Saturday, May 21, 2011

folks in town

My folks are visiting from PA (it's the reason the posting has been thin). All is well though. They arrived yesterday afternoon and when my mother met Jasper he tried to eat her beaded bracelet (that wasn't the best introduction), but it was all uphill from there.

I had friends over for some charcoal grilling and beer. It was a night of pond-bass fishing for the kids and chatter for the adults. A beautiful night, too. A thunderstorm rolled over in Vermont but only a shower reached us. The Daughton boys came back in the house wet from the shower, but proud of the fish they caught and offered no signs of the big fat snapping turtle.

This morning I'm making a breakfast of eggs we may head over to Gardenworks to look at bedding plants and the art gallery. If the rain hold out it should be a banner day. Here's to Washington Count putting on the dog for us! More photos and updates later today!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chicken 101 Workshop Next Sunday!

Hey there Chicken Workshop Attendees. Can you please post here and let me know that you're coming over next Sunday, and if you are taking chicks home with you? I have thirty chicks on the way Monday morning, so they will be about a week old when you pick them up. You'll be taking home the three breeds featured in Chick Days, and a copy of the book.

Is anyone a vegetarian? I was thinking about pulled pork for lunch and hard cider and mountain music in the evening (for those who might stay a little later for a campfire). And if you attended a workshop earlier in the year and just want to come by and join in, you are welcome.

pullet and hen

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

grass stains

You got to walk a special walk in my chicken yard. If you don't you might sick a chicken under foot. When you strut out there with a 50-pound bag over your shoulder they know what's inside and they clammer all around you. Wings flapping, beaks chirping, you'd think you were carrying a sack of meal worms and not cracked corn and mash. You can't step down, and don't you dare stomp. You got to shuffle. Feeding 30+ chickens here at Cold Antler takes some serious dance moves. You slide your feet just a half inch over the ground and push them forward, gently (but swiftly) removing the hoards from the path. Kind of like the old steam trains pushed cattle out of the way with their shovel front ends. You do this and no one—omelet and roaster alike—is worse for the wear.

The chicken shuffle is one trick of the trade. There are other moves you have to pick up to keep time around here. There's the grain-bucket two-step with the pony, and the field-fence break dance over the meta rail. You have to hold a bucket a certain way when carrying sweet feed into the sheep pen or they will jump up and dive right into it head first, pushing you to the ground in the process (I know this well). So instead of just strolling in like a chump, you march in the pen like a 1920's movie-script prison warden, all purpose and bravado. You got to carry that bucket with the same son-of-a-bitching swagger Jasper gets when someone ovine gets to close to his pile of hay. He glides like a lion, swishes his tail with his ears are pinned back. Body language is universal between all animals, human and otherwise.

They know when I will pitch a fit or scratch their backs.
I know the same looks in them.

Tonight between chores I grilled burgers on my little black charcoal grill and mowed the lawn. First real mowing of the season and when it was done I was covered in grass stains and sweat. The farm looked like someone switched it out with a golf course while I was unloading garden soil from the back of the truck. Taking it all in from the bed of the pickup I beamed with pride. Talk about instant gratification. Mowing the lawn is a zen koan crushed into PBR cans. Amen.

When the work was done, I leashed up Jazz and Annie for a short night walk. It was almost dark, the slightest bit of blue left in the overcast sky. If it was a normal summer day you would have called the clouds above us thunderheads, but the mild rainy week here just meant they were...well, clouds. No storm was coming, but it looked like an angry teenager painted the sky. From just a little down the road the farmhouse looked make believe. Behind it, far away on the hillside white spots the size of my pinky nail were lambs. My lambs. Animals that knew of one home: my farm. I say that not to boast, but out of near disbelief at the fact there are living creatures in this world who only know of Cold Antler Farm as their entire world. A little over a year ago this was nothing but a pipe dream and today it's grass stains and sweat. Watching from this lower viewpoint down the hill, my farm house looked so huge. 1100 square feet have never looked that big to anyone else in the world before. I tried to gasp, tried to say a small prayer, but was interrupted by a slam poet. I caught a yellow flash out of the corner of my eyes. A firefly? Could I be that lucky? Can the world be that beautiful all at once on Tuesday?

I'm not sure. I think it was the house lights caught in my glasses. But my heart stopped and a smile so wide it needed a tailgate spread across my lips. Summer is here.

And so am I.

Monday, May 16, 2011

dulcimer for sale


Sunday, May 15, 2011

willow gardens and wet ponies

I am sorry to report no gardens got planted, and no pasture got expanded. I went to all the trouble of braving the wilds of Bennington for ten new t-posts, 4 1.5 cubic feet bags of organic garden soil, and 6 2x4s cut in half: but the cordless drill is staying on the charger today. That rain is too much, and too often. When I pulled into the farm's driveway I didn't see a single animal with a hoof. But when I honked the Dakota's horn I saw Jasper and Sal poke their heads out of the sheep shed. If it's too wet for Scottish Sheep and an Amish pony: it's too wet to plant taters. Isn't that how the saying goes?

So the dogs and I are waving our white flag from inside the farmhouse, roasting a chicken over carrots and potatoes, and watching Braveheart. My coworkers are learning to call chilly, rainy, days "Braveheart weather" because they have gotten used to my habit of watching that movie every time I am home during a downpour in the daylight. Fog, rain, wind, and muted gray daylight to me say it is 1993 all over again and you are watching Braveheart. Till this day, even if it is just on in the background, I have probably watched it 600 times. I can't help it. All I can hope is that to some sort of man out there, a woman who watches war epics based on the weather is a sexy quirk. If not, heeeeellllllooooo cats.

Tomorrow I'll post a video of myself playing Down in the Willow Gardens on the Banjer. This is our groups last Double C song, we are now moving into Sawmill tuning and for our first group recital we'll play Cluck Old Hen. So that's your next song to practice. How is it going for you banjo folk? Are you still practicing? Is it something you are excited about or loathe having to dedicate time to everyday? Are your friends and family impressed or annoyed?

Tonight's a night I want to strum a guitar, eat carrots and potatoes, and maybe take a few moments to slide into some zazen. Being quiet at the end of a rainy day is a good thing, especially when tomorrow will throw you into a whirlwind of a work week. I have five days of work and then my folks and my sister are coming up to visit for the weekend. I'm excited for them to meet Jasper and the lambs and see how the farm has grown in just one year.

planting hope

Garden fever is setting in. It's mid May, there's a gentle rain outside, and my spring-planted crops are coming up in spades. Hell, the Arrowhead lettuce actually looks like spades. With peas, garlic, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, onions, rhubarb, and strawberries planted: this place is starting to look more alive than ever.

Today (if the rain stays light and steady) I plan on putting in another 4x4 bed dedicated to future tomatoes and then hoeing up a long bed for pumpkins and sweet corn. (I have bags and bags of potatoes yet to plant, but I will get as many in this week as possible.) I think once I start getting the heavy guns like squash in the ground I need to start really upping the ante on garden protection. I'm going to put an electric fence around the top sections, and hope the raised bed wood with some small ground fencing will help with the rabbits and groundhogs. Hope, being the operative word. Last year in May I had a great garden started as well, and it didn't take long for those dreams to die.

But what is vegetable gardening if it isn't hope? You spend all this enegery creating this plan, and even at its most basic level: is a pretty brassy ordeal. A garden is telling the whole world "Hey, I'm going to be around a while, and probably get hungry eventually." It affirms life in a proximity to your own home and that sure is a beautiful thing. Even with the soil so far caked into the cracks of my hands I can't wash it out, it is beautiful.

What are you guys planting?
And any advice for saving my garden from the animal army?