Friday, September 24, 2010

gibson's a fast fast dog

photo by Tim Bronson, though I colorized and cropped the hell out of it.

national sheepdog finals

If you're a fan of sheepdog trials you need to tune into the National Sheepdog Finals happening in Virginia this week. And I mean that literally, because there will be a live streaming webcast you can watch with your family and friends at home. Gibson's father, Riggs, will be there as will one of his trainers, Barb Armata. It's the biggest event for sheepdogs in America. If you live nearbye the trial field it would be well worth it to see these dogs in action down in Middletown, Virginia

Click here for the webcast and results!

what are you doing here?

The blog has changed a lot over the years. What started as a journal, turned into a story. That story turned into a community. Now when I write here I feel like I'm starting a conversation with friends instead of scribbling into a book. I love it.

But why do you read this blog? I'm asking because I'd like to know more about what it is you enjoy reading here so I can deliver content you enjoy. Do you want recipes? DIY projects? Stories? Or do you like the freeflow of stuff that spills out of my wooly head? If there is something you used to enjoy but see less of, let me know. I'll do my level best to make CAF online a place where everyone is full and happy, like a Chinese Buffet, you know, with sheep.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the first hat

I finished my first ever backyard-raised piece of clothing tonight: a knit hat. This chunky, imperfect, hat was grown on my sheep sal's back. It was sheared by Jim McRae here at Jackson while puppy Gibson and I watched. It was washed, soaked, dried, carded, and hand spun into simple white yarn and then knit into a simple hat. Tomorrow morning I will wear it to feed my sheep. As the winter comes in it will keep me warm. Next year's hats will be keeping the sheep warm. It's a good system.

There is nothing more basic on a sheep farm than this. I am wearing the hat right now as I write you in my little office. I am smiling, and not because I made a hat out of livestock: but because the hat reminds me so much of myself: Chunky, imperfect, messy, and created by a farm. I accept them both as a wild sort of beautiful.


It's the Autumnal Equinox, and the farmer is glad. Cold Antler is slowly sighing into the end of our year. I used to see a year's time as January to January, but that is no longer the case. My 2010 started when the ground thawed in March and will end around Halloween. This is the Northeastern-American time table of food-starting with snap peas and broccoli starts and ending with an apple cider pressing party next weekend. The spring, summer, and fall are my new time measurement and the winter a purgatory or planning and reckoning. I like this way of learning the world and following time. I makes sense to me.

The scorecard's been tallied and it turns out all the mistakes were lessons, the arguments conversations, and the frustrations more character. Living closer to the land can be as poetic and spiritual as you want it to be, but for me it's mostly realizing I'm a work in progress. I'll cultivate myself along the way, too.

Gibson starts his first herding lessons soon. A whole new chapter of my life starts the day I grab his leather lead and we step out of the truck together at our instructor's farm. It's a long time coming. I will let out such a sigh of relief when I stand in the training pasture by his side. We made it this far. We'll farm together. He's my friend, partner, and future. I adore my black dog.

I feel like I am always at the beginning, no longer how much I do this dance. At one time that may have frustrated me, but I am starting to learn the passion and excitement of a beginner's mind is worth the hassle. A mind is a lot like produce: it's better fresh.

winthrop's a music fan

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

for sale

If anyone would like to make an offer on this vintage farmer's tricycle, please email me at Its frame is solid, but needs basic updates to the chain and brakes. I was told it was from the late 1920s when I bought it.

I'd like to keep it, but with so many costs coming into winter, and so much still ahead of me to build, move, and pay for I need to sell off some luxury items such as this. The Gibson guitar and a Czech fiddle already sold on Ebay. I'd like to offer this to a local or reader who could come pick it up here at Cold Antler.

