Saturday, September 10, 2011

poems, tea, and dogs tonight

Pictures pass me in long review
Marching columns of dead events.
I was tender and, often, true;
Ever a prey to coincidence.
Always knew the consequence;
Always saw what the end would be.
We're as Nature has made us - hence
I loved them until they loved me.

-Dorothy Parker

tired gal

Yesterday after the installation I ended up rushing to my friends' farm for dinner and didn't get home to late, having been happily suckered into helping with Hors d'oeuvre for a wedding for people I do not know. I spent the evening in a restaurant after-hours, with twenty people, laughing and joking around. I filled so many dates with cream cheese I started thinking they were tiny footballs. Drove home with Gibson hanging out the window, me singing to the radio.

Spent today helping friends move (When you have a pickup truck, and most of your friends do not, this is a common request). I love moving, did a lot myself, but today I helped Tyler and Chrissy move in a caravan of friends up the mountains of southern Vermont to the town of Londonderry. By the time 4 PM rolled around I had hauled enough mattresses and dressers up a flight of stairs to earn some sore muscles. Afterwards I enjoyed my gift of a hamburger and beer, and came home to the farm ready to relax. Jasper is fed and in his stall. The poultry are locked in their coop. I herded sheep with Gibson (it's an uphill battle) earlier today, and there was some progress. And now I am going to enjoy some soup and Prairie Home Companion. I heart Lake Wobegon.

The stove is in and I will post photos soon, I promise. But tonight I am keeping it short, without photoshop or extra effort. I am dog tired, can't wait to put up my unshod feet and play that banjo (any of you still playing since spring?). I have some Dorothy Parker to read tonight. That's a treat, no matter who you are.

Tomorrow Brett is coming over to help with Jasper and altering his harness to fit properly. Photos of the stove installation and draft training tomorrow!

Friday, September 9, 2011

small lesson

Favorite thing I learned today:
Amen is Hebrew for Let it be.

Simple and beautiful, that.

chimney men

stove day!

That photo was taken this spring (as you can tell by the flowers), but it took since it was delivered to build up to this day. It is STOVE DAY! My Vermont BunBaker is nearly ready to use and I feel like I just won the self-preservation lottery. A wood stove means a lot to me. It means that without electricity or power to the furnace in the basement this farm will stay warm even on the coldest nights. It means that when both stoves are burning I use less foreign oil, eventually I will use none. The goal is to do a project each year that makes this North Country farm a little more energy independent. This year is wood heat. Next year: solar hot water.

I pulled an apple pie out of the oven and coffee is on the stove. The man from the Stovery in Argyle is here to install the chimney. He's a retired NYC policeman from Long Island who moved to Saratoga County a few years back. We're talking dogs, taxes, stoves, and such. Great guy. He's too professional to accept the coffee and apple pie I made for him and his partner, but I always err on refreshments for anyone who comes and does anything at this farm I can't do myself. They rarely accept, but I think the offer is appreciated.

This stove pipe, chimney, and random stove essentials will mean after today this stove will be ready to light and heat this house. It took 6 months of saving and planning to cover the over $2,000 in parts and the 500 installation fees. That might sound like a lot, but to have two men take half a day to cut holes into walls, climb high ladders, and professionally ensure my house doesn't burn down is worth it to me. I can make 500 bucks if I work extra hard. I can't buy another house. And my insurance won't cover a burned down house if I didn't get my wood stove installed by professionals and inspected by the County. Dems the breaks.

I called the Inspector too, and was quietly proud of myself for having all the right permits and code numbers he needed to set up the inspection. I went through this whole process by the books, got my chimney permit, paid the fees, got the double insulated pipe. I'm trying to do my best by this house and this amazing gift of a stove (well, barter).

Folks are coming up from the city today to film a DIY video project, about what they consider "Superstar DIYers" and I think we'll make cheese or plant some winter rye. I want to make them lunch as well, but not sure what to serve people who can eat anything they want, from any country in the world, whenever they want. So I decided some homemade pizza would work out. Pizza and apple pie are the great equalizers. Unless they have gluten allergies and are lactose intolerant, which in that case all I have is hay and balsamic vinigarettes.

More updates on the chimney (already over estimated costs, oy) and the video folks later in the day. Gibson is amazed at how one man can put a hole in his house.

Thank you to everyone who attended a workshop, bought a CSA share, books, or donated to the farm. This is where your cash goes: into projects like this. The mortgage, insurance, truck payments, and bills are still paid by my day job, but all farm animals, feed, projects, improvements, and extras (including groceries and clothes) are covered by Cold Antler itself.

And now there will be pie in my living room while it is snowing outside. Amen!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

someone tell jake

...that his girl is waiting in Jackson.

soggy place, this

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

why do you do this?

Why do you do this? Why do you raise your own vegetables, meat, mushrooms, and eggs? Why do you want to live in the country? Why are you turning suburbia and the city into food-producing land? Why are you drawn to draft horses and tractors?

