. Or maybe I just have decided that a herding dog deserves a herd and I can't offer it to him yet. (I realize that boder collies as pets do not need sheep to be happy, I just want mine to have sheep) But I can offer trails and snow to the dogs in my life now. Maybe I can marry a hobby shepherd and wreck all his plans with dogsledding races and trips to Ireland. If you know this guy, tell him I make great pie.

Monday, August 27, 2007

mountain music for the masses

There are two things necessary for my mental stability - hiking and making music. I need to get outside and walk a few miles every now and again. And I need to be able to pick up an instrument and play it until my fingers hurt. It’s not so important how hard the hike was or how complicated the music gets. What’s important is the self-reliance of creating your own adventure and soundtrack when the mood strikes. If you’re into hiking too, and possibly interested in homemade music (but are convinced you can’t ever learn the guitar, banjo or fiddle) have I got an old friend I’d like to introduce you too…

The Strumstick. It’s basically the love child of the mountain dulcimer and banjo. And it’s made so that every chord you play is part of a chromatic scale. It weighs next to nothing, sounds like something right out of deliverance, and costs less then taking you and a friend out for a steak dinner. I recently got reacquainted with it and have been having a hoot taking it with me on the road or the trail. It’s perfect for back porches, campfires, and the beach and can hold it’s own in a bluegrass jam. You can pick one up from the original creator here, or find a multitude of knock-offs that sound just as good and even look a bit more interesting.

Keep pickin

watch the flock

(sorry about the wind...)

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Meet William. He’s a one-year-old Welsummer rooster, and the newest addition to the farm. While chickens aren’t the most complicated livestock to raise, it does take a little management. Introducing a hard charger like him meant reducing the amount of males in the flock. Two of my silkie roosters found new homes on other small farms. So even though I am adding a new animal, I am now down to fewer birds then when the fair started.

So, William… William was the first place rooster at the fair. His owner, a sweet woman named Judy had a sign on his cage saying he was up for adoption. That he was a little to rough. We talked and decided to trade males. My silkie roosters are good guys and extra calm and gentle. We swapped last night and ended up with guys that better complemented our natures. I figured I could handle and appreciate William just fine. After all, my idea of a great time is being pulled over by wolves with robes. Oley!

After the fair was through, I packed him into the backseat of the Subaru with the help of Judy. When we arrived back at the farm shortly after, I had to decided what to do with him. Generally with hens, I wait till dark to put them in the coop with the others. They are too focused on roosting and going to sleep to care about another chicken cooing next to them. Kinda like if you’re staying at a youth hostel and you’re too exhausted to care at 3 Am if some random kid from Amsterdam rolled out a sleeping bag next to you. Anyway, come morning the new girl learns the routine the others created, and walks out into the world with them. I decided this is what I’d do with Will. While the other girls were scratching about the yard I placed him in the empty coop at dusk. He hated this. He carried on and flapped around like a crazy person. He didn’t understand why he was inside and locked in a coop when it was still light out and all those ladies were walking around free. But I was worried he’d be too confused about the farm to settle in. What if he panicked and headed for the coyote fields? Or worse, ran for the highway?

I decided to just let things happen how they would. Roosters aren’t new to the world and he probably had a plan of action set since I turned into my driveway. I opened the coop door. William flew out like a swan and landed like a Czech gymnast. I was in a bit of awe. Within moments Mary Todd Lincoln was dashing for him. Like her long lost lover showed up out of nowhere. So how about that for a welcome wagon? Within three minutes of landing on green grass William was having sex, dancing and singing. Something few of us get to do within the first moments of moving into a new house. Needless to say, William was a happy guy. The girls were man-starved and followed him around like groupies. William ate, drank, got laid and when the sun came down trotted right up into the chicken hutch and went to bed. Hell of a day.

Friday, August 24, 2007

fiddle sacks also in dry goods

Tired of those clunky, pretentious, over bearing music cases? Sure they’re great for long-term storage… but when you just need to take your fiddle with you to a festival or campfire, bring it in down-home mountain style. Made to fit your fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, or other small instruments. Freehand embroidery of your name or phrase, patches of your own or of our collection. Handmade of sturdy fabrics (denims, ducts, cords and such) tied up with a string. Has a sling for carting all over creation.

Click here to order!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Soap is back!

I sold out of my last batch, but soaps back in the store again! Homemade blend of goatsmilk and beeswax, no artificial anything. I add a little home-grown mint tea to it for exfoliation and to give it a little kick. High beeswaxs content, which is a smell I adore. Only a few dollars a bar, long lasting, and has an insect on it. Which, you you just don't get enough of with soaps.

Also available are handknit hands, photo and design prints, tea, wool, and more to come later in the week.

Click here to order!

stove top cider

We're getting just a few weeks from the equinox, so start celebrating early. If you're lucky enough to have a cider mill in your neighborhood (My folks live 20 minutes from a farm with an apple press) make the trip to pick up some all-natural, unprocessed, fresh pressed cider (Take that Louie Pasteur!) If you don’t want to do the legwork, or don’t care, go to the grocery store and get some.

