Saturday, August 8, 2009

firewood delivered!

books and ball jars

I'm reading a book called Goat Song, written by a Vermont author-turned-farmer. It's about a couple who decide to raise Nubian dairy does and start a small cheese operation on their land. Since Kessler is a writer first, herder second, his way of writing about being new to the experience is beautiful and wonderfully observant of the tiniest details of human and animal behavior, but with moxie. I just finished the section about having their virgin does bred for the first time and it was part hilarious/part wild kingdom. Grab it at a bookstore or your library.

It's going to be a busy weekend here at the homestead. Any minute now my neighbor Lynn will be delivering a cord of wood. Together we'll unload it from his truck and I'll stack it under my porch alongside the hay. I had a good fire last night. It doesn't feel like summer anymore. The temperatures after dark have dropped into the mid 40s here on the mountain, and every morning feels crisper... a little closer to that holy October. Getting wood delivered on a chilly morning will make me even more excited for the cold nights and warm fires to come.

Besides wood there are 11 jars of strawberry jam here I cooked and canned last night. I think I finally nailed it. The jam turned out wonderful and I am stocked for the winter. I feel good about those ruby jars lining the cupboard. Sure, they're just jam but that's one thing I never have to buy in the grocery store all year. I only spent six dollars on the ingredients and maybe eight dollars on the reusable mason jars, but the equivalent in homemade jam would run up to five dollars a jar at market. Maybe more? If your eyebrows are raised, I can assure you (even as a brand new canner) you could buy strawberries, a lemon, sugar and some pectin and make great jam tonight. If you don't want to can it (which is really easy in a water bath) you can buy freezer containers and set it aside that way. If people are interested I'll post last night's recipe.

Later today I'll cook and can tomato sauce and I'll also be making my first every fresh-pack pickles. I found a great recipe in Carol Costenbader's Preserving the Harvest which will suit me just fine. It's for sweet bread and butter pickles you cook and keep in the fridge. Since my own cucumbers are just gherkins, I'll have enough for maybe one or two experimental pickle jars. But if it turns out well, I'll grab a bunch from the market tomorrow and can a pile of jars. So today's about putting things up for winter: wood, jam, sauce and such.

Is anyone still going to post to FIddler's Summer? If not I'll set us up to vote Sunday. And I have collected prizes for the top few. The winner will certainly be getting som strawberry jam!

Friday, August 7, 2009

learning the sun

I caught sight of something beautiful this morning. While brushing my teeth I heard a loud crow. I looked out the bathroom window and Chuck Klosterman was perfectly balanced on an ax jutting from an unsplit round. His talons clutching the metal, his light frame perfectly taunt as he crowed. Below him the geese watched like gargoyles, stretching their necks out in opposite directions. It was like a crest for some old world clan. Ameraucanas really are beautiful animals. Chuck's yellow and green cape in the morning sun made me want to call in sick. Just spend the morning working, then jogging, and then swaying in the hammock for an afternoon nap. My empire is a happy one. It promotes repose.

Before heading into Manchester last night for the book event, I decided to enforce some tough love on the bathroom birds. Since they're nearly feathered out and hopping out of their safe little box—I decided the 78 degree evening would be the perfect time to learn about the sun (which is a fancy way of saying: learn to be outside chickens). They were set in a sunny patch in a small cage and started chewing on the grass under their feet and eating ants. Complaints were few. All of the other farm animals seemed indifferent to the chirping cage, save for Saro.

Saro's my female Toulouse, and pretty spunky for a goose. Her partner Cyrus is on the mend from a broken leg and infection and doesn't travel with her like he used to. I go out in the morning with an old teacup filled with antibiotics and set him in my lap and let him lap up his medicine. But to his credit he takes it and seems to be improving. He flies around more to make up for the limping. Geese live to be forty, so my yearling gets all the help I can offer. I want Cyrus and Saro to be with me long as they can. From rented cabin to my future lamb and wool farm. We'll land there together, limping or otherwise.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

an august pumpkin

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

campfires, music, and a thank you

Tonight I lit a campfire while the sheep and goat grazed. I brought out my modest Epiphone and my Czech fiddle and played for my little herd. Eighteen chickens, two sheep, a pair of geese, two rabbits, the dogs and a goat listened to my renditions of favorite songs. I played Pretty Saro and Old Joe Clark. Cripple Creek and Ruby with the Eyes the Sparkle (which. incidentally, is the first song I learned by ear. I heard it on the movie Cold Mountain, and taught it to myself since no one else was going to on that particular smowy Idaho night). I was happy to get the smell of wood-smoke on my new fiddle. I saw one firefly. Both of us were too polite t to mention their season was over in Vermont. He flew by. I caught him in my hand, barely alive.

