My morning started on the operating table, and that's no joke. I was in for minor surgery, to have some suspicious moles I earned these past few years out in the sun removed in case they were trouble. Before the surgery began I was on my back under the bright lights, sanitized and exposed. I was feeling pretty uncomfortable, and a little scared. The surgical staff hooked me up to a heart monitor and the nurse at my side made an odd comment, asking if I was a member of some type of team or sport? I asked why, and she said only athletes and pastors have that kind of heart rate before surgery, steady and slow. I laughed. I told her I had a farm.
Okay folks, here is a fairly long sample clip showing you an example of how the webinars will work here. It is about ten minutes. Mostly, it's video instructional blogging but with extra photos and stories of my own life and experiences thrown in. In this partial webinar, you'll see some vintage Tennessee Jenna, mountain smashing! (That's my bum climbing to the top of Chimney Tops in the Smokies, son) And videos from the old states not even mentioned on the blog. Consider it more than a way to learn country skills if you can't make a full-day, on-farm workshop—think of it as a video conversation in my home, with lots of yarns and laughs thrown in.
This webinar starts out like a bit of a scrapbook, and talks about the history and my story of coming to the dulcimer. After that we get a quick review of parts and simple strumming in my office. It's a fair preview of the conversational style of the whole process. And for those of you who are audio/video buffs, I do apologize. All I have is a 2005 eMac with iMovie, Garage Band, and iPhoto (also from '05!) . I used those programs to do everything from turn me into a one-woman band (I recorded dulcimer, Irish whistle, drums, and rattles on top of each other with sound effects) to film editor. This little sample you see took me about 6 hours total, and that's not counting the time to write and record the music (two songs are originals I wrote in Sandpoint, Idaho. Winters are long there.)
I loved making this teaser webinar, and already am planning my second one (wool washing, processing, and hand carding and drop spinning to match the January Workshops) as well as spring Webinars in less adorable arts like rabbit and chicken harvesting and freezer wrapping. I hope this sample inspires some of you to sign up for these, and gets the current members already signed up excited for what's ahead. More (and full-length) webinars will be emailed to subscribers as they become available starting in 2012 (Expect one a month 20-30 minutes long!) sent via a private link to download.
P.S. quality of videos for streaming on the web isn't as good as what you will get on DVD, know it is a crisper view at full-quality.
P.S.S. Sorry it didn't go up last night, I fell asleep while it was uploading to the farm's youtube channel!
I am working on this webinar like nuts, in all my free time today (had to go to the office for a few hours). I plan on posting a 5-8 minute clip at the very least tonight, and work on it an hour or so a night this week to get it right. So far the intro, parts of the dulcimer, and a tuning demo using an electric guitar tuner has been filmed. I think I'll redo the tuner section, but you can expect to see a decent demonstration tonight before I turned it. It was nuts to think I could make a 25 minute instruction video on one computer in a day, but I can get it done in a week, I am certain!
I'm starting to doubt the chance of yuletide bunnies and goslings. The eggs Saro has been nesting on have yet to hatch, and none of the does took to their fall breeding in November. I had the does again, but there's nothing I can do at this point to bring geese into the world. I hope a few hatch, both this farm and Common Sense down the road, are interested in geese. They are great for bartering too. I could get some great bath and body supplies from them for a few goslings, and next year's goose dinner for me!
Folks, you take some fresh kale, some carrots, and drizzle a little olive oil over them with a sprinkling of chicken rubbing spices, and then place an equally oiled/spiced rub natural bird on top of that and you got yourself a weekend dinner that took you about 7 minutes to prepare for the oven and will make your house smell like God's pocket. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, then turn down to 350 till chicken is done (meat thermometer reads 180 on the breasts and juices run clear). So good. So, so, soooo good. I regret every day I ate kale without roasting it with vegetables in an oven. Live and learn.
Today is a day all about literature and booze. I'm spending the morning working on a very important writing project, throwing every bit of myself into its success, and then this afternoon two of my girlfriends are coming over and we're heading over to the Big Horse City (AKA Saratoga) to get some home brewing supplies so we can syphon and ferment our home-pressed hard cider a second time to be bottled for gift giving. What I love about home brewing is most supplies can be used over and over and I think after this cider is bottled I'll try a new winter stout now that I have two fermenters, something hardy.
I know there are many different feelings out there about alcohol, but here is my ethic: all things pleasant enjoyed in moderation, that hurt neither yourself or others, can be a great comfort in this short life. A frothy pint of black beer at the end of a cold day of farm work outside, paired with a fiddle and a dog, makes my endorphins speed up. I am so happy to be in good company, with music and a light buzz, though you will never see me drink to the point of impaired thoughts or actions, mostly because there are 56 animals outside and 3 inside that depend on me to be their go-to in an emergency. IF I had three big glasses of beer and Annie swallowed a nail and I couldn't run her to the emergency room in Glens Falls because I thought it was okay to get hammered... I would never forgive myself. So my ethic remains the same, a bit of fun is good. It's a balance and revelry to hard work and weather. It doesn't work for everyone, but that's this farm's policy.
So home brewing field trip today over to the Zymurgist's shop after my morning of writing and some video production. Starting to film and edit the first webinar today, about teaching yourself mountain dulcimer. Some folks had emailed me asking if they could preview a video before committing to a season pass? I think that is reasonable, so I will post the whole first webinar here SUnday night and you can decide for yourself if it's worth supporting. You won't get Hollywood, but you will get authentic stories and tales, more personal anecdotes, photos and bits from my past, and learn to make some tunes out of wood and wire. I hope it inspires you to bring music into your home.
Oh, and some good news! Barnheart made the super hip IndieNext list! A monthly collection of books independent bookstores deem worthy of promotion and hand-selling. It's an honor, and my humble farm book is in some snazzy company on that list. So it's a win for the words of this mountainside farm. Thanks so much to the librarians, booksellers, and teachers out there promoting my work.
P.S. Connie at Battenkill Books will take Holiday Gift orders of Barnheart till Next Friday, Dec 16th! Call or email her by then to make sure it gets to you or yours for Christmas!
I'm excited about the first Webinar I am planning. It's a complete beginner's guide to the mountain dulcimer. It'll be between 15-20 minutes long and contain everything you need to know to tune, play, and enjoy the simplest and sweetest of the ballad keepers. You'll hear some singing from me, the story of my history with the dulcimer and the Smoky mountains, and learn about the instrument's history, stories, and reasons for keeping a mountain (AKA lap) dulcimer at arms reach at any time. By the end of the video you'll be either scanning Craigslist for a dulcimer to barter for, promise.
The Webinars are important to me. It's both a way to share what I love doing, and helps sustain this farm., allowing me to take a stab at making a living doing what I love. I consider that, the real American Dream. I don't think the old idea of a cookie-cutter house, two kids, and a golden retriever with stock options really holds the weight it once did for the post-war scene. I think the American Dream of my generation is to pursue something you love, something that makes you sing deep inside, and try to find a way to create your life around it. It doesn't have to be your income, or the only thing you do, but to follow your passion in a way that is sustainably rewarding, to me, is the Big Dream. And it's not just for American's anymore, darling.
So for those of you who signed up for a season of Webinar's, you'll be emailed a link to your download/video hopefully by Sunday night! You don't need a dulcimer to watch it, but it might inspire some of you who aren't musical to give it a go. Dulcimers are beautiful, simple, and hauntingly poetic things.
If you are interested in signing up for a season pass of Webinars, private video lessons in homesteading skills and arts, click this link to learn more!
The snow did come, but not nearly as much as predicted. I fell asleep around 10PM to the first giant soapbox flakes plopping down and by morning a calm inch had covered the entire farm. Enough to encase the place in a near-mystical sense of refuge, and yet not be enough to make me run outside at 4AM with the roof rake to save Jasper from the old slate roof a story above his head. Talk about a perfect combination. Snow, beautify, no chance of leaking roofs. Perfect.
