Monday, December 26, 2011

lamp black

This morning I was in the kitchen cleaning out and organizing some drawers and cabinets when some good advice wafted from the computer screen. I was watching the Victorian Christmas series I had blogged about Saturday, and there was a scene where Ruth (one of the show's historical renenactors) was cleaning up the cottages oil lamps. She explained that as the lamp black fills the glass chimneys they let out less light. They need to be cared for and cleaned on a weekly basis of regular use. She also talked about refilling the oil levels, and trimming the blackened edge of the wicks. This kind of service done in daylight means that at night the farmhouse would literally shine. "Neglected, and the lit dims from all the soot. Your whole home becomes a little dingier..." I looked across my own farmhouse to the oil lamp that sits in the center of my living room dining set. It was embarrassingly dirty.

I picked it up and ran a glass cloth through the black chimney. In minutes it was clean. I then trimmed the black end of the wick with scissors and refilled the reservoir with some oil I had under the kitchen sink. I set it back on the kitchen table, ready for service. When it was lit again it would burn true, and bright, in service to whatever purpose I called it to. I smiled.

There is something decent about letting light shine. You feel cleaner all over.

P.S. Willow, I read your letter and cried in my kitchen. Your painting hangs on the wall. Keep drawing wolves.

csa update

Just wanted to check in with all of you CSA and Webinar subscribers. CSA packages have began shipping, some hopefully have arrived at your doors before Christmas. For those that have not, I do apologize and they will get to you soon. As for the webinars, had no DSL since Saturday afternoon into this morning, and it is spotty at best, so I am waiting for a connection strong enough to support a 25 minute upload! You will get the dulcimer video in all its glory soon as I can get it too you.

I realize to some of my more cautious readers that might sound like a line. But feel free to call the folks at Common Sense Mechanical who came out on Christmas Day to check for rat/mice damage chewing through my phone lines. Turns out it wasn't chewed lines (like I thought) but the actual phone jack outside in the gray box is dead. So someone from the phone company has to do their voodoo to the outside connection. In the meantime I get my 5-8 minutes here and there where it works! (took three failed attempts to post just this!). It's always something.

Know I am doing my level best, and as things move forward and I have more time to dedicate to just the farm it will only go smoother. I appreciate your kindness, patience, and support.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

a victorian farm christmas!

comfort and joy

Yesterday afternoon Brett arrived at the farm with the most beautiful leg of lamb I have ever seen. I beamed with pride, looking at it. It was, as he called it, our joint-custody dinner, but the credit goes to him. This past summer at a chicken butchering workshop he loaded up lamb number 9 into a crate in the back of his pickup, with plans to raise him for holiday meals. He left here a scrappy little ram lamb with amazing vertical jumping abilities (he had to nail a lid on the 4-foot tall crate on the back of his truck, funny story), and now the lamb had come full circle. He returned to the place of his birth for a Christmas Meal.

Brett didn't let me help with the cooking so I headed outside to see to the animals while he bathed the leg in cream sauce, butter, garlic, mushroom and rosemary. He also had biscuits, beans, Adirondack Blue potatoes (which make purple mashed potatoes!) and I had set a peppermint pig on the table as a post-meal treat. (Peppermint Pigs are an upstate NY tradition from Saratoga) My first chore was the Freedom Rangers, who are still in the brooder. They were already doubled in size and would need more space soon. But they next week or so they would be fine. I gave them clean bedding, fresh feed, and water and then walked outside to the barn..

Standing next to the barn, was y Christmas Present. A Jasper-sized stone boat! I squealed! A stone boat is what you see in that picture, a wooden draggable sleigh used by draft horses to pull field stones, firewood, farm implements, and move over ice and snow with sap buckets in March. It is the original "tractor attachment" the most basic working horse's rig. It's not something that comes in pony sizes, but Brett took a photo of the stone boat at Merck Forest during Antlerstock and made it from his own home-milled lumber. Amazing...