Good news. I found a home for Finn. He goes to live with a small family two hours away from here in October.

the first day of fall

This dark morning a chilly one. The thermometer read 39 here at Cold Antler. It was the first that I put on my red flannel, canvas Carhartt vest, and wool scarf to do my morning chores. It was the coldest morning so far, and my breath swirled around the flashlight beams as I carried scratch grains from the back of the truck to the chickens, still sleeping on their roosts. I walked the electric fence line smelling the dead leaves and faint wafts of a wood stove somewhere on our mountain road. I carried hay, poured grain, and tried not to trip over June Carter who follows on all morning and night rounds to make sure I am doing things right on her farm. I smiled. I smiled like I just won a thousand dollars and it was 5:40 AM and I had not even had a sip of coffee yet. I could smell it from the kitchen though, soon as I walked inside the warm door.

Tomorrow is the Autumnal Equinox, but today is the first day of Fall.

Monday, September 20, 2010

cow sitting

A coworker is skipping town on vacation and asked if I could help cow sit their calf at CAF while they're gone. They'll drop off the little guy and he'll live here for one week. I'm looking forward to my crash course! Maude is going to hate this.

bookshelves and refrigerators

..tell you a lot about a person, I suppose. Mine has everything from a tin chocolate mold of a running hare to an old letterpress postcard from Knoxville. There's a photo my father took of my mom holding puppy Gibson, magnets, stickers, and more. It's maybe twelves inches of space and covers a small personal history. Neat.

When Sara came up this weekend for the dulcimer workshop/jam she brought her camera. She took a lot of farm photos and many of them weren't of the farm at all. She got glimpses of cabinets and magnets, smiling coats and backs of trucks. When she puts up the set on flickr I'll post a link so everyone can take a "tour" of the joint.

The weekend workshop was super casual. Since it was just three of us: Sara, Kat, and I—there was less structure than I originally planned. We mostly just sat outside and strummed away, learning bits of songs and chords and talking. We ate pizza from the garden and apple cake I baked earlier that morning. It was a fine, sunny afternoon of cider and new and old friends.

Next weekend my family comes up for a long overdue visit. I've missed them very much. The plan was to help run the CAF booth at the fiber festival but now it looks like I might have to cancel. The mill just told me this week I won't have any yarn for three weeks, which means I'd have no fiber to sell at the fiber event...Oh, well. Perhaps it is for the best? We'll get to spend the weekend outdoors or being together instead of split up running an event and then all of them having to run home right after. There's always next year, right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

throwing down bales from nelson greene's loft

behind drying wool

settle into us

We're a small farm here. A few hooves, a few chickens, a garden, bees, and some geese. The same fences that hold my stock in—dry the wool I plan on spinning. The same eggs I turn into muffins—also get cracked open over bowls of kibble. Egg shells end up in the soil, and extra food scraps are feasts for the flock. So what was waste to one turns into garden ground and future eggs or chicken sandwiches. It's a simple system. It serves us well.

Cold Antler has a lot of work ahead of it before the snow falls. A shelter to build, fences to go up, a goat to adopt out. There is a garden to turn over and possibly more meat to put in the freezer. There's a car to repair and register, money to earn and save, a book to finish and a cat getting surgery. There's a pup to train on sheep, wool to market and sell, and workshops to host. But all seems to fall into place, and all work gets done. It has to.

It seems like the real work of the farm isn't food or lessons: it's me. I mean that is the most selfless way possible. Building a place into a purpose changes how you understand yourself, but not at the mercy of the main intention, which is humbling. (You don't have room for much ego when removing a hundred pounds of rabbit shit from a barn.) As I turn this property slowly into the place I want it to be—I feel more confident than ever before in who I am—but also more stressed and fearful of things I used to never think about. I worry more about my health, money, and quality of free time. I am a little more scared of heights, loneliness, and bills in the mail. Certain things scab over and other things seem raw. Maybe that's simply growing older? Or maybe this place is training my mind to prioritize and let logic win over emotion? I'm not exactly sure. I do know I am happy here and feel at home in this world of animals and home cooked meals. I can turn around three times and lie down.

Perhaps none of us ever really settle down into our lives. Maybe we just have give our lives time to settle into us.