If you're feeling really industrious, and have some extra gusto and cash. Buy one of these homepresses, and spend an afternoon with friends and family at a U-pick orchard. For a ridiculously cheap amount you can collect all the bruised and clumsy apples they won't sell and make enough cider to last a nomal person through late fall and me about 2 weeks. This is much easier to do if you live near Washington State, or in the Northeast. But you'll figure something out no matter where you reside if you're clever. Or have a phonebook.

Stove Top Cider
At home get out a medium sized pot and fill it with about 5 cups of cold cider. Put the range on a medium low heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. As the cider warms up, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and a sprinkle of clove (not much, just enough to make it woodsy). Keep stirring so that the cider doesn’t rise or curdle. When it’s at a comfortable hot-chocolate temperature serve in a hearty mugs with an optional cinnamon stick. Do not use a microwave. It never heats evenly and is also horribly tacky for such a sacred task. Now go outside on the porch with a blanket, pet your dogs (or cat, or rabbit, or lover, or borrow someone else’s) and enjoy. Invite over a friend. Serve a slice of applecake (not pie).

This is the as good as it gets all year. Satiate.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Sorry folks, my chickens didn't win anything. I can't say I wasn't a little sad. But I cheered myself up buying some baby alpaca wool I'm knitting with these fancy circle needles. Anyway,as for the silkies morale, it's much higher than mine was. Fair life seems to suit them well. They looked fine this morning when I went in to check thier food and water. I'll be posting a sign letting people know what birds of mine are available for sale and such. Maybe I'll find a home for a few of the roosters. Shucks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

rain and snow

After weeks, strike that, MONTHS of dry dusty god-awful sunshine - Idaho is finally starting to feel like the Pacific Northwest again. I love precipiation. I missed it. I'm happy to announce the past few days have been chilly, windy and rainy. Clouds come down from the sky and rush through the mountains, It looks like racing ghosts compared to the static hang of the smokies. Got to love cloud athletics. I took the dogs out two nights ago and the wind whipped my hair everywhere and the rain fell sideways and it was still warm enough to just need a fluffy sweater. Crisper. Tighter. Damn that's good weather. The need for soup and blankets makes this girl giddy. I celebrated by drinking hot cider and watching Cold Mountain with the dogs. There are more perfect evenings, but not many.

As far as mountain music updates go I've learned the lonesome song "rain and snow" on the fiddle. It matches the weather perfectly and has an almost Irish flavor to it. It's one of those songs you can play a hundred different ways. I get a real kick out of it. I'll try and record it for you, or some fiddle music soon. I also just got my psaltry in the mail from Wood-n-Strings in Tennessee. I need to either fix the broken strings and bridge (thanks UPS) - or get a replacement. Kind of a let down after wanting to add it to my repertoire for so long. If anyone knows how to fix a psaltry, be a friend.


I went to the fair to see how my birds did, and no updates yet. The doors were closed in the poultry section (I assume they were judging) and they were handing out rabbit ribbons in the front. Maybe after work I’ll be able to check and see. Since I was already at the fairgrounds, I thought I’d watch some of the livestock showing. I walked over to the children’s sheep qualifiers. These kids looked like little ranchers with gorgeous ewes in their arms. I had never been so envious of a fourth grader before. It’ll be years before I have sheep and a rumpled border collie. Years. And that’s if I’m lucky enough to be able to find and purchase a bit of land someday. Well anyway, I hope to post again soon with info on how Emily and Moon Rooster did at the fair. Y’all take care.

fair morning

The Bonner County Fair is situated right between my farm and work. Every morning for a week I’ll be stopping in the sunlit and dander filled barns before I head over to work. As an exhibitor, I have to stop in twice a day to check the water, food and health of my birds. The judging is going on this morning while I’m designing emails, but come lunch I’m excited to go over and see how we did. The black silkies I raised since they were two days old. I've hand fed them, watched them grow up, and built their coop from scratch. So regardless of what the judges think, I think they are beautiful little accomplishments that run around my farm like tiny dinosaurs. I’m glad to show them off to the public for a week at the fair. And who knows, if I’m lucky I might find a home for some of my spare roosters. Wish us luck. (That goose waldo hissed at me this morning. I don’t think he cares for this kind of thing.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

a homestead morning

I wake up at 5:30 to a rooster. Outside my bedroom window is a little ramshackle of a chicken coop I’ve taken to calling the “East Tennessee House”. It’s part barrel, part apple crate, and covered in old metal roof shingles. It’s a sad site, but it works. The five Japanese black silkie bantam chickens that call it home have yet to complain. I don’t know what it is about crowing proximity but when you wake up six feet from a loud bird, you tend to stay up. I am awake but crunch my body under the quilt and pretend Gertrude is the nice quiet hen I thought he was and not a moody cockerel.

The morning’s cold. Late August in Idaho means mornings in the high 30’s or low 40’s. Next to my bed is a hand knit cap, a fleece jacket, and some thick mukluk knit booties with leather soles. I armor up and step over the still sleeping dogs around the foot of the bed. Annie follows me into the kitchen, tail high. Jazz rolls over to his left. He can wait till 6Am to pee.

