Friday, September 17, 2010

the bucolic plague

I rarely recommend books on this blog, and that's not because there aren't great books out there about small-scale farming and homesteading—it's because I have barely any time to read. Running Cold Antler and holding down a job have made 98% of my reading time of the audio variety. I have listened to stories read to me by authors (Usually three or four a week. Thank you public library), but rarely do I sit down and read the old fashioned way.

For this book, I had to. It wasn't available at the library or on iTunes, so I bought The Bucolic Plague. It was wonderful. A memoir of a Manhattan couple who bought a 60-acre farm on a whim and ended up falling in love with it. The writer, Josh Kilmer-Purcell (ex drag queen turned advertising executive) is hilarious, smart, and keenly observant about everything going on in his life, with Brent, and 88-boarded dairy goats in Sharon Springs, NY. The story of how they found home, built a farm, and became a part of a town is honest. This is not the sappy "city-turned-country" feel-good book. Instead it's a romance, between two worlds and two people, and how both need to adapt to change and personal (and financial) adversity.

I read the book in two days. When it was over I ended up on their website and watching their TV show on iTunes. This weekend is their annual Harvest Festival in Sharon Springs, just an hour and a half south of Jackson. I don't think I can make the trip, but I will one of these fall weekends to visit the store and say hello.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

i'll know my name as it's cold again

night rounds

six months

dulcimer players!

Leave a comment and let me know when you're showing up at the farm! I was planning on 10-2 with extended playing if anyone wants to? Quite the crowd should be showing up for the workshop, some driving all the way from Atlanta! I'll get us ready with cider and apple cake, and we'll have the whole farm to practice on. The leaves are out, the goat's still here, and I look forward to hosting the day!

The mountain dulcimer is an instrument I fell in love with when I lived in Tennessee. It's a great intro to music because it's so easy to play. How easy you might ask? Well, here is my friend Sara (grant it, a music teacher) with her new dulcimer. She recorded this the first few days of owning one!Click here to see a video of Sara, one of the folks coming to the farm this weekend (from PA!) and her rendition of Fleet Foxes on her new dulcimer!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

it's official!

Cold Antler Farm has a New York State tax ID number, and is working on a genuine business plan for the next three-five years of growth. The paperwork has been filed, the research began, and now the next phase can slowly evolve!

I needed the tax ID to sell goods at the Fiber Show in late September: so it was circumstance that is pushing me towards planning what the farm will be. I have no plans to quit my job, or farm full time, but I do want the animals' products to cover their own feed and care: eggs, wool, lamb, workshops, etc.

So I start on paper.

pour water into the bag

I planned for rain yesterday, but the weather report was wrong. The storm waited until the morning and met me at 5AM in the sheep pasture. It was a steady rain that joined me for my morning fence check. The sheep had once again pulled out the lower wire (their thick wool doesn't even register the shock) and to make sure the fence is still goat proof I need to check it several times a day to make sure nothing is grounded and the charge flows. So there I was, in my stood-up rain shower with a flashlight trying to pull the wire tight enough to get it on the corner insulator. When all was done I poured more water on the ground wire and flipped the switch. You can hear the charger click and see the wires give a little shake. I'll check it with my fence tester shortly. If it flashes red at the weakest part: it's on. I pack up my gear and head inside with a sigh. I want coffee, bad.

They should really brew a farmers coffee, none of the store bought stuff is strong enough to make up for rain-soaked faux-electrician work: just pour water into the bag and chew.

Finn is still here, and thanks to Annie's third line of wire and the 30-mile charger we are keeping him inside the pen. He must have gotten zapped a few times because he has stayed in even when the fences were down occasionally: a good sign he's learning a little about proper domestication. Someone was supposed to take him home to their farm Sunday, but canceled last minute and now isn't returning emails. Pre-buyers regret? He needs a new home by Thanksgiving—that's for sure.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

stowaways outside the kitchen window

september mornings

By 5:38 I was up. I had not set my alarm, but apparently the extra hour was all the sleep my body wanted (or needed) anymore. I had gone to bed early the night before, around 10. I had had a long day that started on the back of a horse, rounded out with a five-mile run, and ended with a bowl of pasta. I love hooves, heart rates, and carbs. I enjoyed all three, with gusto, but they tend to wear a woman out. After nearly eight hours of sleep (twice of what I normally get a night) I felt like I'd go crazy if I went back to bed.

It was dark outside, 2AM dark. A few weeks ago 5:38 would be full daylight and morning chores would be done in a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. This morning seemed chilly, and I was already barking for coffee. I stood up in the dark farmhouse and went about a favorite fall ritual: candle mornings. I lit the Jack-o-lantern on the stove and a few pumpkin-shaped votives in giant quart-sized canning jars. The big globe around the flame reminded me of hurricane lamps. I lit another orange candle in the living room and let Gibson out of his crate. He had been whining for a while now. His whimpers are short and high, chirps really. When I first heard them I thought the battery was low on the smoke alarm. But in the gentle light, started with out an alarm clock, his whines were more melodic then piercing. I let him out, leashed him up, and stepped out into the light of the lamp post in the front yard. Gibson peed like a champ.

Then the ruckus started.

The sheep realized their servant was up. All three erupted in a chorus of baaing followed by the nickering of Finn. They raced down the hill from the shed to the gate. Soon after they started hollering the chickens caught on and crowed and clucked to be let out of the coop. The semi-feral rabbits started to circle me (they knew I would be throwing down grain shortly for the birds) and June Carter howled from a nearby tree stump. Gibson barked and lunged at the noise. This was a full-blown hootenanny. I was silently grateful everyone who moves to Washington County has to sign a waiver saying they understand they are in an agricultural area. All my neighbors (though I doubted any were up yet) couldn't call the cops about the party I was throwing. They literally signed up for it.

I took G inside and fed him back in the crate and started coffee on the stove. I then walked Jazz and Annie, fed the sheep and Finn two flakes of hay, dumped some cat food, and scattered chicken feed outside the open coop door. I grabbed yesterday's eggs and realized I only had four in my hands. This meant about thirty were hidden on a pile somewhere else and I would probably find them when I moved the hay bales later. Farming is mostly outsmarting your animals, or learning to play their games in a way that lets them think they won; and you still get omelets.

Within moments the hungry noise had been replaced by chewing mouths and gentle coos. Why had none of my beginner farming books described the whole point of a job well-done before coffee was if everyone shut up? I went inside, content that everyone outside was well fed.

I started my coffee, grabbed my book, and let Gibson join me on the daybed. Under the quilts I snuggled with a memoir (Reading the Bucolic Plague and loving it) and on top of them he snuggled with a rawhide bone. Jazz and Annie were already back asleep in the dim morning light. The coffee I had started before walking the dogs was perking. The outside animals were quiet. My dogs content. It was how I wanted to start every day for the rest of my life.