Thursday, December 23, 2010

happy and merry!

It's finally Christmas, and I am packing up the presents, dogs, and homebrew for a short vacation back in Pennsylvania to be with my family. Thanks to the goodness of the Daughton Family, I have secured some serious farmsitters and will be able to enjoy this holiday with my mother and father, brother and sister, and all 5 dogs (there are already two canine cousins waiting to meet us in Palmerton!). I'm excited for the road trip, too. It's been year since I've hit the highway, drank Starbucks (the Peppermint Mocha is a guilty pleasure), or truly strayed far from my land. This weekend will be the first time I haven't spent the night at my farm since I bought it. But the firewood will be stacked if it's needed, and the animals have their feeding rounds and heated buckets, and I feel good about this Holiday. It feels good to go home.

Also, I might be taking a short vacation from the blog as well, since this will be family time dedicated to doing nothing in particular besides talking, eating, drinking and laughing—and so the computer will be shut off or shut down. But I will be back Sunday, and writing up a storm. I just wanted to thank everyone for your readership and support and wish everyone out there a Happy Holiday! Stay safe, stay warm, and don't be afraid to hug a sheep.

Here's to 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

there is no way i'm missing this

Monday, December 20, 2010

maude at the gate

secret missions

There was a big vanilla sheet cake in the break room around 4 this afternoon. I checked to make sure no one was coming down the hall, and then wrapped up a giant piece about the size of my hand in paper towels. I stuck inside my sweater and snuck away with it like it was so sort of larceny. The cake was out for the taking of course, but not for what I had in mind. I put the paper towel wad in a plastic mailing envelope, shoved it into my messenger bag, and left the office like the secret ops smuggler that I was. I had a bounty of cake and I wasn't about to o home and binge either. I didn't want to eat it. I didn't want to save it. I didn't even want to compost it with a bucket of earthworms. I wanted to delight a pig.

And delight her I did. She nuzzled and chomped on the day-old baked good as if it was manna from heaven. Sure, I could have enjoyed the cake myself, but my own fleeting gustatory desires would have nothing on the joy I got out of watching my little girl root and lap up that frosting and yellow cake. It covered her snout and she sneezed to get it out of her nose. Then she ran ate the cake snot off she added to the feeder bin. I poured on some cracked corn and she squealed with delight. Her little curled tail wagged. Her little hooves lifted up and down. I leaned back against the stack of hay and looked at the Yorkshire shoat I was growing. She was easily as long as a Labrador now, and at least seventy pounds. In just a few weeks she doubled in size and her attitude around me has turned into a Labrador's as well. When I scratch her head she lays down in bliss and when I rub her tummy she kicks her legs the same way Gibson does when I hit a sweet spot. She's clean, tubby, generally quiet, and between the food from work and her few bags of feed: really inexpensive. So far there isn't even a hint of odor. She uses one section of the barn as a bathroom and since I cover it up with hay and wood chips, it never seems to fester. I'm actually shocked at how swell it's been going. Why doesn't everyone have one of these in the garage?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

a day at the market

The bell rang at ten on the dot, and I was still flustered. I had only left the farm an hour earlier (it is impossible to get anywhere on time when you are constantly monitoring 41 other lives) and had finished just setting up my display three minutes before the official start of the event. As soon as the bell rang money was passed and food was bagged. There was a lot of winter produce (shocking amounts), freshly baked breads, cheese, milk, soaps, meat, candles, and hand-knit goods. If I had the means (or time) I could have bought everything I needed to make pot roast, a green salad, mashed potatoes, and as many veggie sides as I wanted for dinner (not to mention rolls and dessert) from a 100% local selection. It was uplifting to see so many people producing food in the middle of winter. I was also impressed by how good it looked. Every winter squash and carrot was mouth watering. The heated greenhouses of Bennington and Washington Counties are pumping overtime!

So the market was a lot of fun even it wasn't financially successful. I didn't sell a single skein of yarn, but I did sign and sell a few books. And that managed to make enough money to cover my table, gas, and buy 100 pounds of cracked corn and chicken feed on the way home. Not bad for a first time out, certainly not a loss my any measure. Any you know what?I don't think this was the yarn crowd at all. The market seemed to cater to either the highest-end shoppers swinging by on their ski vacations for morning pastries or locals who simply ran out of carrots and wanted to get out of the house. I feel that yarn folks are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum: people looking for a certain product, not browsing. But I was happy to see my skeins were the same price as the other yarn vendor.

Someone asked why I even bother with a farmer's market when I could sell out of yarn online? My answer is simple: I want my neighbors to get to know me. I want local people who are stumbling by to say hello and learn there's a new sheep farm in town. I love and appreciate this online community, but I also want to get to know the people in my area who also share my interests and values and a warm market like this in the heart of winter is a great example to take a field trip from the farm and shake some hands. I spent the entire day talking to people with sheep histories, hearing stories from beautiful faces who grew up on sheep farms before the world changed. One European ex-pat woman named Viola told me (as she shook a skein of my yarn at my nose) to never to get married and to stay smart. Another woman told me about the cabin on her great grandfather's sheep farm with a fireplace just like little house on the prairie. A fellow who grew up with summer chickens talked about his old flock and a man who just got some pet hens bought Chick Days as a gift. And Holly, a woman with a small farm in Bennington whom I bought some birds from last summer was delighted to see the story of getting those birds in her house made page 56. It was a lovely day. I plan on returning with some of your fantastic ideas to help the booth in January. I'll have some hand-knit goods, pattern giveaways, and one of those digital frames of my best photography of the gang here. My goal for the next market: sell three skeins!

So that was why I did the market. Cold Antler Farm isn't just a new business: it's a community and a personal culture just peeping out of of the New York soil. I want it to be part of the local food and craft network and to meet people who had been doing this longer and far better. I could always come home and sell some yarn online later. So no regrets from this farmer.