Saturday, June 20, 2009

i'll meet you there

The weekend of July 11th is the Merck Forest Sheepdog Trials. I'll be there volunteering with the club, running around to help however I can. But if you're in the area and want to see some of the finest herding in New England at a working farm center, please do come. It's a big time.

The Merck trials are beautiful. Two days of working dogs, sheep, and good people. The farm center is full of heritage livestock, local foods, and demonstrations. Last year there were sheep shearers, maple syrups, yarns, draft horse demos and more. There is even a "shuttle" from the parking lot to the trial fields (a pair of percherons pulling a wagon). It is lovely.

Someday I'll have my collie, and we'll be out there on that field. Mark my words good friends. I will get there. We may not win, we may not even compete, but someday this girl and a clever black dog will walk side by side among the lambs and tents. And I will kiss the ground to have made it so far.

Goodnight. I am so tired. I'll explain why in the morning.

Friday, June 19, 2009

finn's on mother earth news!

Here's a small excerpt from a new piece I wrote on Mother Earth News Online. You can click the link below to read the whole story and see Finn's lovable mug.

...A few weekends ago, I found myself at the equivalent of a livestock tailgate party. I was in the thick of the Schaghticoke Poultry Swap — a shindig that happens every spring. It's quite an event. What started as a small gathering to trade and sell chickens has evolved over the years into a parking lot festival of sales and bartering. Since the swap’s inception, the stock has expanded well beyond chickens. This year, there were ducks, geese, quails, rabbits, lambs, kids and more (I swear I walked past a box of puppies). And while it wasn't on the roster — had someone walked through the fairgrounds parking lot with a horse — I wouldn't have blinked an eye.

I was there with a short list. I needed some new laying hens to replace birds that passed away over the winter, nothing drastic. But I was also there hoping to find a very specific animal. I wanted to drive home with a young goat kid, hopefully a spunky buckling. I had been researching pack goats (goats trained to help carry gear on hiking trips via panniers or saddlebags), and if the stars aligned I planned to take home my own backcountry prodigy that same day....

Read the rest of the story here!
Photo by Tim Bronson

a little offense

So much rain as of late. It seems like every day when I wake up I hear it, and I know the morning chores will leave me soaked, sweaty, and barking for coffee by the time I stumble back inside. This sounds like a complaint, but it really isn't. I don't mind the rain, actually, I think I favor precipitation. I like a little offense in my day.

Snow, rain hail, sleet, wet winds—I like them all. When it's blustery outside on a crisp fall morning, and I get to return to a warm cabin and a hot shower I feel like I won something. Today was damp as hell, but barely drizzling. I went about the morning chores in my big brown boots and kept a running tab in my head of all the things that should happen this weekend. The sheep need their shed cleaned and the sopping mud removed. The birds need fresh straw. Finn's pen needs some dusting up as well. It'll all get done. It always does.

Right now as my pre-office coffee perks—I'm looking out the window at Finn chewing on the lawn and the two (now sold) remaining Angora bunnies in their pen on the grass. By wednesday the last kit will be picked up, and another litter will be on the way by the end of July. But today it feels good to have that job done.

I realize that the Cafe Press price might be too steep for those fiddlers shirts. If no one objects, I can replace some of the Snap Pea merch with the Fiddler's Summer logo? A 9.99 shirt seems more reasonable.

Okay. Time for coffee.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

fiddlers' summer organic shirts available!

fiddlers' summer update

Hello fiddlers! I'm checking in to see how your lessons are going and to announce an extension. We're going to move the final day of the challenge to July 31st. This gives people who signed up a little later a chance to catch up (and for all of you working shuffling on Ida Red, a little more time to practice). I also wanted to share a picture of my girl. That photo shows my fiddle—an early 20th-Century Czechoslovakian Shop violin that now resides at Cold Antler. I have been looking for an older instrument for a while (she's from the 20's) in my price range. I found her on Ebay, sitting in a small musical antique shop in Arkansas. Well, she's a Vermonter now!

Here's a video of Wayne Erbsen and some of his students (all ages on stage!) playing Wild Bill Jones at the Shindig on the Green. If you live in an area that has bluegrass festivals, please make it a Saturday afternoon project to go see one. And if any of you fiddlers live around New England, see if you can come visit Grey Fox. I hope to go, and maybe we can all meet there and have lunch, swap tips and play a little? It is a little pricey, but a day pass is cheaper and you get to meet thousands of musicians, see top of the line mountain musicians, and jam at campsites with new friends and fabulous people. It's a must-see (or so I'm told) this is my first year going.

a quick request

VPR is taking submissions for their summer reading show! If you want to help a farm girl out, visit and suggest Made From Scratch!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Autumn is on my mind. I'm not sure why. Usually this type of longing doesn't kick in until late July, but I am ahead of myself, and pining. I found this photograph Sara Stell took when she visited last year. That's the road you take over the small creek that leads up to my farm. Right now all those leaves are green as June will allow, but in a few months they'll start to burst, and I will be glad.

