Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Antlerstock: Saturday Afternoon

Before the Lumberjackin' was over, I snuck away under the cover of overgrown roses and apple scrub to head back to the farmhouse. Inside my kitchen a small troop of future cheese makers collected around the stove, listening to Diane and Cathy tell them about the proper tools of the trade. People had notebooks, were asking questions, and cheese making gear was all over the place. One thing I noticed was there a fair amount of men learning about cheese, and a fair amount of women learning about throwing axes. Proof positive that in the world of modern homesteading, we aren't afraid to dabble.
 
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

15 Comments:

Blogger DarcC said...

Every Antlerstock post you write makes me sorrier that I missed it, I will NOT miss it next year!

While I enjoy every moment when I borrow the neighbors' tractor (I actually bought a needed implement - an auger - for it and got using rights in return), I recently connected with the folks at Blue Star Equine Rescue, a quasi-retirement home/rescue for retired draft horses. www.equiculture.org

I now drive my country roads with an eye out for horse-drawn mowers, etc rusting away in fields and behind barns, for use when I have a team of my own some not-too-far-off day!

October 25, 2011 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger jim said...

wow-what an exciting time for all-you had a great group of instructors and participants. Howerver, you gal are the one who put it all together and made it happen, Hats off to you-keep the stories and pics coming.

October 25, 2011 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Squee! I can't believe I missed this--I've got my sites set on next year too!

October 25, 2011 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger bellananda said...

"Thanks to these posts, folks are already signing up for next year! Already four spots are called for in California! WOW!"


Don't forget about us two Missourians who want to come! :)

October 25, 2011 at 9:59 PM  
OpenID barntalkblog said...

I love love LOVE reading about Antlerstock!

-Autumn

October 25, 2011 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger sallyrae said...

Love, Love, Love your attitude and your blog! Glad I found you!

October 25, 2011 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

I think I am going to have to come next year... I'll be in the MS/VA area at that time, so I'll just have to take the jaunt up northwards while I'm on that half of the country!

October 25, 2011 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger E said...

What a great addition Jasper is to your life/farm!

Congrats on the successful
Antlerstock - it looks like a well planned, much enjoyed event.


Perhaps the "professional" cheese maker could tie her her back in future workshops?

October 26, 2011 at 12:50 AM  
Blogger Nancy McKinnon said...

Is there a place to sign up for next year's or do we just email?

October 26, 2011 at 1:35 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Cathy can wear her hair however she wants! If hairs makes you nervous, just wait till you see what you'll walk through in the backyard! (no shoes indoor rule).

And you email me to make arrangements. There are 38 spots left. First paid first reserved.

October 26, 2011 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I'll say it again - it was a GREAT time! I really felt honored to be a part of it. As much as I'd love to make it back next year, I think that's doubtful as I'll have a five-month-old baby then. ;-) Maybe all three of us can make a future event?

October 26, 2011 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Also, attending Antlerstock has re-inspired me to want to hold similar events at our farm, so thanks for that too!

October 26, 2011 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Hi! This is the "professional" cheesemaker who is looking at this photo of herself saying "Aaack! I didn't tie my hair back!!!!"
I was very nervous, and if you look at my wrist in some of the photos I think you can see my hair band on there NOT being used. So, any of you who might happen to come to one of my classes PLEASE say something if you see me teaching with my hair loose like that again!

Thanks so much Jenna. It really was a wonderful time. Hope you'll have me again next year. Hair and all!

October 26, 2011 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

I’m still taking in all I learned. Jenna, you did a fantastic job filling me in on meat rabbits and chickens…love the brooder box and feel even more ready to start things on my own now. Brett was awesome right down to that cider press and teaching us all how to tap maples. Cathy, Diane and the cheese spectacular—I wasn’t worried about hair at all, Cathy you did SPECTACULAR. I only wish I could have taken in Tara’s soap but was busy watching Jasper at work (next year!). Every single one of the workshops added so much to Antlerstock.

October 26, 2011 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger bree said...

Jenna, It sounds like it was the event of the year. Congratulations. I enjoyed reading about it and the pictures too.

October 27, 2011 at 10:57 AM  

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