Saturday, October 1, 2011

We have a winner!

Nicole Ethier of Canada is our winner!
Nicole, email me at so I can send it your way!

Thanks to all who signed up!

Happy October from Cold Antler Farm!

So it begins! October is my favorite time of the year, my favorite holiday, my favorite air, and smells, and traditions. It's a rainy start this weekend, sure (and I am fighting off a bit of a cold) but the stock is dry and warm, hay and grain has been fed, and I am looking forward to having some company stop by soon for a day inside, baking with breaks for shotgun target practice outside. (I am dead accurate now with my .22, but enjoy boning up on my shotgun before bird and deer season!). I'm making a pumpkin pie out of an antique variety of squash called Long Pie, which looks like a stretched out greenish tinted pie pumpkin. I got my grandmother's pie recipe from my mother, from the 1936 American Stove Company Cookbook: a Woginrich standard. Excited to give it a try. We usually use long-neck white squash for our holiday pies but this might be the bees' knees, this Long Pie. Intrigue!

So that's my rainy day: company in the kitchen. I have two gallons to stout to brew and The wood stove can crank later on if I'm jonesing for some comfort (and if it gets chilly enough). Today is all about friends, shotguns, pie, and pulled pork for tomorrow's Annual Apple Cider Pressing Potluck. The whole Sunday morning will be spent collecting apples around here and the afternoon is dedicated to taking turns at the press and prepping our carboys for hard cider brewing! I'll be lugging along my pig, pie, and fiddle! And in a few months the bottles will clink! Happy October to you all!

Fiddle Winner Announced at 5PM EST Tonight!
You Have till then to get in an entry! (See a few posts down!)

photo by 468photography

finding home again

Those of you who have been reading this blog a while know how much I admire and look up to the work of Polyface Farm, a beyond-organic farm in Virginia. While at the Mother Earth News Fair I got to hear the honcho of that operation talk, a charismatic fellow by the name of Joel Salatin. He does many speaking gigs like this all around America, and when I sat down to hear him in Pennsylvania I didn't get what I expected. While there was plenty of talk about agriculture, it was really more about our personal culture, and I took one main thing away from his talk.


Joel pointed out that one of the largest problems with our culture, health, and community is how our houses (specially our kitchens) have gone from the center of our lives to a boarding house we sleep and eat at. Home has faded into lazy nostalgia, we're remember a place we no longer actually practice. There are people who pay every month to live there, hire someone else to mow and clean it, and unless we are asleep or grabbing a Pop Tart out of the toaster: they aren't there very often. Even weekends are dedicated to hitting the road to shop and go to soccer practice. Some people claim they could not even fathom spending an entire weekend at home: their children would go nuts without activities and events and play dates. Others without kids just find their homes boring, a place that is shut off from the world. They don't want to stay home because, even as I type this, I feel like the words "stay home" are a stick-in-the-mud's anthem.

I'm not saying you should all resort of agoraphobia to retain some sense of historical authenticity: I'm saying that home isn't such a bad place to be. For me, it's the only place to be much of the time! I've turned this backyard, old fenceless scrub pasture, and a one-car-garage barn into a farm. It took a while, a lot of help, a lot of animals, and good friends: but this white house on the mountain has become my refuge, my exercise, and my career. Writing and farming from this HQ is my dream job, and this blog and your support is slowly making that happen. My goal is for this place to also get off the grid and be as self-sustaining as possible. I want heat from wood, hot water and electric from solar or wind, breeding livestock, saved seeds, and enough scrappy farm-skills to render my own leaf lard for apple pies.

That's my story, yours is certainly going to be different. Maybe your home by the sea, a place passed down for generations, with an old coal range, dairy herd, and a wind turbine is your idea of a perfect home? Maybe it's an apartment in Portland, with a bike propped inside the front door, a community garden, and a cat you can't imagine reading a book without it curled near your chest? Maybe it's nothing crunchy or farmy at all: a loft in Philadelphia, a half-double outside the city, a suburban quarter acre... It doesn't matter. What does seem to matter, more than ever, that we value and appreciate home. That we try to honor it by cultivating good memories, good food, and community around it.

