Friday, October 23, 2009

before it all

When I graduated from Kutztown in 2005, my first post-college job was in Knoxville, Tennessee. I moved there by myself to work for a television network's website. I rented the bottom floor of an old boarding house in a historic district called Fourth & Gill. This was my old bedroom in said apartment. I laughed when I came across this photo because I'm pretty sure that old place could fit two of my present cabins inside it. Maybe three. If feels like ages ago. A past life.

This picture was taken the day I brought Jazz home, which was in July of that same summer. I was alone two weeks in the world before I adopted him. They were an awful two weeks. Women of a certain disposition should not be alone in a new city without a good dog. They feel awkward and pointless without a leash in their hands in public—but give them a large, kind, dog and they are sirens. She can get by without a good man just fine, but never without a good dog.

I am of that disposition.

I look at this picture and can't help but smile, tilt my head, and raise an eyebrow. Back then all I wanted was to be a designer. I wanted a board position in my AIGA chapter. I wanted to be out in Market Square with my dog. Jazz, by the way, was never intended to be on snow. He was a southern city pet. Sure, he might pack in the Cumberlands with me, but he wasn't going to be a sled dog...

Little did I know 18 months later I'd be in a farmhouse in Northern Idaho with him, another Siberian, and a sled parked in the garage. That all happened because of a Cove in the Smoky Mountains, a night with fireflies at an abandoned camp, and a jump from a waterfall where a young man died the following day. Those are all separate and complicated stories, but they are why I'm writing you from a small cabin in a New England Hollow. They are the alchemy that created the hope you know as Cold Antler Farm. (Which, if you're new to this blog, hasn't actually happened yet. Welcome to the ride.)

Life can change fast. It doesn't really change any other way.

Anyway, I thought this snapshot from a past life might give some comfort to those of you who dream of goats and chickens and a cabin in the woods but are presently sifting through take-out menus in your current metropolis. Please remember, It was just a few years ago I had one dog in a city apartment. Now I'm in this beautiful mess.

Tomorrow I'll visit a brewery and probably come home wanting to make my own beer. Sunday Steve and I are going to slaughter an angry rooster I raised out of the palm of my hand. Right now I'm going to go outside and close the coop door before the rain comes. If you wish you too were closing a coop door you can take a deep breath and rest easy tonight. I promise if it's something you really want—it'll happen. You'll find a way because you must. And when it does happen, be ready because it'll come fast. Life doesn't happen any other way. At least not the parts worth living.

open mic night

Just in from playing music. My homebrew band played an open mic at a tavern near Stratton called The Red Fox. We only played four songs, but the crowd clapped and my fiddle rang loud and clear over the amps. We even got someone to shout "Play that one again!" after we finished Wagon Wheel. (This is the closest thing to an encore I've ever experienced. I can't lie. It was kind of cool.)

I had a great night. I'll need about seven gallons of coffee to make it to lunch tomorrow, but still, a great night.

Frankly, it was just nice to be out on a windy October evening in a dark pub. If you're in this game, you get that. Us homesteaders know how to revel in basic comfort—really sink into that feeling of decadence you get from two Guinnesses, great people, and music cases under your feet. Pair that with a woodstove, a good dinner, and laughter from close friends and you've got yourself tucked right into the back pocket of heaven. Or at least, my back pocket of heaven. Which may very well be a dark pub on a windy October night with guitar cases lined up against the wall. I told you I was simple. And I'd never make it into the front pocket anyway.

And now darling, if you don't mind too much, I am going to crawl into bed with my two wolves and get some sleep.

Oh, and Chuck Klosterman meets his maker on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

17 bales in one trip, that's my girl.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the western side

There's my Annie in her window. It's her front-row seat for all the goings on here at Cold Antler. While I was snapping this photo she was locked on Winthrop, who was trying to engage some hens in a cheap thrill by the garage. I wish I knew what Annie thought of all the birds in the yard. She probably just thinks they look delicious.

