Saturday, September 3, 2011

no honey no booze

No honey no booze, that's my rap. Sometimes these homesteading projects don't work out. You plain mess it up. I grabbed the mini keg out of the cupboard to bottle today and found a hot mess. The all malt stout I had been looking forward to for the past month— when I pulled it down to eye-level—had a nice topping of mold where bubbles or foam should be. It went bad and it wasn't coming back. I'll dump it and will brew a new batch soon to bottle in a few weeks.

As for the honey? Well, the queen excluder, didn't. The Queen Excluder is like a little screen you put between boxes stacked up on the hive. It is supposed to keep the queen from crawling into the honey production area. But she, or a new queen, got in and started laying eggs in the combs. When I went in today to extract a bit for fall/winter the shallow combs were covered with larva caps. It's a baby house now, and taking honey would be the equivalent of genocide and possibly hurting the future of the hive. I returned them to their place among the frames. I'll wait till next summer for the sweet stuff from my own yard and start getting these guys ready for winter.

Dems the breaks, folks. I have some Saranac IPA in the fridge and I bought a jar of local honey at the IGA. They'll do!

the cotswolds are here!

The Cotswolds have landed! At 2PM yesterday afternoon a black pickup delivered four pedigreed ewes (two mother/daughter pairs) and they have melded in perfectly with the Cold Antler flock. In the video you'll meet Pearl and her gang (Pearl has the Justin Bieber locks) and see Maude right there with them. For the first time in years, Maude is surrounded by gals that look like her, and she was instantly drawn to them. In fact, she was the first to walk up to the new recruits through the fence. Atta girl, Maude!

It was great to welcome the new sheep, and things are the farm seem to be happening at a slow and steady clip into autumn. The chimney gets installed next Friday. The new sheep shed will be up within a few weeks, or sooner. I am going to try and find a home for Lisette and her lamb (free to anyone who wants them). They are on the mend, but not ill, just no longer breeding stock. Lisette needs a barn this winter with constant grain to put on weight, and her lamb Pidge, is 100% back to good, just needs her rump shorn from dirty wool. Besides a dirty bum and needing some heavy calories, these sheep are fine as backyard lawn mowers and fiber, they just are too small for breeding here with Atlas. So if you want them, you are welcome to them. Just email me about picking them up.

Speaking of sheep: no spots left in the Black Sheep Winter Wool workshop, but if enough people are interested, I will post a second in February and source some local wool for us to learn with. I also have four bags of Alpaca wool in storage a reader gave me, and we could spin that as well!

I only have 3 spots left for the Fall Festival, and am excited to report that several states and two countries will be there! Lots of Canadians are braving south as well as Texans, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, Vermonters, Marylanders, Jerseys, Californians and even a pair of Arkansarians (I made that term up, but to me it is an Ozark Librarian). So excited for our two days of Homesteading Celebration!

Friday, September 2, 2011

time to slow down

I am realizing how much I haven't been taking care of myself. Not enough sleep, not eating well, not stopping when I am tired, and filling my days with do-to lists that could cripple an OCD ward. I need to make some time to breathe and stretch and put on some moisturizer and pick up a pair of jeans without holes in them. A few days ago I was so worn out it scared me into slowing down. My body pretty much demanded, without argument, that I rest. So I am resting this weekend.

I'm not going to stop writing or blogging (that would drive me crazy), but I am going to take my activity level down a few notches. I am making more time for me, even if it's just an hour in the morning. The farm here is a beautiful thing, but sometimes it moves forward with pounding hooves and I need to learn to step back or it can trample right over me. I have to remind myself that just because I have all the supplies and daylight to extract honey and bottle two gallons of beer doesn't mean I have to do it. Maybe I can do one each day, over this weekend, and spend a little more time stretching in the morning sun, breathing deep, being grateful, and enjoying healthy meals. I think I need it. Last night was the first time I slept 8-hours straight in years. It made a difference.