The meal was epic. I had never tasted such lamb. It was succulent, slightly pink (the greatest sin of lamb is over cooking), and covered in the creamy sauce. The potatoes and greens were perfect sides. We enjoyed the biscuits with butter and a bottle of red wine. Cheers to a friendship so grand, and to his skills and kindness. This is a man who not only raised the sheep, but created a 4-star meal out of the flesh he butchered himself and has the home-tanned fleece rug on his cabin floor to prove it. I'm proud to know him, and constantly impressed by his talents.

I am impressed by your talents as well. I received hand knit socks (wore them last night!), a painting of a howling wolf with antlers, hand-knit sheep toys (with a border collie!), music, books, letters, and enough cards to drown my kitchen door. There will be a donation made from this community to for (you guess it!) a lamb for a family in need. That's right, we came together with enough to deliver a sheep to people who truly need it. A blessing, one of many, from you wonderful readers across the globe.

And as far as eating my own lamb, I will say this, for anyone curious. Eating the leg of lamb from a sheep I delivered here on a cold spring night was not in any way weird or uncomfortable. It was an honor and a blessing. It was possibly the best meal of my life and I could not believe such a feast started in my own pasture. I asked Brett how he felt about the lamb, since his relationship was more primal. He was the one who raised, slaughtered, butchered and served him. He thought about it for a moment and replied, "I chew slower." Perfect.

This Christmas, we should all take a moment to chew slower. You don't have to raise your meal to be so grateful for it it gives you pause. To be celebrating a religious holiday without fear, in a country at peace, with people you love and cherish deserves the reflection and amazement it should deliver to everyone warm and surrounded by grace this season.

From this farm, to yours, Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011



I have decided to offer a Season Pass for Cold Antler Farm events and workshops. For the price of Antlerstock and another workshop and a half you are welcome to come to any Cold Antler Farm event for a full Calendar Year. This includes Antlerstock, special speaker workshops like Plan B, and upcoming events such as Beekeeping, Soap and candle making, the Farmer's horse and Backyard Rabbit workshops. I host at least 10-14 events a year and even if you make half you will get more than your money's worth!

Cold Antler Farm workshops are how I make a living now. Your support gets you not only this continued blog and its posts, but an entire community of like minds from all over North America. Antlerstock alone is becoming a homesteader's Woodstock! Two nights and days of workshops and events here in Veryork about traditional skills, livestock, timber, and crafts.

I hope some of you decide to invest in a whole year of learning, community, and continued support of this little mountain freehold. Email me if you are interested, please. I promise to get back to you right quick.

And always, open to barter for labor, livestock, or good of equal value.

P.S. Workshop pass includes most things, but special events like fiddle camp or soapmaking that require entire kits or instruments and books would still require some supply costs.

I have some updates about workshops happening at the farm, some events are new and some have changes added that might excite you! To start out: In the spirit of the wonderful and successful fiddle camps I am offering a version for those of you who are looking for instant gratification and less squeaks and squawks:

Introducing Dulcimer Day Camp!
April 13th 2013

Come up to the farm this April when the snows are gone and lambs are on my mind for a Saturday dedicated to learning the Mountain Duclimer. Everyone who signs up for the day gets an Apple Creek Dulcimer of their very own and a basic instruction book. We'll spend the morning learning about the history, tuning, and strumming patterns and the afternoon learning your first songs! You will also leave knowing how to read tabs(so you don't need to know how to read music to attend) and the basics of jamming by chord and ear.

Just like fiddle camp you arrive knowing nothing and leave not only with your own instrument, but the knowledge to tune, play, and enjoy it. The dulcimer is a wonderful way for even the most skeptical of wannabe musicians to start with. It is tuned to itself and there isn't really a way to play a wrong note on it. As long as she's in tune, she'll make sweet music for you.

So if you ever wanted to add some music to your campfires, living rooms or farm front porches and and learn to bring home that beautiful music. Meet other beginner's, and enjoy a spring time farm. If you already have an older dulcimer then all you need to do is get it checked by a music shop and possibly get it restrung. If you own a newer dulcimer but never really learned, then sign on up and get inspired. You'll be strumming out Shady Grove in no time!

Please email me if you are interested, cost will be $225.00 for the whole day and the instrument and book, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch or plan to eat out in town. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along, you only need to buy the book and dulc!

