Tuesday, January 5, 2010

home from a run

Monday, January 4, 2010

maybe, then.

After three days of being housebound (save for the two trips to Wayside) I am back into the weekly grind. It's always a shock going from the farm to the office—but after three days of writing/cabin life it was like emerging from a monastery into a freeway. That sounds negative, but I don't mean for it to be. I love my job and am grateful for the people it brought into my life. Sometimes it just shocks you. Sometimes that's a good thing.

We had a going away lunch party for my boss and another coworker just announced their move to the midwest. (A pretty happening day for the small company I'm a part of.) A lot of people's lives are changing all around me. There are promotions and plane trips and moving companies involved in that office. Sitting at the lunch party felt a little sordid. I'm never the person eating soup and wishing someone else good luck. I'm the person the going-away parties are for. I've lived in four states in five years. That lunch was the first time I realized I was staying put. I have a lot to figure out first.

I know I don't want to move anymore.

I would like to stay right here in Vermont, thank you.

...except maybe when I am much much older and Tennessee asks me to come home.

maybe, then.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

fiddle workshop update

I've slotted the weekend of February 20th as the Saturday for the beginner fiddle workshop here at the farm. About four people contacted me and I have faith we'll find a fifth. If you have no idea what I'm talking about—last week I announced a four hour intro-to-fiddle workshop for people who want to learn old time mountain music but have no idea how. (Of course, musically experienced folks are welcome too!) But if you are free that weekend, and always wanted to learn, email me to make arrangements and such. I plan on hosting it from 11 AM - 3 PM, and if anyone comes from out of town (or wants to stick around) we can plan on going out to dinner that night as a group in Manchester. Maybe hit up Northshire books too. You know, make a day of it.

The point of the workshop of course is to help beginner fiddlers find their feet using the Native Ground method. I'll have beginner materials for all the people who come, you just need a fiddle (and no problems with large sleddogs who may demand you keep scratching them if you sit on my couch). The other point is to put some more coin in the farm fund, which is what will be the nest egg that gets me in the door of my own home this spring (god willing). So please, come over and learn to tune, bow, rosin up and play with us. It'll be a lot of fun and a way to meet folks who share your love of music, farming, and fresh eggs. Plus, you'll be helping your gal Jenna turn the key to the dream.

the locavore way

A great little book hit the presses recently, and I wanted to share it with you. It's called The Locavore Way by Amy Cotler. It's a beginner's guide to eating locally and understanding food economies. It's not what you think, which to some might be a scary anti-industrial food book with pictures of confined feeding operations and charts about cloned corn. Nope, this is a kind, light, read with beautiful illustrations and good advice. It covers all the options we have now from CSAs to farmers markets, small farms, and how to get local food at the grocery store too. There are recipes, dining out guides, and even beginner gardener advice. It's the kind of book every farmers market in America should have on a rack. Its best feature is the chapter on building community—a theme the book never stops singing. Amy knows the importance of putting farmer's names to our food and learning how to get involved. Also, people with similar food values have a lot in common, and learning to eat local may not only help our health and environment - it may make you some new friends. You'll find some mighty cool people at those weekend markets. (I think it's the new dog park for blind dates.) The book costs less than a large pizza, so pick up a copy and make your own at home instead!

sal beyond the garden gate

Saturday, January 2, 2010

the best view in town

soft wool. dry hay.

I spent a good part of the morning outside. It was pleasant. Even though it was twenty degrees outside my body was warm from shoveling my chore paths around the farm. I had made a small maze of cleared footpaths for delivering feed and water. The geese followed behind me as I labored, as if they were inspecting the job. The geese are the only poultry at CAF that travel around in the deep snow. They were honking outside the cabin door this morning and each got a piece of pancake for their bravery. The chickens stay in their coop. Egg production has all but stopped. Some birds are hibernating and others are going out to brunch.

After the plowing was done I was breathing heavy and stopped to rest on the handle of my shovel. I looked over to the sheep pacing in the pasture, baaing at me for more hay. They'd already eaten their morning meal so I went into the garage for some fresh straw instead. I carried it out to them and their eyes got wide and ears perked up. They always think straw might be hay, and thought I was carrying them a giant dinner. They followed me back towards the shed. A small parade of shepherd, a black lamb, an angry ewe, and an old softy. I lined the sheep shed with straw while Joseph and Sal joined me inside it. Instead of leaving them—I plopped down in the corner, sitting with my back to the wood and my legs stretched out into the straw. The shed was wonderful. It was windproof, clean, and dry. I sat on the new straw and watched the snow falling outside just like I imagine my flock does.

Sal walked over to me. A beast of nearly 170 pounds with a skull hard enough to kill me instantly if he wanted to. He was at my eye level now, and nuzzled his head against my shoulder. I reached up to scratch his ears while he stood, calm as a monk in his monastery. I scratched his chin and he closed his eyes. The fleece under his jaw was the softest, warmest, sensation I had ever felt. I nearly gasped, realizing the most comforting sensation I'd known so far was happening outside in the middle of a Vermont snow storm.

Maude watched from the entryway, suspicious but calm as well. She smelled my boots. Then Joseph came over, and I was surrounded by my flock. I was resting in the wooden shed built with the care and compassion of friends and neighbors. I was wearing my close friend James's old wool sweater he gave me since he outgrew it. I can not express the happiness and contentment that filled me just then. It coated my lungs and swirled in my head. I didn't laugh or smile, I just knew this was the greatest place in the world. That people travel for miles, live their whole lives, just hoping to find this place.

My three sheep. A barn raised by friends. A hand-me-down sweater. A lamb's breathe turning to smoke. Soft wool. Dry Hay.

I have come this far.

from a goose and a hen

snow and pancakes

We are in for a storm system here. Over the next few days we're to get anywhere from 6-12 inches, brought down by constant and calm snowfalls. It's storybook weather and during a holiday weekend to boot. I'm wrapped in wool and surrounded by two kind dogs and about to head into the kitchen. I'm making pancakes. If there was ever a morning for strong coffee and pancakes, this was it. I've posted this recipe before, but in case anyone else feels inspired to join me:

Cold Antler Pancakes
1 1/2 cups organic flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanila
1/2 cup sugar
1 farm egg
1 1/3 cups milk

Tun on the range and heat up the skillet at a medium high heat, make sure a good spoonful of butter is melting in the pan and coating it with a good layer. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the egg and milk. Mix fast and quick and then give it about 4 minutes to set and get fluffy (from the bakiing powder) in the bowl. When "risen" pour into skillet to the size you like your cakes. You know a pancakse is ready to flip over when the middle bubbles. Serve hot with real maple syrup (Grade B, son. Grade B is dark, rich, and get this tastes like maple.none of that flatlander grade A sugar water they sell in gift shops okay?)