Yesterday morning I went about the chores in this new clean world and within twenty minutes of my labor the farm was returned to the look of a working homestead. Wheel barrow lines and footprints pushing through to wet mud, hay and chimney ashes on the snow. Chicken poo and goose tracks, but still a half-dozen eggs in the nest. It wasn't Narnia for long, it felt like Cold Antler again. Also, perfect, even if it wasn't Christmas Card material.
Speaking of which, received two more cards yesterday and a package from British Columbia. The cards were from Pennsylvania and Texas, and the package from BC was filled with jams and preserves and a beautiful handmade broom perfect for small stove chores and clean up. The cards are on display, the jam is in the pantry, and the small broom is hanging on a hook by the stove. Beautiful gifts, all. I thank you, but I have an idea....
I decided to make these cards into something more than a girl on a farm getting a kind word. Send along a dollar in your card to Cold Antler and I will put it in a special wrapped box here at the farm. The money will all go towards getting a gift of livestock to an impoverished community through Heifer International. If you are not familiar with Heifer International, click here to see their site and mission statement. They are a world-wide charity that believes helping the needy is not about sending canned goods and old sweatshirts, but creating sustainable agricultural industries and food-growing practices. They come from the "teach a man to fish" school, handing a family in Africa 4 dairy goats and lessons in milking, husbandry, and breeding so they can have a continued source of meat and milk, of in which they are obligated to give the first female offspring away to another family. This is a beautiful charity giving animals as hope. Together, through this card campaign, we can possibly give the gift of such an animal from all of us on the blog. So be a part of this, send a long a card and a dollar to:
Jenna Woginrich Cold Antler Farm Jackson, NY 2816
...And if you are trying to figure out the perfect gift for people on your list who already have everything, I strongly suggest donating an animal in their name and giving them a card with the story, talk about the spirit of the season! And you know what, children especially love this. Getting a child a card and a small stuffed goat and explaining to them that while they are getting their own little goat, sheep, or toy chicken somewhere far away another child is getting one too, a REAL one, and because of their present, they have helped feed and care for their family. You can buy a stuffed rabbit and give a trio of rabbits, or a flock of chickens and a toy chicken. I find this combination gift makes children beam, makes their toy about more than a present, and teaches the meaning of the season. They child still gets a small toy, but it is more than that.
Heifer is a charity I believe in, and I would love to help spread their message and buy someone, somewhere, a chance at something better.
Less than an hour ago I was outside in a driving, cold rain. I was dressed for the weather, but that didn't matter. The work of preparing the farm for the coming snow storm had me breathing deep in a combination of sweat, rain water, and tears. They were calling for 4-8 inches, starting around midnight. This is a big deal on this small farm, since snow in that volume can damage roofs, force the sheep into the shed for the night, and keep the pony in his stall in the barn. I had been outside for the better part of an hour, feeding pigs and checking on the rabbitry. I fed Jasper and closed the door Brett made for us, keeping him inside so raking the roof would be easier in the morning. He stuck his head out the open dutch door as I moved his water bucket to his indoor quarters. "You are a comfortable pony tonight, sir," I said as I fed him an apple-flavored cookie. "You've got hay, grain, cookies, and warm straw in here. Consider yourself the King of Antlers." Jasper just stared at me while I stroked his neck. I'm going to write a fiddle song about that horse some day. It'll be called The King of Apples.
In a few moments I was outside the dry barn and pushing a wheel barrow loaded with a bale of hay up to the sheep sheds from a gate near the gardens. A battery-powered lantern lit the way, and as I walked uphill my rubber boots sank ankle deep into the mud. It was odd, that mud. It was in a state of near freezing, so as I sank into the crunchy glop I could feel shattering through the thin rubber as eat foot was freed. I was crying because I had just raked the back of my right hand (healing from a wood stove burn) across a rabbit cage and at the time it didn't bother me, but ten minutes later the still throbbing hand mixed with the amount of work ahead of prepare the farm for the storm was overwhelming.
I get overwhelmed about twice a month. Something happens that seems small but it is the final straw in either a day of kindling emotions or physical exhaustion. It's not the work itself that is tiresome, my jobs here are basic and simple: Carry water, move feed, load hay, check fences, bring wood inside, clean the farm house, walk the dogs, etc. None of this is the sort of labor only lumberjacks or trapeze swingers can do, but what is exhausting in the presence. A farmer is never not present. I don't care if you have three raised beds, a rabbit hutch, and a chicken coop in Brooklyn or 80 acres of cattle in Alberta, your plants and livestock have turned you into an agrarian. Someone who has welcomed back into their lives the work of feeding ourselves. The lives and the time involved are constantly in need of food, water, shelter, weeding, and so on till their lives end. It doesn't matter if it's a lamb or a carrot, these living things call you home in a way few can understand who haven't committed themselves to the same good work.
So I was crying complicated tears, the kind of tears that express exhaustion and gratitude at the same time. And by the time I got to the sheep's shed I was over the drama and busy balancing the lantern on the inside wall's shelf as I opened the bale to the 15 sheep inside. I spread it out over the straw I set down earlier for insulation and clean bedding, and the lambs and ewes dove into it. I watched them eat, knowing they had all the water, feed, and minerals they could need and headed down the hill with the lantern in the empty barrow. I started to sing I Will Go, an old Scottish song, as I have done since I moved to Vermont years ago, when I get weary.
"I will go I will go, when the fighting is over to the land of Mcleod that I left to be a soldier, I will go..."
I sing and I feel better. I sing an old song, and I feel a million times better. It's so easy to make jokes and stereotypes about folk music, that it is something for hippies and greenies, but it is not. Old Songs, specially old ballads, are living history. I know with absolute certainty that other shepherds have sang the verses of I will go, to their flocks. I know that generations of Americans told the story of Shady Gtove, Wayfaring Stranger, and Barbara Allen (I am southern through marriage to Tennessee). When I sing or play these songs I feel like a woven string of cloth, a part of something large and warm. I dare you to learn an old tune and sing it with all your heart. It will change you.
By the time the animals were fed, in their respective shelters, and the dogs eating their kibble in their bowls, I came inside soaked through and nearly cried again at the site indoors. Outside was wind, rain, wet horse flesh and mud. And yet here, in this little house, was warm fires, kind dogs, candle light and soft music playing. I undressed instantly, threw everything into the washing machine, and grabbed a book and a beer and sat down in front of the fire to do something old and grand: read words by firelight.
In the morning I will wake extra early to snow, roof raking, stove stoking, and hay hauling. But for tonight, as the wind wails and those rain drops turn from water to ice, I will be calm and read by primal comforts. This dicotomy of harshness and softness is my peace. A book by a woodstove turns savory after wet chores. An early morning turns from exhaustion to duty after snow and ice. And a woman so full from the life she baked in a loaf pan all around her, will sleep in ways unknown to people with 5,000 couches.
This farm is my sanctuary, a place I long to be when I'm away and a place I am so comfortable in while I'm here it is hard to leave. These are not the lyrics to the beginning of an agoraphobic's sonnet, nor is it the confessions of an ex-urbanite. This is nothing more than something I have come to know, and happily accept. My house and the outbuildings and land around it is my theme park, vacation destination, gym, therapist, and church. It is where I work hard, make music, raise animals, and fight to remain a part of. It repays me with food, experiences, comfort, safety, and an endless source of inspiration and creativity that wells out of the damn ground so much that sometimes I roll my eyes at my own writing.
This place is magic.