The Farmer's Horse with Trainer Dave!
October 27th 2012

Halloween Weekend, my favorite weekend of the year, Patty and I are hosting the Farmer's Horse Workshop. It's an introduction to working farm horses for beginners and covers the basics of what it means to share your life with a cart pony, saddle, or draft horse. It doesn't matter if you live in the middle of the city or own 50 acres, this workshop is for people just considering the dream. It's a golden opportunity to learn about the animals, tack, work, and costs of horses and see what it is like to put on a collar and hames and watch working animals up close and personal.

The day's events will be split between our two farms showing you, most of all, scale. You can see what a pony like Jasper can do for your backyard acre by hauling logs, moving carts, and general ATV work. And then you can see what a saddle horse like Merlin can do as a second vehicle. My farm will cover the small pony and regular multi-purpose farm horse. So the smaller scale work and riding part will be all at Cold Antler. Then we'll break for lunch.

At Patty's Farm we will meet Steele, her 17 hand 1800 pound Percheron Gelding. You'll see what 42 acres requires! Patty uses Steele to log, cart, and ride and will share in detail their story. You'll see larger tack, larger vehicles, and a demonstration with a full-sized rig. Trainer Dave, the farrier/nature horsemanship trainer who brought me and Merlin together in confidence and problem solving, will be there as an expert to give a talk about finding the right horse for you and what to look for. He will also answer your questions.

All you attend are welcome to stay after the workshop ends for a special private campfire with music, hot cider, a bbq dinner, and lantern read readings from Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" Which, being about upstate New York, Horses, and Halloween will be a perfect ending to a magical day of manes and tales (get it!). Only 5 spots left!

Please email me if you are interested, cost will be $150.00 for the whole day at 2 farms but you only pay $75 to sign up and the other half the day of the event. Price includes speaking event and a farm tour. Please pack a lunch for a midday break. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along!

Words & Wool with Jon Katz!
Dec 1st 2012

Come to Cold Antler Farm this winter for a special workshop called Words & Wool. It is a knitter's circle and writing workshop dedicated to the small homestead or farmer's blog and the marketing and promotion of it. Come learn straight from the shepherd's mouth how I built, promoted, and expanded my blog. Ask me questions about publishing and writing professionally, learn how to sell or pitch ads and giveaways, bring a sample of writing to talk about and share with the group for a healthy and kind critique. Tell your story with eager ears listening, and a border collie in your lap....At the very least get some ideas for your personal, non commercial blog for your friends and family. It's a day dedicated to expanding your own brand and business, and getting the word out about your own website as another, vibrant, source of income for your farm and family.

Jon Katz (that's him loving up his donkey Simon), the New York Times Bestselling author will be here as well to do a talk about how he started blogging and how the internet has helped grow his brand. He writes and shares his amazing photography at His blog is one of the most popular farm blogs online now, with nearly 5 million hits! Some of you may already read it, and those who don't, should. It never hurts to have a little more Washington County in your life! He'll be available to share his own experiences and do a Q&A as well as sign any books you may have for him. And as for the wool? Bring a knitting project! If you are coming along to listen and talk, you might as well have something to work on near the wood stove. Other knitters will be on hand to help, give advice, share patterns and teach you the basics if you are new to the craft. Expect a comfortable day, indoors mostly, at the farm. The class starts at 10AM and goes till 3PM, and if you want to stay after the class for a private party of creamy potato soup and bread fresh from the Bun Baker wood stove you are welcome to it!

Please email me if you are interested, cost will be $100.00 for the whole day, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch for a midday knitting break. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along!

Season Pass promotion: Sign up for either workshop and you can pay a little more and be welcome back all year long as a Season Pass Member. SPM's are a driving force of support and goodwill on this little farm. They keep me going, as all of you do who read, email, comment, donate and come out to scratch Gibson behind the ears and tussle Merlin's mane.

