Saturday, May 23, 2009

good morning three-day weekend!

That's Chuck Klosterman, one of the honchos here at CAF. He's outside crowing right now, along with the bleating sheep and a very hungry goat kid. I'm going to head out there in a minute (I slept in, what with the holiday and all) but first wanted to say good morning, and let you know to keep checking back over the three-day weekend because a lot of corn getting planted and I might hit the river today for my first fly-fishing adventure of the season. So if you're into trout and dirt, I'm your girl. But before any of that—I'm going to make some pancakes and enjoy it with some eggs. Because I have a full day ahead of me outside on the farm and on the river, so I think a real breakfast is in order.

Anyone out there want to learn the fiddle? I'm thinking about doing a Mountain Music Challenge, where I'll explain step-by-step how a total beginner could start playing southern mountain style fiddle - on the cheap. If at leat ten of you are interested in joining up, I'll get it started. I think a lot of people out there want to play and are making it a bigger deal than it is. I'll happily hold your hand, and help you get started. Just think, It's Memorial Day now, but you could be playing mountain music at your campfires by the 4th of July.... Any takers?

Friday, May 22, 2009

this kid's got talent

Last night I was taking a short chore break, and got out a fiddle to play for a while. Finn didn't mind the music, but did fall in love with the case...While I played some old Irish tunes he played jump-the-devil's-box, and learned a month-old goat, when perfectly balanced, can stand on a violin case and eat his keeper's shirt at the same time. This kid's got talent, people.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

peace and hope

I am slightly amazed you nice people have made my scrappy farm a part of your life. I get emails and comments from readers all the time, from all over, and I can't help but sit here in this Vermont kitchen and grin like an idiot as I read them. It's so exciting knowing other people are watching out for you, keeping track. The idea that Jazz, Annie, Maude. or Finn come up in conversations in Australia, Milwaukee, North Dakota.... blows me away.

Tonight after work I came home to this farm, and worked harder than I had all week. I let Finn run amok, and let the sheep out to graze. While they chomped away in their small pasture I moved dirty straw from the henhouse into the garden, making my mulch, singing old southern mountain songs as I dug the pitchfork in. I was happy. I like the happiness that comes out of working with your hands. It makes sense to me every time.

I ended my day playing the fiddle. I sat with Annie on my porch and played Amazing Grace in a long, droning, Appalachian style. I sipped a bottle of hard cider and thought about the beautiful day I just had. Today was 87 degrees and sunny in VT. I spent it laughing and rolling over our green hills. I got to ride in a sidecar on a Russian motorcycle, and eat ice cream with sprinkles. I ended the day tending my gardens and laughing at my fat silly sheep. In appreciation, I sat there and played Grace as I learned her, in that mountain way you only know if you woke up in a place where everyone had ceiling fans on their porches and knew holler as a place, not a verb.

Tennessee will never leave me. I think about her every day.

People ask me why Cold Antler Farm is called Cold Antler. It's a mix of Zen Buddhism and hopeless romanticism. Cold comes from the poet Han San; who's Zen poetry's responsible for so many cross country moves. Antlers: well, antlers to me are the most primal and historical symbol of masculinity. I always have an antler necklace or a deer around because someday down the road, if I am very lucky, I'd like to fall in love. And I hope it's as natural, ordinary, and simple as spikes are on a deer. Some girls spend their whole lives praying for a white knight—I am just trying to find my antlers.

So Cold Antler means, quite simply, peace right now and hope for love later. But while I hope, I'll farm. I certainly dont expect this kind of thing to happen anytime soon. Maybe in the next ten years or so? In the meantime, my music, animals, writing, and gardens will keep me going. A girl can run on fumes for a very long time if she keeps her thoughts ahead of her, and lets herself fall in love with chicken shit on her wellies in the meantime. I'm in no rush. But you know this.

king finn

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

a new kind of tired

This year has been my most ambitious year of homesteading ever. The garden, the animals, the day job.... all of it more intense than ever before, than I ever imagined when I started writing this blog. Back when I lived in Idaho I had no idea my life would lead me to Vermont, to sheep, goats, and border collies... Yet here I am, writing you fresh from a short nap in my hammock. I fell asleep because I stopped moving. I have found this to be a common side effect of May.

