Saturday, March 7, 2009

little sam

While I love raising and living with chickens, it wasn't until this winter that I allowed myself grow attached to one. It's not like I have any reservations about making friends with poultry, it's just that those beady little eyes never gave me much to work with. The sheep and dogs have a little more depth to their personalities, so I've been able to meet them as individuals. The birds however seem to live in my mind as a lump sum of eggs and feathers. The birds and the bees were always...the birds and the bees. That was until Sam came along.

Sam, this scrappy little Ameraucana has won me over. She's proven to me that a chicken can not only hang with her farmer, but become a sidekick. Sam's probably become my favorite because she runs to me for solidarity. As the lowest ranking bird in the coop, my presence means safety. No one can peck on her if she's in my arms, so my arms is where she likes to be. It is a splendid thing to hold a laying chicken you raised from a 72-hour old hatchling, that actually likes being held. You can't help but think, "Hey, I pulled this chicken thing off. She trusts me." A homesteader right of passage.

Her place at the bottom of the chicken social scene is proven by her back, which is nearly naked of feathers. Chickens peck at each other, and if you're the outcast of the clan, you get picked on a lot. So maybe it's her underdog status, and maybe I'm making to much out of a pathetic little bird. But I can't help it. She's such a sweetheart.

When I go into the coop for morning feeding or post-office egg collecing—Sam is right there at my feet. She looks right up at me, and jumps onto my hand or shoulder when I pet her head, and she stomps around the yoke of my shirt looking for the correct placement of her little dinosaur feet. When I carry out hay to the sheep she follows behind. When I come into the coop she flies right to me, literally. Tonight she launched perfectly from the roost to my left shoulder. I was so pleased with her I grabbed a fistful of layer mash and fed her right from my hand. What a gal.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

maggot from scratch

So a Dutch newspaper reviewed the book and sadly, I don't speak Dutch. So I took the link into an online translator and this is what was fed back to me. It is fantastic. Enjoy this with your coffee, and if someone out there speaks Dutch, you can read the correct review here.

I weet or it by the recession do not come, or by approaching spring, or by my current shortage to hobby (I have stopped with gitaarles and now threaten a serious hobby lacuna), but I have been all of a sudden interested touched in everything itself make. As in: everything. Itself makes. That came by Article concerning Jenna Woginrich in an American illustrated magazine.

Jenna Woginrich are one woman of a year or twenty-five which make everything itself. In the illustrated magazine empty them how you had determine deodorant. There also a recipe assisted. That recipe I have not succeeded, because I find that you must take no risk with deodorant. But I found Jenna intriguing, therefore read to the end I in one evening its book maggot from Scratch, Discovering the Pleasures or a hand maggot life. Jenna do in that book what I always, but where I to be stopped 1. work. intense idleness have wanted do 2. circumstances and 3: they is on a farm will live and make everything itself. She cultivates vegetables, sapwood wool, keeps chickens and bakes bread. Sometimes she conducts it something too far by: thus she plays in the book approximately in each chapter a tune on its banjo whereas them on the loading platform of its pick-uptruck sit and to the sun perdition looks at. She does also inept things, such as its dogs learn how they must draw a luge, what is according to me simply an excuse for always `Gee! (`Rechtsaf! in dog wear eel) and `Haw! (`Linksaf! ) to call. But well, that her has been granted.

In maggot from Scratch lay Jenna from how its sluice-gate truss has started them, and goes fortunately thereby much wrong. Especially the animals must pay for it. Its chickens opgegeten become firstly by its dogs, then the twenty thousand bees in its itself-built hive are driven off by a bear, and then must them its angora rabbit with a gun from its suffering release after that rabbit has been scared this way of the barking of Jenna dog, which it has pootje have been sprained and the wounded pootje themselves have aangevreten and has paralysed has touched. Yes, said nobody that always nice it was, an own farm have. But after I book from had, seemed it me still nice. What this way well is: Jenna have there simply negen-tot-vijf a job beside, on an office. She makes Internet sites. Furthermore of kitchen garden and banjo you cannot touch almost. There is therefore hope, also for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

love is hell pt 1

I should have died in Tennessee. Back when I lived in Knoxville I jumped off a 35-foot-tall waterfall in the Smoky Mountains and missed the rocks below by six inches. It wasn't a suicide attempt, I want to make that clear. I was down at the base of the falls and saw a handful of college-age guys jumping off and having a big time, and I wanted in. By dumb luck I grazed them and crashed into the water, my body akimbo. When my head burst out of the freezing cold skin, the other hikers standing at the water's edge all said they were certain they would have to go in after me. No one watching thought I would make it. I shook as I hiked back to the car that day. Sometimes I wake up cold and sweaty from a nightmare of that memory. No sound or distance exists in the dream. Just the vertigo-induced rush of boulders slamming up towards me.