My house is, quite literally, a dream come true. It's not perfect by any means and please do us both a favor and remove any bucolic certainties you may have formed over the months and years. A lot of Cold Antler is rough, unpleasant, smelly, muddy, decaying and in need of repair. This is not a movie set, and I am fairly certain Martha Stewart would run from it, screaming. But it is paradise to me, and the scruffy parts are what make it so. Because tonight this place is a soup of mud, feces, scrub grass, and puddles in the driveway deep enough for the geese to swim in. But tomorrow....Oh darling, tomorrow there will be a few inches of snow and this place will transform. The tree through the front window, just past the lamppost in the front yard will make my farm feel more like Narnia than a few acres on a small mountain in Washington County. I look forward to it, so much ribs are pulsing back and forth in my chest, faster than breath.
Here's why. Walking outside on your own North Country farmstead on a perfect early-winter snow blessed morning is so crisp, so full of promise, and yet so perfect you are both thrilled to get to work and embarrassed your own chores will remove the veneer of purity covering the place. You know in a few moments dog piss, mud, footprints, hay straggles, and animal hooves will cover this place, rendering it perfectly scrappy. But there are these seconds of poetry while you stand just outside your doorway, covered in wool and red plaid, looking up at your sheep on the hill, their breath clouds of warm air rising from otherwise motionless mounds and you think even the livestock have chimneys. All of us secretly warm inside, powerful and young, ready to split firewood and feed ponies soon as we can gather the strength to fill the place with tiny sins. It's a thrill, this standing before the work in the snow, and I can already feel my ribs tingle.
P.S. The address works. Thank you for the dulcimer cd, Michael! I am actually stringing up my Tennessee Dulcimer tonight!
P.S.S. The winner of the Plan B workshop prize is alewyfe!
Saw my old Subaru today. It was parked next to me at Rite Aid. The mechanic I sold it too last winter had finally gotten around to fixing and reselling it. It had a local used-car lot sticker on it and had been freshly washed and detailed, but it was unmistakably my old 2002 Silver Forester. It had Annie's clawmarks, barely visible from being buffed off the passenger side panel where she hung her body out to catch the air. It had the same dings and cracks, things a used car place could paint over and spiffed up, but never put the trouble into molding back into a perfect body shape. I let out a sigh, like seeing your old flame with a new spouse.
I saw my Subaru and felt instantly nostalgic for it. For the days I spent exploring the Smoky Mountains in it, the two cross-country road trips, the scary mountains of British Columbia with mountain sheep on the corners of the railing-less curves. I looked at my old station wagon, and remembered the work it did. The animals it transported. The way I felt so capable and safe it it. I remembered the snow storms out west, the trips to Palmerton from Knoxville, and the day I brought home a baby goat curled up in the front seat. Then saw the girl I knew from the IGA open the door and step inside it. She's a soft-spoken teenager who worked after school as a checkout clerk there. She now owned it. I wondered what it would be for her? I wondered if she ever could fathom how much of the world it saw? If she knew how much the old owner would have loved to have kept it had she the funds to repair the transmission. The girl pulled out and drove away from me, and when I saw the green bumpersticker on the back hatch I wanted to run up to her window, tap the glass, and ask her to come out and give me a hug. I didn't care if I scared the scrap out of her. That sticker made me beam. In bright white letter it stated:
This morning when I stepped out my front door I came upon a glorious sight. Atlas was fervently mounting a blackface ewe. TRIUMPH! I was thrilled, never more happy then to see the ram lamb I bought as a babe, raised, cared for, and kept from the flock until these fine days and see him do his duty for the future of this flock. I punched the air and jumped. Here's why my life has lead me: NFL touchdown dances in the driveway while sheep hump in the distance. Makes you feel rich.
Sal watched from the hill like he the second gunman on the grassy knoll. But Atlas kept at it, and a few minutes later when I returned to the flock to freshen their water, I saw him and Sal butting heads through Sal's pen fence. Hormones are certainly in the air. If this keeps up, I may not need to bring in another ram after all. That would be a blessing since I just found out from my insurance that I can get a whole new truck door and other damage covered if I cough up the $500 deductible. So I am going to make that happen, because the door isnt safe, and the ten dollars more a month in premiums is something I can eat. The auto shop wants the truck delivered to be worked on the morning of the 19th.
I am keeping close to home today to keep an eye on the sheep drama and start getting all the CSA orders out. What has been keeping me from sending your humble shares is I have not had the time or resources to get to a professional printer to make the labels and such. Then I realized, who am I selling to?! My members don't want flimsy paper, they want their wool. So I will send out the raw products of felt and wool you so patiently waited for with holiday cards and the share's end thank you letter. I hope to have them all to you soon. So there's that.
This morning I do have one errand. Gibson and I will drive north to get a load of hay and then come back to drive it back to the barn. I will cut that well such a wide berth you'd think the motherpumper was on fire.
P.S. This is the last day to enter with a comment in the Winter Prep giveaway a few posts below. Joining in the conversation could get you a free ticket to hear Kathy Harrison and James Howard Kunstler here at the farm talk about everything from storm warnings to Peak oil and how to handle whatever comes your way.
I have been getting suggestions through comments and emails to have some sort of online version of workshops for folks who can't travel, but want to support the farm. I have been mulling this over, trying to suss out the best way to meet such a request. I run most workshops in a casual and homey style, people are welcomed into this farmhouse like old friends and enjoy an afternoon at Cold Antler meeting the writer and animals they are used to spending internet time with everyday. They are friends to this farm they know well. So how do I turn that into a video? I don't have the ability to film myself, or hire a film crew, so how could I offer a webinar option? How could I price it? How would the subscriber even get the information?
Here's what I have come up with. I am offering a year-long pass to webinars based on the workshops the farm is hosting. You buy your pass like a CSA share, and then as each of the workshops happen here on the farm, you are emailed a link to a private video explaining (by me) how to do the things we are teaching, in detail. For example: the black sheep wool workshop coming up is a workshop in all things yarn. We'll turn raw wool into fleece, use a drum carder and drop spindle, and learn to knit. A webinar pass-owner would get video footage from the workshop, and step-by-step lesson exactly how they are explained to the people there in person. By the end of this year, you'll have videos on wool processing, chicken care and raising, backyard slaughter, mountain music 101, homebrewing and sausage making and more. Each instructional video will be between 10-20 minutes and non available to the public. And, if you do buy a webinar pass (which would be a huge help to the farm now) I'll offer you a half-price admission to the in-person workshop of your choice! So, there you have it. Learn to frail a banjo, butcher a chicken, and wash wool. See tours of the farm and meet other CAF community members through video and clips. I think it'll be a hit (and possibly a future DVD).
A year pass to these videos, a half-priced admission to a future workshop at the farm, and knowing you are helping a girl in New York work towards her dream. I hope some of you sign up. I think the price to cover a "season" pass of videos (probably rounding out to 8+) will be a $100 even. That is the number that seems accurate to me for time and energy put into them, plus the added value of future workshop savings.
I know you can probably scrounge up free videos all over the internet, get library books, and take free classes to learn many of these skills, but what you are getting for your money is a comfortable and clear series of lessons from someone who is trying to figure out a way to make this farm work, one mortgage payment at a time. More and more, this blog is becoming my business and life. It is what I want to do for a living, but first I need to find a way to make a living at it! Workshops, books, magazine articles, and CSA shares so far aren't enough to keep this place running and bills paid on time. While it is a bumpy road right now trying to figure out bills and day-to-day needs. This was an idea that struck me yesterday while feeding the pigs and seemed like its own form of CSA, and that is the spirit I offer it to you in.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I hope some of you will sign up. I'll happily throw in a signed copy of Barnheart to the first 5 people to get a season pass to CAF's workshop webinars.
Email me at email@example.com if you're into it.
Last night was Christmas in Cambridge, a community event that included a parade, tree-lighting ceremony, livestock, and a public reading of The Night Before Christmas, and it was lovely. I spent most of it down at Battenkill Books, enjoying their coffee and the packed bookstore with community guests looking to start their gift-collecting and get out from the cold. Donkeys, children in oxen and alligator costumes, fire trucks, and floats drove down Main Street. I was outside the bookstore with Connie, Jon, Maria, Lenore, and a smattering of locals just getting a kick out of the small celebration.