Siberian Huskies are utter failures at being dependable farm hands. This is always forgiven because while they stink at chores—they are a force in front of the dog sled. I can't wait for the first real snow. I'll be out in lantern light whipping around these roads and we're not the only dog team around either. My neighbors Allen and Suzanne have five Sibes and mush as well. Sometimes I feel Sandgate was always waiting here for me. It's something I never forget to be grateful for.

I pulled the truck up through the notch* tonight and smiled. I live on the western side of the mountain, and every time I clear the pass I realized I just gain another hour of daylight. The sun sets below my mountain and the golden light seems to hide behind the hill. Every time I pull through and notice the new light I'm surprised and then profoundly glad. I watched a young doe race up the hill by Rupert Road and then turn around to look back at me in my loud Ford. The deer are all grayish now. Their summer coats look like they've been dancing in our woodsmoke. They now sport thick bristly mottled coats for the cold weather. They look like does in a badger fashion show. I wonder if the people at Project Runway know about me?

I kid. I'm a kidder.

So it has been decided: Chuck Klosterman gets the axe. Had I been on the fence at all tonight's episode in the coop would have put me in the stock pot camp for certain. Chuck flew across the coop from a resting position to spur me as my back was turned to feed the young pullets and John. I spun around to scream something I will not repeat here, and Cyrus, my male goose, screamed back at me for yelling in his monastery. (Which I think was both hypocritical and kind of bitchy). So I'm bleeding, Cyrus is wailing, Chuck is strutting around like an convict with a shiv, and I have yet to pick up one egg from the nest. I can't get to the eggs because Saro is laying again and sitting on a small clutch of her eggs as well as the chickens. If I get anywhere near her she hisses and Cyrus comes over to stand in my way.

Who knows? I might have a gosling on the farm soon? But this seems unlikely since Saro has approximately the same attention span for sitting on eggs as a Kool-Aid induced 4th grader would off her ADHD meds. Maybe when she's older...Toulouse geese live to be 40 so we're running out the clock on this one.

*The notch, for those new to the blog, is a 180-degree steep curve blasted through the mountain to get into West Sandgate. It's both loved and loathed by the locals and what makes a four-wheel drive car a necessity for anyone near my mailbox.

Monday, October 19, 2009

isheep and chuck's on death row

My plans to make hard cider this weekend fell through. My friends who invited me didn't realize that their apple trees didn't have a very good season. There wasn't enough on the branches to bear a day at the mill. So they stopped the presses (pun, unfortunately, intended) and instead I spent the day with friends in town. Which was much needed and enjoyable. We ate dinner, went to the movies, and just did the general mucking around that makes for conversations and the occasional belly laugh. I'm glad to have made such good friends in my short time here. New England can be a cold place without familiar faces from time to time.

So here's something mildly exciting: I am working on a Cold Antler Farm iphone app with my friend Phil. It'll be a small farm fundraiser sold at the itunes store. The app will let you get instant updates from the blog, and then other updates and recipes and such. Right now it's a fancy RSS feed for your phone with pretty pictures. It's only 99 cents, and seems to be a fun marriage of technology and homesteading.

Also, my friend Steve and I are thinking about eating Chuck Klosterman. I'm a vegetarian, yes, but only because I am against eating meat that wasn't properly raised on pasture by humane farmers. I am happy to eat animals I have raised, but haven't raised meat animals yet. Mostly because it's just me here and seems like a lot of bloodshed for one person's freezer.... Chuck however, has become so violent, so mean, he runs at me from across the farm. Cuts me with his talons. I now have scars from him. He's starting to hurt Winthrop and makes hens bleed. I'm thinking a swift death and a pot might be the proper course of action. Steve's a skilled upland hunter and has dressed everything from woodcock to turkeys. He said he'd do the dirty work (though I would be right there to help and assure everything went as I wished)—I am a little torn. As evil as the bird's become—I'm used to it and learned to avoid him. The slaughter wouldn't be for me, but for the hens and other animals here he has hurt. To some this may make me a monster, to others, a practical farmer. I'd appreciate thoughts and opinions from you folks. It would help in my decision, very much so.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

chuck klosterman does not care

*or can't read...