Thursday, September 22, 2011

Off to the FAIR!

It is pouring outside, a big loud storm. I just closed the latch on the coop as it raced down the mountain. It's such an intense thing to experience, hearing the storm and pounding water getting closer and closer, as you remain dry knowing it's only a matter of time... Then the clouds burst and the sky flashed and I got soaked on my way back into the house. Gibson watched from the French doors. He never understands why I would ever farm without him? Even if it just closing a coop in the rain.

It took me the entire afternoon to prepare to leave. By the time the front lawn was mowed, the sheep de-wormed, and the truck cleaned up inside I was spent. I looked at Gibson and told him to jump in the truck. We drove into the damp town of Cambridge to enjoy one of the last warm Thursday nights in town.

I love Thursday nights in Cambridge. The Co-op, bookstore, and Common Ground Cafe are all open till 8, meaning you can grab a magazine or a novel, local eats, and a warm meal all within a few feet of each other. Common Ground was packed with locals and tourists alike. I saw Bliss, who takes yoga classes with me on Friday and runs the Tuesday night music circle. I think she is starting the monthly contra dances in town too? And I know most of the folks at Common Sense Farm (this is their cafe), so I just sat at the counter with some kids and got soup and a veggie wrap and iced tea. I sat near the giant stone fireplace and realized this winter I have a hangout just a few miles down the road, and if I get overwhelmed I can come take off my scarf and sit near the fire and talk with folks from neighboring farms over coffee and cream cheese pie. KNowing this made my veggie wrap taste even better.

So I'm off for the big show. The truck has been washed, vacuumed, oil changed and tank filled. The farm animals have all been seen to with fresh bedding, water, and topped-off feeders. Jazz and Annie are at the kennel/doggy spa in Bennigton. And only Gibson and I remain in the farm house as the thunder rumbles over Washington County. Early tomorrow morning when the couple that is housesitting arrives to take over the role as Head Antler around here. Then Gibson and I will be on the great American Highway by sunrise, chasing it south as we head into Pennsylvania and west towards Pittsburgh for the Mother Earth News Fair. I'll be there for the whole weekend, giving a keynote speech Saturday night and several workshops throughout the two-day event. I hope to meet some of you out there, and take advantage of some of the speakers and workshops myself (Joel Salatin is talking Sunday night!). I will try and update from the festival, but that might get tricky as I don't have a laptop, iPad, or other fancy somesuches of technomobility. I do have a cracked iPhone though! So I'm not a total Luddite. I'll make due.

Here's to a safe trip! See ya at the Fair!

P.S. Here is my page on the Fair's site, tells you about when and where I'll be in the fray

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

let's hear it for canadian television dramas

guard chicken, keeps bikes safe

photo by tim bronson -

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Tonight Gibson ended his lesson calmly balancing sheep around me, which he took from a fence to my feet within twenty minutes of (Mostly) controlled work. 180 degrees from yesterday, and I stood the entire time. He is growing calmer.

Half the battle is just going back to do it all over again.

the book of job

Slept in this morning. No yoga, or meditation, or coffee on the stove. In the rush to get to the office on time I just brushed my teeth and packed a bag for the locker room. No point in getting ready on a rainy morning just to show up to the office with wet hair and mascara bruising under my eyes. I threw clean clothes and a towel in a totebag and called Gibson into the truck. I ran around in the rain getting everyone hay and water, and then we left for work just a half-hour after waking up together. I'm used to 3 hours of morning before I leave for the World. This morning was a hot mess.

In the shower I saw my new bruises, nothing drastic. It was more of a morale blow than anything else. I had a rough day and the sheep knock down was the breaking point. The Book of Job starts by explaining he farmed 7,000 sheep. Soaping up in the shower over my new Calico thighs I had a new respect for the man. No wonder he could handle the rest.

But despite the bad day and rushed morning, I am in better spirits. A hot cup of tea after a warm meal and some reading under the blankets had me in a better frame of mind. I spent the night reading from Heike Bean's Carriage Driving and Derek Scrimgeours' Talking Sheepdogs. Both address the novice trainer, and begin with the animal's mind. It occurred to me last night how I am simultaneously trying to understand the minds of prey and predators, sometimes in the same hour. I don't think I ever trained an herbivore before, and assumed my canine mind would translate. It was my second hit in the gut for the night: I'd been talking to the horse as if it had sharp teeth. Then I laughed, realizing Jasper does have his fighting canines, sharp little fangs, where his bit rests. He needs them removed when the equine dentist comes. The appointment was made, and the dental work should make training easier on us both.

One thing I am learning about the Dog and Pony Show is that I expect too much/too fast, and it is crippling our progress. I need to walk out on the field with one, simple, specific goal and leave on a good note. This is something we all know (we being those who train dogs and horses), but in the frustrations of real-time field work I lose this wisdom. I get caught up in the fray, the moment. I have the ability to know this is wrong, but keep making the same mistakes. But I am working on it. Always, working on it.

By the time this horse and dog can work this farm I will be the one changed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

ten horns

Wasn't in the right frame of mind for herding lessons, but went out in the field anyway. After a frustrating twenty minutes of poor handling and a frantic dog, Gibson sent the five horned ewes sprinting directly into me. They knocking me into the ground, the blunt end of several horns hitting my thighs and gut. Winded and bruised, I got up, called my dog, and sat on the hill and cried for a long time.

I'm making tea and going to bed.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

she growled from the station

Tonight I softly sang to Sacred Vision while pounding t-posts into the ground with everything I had.

I think this combination of actions describes me perfectly.

what a dummy

Got a box of tomatoes (seconds) at Stannard's Farm stand for 5 dollars and set them in the back of my truck over a few bags of mulch. Then, as I drove through Bennington I heard the slam of the tailgate opening and watched as the box of thirty tomatoes hurled behind me and landed in front of a Subaru, who didn't even swerve and hit them full force, sending red blobs everywhere.

I came home and unloaded the heavy bags of mulch to do some landscape work and sat down with a plop, forgetting my iphone in the back pocket I was using as my storyteller, an audiobook distracting me. It shattered, glass looking like a bullet hit it. I couldn't afford a new one if an iPhone Store was around the corner from my farm, which it most certainly is not. Some sighs are longer than others.

Minor faults in an otherwise beautiful day. Got the animals trained and seen to, going to spend the evening before dark setting up the new hot wire around the sheep's main pen, give that grass a break from their antics. All that time in the pasture has turned it into moss, it needs some rain and a good week without hooves on it to start growing back to good. Hoping no more losses for this beautiful Sunday evening, but I'm not counting my crows just yet.

surprise in the pig pen!

I don't feel a bit of regret starting a Sunday morning with bacon and eggs when I plan on having mornings like this. I started the day up in the fields with Jasper, working on his driving lessons. Then had a great training period with Gibson and four of the original Blackface ewes. By 9:30 AM I had cooked a traditional North Country Farmer's Breakfast and worked off at least half of it chasing the dog and pony show. But I saw glimpses of progress today. Jasper stopped and remained in place for a while and then walked forward again without turning around. Gibson got the sheep off the fence easily and is starting to learn Come Bye and Away to Me. I spent the morning mowing and cleaning up around the yard, planning to do some mulching and landscaping later on after I rewire and shore-up the sheep fences. I don't want to leave for three whole days and find out the sheep escaped because I didn't take a few hours to lock down on the charge. Last I plan on working in some winter rye into the two raised beds I already turned over for the season. So it goes.

So today is a day of work. Here I go!