The sheep at my farm got to celebrate with the installation of a new submersible stock tank deicer. As it turns out, sheep are much more excited about fresh, unfrozen, water than they are about parades. It was an easy thing to assemble and hook up. Jasper has a blue plug-in bucket of sorts. The rabbits and pigs get a hammer to decrack the ice or water bottles brought near the woodstove. We all get through the cold, by and by.
No snow here yet, well, save for that fluke in October. I can't wait for snow. The new chimney is now 100% ready for winter with a brand-new cricket installed Thursday to deal with heavy snow falling off the old slate roof. The woodpiles are covered (or covered with a brown tarp). The shovel is ready. The sheep have been wearing sweaters since August and Jasper has grown quite a wooly exterior. This farm wants some snow to cover up the ice, mud, and grime and turn this place into a gut-wrenchingly adorable Thomas Kincade Christmas Cottage. Hell yeah.
Earlier that day, I picked up a small tree and set it in my front window. I started decorating it with silver bulbs and an antler on top (my kind of star). I turned on a Celtic Christmas channel on Pandora and enjoyed the bodhrans, pipes, and fiddles to carols as I decorated, singing with Gibson (who stared at the tree, confused as to why a bathroom was brought indoors and crowned with a perfectly good chew toy?). This is only my second tree as an adult, as this is only my second Christmas spent away from my hometown. (The first was when I moved to Idaho in December and travel was too expensive.) It's bittersweet, spending the holidays here at the farm but I am really enjoying starting some traditions and decorating. This weekend feels like the Yuletide is upon us, and I am celebrating tonight with a dinner party I was invited to over in the next town. I guess it's the time of year for parties, bayberry candles, pines, wreaths, and the end of these short nights!
UPDATE! A second workshop just like this will be February 25th! Sign up, three spots already taken! We won't have Joesephs wool, but I will source some raw local wool to use. And I have a lot of alpaca we could work with as well! Come up for a comforting weekend in Washington County!I have an idea for a workshop I think some of you are going to love. If you're anything like me, you love the farm stories, and the pictures, but what you really crave, what you can't wait to feel...is the comfort. I would like to do a January workshop here at the farm. It is going to be a fundraiser for the chimney (which is 1/3 paid off but yet to be installed!), and here is my plan:
I am going to host a wool workshop. We'll all learn how to skirt, wash, dry, card, and spin wool with drop spindles. Then, after we have learned the basics of creating yarn out of sheep, we will sit down and learn to knit in the living room. With the wood stove blazing, baking us warm bread and apple fritters, we'll spend a winter afternoon talking about our farms, animals, farm dreams, and fears. It will be an interactive knitting circle, a catered affair of farm foods and three meals. The full day is about learning to make fabric, sure, but it is also about community, and new friends, and sitting by a wood stove in a warm farmhouse with a border collie in your lap. Learn a skill, see the farm, share in the conversation. It'll be the last weekend in January, and the farm will be covered in snow. Meet the sheep, help with chores, and wear a comfy sweater. It'll be great.
Everyone who comes will leave with a large bag of Joseph's raw dark wool. You will take it home and wash and spin it yourselves. You need nothing but a plastic storage bin and dish soap. You'll also leave with a drop spindle. Ideally, you will leave with the raw materials this farm can offer to help you create an extremely homemade wool hat from a sheep you will have fed hay that same day.
You need no experience whatsoever to come to this workshop with animals, or knitting. Come knowing nothing about wool and leave knitting your first scarf. No animals will be slaughtered and no sweats will be broken. This is a low-key, but highly inspirational day to hang at Cold Antler and smell that bread rising as you knit a row and the snow falls.
Email me if you're interested, Folks who have come to previous workshops and I know, are welcome to board here at the farm for an extra fee. Wake up to snow crows from Fancy the rooster!
Overwhelming comments and emails pointed to our shroom mug cover as the winner, so email me, you Mason Maven, and I'll mail you your prize of books! And to the creator of the inside-out woolie jar with the handle...you're the runner up and will receive a book from the homesteading library at the farm as well! Congrats to all who got creative here, and I hope you use those jar warmers, too. Well done!
The farmhouse is a comfortable 65 degrees this cold morning. That is quite the feat, since last night after signing books it had fallen to 54 degrees and it took the two woodstoves (and my constant vigilance) 3 hours of roaring to raise the temperature ten degrees. Now, that might sound like a ridiculous amount of work to some, but to me, I felt like I was finally included in the process. Thermostats are great, but I fought for this heat. I moved once living tree parts inside my home armload by armload and fed the fire. I wrapped myself in a big buffalo plaid red work shirt and sprawled out with a book in front of the fire on a sheepskin. It was heavenly by that fire box, so much so I needed to move away from it. And when I woke up this morning to a warm house, knowing it was my own doing, I started the day with a sense of accomplishment instead of dreading my to-do list and places I was expected to be. Fridays are near sacred now, mornings I get up and re-light the stoves and ease into the day without the usual Monday through Thursday hustle. It hasn't been easy, even just giving up one day, but I am getting through. And it will only get easier as I get more resourceful, dedicate myself more and more to my goals, and learn about a new frugality for my lifestyle.
this morning the insurance guy is coming to check out the truck door, tell me what should happen with it. The well was repaired earlier this week. That was a hard lesson in awareness. Lesson learned.
I don't think Atlas is performing at all, or if he is, I haven't seen it. Sal however has been going beside himself with hormones and mounting, so I know the girls are in season. I talked with Julie (Shepherd, herding trainer, and all-around sheep guru) over Facebook and she has a 2.5 year old Cheviot ram that she is certain is raring to go. She'll drop him off next weekend, and Atlas will either be kept for next year, sold, castrated, or go to freezer camp. I need to check out all my options. But if I have two rams here I might as well just keep them together in a smaller pasture. I can use Atlas next year when he is more mature. Right now, a lot of this sheep pimping is touch and go for this shepherd. This is my first year overseeing the actual work of breeding, and so far I have failed. What can I say? Pimpin' aint easy.
P.S. Thank you for the webinar passes! A few more folks signed up and it has me already planning an early webinar on the basics of mountain dulcimer. I think I will make this first one public, so you can all see what is in store for those who dedicated to a year of learning with Cold Antler!
Folks, this is the calm before the storm. These weeks before winter truly sets in and drops a bucket of trouble on us, is a time for planning. Soon this part of the world will plunge into below-freezing temperatures and hectic weather. Last winter was my first winter alone in the farmhouse, and I wish I had been more prepared for it. Bad stuff happened, and I wasn't ready. But this year, hoo doggy, I am plenty ready, and I would feel a whole lot better about it if you were too.
I strongly urge every reader of this blog to set up a winter storm emergency kit in their home and darn well expect to use it. It doesn't have to be expensive or grand, most of these items you already have around your home or apartment—but this weekend I want you to take note of where they are, and gather them all into the same duffle bag or closet bin so when the wolf is outside the door, you know exactly where the flashlight, candles, extra blankets, can opener and cell phone charger is. So I am offering this challenge tonight: Prepare for winter by assembling a basic kit for a winer week without electricity. Post about your plans and ideas, and help inspire others to take action. I will pick a random winner from those posts Sunday night and offer two FREE passes to the Plan B workshop here at the farm in May with James Howard Kunstler and Kathy Harrison.
The challenge is this: Prepare for a basic emergency situation due to power outages from winter storms. I want everyone on this blog to compile these supplies and comment that they have, pledge they will acquire, and share with is where they will store them. For every comment left, it is an entry towards the workshop. So engage, talk to others, give the girl with a studio apartment advice on where to stash this stuff without freaking out her roommate. Tell stories, share wisdom, and talk about your own emergency stories and how preparedness saved you.
