Thursday, May 8, 2008

chicken invasion

pies and neighbors

I made a few apple pies for some co-workers and neighbors this past weekend. They are my usual recipe, but I hand-rolled little birds nests on top of them, and on each pie placed a dark chocolate blackbird (compliments of the Chocolate Barn and their creepy 17th century molds). They came out adorable. And here's a picture.

A few days after their delivery, I was pulling onto my dirt road after work, and my neighbor Nancy ran out to the car, arms waving. She yelled at my car, 'That was the best apple pie I ever ate!" - a thank you holler from her yard. Earlier that week I dropped off her pie and a six pack of brown eggs as a thank you gesture. My birds are often on their property, using their nice yard as pasture. It only seemed correct they got some of their eggs every once in a while as rent.

The pie was also for the load of wood they delivered to my house so I could enjoy my fireplace. These are the kinds of things neighbors have done for me here. I've gotten firewood, handmade raised beds, wild leaks and moose meat (though, this was awkward to accept as a vegetarian, but I tried to do it graciously...) Point is, out here in the woods people go out of their way to help each other. For the first time in my adult life, I know everyone's names and jobs that I live by. Hell, I know their dogs names. I know Juno, the crazy-fast black border collie mix will be peeing on my porch every morning at 6 Am. I know Cody, the gamboling old lab, will rumbled out to say hello to jazz and Annie when we're on walks. To know you neighbors, of all species is a sense of community I am thriving on.

I like seeing Katie out in her yard, and walking down the hill to talk about the hawks in the area, or wild fiddleheads for soups. I like that most people with horses use them instead of cars, and it's common to pass them on the dirt roads. I like my community, and sometimes something as simple as a pie with too much butter and powdered sugar (my secret) is all it takes to sew the seams a little tighter. SO if you have the chance, do something small for a neighbor. Chances are, you'll get it back. And it's always amazing when you do.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

city veggies

I wrote about Nisaa coming up for the weekend to help with the garden, which she did between gritted teeth, but I guess it grew on her, because now Nisaa has the gardening bug bad. She sent me this picture of her lettuce and snap peas growing in her Brooklyn apartment. She named the lettuce Harold and Maude and the peas Lennon and McCartney. They are thriving! Those snap peas are grown from seeds, and the lettuce was left over from my garden here. She took them home on the Amtrak from my mountains down into her city, and they couldn't be doing better. Now she's thinking about seeking out a veggie growers city meet up group, and going to grab some tomatoes this weekend! Nisaa's proof positive that you don't need five acres and a border collie to grow a little independence on the windowsill. I bet it'll be the best goddamn salad she ever ate too. I know that's stromg language, but homegrown greens deserves a loud modifier.

they strongly discourage trespassing of any kind

This is a blog about farming, or dreams of future farms. But, today I want to write about something that is a huge part of Cold Antler. A little radio show that has been on in the background of nearly every garden planted, chick raised, and drive cross country. I have had episodes saved and replayed so many time I feel like a mini expert on some arcane topics few people care about, but if you're taking the time to read this blog, you might too.

A few days after I started work at my first real job, my manager asked if I listened to any podcasts. I didn't really know what podcasts were, only some vague notion that they were internet radio shows you could download and listen to on a mp3 player. Seemed kinda geektastic to me, and I was more interested in hiking in the smokies than I was in listening to someone talk about the new ibooks online.

But then I came across a radio show that I have listened to religiously since the day I found it. New Jersey based Hometown Tales, a show about local legends, lore, food, gossip, ghosts, and everything else strange and weird in the news, took over my headset in the office. Once or twice a week, Bryan and Gene update me on things like ghost ships, world war two legends, Hollywood deaths, weird festivals, bigfoot, and in and out burgers. What started as a rekindled interest in weird news turned into getting to know these guys. Over the years these men have changed jobs, gotten married, adopted children, traveled the world and watched their little podcast turn into an international sensation in the web radio world. They don't sit in their glass towers about it either, in fact just a few weeks ago they had a cheeseburger Friday, where people, anyone really, was welcome to join them for beer and burgers in Jersey to talk. Some people drove from as far away as Kentucky to say hi. Impressive.