I would like to take a moment and thank the people who sent in donations to the farm. These past few months I've stumbled across a few gifts in my inbox and every time I see them in my account I am bowled over. Thank you. Know that the money you send goes directly to scratch grains, hay, sheep feed, and winter wood. Every little bit helps and I am in awe of your generosity. Over and over.

check out this trailer!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

a sandgate hollow

the goat walks

There is a time here on the farm I am growing very fond of. It's the very last outing of the evening. It happens when there is only a scarce twenty minutes before dark, and all the animals have grazed or been fed. I have done all this woman can do in a day. I went to work, I farmed all evening, I took my dogs out for a three-mile walk, and I came home and cooked a good meal. All the animals (including me) are content for another night. I look around at all the closed pens and shut coop doors and then look down at my little goat on his tie out. When this stolen quiet comes I grab Finn's lead and we go for a walk. It's 8PM and and I end my day with a little brown goat on some dirt roads.

We don't walk far. I usually have a stomach full of food (tonight I feasted on some Amy's soup with homemade bread and sweet corn from a neighbor's farm) and am growing tired. We move slowly. It's a post-meal jaunt over the little dirt bridge over the stream. We head down to the main road and every now and then Finn tries to eat a dead leaf on the ground. I must be patient because I am asking a ruminant to traverse land without devouring it: a sin to those with hooves.

We don't see a single car. I listen to the sounds of weather changing—leaves tossing in the limbs above us, a burnt brush pile crackles to our right on someone's property. The air smells like smoke and cut grass. It smells like August. The temperature in the shade of the sugar maples is cool. Then the wind kicks up and warm air rushes into us like a storm's grandson. Finn's confused by the sudden change in the world and bows down on his front legs and jumps into the air, throwing his horns into nothing to fight the barometrics. I smile. I never said he was smart.

At the risk of sounding nostalgic I will say this: If I am lucky, and get to live a few more decades—I think I will look back on these rituals and be glad. I'll remember the summer nights at the cabin walking silently alongside my young goat, scanning the treelines for fireflies.

These are the reasons I do all this.

let's hang out on thursday

So this Thursday, August 6 at 7 pm I'll be at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT for the "Get Gardening" series. I'll be there with Carleen Madigan (who also happens to be my editory, and the author of the Backyard Homestead!) So come hang out with two cool cats into the backyard-farm thing. Here is what the Northshire website says:

August’s “Get Gardening” event focuses on self-sufficiency, as author Carleen Madigan presents The Backyard Homestead and Jenna Woginrich presents Made From Scratch. Learn to put your backyard to work with Carleen Madigan, whose book The Backyard Homestead shows us how to grow vegetables and fruits, keep bees, raise chickens, goats and even cows. Ms. Madigan is an editor at Storey Publications, and the former managing editor of Horticulture magazine. She has lived on an organic farm near Boston. Joining Carleen is Jenna Woginrich of Vermont, who chronicled her own journey toward self-reliance in Made From Scratch. From windowbox vegetable gardens, making strawberry jam, or learning to knit her own sweaters, Jenna Woginrich has worked to learn the simple skills that most of us have forgotten. She is a web designer for Orvis who has taught herself to bake, spin, sew, raise chickens, grow vegetables and play the fiddle and mountain dulcimer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

roosters on my toilet

Saturday morning I rolled out of bed, stretched, and zombie-walked over to the bathroom. I opened the door, turned on the light, and there standing before me on the lid of the toilet was a month-old rooster.

Welcome to Cold Antler Farm.

Turns out the young chicks that have been living in my bathroom since early July are starting to grow into handsome birds. The Golden Laced Wyandotte rooster, (whom I named John) is already sporting tail feathers and a healthy alert eyes. He hasn't escaped from the box since, but I think that's only because he doesn't have the balls to use my shower yet.

P.S. Fiddler's Summer isn't over, nor is it forgotten. I'll make a post where we can vote later this week. Still want you last minute people on the fence to post your videos. Unless people don't want to vote and in that case I'll just pick. Your call, readers.