Saturday, September 12, 2009

meet the newest addition to cold antler

Meet the newest addition to Cold Antler Farm: a 1999 Ford Ranger. She's a beautiful thing to these station-wagon-driving eyes. She's also the first vehicle I ever paid for in full, have a title on, and indisputably own. Since I am still paying off my college education, rent my house, and don't have a square inch of Vermont dirt to my name (yet)—you can understand the pride I feel about finally having a pickup of my own.

Don't worry, not too much pride. Sea Level.

No more sheep in the back seat, chickens in the back hatch, or lambs with their hooves on the dashboard. No more hay in the air conditioning vents or folding down seats to fit feed bags. I now own two beds, and unlike my old one, this one will be seeing a lot of action.

I've been have finally been able to obtain the vehicle for my chosen path in this crazy world. Something I can load up with hay, transport livestock, or park at the feed store with a little more street cred. If you're curious (or worried I blew all my savings) she cost less than a Gibson J-45 True Vintage guitar (Actually, a lot less than a custom one. As great as acoustic guitars are, they can't haul goats...). I am happy I was able to drive her off the garage lot for less than what most people spend on a couch. Also lucky as hell - because she runs just as good as she looks.

She looks good for her age too. The orangey/red color is beautiful, screams fall. It has a roomy cab, CD player, amazing sound system, and ample coffee cup holders. The very instance I pull out of the lot I slid Old Crow Medicine Show's Wagon Wheel in the CD player to ride off into the sunset with. An Old Crow bumper sticker is the lone decoration on this truck.

I will never forget the day driving back to Vermont two winters ago when this adorably-rumbled guy around my age flew by my car on the NY Thruway with his black truck and one OCMS sticker on the back. I decided right then if I couldn't take him home I'd borrow his modest announcement of loyalty to his music. I had my own sticker on the fridge—saved just in case I ever had the bumper with a bed to put it on. Maybe I'll pass that guy's truck again someday? If a border collie hangs out the front passenger-side seat I may have to follow him home*...

She's not perfect by any means. Already she has 115k on her odometer and there are a few cigarette burns in her upholstery, but these are sins I'll forgive. I was able to get a 6-month warranty from the garage I bought her from, so at least I'll have a full New England winter to prove herself with some insurance. (That and heavy snow tires and weight in the back.) I also found out her driving insurance is cheap, less than a gormet pizza and cold beer costs in Manchester every month. For this truck: I'll skip town pizza.

She's a 2WD, and that's okay because (as you can see in her reflection) I still have the Subaru. That dire wolf will continue to be my snow car and dog box, but I find myself taking the truck out whenever I can. I can't help myself. I know it's just a used car, but to me it's a giant step forward in becoming the person I am trying to be and the amount this truck will help around the farm will be amazing. No more 3-bale trips back from Nelson's farm. I can load up the back with all she can carry! Hot Dang!

I always tell myself: Truck, farm, tractor. That's my mantra and path to that magic moment in life when I know I've made it. When I'm sitting on the back of that green tractor in my own sheep fields and can look down the hill at my beat pickup in the driveway—that's my Carolina Herrerra wedding dress. For the honeymoon, maybe someday I'll go inside and play my J-45. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. One dream at a time, people. I'm just happy to announce I've come this far.

*I kid

Friday, September 11, 2009


Thursday, September 10, 2009

ahead of us

The maple by the sheep shed is dropping leaves by the armload. I snapped this photo, but it doesn't do the old girl justice. Some times the most everyday things around here catch me off guard in their poetry. A sugar maple with a post pounder leaning against it isn't much, but it's enough. Made me grab the camera from my backpack, which is always with me.

It gets cold enough to need a sweater most nights. Labor Day is over and a grand fall is ahead of us.

A lot has happened in the past few days here at the farm. We lost a hen to a natural death. I walked into the coop one morning and there she was on the straw, as if asleep. Walking in on a dead chicken used to mildly bother me. Now I simply grab a pair of gloves, pick her up by the feet, and walk her far away from the farm into the woods.

Besides the dead chicken—a lot more is happening which I hope to write more about soon. I think I'll have some big announcements in the next few days but right now I need to heed Hemingways's advice and remember "You lose it if you talk about it" But stay tuned. Big things are in the works. Mind you, nothing huge. There's no television network asking to make a TV movie about me (headline news was walking a dead chicken into the woods, if you recall...) but smaller things are happening. And the farm gate feels closer every time it does.

