Saturday, January 31, 2009

rumors and prayers

A photo from September, which I am sharing only because it's proof positive that once upon a time it was summer here. Man, do I miss those days. I adore winter, really, but I miss going out into the pasture with the fiddle, a blanket, a book, and the flock. Marvin never minded getting close to the violin, nosing it out of his way if it happened to be on a tasty patch. (Sheep are fairly inconsiderate when it comes to our ridiculous notions of property.)

Listen, sheep and fiddles (in any proximity) are a beautiful thing and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Don't mess with that sort, they are probably the same people who run to their cars when it's drizzling as if a nice shower was acid and not a nice thing to take a jaunt in. Also Travis Gray's song "It's not Love" just came on and it was so good it made me grab my fiddle, turn the radio all the hell up, and play along like Travis owed me something. Spontaneous 7AM radio jam sessions people, I friggin' love Saturday mornings. Now let's bow our heads and pray for summer. I don't care who or what you pray to. You want to place a photo of Elvis above the mantel with a candle and a dollar bill, fine by me. Let's just get on this, because I want summer on this farm to be more than rumors and prayers. I'm proving anxious.

well rested and making plans

I am feeling much better. I came home from my dentist appointment (guess who's getting a root canal!) and promptly curled up and went to bed. I slept a long time, and I think it was the remedy. I woke up this feeling brand new, less cranky, and really cold? My quilts were all missing from the bed? Did I sleepwalk in some stress-induced trance and fold them into a closet? No, of course not, I'm not that interesting. Turns out Jazz took all the heavy blankets from my side of the bed and balled them into his own little nest some point during the night. Who's dog steals the covers?! Mine. Well, I was already up. Time to get this weekend started.

This Saturday will start like they all do, with EQX's Coffee House. It's two hours of wonderful—playing great acoustic singer-songwriters old and new, obscure to cult-adored. And guys, you can listen to it too. streams live, so even if you're in Florida, you can wake up to the same playlist. Nikki's got your back America.

While the radio keeps me company, there will also be lots of actual coffee. The percolator is on the stove right now heating up. I'm deciding if I want to whip up pancakes or not. I can't make up my mind between them and cinnamon oatmeal. It's a nice problem to have. Looks like we got a little snow last night, the farm seems cleaner. A nice observation to nod at. Snow aside, the sheep are up. Even in the kitchen I can hear their baaing out on the farm. They saw the porch light come on, and know that means some sucker will be out with hay shortly. They're right. Things here are fairly predictable.

Winter has been slow on the farm. The lack of actual farm-work has me writing too much about music, men, and my lack of banjos - things I usually would be too busy to think about. But since I'm snowbound without a garden, goslings, or anything to can - so you're going to have to put up with it till spring. By April I'll be far too dirty and busy with food and animals to bother with playlists and online dating.* But hey! It's almost February! That means certain plans are starting to fall into place. Now is the time to figure out the garden on paper, peruse hatchery catalogs (I am thinking of bringing back a few Silkie Bantams to my backyard. I miss them), order seeds, and plan breedings. The angoras will be having a spring litter in late March/April. That photo up there is of the first spring litter from last year. Just seeing it makes me wish I already had a nest of babes in the hutch. But that would be borderline animal cruelty, to breed a litter now without a heated hutch. But if anyone out there wants a fiber Easter bunny, I'm your girl. I'll put you on the breeding list. All of the CAF bunnies come with pedigrees, tattoos, food, and are beyond adorable. Plus, you get to have an animal you can also wear without skinning it. It's a win win.

This weekend is going to remain low key. Tomorrow I'll be playing music with some neigbors but besides a date for my fiddle - I remain a social nomad. No dating, no movies, or parties or what not. Just me, six acres, coffee and a white winter. I think tomorrow morning I'll make cinnamon rolls, and if the recipe gets the approval of my jam buddies, I'll share it here on the blog. I think I'm going to try making them with goose eggs since I have those in bulk right now, taking up space in the fridge. Oh, and as a side note: I am so impressed by the eggs I'm getting in the heart of winter. We can thank all the spring chicks for that. The old girls shut down their vents, but the new kids pump out 4-8 eggs a day. Me and my egg customers will wont for nothing. Well, wont for nothing that includes yokes. That's something, isn't it?

P.S. here is the link to the pancake recipe, for those who asked: Click here for some northern comfort

* I'll never be too busy for playlists. That was a bold-faced lie. Size 48 type.