Friday, January 1, 2010

i'm a homesteader with an iphone

Among modern homesteaders there seems to be a marriage of high tech and low-tech living. This is especially true of folks like me: people who are new to self-sufficiency and have to come to the lifestyle as adults. We've discovered this new/old way to live but still love some of the conveniences we grew up with. We want to weed our organic gardens with our MP3 players in our pockets, ripping out stray blades of grass as the fourth track from a record we just downloaded roars in our ears. We like the ideas of hybrid cars, WiFi in the barn, and popping our hand made mozzarella in the microwave before stretching it. We’ll knit our own clothes while watching a favorite movie on DVD. We’ll plug our sewing machines into the wall socket and spend three hours making a pair of canvas coveralls to help us attain the means to never want for a grid-pumping socket again. It’s a contrarian’s way to live, for sure. Perhaps some would say it’s downright hypocritical. If it is, I don’t care.

You can call me out as much as you want. You can say, “Hey, didn’t you write a whole chapter in your book about playing your own music? What’s with the iPod?” and I will continue to preach the magic and satisfaction of the fiddle and learning old tunes. That doesn’t mean I don’t think every car in America should have a copy of Ok Computer in the dash. I have no qualms with blaring Radiohead on the way to pick up canning jars. You can scoff at my iPhone, but I just found out I can download a program that helps me identify mushrooms and edible wild plants when foraging. This isn’t heresy - this is awesome. Shucks, I think the 21st century may be the greatest time in our collective history to pick up homesteading.

I feel like we’re balancing on an apex of good fortune and good advice, us modern homesteaders. We live in two worlds and have the sense to marry the best of both for a more fulfilling life. We’ve set aside any preferences for easy—allotting a little more time for the tasks that make a home run. If this was 1856 that would mean practically living with an ankle bracelet. In the past homesteaders were under house arrest. Leaving the farm meant something wasn’t being fed, cooked, skinned, weeded or sewn. But today, thanks to the advances in that same technology we can run a small farm, go to our jobs, and then come home and go see a movie. We can do this because have automatic timers on our coop lights and rototillers for our backyard gardens. We can shop online for fabric and fill our pickups with feed sacks. If you want to call this way of living hypocritical, be my guest, but I just call it lucky.

We have the tools to live in modern society and still work, eat, and breathe like the best portions of our past. Before everything got too easy, we may have worn ankle bracelets to our homes—but at least the prison food didn’t have E. Coli and we slept like draft animals because still knew how to lift a scythe or hammer. We don't need to stay within twenty acres of our houses anymore, but even if we chose to we now have high speed internet to build communities and share stories online. To me, my internet connection is as vital as the radio was when it first came out. A way to get news, hear music, share wisdom and learn. I wouldn't want to be so low tech I couldn't be without it, and I say that as someone who still breaks sod with a steel garden hoe.

good morning from a snowy cabin in the woods

Good morning from a snowy first day of 2010. It's a three day weekend for me, and for many people. I'm making the best of it by spending as much time holed up in this cabin as possible. I want to write, sew, and tend to the animals. I toyed with the idea of making an epic trip 45 minutes north to Rutland to buy yarn and fabric but decided to order some online instead and wait. The world will not be less if Jenna Woginrich sews up her corduroy messenger bag next weekend instead.

I'm at that point in a weekend morning where the farm chores are done and the rest of the day hasn't started yet. Outside the sheep are in the pasture chomping away at their pile of hay, and inside the dogs are sleeping to the record player. I have Fleet Foxes on the turn table now. The song White Winter Hymnal is playing and it is beyond perfect for a world covered in snow. (It's also the song that makes trudging through knee-high snow with forty-pound water buckets delightful.) Sub Pop put out a beautiful double LP for Fleet Foxes self titled album and the packaging itself makes me happy.

What I love about records is the size and biography. I love the detailed sleeves, lyric sheets, and liner notes. One time my friend Nisaa and I were in a record store and she pointed out the inside jabs and jokes on Paul McCartney's LP of Ram. There was one black beetle, um, how do I put this delicately, "enjoying the company" of another beetle on the back side of the old record case. A passive aggressive jab at his old band, based on the falling outs. I felt like she was teaching me secret code on an ancient text, but about my own pop culture instead of some canopic jar. I cracked up and instantly was glad Nisaa and I were friends. She knows music, and you don't get that kind of gold when you download songs.

Well darling, that's my soundtrack and my morning. Hope all of you are having an equally peaceful start to this new year.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

one down

One down, folks. This year has come to an end. If you've been following along with this story you've watched a lot happen in just 12 months. 2009 has been the most intense year of projects, gardens, writing, and homesteading here at Cold Antler. When I think about this past May, I still get tired.

I just wanted to thank you for making my life a part of yours. Since last winter when Made From Scratch hit bookstores, this blog has grown from 100 hits a day to 2,000. It's grown from 2 blogger followers to over 400. I've hosted guests, workshops, fence building and music lessons. I've been part of people's honeymoons and weekend vacations. I've had the chance to write for websites and magazines and slowly, ever so slowly, am working towards my goal with the amazing witness of an audience to support and comfort me. You guys have gone from readers to friends, and become a part of my life. I've made relationships here and received gifts and feel like I grew a small network for when I get that farm. (Which I wil. It will just require some serious luck, saving, and more luck.) Point is, you've been amazing and have become the reason I write here. Knowing that people are checking in and keeping track, know my dogs names, and may say hello at a sheep shearing demo is why this blog exists. So I raise my mug of morning coffee to you, and with all I've got, thank you. Over and over.

I hope you stick around for 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the remedy

Meet Clark. Clark is my music station/coffee mug holder at the office. (His brother Gable, is here in the living room). He reigns over my two monitors in my work station and holds my vintage pioneer headphones, burned cds, and Fire King mugs. I think I'm the only person on my floor with a dead animal filing system at my desk? It's okay. I know someone on the third floor wins the contest. They have a bear head by their computer. (Hey, at least mines utilitarian.) I work at a colorful place and my coworkers kindly tolerate me. Some have even become close friends. Hell, they don't even blink an eye when tiny styrofoam coolers of livestock antibiotics are delivered to my desk...

Today a small refrigerated box holding fast-acting penicillin and syringes came to work. I'd ordered the medicine when Maude was looking pathetic, but since she's returned to full health I won't be doping her up for kicks. I'm am glad to know the medicines in the fridge as I write you. Some day it may save a life.

