Saturday, October 29, 2011

Congratulations John!

John Taylor, you won the Seed Safe!
Email me to work out shipping.

And for those of you who didn't win, I'm sorry, I wish I had a hundred to give away. But unlike past giveaways on this farm for lamps, vacations, or instruments: I think this is something everyone who is able to afford, should have on hand. Seeds are the most important thing a small farm or backyard gardener can have, and to get this many (25,000) for around sixty bucks sealed up to five years is like literally having an entire farm in your back pocket. Insurance from disaster, an investment in your future farm, and possible the BEST gift of this holiday season! We still get the Cold Antler Farm discount till Wednesday night (see post below for code in the contest instructions).

Happy...um...Halloween?

It's the Saturday before Hallows here outside the village of Cambridge, NY. In town, folks are meeting at Hubburd hall to enjoy live music and costumes, dancing and "traditional" harvest activities. I have just finished knocking a Rhode Island Red out of a sumac with a roof rake so I could chase her into the barn to save her from impersonating a maroon pudding pop. Because the farm, if you can believe it, is in the middle of a Nor'easter dumping a half foot of snow on the farm a month before Home Alone starts playing on cable. I have raked the barn roof twice. I'm worried about snow coming off the roof and damaging the new chimney, and if it wasn't for the candy corn in the kitchen and calendar I assure you I would tell you it was January 29th.

Crazy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

lovin' this right now

take antlerstock 2011 home!

Tim Bronson of 468photography has been kind enough to build an Antlerstock Print Shop on his business's web site! For a few dollars you can get professional prints (I love the metallic prints) of you and yours splitting wood, making cheese, or enjoying the farm. Every CAF reader is welcome to purchase a print if they like, and I hope you consider it, as getting pros like Tim to come here and take pictures is only encouraged by being able to get back a little coin here and there. So Check out the images (many more than I posted on this blog) and consider buying a few to support a local Vermont Artist with a big dream. And if photography isn't in your budget, check out his site and send him a note saying thanks for the hard work and time he literally gives to the farm. He's earned it.

See The Print Shop Now!

sweaters at the ready: first snow!

I left work early, fighting off a sick feeling in my gut. I needed to get out of the office, and quick. While my insides worked the lower trapeze, my head was thinking about one thing: snow. Halfway home to the farm I was dipping down into the village of Shushan, and with my windows slightly open I took in the smells of the wood smoke. They beat me to it. I smiled and ruffled Gibson's shoulders. Snow was starting to fall all over. The familiar orange roads of leaves and dust were now covered in snow. It wasn't even Hallows and I was thinking about a long weekend indoors with words and coffee. Sweaters are at the ready, son.

When i got to Jackson, walking into the farm house was downright cold. 55, said the thermometer in the kitchen. Not awful, but when you just came in from a heated cab of a toasty pickup truck in a wool sweater, and before that, a disturbingly warm office.... 55 is like walking into a meat freezer. I didn't fuss about it. I knew that within an hour I'd be experiencing "farmer heat" a term I coined around here to explain the phenomenon where static movement makes the house seem cold, but soon as you light the wood stoves and spend an hour doing chores, you are your own furnace. So I did just that. I lit the Bun Baker in the living room, and the ol' Vermont Castings in the mud room and set outside to prep the livestock for the coming snowfall, however light it may be.

I carried two bales of straw on my back up the hill to the sheep sheds. They sheep munch on the yellow, nutritionless bedding like we munch on potato chips as I spread it around the 15x8 foot shelter. (For those not sure what the difference between straw and hay is: straw is dead grass used for bedding, it is yellow. Hay is dried, green grass, used for animal food.) I then added bedding to the annex next door. Soon all the sheep were inside the shelters, the comfort-lovin' lambs Knox, Ashe and Pidge were already making nests. I noticed Ashe (my only success at raising a decent breeding ewe last year) had a striped of black going down her right horn. I never saw anything like it, it was stunning...