Feeling very tired tonight. Not complaining (I hope this doesn't come across that way) I'm plain worn out. It happens every now and again, and if you already have a small farm or wish to own one yourself: you'll probably relate to this silly plight. I expect the first colder nights with woodsmoke and crisp leaves to pull me back into full speed, but right now I could curl up into a dog bed if it was the closest mattress...

Not sure you folks want to hear about this sort of thing? But it is what's happening right now, and since this blog is pretty much a play-by-play of one life, it was shared. Some nights I'll stay up hours typing about loving this farm, and some nights I hope it leaves me alone for hours so I can stand upright without tottering.

Anyone have any suggestions on best ways to unwind? I should preempt that by saying I don't have a bathtub and this is a family-friendly site.

Here's to sleep.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

it's rare that a commercial makes me this happy...

Thanks to Linda on the Facebook group, I saw this ad. Chipolte is one of the few fast food companies in America to source pastured and local foods at their chain. Showing us that even the most corporate of businesses can move towards a better future. Willie Nelson covers Coldplay in this animated short. Enjoy.

where cars can't go

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

the open road

I was listening to a Jim Kunstler's podcast, and the subject of the America's love of spontaneity came up. The conversation was about our national love of instant, personal, gratification (i.e. jumping in our cars whenever we feel like it, doing our housework whenever we wish, etc)—just the freedom our modern lives have in this cushy, air-conditioned, iPad-and-digital cable filled world. And how that all could change so quickly due to economic hardships and energy scarcity. It was a really engaging episode, but it also had me reeling. Why is spontaneous behavior and escape so romanticized in modern society?

Why do we want to be those people on the open road roaring into the sunset with nothing but a suitcase in the backseat? Is it just a luxury of a post-war affluence and their novelty of the new interstate highway system? Did it auto-drip into our craniums from decades of movies and music videos, novels and inventions? Or is whimsical travel part of who we are? I mean, we are constantly being told that escaping responsibility equates freedom. I guess that make sense when it comes to unfortunate emotional/social responsibilities (a bad marriage, an abusive home, etc)—but escaping from good work, solid ground, and healthy food no longer seems like freedom to me.

There is no freedom on a road trip. It is the epitome of bondage. You at the mercy of so many things: money, weather, oil, road conditions, food availability, police officers, traffic laws and so on.Your entire survival is in the hands of other people (and corporations). I think people are confusing rapid speeds out of doors with freedom.

Let me tell you what freedom isn't: Freedom is not an open highway. It is not drilling for oil. It is not having an endless line of credit. Nor is it having your every whim and comfort catered to. Freedom is the ability to wake up, laugh, eat, work, and love without fear. Freedom is walking outside your front door and knowing that if the world around you falls apart, you can make it a little while, maybe longer. It means not being at the whims of the power company, grocery store, and highway crews. For some of us that means a garden, saddle horse, and a flock of chickens. For others it means a thriving community where neighbors know each other by first names and help and support each other. But it certainly isn't something you can achieve peeling off into the sunset. Not unless you're driving home.

What is freedom to you?

illustration from

September Sheep Workshop Canceled

Sorry folks. Too many people switched from the Sheep workshop to the Fall Festival (Can't blame them!) so we'll move this to the spring, and cover basics with lambing too.

the cotswolds are coming!

Four Cotswold sheep are coming to Cold Antler, two ewes and their lambs from this past season. They are a longwool breed, and much like Joseph (who is half Cotswold) and here to add more spinning wool to the flock. I want to blend a half blackface/half longwool combo to make a soft outerwear fabric. These guys are needed to up the softness!

Also, I paid off the chimney! I just need to pay the installers to come and build it, but I amover 2/3rd paid off! It'll be installed on the 9th!

photo from ross farm museum, nova scotia

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

old school

just give me the frisbee, lady

hard times ain't gonna rule my mind

Monday, August 29, 2011

a short story

Three-Minute Fiction is a contest NPR runs every once in a while, and this was my entry, but it lost. The rules are simple. You have to write an original piece of fiction that's under 600 words, but the judge of the contest (some author or journalist) decides the rules, and to win you can not break them. This latest was too much fun to pass up. Judge and author Michael Cunningham just had this to say: the first line of the story had to be Some people swore that the house was haunted and the last line had to be Nothing was ever the same again after that. Here is my entry.