I see those rocks every once in a while. Try as I might - I can't shake them. In a way they've become a saving grace. When things get heavy for me—I see those stones and realize just being able to recall their memory is a goddamn blessing. We all know well - dead people don't remember. Anxiety is a luxury for those lucky enough to still be among the living.

I'm telling you this to explain what's going on with me. This month marks a year in Vermont, and while it had a rough and fairly anti-social start—I am now falling in love with this place. I'm making friends, finding my niche, making music and getting invitedinto living rooms. Sandgate is becoming home. I just attended my first town meeting Monday night and sat there like a proud parent watching her kids at a recital. I don't really recall the particulars but the whole messy night of politics was laced with a whimsical feeling of happy placement.

Here I am.

I'm writing this from a quilt in front of my fireplace, which is spitting and hissing as I type. Annie is here with me, Jazz is in the bedroom. I was just outside doing the nightly farm work in the dark and something happened that made me think of that waterfall again. I was listening to my ipod and carrying out feed to the animals. I had a 50-pound bag of layer mash over my left shoulder and an armload of hay under my right arm. It was about 15 degrees outside but my body is hardened up to cold now, and all I had on was my blue hoodie and a scarf. My head was wrapped up in a simple hat I knit this past fall. The sky was clear, the stars out, and I was walking towards the coop and sheep shed. Then as if on some celestial cue, the instrumental section of Ryan Adam's song Shadowlands off the album Love is Hell Pt. 1 keyed up.

The song is beautiful, and it stopped me mid-stride. I was standing there in the dark alone with this music. My tired body weighed down by hay and grain, and I was nearly moved to tears. I had to just stand there and breathe and take in the stars, and the snow, and sounds of cooing hens and shuffling sheep voices. I should've died in Tennessee. was all that came into my mind. So there I stood with Ryan Adams and my bag of chicken feed and if the president needed me to move, I could not. Sometimes the world just turns around three times and lays down at your feet. I'm falling in love with a world I don't get to keep. none of us do. Love is hell, pt 1.

I don't know how I got here. I can't draw a line in my memory from Kutztown to Knoxville to Sandpoint to Sandgate and have it make sense to me in any logical way. All I know is that somehow I made this farm out of naked willpower and anxiety and a paycheck-to-paycheck budget. When I moved in a year ago it was an empty cabin covered in ice and now there are outbuildings and fences, gardens and rabbit hutches, coops and a dogsled parked on the front porch. Right now as I am wrtiing to you there are hooves resting on straw, eggs incubating under breasts, and seedlings growing in the windowsill. The transition floors me. A year ago I was 2,000 miles away....this place got a second chance a life to.

That horrible leap changed the timing of my life mid-song. It stopped me just like Ryan did tonight in the Vermont woods. It's why I read Neruda's love poems on lunch breaks. It's why I get excited about things like snap peas and chickens. It's why I started this farm life. Folks, I'm simply excited to be here. Farming seems to be the closest you and I can get to directly participating in our short lives. I want to grow, raise, and know the things that keep my heart beating. This makes sense to me.

I think someday I'll go home to Tennessee. It's a place that haunts me, that wrote it's name across my lungs. I think about that state like people think about first loves. It isn't right for me to go back now, I know that. It seems like it should have me. After all, everything you know about me, this whole farm, this whole struggle to become a shepherd is on borrowed time from a temperamental waterfall in a southern state. I owe it.

On another note, I started a proposal to write a second book. Wish me luck. So far luck's all I've got.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

hey! snap pea planters!

Isn't that necklace fancy? I dig it. I found it on etsy while looking for antler necklaces (don't judge). You can click on the picture to go to the sellers page if you're so inclined. Jewlry aside, I just wanted to remind all you container gardeners that it's probably time to transfer those peat pots and seedlings into larger containers. That is if you haven't already. Once those suckers hit about 4 inches they need new cribs.

