Thursday, September 24, 2009


Cold Antler farm's flock of thirteen laying hens is currently being watched over by two roosters. Here's the one I like, Winthrop. Named after the man who delivered the great sermon A Modell of Christian Charity—My rooster, like the venerable Plymouth puritan, is a pious guy watching over his own City on a Hill. He's huge, taller than my male goose. He's usually quiet and calm, but will on occasion let out a howl of a crow that sounds nothing like a normal rooster, thus his nickname, the wererooster.

Chuck Klosterman is the other one. He's an asshole. He is the only rooster I have ever raised that tries to hurt me. Only he isn't man enough to own that decision and actually try and spur me. He waits till I am walking away and then runs up to me, ready to attack. Then I whirl around and yell "WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM, BIRD!" and he backs down because I'm 15 times his height. Then he struts away and runs off to bang a hen or chase Winthrop around. Sometimes I wish Winthrop realized he was twice the size of Chuck Klosterman. It's like watching an angry velociraptor stalk and bite an autistic T-Rex. Winthrop is in his own little world of wolf sounds and slug eating. He abhors violence, and so he runs away from Chuck like a 4-year-old girl.

I keep Chuck around because while he is a mean bird—he is watchful and protective of his girls. He's sly and tricky and treats the farm like his jailyard. A place he rules with an iron fist, but also protects with one. He may not be the kindest cock on the block, but he keeps the trains running on time. For that, I'll keep feeding him no matter how much he looks like a pot pie.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

walking home

My neighbor Katie sent me this photo this morning. She took it in front of her home as the geese were walking back towards my road. Cyrus and Saro are never apart. They walk around my mountain hollow neighborhood as if it's their own. I'm lucky that the houses around mine are okay with the occasional visit from a pack of chickens or a pair of geese. Their open-yard policy ensures a free range life for my fowl. I'm much obliged.

I bought my first set of power tools yesterday—inspired by the collection of helpful gadgets Kathy and Marie brought when they helped build the fence. I didn't buy anything top of the line 9I'm on a tight budget) but I did procure a reciprocating saw, skill saw, drill and high-beam flashlight, all cordless in a set. Tools like these, and other hand tools have been a growing collection around the homestead. I had to buy my first ever tool box as well. It sits behind the seat in the truck, ready when I am to get work done.

I have three reserved spots at the Cluck & Strum and a few people I am waiting to get confirmation from. If you said you were coming and have yet to send in your information or donation, please let me know since I am ordering your books and instruments this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Monday, September 21, 2009

sometimes it's hard

I've been hurt by this farm. Really hurt. I've been bitten, butted, cut, scarred, and brought to tears from pain, stress and exhaustion. This happens over and over and I'm always alone. There are things I won't blog about because I don't want my mother to worry. There are things that happen that terrify me.

This year was the hardest yet. I planted my largest garden ever, raised the most animals, and took on more work and personal projects than any sane human being should. Now that the year is almost over, and the south side of October is days away, I can let out a long sigh and tell you it was all worth it. I found a balance in it all, kept my blinders on, and everything got done. The garden was tilled, weeded, and harvested. The two-week-old goat kid grew up into a spit-fire. The young birds are almost full-sized chickens now and the rabbit doe is due to bear kits any night. Yes, the hive was lost. And yes, I failed the sheepdog I once called my own, but you'll have this from time to time. And you and I don't have enough nights to list my faults. There are many, some are awful. Trust me.

If you read this blog and find it overly positive, dramatic, or analytical: that's because writing about my choices is my daily therapy. I don't see a shrink—I write to 40,000. Sharing my stories and photos on this blog is like a long exhalation. I depend on the people who read this because in the shower I lose count of the cuts and bruises and I want to know they belong to something bigger than my body. All things considered, I am quite small.

Some nights I barely fall asleep, isomniatic from worrying about the delicate balance that is my work life, family life and farm life. I am so grateful for Jazz, my old dog, who looks at me every day like the wise bodhisattva that he is and I will never be. A good dog can walk up to you, slowly, one paw in front of the other, and sit down next to you with great stillness. I feel him lean into me and I realize I'm not the only animal on this farm. I am never alone and it is bigger than us both. He rests and lets me scratch behind his ears and only when he knows I understand the world again, pads off. Jazz isn't my child and he isn't my pet either. He's a good dog. Nothing more.