I grew up in a small town, in a very busy family. But I always knew dinner was served at 5PM and either my father or mother had prepared it. If we got busy, or too tired, they might serve us pizza or take out, but that was rare and usually during Friday around Lent (Palmerton cheese pizza was our vegetarian Friday night). But we spent a lot of time around that table, and every Sunday after Mass my father cooked up a heck of a brunch: eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, orange juice and coffee. We ate it in the dining room often, it felt special. And the whole family touched base. It wasn't until I went to college I learned how special and rate that was.

I miss that home, Columbia Avenue. But I am proud to start traditions just as important here. A place where the kitchen is my center, the keyboard my office, and the backyard my grocery store. I do the work that honors the promise of a small farm, and invite you all to join me when you can, and even though I'm a young single gal ready to light the world on fire: I'm still baking a pie tonight and planning for a winter pig. Some traditions (even new ones) are too good to give up for the bar.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Updates! Two Spots Left for Antlerstock!

Had a cancellation from a couple, and now I have two open spots for Antlerfest, weekend of October 15th. If you would like to come, email me ASAP, as they are first-come-first-get. This is certainly going to be your last chance to sneak in and I don't want to be telling tales out of school. but I just bought a pound of rendered leaf lard and 10 pounds of Boston Butt from Flying Pig Farm next door, and that Saturday's pie crusts and pulled pork are going to rock your heritage-pig-eatin' world!

P.S. Just a heads up, the Meat and Beer Workshop has been moved to Feb 18th, a week before the second wool workshop. Please email me if you signed up and this is a problem! And if any of you like the idea of sausage and stout, consider signing up!

that time of year again....

I decided that on this farm, pork is a winter activity. PIgs are traditionally raised through the summer into fall, which is why late autumn is called Hog Season. But with sheepdog training, fall breeding, horse training, and everything else I do through the summer: I like the calm ease of a winter pig. I have more time and attention for it, and the cold weather keeps down the smell. Winter is also not the pigs favorite time either, so there's no escaping into the three-feet of ice and snow when you've got a warm, dry, barn with the occasional heat lamp and hay to burrow into.

Keeping my eye open for a pig or two!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

a few good sheep

After work I set about treating (what I assumed to be) hoof rot in Sal. His on and off again limp was back, and this time the sides of his hoof were coming off like shingles. I penned him in with Atlas and washed his hooves with soapy water, trimmed them, washed them down with Hoof-n-Heel, and gave him a shot of Pro-Pen G. It took about half an hour and when all was said and done I left him in the pen. He could get regular doses of whatever he needed there, and Atlas seemed to like the company.

Just as I was locking up their hold, I noticed one of the Cotswold lambs limping. It took a while to catch her, but it was clear the only reason I could was the limp. I checked her over and saw no bruises, blood, cuts, nails or issues with her feet. I trimmed them a little (though they barely needed it) and sent her on her way again. In case it was an infection, I decided to load up another syringe of her weight dose of the antibiotic and went back to the fields with a crook in one hand and the needle in the other. I made a quick catch with the crook around her neck, flipped her, and medicated her right quick. I checked her eyelids, and they were pink. She seemed totally fine minus the light limp. I made a mental note to pick up more anti-toxin for spring.

As I watched her limp off I said a small prayer, hoping she would heal. I'm getting worried about some of these sheep. Most seem fine, but a few Blackfaces seem gaunt. I wormed them all last week in case it was that, and started adding more grain to their fall diets, but 7-06 is acting odd, like Lisette did when she was at her worst (who, by the way, is fine, if not the scrappiest and sorriest looking animal in the lot). If a sheep is dewormed, has fresh water and plenty to eat, open spaces, no sign of mucus, limping, or stress? What can it be? She's not pregnant? It can't be a toxemia? Perhaps they need more minerals? I was told that we don't have selenium in our soil here. I'll get them a fresh lick Friday at the Agway in Salem. This blog post has become nothing more than a shepherd thinking on a computer to herself...

