Saturday, February 7, 2009

snap pea challenge check in

Just wanted to check in with everyone who signed up for the snap pea challenge. If you haven't signed up yet, you still have a week to get your seeds, grab a plant bulb from the hardware store, and throw a small bag of potting soil in the shopping cart. We're planting our seeds next Sunday, and if all goes as planned we'll all be throwing those beautiful pods into our stir fries in a few short weeks. It's going to be such a mud season treat to eat food we grew ourselves, right in the comfort of our own kitchens. later this week I'll write up a small tutoria on getting your seeds started, but for now, can't hurt to do some old fashioned book-learning. Dust off those gardening hardcovers off the library shelves. We've got an order coming up.

Also, the new Feb/March issue of Mother Earth News has a whole story on peas. Read up kids because it's a fine article by Barbara Pleasant that's great homework for the challenge. It also wouldn't hurt to do a little online research on your lunch breaks at the office, afterall you have some decisions to make. Like are you going to soak them the night before you plant them? Are you going to get little peat pots and start your seedlings on a heating pad or just wing it like I am? Get pumped week in counting and spring is on it's way.

Friday, February 6, 2009

used cow lot

Took this photo in a small sheep town in western Montana on one of my cross country drives. Sometimes the world throws little snacks your way. This is one of those snacks.

defending the stereotype

If you’re the first of your friends to move to the country, get some chickens and plant an organic garden there will be some inevitable social fallout. It’s not your fault, but you’re going to raise the eyebrows of some of your more cynical friends. While there are plenty of people out there excited about self-reliance, there are just as many folks jaded by the hype and greenwashing that society has been slinging at us ever since Al Gore shared his slideshow. As green living gets trendier, it can’t help but jump the shark. You just can’t blame people for rolling their eyes when oil companies air commercials about sustainability. Read the rest here at Mother Earth News Online...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

i tell myself things

My morning started with lugging bales of hay in the -4 degree weather. Hefting the 40-pounds bales over my shoulder, I carried them across the farm to the sheep pen from their hibernation in the garage. After a few trips my arms hurt like hell and I was barking for coffee. Caffeine addiction aside - I don't mind the extra morning efforts that running a small farm entails. Honestly, I look forward to a morning with literal purpose. If I sleep in there are consequences. I like knowing there is a small empire outside my cabin door that depends on me. Everyone needs something that depends on them.

With a scarf and headphones the cold becomes obsolete. Time flies while I'm stepping over chickens and pouring grains for the sheep with the aid of Wilco. Still, that doesn't (shouldn't) mean it was wise try to get it all done before work. I knew I was out of hay late last night, but inside the couch was beyond comfortable and Annie and I had already dedicated the night to reading and ear scratching. I couldn't possibly break our date for a nighttime hay-haul. I tell myself things.

So thing morning I did the chore. It would've been fine had I not decided to wear a skirt today. I spent a lot of the morning trying to manage constrained thighs, snow boots, and shoulders-of-hurtin all at the same time'. Which worked - but caused little strands of hay to fall onto me, everywhere. I am the only women in the office pulling hay out of her bra and coffee mug at 9AM. But you'll have this.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


So I joined facebook. Feel free to friend me up, son. I'm listed as my full name, and I'm fairly certain there isn't another Jenna Woginrich out there, and if she is, her page probably won't have sheep on it. But that's how this cat rolls.

oh, canada

sharing a memory

In late June 2007, a few friends and I decided to go on a special outing. We signed up for a guided trail ride under the full moon. The local ski resort hosted these events, and for two hours you and your rented horse spent some time trotting through the dark woods till you come to an amazing overlook over the town of Sandpoint. There you drink wine, eat cheese, and watch the moon rise before you take the trail back home. Looking back it was one of the best nights of my life. Going through the old blog I found this post about it, and while it has nothing to do with Cold Antler Farm - it's important to me, so I'm sharing the memory. (Proust aint the only cat in search of lost time...)

July 1st 2007

Last night, under the glow of a pregnant moon, I rode alone through the Rockies on the back of a white mustang. For a few holy moments, it was just the two of us in the wilderness. Somehow we had fallen behind the other riders and found ourselves in simpler company. It was after 11, and the rest of the horses knew the trail well and wanted their hay. But my horse, a wolf of a blue-eyed mare, was the personal animal of one of trail hand’s and was in no particular rush to want or need anything. My feelings were mutual. We took our time.