In the kitchen I go about the normal routine. I dump coffee beans into the grinder and crank away while looking out the window to see how much water is in the chicken font. When the percolator is loaded up I grab the sealed jar of heavy cream that’s been sitting out all night and throw it in my big side pocket. While I walk around doing chores it’ll bump and churn slowly into butter. With the coffee growling into perk, I slide into my wellies, grab the chicken feed bucket and step outside.

The grass is slightly crunchy, like it considered frosting over but thought better of it. Outside the four large hens I have are scampering around and when I call them “Chick chick chick CHICKKKKKEEENNNNN!” they come running. A running chicken might be the funniest thing you can observe before coffee. After I throw them a few scoops of feed I walk over to the hutch to collect eggs and check to see who’s nesting. Usually it’s one of the red gals, Mary Todd Lincoln or Mindy. This morning it’s empty but two giant brown eggs are in their stead, still warm.

Aside the Laying coop is the silkie pen. They are all out in the grass, hopping on a log and picking through their area for bugs. I drop into the netting fresh feed. The silkies used to have free range all day, but the wandering roosters were going into the neighbor’s property, which brought complaints. Now they are let out from about 4pm till dark to wander and scratch closer to home. (Chickens are rarely so adventurous after lunchtime)

I then start the business of the rabbitry. The butter is still bouncing around in the jar at my side while I replacing rabbit water bottles, cleaning out cages, and giving the three does new pellets and timothy hay. The contrast of these silent, calm animals and the frenzy that is laying hens is a good balance.

The gardens are watered, the paths are swept, outside the sunrise is pink and purple and the morning. It feels like early fall. I am happy.

Walking into the house large dogs greet me, they bury their noses into my chest and arms. The joint smells like coffee, and breakfast is going to be following shortly. Fresh eggs, homemade bread for toast with farm-canned spreads and fluffy butter. Breakfast fills me up for the whole day. It’s my favorite meal because I have so much time for it, and because its all from the farm. There is an intense sense of satisfaction in that. You just can’t know.

Actually. You can.

The point of this blog, and the book I'm writing, is to encourage people interested in a homestead-type lifestyle to start working toward it now. Regardless of your location, age, lease, or employment there are ways to start becoming the farmer you've always secretly wished to be. Keep checking back here for recipes, stories, tips, memoir and other such bits if it suits you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


we'll be making music like this diddy!

Monday, August 13, 2007

buy some farm tea!

This weekend I took down the herbs that have been drying in my kitchen and prepared them into a fine mint tea. It’s a blend of basic garden mint, spearmint, and lemon balm. The lemon tea is straight lemon balm. They are all organic and local to North Idaho. All packaging is recycled from paper store bags, and each packet has enough loose tea for three really strong cups.

Order by mail or paypal, each packet with shipping is two shell cards.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

your own home churn

Making your own butter is easy. I learned this from the great crew at MaryJane’s Farm, in there IdeaBook-Cookbook-Lifebook. I tried it and it worked great, and I baked 2 loaves last night that were basted with the home-churn.

This is ridiculously simple. Buy a carton of heavy cream at your grocery store (or if you can get it, cream from a local small dairy farmer). Get a canning jar with a tight lid and fill it up halfway, and let it set overnight (8-10 hours). The next morning start shaking it (not crazy, like a roll or once a second) and watch as the sides fill with buttermilk and a yellow ball starts forming. It takes about 15 minutes of casual movement to have a jar of butter and separated buttermilk. All you need to do is pour out the milk and save it in it’s own jar for pancakes or biscuits. What you have left in the jar is a yellow soft mass that resembles room temperature butter. I pressed out any leftover milk, salted it a bit, put it in a little Pyrex leftover container and out it in the fridge to set. Turned out light, fluffy, and delicious.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

the farm

Welcome to the blog for Cold Antler Farm. Cold Antler isn’t a place - It’s an idea. Named for my love of cervine symbols in ancient cultures and the poems of Han San, Cold Antler seemed like the perfect name for home. Right now Cold Antler is a retired cattle farm in Sandpoint Idaho. Here I raise chickens (heavy laying hens and some black silkie bantams), angora rabbits and a hive of honeybees. I also tend a few hearty gardens. I live with my two working housedogs, Siberian huskies named Jazz and Annie. They are working pack and sled dogs, and like everyone here at the farm, they do their part. My goal is greater sustainability and self-sufficiency in a world where those two things seem to have gone out of fashion. Being a renter, this takes a little more ingenuity and adaptability than the permanence of a regular farmer.

This will be a place that hosts all farm-related posts from my personal blog and specific updates on my upcoming book. Idaho rural living, and local farm events (Like the upcoming county fair later this month!). Readers of Dogcoffin, will see a lot of double posts between the two blogs as this one becomes my main online contact and the coffin goes into a protected or offline mode. So thank you for taking time to check up on the barn at the end of the world and check in often.