Basic Emergency Supplies Gather a flashlight and spare batteries, a book of matches, forty dollars cash (in case ATMs are down), a can opener, extra candles and a place to light them (mason jars work great!), a blanket, a radio (with batteries or hand cranking ability), first aid kit, plastic bags, screwdriver, wrench (for turning off utilities), a non-grid cell phone charger (there are cranking, battery, and solar versions. My radio has a USB plug to hand-crank power to my phone!). For more information on basic disaster kits click here
1 week (or more) of food Purchase one week's worth of meals and water for your home for each person in your household (including pets) and set it aside. The basic rule is 2500 calories and one gallon of water per person, per day. This can be as simple as a single person picking up seven 99-cent gallons of water, seven cans of soup, a canister of quick oats and two bags of rice and beans. I bet you could get all that for under twenty dollars. If you don't have a camp stove, wood stove, or any way to cook without electricity forgo the oatmeal, rice, and beans and invest in meals you don't have to cook, like a box of energy bars, a jar of peanut butter, beef jerky, and wrapped non-refrigerated cheese. Plan what will work for you. Make sure these are items that can sit on a shelf for a few months without worrying about spoilage or rodents. If you don't have one, buy a metal or rubber bin and store it under a bed where mice and ants can't consider it.
Heat If you don't have electricity, and can't leave your home, how will you stay warm? Wood stoves are great for those of us who may have them, but others can, and should, think about their fireplaces, kerosene heaters, and other off-grid forms of heat. Do you have some wood in the garage for your fireplace? Do you have 2 or three containers of kerosene if the power goes out? Do you even have a way to stay warm and shut off the water main? A 45-dollar kerosene heater, 5-gallon of fuel, and some wool blankets could be life savers some day. Be prepared to be warm. Plan B should always be ready.
When you have a week of food, water, and a set of supplies waiting and ready for you, you'll let go a sigh of relief you didn't realize you were holding in. Modern society is a great thing, but did you know that the average town only has enough food on supply to last three days (in grocery stores, I mean). If a true disaster hit, like a bad ice storm or 60+ MPH winds after heavy snow...you will be beyond grateful you set aside those shells and cheese boxes, water, and got that camp stove and propane on sale at the sporting goods store last April...
This is not a post about scaring you, or living in fear of disaster. This is not a contest to see who can win a workshop either. This is me, genuinely concerned that most people aren't ready for things when the worst occurs, and maybe if everyone who reads this blog is prepared, you can help keep the older lady in the apartment next door warm and calm by your heater and lamp light till the NYC grid kicks back in? Or maybe having a sleeping bag, flashlight, and a favorite toy on hand will help calm your children by the fireplace if an ice storm has you in the dark? I don't want any readers on this blog to be victims, I want us all to be the folks who are ready, calm, and able—ready to help others who may need it along the way.
P.S. Just out of curiosity, do any of you have land lines?
A few weeks ago my copy of Folks, This Aint Normal arrived in the mail. It's the newest book by Joel Salatin, and the first (I think) that wasn't self published. However, it's the same Joel and I think this may be his quintessential work. I urge you to read it, listen to it, and pay attention to this man. This book will change people.
For those of you unfamiliar, Joel Salatin is the founder of Polyface Farms in Swoope Virginia, a bucolic and insanely productive 500 acre farm in the Shenandoah Valley. His farm is the model and inspiratoin behind Cold Antler, and his book YOU CAN FARM was integrel in giving me the gusto to start making a go of this life. I owe him a lot, and when I shook his hand at the Mother Earth News Fair this past September, it was an honor in the truest sense.
This new book is about how this blip in history, this time of cheap energy in the last hundred years is not normal, nor is all of it progress. Men between the ages of 25-35 playing 20+ hours of video games a week, is not normal. Getting a meal on an airplane that contains more packaging and trash then food, is not normal. High Schools being treated like prison yards, is not normal. Stocking your family's larder at the grocery store, isn't normal. And so on. The more I read it, the more I find myself nodding my head and wanting to hug this man. He sees a reality most people have become too comfortable with to step away from and shake their heads. The rise of physciatric medications, allergies, diabettes, heart disease, boredom, violence, and other social and phsyical ills can be attributed to losing the values, skills, and work that once defined this county and the human race in general. Read it.
Now, as much as I advocate buying the book and supporting that farm, I almost have to suggest the audiobook version over it. Because Joel himself reads the entire thing to you, in his own special style and humor. I got a free download from Audible.com (I'm a subscriber since I listen to an insane amount of audiobooks in the kitchen, driving, and while doing chores) and was so happy he was the reader, I cranked it up and went back to baking my roast chicken. And I smiled the whole time I did dishes as it crackled in the oven...
I have rats. Mostly in the barn. I watched one crawl up the rafters this morning, behind the pig pen, followed by another. I am fighting back with snap traps, but I need something stronger and more effective that doesn't involve poison. I ordered an electrocution trap at the hardware store, and it has been waiting for me since October, but then I found out it cost 50 bucks, so it is still waiting for me there. I did recently invest in metal bins for all the grain, and have the dogs food in metal too here in the house, but either the cold or just the constant availability of feed, brought on some rats. So let's get 'em!
Note: I can not risk the dogs, pigs, or chickens eating a poisoned dead rat (which they all happily would) and getting sick or dying themselves. Some of you have got to have some ideas, old timer tricks, or know of a really large and mean cat with three heads I can stake out in the loft?
This morning I stayed home to meet the folks from Gould & Sons Well Drilling, who kindly arrived on time and repaired my cracked well cap in about half an hour. Watching the technician cut and separate wires, clamp, measure and fit the new blue cap made me feel glad I resisted the urge to buy my own and give it the ol' college try. When all was said and done the well was spray painted to match the pipe color and I was 95 dollars poorer, but if there is one thing worth treating right, it's your water. I can rest easy knowing that well wiring is safe and sound.
Since I had used half a day of vacation time, I spent the morning taking care of this place. I responded to emails, caught up on dishes and laundry, stacked wood and watched my sheep. Sal was getting really frisky with the ladies, and that meant they were back in heat. He is now in the pen (that was a muddy struggle) and Atlas has free range of the ladies, but I am worried he's not performing. I may have to bring in a ringer.
After chores and sheep voyeurism was behind me, I headed into Cambridge with Gibson. We signed those books with Connie you saw in the video and then ran across the street to Common Grounds to get some lunch to go.
By the time I got to the office, the day was half over and I was energized. I had spent the morning taking care of house, home, and signing a book I wrote to people I know all over the country. I recognized a lot of your names, and was surprised to see people like Patrick Shannahan, Gibson's breeder, among the list. He wanted it made out to Patrick and Riggs and I wrote him a note saying how amazing a dog Gibs turned out to be, and I would be getting a second pup (a girl) some day down the road when my older pups have passed on. I want to get a female and name her Friday. My girl Friday.
The office, of course, made 5 hours seem like an eternity. It's not always like that, usually not. My office is a lively place and between the dogs, company, coffee and conversation the day flies, but today I had that morning at home and the time between seemed to limp. A 2-hour meeting didn't exactly invigorate me either, but as I sat in that conference room with the big window's I looked over to the Taconics and thought about the weather report. Snow. Just a 20% chance but boy, would I take those odds. I want a little snow to coat this place in white, make it clean again, and make the wood stoves seem warmer and the home, a sanctuary.
I came home to the usual chores, but before I fed the pigs or checked on Sal in his pen, I put two chicken breasts in the over at 385, rubbed in olive oil and herbs on a bed of kale and carrots. This combination is not only veggie-correct for late fall, but the perfect combination. And to come inside from slopping, hay hauling, water filling, and horse scratching...to a warm house of firelight and roasting bird smells...is heavenly. On a weeknight, scandalous. Roasts are for weekends, usually, but this meal was so easy it seemed silly to wait. So I enjoyed my meat and veggies and poured myself some oatmeal stout. Before I turn in there will be a fiddle tune to see too. This is a good week day.