Friday, January 30, 2009

let's bring back

pocket watches
wash basins with matching pitchers in bedrooms
large indoor analog clocks
hats for men
hats for women
non-ironic suspenders
majestic facial hair (men)
travel by sea and rail
hand mirrors

You see where I'm going with this.
Feel free to add more.

find your place on the earth and dig in.

I found this old blog post from May 2006. Now, just three short years later some of the random thoughts I was typing from an apartment in Knoxville have transpired. This was written when the idea of homesteading was just a dream. It wasn't till a waterfall, a roadtrip, and some serious dirty hands got involved that my farm became a reality. But reading this, this morning while I'm all tired and cranky, made me feel a lot better. Things happen if you let them.

I'm looking into hobby farms more and more. If it's possible, in anyway, I would want to buy a small farm in 10 years, I don't know in what state, or where exactly but i am hoping the northeast (more north than PA) because of the snow. I've been looking at and finding out things. Like if you look for real estate that has land that allows horses you know your in hobby farm territory. I research chicken coops and goat pens and look at seed catologs. My dream is to have this shabby warm farmhouse and be able to work from home. Get married to some sucker with a guitar, maybe have kids, certainly raise dogs, and sit on a pair of adirondak chairs outside under the stars at night. Maybe Vermont, Maine, Minnesota... Jim Thorpe.

But if I could find a mountain area, just 5 acres or so next to gamelands... Something protected with trails for running dogs and enough space for the goats and some gardens... Oh man, and to have these dark eyed sleddogs and wake up everyday in a bed of fur and teeth and leathery paw pads...that would be heaven. That is heaven.

sometimes the cart runs over the horse

So guys, I am beat. This week has been quite the drain. I think the mix of stormy weather, freezing cold, and lack of sleep has me finally crying uncle. I am exhausted. What I would love, what I would shave your cat for, would be a few days of just soup and blankets. Something decadent as hell, like napping at 2PM while the snow falls outside, you know what I mean, sleeping just for the sport of it.

Usually at 2pm I am sitting at my desk fervently responding to emails or balancing a copywriter and coffee mug on my priorities list. I throw myself into graphic design projects with the ferver of a drugged-up petstore puppy, but In the back of my mind the farm exhales and inhales. It's a living part of my day job even though it's miles away. Notes to pick up scratch grains and hay line the same post-it notes as projects and doctor's appointments. I sometimes feel like the two lives i share, office and farm, will have a cage fight to the death. Only problem is, I'm the cage.

Really though, all is well. I may sound tired (i am, very much so) but I'd rather be a tired homesteader in Vermont than a well-rested graphic designer in Philadelphia.* Complaining now and then is just a small selfish luxury I can afford. So I'm shutting up now, putting my head down into the wind, and biting my lip. After all, tomorrow is Friday, and this weekend's most exciting plans include laundromats and grocery stores. And that's fine by me.

*Nothing against Philly designers, of course

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Thanks Melonie!

above the notch

To get to my hollow, you need to drive about eighteen miles into the hills from the closest town with a restaurant. When you've driven so far that the road twists into a steep corkscrew up into the mountainside (which we lovingly call 'the Notch') you are in my stomping grounds. The Notch sounds scary, but is actually beautiful. Beyond beautiful. It delivers us West Sandgations down to the roads to town center. The sunrises you meet as you turn the corner are breathtaking. In winter it is so beautiful draped in ice along the cliff's edges you want to stop and get out watercolors. And once you're up this beast, the modern world falls behind me. The roads begin to turn to dirt, and there are more horses and carts on the roads than cars. After the Notch you're about a mile from Cold Antler (which lives on a small side road on a hill).

This photo was taken on the way to work, right before I hit the Notch and slid down the twist into my other world of design and office lighting. This farmhouse hosts a big pond and some horses on their hill. It's such a beautiful place. In the snow it looks like a scene from a Charles Frazier novel. Forgive the angle, it was taken with a hand on the wheel.

Monday, January 26, 2009

in the company of ducks

Alli took this photo over in Saratoga Springs at the library. It might even be her library (where she works). I'm not really sure. Point is I am proud to be in the company of ducks. I find them whimsical. Specially these guys, because they are too cool to be bothered by the simotaneous presence of random memoirs and the paparazzi. Let's hear it for them. Seeing Scratch outside a big ol' temple of books with some hip city poultry made my day. Thanks Alli.