You'll also start to see these guys grasping for something to climb onto. I suggest placing them near a window that won't freeze them so they can climb up the wall. But you can also plant them in a large floor planter a few inches away from one another and buy one of those tomato baskets you see in garden stores. Or you could be like me and just rig something out of chopsticks and dowel rods. Whatever works guys. Burn the Buddha if you're cold.

Oh, and a short PSA. If you are using the peat pots with the panty-hose type webbing around them, make sure you remove that mesh before you plant it. I've known too many seedlings to get choked by that stuff, regardless of what the instructions say.

somewhere in kansas

Since I started writing about homesteading I've been lucky to meet a lot of great folks I may have otherwise never ran into. Readers, bloggers, authors, farmers and a slew of random people I never thought I'd know on a first-name basis. The fine people down in Topeka who staff Mother Earth News are said people. Since I started blogging for them, and writing the occasional web or print article for the magazine—I've come to know some of the gang there through emails and conversations. Yesterday, when I came home from work there was a congratulations card signed by the whole staff for the Books for a Better Life Award, how amazing is that?! You kids...

Aubrey sent me this photo from the office. The fact that somewhere in Kansas there is a magazine staffer rolling her mouse over an image of my angry sheep, well that's a fantastic little nexus. I just wanted to thank you guys here, and let you know how excited I am to be considered a twice-removed part of your family.

Also, the next issue of M.E.N. will have an excerpt from Scratch in it, with over a dozen color photos of the the farms in Idaho and Vermont, including...Maude, the champagne of sordid herbivores.

jazz in the smokies

Monday, March 2, 2009

beautiful, him

Sunday, March 1, 2009

garden gate

livin' on a prayer

Vermont is still freezing cold with nights back near the single digits. They are calling for snow all week, making me roll my eyes everytime I look out the window. Listen I love winter, I do, but enough is enough. All relationships need some space and I think winter and I need a solid six-month separation to keep things healthy. The silver lining to all this ice-coated misery are my peas. My flower pot here on the kitchen table has seven four-inch sprouts and seeing them every morning with my coffee has been an answered prayer in a very very cold winter. (Which goes to show you can create small miracles with the winning combination of patience and seed catalogs). Oh, and before I forget, someone emailed me this photo of their peas from their phone, and I have no idea who's they are, so somebody better fess up. That's a fine set of sprouts you have there. Be proud.

You know you're a blog person when you're annoyed you can't update. Maybe "annoyed" isn't the right word, because I wasn't upset or anxious, I just missed my daily sit down with the laptop to unload the farm news. It's just that the last few days have been really busy. I actually had some company up here at Cold Antler. My friend Kevin took a train from Philly and together we lived it up like the old days, junkin' around antique malls and catching up. Not to brag but Kevin found me a hideous porcelain decanter in the shape of the state of Tennessee (which I of course bought). It now sits on my mantle. Oh, Tennessee.

The real focus of the trip was going to see Sarah Vowell in Massachusetts Friday night, which was fantastic. If you're not familiar with her, Sarah's a regular on my favorite radio show, This American Life, and she's the author of a pile of books talking about history, pop culture, and us. For a good time, pick up her travel bit Assassination Vacation. It's a hilarious book about visiting the history and locations of the assassinations of Garfield, McKinley, and Lincoln. Sounds dark, but I promse it's hilarious. And if you dig history half as much as I do you'll lap it up like the tall sarcastic drink of water that it is. I also gave her a copy of Scratch, and never felt lamer in my life doing so. But hey, how often do you meet Sarah Vowell?

I have some big personal news...I played the fiddle at an open mic night last night! My bandmates Steve and Phil and I played at a small comfy bar called Kevin's in North Bennington (no association to the previous Kevin, for there are many), and I even had friends show up to support me, which in all honesty, made the night. There is profound comfort in knowing I'm starting to make friends with people who'll sit through a guy in a bathrobe playing a flute behind a pair of congas long after their meal was spent to wait for me to play. Dedication from saints like that is proof positive I'm getting somewhere socially.) As for the playing, I wasn't nervous, but mostly because three bow strokes in I realized there was no way anyone (including me) could hear my fiddle over the noise of the bar and electric instruments. So my performance was really just me pathetically miming with two guitarists... Regardless, I still got up there and I'm proud of myself for taking that step as a homegrown musician. I've been hoping to do this for a long time, and just like planting peas - sometimes you need to be a little proactive about your big plans. It's amazing what we call make ourselves do with some potting soil and a few Guinesses in or bloodstream.

Okay, coffee is done on the stove. You know me.