P.S. You will notice comments from when I posted this a year ago. I had to remove it from the blog because entries could not be published, in any form, before the winner was announced. So when I knew that I took it down. But my sister asked about it today so I reposted it.

Mark The Frame

Some people swore that the house was haunted. The black dog knew better. Sitting outside on the porch of the old Federal mansion the Saster knew how foolish those words were the moment they came out of those stuttering human mouths. Why they chose to label some homes haunted and others not always annoyed him. He was a black sheepdog, heavy in coat with yellow eyes and he stared at the haunted house the same way all dogs did. Don't they understand that every house is haunted? Filled with the smells of generations of dead animals? Covered in the stains of memories? The mold of nostalgia good and bad?Saster lifted his nose and smelled the dead toddler, the broken wedding vows, the Irish Setter who left one night and never came home. Ghosts circled the wainscoting, turned up the corners of the linoleum. Each past life was an apparition and unless you cut down a tree in the woods that no man or dog had ever pissed on, they were all haunted. Every damn one.

His people were young and new to farming. They brought him here from their last home, smaller and belonging to someone he never saw called Lord. He worked sheep with them and after many conversations and lifting of heavy things they left Lord's house and came here. It was the only farm they could afford, the price low and lonely because the rumors of slamming doors, knocking walls, and footsteps in the halls when no one was in those places. These are things dogs see all the time. They are as normal as rain.

Saster scratched his right ear with his right back foot and shifted back into a proper sit. He watched his people lift the heavy things inside, sign papers, rattle keys, and shake hands. They seemed a quiet happy, but so preoccupied with the ghosts they might see it made every crooked smile a measured success. He worried about them all the time. He couldn’t work sheep with people who thought ghosts were as dangerous as coyotes. He wanted people who understood the world. He had not met them yet.

When the only people left were his, the heavy things put down, and their truck the only car in the farm’s driveway they called him inside as they walked through the old hallways, touching the wallpaper gently as they said his name without looking back. Saster stood up and shook out his hide and trotting towards the door. Before crossing the threshold he lifted his leg and marked the frame with a long stream. He heard the growls of long dead dogs and ignored them as he stepped inside. The living add to every haunting, create them in truth. Urine slid off the red frame. Nothing was ever the same again after that.

a glorious empire

So many of the roads around here are closed, bridges washed away. My commute to Vermont every Monday through Thursday for work just got a little more complicated. I drove south twenty miles and crossed the state line where it was safe before driving all the way back north to the office. Usually it's a straight shot, about twenty minutes in the truck. Today took longer, and afforded me the chance to explore.

I drove across random county roads, 68 took me through Grandma Moses territory. Rolling, dramatic, cow-splattered hillsides dappled in sunshine. Had a Tropical Storm really come through here less than 24 hours ago? It seemed a lie. Storms are not possible things on movie sets, are they? Between Gillian singing Scarlet Town on the speakers and Gibson hanging his thin frame out the passenger-side window, it was something out of a make-believe world. A fantasy I once read about in Borders (when Borders was around) during college, sipping coffee and paging through Hobby Farm magazine between studios. I love this county. I love this state. I love how it heals, and teaches, and puts on a show after a horrible mood. Truly, it is a glorious Empire, this.

I came home a new way too, and it was like driving through some Hobbit village. I found a road called Mylers off 7A and it weaved and ducked through a series of random dirt roads back home. I passed a man driving a draft horse in a John Deere themed forecart. He waved and I smiled. Mark my words readers: We will all live to see John Deere selling green and yellow collars and hames. This world is changing right in front of us, everyday.

