Saturday, October 9, 2010

he did well!

My day started at dawn with a pheasant hunt and ended with a campfire. There was apple picking, sheep herding, bird cleaning, seven hours in the truck and venison on the stove. I'm too tired to write much now, but would just like to share that Gibson did well on his first sheep herding lesson. His tail was up for most of it (a sign of play and chase, not work) but the interest was there and he had a blast. By the end of our hour he was starting to circle, change directions, and watching me with his tail down. It's in there, that's for sure. My trainer said he'd make a fine working dog and could be a trial dog. He wasn't too bold or timid, listened to me and her, and seemed to want to please me. I was so proud I talked about it at a dinner party tonight like he just made honor roll in his Waldorf class.

first ever hunt!

Friday, October 8, 2010

spinning giveaway! take home some maude!

I'm giving away a handmade drop spindle—handcrafted in Vermont—already wound up with my hand-spun yarn from Maude (as well as extra roving). It's everything you need to learn to drop spin! My friend and fellow spinner, Andrea, made a couple of these spindles for the Wool 101 Workshop for me, and hand-stained them as well with a vintage barn-red color. They are wonderful, and they are sturdy buggers with hook attachments on both ends. With the help of Youtube, books, and spinning clubs you'll be making yarn in no time, from the mother of all miserable, old, ewes herself. I'll throw in a signed book too!

Here is how the Giveaway works: All you need to do to enter is tell a friend, coworker, stranger, anyone about Cold Antler Farm and then post who you told here in the comments section of this post. Just write who you shared CAF with and leave some sort of name I can holler at you with. You can send an email to the new guy at work who think chickens are cool, or you can write on the bathroom wall of your local Watering Hole*. A comment is randomly selected and the winner gets a mailed gift and a signed paperback of Made From Scratch. Neat!

Winner will be picked Monday Night!

*Please do not vandalize. I kid. I'm a kidder.

goats smile

photo by sara stell

stars and slime

This morning was the first in a while that I didn't have to start my day in a rain slicker. I could see the stars, bright above, as I fed the animals. There's a small cluster of stars off to the righ of Orion, Taurus I think. I'm not much for astrology, I know nothing of it really. But I have always been drawn to those stars. They really pull me in, stick out to me among all the rest.

But yes, the dry morning! It was a nice, calm, change for the better. I love rain, I do, but was growing tired of the dampness. Time for some cool, crisp, days ahead this weekend.

The chickens are eating their eggs again, this happens from time to time. Usually because something sets them off into the habit. Either an egg cracks or is forgotten about and the fugitive hen pecks it, or food outside is growing slim as it gets colder and they need more to forage for. Today I'll set out a sacrificial pie pumpkin and let them eat it to pieces below their favorite nest. I hope it works. Few things are as gross as reaching for fresh eggs and coming back with slimy yellow hands.

Time for coffee. Enjoy your Friday, all.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

october rolls on

While the rain started to fall, the Daughton Family and I struggled to lift the 200+ pound calf into the back of their blue-tarp-lined Suburban. Myself, Tim, and their sons got a good deal of mud on our shirts and shoes loading that big boy into his taxi. I waved them goodbye as I re-latched the paddock fence and let out a rainy sigh. My life as a cattle rancher is temporarily suspended. Maybe some day down the road I'll raise a steer or two for the freezer but right now my mind's on the mutton. Tasty is on the road home to their farm in White Creek, and I am back in the ovine business.

Eat Lamb. Wear Wool. That's my slogan.

Soon I'll be back to three sheep again, and they will be joined my five more ewes in a few weeks after that. This weekend Gibson and I will be able to see them again, down at Taravale Farm in Esperance. That's where his lesson will be, and I am personally satisfied knowing his first ever time working with sheep will be Scottish Blackface: the future breed of Cold Antler. These hardy hill sheep from the highlands are great meat and wool animals and easy lambers . They forage well, and are used to climbing hillsides very much like the slopes of my small farm. Gibson will be set loose on a lead and we'll see what he does once he's alone with his charges. I hope he does some sort of round-circling, but he might chase them, bite wool, or just sit next to me bored. There's always a chance your collie won't work, though I have a hunch he'll do just fine. His breeding is true. His eyes and stalking like something out of CSI reruns.