Tell me.

an alliance?

I am so happy to share this. Today, just now, was the first time ever Gibson and I worked with the whole flock of ewes! Lambs and ewes together! It was slightly chaotic, but Gibson and I managed to do the simple task of bringing all the sheep in from the far field. He even went back for Pidge, the smallest lamb who ran off away from the rest of the herd. Maude stomped and glared at him (of course), but didn't charge. While it was far from polished, I worked my farm with my stock and my dog. I am thrilled tonight!

Celebrating on this soppy night with French Onion Soup in a bread bowl. But I need to go outside and see to the animals first, I can hear Jasper hollering for evening feed from the kitchen!


face off

Working Gibson with a few lambs everyday, getting him used to sheep, used to working with me. We're slowly forming a partnership on our own land. Ashe, seen here, isn't scared to face off with G every now and again. Gibson never grips, but he does have the dance moves to dodge even the angriest headbutt. He's a lover, not a fighter.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

it's NATIONALS time!

Antlerstock Is Gonna Rock!

So plans are being finalized for the Fall Festival/Antlerstock being held here October 15th and 16th. Saturday will be the main day of workshops, starting at 10AM with: Backyard lumberjackin' and woodlot management workshops presented by Professor Brett, Soap making by Tara Pommer of Texas, Cheese making (hard and soft cheeses) By Cathy Daughton and Diane Kennedy, and Myself doing tours and all the animal classes. There will be a Sheep, Chicken, Rabbit, and bee workshops taught by me throughout the day along with farm tours. I will also do a wool workshop, showing how to go from fleece to yarn as well as knitting lessons. Food will all be locally sourced from Veryork farms (as much as possible), you can expect brunch and a midday meal both days (vegetarian options). Cyrus and Saro will do absolutely nothing but walk around yelling at people. Expect nothing from the geese.

Jack-o-lantern carving stations will be set up at your convenience: hoping to light the farm up with jacks for the campfire!

Saturday night will be the campfire, with hay bales to sit on and refreshments. Please bring WARM clothes and blankets, and if you have a musical instrument, bring her along as well. This campfire is a totally casual "after-party" to enjoy just conversation and music. But there will be also a raffle for a student fiddle kit, and you have to be present at the bonfire to be there to enter into the straw hat.

Sunday morning will be another brunch (starting at 9AM) and series of workshops including a canning demonstration in the kitchen, and basics of food preservation (water bath canning to freezer bags, how to blanch, etc). Bread making from scratch, fiddle and dulcimer beginner introductions, the weekend festival ends with a field trip over to Merck Forest and Farmland Center for a hike in the early afternoon (weather permitting!).

There are only two spots left, folks. Please let me know at if you would like them!

Kevin Wins!

Kevin of Odd Ducks Farm, you are the new winner of the Week at the Folk School, last winner had to back out due to personal scheduling! Email me!

Monday, September 5, 2011

hard respite

It's pouring out there, and I just missed the deluge. I had been outside for a few hours taking care of Jasper's stall. I turned him out to the pasture and then filled a few wheel barrows with manure and soppy hay. I took note of his housekeeping. Jasper rarely, if ever, went to the bathroom in his indoor stall. He kept most of his dumps in the paddock. The far corner of the stall had a small nest of hay untouched by even mud. His bed.

I spent most of my Labor Day afternoon mucking this stall, giving him some fresh straw for bedding. With the three days of rain coming our way, clean, dry bedding seems important. It's what I would want. He walked back to his paddock without much fuss. He's getting used to his routines and used to me. Someday I will ride that pony. Today, I just flushed his toilet.

I have a little cornish hen in the oven over a bed of new potatoes. If you read this blog for some time, you know them as well as I. I thought a homegrown chicken dinner was fitting for Labor Day. Alongside it: watermelon from the farm down the road, and raspberries over vanilla Greek yogurt for dessert. A feast! And a savory, warm meal of meat and potatoes on a rainy night post a day of farm work. This is comfort pornography to me.

It's comforts like this that best explain why I do this, why I live this life. I am a junky for hard work followed by hard respite. But not just any work or any respite. I love working outdoors, with animals (sometimes in service to them) to grow and raise the food and music I will enjoy when the work is over. This is timeless, in our blood. Not one of us doesn't have an agrarian back in their pedigrees. It was simply how our culture became. So to spend a day in a light rain, dripping with sweat, shoveling horse shit into a wheel barrow in hopes that some day I will harness that pony to a log chain or cart: this to me is good work. This is joy paid for up front, emotional insurance.

I can take the work. (Hell, I'm a sadist for it.) I know after that stall is clean I will walk Jasper into it, hand him a little grain, fill his canvas hay feeder, and pour clean well water into his trough. He will have his every need met. He ran across a pasture, chomped apples, worked with me, and now has his bed and breakfast waiting for him post room service. Same goes for the rabbits, the sheep, the chickens—all of them are fed, watered, with warm dry places to call home tonight. When I go inside to rest, it is only knowing I did right by these animals. An unspoken agreement of mutual dependency sings.