So, I now live a life where designing corporate web sites and listening to audiobooks is interrupted by the delivery of overnighted sheep meds. This is the kind of right angle in your day that throws your whole life into a more understandable order. I like it when I'm designing on my computer at the cabin or when the farm kicks down the office door like that. Balance, son. Balance and antlers in everyplace I call my own.

I'm enjoying these nights here at the cabin. Outside the nearly full moon hits the snow and it is so bright out there I can see the whole neighborhood. I can spot a buck waltzing through the hollow from a hundred yards away. I don't even need the lantern on my night rounds to move across the farm. The moonlight makes the place feel smaller too, like a still from an old movie. I worry if I walk too far out of my yard I'll discover it's actually a movie set and the buck below me was just a prop guy that lashed Clark to a great dane. At the risk of blowing my own reality, I'll keep the existentialism at bay and just stay within the property lines. It feels safe here. If things get rough we just figure it out or learn to heal. Afterall, if things get hairy the remedy's in the fridge.

Monday, December 28, 2009

one hour better

There is this anomaly in Vermont that happens during a snowfall at dusk. When the light's almost gone, and the sky is heavy and gray, the world takes on this new color of slate blue. The whole farm is bathed in this color, and it is a show stopper. I was outside in this light tonight, trying to coax the flock back into their pen. When the sheep were inside I tied the gate and started walking back towards the cabin. I walked the long way, following the fence and hitting it with the metal grain scoop to shake the snow off. Somewhere in the geography of the moment I stopped and just stood there in the slate blue light. I was now in the middle of the property, surrounded by these glowing arches of snow-covered branches. All around me was this thick blueness. The yellow lights inside the cabin and the small white train of smoke from the chimney made me nearly lose my footing. It was so beautiful I think it caused tiny splinters in my veins. I let out a long sigh and watched the breath swirl up into the air. It was blue too.

How the hell did I get lucky enough to land here? How in god's name did I end up in this job, with these people, in this town, with this life? How did I let all those mistakes happen? It could have gone a million different ways, and yet, here I stood. In the snow. Alone. In the slate gray light that wasn't even real in the first place? I wish I understood all this better.

The new year is just around the switchback. We're almost there and people are talking about resolutions and changes and a hundred tiny things that are going to make us all better people in 2010. I have goals too, but not for the year. I don't have the chops for those kinds of resolutions. I do however, have a system that works and I measure it in hours...

For what it's worth, here is some advice from me. Don't attempt to be a drastically better person in the next calendar year. Don't plan on being thirty pounds thinner, or sixty-thousand dollars richer, or the front man of your own band. Instead, how about just trying to be a slightly better person in the next sixty minutes. This may sound like a weak attempt
but it's not. Results happen slowly and only when we focus on what we want and who we want to become right now. If you want more money, for the next hour, don't spend any and try and pull a quarter off the floor of your car. If you want to lose weight, try not to eat that candy bar for the next hour, and walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. If you want to be kinder, spend the next hour on the phone with old friend and tell her you miss her. If you want to plant a garden, raise chickens, or own a farm—spend the next hour online ordering seed catalogs or going to the library for a book on coop building. Make small changes constantly and just try to meet that next turn of the clock one hour smarter, one hour thinner, one hour kinder, and one hour richer and watch your life change.

If everyone could just see the day as 24 chances to make their life a little better, imagine the resolutions that could be met? I try to be an hour better, every hour, and hope those choices add up into something I can grasp with both hands. I think total dedication to the present is what improves ourselves, and not the empty promises that are too big to get our arms around. Just try be one hour better, starting right now. My favorite movie whispers the quote "that every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around". It's a chance worth taking.

Or at least that's the hunch I'm running with. But I'm saying that from quite an awkward location. I don't know how valid the advice is from a girl standing alone in the snow in the middle of a sheep pasture she doesn't even own. I guess we'll find out.

postcards from a snow day

it's snowing like crazy!

she seems better

I woke up this morning and instantly thought of Maude. Without hesitation- I threw on a wool sweater and an insulated vest and ran outside in my pajama pants and rubber boots. Maude was standing in the pen watching me run towards her. As I got closer she narrowed her eyes and put her ears back and started backing away from me. (This is good. Hate is Maude's natural state of being!) I ran back to the porch and got some hay and let the sheep out into their pasture to eat their morning meal. Maude scuttled over to it like the well-insulated crab she is and ate like a beef steer. I sighed the sigh of ages. Not only was I thrilled she was okay—I was pragmatically relieved there wasn't a 150 pound carcass for me to remove from a sheep pen in a snow storm...Anyway, I think she's back. I'll call the vet regardless, see what he says about her symptoms. I'll ask if I can get some Pro-Pen G injections for around the cabin in case someone does fall ill quick. But as for Maude—you can't keep a good* sheep down.

*good is relative...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

sunlight and a sick ewe

When I got back to the farm today I was shocked by the atmosphere. It had poured that morning, suddenly and hard. All the animals were soaked and homely looking, but their appearance was where all pity stopped. Despite the fact everyone looked like extras in a low budget zombie movie—everyone was in high spirits. The weird break in cold weather granted us a 45-degree, sunny afternoon! Every hen, rooster, and goose was somewhere on the farm they hadn't dared venture since it was covered in ice a few days before. For days they've been holed up in their coop and now the farm was theirs again. If they didn't like the fact they were wet, it didn't show.

I carried hay out to the sheep pasture and noticed three Rhode Island Reds right at my feet. They seemed as revved up as starters of a basketball team, dodging and darting all around me. They just wanted to be where the action was. They liked the novelty of traction under their claws again. The sunlight must've felt like pure gold. I dumped the hay in the field and watched them jump in like kids in a leaf pile. The chickens scratched at it and started spreading it and I laughed at the antics. Shaking my head, I walked over to the gate to let my sopping sheep come out in the sun and stretch their legs too. It was good to be home.

Joseph and Sal trotted out like always, but Maude seemed different. She had a little drool on her mouth and seemed slower than usual. She walked behind the rest and appeared to be huffing and puffing. As the others dove into their hay she stood to the side, ears back, wheezing. I was worried, and walked up to her. She let me get close (this had me really worried now, she never lets me get close) and she looked like I did when I had a cold a few weeks ago: generally okay, but sorry and congested. After a few moments of hacking in the sun she seemed better. She joined the others and munched her hay. I went inside and called Suzanne (who watched over the animals while I was away) and she told me the sheep and birds all seemed fine and acted normal. Which makes me think this cold of Maude's is a new developement brought on by the sudden snap in weather.