I then went and filled two buckets with sweet grain and brought them to the sheep, along with a bale of good hay I set up in the shelters. With the sheep ready for the apocalypse, I headed down to see Jasper. The snow was coming down harder now, wind was picking up. I shut Jasper in the barn stall, closing the bottom dutch door for wind protection for the babes in the pig pen. Jasper paced around the small run by the barn, looking like he was about to have a tantrum. He wanted to run but he'd have to wait. A slick, steep, hillside for a horse that needed a farrier to trim his feet would just mean slipping and sliding and a possible injury. When the snow melted off Friday evening, he could run in the mud. Tonight he was staying in the barn. I gave him a little grain to bribe him indoors, mucked the run, and by this point I was sweating bullets and my face was ruddy. I went inside the barn and made sure Jasper had clean water, two flakes of Nelson Greene's Second Cut, a mineral lick and such. I scratched the poll of his head, he munched happily. I had just watched the documentary BUCK on Netflix, and a stallion colt literally jumped on top of a man and bit through his skull to the bone, covering his cowboy hat with blood. I thought about how the most impatient version of Jasper involves a playful nip and a trot around me in circles with some whinnies. In comparison to some horses, Jasper is a saint. I kissed him and told him I was lucky to have him. I meant it.

The pigs snorted through all this horse love. They have learned Jenna=FOOD and this is their new religion. I walked over to them, scratched their bristly heads, and dumped some pig chow and a load of cracked corn (for body heat) into their feeder. They ate greedily and I threw in some extra bedding for them to bury themselves in.

Do you remember that fall chick I showed you a few weeks back? It has grown into a fine little chicken, and mama and little babe had decided Jasper's stall was a safer roost then the tree outside the coop they usually are in. IN fact, all the tree birds came down and had made peace with the dry, bedding filled, coop and were finding their social order inside. The geese walked around yelling the whole time. I shut the coop door to keep the wind and snow out and turned towards the house. Two little chimneys sent white smoke into the air. I stopped to take a deep breathe of the crisp air tinted with woodsmoke, hay, horse and grain. My hands still felt like lanolin coated them from petting sal up in the sheds.

I went inside and the wave of warmth hit me. Between the stoves and my own body heat I was taken back by the windless, snowless, heat of the place. It was only 56.9 degrees inside now but it felt like 85. I stripped out of my heavy layers and got a glass of water. Farmer Heat in Full Force! The house was amazingly changed through the suggestion of fire, candles, and my time outside in the wet 30-degree world of the animals. I put the morning's coffee pot on the Bun Baker and threw more wood on the fire. Tonight I was staying close to my fire, books, and coffee. And I could do so knowing outside every animal on this farm was safe, dry, and out of the wind and rain. It's the kind of thing fiddle tunes are written about.

This morning the farm is covered in 2 inches of wet snow. By the time the sun is high I have a feeling it will all have melted away. But it was a fine preview of what's to come, and a good practice run for this North Country Shepherd.

Winter, I welcome you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

first snow of the season!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

here and heaven

Win a Farm in a Box!
SEED SAFE giveaway!

I'm excited about this giveaway because I am passionate about the subject. Online retailer, The Ready Store, has sent me an item to give away here on the blog and I'm excited just to write about it. It's a Seed Safe. What does that mean? Well, it's an airtight container about the size of a gallon of milk that contains 1-Acre of Non-Hybrid, Non GMO, open pollinated, heirloom seeds. The seeds include (but are not limited too) carrots, corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, chard, broc, melons, spinach, cabbage, onions, peppers, squashes, radishes, lettuces and beets. Over 25,000 seeds, triple vacuum sealed in this water-tight container that when harvested could produce 20,000 pounds of food. The seeds are okay to store for up to 5 years.

This is such a cool idea. It's a hell of a deal for backyard gardeners who want to buy a small farm in a box, and it's a nice thing to have stashed away in a closet in case we decide as a nation the "Victory Garden" is the only way your family is getting cheap produce in the wake of a war, oil shortage, or other such disasters. While I don't make this blog about preparation for harder times, I don't think it hurts to be mindful that even if you break a leg, lose your job, or a pandemic of swine flue sends your school home for the year: it would still be nice to eat a salad. So this is both an insurance policy you can stash in the cabinet or an entire backyard farm bought at once for the cost of a dozen heirloom tomatoes at a NYC farmer's market.

I think I'm going to get two. One to plant this spring, and then one to stash away and not really think about. And honestly, going to bed each night this winter knowing an acre of food is waiting for me in the closet is a nice thought. Makes the woodstove a little warmer, too.

To enter the Seed Safe Giveaway, leave a comment in the comments sharing a story of when emergency preparedness was important to you? It doesn't have to be about food security, it could be as simple as "during the NYC blackout I was really happy I had a candle collection in the closet, I could still see in the dark!" or "When Irene hit this past September I was glad I splurged on that mini-generator or the sump pump!" I'll pick a winner Saturday night!