For quite some time now, people without dogs seem broken to me.

I am a farmer without a farm, a shepherd without a sheepdog, and in love with this big, stupid world without a lover. That's fine. Sometimes I foolishly think everything would be better if I had a mortgage, a collie, and a man. But I know myself well enough to see the idiocy in such black-and-white thinking. I know better. We all know better. Maybe these things will come or maybe I'll be hit by space trash tomorrow. It really doesn't matter. It's the wanting that fuels us. It's the hope. That desire to attain the life you want, whatever it is, and to fold your ears back and run into the wind like you're in harness—is life. Cold Antler farm isn't a place—it is an idea. Knowing I want it means I am already home. Actually getting there, is moot.

queen of the hay pile

Sunday, September 20, 2009

i sing along when i drive

God made the automobile:
To pass all the things He made, and then never bothered to name
And no one will tell the truth, and no one will hide it from you.
Like birds around the grave.

-Iron & Wine

bolt cutters and apple cake

There was a stupid amount of pride that went into buying my first Red Brand Field Fence. The Pennsylvania-Based company had been publishing ads in homesteading and farming magazines long as I could remember reading them. I would read them while paging through Hobby Farm in college—wondering how anyone gets to a point in their life when they are deciding between woven and welded wire fences instead of foam or no-foam in their coffee. Now I was standing in the chain-link yard at Tractor Supply buying one. I watched the forklift ease the giant roll into the back of my pickup, swelling with quiet pride. As I pushed the monster into bed, I thanked the staff that helped me load it, and then slammed the tailgate shut. Slammed it the way I dreamed of slamming it for years before owning a truck. That satisfying "CligUNK". Now, I was going to build my sheep a proper fence.

I wasn't sure how though? The old fence was barely keeping it together and that took me a whole day. This heavy-duty job would require more help, proper tools, and I bought it just hoping it would all work out. Some times things do. At least if the right people show up...Three blog readers heeded the call for help. Jeff, Kathy, and Marie all gave up a beautiful Saturday evening to come here and work up a sweat. Thanks to their time, gloves, toolboxes, and good intentions we had the whole operation done in under three hours. Quite the accomplishment.

Kathy and Marie arrived first. They pulled into the driveway in a Prius wearing workbooks. (These were my kind of women.) We shook hands and said hello and I invited them inside. I was in the middle of baking an apple cake (which almost felt contrived) but I had been invited to a neighbor's house for dinner and was scrambling to make something to bring. My mother raised me to never show up as a dinner guest without a covered dish or bottle of wine. As I poured the batter into the bowls we chatted about their farm (WindWoman Farm, outside Albany) and about their own hope for dairy goats soon. They wanted Nigerians, and I was already excited for their future kids.

Jeff pulled up in his truck shortly after. He walked out to meet us in the field with bolt cutters in one hand and work gloves in the other. All four of us were ready to get to work. We moved Sal and Maude to electric netting in a separate area so we didn't have to worry about sheep running around us and started ripping down the old fence. In no time we were measuring t-posts and pounding in new ones. I did a lot of running around, helping really, these folks were experts. I tried to be of use but while they cut the wires and pulled the fences tighter I spent most of my time in awe of their efforts. I'd grab them a cold cider if they needed it, or would grab a hammer from the truck. Not that I sat and watched, I was in the thick of it too, but I have no idea how I could have done it without them. I am beyond grateful for their assistance. I made sure they knew I was there to help with any moving days or ditch digging in their futures. And since Kathy is taking a timber frame building course in Texas soon, who knows, there might be a barn raising in our future.

When the fence was up and our work finished, we retired to the porch for apple cake and cold beers. We sat in a row, our feet dangling over the porch while we chatted and ate. The geese joined us and waddled around our feet, judging us in their goose way. When the beer and cake was downed, the three heros watched as I let Maude and Sal back into their new pen. A small cheer went up, if not from the onlookers - perhaps in my own head. Closing that gate was a call for emotional applause. We did it and now the sheep had a good strong fence for winter. I had little to offer them as thanks, but made sure each of them left with a pound of pumpkin coffee and a hug.

A fine days work, that.