Friday, April 3, 2009

things like this...


...are why I antique. Yes, that is a Michael Jackson Lamp.
Cited in Jim Thorpe, PA.

terror

When I pulled into the farm after work last night, I saw a terrible thing.

Marvin and Sal, my two trusty wethers, were standing by the fence line baaing for hay. But behind them, a pile of limp wool lay in the shade. Oh my god...Maude.

Without even turning off the ignition, I bolted out of the car and raced to the sheep pen. Marvin and Sal watched me like a pair of golden retrievers behind chain link, sordid, quiet. Their mood made me worry more. I mean, they aren't usually wagging their tales and jumping at the fence, but they generally have some spark to them. Were they concerned too? Under the pine tree, Maude laid limp, her legs out, her head on the ground with her back to me.

"Maude?" I called, terrified. I was shocked at my own concern. Shocked that I ran to her like a toddler in front of a bus. Shocked that my heart was racing at the idea that something may have happened to her. Shocked I cared this much about this horrible animal. She still wasn't moving. Oh no...

"MAUDE!" I got louder.

Then, her ear flicked, and slowly she turned her angry face towards me. She stood up on her hooves, looked at me like I led the fourth reich, and baaed a low, pissed-off belch. Then turned around and laid down again in her shade, her rump facing my stance. She wasn't dead, she was napping.

I was never happier to be dissed by a sheep in my life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

masonades!

The days are getting warmer and all of us are spending a lot more time outside. Regardless if you're enjoying an outdoor concert or toiling in the vegetable garden--it's high time for some good old fashioned refreshments.

I'm a big fan of fresh, natural, lemonade and brewed ice tea. But since I'm usually the only one drinking it, it's silly to make a giant pitcher for one. I found a way to make my own single-serving sized version in portable containers. Which is great when you're running into town and want a cold drink for the road, or have been outside raking and need something instantly cold and sweet to boost up your blood sugar. Enter Masonades:

Masonades are soda-can sized servings of hand-squeezed lemonade or iced tea. You can make enough for a whole weekend in about five minutes, which makes me wonder how powdered mix ever even made it in the public market?

Ingredients
Box of pint mason jars (with lids)
Fresh organic lemons
Water
Ice cubes
Natural sugar
Natural lemon juice
Organic black tea bags
Fresh mint or lemon verbena from the garden

Take your jars and fill them up halfway with cold water. Cut half a lemon and squeeze its juice into the jar, and then plop the whole half into the jar as well, making the water tart and filled with little bits of pulp and flavor. If you really want to kick the tartness up - add some fresh lemon juice (about a teaspoon) to the mix. Then add as much sugar as you feel appropriate (depending on mood and heat it could be as little as a teaspoon or as much as 2 tablespoons) and then top it off with ice till it's nearly overflowing. Seal the lid and shake the hell out of it untill it's one big, frothy, delight. There you have it. Farm fresh, all natural, and ready for travel.

I make a few of these and stash them in the fridge for later. Instead of grabbing a can of soda, I grab a cold jar of real lemonade in a reusable container. Which not only tastes amazing, but feels a little more authentic than most beverages. Masonades can also be made into iced tea - which is a healthier alternative. I just pour hot water from a kettle into room-temperature jars with an organic black tea-bag and let it cool on the kitchen counter. Then I add in a little lemon slice and a pinch of sugar, some ice, and a sprig of lemon verbena or mint and let it sit in the fridge alongside the jars of lemonade. When it's cold enough to condense water off the sides, it's manna from the still.

I posted this last summer, but felt it deserved the spotlight again.

Monday, March 30, 2009

maude is watching...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

baking and records

Sundays are when I bake my weekly bread. It's a ritual I started in Idaho, and here in Vermont the faith survives. It's cold and rainy out there, a striking difference from yesterday's gardening-inducing sun. I'm inside enjoying music, and the feeling of a wooden spoon moving batter. Right now Sodom, South Georgia is playing on the record player, and it is indeed a grand way to pass an afternoon. Heat up the morning coffee, take off your shoes, scratch a dog behind the ears and breathe a little slower. Everyone has their own definition church. Mine is here. A place where time can slow down for songs and softer voices and good food and strong coffee puts the soul on the mend. Have a beautiful day, all.