P.S. Webinar Subscribers, you are not forgotten! The manuscript is done and winter is coming so expect ALOT of webinars all at once come snowfly ANTLERSTOCK 2012
2 Days of workshops and fellowship!
4 spots available
Columbus Day Weekend 2012

Antlerstock 2012 will be held here at Cold Antler on Columbus Day Weekend. I'm expanding the workshops, events, and options this year and starting it (informally) on Friday night.

email me at if interested! First come, first served as far as reservations go!

WORDS AND WOOL Come to Cold Antler Farm this winter for a special workshop called Words & Wool. It is a knitter's circle and writing workshop dedicated to the small homestead or farmer's blog and the marketing and promotion of it. Come learn straight from the shepherd's mouth how I built, promoted, and expanded my blog. Ask me questions about publishing and writing professionally, learn how to sell or pitch ads and giveaways, bring a sample of writing to talk about and share with the group for a healthy and kind critique. Tell your story with eager ears listening, and a border collie in your lap....At the very least get some ideas for your personal, non commercial blog for your friends and family. It's a day dedicated to expanding your own brand and business, and getting the word out about your own website as another, vibrant, source of income for your farm and family.

And as for the wool? Bring a knitting project! If you are coming along to listen and talk, you might as well have something to work on near the woodstove. Other knitters will be on hand to help, give advice, share patterns and teach you the basics if you are new to the craft. Expect a comfortable day, indoors mostly, at the farm. The class starts at 10AM and goes till 3PM, and if you want to stay after the class for a private party of creamy potato soup and bread fresh from the Bun Baker wood stove you are welcome to it!

Email me if you are interested, cost will be $100.00 for the whole day, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch for a midday knitting break. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along!

THE FARMERS HORSE I am quivering with excitement as I write about this! This October 27th the Saturday of Hallow's, Cold Antler Farm and Livingston Brook Farm are co-hosting an all day workshop on the Farmer's Horse. A whole day dedicated entirely to equine draft power for field, road, and pasture!

The point of the workshop is to learn the basics of taking on a horse, pony, or mule as a beginner farmer. Whether it is a farm pony like Jasper or a bigger draft like Steele, this is a day for you to gain some hands-on experience and get your questions answered, farmer to farmer, about the realities of working and living with horses.

This is not a horse-training demo, professional clinic, nor is it driving lessons. It is a friendly first step towards working with horses in your own life. It's an introduction to the broad-backed basics of working horses. The breeds of horses and work, the equipment and harnesses, and will end with a lecture by a seasoned Natural Horsemanship trainer's advice on choosing a horse of your own some day.

The day will start out at Cold Antler Farm where you'll get to meet Jasper and Merlin and learn the basics of housing, fencing, and keeping a horse on small acreage. We'll talk about riding your horse, and the kinds of saddles and styles of bridles, bits, reins, and tack. We'll talk about what to realistically expect cost wise and how I manage to do it here at Cold Antler. We'll harness a horse together, going over all the pieces and parts of that complicated beast. Learn what those strange words and straps mean, and how it all fits together and what they do. Lead Jasper along with a stack of firewood on the back of a stone boat. Learn about curb chains and blinders with Steele. There will be discussions on how to proceed in your own area, too: mentors, local draft clubs and such.

Lunch will be brought, bagged. Please bring a picnic style spread for your own enjoyment. We'll most likely break sometime in the early afternoon.

After lunch we'll drive a few miles over to Livingston Brook Farm where we'll meet Steele, the Percheron with power, and see the same stuff on a larger scale and enjoy some time in the back of a cart. Patty will talk about her own experience with her horse, how they learned together. She'll give you rides and show us her different vehicles (cart, sleigh, and forecart) and talk about the uses and advantages of all.

After all that a Driving Specialist/ Natural Horsemanship trainer will be there to give an afternoon lecture on selecting the right horse for you, and what to look for when you are ready to grab the reins. This will be a chance to really ask the hard questions. A nice wrap-up to our day of Draft School 101.

When the workshop part is over we'll dismiss and those who want to stick around can stay for a cookout/campfire are welcome! And get this, we'll end things right. With the light of lanterns and jack-o-lanterns we'll enjoy a campfire reading of excerpts from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and sip hot cider and warm stews under wool blankets around the flickering light. And if you never heard the tale of our own New York State's Headless Horseman after a day with horses around a campfire...well, you best come and find out!

