Friday, August 13, 2010

sunset at common sense farm

Thursday, August 12, 2010

shepherding takes some attitude

farm shape update

It's been over a month and I am still running, nearly every day. Since early July I have only missed three days of exercise and now I find myself needing it to feel content with the day. It hasn't become any easier. I still huff and puff and sweat buckets: but I have learned to get used to the discomfort. I can now run three miles at a time, and do a few times a week. When I get a mile and a half from the farm and turn around on a hillside looking over route 22, I am both daunted and amazed my swarthy little body got me that far—carried me over land like a little ship.

I haven't lost any weight. Which is frustrating but my doctor tells me I am building muscle and losing inches, even if the scale starts to gain pounds. I believe him. My body is tighter, my jeans a little looser. The other day a coworker asked me if I lost weight and I had to sheepishly admit I had not, gained some actually. But I do think it's a stronger me just finding herself under my skin. If I stick to this routine, and eat well, stretch, and meditate I think I will eventually shed those twenty pounds. I am in no large rush. After all, I can only run so fast.

visit my booth at the festival!

I'll be at the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival! I applied for a booth and was approved. Come by and say hi at the Washington County Fairgrounds the weekend of Sept 25th & 26th. I'll be selling books, yarn, angora rabbits, farm antiques (maybe)and home-knit goods. I might also offer photography prints if I can get them made proper in time. It'll be a great fundraiser for the farm and who knows, if I'm really lucky the farm will cover the October mortgage. This is my first-ever festival and I'm excited to be selling my farm-wares for the inaugaral time in a public setting like this. More updates as they come, but for now just wanted you locals to save the date.

here i am

There was a package hanging from my mailbox when I got home. I immediately recognized the name, David Shearer, and smiled. David and the Shearer family are shepherds in California. On a recent trip out east David contacted me and shared a cup of coffee with Gibson and myself at Common Grounds in Cambridge. We sat outside the cafe and talked about his farm, my farm, and our experiences in getting started. It was a brief, but kind, visit.

So when I opened the box and pulled out a pair of giant truck magnets reading "Cold Antler Farm - Jackson NY" I grabbed my breath in m y throat and just stared at it. I laughed a little at the irony. I had just given up my truck's green plates and now I had a much larger set to slap on the sides of the pickup. RIght there in the driveway I put on magnet on the tailgate and stepped back. I took in the whole scene. The white house, the recently mowed lawn, the sweeping old Maple, the sheep on the hillside, the chickens scurrying past the front door.... and then returned my focus to the sign on the back of my truck. Cold Antler Farm. Here I am.

Thank you, David.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Dear Friends,

Please, go to and download the Eye On The Sky Stargazing Party show.It will be available later tonight or tomorrow and you can burn it to a CD or MP3 player. Then, take a boom box or your ipod, a blanket, and find yourself a dark place to watch the sky. From tonight until the 14th of August the Perseid meteor showers are going on and tonight in Jackson they were breathtaking. I saw one so bright and close it was as thick as my pinky held up to the sky and as white as heat. You'll have to start the show at 9pm to make sense of where things are in the sky, but I'm pretty sure if you're in the northern hemisphere you will be able to follow along. I adored this. I think I started a new tradition tonight.


barn cat at riding right's main barn

cooperstown trials

I'll be heading down to Cooperstown, NY this weekend for the Leatherstocking Sheepdog Trials. Saturday morning Gibson and I will load up the truck for a day and hit the road at the crack of dawn to make it to the trial field before the handlers meeting. We'll bring all the essentials: a folding chair, cooler of cold drinks and sandwiches, binoculars, notebook and pen. Sheepdog trial gear is pretty much what you'd bring for a mix of extreme bird watching and low-key tailgating.

I can't wait. It'll be a fine day of watching dogs work, talking with shepherds, and seeing those classic Scottish Blackface sheep on the trial field. My trainer and herding instructor is hosting the event, and some of my future sheep will be out there on the grass. I hope to talk with her about setting up Gibson's first lessons in early October. Maybe someday that will be us out there, trying our luck.

If you're in the area come out and join me. Trials are a great family activity too, with plenty to watch if your kids are into animals. I'll be the girl with the 5-month-old puppy in the green John Deere chair, come say hi and see the big show.

photo by sara stell

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

dusk in the pasture

if you live near maine....