Saturday night there's a bonfire at a friends Chrissy and Tyler's house. We'll be celebrating a day of apple picking and talking about Sunday's big adventure: my first ever cider pressing. Tyler, James, and myself will be joining our friend Dave (fiddle and antique press owner/operator) to make some hard cider down near White Creek. Talk about a fine fall weekend. I'm beside myself!

Though not all is pristine around here. I had to drop a ridiculous amount of money on the truck today (well, ridiculous to me) to repair a ball joint, axle, and get a pair of snow tires on the back incase we get caught in poor weather. While it stunk dropping hundreds of dollars on the Ford, I am very happy to report it's no longer dangerous to drive it (there was a chance of a wheel falling off...). We'll be ready for the road trip to Esperance, and maybe even stop at Sharon Springs if the weather is nice and we have the time. I'd like to see the town I've been watching on the Beekman Boys and buy a bar of soap.

And, speaking of Sharon Springs. If you'd like to see photos from the weekend my friend Sara was up here: you can click here. She stopped by the farm, Beekman 1802, and Cooperstown and there are photos galore of everything from my kitchen counter book piles, to throwing bales of hay to the truck at Nelson's Farm. Also some shots from our picnic at Riding Right Farm in South Cambridge, where I take my riding lessons. (I adore that place.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

gibson's first herding lesson is saturday!

photo by sara stell

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ten months ago

Someone recently pointed out in the comments that ten months ago I was in such a scary place. I was anxious and confused—unsure of where my life would lead me and what the fate of Cold Antler would become. When I came home after last Thanksgiving vacation to a note on the cabin door warning me that my days were life changed forever. I can still feel that empty spot in the corner of my gut. A few weeks later I received my official Notice to Quit and the countdown to find a new home was ticking like a bomb.

Today I look around the Jackson Farm and am so grateful for that note. I am happy I saved it. Hell, I plan on framing it. It's the reason these six and a half acres are mine. It's the reason I forced myself to buy. It's why lambs will be born on this ground for the first time in generations. It's how I was able to grow up. It's a puppy and riding lesson. It's a garden and a truck. It's home.

Now the only one posting notes on the door is me.

Looking back, it is unbelievable the circumstances and luck that had to happen to make me a freeholder. An eviction, a random USDA program, a desperate/retired couple who wanted to skip down and were willing to drop the price. The luck of a friendly and willing mortgage broker, a kind and loyal realtor, a new state, a fresh start. It all happened less than a year ago and that time as flown by so fast I am barely keeping up at my own clip. Today I was going over plans for the sheep's new pole barn we'll be raising in the next few weekends before the weather starts to turn. I know exactly what I need to buy, build, and with the help of some friends and power tools: we'll raise that shelter. I have a little red barn full of hay and getting fuller. If my posts this month seem shorter, or far-between, it is because I am preparing this new farm for its first winter and for the new soon-to-be mothers arriving later this year. Five Scottish Blackface ewes will be delivered, pregnant, to CAF's new fenced pasture and hillside. Gibson will have a few months of training under his belt and possibly even help gather them in from winter snows and for grain feeding and hoof-trimming.

I'm taking a break from the blueprints, lists, and lessons to say thank you for coming along with me. Thank you for helping with advice, phone calls, donations, and support. Thank you for building these fences, coming to visit, or writing me emails and comments. Even if I can't write back, know it's not about anything more than a wild life in a tame world and farm that wins over email 99% of the time.

A lot more to come. Tonight, just some tea. Thank you again for checking in and keeping up.
photo by sara stell

Sunday, October 3, 2010


It was one of those weekends so busy, so non-stop, that writing about it would take three hours, and frankly, I am almost ready to fall asleep here at my computer. In 48 hours I held a workshop, made new friends, pulled an angry bee out of someone's hair, went to an apple festival, watched a pie eating contest, saw a live outdoor concert, listened to an amazing guitarist, watched a play (The Lottery!) , cooked meals, put up 16 bales of winter hay and 200 feet of new fencing in the pasture. I pet whippets, drank pumpkin beer, and played music off a sheep's back. And now I am going to sleep, because this tank is empty and tomorrow I have a full day of work and a date with an Appendix Gelding at the stables to meet.

Things are good. It's fall. And I am happy.