Monday, October 24, 2011

like I’m the one making it turn

Everyone has a favorite short story. Something they read once, that stuck with them, changed the way they saw the world. My favorite short story of all time is by Dave Eggers, from his collection"How We Are Hungry." His short masterpiece After I was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned is something I read often, that fills me up with hope and silent gratitude for the world every time I read it. Whenever I grow sad, confused, lonely or heartbroken I read it. I see the dogs in my head, racing trains at night under a full moon. When I was about to give up on a far-fetched dream or hope I would read it, and want to dig my claws into the earth like the narrator does, "like I'm the one making it turn...." I used to own it in a leather bound book with a hypogriff embossed into the cover, but Annie ate that book one day and when I came home to its confetti remains I cried and cried. It was like losing an old friend. I kept the piece of the cover that survived. All you can read is WE ARE HUNGRY. Perhaps that was the part that mattered the most anyway.

I see in the windows. I see what happens. I see the calm held-together moments and also the treachery and I run and run. You tell me it matters, what they all say. I have listened and long ago I stopped. Just tell me it matters and I will listen to you and I will want to be convinced. You tell me that what is said is making a difference that those words are worthwhile words and mean something. I see what happens. I live with people who are German. They collect steins. They are good people. Their son is dead. I see what happens.

Read the story here. Enjoy it with all you've got.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

raddle, remorse, and meat pies

There will be more stories from Antlerstock soon. I'm taking a short break from that story for the moment. I got on that mason jar tear and wanted to post the contest and recipe. Tonight I just wanted to share what has been going on the past week since the big event. Keep you up to date on the joys and drama, and hopefully wake up to some encouragement and kind words, as these past two weeks of the office, workshops, and a visit from my parents has left me so worn out I'm transulcent. If that sounds like complaining, it isn't. Some times this fine life just gets me with its horns, is all.

Atlas is out of the pen and covered with orange raddle. He looks crazy, but is enjoying the big pasture with the ladies. I tried fitting him with the leather harness but it was too large, the wrong size. So instead I put the thick, orange, ink all over his chest (if you only could have seen this moment...Atlas squirming while I held one horn in one hand and wiped sticky chalk on his chest with the other. He didn't care for this) and then let him back to the flock. He's not a giant beast, but he's got the goods and now he's dressed for the occasion. Breeding season is underway!

Do you realize this means Maude will be a Mother?!

Tough decisions are happening with the sheep. I originally thought I would remove Lisette and Pidge from the flock and keep them from lambing. Lisette however, has been packing on the pounds and bouncing back well. She is actually in better shape than some of the others, and removing her from her sisters and bretheren seems not only stressful for the old gal, but dangerous. I have seen what stress can do to a sheep, and since she is healing well and in better health, I decided to give her a go with Atlas.

Her lamb Pidge, however, is in poor shape. Not sick, but so small. She's small because of my inexperience and being too late with some medications and remedies early in her life. I have decided to have her take to slaughter. She's too small and too touchy for my gene pool, and keeping her around isn't good for the future of the flock. A tough decision to cull, but a necessary one. If the slaughter house says she's too small or poor for meat, then I will simply have to cull her outright. I'm not sure I can put a rifle to her. I might just call the vet. I haven't decided. I do know that her brother down at Common Sense Farm is the largest, most beautiful sheep of the season. Raised on grain with a 40+ person full-time staff he looks like the rams in the british breed catalogs. So it's not Lisette's genes I am worried about.

This is a crappy lesson. Some parts of this life just are.
If you're angry at me about all this, trust me, I am harder on myself.

But while the sheep are in a state of flux, they are generally better than they were during the rains in September. Now they are getting more grain, mineral, and everyone got dewormed. They are getting plenty of hay (1/2 more than usual, actually) and gulping their vitamin water by the gallons every day. All seem to be getting back from their misery of rain and heat. Even Sal is 100% healed from his foot business. Maude, despite her attitude, might be tied for the healthiest ewe in the flock next to the Blackface yearling (now two) from last year who is a brick shit house of sheep beauty.

