Saturday, March 6, 2010

hope and force

Spring is starting to hit Vermont, slowly but surely. The days are getting sunshine and creeping into the 40s. Snow is melting in the valleys and ice fishing is becoming an extreme sport. Mornings like this are met with frozen outdoor faucets and require hats and gloves—but my noon everything feels like it's trotting into spring. My farm-mind is on delay: knowing I can't order spring poultry or start staking out garden plans because of the coming move. But a delay doesn't mean pause. I think about what's ahead this summer constantly. Trying to map out plans for everything from hen houses to rotational grazing aparati.

Pablo Neruda wrote in the Song of Despair "Oh the mad coupling of hope and force...." That line is always humming inside me. While Pablo is writing about love, it sure as hell can apply to the feelings I have about finding my own farm. It perfectly sums up the emotional situation I find myself in now. Strung between wanting something so bad I can already feel my bare feet in the dark garden soil—and knowing the effort, expense, and grit it's going to take to get me there. Hope and force, indeed.

I'm starting to get excited and nervous about the Jackson farm. So far the home buying process has gone smoothly, but it's not a done deal until the USDA confirms the mortgage. As I write you, the loan is getting underwritten and the house has been appraised. All that's left to do is wait and hope all goes as planned. I should know within the coming week. Soon as I hear word, either way, I'll let you know.

Friday, March 5, 2010

on my mind

I love a waltz. I really do. I bet if you pressed a glass to my sternum you'd hear my heartbeat in 3/4 time.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

sometimes i get emails like this at work

subject line: RUNAWAY SHEEP!

Hi Jenna,

Someone just called to tell me your 3 sheep are heading west (toward Kimballs) on the West Sandgate road. Do you want me to try to retrieve them?

UPDATE: I went back to Sandgate as soon as I got this email, and when I returned so did the sheep. They walked to the end of town on the dirt road, got bored, and walked back. When I pulled into the drive they were in the chicken coop eating scratch grains and making chickens angry. But I got them back in their pen, repaired the fence, and went back to the sanity of web design.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

turkey tracks

That sunny afternoon I was basking turned out to be a bit of a stretch. Yesterday morning I woke up to snow. Not a lot, mind you, but indeed snow. It was a good slap in the face. A wake up call that winter was far from over. Welcome to March! I was outside feeding the chickens when I noticed new footprints in the freshly fallen snow. These weren't from the flock, these were a different bird. These were turkey tracks, and I could see the path of a parade of wild hens I must have missed in the night. I was surprised how nostalgic it made me for raising turkeys, something I never thought I'd miss. But raising a poult here on the farm a few springs ago and seeing him through to a friend's Christmas table was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had on Cold Antler.

I want a small flock of turkeys again. I think Midget Whites. Even if my family won't dine on them there are plenty of folks at work looking for a naturally raised free-range bird come the holidays. It's something to think about if the Jackson house comes through. Unlike sheep or gardens, the birds wouldn't need the capital and fences up front like a flock of shetland or scottish blackface ewes would. I could raise ten turkeys for the price of one registered sheep and use the cash from selling the birds at Thanksgiving to put into a farm fresh savings account. It's time to start planning for the future of this place as a working farm and not just my own personal supermarket. If you have any suggestions for cottage industries like that, fire away in the comments. I'm all ears.

Also, and this is just a PSA. I got a catalog from Gardens Alive yesterday, and there was a coupon on it for 25 bucks off my first order. No catch. If I ordered something under 25 it was free! This place sells everything from kitchen top portabella mushroom kits to giant compost turners so if some of you want a free start to this spring's garden seeds, vermicomposter, or bat house—look those guys up. Call and see if you can get the same deal.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


high spirits. low bars.

What a difference a day makes. Friday night I was shivering in the dark under a blanket and today it's a balmy 40 degrees and sunny as hell. The power came back on yesterday afternoon while I was in town. Coming home to a warm cabin and an armload of clean laundry was downright decadent compared to the days prior.

I felt good this morning. Really good. I woke up and took care of the morning chores, and then hopped into the shower before a truck trip. Annie and I had a date with the feed store and some groceries. Two girls, the open road, an orange truck and the sun fighting off the wet flurries that the morning teased us with. What a fine feeling that was. I turned up the music and put my arm around my dog, kissing her on the forehead. Damn, I was happy. Contentment belongs to those of us with high spirits and low bars.

We loaded the truck with straw and feed at Whitman's down in North Bennington, and then stopped to pick up some groceries. I wanted to work on my cheese making in the afternoon so I was kinda pumped to see that organic whole milk was on sale. I grabbed a gallon and put it in my cart. I could nearly taste the salted warm curd, grinning as I strutted m cart past the eggs. I don't think the other shoppers in Bennington had any idea I was off to turn my kitchen into a dairy. I'm a little embaressed to say I strutted as I wheeled my cart down the dairy isle past the five-dollar-a-carton brown eggs. Not only did I remember to put on mascara and was having a crackerjack hair day—I don't buy eggs. I got my own supplier. Twelve hens in the backyard.

It's the little things.

I just came inside from checking on the chickens (egg production is through the roof!) and realized I was over dressed in my thermal shirt with a flannel over top. Standing there in the sun, I looked around at the melting snow and bleating sheep and for the first time really started thinking about watermelons.

Yes. This will be the year I slice into my own Moon and Stars heirloom watermelons. Every year I try and something goes bonkers. I planted them in the wrong spot, the chickens pecked them to pieces, or I finally got an orb started on the vine and killed it with a hoe by mistake turning over the dead snap pea vines... But this year I'm doing it. Mark my words: come August there will be melons.

I'm off to make cheese, play guitar, and write about some music. You folks behave yourselves. Don't let all this sunshine go to your heads.