Wednesday, January 6, 2010

the beginning of an end

I came home to find a note in the mailbox from my landlord. My stomach instantly went empty. That feeling you get when a plane just drops from turbulence or you miss the bottom step. I stood outside in front of the Subaru's headlights to read the notice in the dark. It said—in a polite and calm tone—that she would be moving back to Vermont this summer and doing renovations on the cabin. She would soon be mailing me a notice to Vacate on or before May 1st.

After I read it I just stood there. I stood there with that same hollowness you feel when you realize something you thought was real, wasn't. Like when you finally understand your love for someone is totally unrequited (I'm actually an expert on this) or Santa wasn't real. Tonight, reading that letter, I finally understood Cold Antler wasn't real either—it was always someone else's. You could have pushed me over with a feather.

I understand that four month's notice is generous and ample time to pack up and move. I understand that a kind note sent to alert me of a notice was courteous and friendly. (I have no ill will towards my landlord, at all. She is just doing what landlord do.) I get all that. I am not an irrational person. It doesn't make the feather-pushability go away.

I want to write something to you about the amazing affirmation the note was. How it was just validating my own plans and dreams, and that the universe is colliding to make my life happen as I visualize it. But honestly, I don't feel any of that. I'm terrified. I. Am. Absolutely. Terrified. I'm sitting in a ticking time bomb and have no idea how I'm going to pull this future farm off. I always thought I would be the one sending a notice to my landlord. I thought this place would be mine for years...That I could live here until I was ready to move onto the next big thing and plan my life around that. But things have changed so much since the holidays started. So much.

If it was just me and the dogs, this wouldn't even be cause to blink. I've done that time and time again within a month, no sweat. But this is no longer moving a girl and some huskies to an apartment in Bennington—this is trying to move an entire lifestyle. I have to find a place for me, a flock of sheep, a coop of birds, and two dogs in what is now just sixteen weeks. I need to either get myself into a position to buy, quick, or find another small plot of land that will let me rent for another year while I save. That second idea means finding a landlord somewhere in the area that welcomes a working small farm. It's not impossible, but unlikely. If I can't buy a small home with a bit of land in time, I will have to find new homes for the remaining animals (not Jazz and Annie - they will never leave my side) and abandon the farmlife for a while. The idea that this is a likely possibility feels like someone just knocked the wind out of me.

Like I said. Terrified.

Now, with all that said, there is a bit of gossip in town that gives me hope. A small house on an acre and a half on the other side of Sandgate might be for sale. It's nothing fancy, but the locals say it's in solid condition and the woman who inherited the cabin recently lives in California and doesn't want it. Which means it mightbe up for sale and in my modest price range. I called the contact that the owners of the Wayside gave me, but I haven't heard back from her yet. I am hoping the rumor is true. Crossing my fingers. Knocking on wood. If it is, it will give me the slightest bit of comfort on a night humming with anxiety.

I know I'll be okay. I know this will somehow work out, even if the situation isn't ideal and involves a lot of heartache. I knew this was all coming. I was just hoping it was coming in late summer, or maybe fall. I just wish I had a little more time to figure this all out. I'll keep you posted, and please, wish me luck on this mess.

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.