I told myself I'd take it easy this afternoon. I didn't. When I feel stressed out I tend to dive into work, so today I did just that. After my parents left the farm from their weekend visit I opted to go get a load of hay in Hebron and work on a recipe instead of sitting down and reading and sleeping like I should have. But I was restless, so instead I let Jasper out to stretch his legs in the pasture, fed the pigs all the scraps from the Burger Den breakfast I had with my folks, saw to the birds and rabbits, cleaned the chick brooder (there are 9 Swedish Flower Hen chicks by the mud room woodstove now), did laundry, medicated a sheep, set loose a graffiti ram, and then before turning in for the night I am having some pot pie and a glass of wine. Both woodstoves are going strong and the farm is warm, the animals comfortable, the dogs sleeping, and I have a copy of The Legend of Sleep Hollow by my daybed with illustrations by Will Moses. I'll probably read for ten minutes and put on an episode of Buffy to fall asleep to, but the intentions are Martha Stewart pure.

If this post seems erractic, mish-mashed, and tired. It is. But the farm is crawling uphill, the dogs are happy, the coffee pot cleaned and loaded for 4:45 AM, the farmhouse warm, and the farmer managed to once again pay the mortgage and keep her dream on the defibrulator.

More coherence and Antlerstock tomorrow.
Thanks for the eyes and ears.

Chicken Jar Pot Pie

This recipe is so easy (and so pretty) you're gonna plotz. It's done over a weekend using a slow cooker. The recipe starts Saturday (anytime) and Sunday all you do is remove the bones from the cooker, pour in broth and veggies, and by Sunday evening you simply fill pie crust lined canning jars and bake them into single-serving pot pies. It looks beautiful, tastes amazing, and is an honorable end to those older, tougher, stew hens or roosters you dispatched but could never serve as a plump young roaster. Could also be done with any small game such as small turkeys, duck, rabbit, pheasant, and guinea fowl.

Total prep time over two days: 25 minutes
5 minutes Saturday/20 minutes Sunday
(longer if you make your own crusts and broth)
baking time: 45+ min

1 whole farm chicken
3 potatoes
3 carrots
herbs (to your liking)
2 cups chicken broth
3-4 pie crusts

Saturday: Take a whole, defrosted, chicken and either rub it down with olive oil and a pre-made chicken rub. Or simply mix a bit of diced garlic, rosemary, parsley, pepper and salt and soft butter. Then place it in the crock pot on low all day or overnight. You can literally do this before bed on Saturday night and wake up 10 hours later to meat will be falling off the bone. If you do it overnight let it to low/medium heat. If you start it in the mid morning Saturday like me, turn it to a warming level overnight and tomorrow morning you can get to work!

Sunday: Remove the bones from the slow-cooked meat. When the bird is de-boned easily with a fork and knife, remove the bones from the slow cooker and set aside. (you can use these to make a broth for later, or compost them). Then you take your pot of fragrant yummy bird and add a 1/2 stick of melted butter, 3 cut-up potatoes and carrots, (any root veg you like really,) and either pour in 2 cups of chicken broth or two cans of condensed chicken noodle soup. Set the slow cooker on low again all day while you go about your life.

Sunday Dinner Jar Pies: Take pie crusts (no shame in a store bought crust for busy folks), and line pint mason jars. Add a half cup of flour to thicken the juices in the meat and veg and using a slotted spoon, fill the jars with the meat and vegetables. Add some broth as well, but nothing too watery. Place a small crust over each jar when filled, using a fork to press the edges together and slice some vents with a knife into the top. Brush with melted butter and sprinkling of salt.

Now: place your jars on a cookie sheet and set them into a COLD oven. The jars can not be placed in a preheated oven, they need to heat up with the oven itself. Then Turn it to 350 and keep an eye on those crusts. At this point you are just baking the crusts, not the chicken and veg, so take them out soon as tops are browned. Should take about 45 minutes from the time you set your oven to preheat. Remove the sheet and let them cool a bit on the stove. Serve with potholders! Those jars smarts when hot!

If you make a large pot of the pie filling, you can serve half that day and freeze the rest of the crust and filling for a quick homemade meal on a busy winter night. Simply defrost the crust and filling in the fridge and bake it that night in the oven just as you did with the fresh batch.

Told ya I liked canning jars...

baby, it's cold outside

Canning jars are all over this house. I use them for everything, from their intended purpose to all sorts of everyday uses. I drink hard cider and beer from them around campfire. I freeze jam in them. I line the barn wall with old ones and fill them with nails and bolts. I lug a quart jar with a lid around with ice water and a lemon wedge instead of a water bottle. I use them to hold feed for chicks in the brooder, and I never pass up the chance to get a few more. Canning jars are the unofficial mascot of this farm, and this life: tough, useful, practical, simple, and occasionally breakable.