If you just want to go ahead an buy the Seed Safe (it comes in garden, 1 acre, and 7-acre sizes) the Readystore is offering a further discount if you use the offer code BARNHEART5 at checkout till next Wednesday.

Antlerstock 2012!

The dates for Antlerstock 2012 will be Columbus Day weekend, October 5tth, 6th, and 7 2012 here in Veryork. Starting Friday night with a casual meet and greet BBQ and officially starting 9Am October 6th for an expanded set of workshops and classes! I want to add sausage making, home brewing, candlemaking, and more next year. It will go all weekend again, from Friday-Sunday at 5PM.

First come first served! Sign up by emailing me at Jenna@itsafarwalk.com. If you are interested in presenting let me know. And if you made it this year, and want to reserve a spot for next year, please sign up with a deposit before spots go!

in an autumn barn

snow tomorrow!

The weather is calling for snow tomorrow night, possibly even a few inches. It's not even Halloween and I might wake up Friday to a blanket of fresh snow. For the first time ever in my adult life, I am thrilled about the possibility of a snow storm on a weekday, because due to luck and circumstance: this weekday dump will be a Friday, and I darling, am home Fridays. Which means when I wake up to virgin snow my "work" will be firing up the woodstove, collecting eggs, feeding the animals, and then coming inside to work on the blog and pitch future books.

Can I get an AMEN?!

So here's a winter update, and I think some of you who read this blog through last winter will be happy to hear it. The farm is ready for winter, and the farmer is ready to cope. The wood stove has been installed and has been keeping the farmhouse warm, even on nights in the low thirties. I have yet to turn on any oil heat and for a girl who grew up here whole life with heating oil, this feels like I'm cheating on warmth. The last payment to The Stovery has been set up for Friday, which means as of Friday I have entirely completed debts on the chimney installation and hardware. It is a relief I can not describe in words.

There are 4 cords of wood stacked and ready to use in my driveway and under the cover of my side porch. Thanks to the work of folks at Antlerstock my fuel larder is full. Tonight I'll cart in a large load of wood to stack in the mudroom to ensure dry fuel for the coming days. The 1100 square foot farmhouse now has two wood stoves and together they are keeping this home warm and food baked and cooked regardless of the grid's power system, outages, and angry weather. If we lose all electricity due to a horrid storm: me and the farm are okay. I will have a place to prepare food and stay comfy as hell. I also have a few bottles of lamp oil, extra wicks, and candles stored up. Bring it, winter.

The roof was not repaired, but it was patched and the work deemed "get-you-through-this-winter" by a professional roofer. The Daughton boys: Tim and Holden, patched shingles and repaired the rising plywood that would cause water wells and leaks. With a good roof rake and some TLC, the house will remain dry.

Major projects such as the winter horse stall inside the barn was completed this summer, so Jasper has a safe place to ride out the worst of it. Inside the barn with him are four meat rabbits, two pigs, and the occasional chicken. There is a stash of hay, plenty to see us through a while. And winter chicken/pig/sheep fuels such as cracked corn, minerals, and grains. The sheep have their safe house, larger and solid on the hill. Tomorrow I will put down some fresh straw and make it the soft and warm place it will certainly be. The "annex" next door used for rams, sick sheep, and lambing will also be open for any outcasts from the flock to be sheltered from the weather if they choose.

The vehicle I now own is a 2004 4WD V8 pickup, instead of the 2WD 99 4cyl pickup I used to have (my Subaru died last year). It can handle my mountain, and get me to town or work safely. I have stored extra food, water, and plenty of quilts and blankets. There is half a tank of oil in the basement, a fuel-loaded generator just in case, and a landline installed if I need to call for help and my cell isn't charged or working. I have a plow man on call, a stocked first aid kit, waterproof boots, and plenty of knitting and books.

I am ready for this snow, and my farm is ready, too.

That's a lot of growing up in one year!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Antlerstock: Saturday Afternoon

Before the Lumberjackin' was over, I snuck away under the cover of overgrown roses and apple scrub to head back to the farmhouse. Inside my kitchen a small troop of future cheese makers collected around the stove, listening to Diane and Cathy tell them about the proper tools of the trade. People had notebooks, were asking questions, and cheese making gear was all over the place. One thing I noticed was there a fair amount of men learning about cheese, and a fair amount of women learning about throwing axes. Proof positive that in the world of modern homesteading, we aren't afraid to dabble.
 