Anyone have any suggestions? I'm devouring my sheep books but I have a feeling this isn't a disease as much as it is a lack of something....

i'm watching it all over again

updates and etc

It was a half day in the office yesterday, I took the morning off. I thought it was wise to slink back into my old routine instead of jumping in. But the half day was one of those non-stop barrages of changes, information, and complications that only exist in the world of online marketing. It's quite the culture shock, going from the real world of agriculture into the contrived-urgencies of the office. Hoof rot is a problem. A jammed printer is not.

I was completely reenergized by this weekend, and thrilled at the amount of people I saw buzzing like a happy hive from workshop-to-workshop. 10,000 people were there to learn how to milk a goat, spin alpaca wool, and plant garlic after the first frost. If you ever get the chance to head to the Pennsylvania fair, do so. It will leave your mind and heart reeling. The people were all so positive (even the peak oil speakers were smiling). And I especially loved just walking around the fair grounds with Gibson, taking it all in. The twenty hours of driving was totally worth it. And it got me REALLY excited for Antlerstock, which is turning into quite the event. Last night Othniel from Common Sense Farm asked if anyone wanted to come to an herbalism workshop at their greenhouse Sunday Morning, a 70-year-old elder will be hand pressing Echinacea into viles for folks who want to learn to use the healing herb. Tamine, their chicken Guru, will give a big talk on the history of the chicken and our culture on Saturday too!

A few of you are arriving Thursday night, and will be helping prepare all day Friday with me. Expect to get up early for a run to the market for pumpkin by the bin and a full day of slow cooking local pork for Saturday with some cider.

Update for 2010-2011 CSA members!
You're wool is coming from the mill to my farm any day now, just waiting for it to arrive. But I got a phone call explaining that only Maude and Sal's wool could be made into yarn, the Blackfaces could not. I told them I had twenty people waiting for wool and they explained that they needed wool no longer than six inches to spin. (I didn't know I had to have the blackfaces cut twice a year...) but they could make it into sheets of felt for making bags, slippers, gloves, etc. I accepted that offer. So sorry for the change of plans, but all CSA members will be getting some more wool skeins, like the ones before, and felt from the blackfaces. It should be to you around Hallows, certainly before Christmas.

P.S. You have until Friday night to put in a donation chance for the Beginner Fiddle Package, scroll down a few posts for details! Winner will be announced Saturday!

photo from

Monday, September 26, 2011

hotel expert

Dogs are hotel experts and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If a hotel/resort has nicer rooms for people with dogs than most hotels have for people without dogs: it's a winner. At the Seven Springs Ski Lodge/Hotel complex I was put in the "pet friendly" wing. Usually "pet friendly" means smoking rooms. I don't smoke, and while I don't mind the smell of fresh smoke at all/stale smoke makes me gag. So when I was given a beautiful room with a door that lead to an "exercise area" right outside my porch complete with a poo-bag station and waste buckets... I was impressed.

Gibson was impressed with the sheets. There was much audacious rolling about while I tried to read.

Joel getting ready for his 2-hour workshop

first morning of the fair


Antlers, I am home. Hundreds of miles, a slight fender bender, and six presentations later: I just completed my first every Mother Earth News Fair. It was amazing, and I am not using that term lightly. I spent the entire weekend around other Storey authors and experts in the Homesteading/farming field. I got to listen to Joel Salatin's Keynote address on Sunday (and deliver my own keynote address on Saturday!) I also did 3 intro-to-chickens workshops and two meat rabbit workshops (assisted by a new Silver Fox Doe I bought from Mule's Ear Farm) who had animals to sell in the ALBCA tent).

I was very happy and comfortable teaching those beginner workshops, but I was literally shaking before my keynote address. I'm not used to talking about me outside of this blog, not in front of hundreds of people. I didn't prepare a speech either, just a piece of paper from the resort's complimentary pad and pen.

I'll be posting photos and videos from the event all this week, as well as sharing stories and links. So keep checking back and if you were there and took the time to hear me speak, I want to thank you so much. So, so much.

And whoever shouted "WE LOVE YOU JENNNNNNNNAAAA" when I walked up to the stage: You were the reason I was able to relax enough to get through that ordeal! Thank YOU!