So here's my problem: I love coffee and I love canning jars. However, as spill proof as my quart jar of morning coffee is, it gets cold in a manner of minutes. Straight up glass does not retain heat. So I want to hold a contest here on the blog and what we're going to do is turn a regular quart jar (regular lids or wide mouth) into a coffee tote using whatever natural materials you have around your homestead. You can use anything fabric, leather, wool, knitted, felted, or contrived. It just should be true to the pioneer spirit of the task, look somewhat charming, and help carry around the jar. If you work in leather and wood, make a sheepskin cosy with a wooden handle. If you knit, try a jar sweater with a yarn loop to tote it around. If you quilt, perhaps batting and sewing gear is all that is needed to create warm jars? I'm not sure, but I do know I need a solution and am willing to offer a contest to find out how to make one for myself! The best designs will be removable from the jars, too. So you can easily wash them.

So, if you want to enter the Warm Jars Contest, all you have to do is create a jar apparatus, and email me a photo and short description by November 15. Then I'll post ten finalists and we can all vote for a winner. The winner will get a pound of Vermont Dark Coffee (a local favorite from Wayside) and a small library of new homesteading books, including a signed copy of the Backyard Homestead, the new Storey book Hunting Deer for Food, and the Kitchen Gardener's Handbook. Winner does NOT have to mail me the winning design either! It's yours to enjoy, but understand I will totally rip it off and tote it all around Veryork this winter!

What do you say Crafty Antlers? Want to help make my jar coffee warm?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

...into the woods at cold antler farm

photo by Tim Bronson

lumberjackin' 101

I was showing Tim the shoats in the barn when Ian Daughton (ten) walked in with this announcement. "Everyone wants to see Jenna throw and Axe!" I looked at Tim, looked at Ian, and then back at Tim. "Everyone wants to see Jenna throw an Axe!" was Tim's smiling reply.

I have never thrown any wood splitting devices any distance before. Timbersports, while retaining their own gritty appeal, were the realm of men in my mind. I'm a traditional girl. I'll happily hunt, fish, and chop rounds into stove splints but I draw the line at dangerous projectiles as a form of backyard entertainment. It's not about sexism: I'm just a complete klutz. I wish I could tell you that I have obtained the grace of a mustang mare on the Alberta prairies but the truth is I can barely get a cup of coffee back to my desk without spilling it. Around me, things break. I am always cut, gashed open, or scratched. The delicate life, is not my life, and the chances of me throwing an axe without a body count seemed slim. Nope, not for me sir. The men throw the sharp pointies and the women have the babies, this is a model that has stood the test of time.

I walked over to Brett's workshop anyway. Peer pressure, simple as that.

Everyone clapped encouragingly and I sheepishly took the handle. Brett showed me how to hold it, over my head with the right choke on the wooden handle. After some basic instruction I reared back my hands and let it go.

I missed. It slammed into the target's wooden legs and plopped on the floor.

Undetered by my first chuck, Brett made some helpful suggestions and asked me to try again. I lifted the axe over my head, let my hands understand the toque and the mission, looked right at the red center and SLAM! I hit the target not inches from the bullseye! I literally jumped in the air, this was the epitome of the anti-klutz! I had just experienced a hurdling metal grace! I hugged Brett and hoped Tim caught it on camera. He certainly did.

Well, now I was hooked. I had planned to go in and check on the cheese making, but I changed my mind. I have made soft cheese in that kitchen more times than you could chuck an axe at, so I opted to join the dozen people outside interested in wood lot management. With the crowd already excited by the target practice, Brett had us in the palm of his hand. He grabbed a cross cut saw and an specialty felling-axe and walked us back into the woods to the cherry tree he planned to fell.

Brett explained why the tree was going to come down. How the split so early in it's growth made it poor lumber, how it was fighting the old orchard for light. He then demonstrated the techniques of using a good axe to create the notch that tells you where the tree will fall, and gave us in the audience a chance at cross-cutting. Jason and Vaughn were amazing at this, a true team. I watched them work together and communicate. They check the saw level, just as Brett instructed. There was a plan in place for when the tree fell. Vaughn would take the saw, and Jason would back up. Both knew the escape plan, and both had a good idea of when the cherry would fall.