If interested, please email me at to sign up. Half of the workshop fee will be needed upfront ($75) and the second half paid the day of the class. Discounts for couples and groups, as always. Mark your calendars and get out your deerskin gloves, we're going grab those reins!

Due to the growing interest in Fiddle Camp (all but one spot has filled up for this August) I have decided to add a second camp for the winter! It will be Feb. 9th and 10th, a Saturday and Sunday. A chance for people who couldn't make it to the summer camp, or just need more time for travel plans. Since no one will be out in the backyard sleeping in tents, "camp" seems like a bad name so I'm calling it the Fiddler's Winter Rendezvous. This one will be only for half the amount people and held indoors here in the farmhouse, but remain the same in spirit!

The Rendezvous will be the same 2 days of instruction for the absolute beginner fiddler. You'll come knowing nothing, not even how to hold a fiddle upright, and leave playing music. You have a 100% guarantee from me. I promise that anyone with any musical ability (or none at all) can come knowing nothing and leave with a song in them and the skills to learn more. You'll learn to teach yourself the beloved mountain reels, aires, gospel and folk songs of the American South. I supply the violin: set up, and ready to play, and you just supply yourself and the text book.

So why put off your dreams folks? Why just listen to those fiddles on the country station and Allison Krauss cds. Start making your own music and do it with a community of support and other adult beginners around you. Spend two days here in beautiful Washington County while the farm is wrapped in winter white and the hotel and Inn rates are cheap! You'll arrive here at the farmhouse mid morning and we'll start with the basics and get you acquainted with your instrument and then spend the rest of the weekend going through the method of learning my ear and touch, the way people learned in the mountains, so that within a few weeks of practice you'll not only be able to hear a favorite song on the car radio, but figure it out on your fiddle too.

The cost for the fiddle, Rendezvous t-shirt (featuring an antlered fiddle), and two days of instruction is $350 a person. It costs a lot less if you bring your own fiddle. But basically, you can come with nothing and leave a fiddler. And if any of you are looking for a Christmas Present from your darling spouse, this could be the one to remember. Learn an instrument, support a scrappy farm, add music to the world.

Feb 23rd & 24th
This February the 23rd and 24th will be a winter wool retreat here at the farm. It'll be snowy and cold outside, but even if the weather is frightful there will be a warm pair of woodstoves and fluffy dogs to keep you warm inside the farmhouse. So please, join me in a weekend dedicated to fiber arts. We'll have Saturday entirely focused on sheep and wool. The morning will be about the costs, preparations, and basics of taking on a small spinning flock of sheep in as small a space as a suburban backyard. A pair of Icelandics or Jacobs with a simple wind-proof shed and some field fence can turn any 1/4 acre into a wool production zone. I'll talk about my own sheep, their stories, and how I went from 3 in a rented backyard pen to the snowy hillside breeding flock you'll meet, pet, and see outside the warm windows. Then after lunch we we'll go into washing raw wool by hand, drying it, carding, and spinning with drop spindles and wheels. I'll have a wonderful instructor on hand, Katherine of NYC to come and teach you the skill with her own wheel and mine. Feel free to bring your own wheels as well and get some hands-on instruction.

So Saturday will be about sheep and wool, and Sunday will be all about knitting. Come and learn even if you don't know which end of your new needles point up. It'll be a day of knitting by the woodstove and enjoying homemade treats. Not as structured as Saturday, but I'll have some skilled teachers on hand to get you started and making fabric out of sheep even if you never did it before. The small goal will be for all of us to learn to wash, card, spin, and knit at some level by the end of the weekend. Come for one day, or both, and enjoy a wintery day at the farm. I'll be working on socks, I can promise you that much!

If you want to sign up, it is $100 for one day, or $160 for the whole weekend. IF you are coming from the city or need a place to stay, here is a list of local Inns and Hotels around Cambridge NY. Email me at to sign up, or give the workshop as a gift. If you are giving a workshop, season pass, or some combination as a gift let me know and I will mail you a signed copy of one of my books with a written invitation to the person who gets the workshop or season pass as a gift. I thank you again for supporting CAF, all of these workshops are helping prepare me and the farm for winter!

