Saturday, August 6, 2011

That'll do, horse. That'll do.

she is woman, hear her baa

He didn't even see it coming. With the reflexes of a jungle cat on phentermine I spun around 180-degrees and grabbed Atlas by the horns. The young ram bucked and carried on, and then, realizing I was pulling him uphill by his skull, sunk his legs into the ground cartoon-mule style and refused to budge. It was raining pretty hard at this point, but I didn't mind. I was already wet from giving Sal his antibiotics (he started limping again yesterday) and feeding everyone enough grain to get them back to the main pen. It was the grain that hazed Atlas's awareness, and while his head was down snarfing some up I pounced. What he didn't know was my secret weapon is stubbornness, and I would not let go of those grand horns. In the end, I won. I got him in the pen where his baby-maker was safely tucked away till Guy Fawke's day, or later.

I have learned that when it comes to sheep subterfuge is the only way to go. I trick, bribe, and pounce before they have much time to react. If you walk nervously into the pen with a syringe, pacing about, and holding out a handful of grain all you've got is a bad plan.

This is my first year breeding my own lambs (well, pimping my own lambs) and I had been worried about this ram-removal for weeks. Tonight I decided was as good as any night to fight an ovine. From the office window I hear the sounds of gentler rain, his bleats to be let out, and the cries of the new ewe lamb on the hill. She is sitting under the large apple tree, too scared to join the scary new sheep of Cold Antler. She'll come around.

Tomorrow a bunch of folks are coming to the farm to talk rabbits. I'm looking forward to the entire day—from farm tours to recipes—it'll be an big time with livestock and like minds. I'll post photos from the workshop, and announce some winter ones in the works. Oh, and is anyone planning to come to the fall Sheep 101 class? Some folks backed out, others swapped plans, and others just aren't sure. Please let me know.

Coming soon: A chance to pre-order signed copies of Barnheart from a local bookstore, more giveaways, farm gossip, and workshops.

I told you I grabbed the ram by the horns.

riding in cars with sheep

photos from the field

Had a great lesson today with Gibson down at Taravale Farms in Esperence. Since I was already heading down to pick up the first of two ewe lambs I was getting from Barb (replacing Lisette and Pidge from this year's breeding) I decided to take in a lesson with Gibson. It went so well. He is really starting to come along, to think before he charges in, to pay attention to the human on the scene. We have a long way to go, but we are certainly getting there.

and the winners are....

I'm happy to announce that the winner of the New England Illustrated contest is Devon! And she'll be getting this original ink sketch of a dear on a Deere from Shawn Braley's sketchbook (which I'm mighty jealous of). Shawn will also be mailing her a full set of 24 note cards. Congratulations Devon, and thank you to all who entered. I plan on having a few more giveaways through the fall, so stay tuned and keep entering. You could win next time around... Also! Shawn sent me an email saying I could pick 5 other random runners up to receive a 4-pack of the note cards I showed on the post (draft horses, clotheslines, green tractor, and fat cat). Those winners are:

Farmer Jenny

If your name was selected, please email me at and I will put you in touch with Shawn to arrange your delivery.

Friday, August 5, 2011

breeding trio

I'm excited about this workshop on Sunday. A lot of folks are coming to learn about meat rabbits and see the farm. Today I'm testing recipes, planning the menu, and getting the farm all ready for visitors. I hope they aren't expecing a Martha Stewarty farm. Folks, there will be chicken poo on the walkway and dog hair blowing 'round the floor. I do my best, but the place just isn't a homemakers home. Be kind.

I stopped at Wanabea Farm in Manchester today to talk rabbits with Bruce and pick up a new buck for my herd. I was able to get a gorgeous New Zealand (4 pounds at 14 weeks!) for my own lines, and a non-related breeding trio to sell to any workshoppers who wanted to leave with their own starter livestock. I'll have two does and a buck, two new large 36" cages with metal trays availble for purchase if anyone is interested in leaving with the trio. I also have three beautiful Silver Fox/Rex kits from my stock ready to wean and send off as little buns. Not sure of their sexes yet, but the point is there will be livestock available tomorrow if anyone is interested. Please email me if you'd like to arrange it at

P.S. Still time to enter the giveaway below! Winner will be picked Tomorrow night!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New England Illustrated Giveaway!