We were high on a ridge. Stalking a treeless overpass cut into the shoulder of the Selkirk mountains. The mare walked in meditation as I looked all around me at the cedars and stars. I originally had a skittish Arabian, but the riding instructor traded reins with me when she prooved jumpy—so instead of a trail horse, I had this amazing animal with some fire in its hooves. I was a little intimidated, but breathed slowly. I hoped we didn't run into a moose or I was screwed.

We rode silently up and down steep passes. Me leaning back and lifting the reins as she descended into a small gulch, or moving my hips forward and hugging her neck as she trotted up hills. The moon was so bright it flung our shadows on the bear grass and huckleberry bushes. It couldn't have been more than twenty minutes of this lonely riding, but to me it felt like time had turned around three times and laid down for us. Sometimes this happens.

I stopped her to look over the view; The view of the lake below us looked false - like some dreamy impressionist painted it in on a romantic whim. I could hear the voices of the riders ahead of us. We had caught up. Soon we weren't going to be alone anymore. I wanted to keep this, selfishly. I learned a long time ago that you can take photographs of these moments in your head if you really focus. I did just that. I will never forget what Idaho looked like that night.

From the perfection of that black saddle, I gave myself permission to forgot how much I missed the fireflies.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

migrant workers

Slugs eat vegetables. Chickens eat slugs. I have a small Japanese immigrant workforce at the farm taking care of the problem. They work for next to nothing and rarely complain. It's pretty great. Here is two kids from the gang patrolling the rows of Romaine and Buttercrisp. It’s a team effort.

This photo and post was from June 2007. It was back in Idaho that I discovered the hidden pest-control powers of a small band of chickens. Sometimes you got to let your flock get your back.

Monday, February 2, 2009

mama rock me

Old Crow Medicine Show has been a part of my life for many miles. I discovered them in Tennesse, played their songs at jams in Idaho, and recently my weekends here in Vermont have been spent with them once again - covering their songs with friends on the weekends. One of their songs, Wagon Wheel, is an all time favorite. Based on some old Bob Dylan lyrics, their incarnation makes me want to pack up the station wagon and head back home to Knox county.

Runnin' from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old-time string band
My baby plays the guitar, I pick a banjo now
Oh, the North country winters keep a gettin’ me now
Lost my money playin’ poker so I had to up and leave
But I ain’t a turnin’ back
To livin’ that old life no more

Sunday, February 1, 2009


So here is the deal. For all of you out there new to gardening, and all of you people with thumbs so green it could blind a vegan - we're all going to grow some food together. We're starting simple, humble, with one of my favorite indoor gardening buddies: the snap pea.

All you need to do to take part in the challenge is sign up. Once you sign up, you are making a promise to all of the CAF community that you will indeed go out and get some potting soil, a pot, and an agricultural light bulb for one of those old desk lamps you have lying around and grow some food. The point of this is to get everyone out there who reads about me doing this stuff also doing it. No more passive voices or living vicariously son, we're all getting our hands dirty together. And selfishly, I want to learn more about indoor gardening and get some sick recipes from you kids when our peas are hanging heavy on the vine. I think it'll be a fun, cheap, and interesting way to tell winter to go to hell.

We're choosing peas because they thrive in cooler climates (like our winter houses), crawl up windowsills, bloom pretty white flowers, and taste amazing. Unlike other peas - snap peas can be eaten whole, pod and all. Now, regardless of all the people out there who will poo poo our early planting - we're going to do it anyway. What's the worse that can happen? Some of ours won't grow and then the rest of us will learn why. However, some of us may get to eat something from our own hands for the first time, and share it here. And I think that will be pretty cool. Maybe even inspire them to do it again in May with tomatoes or onions?

We're going to stick all of our seeds into our pots on the same day, February 15th. That gives you two weeks to buy, order, or find the few items you need to participate. Really you just need seeds, dirt, a pot and a bulb. I plan on switching out the bulb over my kitchen table with a grow bulb, and that's as technical as I'm going to get. A trip to the hardware store and a few dollars should cover this for you.

So that's the plan. Together we'll watch delicious food grow right in our own apartments and kitchen windows. Come March/April we'll swap stir fry and soup recipes, snap photos of our dishes and plants, and have a big time. So what do you say future pea farmers? Eh?