This weekend: I think I might cut down a christmas tree. Time to get this place ready for the season. I got a box of ornaments and lights from my mother in a box, and a few sent by readers and friends, to put on the tree. I have a reindeer I cherish, from Alaska. And a hand-painted border collie from my friends Chrissy and Tyler. This weekend I'll also get some cards in the mail, and maybe get some lights for the wreath around the door. I'll crank up the Celtic Christmas channel on Pandora and bake something with cinnamon. I love the holidays, and Yuletide is one of the best. Here's to coming light, however you celebrate it, be it The Son or The Sun!
Hey, If you want to send a Christmas Card, try this address:
Jenna Woginrich Cold Antler Farm Jackson, NY 12816
I stopped in Cambridge to do some errands, starting at Connie's book store to start signing the 175+ copies of Barnheart she had ordered that had just come in. Gibson and I walked into the store, feeling like old friends. Connie was in the back at the register, waving us to her labors: a HUGE stack, mostly pre-orders and my heart raced. My books were next to a stack of Jon Katz's Going Home and his recent children's book The Dogs of Bedlam Farm . Jon was in earlier that morning and I was here to help complete some of the combined orders. Connie said that some CAF readers bought some of his signed works (all of his signed books can be bought through Battenkill Books) and some of my books were sold to his readers. A nice bit of overlap. And it's an honor to be a part of Battenkill Books, a newer, but thriving bookstore in our small town. Connie seems to be glowing these days, thrilled with the success of two local authors. If you bought a book from Connie, you are really making a difference in this town and that bookkeeper's life. Today, as she was passing me copies to sign and reading the instructions, she noted how great it was to sell books this way. "I touch them, you touch them, Gibson touches them..." and explained how warmer and intimate this kind of commerce was. I agreed. As we talked her mother brought in the fabric OPEN sign and commented on the wind. It was really blowing out there....
Things are not normal here. Today the temperature shot to 64 degrees, an unsettling and unflattering anomaly. It might sound like a treat, all that warmth, but in these days of stickly trees, rotting wet ground, and grass that has been frozen and defrosted several times, it is simply fast-forward decomposition. Take a fistful of mud and rotting plants and bugs and stick them in the microwave for 45 seconds and you have what today felt like, all humid and dead. Everyone, from rat to rat-racer just waiting to be drenched in unforgiving rain.
The drive home offered quite a site. Just a few yards off the road on each side were two deer. The grand male on the left, a full 8 point rack held high in the passing car beams. Just beyond him on the other side of the 55-MPH highway was a doe, watching with alert ears and bright eyes. In the dark and wet this looked epic, almost something out of fable. The two star-crossed lovers divided by an angry torrent of destruction. The only way I could've been more proper in that instant was if Papa Capulet was riding shotgun giving his middle finger to the twitterpated buck.
Warm wind makes me excited, like change is on the way. Warm wind out of season makes me even more excited. I'm working on an essay about how farming has changed me, in ways I didn't expect and wasn't prepared for. How it changed my mind about so many things, from what I wear to the office to how I do my dishes... A life dedicated to seasons, animals, and constant change and occasional discomfort might sound unsavory to some, but to me, it is a constant waltz. I am always moving, always breathing heavy, always in love and grateful I just know the dance steps.
Tomorrow the people come to inspect and possibly repair the well. I called my insurance and they'll cover the bent door with a $500 deductible. Not money I have now, but my agent said they can do the paperwork and cut me the check and I can fix it on my own time.
So things are being taken care of here, one step at a time. I want to thank the few of you who contact me about Webinar passes and sent along a payment. You have no idea how much that is appreciated, and needed. And to all of you out there buying books, sharing links, telling stories, giving advice, and helping with morale when things are tight: I thank you. I can't thank you enough.
Storms coming tonight. Heavy rain. The horse is out of the pasture and in the dry barn. The pigs are nesting in fresh hay. The chicken coop is closed up, and the dogs are enjoying rawhide in the living room. Tonight's a special treat since I am enjoying both a fire in the woodstove, and open windows to hear the rain. And since I am taking the morning off from the office to see to the well, I can sleep in a little. Perfect gifts.
Outrun Press is a labor of love, a small publisher of books about working sheepdogs and the culture of modern shepherding. They publish all kinds of books. from training tips and manuals to essays, poems, reflections and even children's books in their catalog. Heather (co-owner and shepherd) has offered to give away any book you want to choose from that collection here on the blog. All you have to do is leave a comment saying which book you'd pick if given the free choice? Heather will send the winner's choice their way! I'll announce the lucky reader's win tomorrow night! Okay guys, Away to me!
Found the morning's egg haul up in 4 bales up in a Jenga collection of hay bales in the barn. I collect them by the lantern light, to the sound of a horse blowing air, pigs rooting though morning feed, and chickens and rabbits having at their morning water and breakfast. When I close my eyes, the music is a sog I know by heart.
How could a woman as lucky as this feel bad about a dented truck and cracked well cap? Only a damned fool would mind such a thing.
I was having a great day at home, in fact I just had a friend over to see the farm and meet the animals for the first time. And soon as he left, I did something I have done countless times on this farm. I drove the truck around the front of the house to the barn to unload the 18 bales of hay I had picked up earlier that morning. But I wasn't thinking, or paying attention, or both and drove too close to the well, and dragged the car door across the cap, contorting and destroying the outside of the door and breaking the cap in half.
The door still works. It locks, the windows work. I don't think it's as "waterproof" now. Damnit, I hate that I still owe thousands of dollars on this farm truck and it looks like something parked at the dump. Between the missing fender flares, scratches, and now a broken door it is a sad site, and not because of the physical appearance, but because it's such a debt hole. I have to either pay to own it, pay to fix it, or pay to make it look like I am trying to do both.
I started the day with such a big exciting feeling, and now a broken door and cracked well remind me that along the way there will be countless setbacks, delays, repairs, and things in the way of that dream. Does anyone know what new door panels cost?
I think about the future of this farm often. What it's purpose is beyond feeding the farmer and supplying some of you with wool? What can a collection of words, hope, and force create beyond a chicken dinner and a knit hat? I have come to this decision:
Cold Antler Farm will remain a working homestead, and continue to feed myself and those who come to take part in the land. But it's also going to become more than that. I am dedicating my writing and labor to the continued inspiration and education of others. I don't want this to be a living history or vacation resort. I want this to be an empowering classroom where anyone, from the upper west side to rural Nebraska, can come and learn these skills, and leave with the confidence and information they need to dig into their own backyards or can their own market-fresh tomatoes. I'll do this through workshops, speaking events, webinars, books, blogs, anything and everything that gets this message out: this life is yours for the taking.
They say you should find something you love, and then find a way to make that your living. So I will. This is an indisputable fact. I am in love with this life, and nothing makes me happier than getting other people started on the same path. When a person picks up their fiddle for the first time, confused and excited, I love the look on their face when they learn the first four notes and can leave the farm playing a tune. I loved watching first-time chicken owners leave this place with a shoe box of chicks and a copy of one of my books. I think it will take a few years to really get the workshop model down, but it already seems to help and connect others to something they crave just as much as I do. So I will keep at it.
I'm not sure what it will take to make it happen, but I'll do it.
This morning I was getting ready to do the morning rounds, and something was on my mind. As my head was gearing up, Gibson was circling me, making frantic lessgooutsideandherdnow noises. I looking for my rubber boots, and when I sat down to slide them on over my jeans, the sheepdog attacked my nostrils with licks and yelps. He is incorrigible. I love him more everyday.
this morning I went out in an oversized men's buffalo plaid work shirt. It's so big it looks like a lumberjack trench coat on me, but it is warm and bright, so I like it. On my head: a white knit hat from my sheep. My brown rubber boots are the cheap kind Tractor Supply sells in a row my size, without boxes or tags. This is my morning uniform: jeans, red plaid, rubber boots, pigtails and a homespun hat. If you look close at the footage, that black streak is actually Gibson, running ahead to all the morning stops before I get to them. It is in this circus, that my mind returns to the question that was consuming me all morning during my boot scramble.