When I sit in my farmhouse—even without anyone to share dinner with—I feel so secured and calm by this work. Sometimes, quite honestly, it is the only thing that makes me feel safe. Between my anxieties and a world and economy falling apart, this 6.5 acres cares for me. It stands up to blizzards and hurricanes. It holds fireplaces and warm dogs. It is worth all of it.

The meal I will eat tonight was known as a chick and a seed. It took months to get here, from people I know and do not know. I know myself and Ben Shaw, who raised and processed the bird, and how much work we both did. But what about the people who bagged those seed potatoes? What about the workers at the Hatchery who shipped that cornish? What about the folks who made that hoe, who sold it to me? There is a chain so endless, even in backyard-produced foods, and you don't have to be a religious person to be in awe, or grateful, or say an honest grace because this meal tonight, is a miracle. This day of Labor, is a celebration.

You grow food and you're forever. A part of past, future, life and death. You are sore, and tired, and to wake up without a kinked back or aching hips might require an hour of yoga before bed, but that's okay.

I hope all of you had a wonderful and safe holiday.

green=knitting likelihood

berries and fried dough

Went raspberry picking yesterday afternoon with my friends Wendy and Diane. The farm of our fruity desires: Gardenworks in West Hebron. It was a muggy, overcast morning at that farm, but the booty was worth it. $3.50 a pound for U-pick berries (and a pound is A LOT of raspberries!), and pick we did. I ended up bringing home around three pounds of the late-summer jewels. I froze four pints in ball jars with plastic lids, and ate the remaining berries fresh. It was hard not to eat them all....I don't think I ever ate a berry as good as those. Nothing compares to the sun-and-humidity seasoned orbs I feasted on while picking in those rows. It was also pleasant being out there with friends, talking, laughing, and getting my mind out of the usual anxieties and stresses anyone feels if they stay cooped up to long. I had not been out since Thursday night and three days of staying home with a bug convinced me I had every disease on WebMD. What I really needed: sunshine, fresh air, laughter, and a Bloomin' Onion.

Yes. a Bloomin' Onion.

After the berries were stored in the cooler in the back of Wendy's car we headed to the charming Schaghticoke (Skat-eh-coke) Fair. It was getting ridiculously hot for September, and both Diane and I kept checking our phones for weather updates. She has a small farm and so do I, so if the upcoming storm the weather apps had been flashing warnings about all morning would be bad, we both had work to do. But the sun stayed out, and we walked around the small fair enjoying the cows, sheep, goats, poultry, horses, and displays. In the NY State Products building one department of Random Agricultural Goodwill that was handing out large 1/2 pound seed packets of winter rye. I grabbed three. I'll cover the entire raised-bed row system I have and let them grow as a cover crop for soil health. I never grew any sort of grains before, but when a gift horse hands you three bags of rye, you say giddyup.

I also managed to eat a third of a fried petal onion (AKA heaven), fried dough with apples on it, ice cream, and lemonade. My quota of fair food is up for the year—and I'm happy to report this morning was back to oatmeal and yogurt—but that was a fine act of debauchery. And as awful/wonderful as the food was, and as hot the evening: it was that time spent outside with friends that made me feel so much better than I had in days (That, and making myself sleep at least 7 hours a night). Not a sustaining remedy, but a good shot of temperance. Everyone once in a while you got to set down the pitchfork and go eat some crap with your friends. Does the soul good.

And as for that storm...what a doozy! Sky went black around dinnertime and what ensued was a few hours of off-an-on pummeling of rain, lightening and thunder. One crack was so loud Gibson dropped his Nylabone and jumped right into my lap on an easy chair. But the power stayed on, and the basement stayed dry, and I felt lucky to be in this place. Safe as houses, they say. They're right.

dairy queens

Sunday, September 4, 2011

dark as night and it's only 6PM

...big storm coming....

real progress

The lawn is covered in leaves, and the king maple out front of the farmhouse is starting to turn orange and red. It's still humid out there, and weird to be hot and bothered among all those signs of fall everywhere. All around this farm, things are changing. Jasper let me slip his halter right over his head yesterday for the first time, and the walk out to the pasture from his paddock went smoothly. This morning I called him from the farthest reaches of the pasture and he came to me, and let me snap his lead rope on him, and we went for a walk down the mountain on the road, even jogging together for a while. I walked him back to the paddock (rain all day today) for some grain and breakfast. He walked right in. This might sound simple, or even boring to some of you, but this is progress for both of us. Acceptance of each of our roles. Being new to horses (new to everything, really) I am still learning how to work with what I hope will become my second vehicle. I used to have these goals of hopping on his back and riding bareback into the sunset up the pasture, or throwing on harness and taking a quick trip into town, but we aren't there yet. Right now we are learning manners, and our names, and who is in charge, and expectations.

It is slow progress, but real.