I adore this little radio show. Not just because of the folklore, but because of the community around it. Bryan and Gene gave all of us armchair cryptozoologists a place to talk on forums and laugh with each other. It gave us a place to read up on crazy-ass news we'd never hear about in the mainstream channels. But most importantly of all, it gives us a place to share stories - a virtual campfire that's thousands of us sit around in our offices or on our ipods every week. It brings a little mystery to a world where we constantly strive to separate ourselves from superstition. I really enjoy this little niche of the internet. I will miss it terribly when they've had enough of microphones and blogs. But for now, please check them out, tell your friends, and sit back with a pork roll egg and cheese sandwich and enjoy the carnival while it lasts.

Home Town Tales

Sunday, May 4, 2008

cold antler produce

Jesus, Mary, Joeseph and the camel!! The gardens are coming along. Every weekend I plant a new 4x4 plot and pick up a few potted plants for around the cabin. So far we have the following in the garden – potatoes, snap peas, green beans, onions, rhubarb, broccoli and three different types of lettuce. In pots on and around the porch I have tomatoes, parsely, chives, basil, strawberries and mint. As the weeks get warmer I will be adding rows of sweet corn, pumpkins, watermelon, zuccini, cucumbers, peppers and more. The goal for this year... my own jack-o-lanterns for Hallows.

Last year I was way to much of a designer in the garden. I tried to make it pretty instead of practical, growing things I rarely ate for varieties sake. This year I am sticking to what I eat, and a lot of it. Which is why half of that space n the garden now is salad greens and broc. I am a girl who loves her broccoli. As the summer goes on I hope to eat most of my meals from the backyard, and what I can't eat will be canned, sauced, jammed, and stored over for the winter.

poultry swap!

This morning was the May Poultry Swap in upstate New York. What started a few years ago as a fancier's tailgate party had now evolved into a full out livestock trade show. Off the top of m head head I remember seeing chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, pheasants, rabbits, lambs, goats, doves, quail, peacocks, puppies and of course free barn cats. There were farmers from all over southern Vermont and upstate New York and a few straglers from other regions looking for a specific breed or animal. It was a fray of feathers, vendors, squawking, crowing, and races of human conversation. All of it happening at 7 Am on a rainy 45 degree morning. Yet despite the weather, the crowds showed up and the 4-H stand sold coffee and donuts. Bless them.

Being without a rooster, I was on a mission for a relatively calm gentleman to join my little homestead. I saw all sorts of males from tiny little Sebright bantam cocks to giant Cochin roosters, which were so big they stood three feet tall and triumphed over the tom turkeys in the neighboring crates. I would’ve brought one home, but a toddler could’ve ridden those guys and honestly, I didn’t have a cage big enough in the station wagon. I would've had to buckle him into the front seat. I’m serious, those guys were bigger than lambs.

So, giant roosters now out of my shopping picture, I ended up with a smaller Ameraucana rooster. He's beautiful. He has a cream mane of feathers around his head, a gray body, and speckles of green and rusty gold feathers along his cape and saddle. He’s flamboyant, colorful, generally calm and a somewhat soulful crower. I named him Rufus Wainright. An added bonus - he can’t be mistaken for a turkey, which is in season now for Vermont hunters.

Besides Rufus, I came home with a few more layers. A nice little Dominique (black and white bars along their backs) a jet black Australorp, and a little Ameraucana hen I named dove, after the Carlin’s favorite Ameracuana back in Idaho.

It took every fiber of my being not to buy two lambs and “figure it out” but I have said no to 10-week-old goats before (which is hands down the worlds cutest baby animal) so I can say no to some sheep. All of my hooved livestock will find their way into my life sometime down the road, When I have a barn, and fencing, a man to build said fencing, and pasture. Right now, I have chickens and some veggies.