Saturday, December 3, 2011

hot lunch

parades down main street

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!

How do you celebrate the pre-season?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Only 2 spots left in 2nd wool workshop!

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!

Photo of Joseph (your future hat) by Tim Bronson

Jar Winners!

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!

pimpin' aint easy

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!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

the calm before...

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?

the area code is 518

Signing Books from 6:30-7:30 tonight at Battenkill Books. Call if you want to say hi, I'll be there with Gibson, taking care of business. Be nice to hear from you fine folks.

currently reading, and loving

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...


photo from indianapublicmedia.org

rats

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?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

wells, books, and 2-hour meetings

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

you tell me

Well folks, who is our jar winner!?

signing books with connie and gibson

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Battenkill Books!

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....

photo by Jon Katz, bedlamfarm.com

perfect gifts

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.

a whole new enemy....

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sheepdog Book Giveaway!

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!

Click here to go to Outrunpress.com

WINNER IS CINDY!!!
Email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com to get set up with your prize!

"Wow! I too would love to have "Top Trainers Talk About Starting a Sheepdog"

photo by 468photograohy.com

high in the hay

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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

pure frustration

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?

a decision has been made

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.