Antlerstock: Saturday Afternoon
Tim was snapping photos, Yesheva and her kids were on the floor, playing with a vintage Lassie toy she found on my bookshelf. Jamie, Jess, Riley, and others were watching the curds separate from the whey, and Cathy in her apron looked like the professional that she was. She had spent the last hour teaching about soft cheeses
My chicken workshop wasn't bad, it was just not as comprehensive as I would have liked. In my head I have a list of things I want to cover, but then a question gets asked, or a new rooster starts attacking amn inanimate object, and the whole thing falls off the runners and before you know it you're jumping from the topic of wind proofing your coop to HOA tattletales. Generally, though, it went fine and the crowd got a taste of sunlight for the first time all day. There, out by the red barn in front of the coops we took in a little vitamin D while Paco, my new rooster, strutted around behind me.
Paco has an interesting story, he was the sole survivor of a chick genocide that happened at a neighbors farm. While she left for vacation, the hens in her coop wanted the newborns out of their favorite nest box right quick, so they were beaked to death, thrown to the coop floor, and most died of exposure and a confused new mother hen's lack of protective fight. I had been asked to watch over these birds for my neighbor while they were at a music festival, and the first morning I went to feed and water the birds I walked in on the massacre. Sad to see the babes dead, I went about feeding the living, when I heard one small peep from behind a waterer. There was one black chick left. I brought it home to my farm to sit in a safe brooder in my mud room, safe from marauders. He grew up into Paco, and due to his unfortunate luck being born a rooster where a landlord doesn't want to wake up to crowing: he was told to leave.
So I took Paco back. Shelly and Ingamar delivered him in a large cage on the back of their '53 Ford truck. Talk about a cool way to get a rooster delivered during a farm festival!
While I was talking about chickens, Brett was up by the woodpile, setting up for his afternoon stacking and chopping classes. Tara was preparing everything for her soap making class, and was worried about the weather (rain was looking more and more like a possibility). When the class broke up I headed inside to get started on lunch prep. I was thrilled to see the cheese from the morning class already set out to snack on in several decorative plates with tomatoes from Firecracker Farm. Some cheese was melting in the oven, others were setting and hanging in cabinets and adjoining rooms. My kitchen was alive in ways it had never been before. People smelling the slow-cooking pork, eyeing up the bejeweled plates of cheeses they themselves watch happen through chemistry and folklore moments ago.
I started scooping meat onto puns, showed folks where the cider and beer was and was thrilled to hear Brett was ready to start pressing apples. His press just outside the kitchen was primed and the Daughton Boys had already shaken a few buckets down from the trees on the sheep hill. People filled mason jars with the fresh pressed cider between bites of a neighboring farms pork sandwiches. Pies abounded. People seemed happy to just eat, and talk, and think about the afternoon classes. I made a plate for Tim, who I knew had to leave shortly for the office and I didn't want him to leave hungry. I filled a cardboard take-out tray (Cathy Daughton scored these at a yardsale) and sent him off with quiche, pie, pork, and whatever else was around the kitchen for the kind man. Cathy made a plate for her husband, and I made sure Brett ate as much pork as his lumberjack self could contain. All around me people were just noshing and laughing. Never had my home been this full. Next year we'll need an outdoor tent and tables if the event grows (as it will) but this year my living room and parlor did the trick. I was expecting the floor to cave in under all that weight and traffic, but it did not. I felt safer from that.
As lunch wrapped up I was asked by Brett if I wanted to harness Jasper later to pull out some of the cherry logs we cut down? My heart rate exploded. Of all the events this weekend the working pony was the one I looked the most forward too but was the most nervous about. I had never before walked Jasper into the woods and hooked him up to a log. We had only trained with tires in open fields or with sticks lighter than baseball bats. But the idea of showing off his talents as a working member of the farm seemed too hard to resist. This was what we had been working for, together through sweaty summer afternoons and colder fall mornings. That afternoon I would hitch my gelding to a freshly cut tree and we would carry it to the axes.
When this happened, (and I will talk about it next) my heart was split open like a locust round and I realized with the certainty of April taxes that I would never own a tractor. I fell in love with working horses, and this was just the initial hit of addiction. Step up, Jenna. Step up.
Thanks to these posts, folks are already signing up for next year! Already four spots are called for in California! WOW!
photos by Tim Bronson