There's a Greenhorns event coming atcha! If you are able to head north and be a part of it, it will be well worth it. The Greenhorns is a new, young farmer initiative and film project. Their events support small farmer and sustainable solutions for modern agriculture. They have a ton of resources for beginners and I was lucky to attend one of their sheepcentric-events this past spring. Not only did it make me even more excited about becoming a shepherd: it started a friendship with the people at Kinderhook farm. Now we're planning farm visits and dinners, and the chance to talk with and grill successful farmers will be wonderful.

Learn more about it here!

Monday, August 9, 2010

august ram: canceled

I have decided to delay the ram's delivery and it may have cost me the ram. I emailed the breeder and explained to take him in August I would have to separate my flock into gender, leaving Maude alone in her own paddock or the ram alone in his. I don't like leaving herd animals alone like that. I did it for a while with Finn and he was far happier when she was shacking up with Alpacas and other goats. A ram in a box seemed like a lot of stress for all of us. For the ram, for me, for the sheep and Finn on the other side of the fence.

I couldn't just throw him in with the flock. If I didn't separate the boys and girls for at least two months: I'd have lambs in February. A new shepherd without a warm barn and lambing jugs needs later season pasture lambing. It wasn't a good idea.

No, an August ram wouldn't be fair to anyone. And the breeder did state she would not sell him to anyone who would keep him alone...I think the breeder was disappointed in changing the dates. She said if he was still available in late fall she'd let me know. I should have told her I couldn't possibly take him that early, but I didn't realize the consequences till recently and I just didn't know what else to do. I can't just have animals here for the sake of having animals. A breeding ram stuck alone in a pen doesn't seem fair, he should be with a flock of other rams/wethers. Does anyone else keep rams alone? How do they fare?

So no ram this month, sorry for jumping the gun. I made an ass out of myself to the breeder, but I'd rather eat crow and go back on the arrangement then have a ram in my fields I wasn't ready for. I made a mistake setting up delivery dates but at least I stopped before I pulled the trigger.

I am beginning to realize I shouldn't be sharing news off the cuff like this. While I don't mind sharing all my mistakes and updates right as they happen. The fallout of emails and angry feedback is getting heavy. I can take whatever criticism you have to offer, but I prefer advice. I can learn from advice and fix my mistakes, but angry emails just leave two people's day worse.

banjo for sale


finn comes back the 28th!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

that's that.

all the fireflies are gone now.

we're getting one like this, sal

home companions

I've been savoring these cool end-of-summer nights. It really feels like fall is near. last night I dug two flannel shirts out of storage and washed them for that extra fluffy just-out-of-the-dryer feeling and set them by the back door. At 6PM I had a date planned. Me, the pasture, the flock, and my man Garrison.

Up under the apple tree I set down a blanket and the crank radio and listened to Prairie Home Companion. I like this spot, this repose. Leaning back with my hands behind my head, listening to the latest goings-on at Lake Wobegon: I was rather content. I wasn't alone long. I shook my staff at the tree above and apples fell with a plop. Sal came loping over and a small platoon of chickens came marching up to join us (they like apples too). I liked hearing the rhubarb pie song with the birds cooed and Sal hovered and then tucked his front legs under for a rest. Sal often comes and lays beside me. He's a sucker for an ear scratch and knows I''m the baroness of all things apple. So we enjoyed each other's company on the hill and watched the farm. Home Companions, indeed.

June Carter is doing well. Quite the barn cat, her. She's fast and clever and scrappy as hell. As I watched from my perch, I saw her sit right in the middle of the chickens and nibble around the cracked corn along with the birds. Possibly catching crickets, possibly eating feed. I guess her cat chow wasn't cutting it.

I just had six rabbits and four cages picked up by a reader, Susan and her friend (who generously offered her truck to carry off the load). I was glad to see the animals off to a farmer who wanted them so much, and was happy to add them to her menagerie. I realized the rabbits weren't that much work at all, but I had simply taken on too much, too fast. A common beginner's mistake. So today I scaled down to just six rabbits. I still have my pair of original breeding angoras and four meat rabbits ranging around the farm. I may very well keep the Cali doe over winter too in case I want to breed again, but the rest have a certain fate. By Labor Day all the meat rabbits and remaining Cornish Crosses will be freezer-bound. I may need to consider a chest freezer...that's eight animals and my freezer still has spring rabbits and chickens.

So this was an interesting update: serene hilltop entertainment and kitten antics along with livestock sales and slaughter plans. What is this place, but a farm?

P.S. No dates ever did come of my man post in July. I got a few kind responses but none of them felt right. Some were too far away, or a few decades ahead of me, or just felt wrong for me. (There were five responses of single men, and a few dozen encouraging emails from women and married men telling me good luck.) But who know's? A new season is just around the bend. Perhaps this October will be the best one yet...