So here's how you sign up:
Post a comment saying you'll do it
Order some organic sugar snap pea seeds online
Buy, borrow, or find some container garden potting soil
Get a grow-bulb if you don't have great light indoors

We'll be soaking our seeds the night before we plant them, and like I said, they'll go under our grow lights/ windows on the 15th. The "challenge" of all this is simple. It is just to take some green action in your life. To take the first steps to a little more self-reliance. If you're already a homesteader or pro gardener, stick around and do it anyway. Teach us new kids how to do it up proper. Show us where to buy seeds, how deep to plant them, all that. I plan on posting updates to the challenge and giving a "snap pea primer" the weekend of the 15th so we're all on the same page, but I'm not a professional - I'm a chick with some raised beds and an open mind.

I don't care where you live, or where you keep your peas, just plant them. Let them rise up cubicles and catering businesses alike. But together we'll figure out peas, and have one garden vegetable under our belts by the time the ground outside is thawed enough to plant more.

So what's the verdict guys? Y'all want to plant something?

cinnamon rolls, son!

Spent my morning making a dozen giant cinnamon rolls. I snapped this photo right before they went into the oven. I baked them all in cast iron and they came out golden, sticky, and wonderful. I used goose eggs (thanks Saro) in the recipe, and that seemed to oblige them just fine. I will try to write it down next time I whip these up, but today's concoction was made up on the spot. I can't remember how much oil, egg, and sugar was added to the bread recipe, but I can say it will be duplicated. When I write it all down, I'll share it. I had two already, and the rest went to neighbors and the guys I played some music with this afternoon. Annie also stole one, but that was a given.

you got to start somewhere

This was my first ever chicken coop. It sat on the back deck of the Idaho farm house. You can see the snap peas behind it crawling up the kitchen windows in the March sun. Yes, it's small, but it was all my original trio needed to keep me stocked in all the eggs I could handle. I positioned this coop in such a way that I could open the kitchen window and slide open the back panel of the hutch, and collect fresh eggs without going outside - still clad in a bathrobe. Now that's living. I also installed an inexpensive solar panel in it for winter lighting, making it the first off-grid house I ever bought. You got to start somewhere.

The pen itself is a small, portable, coop called the Chik-N-Hutch. These kit coops cost about a $160 and are all you need to house those first three hens in the backyard. They generally ship free, fold flat, are assembled in twenty minutes with just a screwdriver (so anyone of us can handle it). Which means, dear readers, you could transport your whole starter-chicken farm with some cat carriers in the back of a Geo with a folded back seat. I am telling you, if you want chickens, you can make it happen. These are not the birds of barn-owners and rural yuppies. They are everyman's backyard buddy. Chickens are easy, clean, hilarious, and perfect introduction to livestock. What I learned from my hens has carried over into breeding and raising rabbits, tending sheep, and keeping bees. They keep my garden pest free. They put up with beginner lessons on the fiddle. They feed me in exchange for room and board. They are the old standbys. I can't praise them enough.

If you are getting some spring birds—it's about that time to start planning your chick orders. Seeing as I am well stocked in the poulty department, I don't think I'll be buying many birds this spring. Probably just a handful of to replace any older birds that may die this winter or roosters i need to re-home. Now if you live near me, and just want a handful of birds as well, let me know and I can tack on your order to mine and we can both save on shipping (to just ship three chicks is ridiculously expensive), and you can pick them up here at Cold Antler. Hell, I'll even throw in a free rooster. Chuck Klosterman needs to go before Winthrop kills him in a were-chicken fit of hormonal rage.

For any of you folks just thinking about spring chickens, I strongly suggest you grab a copy of the Murray McMurray Hatchery Catalog. It's a full-color guide to birds for every backyard. Just having it on the kitchen table to page through over your morning cereal is a hoot (and educational, since it lists breed facts and history.) And hey, if you live in a city - where else are you going to order your hatchery-inspired trucker hats and amish egg baskets, eh? They also has everything you need to house your flock regarldess if you live on 30 acres or have a 30' lot behind your apartment. And no, Murray McMurray isn't paying me to write this. I just think they're a great place to get started and approach poultry in a freindly way. Honestly, I want chicks in the hands of everyone who wants them this spring. However I can enable that in you is fine. Even if it means hocking hatchery catalogs to you nice people. Pride is dead!

Request your free Murray McMurray Catalog here.