coveralls and seeds sown

A few weeks ago I came home from work and found a package on my mailbox. It was from a company called Rosies, who make coveralls specifically for woman. Inside the package was a teal pair of overalls, which fit me perfectly. Sliding them on was the clothing equivalent of sitting in a tractor. We're talking gardener super-hero garb: padded knees, cargo pockets, hidden zippers inside (so the ipod doesn't get destroyed), and a big chest pocket perfect for seed packets and utility knives. I had no idea the fine people over at Rosie's were going to send this to me, they even put a note in saying they were going to carry my book on their site. Shucks, thanks guys. I wanted to wait till I had a day outside to try them out before I reported on them here, but they are top shelf. If any of you farm girls out there pick up a pair, you will not be disappointed.

So I'm telling you about these overalls because this weekend, my dear friends, I beat the crap out of them. They are now a dirty pile of crumpled-workhorse on the cabin floor (as overalls damn well should be). I was outside all day Saturday. I worked till my hands blistered and my back ached. It was amazing. It was 60 degrees outside, and my day was one of those perfect farm afternoons of work and love. Get some coffee, get comfortable, and I'll tell you all about it.

It stared with the sheep. I went outside with hay and knife in hand. I set down their pile of fresh greens and then walked to their back gate to let them out into their pasture for the whole day. They came tearing out, and they raced to their buffet. With their wool on thick (and in need of shearing). It has a half-second delay bounce to their gait. So when a sheep runs all full of fleece their hair has to catch up with them. These silly little observations make my morning. While the sheep dined on their breakfast, my eyes glanced over just a few yards to where my real work lay...

The garden.

I spent most of my afternoon with a hoe. I turned, tilled, and cleaned-up three of my raised beds—a small dent in the big picture, but it felt so good to get my fingernails dirty again. I was listening to a live concert of Bon Iver, which was amazing. As the chorus of Skinny Love broke out I'd sing along, slamming my hoe to the punctuation of each line.

And I told you to be patient!
THHHWWAPP!
And I told you to be fine!
THHHWWAD!
I told you to be balanced!
THHHWWAPP!
I told you to be kind!
SHHWWAPPP!

...Musical hoeing: it's the only way to go. Everyone go buy For Emma, Forever Ago.

When my arms and back hurt from the sod, I'd switch over to the pitchfork. The plan was to move out some of the chickens' old winter straw bedding and use it as mulch in-between the beds. It would help the soil, and stop the weeds. So my whole day was dedicated to dirt and punctuated by the occasional chicken/goose garden break in. Every once in a while the geese or a rooster would step past the garden fence when my back was turned and start scratching up the mounds and rows I'd been working on. Then I'd try to chase them out, which was just feathers, squawking, and confusion - but hilarious. You haven't lived till you cursed out a French goose.

And so my effort ended with three food-ready beds, a few hundred pounds of mulch down, and phone numbers of shearers lined up. I even (and I'm almost scared to admit this to you...) but I even planted some seeds. I put peas and lettuce varieties in the ground in one bed. So what if it's too early? Then I'll plant more. It just felt like the right thing to do. To crouch down and place those peas in the dark earth, and look up from my garden fence to see the sheep all fat and happy, laying there in the pastures, chewing their cud in the sun. Beautiful, that.

The birds however, were not as passive. They all lined up against the garden fence, wondering why they couldn't come inside and eat all the earthworms writhing about the beds' edges. You can't please everyone.

The epic day ended with a potluck and campfire over in Cambridge, NY. My friend Dave hosted the shindig, and it was lovely. To end a long day of hard work with your feet propped up on a fire pit, and a slight buzz from a cold beer, well that's just perfection. Perfection in a very tangible source for us all.

I'm back guys. No more proposal to push through, no more long, cold, winter nights with nothing to report. I'll be updating every day on the farm, my big plans, and all the up-and-coming adventures here at Cold Antler. In the coming weeks I think there will be shearing, sheep-swapping, new chicks, the annual chicken swap, and bees bees bees... So much... so much of it back in my life again. You know, I'm not a fan of spring, but this year gratitude may bring me to my knees.

Stay tuned. Right now, I am off to buy hay. Welcome to my world.