I'm a little concerned. I hope come morning she's her old horrid self again. If not, I'll call the vet and have him stop by. She may simply need some TLC and a shot of antibiotics. Keep my miserable ewe in your thoughts, folks. We need her around here. She keeps me honest.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

one of the crazies

I'm currently reading Joel Salatin's You Can Farm, which is fantastic, but it's raising a lot of questions. Not questions for Joel concerning his methods and philosophy (I think the man's brilliant) but questions for me. This book is making me realize how society (in general) views farming as a career choice. The most prominent of all questions the book's raised so far was this: "Do people think I'm crazy for wanting to be a Shepherd in the 21st century?"

His answer: yes.

The book opens up with the harsh reality that if you want to pursue a profitable, family-friendly, self-employed life as a small farmer—you're going to run into a lot of naysayers. It's just not something a lot of people want to do or even want to understand anymore. Young people from non-agricultural backgrounds without farming friends are going to meet a lot of push back when they "come out of the chicken coop" and admit: Yes, they want to be farmers. To some people that's equivalent to happiness suicide. Thanks to the distance from our food sources the supermarket grants us, the perception of farming is bleak. People think farming for a living is back-breaking, mindless, drudgery. To some, saying you want to start a farm is like saying you want to be a Navy Seal for kicks. Why would anyone put themselves through that?

This makes me ask another question. When did work become bad? And not just work, when did putting any sort of effort into our tasks of eating, clothing, and sheltering ourselves become crazy?

Friday, December 25, 2009

merry christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

come to my beginner fiddle workshop!

I'll be hosting a Beginner's Southern Mountain Fiddle workshop here at the cabin this February. It'll be a Sunday afternoon mid-month. The workshop will run from 12-4PM and cover all the basics you need to get acquainted with the fiddle. We'll cover care and feeding, tuning, supplies, finger placement, scales, and your first song. You'll also learn and how to read and follow beginner tablature. There will be group and one-on-one sessions. All you need to come join us is a violin in working condition with a bow with some rosin on it. No musical experience needed, just the desire to play. I'll provide beginner instruction materials and home-baked snacks and coffee. All this will be for a flat donation rate which will go towards the farm fund. As long as five people sign up (and no more than eight) I'll host it here at the cabin. If you're interested in the workshop please email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com.

a happy and merry

Good morning from the wilds of the suburban mid-Atlantic. I'm in Pennsylvania with my family for the holidays. Jazz and Annie are somewhere in the house, running around with my parent's collie mix, Melvin. I just made a very strong pot of coffee, and in a moment will go downstairs to drink copius amounts and take the quiche out of the oven. But first I wanted to check in and say thank you to all the readers who sent me cards, gifts, emails and kind words recently. With the travel, office, farm, contracts and freelance all gnashing at my flanks I feel like I fell behind in proper thank yous. But please know I appreciate it, so much, and that you folks made this the warmest Christmas in recent history. It's hard not to smile when your mailbox is stuffed with cards from all over the world.

Have a Happy and Merry.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

night mares in the barn

Every night, but especially on nights when it's hard to sleep, I lay awake in bed thinking. I'll toss and turn for hours unless I lay still and decide to go to the barn. I don't get up and go outside. The barn is a place in my mind. As long as I can remember I've had the same calming meditation right before I fall asleep. I imagine myself in this same situation and within minutes, I am breathing slower and grateful. I know it works because I can only remember what I'll share with you in a moment, and then it's morning. Maybe it will help some of you when your mind is loud. Here's where I go:

I turn over on my side, close my eyes, and imagine I'm in a high loft of an old gray barn on a rainy autumn night. I've been riding a horse for miles and besides the mare and I, the only other soul traveling with me is a black sheepdog. I have made a handshake deal to rest my horse in the stall below while I sleep in the hay storage above. The owner has offered me three quilts and a pillow and told me I could rest on the loose hay piled in a sheltered corner. I lay the biggest, thickest, blanket down first on a giant pile of hay and create a nest. (Sometimes it feels so real I can smell the dead grass and feel it crinkle under my mattress.) A lantern shines above me, flickering from an old beam. Besides the occasional quiet lightning outside—this is the only light. Outside a constant, inconsequential rain falls. I watch the shadows the lantern casts dance across the gray walls. Sometimes the light sneaks in-between the cracks and paints an old oak tree outside. Below me I can hear my small horse's gray hooves shuffle. She is a night mare keeping nightmares away. I am so weary from traveling the loft feels like heaven. I am so relieved to be dry and warm and have finally stopped moving. I curl my spine and sink farther into the nest. The black dog rests his head in my chest and sighs. We're warm. The mare lays down. Tonight will be okay.

I've imagined this nearly every night before I've fallen asleep for over twenty years. Long before I ever wanted to homestead, or ever considered a Fell Pony, this was my ritual...an imaginary oasis of my most comforting things: shelter, companionship, and warmth. I went to the barn in sixth grade, in college dorms, in cities, and on snowy nights in Idaho. I'll go there tonight too. I feel particularly weary.

Monday, December 21, 2009

pick up the new issue of paste magazine

I got to write a full page essay for the new issue of Paste, which I was beyond thrilled about. Incidently it may be one of my favorite things I've ever written. Also, they hired the illustrator Meg Hunt to do this picture of me for the piece and she managed to really capture Cold Antler!

turn up your speakers

Sunday, December 20, 2009

geese in the glow

a small flock

I like that my sheep are a little chubby. I like that they are always covered in a bit of straw from their warm bed and how they seem to smile when the snow comes. I like their dignity. (Contrary to popular belief, sheep have dignity in spades. ) I walk out on mornings like this and let them out of their pen to run, butt, and eat. Sal walks right up to me and looks up at me with those amber eyes and demands in his own way some sort of attention. I grab his head with both my hands and kiss him on the forehead. I scratch his ears and tell him he's the finest sheep in Vermont. Sal tells me, everyday, that a proper sheep is a Romney sheep. I then do the same for Joseph, my lamb. Then I dart my eyes over to Maude (the only purbred hoof on the farm) and tell her she's the chain that makes chainsaws go and she stomps a foot and walks away. There's one in every crowd.

I've spent time with a lot of farm animals. I've raised all sorts of poultry, rabbits, bees, reared a goat kid and rode in my college equestrian team. But sheep are the beasts of my future and will fill my barn someday. Me and a good border collie or two will make my small farm a great work of music. Black paws, dark hooves, sharp teeth, thick wool...