I love this little farm, but this month has taught me a new kind of tired. I have never been this consistently sore and exhausted in my life. It's the kind of work that leaves you aching, reeling, and hopeful at the end of every day. It's is a lucky place to find yourself. To know you're alive and healthy enough to take care of others, and make dinner rise out of the ground like Lazarus himself.

I wake up around 5 and start my day the exact same way. I kiss Jazz on the head, I scratch Annie behind her ears, and I stumble to the percolator, fill it with something black and strong, and turn on the stove. While my coffee heats up and brews, I feed my animals and work in my garden. By the time I show up at the office at 8 -- I've already put in two hours of work and three cups of coffee.

At the end of the weekday I use up as much daylight as possible while the garden is so young. There is so much to plant, and weed, and tend. We had a killing frost a few nights ago and it wiped out some of my more fragile beds. I replaced all the dead plants tonight-digging in the mud with my bare hands to find a home for new basil, beans, and squash. As I squatted over bed 10, I looked over at the 8x8 corn plot I've been hacking away at. My big goal for the long weekend is to plant a mess of sweet corn seeds. They'll live just north of my small pumpkin patch. I do this all for October, whom I love.

Finn is doing well. He's growing like a weed and nearly off the bottle. The kits are growing and happy, and all the birds are strutting like debutantes. All is well here, and in my heart I know all this toil May shoves at me will only make that July harvest taste even sweeter. You pay as you go in this world, and I'm happy to shell out.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

the garden, before the rain

a man on a mission

That bird you're looking at is Sussex, the Ameraucana rooster. He's one of four honchos in the coop. I snapped this photo while carrying him to the cabin. I had a mission for him: to rescue a pair of hens having a panic attack.

I bought two pullets at the poultry swap a few weekends ago, but to call them timid is a ridiculous understatement. They are beautiful Red Stars, hardy brown egg layers to help replace some of the gals that died this past winter. They were instantly welcomed into the coop, but either their age (15 weeks) or upbringing has made them too scared to leave the hen house. In two weeks they had yet to feel sunlight on their feathers, or chow down on bugs and green grass. I decided to push them out the door.

In an act of tough love I took the young pair and brought them to the hammock's trees. I placed them underneath it, with the other birds and they stood there like statues. Then they shook a little, hunched down, and looked ready to die. Great.

instead of the wilds of the yard, I decided to bring them to the safety of the porch. All my birds love the porch. They can jump on the hay stacks, walk around eating worms and bugs where the rain collects.. it's pretty much the best place for foraging poultry. I brought the hens to the porch and they scurried under it, and that is where they hid out all day.

"We'll Smoke 'em out, Sussex!" I said to my rooster, who had no idea I was going to shove him under the porch in an attempt to coax (or scare) out the new birds. I held the rooster in my arms like a puppy, and then gently launched him at the hens. Which he noticed, clucked at, turned around and left. Thanks buddy.

The hens did eventually come out. Last night near dark one was on a hay stack, and I carried her out to her throngs. This morning when I went out to deliver formula and feed the other was in the same place and was thusly returned as well. Now all the birds are accounted for, and back with the safety of numbers where the local dogs and cats can't scare the hell out of them. (Or the local foxes or coyotes).

It's Sunday morning people. I already called Wayside and had them set aside a copy of the Sunday NY Times for me, a pot of coffee is percolating on the stove, and I'm getting ready to make a quiche to enjoy on the porch to with my Peet's before I take on more hoeing and weeding. Today's another day of hard work in the garden, but I think only suflowers will get seeds in the ground today? The rest of the day is preparing for corn. Sweetcorn pulled off the stalk and then thrown into a fire might be the greatest thing you can eat all summer...

Enjoy your weekends, folks. If you get a chance, set aside some time to put a seed in a pot or play a song on your guitar. Monday comes too soon not to.