These are things I never thought about: escape plans, communication, who takes the saw, etc. All practical and important in the business of making lumber and firewood, but until someone showed me the steps and reasons, it remained a vague notion. Brett called the moment the tree would snap and it started to crackle. What a sound, what a sight! The 30+ foot tree fell to the ground with an autumn crash, leaves sputtering everywhere. I realized, as it fell, that I just acquired a few weeks of warmth. it'll take a year to season, but fall we'll likely be chopping and stacking this very tree.

What a system. What a perfect system. And throughout the day men and women watched as the tree went from a large living thing to a wood stove sacrifice. Then, they watched Brett saw it down into pieces, using a chain saw. Then, a few hours later, they watched a farm pony pull some smaller logs out from the forest into the chopping area. They spent their afternoon coming back to that wood pile, too. Jason, I think, fell in love with Brett's Axe and probably was responsible for a cord of wood with his own hands. Every time I looked outside the kitchen window, there was Jason, chopping away.

Can't blame him. Can't blame him for a second...

Friday, October 21, 2011

my vet's sweet ride

photo by Tim Bronson

the morning of the first day

Raven Pray Bishop has been my friend since freshman year of college. She and I found each other because I plastered the dorm with signs for a knitting club and when she arrived at the dorm number posted, we were all doing yoga instead. Unnerved by this fiber-induced stretch fest, she stuck around. She's stuck around ever since. For a decade she's listened to my stories, moves, farms, and man problems. She knows the entire story. A friend like this is rare, and I'm grateful for her.

Even though we retained our friendship, our lives didn't stay anywhere near the same trajectory. nearly a decade after that flyer was posted: Raven is a middle school art teacher on Maryland's eastern shore and I'm a writing farmer with a day job in upstate New York. This weekend was the first time we'd hung out in person in six years, and it was her first time ever being on the farm.

So I was excited to show her this life I cobbled together, have her meet the dogs, the sheep, Jasper and the flock and new pigs. Over the years these animals have become my world.

Raven was visiting with a friend and reader, Mikaela, who I had never met. The two arrived the night before and within moments of meeting her I felt comfortable and easy around her. I think friends of good friends make sense in the mysteries of human chemistry. So when the morning of the big day came around, both were willing to get up earlier than they had all year to help with farm chores. I asked them to meet in the kitchen at 5AM. On the dark morning we gathered around the percolator and Mikaela and I went outside to see to livestock.

I don't know if they ever spent a moonlit morning with sheep before, but both Mikaela and Raven seemed to not mind the hour, or the work, surrounded by the life and smells of the farm. In moonlight, under clear skies, my sheep seem blue tinted and warmer than during the day. We stood on the hill, overlooking the farmhouse and the geese we just let out of the coop. Raven put her hands on her hips, as to say "So this is where you went" and didn't seem upset by it at all. Neither was I.

The morning was a flurry of odd jobs, setting up stations and workshops, baking quiches and bread, and cleaning the house. Raven went to work making signs for everything from the book sale and raffle tickets to the toilet (Please Put Down Seat: Border Collie Has a Drinking Problem). I have since left that sign on the toilet. A humble homage.

By 8:30 most things were set and I was finally showered. The buffet of donuts, quiche, coffee, and pie was set out in the kitchen. Jamie Elfrank and her new Beau, Vaughn, arrived to help with parking and registration. I handed Vaughn a mug, and explained to him the parking area that was bush hogged down by the bass pond. He took on his role with authority, remaining outside to let the earliest visitors know the drill. Raven and Mikaela took over the registration table, and as each visitor arrived (starting at 9:15) they were welcomed, handed a waiver, and explained the house and farm rules. Then they signed the guestbook and got a copy of the Backyard Homestead as a supplement to the workshops and lessons they would be part of in just a few hours. Inside the house, Cathy Daughton was setting up for Cheese making and Brett was out back getting his saws and axes ready. After brunch and introductions, they would be the first presenters.