What more could a girl want?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

losing my religion

I'm hitting a point in my life as a small-scale producer that makes me question certain things. Since I started raising my own vegetables, eggs, baked-goods, and learning to source my dairy closer to home—I realized there is another abundant source of healthy natural food I've been ignoring: meat.

I've been a vegetarian for nearly a decade. I became one because it seemed like the logical and responsible personal choice after learning about the factory farm system. I didn't want to be a part of that, so I stopped eating all meat altogether. Honestly, I never missed it. Some people go vegetarian and start crumbling at the knees at the smell of sizzling bacon, but not me. Sure, I get a little nostalgic, but never had another bite after that choice was made. This made so much sense to me because all the meat in our stores was shipped from Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) but now that I'm living in the rural Northeast, and have so much local, grass-fed meat around me—I am beginning to wonder about that original decision's validity.... Within ten miles of this cabin there is free-range beef, lamb, and poultry. There is a rabbit farm, a thriving trout stream, and a freezer full of all these things wating for me at Wayside. Have I been avoiding meat out of plain old habit, or worse...pride? Have I been selfish, and wrong, to buy organic tofu from California trucked on a oil-guzzling rig all the way to Vermont when there was rabbit stew a walk down the road waiting for me?

Catherine Friend (the author of Hit By a Farm, a beginner shepherding book I adore) recently published a book called The Compassionate Carnivore, and it is amazing. Written by a small sustainable farmer in Minnesota, Catherine raises her own poultry, lamb, and beef. She spends an entire volume talking about the kindness for animals (and activism) local meat entails. I know to some of you that may sound batty. Some vegetarians will never look at eating any animal as compassionate - but hear me out. Her reasoning is solid.

Friend's argument for grass-fed, humanely-raised meat is simple—if you care about animal welfare, support the system doing it right. If you think the factory farm convention is cruel, don't put your money into that business. As consumers our dollars are our voting ballots. Paying for local, organic, meat shows the industry we not only refuse them, but will reward the farmers we feel are doing things better. This is simple business. The factory farm industry exists because it makes money. Personally, I don't care if they change their practices because it's bad business to mistreat animals, I just want those pigs out of those steal cages. When the big wigs in the meat packing industry see droves of people going back to their neighborhood farms...things will change. So will the lives of pigs. Catherine made me understand that eating happy meat makes these changes happen. I'm starting to doubt my old food religion. For me, it makes less and less sense.

You can eat all the veggie burgers you want, but buying fake meat makes you no longer collateral damage to the CAFO business. Vegetarians, by refusing to assist the small organic meat efforts, are simply quietly sitting out the controversy in this particular aspect. This is not an attack on vegetarians! This is exactly what I am doing! But you must understand that this persona decision to return to meat, as a future meat farmer, feels right. I want to support the farmers in my community letting their cows out on grass and letting their chickens dance in the sun. Actually, It seems ridiculous not to take part. I think I'm just balking at change. It feels like such a huge step after such a long time. What is it with me? I can move cross-country but eating a slice of my neighbor's cow feels like a major life change? Jeesh.

What do you folks think?

Friday, December 18, 2009

feast or famine?

anyone want some music?

I'm offering the farm's iPod up to the farm cause. It's a fairly new, silver, 8G iPod classic. It has over 600 songs loaded on it and two movies (Spinal Tap and a Wilco Documentary) and has plenty of space left to fill it up. It's also plumb-full of farm photos and a great chore playlist. Since my phone plays MP3's I don't need a double, and I'm happy to offer it to any music-loving reader who can't get enough Iron and Wine (live shows on here as well). If you're interested email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com and let me know your offer. Highest bid gets the prize. I'll throw in a Chuck Klosterman tail feather as well.

UPDATED: Sold! Thank you barb!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

the greenhorns!

dark mornings

I woke up to the sound of wind and coyotes. I pulled the covers up over my head and reached under the pillow for the knit hat and wool socks I put on before even getting out of bed. Jazz is aside me, and always seems bigger in the morning dark. I feel his fur and hear him sigh and feel warmer so I get up. I put on a the percolator, and the red kettle for my oatmeal, and turn on the radio to hear the news. Congress just passed the jobs bill. The dogs are both up now. I leash them and we go outside.

It's cold. Really, really cold. I'm wearing layers of wool, canvas, and an old fur musher's hat. Jazz and Annie pee quick then rush back inside for round two of their morning nap. I too go inside to fill up the chicken's water font I'd brought in to defrost late last night. When I go back outside it feels colder. I trudge through the icy slick to the coop. My flashlight scans the snow around the hen house for coyote prints. I'm relieved to see none. The birds their feed and water, and I return to the porch for a flake of hay.

I'm walking back to the cabin and see the porch light and stop to look. I realize how comforting this place is and for a moment feel warm. My little rented house is like a hot coal dropped in the snow. What a blessing to know I'll be back inside soon. I grab an armful of hay and head back out into the dark, but do so knowing breakfast and coffee are mine soon. I then realize another thing: I can't wait for the solstice. Dark mornings are grand in their own way, but I find mysself whispering Goethe's famous last words as I walk to my sheep...

"More Light."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

chance and slumber

I've had a bit of tunnel vision lately and for that, I apologize. I feel like the blog has taken on this manifest destiny of finding and buying a farm. Since Thanksgiving it has been a pretty chaotic sprint, but I'm starting to settle back into old routines and learning to just enjoy this place again. For a while the cabin turned into a problem that needed a solution. Now I've accepted that all I can do is, well, all I can do. For tonight this place is mine and the fiddle sounds just as sweet as it always has by the fireside.

Outside isn't as welcoming... The wind chill is supposed to drop to -10 and a steady light snow has been falling since I left the office. During my night rounds I tied an old blanket to the coop's chicken wire door, creating a windbreak from the snow. Winthrop watched me from his roost like a benevolent dictator as I struggled to do this before my hands went numb. That chicken always makes me feel like he was once Canadian Royalty. I guess it was nice of him to allow the help.

When the birds had fresh corn scratch and the door safely shut, I walked over the the sheep to make sure the defroster was earning its keep. The water wasn't frozen and no snow dared to set on it's rim. I felt like I won something and gave the flock their hay.

I used to get really stressed out and I'd call my friend Raven to talk me down. The best advice she ever gave me was this. She'd say, "Jenna. There is nothing else you can do about it tonight. You can't fix all your problems, or even begin to fix them, in one day. Just know that you're moving forward, did what you could, and nothing in the next twelve hours is going to change. So go make some tea, read a Harry Potter book, and breath."