A few months ago I got a card in the mail from a reader. It was a beautiful illustration of a farmhouse with a clothesline. Simple, comforting, rustic and elegant. Inside the card was a magnet of a blue early 1980's pickup truck. I kept the card on my typewriter and the magnet is on the fridge. That artwork always stuck with me, though. I picked up the card often, trying to figure out if it was ink and watercolors, computer-generated, or both? Had I seen this house? I swear I knew this place? And then a few weeks after getting the card I noticed that I had seen his work at one of my local bookstores, Northshire, in Manchester Vermont. Well, boy Howdy! Now I knew what was so familiar about this cards, he drew what he lived around, which was Veryork! He was a local artist, right here in my hood. His prints, posters, sketches, and cards are all farm-related images with a touch of humor and a lot of kindness to them. Familiar and happy, all.
And, speaking of happy, I'm happy to announce that I contacted Illustrator Shawn Braley, and asked if he would like to support CAF and have a giveaway on the blog. He obliged! He has an ad up on the blog, which will run all year (and that has helped me pay off the sheep shed)! New England Illustrated has teamed up with CAF for this amazing giveaway. Leave a comment in this post and you are entered to win a complete 24-pack set of Shawn's beautiful note cards, and an ORIGINAL sketch from his own sketchbook! Random winner drawn Saturday Night!

This kid is going places, and that sketch might be worth a lot more than a comment, folks. I strongly suggest you enter! And share this post on your Facebook page as well, please! To see the cards, and more about Shawn, click on New England Illustrated, tell him "HI, and thanks!" from me!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why Are Young, Educated Americans Going Back to the Farm?

Originally published on, a digital information service surfacing emerging stories in news, entertainment, art and culture; powered by award-winning journalists.
By Nelson Harvey

I am a 25-year-old college graduate with a degree from a fairly prestigious eastern university, and I pull weeds for a living. At first blush, you might think I'm overqualified, and after four hours of weeding the squash beds, when the stiffness begins to set in, that's what I start to believe, too. In fact, nothing in college prepared me for this. My only credentials are the past two summers, spent learning by doing: planting, thinning, trellising, fertilizing, tilling, harvesting, washing, packing and, of course, weeding.

I am a farm intern, and to me, the only thing more remarkable than the fact that I have spent much of the past three summers happily stooping over vegetable rows (I am 6'4'') is that I am not alone. Across the country, college students and graduates like myself, many with little or no farming background, have been flocking to small farms in droves, shacking up in old farmhouses, trailers and tents, and working for free or for peanuts, all in exchange for a little instruction in the fine art of running a farm.

"It's almost like a third education after college," said Kelly Coffman, 30, a second-year apprentice at Rain Crow Farm in Paonia, CO. Coffman studied at Prescott College in Arizona and Naropa University in Boulder, CO, and worked in the California state park system and as a kindergarten teacher, before deciding to work on farms. "When you have [a liberal arts] education, you get to a point where you realize wait, I need to have a more basic fundamental education about being human. Food, water, shelter...these things are important," she said.

Read the rest on Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Nelson Harvey/Turnstyle

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Good news: the permit finally came to build the new chimney, and I was able to send the deposit on the parts with the folks at the Stovery, thanks to a new partnership with a popular artist (more soon), your workshop donations, and a renewed ad from, I scrounged up enough to cover the half-cost of supplies to secure a chimney installation! Now I have to gather together what it takes for the other half and labor, but just having made that deposit and holding the pink paperwork in my hands feels more than halfway there. I know I can pull these fall projects together.

Just two hours of sleep last night. I feel dizzy. Heat lightening kept me up. But I think a calm morning and iced coffee will set me right.

beans, beer, and sick bunnies

That there is a hill of beans. Well, a sprawling vista of beans, at least. This weekend I was able to put up four quarts of beans (blanching post coming soon), and brew two gallons of all malt stout for the fall. These are the first greens put to the freezer, and it was nice seeing some veg next to all those packages of chicken, duck, rabbit, and pork. A little something, something for the side. I hope to get more so I can add to the freezer bounty. I don't have a pressure canner so it's the only way to preserve these types of veggies. I might even freeze some of my tomato sauce to be safe this fall. Do you folks can, or freeze your harvest/CSA/market greens? What else are you putting up?