Why did I choose to live this life? What was the original tipping point that had me leave behind the world I was brought up in, that I went to four years of college for, that lead me to corporate careers in, of all things, email marketing. I mean, c'mon, email marketing, what could be farther from working a pony in harness than a desk job on the lowest level of a corporation making coupons on the internet? The mind reels.
I think about being a child, taken every Halloween to a small hobby farm nearby for pumpkin field tractor rides and petting their Nigerian goats. I loved that place, because even as an 8-year-old it felt correct in my New-Kids-on-the-Block lovin' heart. And in college, at Borders bookstores in Allentown (when there was a Borders on McArthur road) I would sit and read copies of Hobby Farm magazine, with a line of sheep on the cover, and wonder who possibly lived like that? Who had found a way to a snowy Tuesday night where their most important task was carrying out a bale of hay to their flock and returning to a warm kitchen for a hot meal, hard cider, and a beloved fiddle. How does a suburban 22-year-old make that happen? Can it happen?
My life has changed so much. It's 5:30 on a Saturday night and I am almost ready for bed. In college I would have been just getting back from the studio, getting into the shower to plan an evening with friends and road trips around the town. Tonight I am full from a dinner of some roasted chicken breast over kale and carrots. Both fires are going, and I know tomorrow morning will include the same chores and errands as today, and I look forward to it.
I love my life here, because evrythig I do is working towards another step of living. All year I am working towards the next thing, the next beautiful thing, that either feeds, clothes, or warms me. I know this spring I will get an order of chicks, and they will turn into thousands of calories of meat and eggs, and I'll use those calories to stack and split the wood that summer, that will burn to keep me warm that winter. Do you see what I mean? Every tomato planted is a can of sauce. Every lamb born is a sweater or a chop. This place, this lifestyle is continusously active in the actual sport of living. And before I lived season to season, among animals and agriculture, I lived selfishly through constant material gain. It left me empty, and scared, and wondering how I fit into the world? You get a farm and you get a purpose. Your religion becomes the next six hours. I look at that article in the Washington Post, and think about all the women and men canning and stacking wood alongside me, states and countries away, and I am proud. This generation does not want push-button gratification. It wants the results of hard work, time, sweat and patience only genuine authenticity can cultivate.
I live this life because I found my passion, and my strength. I walk up to the sheep fields with my black dog and crook, and our biggest goal in moving sixteen sheep from one gate to another so a working pony can spend an afternoon in the sunlight running. I pulled into my muddy driveway to see a gray horse running along a hillside and had to remind myself it was mine. That me and that 650 pound animal had worked as a team through leather and confidence, and made things happen. I love that damn horse, as much as I love anything. He is a part of a story, and a reality, and future that will be scary but okay. No part of me ever thinks things will get worse, not on this farm. Things will get complicated from time to time, but never worse. I learned this much.
In this farmhouse fires burn, alcohol ferments, dogs stretch, and a woman wants. This is a good place. It has forest, pastures, barns, stoves, creeks, ponds, sun, rain and even when it is broken it is green and alive. There is a beloved goose on a nest of eggs and I pray for goslings. There are rabbits waiting to kindle, and I pray for more meat. There are a half-dozen eggs being laid each day, and I am so grateful it makes me shake. Because all my work here is nothing more than the hope that I too make it another season, another month. Farming is believing. It is doing today what will provide tomorrow. No one who does this can say they have no faith, as every seed is a silent prayer for a few more months. What more dare we ask for?
I farm because just writing about it makes my heart race, makes me want to howl. I love this small place, carved into a mountain, hidden from so many things. Tonight I am warm and filled with plans and projects for the morning. I might be asleep by 7PM on date night, but who needs a date when you're already in love.
The new domesticity: Fun, empowering or a step back for American women?
Emily Matchar for The Washington Post I’m planning on canning homemade jam this holiday season, swept up in the same do-it-yourself zeitgeist that seems to have carried off half my female friends. I picked and froze the berries this summer, and I’ve been squirreling away flats of Ball jars under my kitchen sink for months. For recipes, I’m poring over my favorite food and homemaking blogs — the ones with pictures of young women in handmade vintage-style aprons and charmingly overexposed photos of steamy pies on windowsills.
“That’s neat,” says my mother, as I babble to her about pectin and jar sterilization. She’s responding in the same tone of benign indifference she would have used had I informed her that I was learning Catalan or taking up emu husbandry.
My baby boomer mother does not can jam. Or bake bread. Or knit. Or sew. Nor did my grandmother, a 1960s housewife of the cigarette-in-one-hand-cocktail-in-the-other variety, who saw convenience food as a liberation from her immigrant mother’s domestic burdens. Her idea of a fancy holiday treat was imported lobster strudel from the gourmet market.
So many amazing ideas and entrants! I am posting them in two parts. If one of these creations is yours, write a comment explaining what it is made of and why, and say hello to the community. As for the rest of you, start looking and pick a favorite, and through your feedback a winner will be chosen based on the group's favorite design. Remember the main point though: a way to keep glass quart jars warm to carry hot coffee in.
I've been an avid reader of your blog for about three years now. I just started raising small-scale livestock this summer. I was raising a few chickens, American Chinchilla rabbits, and I had a very large food garden. I don't know how frequently you do this, but I've seen it in the past and I thought I would give it a try. It never hurts, right?
I live in Reno, NV. This past Thursday night, Reno was overtaken by a 2000+ acre brush fire, which took my house at around 2:20 am Friday morning. I was only able to get my family (7 people, my parents, my 3 siblings, and my husband), my 2 dogs, and 2 of my rabbits out. I lost seven rabbits. Fortunately, we had given our chickens away to another family last week who was more in need than we. The house was burnt to the foundations, something which the firefighters had never seen before. We were renters and had not taken out a renters insurance policy, so we lost everything. At the link posted below, you can see pictures of what is left over of my house.
I know that you've been through a lot of hard times yourself and that the most helpful thing sometimes is awareness. Could you help us raise awareness? Here's a link to a donation page my husband has set up to help recover some of the basics for our family (http://goo.gl/1eGvy). If we weren't wearing it, we don't have it. This won't replace our house, but it will go a long way to helping us replace the necessities and take some strain off of finding temporary housing.
Austin Hardage is my husband, my parents are not listed, but are Sheryl and Michael Mundy. If you are interested in more information, please feel free to contact me. There's definitely a lot unsaid. I really hope that you can help us get the exposure that will make a difference. If there is anything that I've learnt from reading your blog, it's that you know a lot of really good people.
I have a tiny bit of good news to share: I have dropped 8 pounds. Through a healthier diet, more fruits and vegetables, and 5 workouts a week I managed to easily shed eight pounds. I can't fit into certain jeans (too big!) and I have more energy than I can remember. I feel good, and plan to lose 35 total pounds. Wish me luck!
Until yesterday I had never roasted a turkey, made gravy, cooked cranberry sauce, baked stuffing or a pumpkin pie, but all of it turned out fine. I won't say amazing, but certainly passable. I feel like I am truly coming into myself as a cook and here's why: my entire plan for preparing the dinner was based on searching the internet for recipes, getting the jist of them, and opting to work freelance instead. I found out what went into stuffing, the basics of broth, bread, butter, and herbs and made my own concoctions, always erring on more butter than asked (through the entire meal I went through two pounds!) But from the perfectly browned herb-roasted bird to my adaption of the family pie recipe: all went well. And the gifts of cheese, wine, sides, and desserts from the guests were far-beyond my wildest expectations. Diana brought homemade raw-milk hard cheese, Chrissy and Tyler walked in with beets, brussel sprouts, and yams and Ed and his wife (both chefs) brought a propane torch for their pumpkin creme brulee!