And that is exactly what I'm doing. Well, almost. I'm reading that Five Acres book, not Rowling, but you get the drift. Sometimes you just need a friend to whack you over the head with the obvious so you can get a decent night's sleep. My teapot is on the stove heating up as I write you. After this long day, I'm resigning the next twelve hours to chance and slumber. This is what it must feel like to be a cat.

Jazz is with me, breathing heavy and asleep. He seems more tired lately. I try not to think about him growing old. I know how foolish that sounds. I only try.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

hive minded

Bees have been on my mind a lot lately. Late December is the time beekeepers start getting contemplative. We all know January is just around the corner: and that means it's almost time to order new nucs and dust off our gear. We become hive-minded, letting our thoughts turn to clover flower seeds and letting the back field get overtaken by dandelions. Our apiary's number is on the fridge. Our catalogs are on the coffee table. Our smokers and hive tools are down from the shelves. We're beekeepers and we want to keep some bees, son.

Yes, honey is on my mind... But with such an uncertain future ahead of me - I don't know what to do with these thoughts. I want to place my winter order and start preparing for a fresh hive but I have no idea where I'll be living in the summer, and that means a little extra planning if I want to start the early stages of my next hive.

I talked to my friend Roger today, knowing he may be able to shed some light on the predicament. He's a like-minded coworker if there ever was one. Roger works with me all day as a designer in the office, but goes home to his chickens, gardens, and bees. His wife and daughter are just as involved and excited in their backyard homestead as he is. We alays have something to talk about when we catch each other in the halls. So I felt like I could swing a deal his way. I asked him if he'd be willing to home the hive if I couldn't? Would he take the bees if I was in an apartment in the spring?

He gladly obliged.

I left the office today knowing I could order my new colony. If the bottom dropped out I could keep them at his place. He said I was welcome to stop by and tend them as needed until I could move the whole establishment to my own farm. I don't think he had any idea how happy that simple offer made me. I did a little dance in the snow walking out to my car. I can get bees again, even with the question marks. Hot Dog!

When you're living without a net you take these gifts as they come. I hope I never forget how good grattitude feels at 5:06 PM on a Tuesday.

Monday, December 14, 2009

books and boys

Everything outside is wet, slushy, and yucky. The beautiful snow that fell Sunday afternoon turned into rain, which turned the already fallen snow into mush. Now the farm is in a muck of dirty white and chicken tracks. If a snow cone machine threw up on a pile of mud—you'd be in Vermont.

I match the weather. My cold turned into a cough and I actually left the office at noon to come home and sleep. Which is exactly what I did. A long rest in front of the fireplace and a quart of downed orange juice later and I already feel better. I won't be succumbing to scurvy, anyway.

I'm reading a book many of you may already be familiar with: MG Kain's Five Acres and Independence. It's a handbook for managing a small farm, written for folks before they actually acquire one. It starts out by saying there are two types of people with the small farm dream: those who are sure to fail and those who are destined to succeed. (A 50/50 chance is pretty good odds!) The point of the book is to help new farmers figure out the messy stuff and all the pitfalls that go into buying, starting, and living on a small plot of land. So far it's brilliant. And I'm looking forward to diving into the renting vs buying chapter. I also got a used copy of Joel Salatin's You Can Farm which I look at as part two in my winter small farm home study program. Reading and notes is something I can do to now. It's information I need and helps me feel like I'm working towards something, even if all I'm doing is sitting up in bed with a husky head on my stomach. With Finn, the rabbits, goslings, hive and garden gone I feel like I have so much time now. I fill it up of course. There's always something to do. It just feels emptier.

On a totally separate note....I have a question for you guys, and when I say that, I mean it literally. Are there any men out there? I feel like the overwhelming audience of this blog is female (which makes sense, so am I) but us farm girls can't be the only clicks around here? I feel like the things I write about: farming, livestock, trucks, music, electric fences, dogs, killing roosters, etc are pretty macho. There's got to be some dudes reading this and just not causing a ruckus on the blog. I'm just curious if you're out there gentlemen? If you are, you should comment and say hello. If you don't I'll assume it's just us girls and start writing about eyeliner and tights on sale at Banana Republic.

hiking with jazz in the smokies

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I was outside early this morning. Part of me was fighting off cold and the other part was working on the sheeps' water tank. I had bought a defroster the day before in Bennington and was trying to read the installation instructions while crouched down near my munching flock. All three of my sheep were on the other side of the fence chewing the hay I just plopped at their feet. Occasinionally they'd lift their head in my direction as I mumbled between box, paperwork, and contraoption. When the defroster was installed and no one got electrocuted in the process: I considered it a small victory. No more cracking hooves through ice. No more dumping heavy rubber containers of igloo bricks. A little civility was delivered to the farm today.

After the water tank was set I headed over to the coop to grab the big white plastic bucket to refill the chicken fonts. Cyrus and Saro (who long ago learned what the white bucket stood for) followed me, waddling in the hard packed snow. I filled the bucket and set it aside for them to dunk their heads in and drink while I stacked more cord wood on the house pile. They drank and preened and I went about my chores. Then, overhead a flock of wild geese broke the quiet, causing a ruckus as they flew. I looked up but couldn't see them. They had to have been above the gray clouds. Then I looked over at my pair of geese and watched them react to the sounds of their wild cousins. Sometimes I wonder if they too want too take off? Cyrus looked up sideways, tilting his head at the sound, not moving or drinking. He seemed to be considering his options. I watched in anticipation. After a brief pause he dunked his head back in the bucket with a loud splash. I laughed and smiled as I went back to the wood pile.

Travel isn't for everyone.

etsy, snow, and books

I opened up my old Etsy shop again. It has everything from knit hats to headdresses, farm-recorded music to original watercolors... It showcases characters from the farm and songs on my dulcimer, banjo, and Irish Whistle. All proceeds go towards my future home. So browse away! There's a link on the right side of this blog.