Soon the farmhouse was full of guests. People from the night before and new faces and names, people I only knew as avatars on the blog. Jess and her man Riley arrived from Ontario, Risa and Mark from Brooklyn, and Shannon from San Diego. There was a nice mix of urban and suburban folks as well as countrified couples like the women of Wind Woman Farm and Back Acres. I delivered pie and quiche to Raven and Mikaela and did my best to stay on top of the coffee pots, but soon realized I wasn't needed in the kitchen. In the miracle that is homesteading workshops, someone always is willing to lend a hand before you even know you need it. Diane and Cathy kept the kitchen working, grabbed mugs from the cupboard, and handed out napkins and spoons.

It was running as smoothly as it could. I was relieved in ways I usually take for granted. In a few moments everyone would convene out front for introductions and a small tour of my backyard operation and pastures. I scarfed a slice of quiche and headed towards the front door while Raven and Brett rallied the troops. Here we go...

Photos by Tim Bronson.
He'll post a shop you can order Antlerstock Prints/downloads from soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the evening before

Brett arrived at the farmhouse first. Came to the front door with a truck loaded with timbersports equipment, saws, horses, and a cider press. I don't even think I said hi as I rushed him inside. I just scurried to the kitchen, spun around, and asked if he knew how to use an apple peeler. He was patient with me, by this point he knows how to recognize the glow of panic in my eyes. He started messing with the peeler, made small talk, and did his best to calm me down by showing me that

A. The peeler was broken, and
B. Why didn't he go outside and unload the truck first?

I nodded. Soon after he was out amongst his workshop area and such, Brian and Christina arrived. Now I have never met these people before in my life, but I knew they read my blog and had offered to help. So when the two came to the front door, I think the first thing I asked them was "How do you feel about livestock?" and within five minutes of walking in the front door of their weekend vacation destination they were feeding 15 Swedish Flower Chicks new feed and water in the mud room. Poor guys, at least Brett knew what mess he was walking into.

After Brett Tara arrived, fresh from her afternoon in Cambridge and a sturdy nap. She was glowing, and seemed willing to help me peel apples by hand. All I had to offer these guests was hard cider by the pint bottle, a crock pot of chili, and some homemade bread. We worked and ate, polishing off four pies by the time Raven and Mikaela pulled up to the farm in their rental from the Albany train station. I was finally calming down in this fray. The pies were on their way, the guests fed and tolerant, and everyone seemed to excuse my rudeness as nerves (which it was). I'm not worried about public speaking or having a house full of strangers make themselves comfortable. I am however, terrified that they won't have a good time or not have enough to eat. There's a lot of pressure knowing you're one couples 17th wedding anniversary weekend and another couples pseudo honeymoon... Did they know how much chicken shit was in that yard? It just didn't whisper tender memories to me. But hell, maybe they knew something I didn't know?

All night the brave volunteers helped. At one point everyone was in the kitchen making apple pies and baking loaves in an assembly line Henry Ford would have winked at. Eventually all 9 pies were cooling on racks and shelves and we had consumed enough cider to render us useless as quality control. I called it a night. I thanked Tara, Christina, and Brian and told them I'd see them tomorrow.

By 11PM the only people in the house were Brett, Raven, Mikaela and I. They had the two bedrooms upstairs and I would camp downstairs with the woodstove and pack of three. I don't think I fell asleep until 1:30, and my alarm was set for 4:45. Everyone would be getting up early with me to tackle farm chores, cleaning, and workshop prep (as well as bake 4 quiches and run to town for donuts). I fell asleep eventually, between worries about enough vegetarian options and canning jars.

Tomorrow at 10AM the first guests would be arriving and first annual Antersiock would officially begin...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

hit the skids, pony style

photos by lara aka redbird! thanks!

...from the rooftops, shoat it out!

I pulled up the Rice Mansion before dawn. Tara, who had flown in from Texas the day before, was sitting on the porch waiting for my arrival. We'd planned to take this road trip since a few days before Antlerstock. We literally planned it in the comments section of a previous post. Pulling up to the mansion was one of those weird moments when the internet and reality fuse into one actual experience, and I think we were both a little nervous meeting a new person we only know from our desktops.

But there was no weirdness, Tara and I quickly learned we were cut from the same cloth. She's a goat herder from Texas and I'm a shepherd from New York, livestock and proximity aside, we were sister suffragettes in our freedom-to-farm life. The entire trip to the pig farm was easy laughs, stories, and taking in the morning drive. She noted that the northeast seemed a little more gentrified than Texas, but she was certain the sky was smaller here. I smiled hear that. I think I would turn in a few edged sidewalks for more headspace myself.