You may never know a person who loves October as much as I do. Halloween will always be my favorite day, a big happy celebration of memories and a chance to get wild and remind yourself you're still among the living. I look forward to it more every year too. To temper my thirst—I bought some baby bear pumpkin starts on my lunch break. I'll plant them tonight. In a few months we'll see photos of them inside the cabin or on the porch and know we made it. I can't wait.

On an unrelated note: I think it's time I sucked it up and got involved in the world of sheepdogs and trials again. After the sadness of having a Border and then having to give her up, I have been distant from the club. But it's time to get back into the fields, and start learning again.

Monday, June 15, 2009

a stolen monday

I feel like I stole this morning. I took a vacation day from the office, and so instead of the usual commute I really took my time with the farm chores this morning. Nothing crazy—just a little extra time to glance over all the animals, sweep the porch, and brew some fresh coffee. Which, Incidently, I just pulled off the stove as it gurgled and pumped from its percolating. Oh, the decadent verve of an office farmer with a day off.

Just a few moments ago I walked outside and the grass was damp from last night's rain. Despite its sogginess, the sky was blue and the sun was out and everything was saturated, like memories. So I just breathed in deep, trying to savor it. But it's hard to feel Zen when thirty animals are baaing, squawking, and howling for breakfast. You can imagine the moment wasn't that serene. But hell, it was to me.

I started the morning chores like I always do, on the porch. There I fed and checked on Benjamin (my breeding rabbit) and moved the pen with the two remaining Angora kits off the wooden planks and under the big oak by the hammock. There they could feel grass under their paws and enjoy the shade.

I carried a small armful of hay out to my two sheep, walking past Finn's pen (who bleated at me to let him out). Sal and Maude seem despondent. I know Marvin's back where he should be, back to a big farm that misses him and will treat him to a barn and pastures I could never offer here—but I miss him. I can't believe I miss a sheep. Two sheep seem incorrect. They are not animals that should live in small numbers. I hope Finn grows up fast so he can join them and even the score.

Every morning I let the goat kid out of his pen, and give him a spot in the pasture to chomp away at via a chain tie out. He's too clever to stay in a fence and too curious to stay out of the garden, so the tie out seems like a fair trade. He gets sun and green grass and I get some peace of mind knowing my lettuce is safe.

I came inside refreshed, and now I'm writing to you.

My weekend mostly involved rabbit trafficking (sold two buck kits) and June gardening. I have learned that "June gardening" is just a romantic way to say weeding. This year's garden is the largest I ever attempted, and the weeds seem just as verdent and thriving as the veggies. I was out there for hours in the sun pulling between the rows. Vermont's a good place to be in this situation. I have never lived and worked with so many people who also grow their own food. Nearly every neighbor, co-worker, and acquaintance I have sows their own. I tele-garden as well. Last night on the phone with my parents, we were talking about the new live trap they bought to catch the rabbits their manic-depressive cat won't scare away from their garden. Seems like everyone's working for their salads this year.

Right now as I type things are quiet outside; a rare occurrence. Everyone's silent because their mouths are busy eating. From the kitchen window I can see Finn on his tie-out landscaping the edge of the garden fence. I can see Tthe sheep are eating hay in their pen. I know the rabbits, birds, and dogs all had their morning meals as well. And I—the magistrate of this scrappy empire—am enjoying a cup of coffee strong enough to varnish a coffin.

Not a bad way to start a stolen Monday. Not bad at all.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

cyrus & saro

quite the weekend

I do apologize for the thin updates this week. Annie has been a main focus and her extra care has gently lead me away from any writing while we're at home together. I know you guys understand, and she's recovering beautifully. We just got back from visiting a neighbor's sleddog kennel where she ran around a giant dog-run with Jazz and five other dogs. She's back. I can not thank you enough for all the kindness, emails, and comments.

So much went down this weekend. Marvin went back to his old farm (I'll fill you all in on the details soon, but trust me when I say I've loaded my fair share of sheep into the back seats of cars in my day...). I'm down to just one Angora kit. All the boys have been picked up or paid-for in advance, leaving just one little doe who may stay. Life keeps on going, everything is changing so fast around here.

Big news: tomorrow I have a meeting with Storey Publsihing to talk about some possible future projects, which I'm both nervous and excited about (wish me luck!) and I'll be updating soon with Fiddler's Summer news and that bread recipe you fine people have been asking on. I'll catch up. I always do.