Tim was snapping photos, Yesheva and her kids were on the floor, playing with a vintage Lassie toy she found on my bookshelf. Jamie, Jess, Riley, and others were watching the curds separate from the whey, and Cathy in her apron looked like the professional that she was. She had spent the last hour teaching about soft cheeses
 
My chicken workshop wasn't bad, it was just not as comprehensive as I would have liked. In my head I have a list of things I want to cover, but then a question gets asked, or a new rooster starts attacking amn inanimate object, and the whole thing falls off the runners and before you know it you're jumping from the topic of wind proofing your coop to HOA tattletales. Generally, though, it went fine and the crowd got a taste of sunlight for the first time all day. There, out by the red barn in front of the coops we took in a little vitamin D while Paco, my new rooster, strutted around behind me.
 
Paco has an interesting story, he was the sole survivor of a chick genocide that happened at a neighbors farm. While she left for vacation, the hens in her coop wanted the newborns out of their favorite nest box right quick, so they were beaked to death, thrown to the coop floor, and most died of exposure and a confused new mother hen's lack of protective fight. I had been asked to watch over these birds for my neighbor while they were at a music festival, and the first morning I went to feed and water the birds I walked in on the massacre. Sad to see the babes dead, I went about feeding the living, when I heard one small peep from behind a waterer. There was one black chick left. I brought it home to my farm to sit in a safe brooder in my mud room, safe from marauders. He grew up into Paco, and due to his unfortunate luck being born a rooster where a landlord doesn't want to wake up to crowing: he was told to leave.
 
So I took Paco back. Shelly and Ingamar delivered him in a large cage on the back of their '53 Ford truck. Talk about a cool way to get a rooster delivered during a farm festival!

While I was talking about chickens, Brett was up by the woodpile, setting up for his afternoon stacking and chopping classes. Tara was preparing everything for her soap making class, and was worried about the weather (rain was looking more and more like a possibility). When the class broke up I headed inside to get started on lunch prep. I was thrilled to see the cheese from the morning class already set out to snack on in several decorative plates with tomatoes from Firecracker Farm. Some cheese was melting in the oven, others were setting and hanging in cabinets and adjoining rooms. My kitchen was alive in ways it had never been before. People smelling the slow-cooking pork, eyeing up the bejeweled plates of cheeses they themselves watch happen through chemistry and folklore moments ago.

I started scooping meat onto puns, showed folks where the cider and beer was and was thrilled to hear Brett was ready to start pressing apples. His press just outside the kitchen was primed and the Daughton Boys had already shaken a few buckets down from the trees on the sheep hill. People filled mason jars with the fresh pressed cider between bites of a neighboring farms pork sandwiches. Pies abounded. People seemed happy to just eat, and talk, and think about the afternoon classes. I made a plate for Tim, who I knew had to leave shortly for the office and I didn't want him to leave hungry. I filled a cardboard take-out tray (Cathy Daughton scored these at a yardsale) and sent him off with quiche, pie, pork, and whatever else was around the kitchen for the kind man. Cathy made a plate for her husband, and I made sure Brett ate as much pork as his lumberjack self could contain. All around me people were just noshing and laughing. Never had my home been this full. Next year we'll need an outdoor tent and tables if the event grows (as it will) but this year my living room and parlor did the trick. I was expecting the floor to cave in under all that weight and traffic, but it did not. I felt safer from that.

As lunch wrapped up I was asked by Brett if I wanted to harness Jasper later to pull out some of the cherry logs we cut down? My heart rate exploded. Of all the events this weekend the working pony was the one I looked the most forward too but was the most nervous about. I had never before walked Jasper into the woods and hooked him up to a log. We had only trained with tires in open fields or with sticks lighter than baseball bats. But the idea of showing off his talents as a working member of the farm seemed too hard to resist. This was what we had been working for, together through sweaty summer afternoons and colder fall mornings. That afternoon I would hitch my gelding to a freshly cut tree and we would carry it to the axes.

When this happened, (and I will talk about it next) my heart was split open like a locust round and I realized with the certainty of April taxes that I would never own a tractor. I fell in love with working horses, and this was just the initial hit of addiction. Step up, Jenna. Step up.

Thanks to these posts, folks are already signing up for next year! Already four spots are called for in California! WOW!
photos by Tim Bronson

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.

Goodnight.

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

Ingredients:
1 whole farm chicken
3 potatoes
3 carrots
flour
salt/pepper
butter
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?