Saturday, November 7, 2009

winthrop on the porch

cold knots and warm breath

The thermometer on the porch says it's around 19 degrees outside. I'd say that's pretty accurate since I was just out there trying to let the sheep out to pasture, but hit a roadblock. It was so cold the piece of rope I use to secure the gate was frozen in its knot. I had to cup it in my hands and blow hot breath to loosen it up. Sal stood watching about 3 inches from my face as I did this. Nose to nose, his flaring nostrils sending up just as much smoke as my hot breath. From a distance I bet we looked like we were sharing a hoopka. His eyes darted from the knot to my face, looking impatient. (If a sheep can look impatient. Mine sure as hell can.) When I finally got it undone I opened the gate and plunged my bare hands into my Carharrt vest. Sal and Maude trotted out and Joseph got his head stuck in the fence. He has a way to go yet.

I think the dogs know how cold it is because they have not moved from the bedroom yet. We all slept in and I think most of today will be spent at home, catching up on farm and housework and writing in between. I don't think Jazz and Annie will come out from their den of covers until the urgent need to pee forces them. I won't argue. They can sleep.

Tomorrow's a big day. My coworker Noreen and I are driving to meet a farmer upstate to get some new laying hens. Noreen got her first chickens earlier this summer and man, did she fall hard for those birds. Her husband built her a new coop (possibly the best designed hen house I have ever seen) and it's ready for some new tenants. She's has had her heart set on Buff Orpingtons for months and we finally found someone who's willing to sell us some. (Orps as well as Buff Brahmas and Barred Rocks.) These new birds were born earlier this summer so they'll be laying shortly. What a score.

Between the fox, natural death, and the axe—I'm down to just eight layers and I think three of them are too old to lay. So I'll be getting some fresh feathers tomorrow too. I'll be loading up the truck with some crates and blankets for the trip. Part of me still gets all giddy when preparing for these small farm adventures. I love that I finally have a truck to load and a destination that leads to omelets to pursue. ETD is 9:00 AM so by noon I hope to be home with the new flockmates. Of course, there will be pictures.

A Small Announcement: I'll be giving away a brand new solar/crank Eton FR150 Radio here on the blog this week. It's one of those smaller ones that also has an LED light, cell phone charger, USB port, and weather band on it! You can charge your ipod, get snow updates, see in the dark and rock out on this baby! We'll be having a drawing here. I got a new one recently for the farm kitchen and liked it so much I want to give one away here. More on this soon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

snow, mush, and eggs

It did snow last night, only a dusting. But it was something else to walk out onto my porch last night and see the fat flakes covering the cabin and grass. I grabbed the lantern and let it down on the lawn to take photographic evidence. While doing this, I could hear Joseph crying from the sheep pen and then remembered this was his first experience with the white stuff. It must be confusing to be a black sheep in a snowfall. Especially if you're new at it.

Driving to the office this morning was epic. I noticed all the mountains were capped in white all around Sandgate. It was perfect. Like a giant took a powdered sugar sifter and topped them off. My hollow wasn't high enough to take the hit, but I appreciated seeing the possibility of it all around me.

I'm looking forward to this winter. I'm prepared with wood and heating fuel and the dogsled's already been dusted off. I think (I worry) this will be the dogs' last big season in harness. Next year Jazz will be ten and already he has to place a paw on the bed now to leap up and join me at night. He used to just fly up, like a gazelle. Now he needs a little support. Might be a sign his distance days are behind him. We'll play it by ear and long as he wants to pull, he will. Just not as far or hard—gentler runs, more downhill.

Cyrus, the goose you see here, is the only goose you'll see around Cold Antler now. Don't worry, his girl Saro is just fine but she's pretty damn occupied. She's been sitting on a giant clutch of goose eggs for days now. Some have never known the world away from her down, which isn't like her. Usually Saro sits for a few days and gets bored and leaves, but not this time. She's been stalwart and true. Every evening I carry the water font and feed to her, and she obliges with long gulps. Cyrus waddles up when I do this, hissing the whole time, but in a way gets that this is room service and not terrorism and lets me go. There's a chance for some goslings here and that's exciting. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

it's snowing right now!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

a girl can hope

There's a chance of snow tonight. Just a chance.