On a sadder note, the first litter of kits has come down with the same disease that took out most of last year's young. I'm not sure what it is, but I do know the only surefire way to stop it is to get these guys out on green grass, pronto. So at the first signs of showing ribs and diarrhea, and grinding jaws, these guys hit the grass. I hope it's enough.

Not to sound crass, but jeesh, of all the luck. I deal with a rabbit epidemic days before the meat rabbit workshop. I suppose this is good in some respects, as workshoppers will see how to spot failing health and how to deal with it, but it also has me worried. I want these kits well, and producing into fall. The good news is there are no rabbit diseases a human can get through ingestion (really) and so if they do recover by fall they will be fine for the table.

This morning everyone was fine but still sluggish. Every kit that was in a hutch was put outside. The rest of the herd is doing well in the comfy shade and hay-lined goodness of the barn. My plan is to get a hutch without a bottom I can move it around the lawn and keep them in one safe spot. They will recover, I just need to be quick about containment (of them) and healing of their woes. I am grateful to have the experience to deal with it swiftly.

Oh, and if you're coming up this weekend for the rabbit 101 class, email me for directions and supplies! Looking forward to meeting you all, several from the city!

Monday, August 1, 2011

are we there yet?!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

the map

This weekend I was out in the barn sorting through the two dozen large boxes that had not been touched in over half a decade. They have remained, like a very personal, very short-term, time capsule in storage across four states, since they were originally packed up and moved from the apartment Jazz and Annie and I shared in Tennessee. Some of the items have not been held, smelled, or seen since I graduated from college in 2005. One in particular sliced into me.

I found the Map.

The Map is exactly that, a little piece of oddly-specific, emotional cartography. I painted it during my senior year of design school. It is not a pretty painting, nor would it mean anything to any other person who looked at it, but at one time in my life, it meant everything to me.

I took a large canvas—about four feet long and two feet high—and painted a map on white gesso in black ink. It was not to scale. (I abhor details.) It showed my college campus at Kutztown, the buildings, the field, the farm behind my dorm where I rode horses, the town, the graveyards, the train tracks, and a very special hill in the middle of nowhere.

The only color on the black and white map is a splattering of dots. Each close friend had a color, and when something happened I wanted to remember I painted their color on the map where it happened. By graduation the entire thing was smattered with four years of nostalgia. Friday morning when I opened the brown paper, and uncovered the map, I cried for a very long time. And I cried because of the three dots painted along hillside on the far edge of the map.

One night my best friend and I drove out into the countryside and the stars were astoundingly beautiful. He told me to pull over, and park my red Jetta on the side of the road. We hiked a half mile up a large, rolling green hill. At the top was two copses of trees, and when we reached them, we sat down and took in the whole world, heaving. I'm not sure how long we sat there, on this vista that looked more like a Microsoft screen saver than reality, and just stared at the void. It could have been twenty minutes, or it could have been hours. We ate a light snack of good chocolate, a cold water. I remember feeling safe, and lucky, and how grateful I was that he was in my life.

A few weeks later I convinced another friend to go there with me. I wanted him to experience what I had felt, what me and this other person had shared. We drove out there on warm night, and even made it a third of the way up the hill. But he stopped and turned around. He didn't want to be up on that hill alone with me, and made up some excuse about the police taking his car from the side of the road. The drive back to our college town was heavy and awkward.

As if this all happened yesterday, I am flush with the smell of wet, dark grass and heaving up a hillside in the dark. My eyes dart all over the map and I realize out of all those colors I only talk to one person now, and rarely. Maybe this is just growing up, this growing apart, but it pained me to see a wall of fading memories. The people I hiked up to that hill with were the most influential and deeply-loved people in my life. Neither of them talk to me anymore. Both accounts are my fault.

Some things can not be helped.

I kept the map, and stored it in the attic. But piles of old issues of HOW, Communication Arts, ID, and Readymade were tossed out. Long-ruined art supplies and musty clothes molded and trashed. I saved all the antiques, gifts, and family items of import but all the paperwork, old college assignments, resumes, and design stuff were useless. In the bin went one lifetime to make room for another. This quieter, dirtier, life on a mountain in New York. It is just six years and five hours away from the last but I might as well be in a crater on Jupiter for how familiar it no longer feels. When you are tossing away your old portfolios to make room for your winter hay and a pig, life has changed.