The ride north flirted with rain and wind, but the weather was unusually warm. I'm not a fan of that. If you're going to be October, act like October, I say. So when we did finally reach the hard scrabble homestead up north, I was warm and anxious. Excited to take home the pigs, but nervous about all the preparations ahead of me. I had yet to bake a loaf of bread or fill a pie pan and 30+ people were about to expect brunch. I wanted these porkers locked and loaded. I had a hay-lined dog crate in the back of the truck, and a plan to stop at Saratoga Apple on the way home. I was a woman prepared for hogs and half pecks.

I was also about to commit an act of superb haggletry. Since I started out in this country life, I have grown in my skills to make a deal. This man wanted 60 dollars a shoat, but for winter pigs that seemed high. I told him I wanted two and would bring cash, but I didn't say how much cash I would bring. I brought eighty dollars. As we were in the pig pen looking at the stock I told him I only had so much to spend and would either take two for $80 or the one at the agreed original price of $60. I have learned that deal making with livestock has to happen at this point. If you do it over the phone or emails, no dice. But if you wait till the last possible minute with the gumption to walk away, you nearly always get your gilt. he sold me the pair for 80 dollars. That means for just twenty more dollars than last year I got double the pork! hooooo Doooogggy!

The shoats were Berkshire/Yorkshire crosses, about twenty pounds each. Mostly pinkish white, in that classic piggy way, but covered in cow splotches of brown and black. We helped the gent load them into the dog crate and within moments they were pooing and sleeping on their bed of fresh hay. I watched them settle in and was happy I ended up with two. They snuggled into each other, and would continue to keep each other warm company through the North Country winter.

Tara was good company the whole ride. A good sport with me getting lost and missing turns, and in high spirits. She would be doing a soap making class on Saturday and had mailed me some supplies in advance. As we rolled south back to Cold Antler, we talked about the planning ahead. She and a few others had offered to help set up the night before. Christina and Brian from Wooden Plow Farm in Maine, Brett, and my friends Raven and Mikaela would also be coming to the farm around 3:30 for chili, fresh bread, and a pie-baking marathon. It was only 11AM and I was already bushed.

Tara and I got the pigs settled in at the farm and then I took her back to the hotel for a short break before the bake off. I headed home to vacuum, dust, make beds for the guests and mow the lawn. None of the work was hard, but it was constant. And I was rushing through it, too. So excited to have the place bustling and alive, with classes and kitchen smells, and trees crashing into the brush while cheese curds formed indoors. Tomorrow would be a big deal, a collaboration and a celebration. I could hardly wait....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

jasper and the path to the campfire

P.S. I had a typo in that earlier post about Antlerstock 2012, it is CERTAINLY NOT FULL. That was supposed to be 2011 (which was). Anyone can sign up for Antlerstock next year at anytime, it will be limitted to 40 people though.

photo by Antlerstock attendee S.T.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Antlerstock: the whole story coming right up

Antlerstock began Friday morning with a pre-dawn road trip to buy pigs and ended with a gentle walk through the Vermont forest with new friends. For the next few days I'll post the entire weekend, in detail, and share what happened on a little sloping mountain in Washington County, New York when a smattering of homesteaders and independent spirits got together to learn, laugh, and enjoy a life of animals, food, and music.

For two whole days my backyard was lucky enough to be transformed into a learning center/mess hall. Workshops on everything from felling trees to canning jam were well-attended and enjoyed. It was an amazing collaboration, and when I say amazing I mean Brett, Tara, Cathy, Raven, Mikaela, and Diane. I just hosted and figured out the logistics, but they gave up their weekend, talents, a time to help inspire and educate others. There were workshops and field trips, purple chickens and secret-sauce chili. There was a 1953 Ford farm truck, an old trike hauling squash, and a pair of little pigs. People came from as far away as San Diego and as close as a few miles south on Route 22. Couples from New York CIty and Boston talked about throwing axes and cheese cloth instead of parking spots and their office mail boxes. Saturday afternoon you could find yourself either in the pasture with me and the sheep (and Gibson's antics), inside the kitchen watching soap making demonstrations, outside learning to split and stack firewood with Brett, or just walking around the farm snacking on the morning's cheese workshop's products while petting a piglet or plucking a banjo.