knit green review

It's not often I get unmarked packages in the mail, but when I do, It's kind of exciting. It reminds me that people are out there reading this blog, following along, and keeping in touch. I want to thank whoever sent me a copy of Knit Green: 20 Projects and Ideas for Sustainability by Joanne Seiff. It's great! And it was a fun surprise to find it in my mailbox a few weeks ago. I wasn't able to dive into it until recently, but when I did it definitely made me get out my needles and think about turning some of my old tee shirts into something cooler than dust rags. Which is exactly what the book is all about, keeping your projects as sustainable as possible. It's an easy to follow instructional book, and not at all scary for beginners. The author talks to you about knitting, not at you. And the idea that homecrafts and sustainability are holding hands, well, that makes me happy. If you knit, garden, and recycle: this book was made for you. Not for the glitter and glue gun set, but it should be.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

my new lunchbox

It's a 1962 Thermos metal barn lunch box. It has a matching thermos and it's what I use to carry lunch into the office. I scored if off ebay for less than what I'd spend on half tank of gas. Sure, its got some scratches and rusty hinges, but I'm comfortable with imperfection. I like seeing it at my desk while I'm typing. It reminds me that a few miles away, up a winding mountain road, is my farm. I carried this lunchbox from it and I'll carry it back inside—a comfort in stressful times and a nice thought even on the best of days. It's got moxie, and I like it with unapologetic gladness.

Monday, November 2, 2009

finn and his truck

established support

That first day of daylight savings always hits us, doesn't it? I left the office at 5 and barely caught the last blue moments of dying light. Driving home from work I realized I forgot to put the porch light on before I left, meaning the cabin would be dark as all get out when I got home. When I pulled into the driveway I stepped out of the truck and was instantly caught off guard. I felt the rush of moving animals and heard a mini-stampede of hooves about 30 feet to my right. Four white tails flashed down the hill. I didn't even see the does behind the trees. I caught my breath, but hardly. A great horned owl started carrying on somewhere down the other side of the creek. I realized then that crows are my morning birds and owls are my nightwatch. I love my tame poultry, but I also like the company of wilder birds. The song birds are okay, but the talon set makes me feel safe. Did you know seeing a pair of crows is good luck? Probably not since that's a personal superstition of mine, but it's damn true.

The full moon above cast enough glow to stumble around in but I still needed to grab the flashlight I keep in the truck. As I made my way inside I could hear the confused bleats from Finn and the angry baas from the sheep. "Why weren't you here before it got dark, Lady?" they seemed to say. They had no idea where I was an hour ago. I let them bitch, they still got plenty of hay.

I have this flashlight attachment that came with my powertools and I love it. I use it all the time. However, tonight I discovered that you can't carry a five-gallon bucket of water in each hand and a powerful spotlight. I didn't want to be off balance and I didn't want to make two trips either. So I got a little randy and slid it into my shirt, perfectly balancing it within the confines of already established underwire support. Not exactly a class act, but a girls got to do what a girls got to do. I made my way around the pens and coop in perfectly light. Now, had you seen me waddling around the farm in the dark with two giant white buckets and a spotlight in my bra you would've died laughing. I giggled myself. But hell, it worked. I just hope those creepy owls weren't watching.

P.S. If you were a finalist or winner of Fiddler's Summer, can you please shoot me another email with your address? I have not forgotten you. I want to mail you your winnings. Life just got lifey and it took the backseat. I apologize.

all souls

Sunday, November 1, 2009

saving daylight

It's been abnormally warm here in Vermont and most of the people in my hollow seem to appreciate it. I realized while bumming around the cabin that sun-dappled afternoons may not be long for this season. So In a last-hurrah-of-Autumn ferver I leashed up the dogs and took them for a two mile walk in the glow. We passed a lot of neighbors doing the same thing, which made me kind of proud. Us Sandgaters know how to appreciate satiation while it lasts. Jazz and Annie padded beside me like puppies and I didn't even need a coat. A light wool sweater, two dogs, the ipod, and my hiking boots and I was on top of the world.

We did lazy Sunday things all afternoon. I cooked some lunch, did some writing, and when the indoors made me anxious I went outside to carry split hardwood to the wood pile near the house. I bet I held twenty infant fires in my arms and my shoulders are reminding me how heavy fire-babies can be. (I'm pretty sore.) I did the stacking as the sun was at that close, hot, time. I knew it would be dark an hour earlier so I had to work fast. I don't save daylight. I spend it.

Later, I came back to the house and caught Annie panting in the sun on the porch. Jazz had retired to his dog bed in the bedroom but my girl wanted those rays. She sprawled on the planks till the sun was all but gone. I went inside to get back to work instead of joining her on the stoop with a book. I think she knows more about the world than me. I think this all the time.