I'm about to head into Manchester to do laundry and meet up with some readers at the bookstore in town. They are calling for icy rain and snow today, so I'm hoping to be back here at the farm before dark. If you're braving the weather to join me around two of my top three (Coffee, books, and dogs) you'll be a welcomed guest. Stay warm!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

clawing uphill

I spent the morning doing the odds and ends that make a small farm run. I bedded the chicken coop and sheep shed with fresh straw and filled up the grain bins with new feed. I carried out fresh water in heavy buckets to the sheep, dumping the old rubber bin of the spaceship of solid ice inside it. I put weight in the back of the pickup and called a tire store about getting snow tires on the rear wheels. After the spaceship incident I called a few feed stores to price water tank defrosters and found a sale at Tractor Supply. For twenty bucks a small device can be hooked up to an extension cord and float in the sheep's water and keep it from freezing solid in the night. That's money well spent, but money isn't being spent like it used to. I was never in a position to spend a lot of money, but from time to time treated myself to a lower end guitar and that used truck. Now that I'm saving and planning for a house in the spring, everything is taken into consideration of frugality and common sense. Things I used to never even blink and eye spending money on I now pass by. No more coffee at stores, the pot stays at home. No more renting videos or buying new clothes or toys I don't need. Christmas presents will be humble and I hope it doesn't offend anyone when they are. I understand if you want something (and lack a trust fund or inheritance) you need to work, sacrifice, and plan for it. So that's what I'm doing: the work that needs to be done and building my small nest egg for a down payment on that farm.

I'll be announcing my Etsy shop re-opening soon. I'll be selling a mix of watercolors, antiques, knitting, knick-knacks, instruments... anything I can part with. My banjo will be up for sale with a great backpacking case and extra strings and a strap. I'm also offering beginner fiddle and dulcimer workshops for locals, so please email me if you're interested. And if you have a watercolor ordered, but have not received it, could you do me a HUGE favor and email me a reminder with your name, address, and subject matter. My web-email program runs on slow dial-up. It makes looking through old emails a long, long, process. I'll be painting all weekend so be assured if you write, 'I'm the gal with Popeye the cat! Here's my address! Here's that photo again" you'll get it mailed next week. Just make sure files are small, like I said, dial-up.

I'm going to see Abi, Greg, and Finn today. I'll be brining his hay and hoof-trimming shears to show Abi how to do it for her alpacas, and to maintain hooves. If you go to her blog, Spiderwomanknits, you can see photos of Finn and her boys Hayden and Indy. It's a cool site and her taste in design, antiques, and her Etsy business are all top shelf. We have the same Lincoln Bread box in our kitchens. (You can trust people with like taste in retro kitchen appliances.) I'm beyond grateful for their help and yours as I claw my way into my own farm. When I get there, and I will, we need to throw a proper Antlerfest and celebrate.

Say you'll come? This farm stopped being just mine a long time ago...

P.S. I'll still be at Northshire Books tomorrow, is anyone still coming? The snow may be an issue?

photo by abi, off spideerwomanknits

Friday, December 11, 2009

annie loves the truck

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the hot middle

The storm took out my hollow's electricity last night. It also created a sheet of ice on my little private road that has just taken my truck hostage. Coming home from visiting neighbors, I started up my hill and it spun its tires till it (and I) gave up. My orange truck is currently fighting off the wailing wind, left where it was stuck a hundred yards from my cabin. In the morning my neighbor Roy (I hope) will rescue it with his big tractor. In my defense, I tried to get it unstuck for half an hour before chalking it up as a loss. Lesson 32,784 learned: the 2WD Ranger is a three season work horse.

The last two days have been focused on Finn. I brought him to work with me yesterday in hopes I could deliver him to his foster home on my lunch break. In preparation I turned the entire back section of the station wagon into a small barn stall. While the storm raged outside my goat lay quietly in his small den of hay, chewing cud and watching the storm from his warm front-row seat. Every so often I'd walk out to check on him, give him water or walk him on lead to stretch his legs, but he seemed to have other plans. Every time I came out to walk him he'd leap back inside and curl up in his nest. I didn't fight it. I'd wrap my scarf around my neck, dig my chin into my chest, and shiver and walk back inside myself. (I think Finn had the right idea there...)

When I got back inside I emailed his foster home, trying to make plans for the drop off. After a few back-and-forths both Abi and I agreed risking death to deliver livestock in a blizzard was a bad idea. So our plans were postponed till today. I won one last night with my goat.

When the work day was over the storm had passed and the temperature rose to nearly 40 degrees. The office parking lot was shining under the street lights, and not a single person was around when I returned to my car. I opened the hatch and watched him yawn and stand up. I snapped the lead to his collar. Together we walked in the perfect stillness of the corporate blacktop. A girl and her goat, in the glow of a street lamp, walking side by side in a weird place. This lasted moments but will stick with me the rest of my life: these days when the farm and my job melted into beautiful gasps of saturated instances like this. I wanted someone to see us, because it must have looked comical, then realized it was better alone. That was for him and me and it wasn't funny at all. It was goodbye.

When we got back to the cabin I let him leap out the back of the station wagon and knew the next time I would let him leap out of my car, it would be when I was bringing him to my new farmhouse. That sliver of my future was barely tasted, but understood. I have learned the subtle divinations a small farm grants us, not in tea leaves or tarot cards, but in the split second a goat jumps from the back of a beat up car. The whole world's in there I think—between the hairs and flash of black horn.

Finn went away today. He's in the loving and capable hands of Abi and Greg and their three children. I took him there on my lunch and let him run around the enclosure with two suspicious pacas. I could only stay a few moments, but that was best. When we started to leave the yard and Finn ran after me to follow me inside. My heart cracked a little at the fault lines. I waited till he was lost in close inspection of a dryer vent blowing warm air outside the house to slip away.

I cried on the drive back to work, half out of sadness for feeling like I abandoned him, and half out of gratitude for the kindness of his new family. The collateral damage from knowing I have to sink or swim is starting to wear me down and build me up at the same time. I'm treading water like never before, and feel like someone punched me in the jaw. I white-knuckled the steering wheel and promised myself I'd get my farm and get him back. He was going to jump out of this car again, no question.

No one tells you this stuff when you buy goat care books at Borders.

I spent most of the day fretting about Finn. Worried he'd be too much for the alpacas, that they'd reject him from their small herd. Or worse, that he'd head butt a toddler or eat the house paint. But tonight when I checked my email I found this:

Hi Jenna :)

I just panicked b/c I couldn't find Finn outside. So Greg went out to look for him and we couldn't see him because he was wedged between two Alpaca Fleeces! Snug and cozy in the hot middle! Lucky little guy!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

watercolor update

Just wanted to check in and update you folks on the watercolors. I have painted five, started three more, mailed three, and more are on the way. I can't do them as fast as I thought, and last week I didn't paint any (due to the fiasco). But now I'm back in my groove and wanted you folks to know I haven't forgotten you, and if you asked for one you can expect it in the next few weeks. I would like to have them done by Christmas. Thank you again, for all of you who took part in this. I also have a few just floating around I may post and see if anyone is interested in giving a home.

what a storm...