Have you ever wanted to know more about the healing properties of plants? Does native and ancient wisdom raise your eyebrows? How about healing a case of the common cold with nothing but dried herbs from your own larder and honey from you own hive? It doesn't have to be witchcraft or fiction, just basic and practical herbalism. It's a topic I am interested in and want to learn more about as well. So I asked a good friend and gardener/herbalist extraordinaire to come and teach us all.

The first Saturday in April will host a very special workshop here at Cold Antler Farm. Kathy Harrison, author of Just in Case and National Geographic Channel Doomsday Prepper, will be here to talk about natural medicines. She's a trained herbalist who gardens her own. She knows how to turn dried plants from her own backyard (and foraged from the forest) into teas, salves, tinctures and lotions. Kathy will talk about everything from planting to harvesting, and do a demonstration of making salves and ointments. Bring a notebook, questions, and tolerate a Border Collie in your lap and you'll love this spring day.

The workshop will start out with introductions and a basic overview on herbs. It will include a lecture on the beginning herbalist's garden, and from there take us off into the world of homegrown healing arts. We'll discuss what herbs are best for what ailment or symptom and all the business that goes into procuring them. This is a workshop for the person interested in a small garden they can tend, harvest, dry and then implement in everyday remedies. Something to set next to the taters, carrots, and lettuce patch. Some plants feed our bellies and others calm our minds. If you're already learning how to grow a meal, why not learn to grow the remedy for the stomach ache that might follow?!

We'll talk about specialty gardens, like for example, a calming garden. A bed of mints lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and valerian. A small 4x4 bed with these herbs could be turned into teas, rubs, and bath soaks. Even aromatherapy can play into herbalism. What the day will achieve is getting you acquainted with the basics to start out.

Everyone who comes will get a small herbal manual called Herbal First Aid from the fine folks at Microcosm Publishing. You'll also receive some seeds, and Kathy might bring plants along as well (season and weather permitting!).

Sign up my emailing me at This workshop is limited to a small number of people due to the books, seeds, and plants included in the workshop budget, so it is first come, first served as far as reservations go. If you are a season pass member and want a spot, email me quick to claim it!

Workshop Rundown
Date: April 6th
Time: 10AM -3PM
Cost: $125
Spaces: 13

Homemade bread is a staple at this farm. It is as naturalized in my environment as other native kitchen species like dark roast coffee, raw milk, and freezer chickens. My bread machine is pretty basic, just my two hands and the will to knead. My supplies are a bowl, a large spoon, and a few choice ingredients. Together this human animal and her learned skill has made this farmhouse smell like heaven and nourished my body and soul. I'm pro carbs around here. As the saying goes, happiness weighs more.

And yet, I recently decided I wanted to add another level to this love affair. I want to grow my own wheat right here in my own garden. Not a lot, not amber waves, maybe an amber raised bed? And not only do I want to grow it. I want to harvest it, mill my own flour, and make a broom from my own straw. I understand that we live in a time when bread is just a few dollars a loaf, waiting for us in plastic wrap at the grocery store. But I also understand how many preservatives, chemicals, diesel, and dangers go into something so wholesome produced so commercially. I want to go against the grain (pun intended, with gusto) and make this basic food from the ground up, something few people do. It'll be a lot more work, but a lot more rewarding. I'm certain of that

I want to do this, and I want to do it with you.
Keep reading, this is about to get real, people.

I want to make my first grain harvest OUR first grain harvest. I want to share in the journey from seed to bread together, as a community all over North America and beyond. I want to learn right along side you, with all of you there to get dirty, laugh, and support me along the way.

So here is the plan: We will plant in the spring, basic wheat, spelt, or whatever grain you prefer and follow our progress through next year's growing season. Then, at the very beginning of next August we will all gather with some of our dried wheat (stalks, head, and all) here at Cold Antler and learn the ancient skills associated with these humble grains together. We'll mill our own flour, of course, but we'll also learn to use the straw for crafts like broom making or hat weaving. It'll be a day of celebration and harvest, stories shared here in the farmhouse of our adventures "bringing in the sheaves."