At dinner I said a short grace and we dove in. The whole meal eaten by candlelight, with conversation and laughs. New and old friends, happy dogs, and by 6PM when the world was dark and I was about to start thinking about a bonfire, I realized most of us were too full and warm to consider going out in the cold, wet (we just got an inch of rain the night before) to celebrate the old fashioned way. So I chalked it up as a loss and played a few banjo tunes at the dinner table
After Diane, Ed, and his family left Chrissy and Tyler and I headed to the living room to camp out in front of the woodstove and just talk. They work with me at Orvis, so we had a lot of common stuff to talk about. My night ended all of us enjoying the decadence of full stomachs and a warm fire. The stoves had the house up to 74 degrees by this point and I was almost uncomfortably warm, but too full and drugged on turkey meat to care. So I savored it, this comfort-debauchery, and said a silent prayer of thanks for the food and warmth and friends.
So that was my Thanksgiving, a wonderful new tradition at the farm. And today starts another new one: Plaid Friday. I'll be heading into the nearby town of Cambridge to stop in with Gibson at Battenkill books to sign copies of Barnheart and see the town decked out for holiday shopping. I'm lucky to live three miles from a small town with an arts center, yoga studio, organic food co-op, hardware, feed, and grocery stores. There are also several art and gift shops, and I plan on supporting a few in the coming weeks when the wallet gets a little fatter. But for today I can enjoy the big show and start making my lists of gifts for family and friends, and then later on put the Daughton's farm to sleep for the night. I'm watching their animals while they are away in Missouri to see their new granddaughter. I hope your own days were full of good thoughts, grattitude, and kindness.
P.S. Remember all those jar warmers you turned in? Well I am going to post the ten chosen finalists and let you vote for the winner tomorrow!
It is Thanksgiving morning and this farmhouse is alive with good smells, good work, and woodsmoke! I started my day off with a call to my family (they are very sad I can't be around for the holidays) to wish them well. Right after I placed my brined bird in the over with a butter-herb rub all over the 17 pounds of goodness. I stayed up till midnight baking three loaves of farmhouse white (two for dinner, one for stuffing), and my first-ever homemade pumpkin pie. I used my own butter crust recipe and a heirloom variety of pie pumpkin called a Long Pie. It turned out perfectly, thanks to a recipe that has been handed down in our family for several generations. When I took a bite of the mini "tester-pie" I was 7 years old again in my grandmother's dining room, all I needed to make it complete was a glass of gingerale with a maraschino cherry in it and I had myself a time machine.
I made the cranberry sauce and it is chilling in the fridge, kale and onion stuffing is in the crock pot pre-gaming till the oven is ready to brown it. I only have some mashed potatoes to cook up yet, but that's pretty much just peel, chop, boil, strain, and add all the butter and herbs you can handle. I have some celtic music playing on Pandora, and three dogs wondering when something will drop off the stove or oven so they can stop salivating around this joint.
I'm serving 6 today, and it is my first time ever taking on this sort of holiday meal. My friends Diane, Chrissy, and Tyler will be here, and so will Ed and his family from theslowcook.com. Ed and his family are moving from the DC area to Washington County to follow their dream of farming. When they said they would be up this way and eating Thanksgiving dinner in a hotel I instantly invited them here. They happily accepted and suggested some amazing side dishes they could bring. I didn't realize it off the bat, but hot dang, they are professional chefs! (HAHA No pressure!) But I'm not worried, I can cook, and it should be an amazing day dedicated to good food and good friends. I got a bonfire, wool blankets, and hard cider waiting for after dinner. It will be a grand day.
All the best wishes to you and yours on this special day. Be grateful and kind on this Thursday. Talk slower, love deeper, and open up your hearts to peace.
Gibson is a farm writer's dog. He understands when to be the bullet in the pasture, and when to be calm. Here he is on the floor near the register at Battenkill Books. We spent an hour or so there yesterday, and he behaved well. Shoppers came and went and with exception of a few hugs (Gibson actually wraps his paws and forearms around waists) he didn't accost anyone.
However, if I took this placid pup to the gates of my sheep....watch out.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I'm getting ready to feed six people and myself here at the farm. Friends from the office, other farms, and out of state are coming to Cold Antler for some maple/bourbon glazed turkey, homemade pumpkin pie, farm potatoes, stuffing from homemade bread and more. It will be a feast to remember! Tonight the bulk of the baking will be completed, and the turkey rubbed all over with salt and garlic to brine in a bag till the oven calls her home in the early morning. This is my first ever Thanksgiving as a host, and I'm excited.
Stopped at Battenkill Books today after I left the office. I just wanted to check in with Connie, and talk about stopping down on Friday for store support and signing. Talk about great timing! The first box of books had just arrived! Barnheart is in stock and ready for Plaid Friday shoppers! I signed 24 copies right then and there, and so did Gibson (pawprints in animal-safe ink). Those books are on the way to folks all over America. I took a bunch of photos, and a lot were better quality, but this moment of Gibson pawing Connie near the package of books was priceless. Why did he grab her? Because she whispered "Come Bye" and he was certain she had sheep in the office.
So I am just learning about this movement, but I am already in love with it. Celebrate Plaid Friday this year! In an all-out rejection of the over-commercialized, non-local mall shopping that sends wads of cash outside of local creative people in your community, spend this friday closer to home, patronzing local stores and artist for your holiday shopping. Wear your favorite plaid shirt and hit the neighborhood bookstore, favorite town restaurants, and businesses that offer gift cards and put tax dollars right back into your own community.
I'm not the only one out there who thinks the future of our economy is a more local-based system. So why not embrace that in style? And for those of you unable to get out and shop at all, or surrounded only by Big Boc Stores and malls, why not do what Jon Katz suggested on his blog? Support independebnt businesses online. Here is an exceprt from the Bedlam Farm Blog today! Check out Bedlamfarm.com to see what Jon and his wife are cooking up at that creative farm for the holidays. Two word: Awesome Potholders.
We support Plaid Friday, the hottest growing social movement in the country, and a celebration of independence, individuality, creativity and freedom, a growing effort to reclaim the spirit of holidays, and of community. On Friday, we are celebrating the holiday several ways:
- From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., I will be at Battenkill Books, Cambridge, N.Y., (518 677 2515) to help take orders and say hello to the good people who are buying “Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die”,”Meet The Dogs Of Bedlam Farm,” or any of my other books. Call to buy one of these books, get a free video and Bedlam Farm notecard and help support a wonderful independent bookstore, the kind that needs to survive if our communities offer diversity and connection and so we will not all live inside of a box store or mammoth online corporation. You can order books at anytime from the store – they take Paypal – or call the store anytime at 518 677-2515. We are heading for 1,000 books sold by New Year’s and are at the 700 mark. You can also buy Jenna Woginrich’s wonderful new book “Barnheart” from Connie Brooks at Battenkill as well. It will be out this week and is a wonderful story of a gifted and brave young writer’s passion for her own farm. If anyone is in the spirit of Plaid Friday, Jenna is. Call and say hello. I’d love to meet you
The blog of author Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm. Where pop culture meets agriculture! Here she writes about her adventures following her crazy dream life as a self-employed writer, homesteader, archer, falconer, equestrian, martial artist, hunter, spinner, brewer, geek, and real-life Game of Thrones Extra. She loves movies, music, running far, and eating animals.
On twitter @coldantlerfarm
And when the children are safe in bed, at one of the great holidays like the Fourth of July, New Years, or Halloween, we can bring out some spirits and turn on the music, and the men and the women who are still among the living can get loose and really wild. So that's the final meaning of "wild"- the esoteric meaning, the deepest and most scary. Those who are ready for it will come to it. Please do not repeat this to the uninitiated. -gs