I moved the Map outside, and went back about the business of sorting antiques and possessions. When I went to open the door of a 1960's Westinghouse cabinet, inside was a photograph of that hill. It was water damaged and beyond help. I closed the door and left it there. Some things were so real to you, the actual proof that they exist makes them feel contrived.

Seeing that map, or that photo, did not make me feel like my life here was a mistake. The tears were tears of lost friends and lost time, but not of regret. I can't imagine living the lives of so many of my old peers, in cities or traveling around the world. It is not what I want, or what I envy, but it doesn't change the fact that I miss them. I wish that everyone on that map was coming up here for Thanksgiving. I wish Kevin and Josh, Erin and Rikki, Raven and Nisaa, and and so many more were going to show up at the farm with hot dishes and warm smiles and tell me all about the big wide world, and how it all works from 30,000 feet in the air or an ocean away. I want to sit on the floor of my living room, Gibson at my side and hand-knit hat on my head and listen to stories of dinners in Tuscany and slamming on breaks down the Autobahn. I can see them all here, happy, smiling, all having learned and seen things far beyond my own slight wisdoms. Some have children now, some have been divorced, others have been mugged in Spain. Life has done a little two-step for us all.

I want to hear all this, sip some hard cider, and see everyone from Typography II again. This can not happen, but for what it's worth guys, the invite is always open.

Maybe I'll start a new map, with new colors. I have new people in my life, some very important. I'd like to think I now know who does and doesn't belong on the Hill. I know who I would take by the hand, and share chocolate and the sky with and who I would not.

I think that is progress.


When I bought Jasper in late April he was not the same horse he is today. An Amish reject from the auction house, bought by a man who trades in ponies in Hebron, and then sold to me based on a gut feeling and my amazement at his good nature. The day I shook the man's hand and put down my deposit) Jasper was dirty, wet, scrawny, and shaggy. It wasn't the trader's fault. He came from a place that fed him as little as possible, and it was the muddiest time of the year. Because I was just amazed that I was buying a horse to begin with, I didn't see his poor condition clearly. I thought he was great. But as friends, blog readers, and fellow equestrians pointed out his overgrown hooves, poor coat, and desperate need of de-worming.

With help from friends, green grass, a good brush and a few visits from the farrier I have a much healthier animal. He and I are still rookies when it comes to working together in harness, but yesterday I needed to slip on a new halter and he let me slide it right over his nose. When he came here catching him to put on a halter was an Olympic event. Now, It is the end of July, and here is a video of the horse I now have.

yard sales and tools

Up here, they call them tag sales, but in the Tri-State Area—they were and always will be—yard sales. I passed by this barn in Salem yesterday while on my way to Agway. I couldn't resist stopping by. It had all sorts of pretty shelves of glassware and old Texaco Oil signs. The big wagon wheel outside was interesting to me, but I didn't want it unless it had a brother I could use on a horse cart. Everything else seemed boring. The old rush I used to feel around junk wasn't there. I didn't buy anything. I did, however, step outside and spend a long time looking at the garage's walls. Here in the middle of farm countr: people use tools as decorations and make a living selling decorations to tools...

The scythe, the wood drill, pitchforks, etc. All of those things seem to have real purpose, and I could use them all back at Cold Antler. I suddenly wanted to laugh. How lucky we are to live in a time of such abundance and good fortune that hand tools used to grow food are so unnecessary we bolt them to walls! The people I bought my farm from did the same, and I left their installations there because I thought they looked nice and "farmy." I wrote them off as part of the decor.

A few weeks ago Brett and Diane came over to help me install that pasture fence. Brett told me via email he'd bring down a singletree from the college's workhorse supply so I could use it with Jasper for training. After the work was done, meals eaten, and thanks given he left and I realized he didn't leave the singletree? I was a little bummed out, since I had plans to start really working with Jasper. The next day at the office he explained in an email he drove off with it in the bed of his Tacoma because there already was one hanging on the wall outside the farmhouse. Where?! I asked in reply. He said it was up like a decoration, mounted on the wall outside the overhang where I stack lazy hay bales. I turned red with embarrassment in my desk chair.. Me, the wannabe teamster, who didn't even realize she had her own draft horse equipment hanging on the walls of her own farm house.

What a tool.