I kept going, behind old forests, small dairy and sheep farms. New places, untouched places. Past the Monks and Nuns of New Skete, over small bridges and quiet water. I popped out near 372 at the base of Cambridge. By the time I got home I felt like I learned a few secrets. Like I saw something only yetis and unicorns new about, and it was there all along.

Imagine that?

I had a few chores to do at home. Soon as I got in the door and walked and fed the dogs I grabbed my crook and let the whole flock (minus Atlas, who was in his ram pen) out into the greener pasture. I had to walk the fence line and look for downed trees (though the only downed trees were over my garbage cans). All the rain littered a carpet of green with apples and waving grasses. I let them each eat a few before I went to get Jasper, who had been cooped up in his stall for two days and was so thrilled to run and chomp he flew across the grass. I let go of the lead snap and released him into the gate and felt like I just through a lightening bolt into the world.

I watched him. My whole body felt ten pounds lighter. Maybe it's the yoga practice, or the meditation, or just the fact we all made it through the storm in so much devastation just minutes away, but the happiness was thick. And I felt a little more certain about myself, and things I did not approve of, and how much the attention I was paying to my own body and heart was making me feel better. The other morning during that yoga retreat the teacher said during meditation. "Be at peace. You have support. You are cared for." and all I could think about was this community, both in actuality and online. I glowed on that mat. I was so grateful, for the readers, and the friends, and the animals. This is what I thought about after the storm, out in my pasture, and in that growing strength of my little, battered up, fiddle-strung heart I watched a spotted pony cry out a happy whinny and smiled. Time to make some changes. Time to learn to move and learn to shout like a pent-up pony.

Sun. Stretching. Grass. Survival. Animal. Smiles. Healing.

This woman is learning how to live in the world.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I am so grateful for this house.

That is all.

irene rips apart veryork

I wanted to update everyone on the state of things, Veryork is not in good shape. While Cold Antler is lucky to be built on a mountain side, up high, but my friends near the Battenkill, Hoosick, and Hudson Rivers are in deep trouble. This video was taken just a few towns over, near Bennington Vermont. Facebook is booming right now with images of my area, a lot of it under water. I am posting much of it on my page, so check it for more images and video. But yes, Manchester, Londonderry, Pawlet and other towns around here are being surged. Flood waters are 7+ feet above the flood stage. Covered bridges are being washed away, and cars are floating down the river. The Home Depot I was at two times Friday is now under a few feet of water. I am worried about friends and theirs around here. Two of my friends have been evacuated. I feel both lucky and worried sick. I haven't heard from a few and really hope they are okay.

I am expecting power to eventually go out with winds coming our way, and trees coming down. I have the generator and extension cord ready to go. I will have to be on top of this, because if I let that sump pump alone and it goes off for just ten minutes the water pouring in from the base and the walls will overtake the furnace and more.

I don' think I'll be going into work tomorrow.

strings in the storm

geese love hurricanes

Irene came late last night and this morning I took out the dogs for a constitutional on the front lawn. The wind was light, moving the rooster wind chimes outside the kitchen window, but getting stronger. The sheep are all in their sheds, still eating the big bale I put in late last night. Jasper was given extra as well, and is in the barn. The chickens all took cover, but there are two residents of Cold Antler walking around without a care in the world: the geese Cyrus and Saro, love this constant rain and wind. They have no idea why everyone is hunkered down? It's just a little rain, right?

Still power, no damage here. Hoping that this was a media frenzy that just scared people. Over at Jon's blog he talked about that, the real storm being not the weather, but the hype and fear it caused, and how we fell into it. I agree. I certainly did. Yesterday I ran into him at the Co-op and he said his daughter called him from Brooklyn. "It's a catastrophe, dad. Everyone is out of multigrain bread." That pretty much sums it up.

I'm going to spend the day working on some writing here on the kitchen eMac, and later, going through a large printout of Barnheart and make my last minute changes and edits with a pen, old school. Probably by candlelight if the winds knock down a few trees, which it is wont to do around these parts.