Two people have reserved a spot at the Strum & CLuck so far. Two other people emailed with great interest but when I wrote back to them I was told my email was rejected. So if you wrote and I didn't get back to you, please try again and send me a phone number or another way to contact you. If you are looking for lodging check out Sandgate's information-packed website for lists of inns.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I spent the afternoon in the pasture. Knitting, reading, or playing the guitar until it became brisk. I went inside to light a fire, and returned to the pasture and my sixteen hooves wrapped in a wool sweater. I drank a cold beer, just the one, and watched the sun come away over Sandgate. I stayed out till my knitting was done and went inside wearing my new green hat. I curled up by the fire with the dogs.

I never want to take an evening for granted again.

Monday, September 7, 2009

strum & cluck anyone?

I have decided to forgo Antlerstock 2009. There were a handful of dedicated folks who wanted to swing by, and if you were one of them don't fret. The Saturday of Columbus Day weekend will still be an open house of sorts, but it will also be the day of the Cluck & Strum. I have decided to plan the first ever future-farm fundraiser for that beautiful weekend. If you are interested in a full day (10AM-4PM) session on beginner mountain dulcimer and keeping chickens: mark your calendars. If you sign up for the fundraiser you'll get a copy of Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens and an Apple Creek Student Dulcimer. So you come to the farm, get a full day of intro-to-chickens tours, animals in your hands, lectures and such and the afternoon will be learning to strum around a campfire at the farm. You leave with a book and a musical instrument. (If you already have a dulcimer and want to attend, the price of the apple creek will be removed from the donation. Roughly $70) Lunch will be provided and I am limiting it to ten people. So if you are interested contact me at and put "Cluck & Strum" in the subject line to find out the details.

Now, if you wanted to stop by for Antlerstock, but have no interest in a chicken/dulcimer workshop. That is fine and you'll need to email me as well to let me know you may swing by while we're out there pluckin' and cluckin'.

And if you want another reason to come to Vermont for the weekend... Please join me at the Fall Foliage Sheepdog Trial in Westfield Vermont the following two days. I'll be there volunteering, dreaming, and/or spectating. It will be a beautiful event. It has to be—Autumn, mountain music, fresh air, campfires, good food, Finn, Sal, Maude*, chickens, sheepdogs, and leaves leaves leaves....

*not a chance she'll like you

first-place fruits at the schaghticoke fair

photo by nisaa askia

hay lofts and merit badges

The first morning of Nisaa's visit had us driving over to Hebron to pick up hay. You need to understand Nisaa and I too fully appreciate the dicotomay. It's not often folks like us get together to buy dead-bundled grass. Nisaa is my social opposite. A successful freelance businesswoman from Brooklyn. We became good friends in college and then our lives took us in different directions. Every once in a while we catch up with a weekend visit and this long holiday was a wonderful excuse to get together.

The last time Nisaa came to Vermont I was working on planting my first raised-bed garden and had a handful of chickens in the coop. Her return a year later now had sixteen hooves, rabbits, and a gaggle of birds, and thirteen raised-beds now succumbing to weeds and pumpkins (but you could tell there was some glory there earlier in the season).

Anyway, were were off to buy hay. As we rolled through the backroads from Sandgate to Hebron we talked about our weekend. We'd be going to a county fair that afternoon and Sunday morning a couple from the DC-area would be visiting for brunch. IN no time at all we came to the crest that shares the view of sprawling green fields, silos, and red barns. "Isn't that something else" she said to us both. It sure is.

When we got to Nelson's farm, Nelson himself came out to greet us. I shouted if he had any second cut and he said he had plenty but pointed up to the high loft of the barn. I didn't realize his pointing wasn't so much an acknowledgment of the hay's existence as it was directions. If I wanted the good stuff I had to climb up the hay elevator and throw some bales down. Apparently walking up several stories on old farm equipment was as casual an exercise and throwing down chicken scratch around here.

I hesitated. I'm uncomfortable with heights. Nelson saw this and charitably started to grip the elevator to walk up the fifty-foot climb. That was unacceptable. (Nelson's about five decades older than me.) I sucked it up, grabbed the rails, hoped my wellies wouldn't slip, and started to climb up the narrow-metal shaft.

It was fine. I got up in no time and threw down the bales and then slid down slide style back to terra firma. While I was up there on top of Washington County, Nisaa grabbed that photo of me looking for the next thing to chuck out the window. When I got back to my car I handed Nelson the check and we drove off back to our further adventures. But I drove home feeling like I earned a little more street-cred. If there was such a thing as shepherd merit badges I just sewed one on with a hay elevator on it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

a girl and her flock

photo by nisaa askia