P.S. The banjo-fund has already hit $27.00! Only $253.00 to go!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Written July 2007. Back in Idaho I had a very mean, loud, possibly mentally unstable chicken named Ann Coulter. She hated Annie, always had. One day the foes met. I came across this old post and thought you guys might like it.

It finally happened. After months of taunting, yelling, and staring each other down – Ann Coulter and Annie had their big showdown. Ever since the first time Annie chased Ann Coulter, Coulter seemed to take it extremely personal. From that point on when Annie was stuck behind a screen door or a pane of glass Ann Coulter would make a point to taunt Annie by standing right in her view. Staring at Annie’s dark brown eyes with her beady little black ones. Annie wouldn’t pant. Just stare back. I don’t know what dogs and chickens say to each other, but you could tell it wasn’t kind. Not with these two anyway.

This morning I was walking the dogs back into the house from their morning walk and I didn’t see the little flock behind a rose bush. Annie and Jazz did. And in a Siberian husky second (much faster than a human second) They had bolted at the four big chickens scratching behind the bush. Veronica, Mindy, and Mary Todd Lincoln flew away from the dogs in a frenzy. But Ann Coulter, wings and talons out, flew right at Annie. The world fell into slow motion. Ann had chosen to either protect her flock or just hated everything Annie chooses to be. Jazz watched in awe. If you don’t spend a lot of time around Siberians then you might not have been able to recognize the absolute bliss that overcame Annie’s face. Teeth open wide in a giant smile she caught Ann Coulter is mid air, like she was a tennis ball, and held on. Ann Coulter screamed. I yelled at Annie, who dropped the chicken and had a mouthful of feathers to figure out. She was smacking her mouth like it was full of peanut butter, feathers in her teeth and on the grass. Coulter scuttled off miraculously in tact, albeit missing a large chunk of feather, and Annie seemed content beyond measure.

It was a very dramatic morning.

a winter sunday

That mug you're looking at is Sal's. Sal is by far the most gregarious of the flock and has never been camera shy. When I am at their pen filling up their grain bin or throwing down fresh straw, I let Sal out to walk around and nose the outter realms. He follows me around like a St. Bernard, puttering close behind, paying attention. Heck, he even comes with called. After we're done with our chores I can open the gate and he'll walk right back in (as long as I dumped the grain inside the pen, that is). I like him. He's a pretty dependable guy.

I wish I knew that when they first escaped and I had a near panic attack as they trotted around the yard. I was so worried they'd storm off into the woods. Now I know better. Sheep with a built in bed and breakfast aren't going anywhere. Even if they break out at 9 AM they will be standing in the driveway when I get home from work—waiting for me to light a lantern and let them back into the gate. They'll follow me single file (Maude last) and hope I let them back into their comfy shed they can't figure out how to return to. I feed them some hay, we talk, catch up, then I close the gate and repair the part of the fence they escaped through. That wasn't a great story, but you get the jist of our lives together.

So things are quiet here today. I am done with all the big outdoor chores and bread is rising on the kitchen table next to my laptop. I think all the animals are content. The dogs ran errands with me in Manchester and are now happily sleeping in the bedroom. The sheep got a new mineral block to gnaw on - so they're pumped. The birds have brand new nests already blueprinted out in their piles of fresh warm straw, and are laying as I type. The rabbits are being wooly, they don't say much. Soon the fireplace will be lit and I'll be horizontal on the floor in front of it, sprawled out on big quilts with two dogs and the three new Civil War books I wrangled up this week. Hello 1861.

I had two book signings yesterday. One was in Troy and the other was in Albany. I'll write more about them later (and Troy's AMAZING indoor farmer's market), but for now I just want to thank the readers who came out on a cold Saturday to get their books signed and say hello. It was a really special day for me because of the people who went out of their way to be there. My parents drove four hours to watch me "be an author" and Emily (my best friend from high school) surprised me by showing up at the Albany signing. Between family, friends, and blog readers I felt like I was just sitting with a bunch of people in my living room. Surrounded by people who already know me and just wanted to shake a hand and say hello. And when you're just meeting friends you haven't seen in person yet, it's bound to be a good time. So thanks again guys. I hope to meet a lot more of you out there. Massachusetts and Maine*, I'll see you in the sping.

*Not a sure thing, but probably.