40 mph winds, 6+ inches, horrid roads, and a goat in the back of my Subaru...

more tonight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

the red kettle and big plans

The snow that fell here Saturday night never melted. Outside a thin inch still coats the farm. Only the hundred tiny triangles of goose feet line the path between the coop and the cabin porch. It feels like winter is finally here. In the mornings I have to fill up the red kettle with water and let it whistle before I can go outside. I use the hot steaming kettle to melt the ice on the bird font and Finn's bucket. I learned that Finn will chug cold water and start to shake from the influx. Like how you and I get the chills after eating icecream on a cool night. So I pour hot water in with the cold from the outside faucet and let him drink luke warm water from the big white bucket. Maybe this is babying him: but no one should start their day shaking. Saturday I plan on taking him to his foster home long as Abi and Greg oblige it. I'm really going to miss this little guy around here.

But like so many of you have noticed, this is good. All this business since Thanksgiving has given me some beautiful tunnel vision. My head is down and I'm working hard towards this goal of having my own farm by late spring. So far I've talked with financial advisors, realtors, mortgage lenders and neighbors. The town of Sandgate knows I'm looking. Word is out, homework is being done, credit cards are being paid off and information is coming at me from every direction. I believe this will happen. I'm just not completely sure how yet...

There are a few places for sale in town but the only one in my possible price range is right on the road with once acre. It doesn't feel right. Specially when for a little more there are places scattered all over eastern New York and other parts of Vermont with 5+ acres. I found a 144 year old farmhouse across the state line in Jackson NY with 6.5 acres, a barn, pasture...the works! Knowing these places are around, even if they aren't or can't be mine yet, is comforting. I just have to hope that soon my life and finances will be in order. If the world can offer me something simple, something humble, I will make it into an empire. A small house and three acres with these hands...my god, I could make that place sing! Mark my words. If I get my own place. There will be lambs.

Keep me in your thoughts. I'm not all that superstitious, but I do think if enough good intentions can focus, amazing things can happen. I mean, crikey, today I got a Christmas card from France. FRANCE!? Someone in France is thinking about this cabin and thought to mail me a card? I read it in the headlights of my truck and just grinned like an idiot. If friends who have yet to meet me an ocean away are keeping Cold Antler in their thoughts, maybe some locals around here with hints about houses and land may be too. I'm just going to keep my head up, nose clean, bills paid and do what I have to do. I'll sell the truck, all my instruments, whatever it takes. This girl is getting her home. Hers and no one else's.

When I'm ready the right place will be available, right? It'll happen?

alan and suzanne's new sign!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

a snowy potluck

I got to the potluck sometime around 4:45. The line of trucks and Subarus outside let me know I wasn't alone. It had been snowing for a few hours and Town Hall was covered in proof. I parked, grabbed my pie, and walked inside. Any tension I may have been carrying from earlier in the day came off with my insulated vest. I hung it on the coat rack and took a long look at the scene. Inside the place was full of children running around, a decorated tree, and adults setting up the covered dishes. There was hot coffee (which I gravitated to like a moth to the flame) and familiar faces everywhere. Alan, my neighbor (and fellow musher) was there in a santa hat. He called me yesterday to remind me about the potluck and I was glad he did. How could I have missed this? I walked over with my pie and told him about my day and all the news I had about my place. He told me about their new sled dog, Tarot.

When I moved to Vermont the Tschorns' had one dog, a little coyote look-alike named Nina. Three winters later and now they have six. Six dogs and a dog box built on the back of their truck, a dogsled, and a Siberian Husky now graces the sign of the family business in Arlington. He showed me video of running a cart on the train tracks earlier in the week with a giant team. He showed this to me like grandparents show baby pictures. Allan's love of his dogs, and his new sport, makes him and his wife Suzanne glow.

As I mingled and shook hands with neighbors. When I wasn't talking I'd stop to and look around the walls of our small meeting place. Photos of men working with horses in the field, maps of the town lines, photographs of the old matriarchs and patriarchs of our village, lined the wood paneling. And here I was in a snow fall, after a long day with friends, and ending it with a hot meal in community celebration. There's feeling lucky, there's feeling blessed, and then there's being a resident of Sandgate Vermont. Why would ever I want to live anywhere else?

Then a knock on the door and a ringing of sleigh bells! Santa came inside in full regalia and walked around the entire room shaking hands and ho ho hoing. The little kids looked up in awe. The older kids smiled, probably remembering what the whole thing was like when they were four. Santa took a seat under the tree and parents lined up with their kids for wishlists and goodie bags. I sat in a folding chair in the back, spectating.

Those of us without children made the night social. I talked with my friends Phil and Marybeth. Phil plays guitar in my open mic night band along with Steve (who you remember from the death of Chuck Klosterman). I also got to meet some neighbors I didn't really know all that well before, like Joan and Valerie. Valerie, a local farmer a few decades older than me, talked sheep and animals with me and when I mentioned I was looking for my own farm in town her ears perked up. I told her I wanted to become a permanent resident she replied in a stoic, Vermonter kinda of way. "Good. We want people like you around here." and then returned to the business of pork roast and sautéed potatoes. I tried not to bust into a grin. It was like being stamped and approved at Ellis Island.

We all sang Christmas Carols with Santa and waved him goodbye and he walked out into the snow. Kids ran around inside and out. A local farmer handed everyone a gift of a dozen brown eggs and I gave my goodbye hugs and headed home. I had nothing planned for the evening but Ken Burn's National Parks Disc One, but damn, I was excited to get back to the cabin. Events like this make me feel lucky to have landed here...I know my future's a little shaky right now—but god willing I'll be able to buy some of this place in the spring, even if it's two acres for my three sheep and a garden. I want to show up to Town Meeting next year voting on the road crew and budget as a tax-paying, home-owning, resident.

And if I'm at that town meeting, you can rest assured I'll motion it's followed by a potluck. There just aren't enough of them.

sunday community brunch

Next weekend I'll be in Manchester for sure, doing laundry and errands and such. I was thinking with so many readers in the local area, we should get together. Want to have a CAF meet-up at the Northshire Bookstore? Nothing formal, just coffee and talking. They have good local food and we can get together to talk about our interests in homesteading, talk about farm issues, or just laugh with caffeine. It'll be warm and toasty in there and we can bring knitting, photos, or fiddles that need tuning. I think it'll be fun and a nice break from all the crazy holiday shopping and running around going on in town. So if you want to get together, let's meet at the bookstore in Manchester at noon next Sunday (RSVP in the comments please). No requirements to own chickens or a cow to attend.

lamb's first snow