I sincerely want to thank the people who came, presented, and shared their stories, efforts, support, and caramels. I felt at home with the whole crew, and hope to see many more of them soon. It was a special event, inspiring and simple. I will certainly do it again next year, but with porta-potties and a string band.

Next up:
How a Texan and I went on an adventure north to haggle for pigs.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Random Photos from the Celebration!

the campfire!


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dispatches from Antlerstock
Cheese Making, Jasper, and Chickens!

Dispatches from Antlerstock
Cider Pressing!

Dispatches from Antlerstock
Backyard Lumberjack Workshop!

photos by Tim Bronson

Friday, October 14, 2011

meet kevin and bacon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

preparations are underway...
Request a photo of Antlerstock!

Preparations for Antlerstock are in full force. I spent most of the day running errands and getting groceries. Tomorrow a lot of pies and quiches will be baked, pork will be set into the slow cooker, supplies set up, signs painted, and much more. Folks are emailing and checking in already, from all over.

Tonight Tara (from Texas's Ghost Dog Hollow Farm) and I went to a talk at Northshire books, which was okay, but the ride there and back talking was even better. I never met Tara until tonight. She was only a face and a blog, someone in the comments. Today we shopped for distilled water and navy beans in Shaw's. If it wasn't for this blog, so many friends would never come out of the woodwork.

I'm very grateful.

Beans are soaking tonight for tomorrow's crock pot. Getting up extra early for a swine-inspired road trip north to pick up a pig or two (we'll see how my haggling skills have grown). Today Swiss Family Daughton stopped over to help me muck out and re-bed the small pen for the shoats in the barn. Tomorrow Brett, Raven, and her friend Mikaela will be here around 3 or 4PM to settle in and help set up all the stations and registration table. Looks like there's a chance of rain, but as Brett suggested, I'll do my sun dance and know it'll be enough. I can really cut a rug when it comes to hope, watch me go.

Tim will be here Saturday to take photo's, and if you have any suggestions for him of things you want to see images of: comment here and let him know. And I'll do my best to update, but it may have to wait till monday (outside videos and photos) because I have three nights of houseguests, I hope you understand.

Wish you were all here, and if it goes well I'll make this a regular fall event. And in the meantime, consider another workshop, because they are becoming a heartbeat of this farm, and not just financially. They bring people, stories, faces, and other farmers to life for me. Saturday night a campfire will glow with friends and music. If I had my druthers, everyone of you who wanted to come would be sipping hard cider and listening to fiddle tunes in my backyard.

Wish us sun, safety, and enough to eat!

...the enemy returns

proud to be a greenhorn

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And the Just in Case Winners Are....

Winners are Jude, Jim and TransFarmer!
Email me so I can send them out shortly!

gibson in the pickup

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

gibson's enemy

getting ready under the full moon

Just in from a night of chores under the full moon. It's so big and bright out there that I could see fine without a lantern. Everyone got their feed and water, head counts and health checks completed. The sheep are eating their minerals up and seem well, but a few Blackfaces are still too thin. I called the vet tonight and she said older sheep sometimes need new types of dewormers, since both the wormers and the sheep have grown tolerances to the medicine. She gave me some names of injectable types she swears by and I'll order them soon as I can.

I was working until dark because right after work I needed to pick up 42 pumpkins from Othniel down at Common Sense. He had picked them up at a wholesale market and they were waiting for me in their barn. I was so happy with them, all fat and round, my truck is still loaded up with them. I need to go back out and cover them up from the rain headed our way. I welcome it. The pasture needs it (what's left of it at least).

I'm tired, but excited. My friend Raven is coming up from maryland and I haven't seen her since college. We talk on the phone all the time, but it has been five years since we shared a cup of tea. I'm excited to share my world and community with her, and for her to meet characters in my life I've been telling her about for years.

I would have posted a photo of the pumpkins, but the moon isn't that bright. My iphone doesn't have the chops for that sort of work, and I'm currently lacking a digital camera, but I'll wrangle one of them up soon enough, I'm sure.

Sleep well.

P.S. Winners of the Just In Case giveaway announced tomorrow!

get yer antlerstock shirts and goods!