So Join me in this! Anyone who wants to plant and read the story here, certainly can. But for those interested in another level of dedication and in supporting Cold Antler Farm can go against the grain right along side me in our own membered club. I am officially starting my Against The Grain Society right now. The Society is a combination of everything CAF has ever offered, online writing, a book, supplies and a workshop here at the farmhouse. Sign up for the price of an enhanced workshop ($160) and get the following:

• One pound of organic wheat seed in a cloth sack
• A copy of Storey's Homegrown Whole Grains by Sara Pitzer
• An invitation to The Society's Harvest Party here at the farm next Fall
• And a membership card with the special address for our own Society blog.

(CAF Season Pass members only need to pay for supplies and shipping)

That site will be a place to share recipes, post photos of our crops, support each other with advice for the garden or kitchen, and then harvest together as an online clan. This special site also means that you don't need to come to Cold Antler for the in-person workshop to be in the club. Instructions on buying a home grain mill, harvesting your seeds, making brooms... all of that will be available on the secret blog. We will plant in the spring in our "fields" (raised beds and gardens!) and follow the story together.

If you want to join the society, or give it as a gift, sign up by emailing me at - You can expect your membership kit of organic seeds, party invitation, book and instructions by August 1st of this year. Now, off to the fields with you!

Proceeds of this event go directly into firewood and lumber purchases for the farm: firewood to heat the place this winter and lumber to build the walls on the pony barn so Jasper and Merlin have some solid 3-sided protection from the north country winter!

meet the new kid

Thursday, December 22, 2011

solstice work

I was standing outside the sheep's gate with a wheelbarrow. All sixteen sheep charging towards me, thinking their evening meal had finally arrived. This was bad, and only because I wasn't toting a bale of beautiful Washington County Second Cut. Instead I had one, dense, 70-lb bale of straw I had bought and stored just for nights like tonight. A storm was moving in, starting with freezing rain and turning into several inches of snow. My flock like to be under cover and on dry ground as night snow falls, and so, for this exact purpose, I cover their barns with a new layer of clean bedding the night before a snow hits. It's a clean sheet to call home as the coming snow storm wailed into the small hours. I needed to get it up the hill and right now opening the gate would be a mob riot. I needed help.

I let Gibson take on this task, however he saw fit. I opened the door to the farm house and he bolted to the sheep gate. At his sight, many of the flock started to move towards their barns. I let him in the fence and told him to lie down. He did, and the flock raced to their pen, away from my working area as if Gibson had read all of our minds. I let him walk towards the flock, and when I told him to stop and lie, he did. I shut the gate. I then told him to look back at the pasture behind him and he shot off into the night, looking for a fleece under the waning moon. He saw none and sprinted back to me. I was thrilled for his help, as simple as it was. He calmly got the flock away from my work zone and behind a gate. A small victory for this eager pup and new shepherd.

It's the solstice tonight! The longest night of the year. Tomorrow the days start to grow longer and hark towards spring. If I needed a more blatant reminder, a gosling was born from Sara and Cyrus, and I am so proud of those 3-year-old geese I could hug them. The little one is doing fine and I am leaving it to its mother's care. No brooder box for this fella, just down, feed, water, and hay. I hope the little one is just the first of many. The Twelve Tribe farm down the road wants to barter for some goslings and I hope to deliver. Good friends deserve good geese.

this just in!

Today I came home to a new edition to CAF! Cyrus and Saro did it, a gosling was born today, hatched on the solstice. I don't know what the Farmer's Almanac has to say about goose babes on the winter solstice, but I am chalking it up as a good sign! I hope he/she is just the first of many little ones out of that clutch of eggs. Both geese have been working hard to guard and care for that nest in the coop, may it bring all sorts of chirps into this new light!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

take me back

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the chickloo, and other life changes

The Freedom Rangers are doing well. They are thriving in the mud room brooder. Under a heat-lamp near a roaring fire, they are learning to scratch, socialize, and stretch their little red wings. I have not lost a single bird, and am excited to build and create their winter shelter. I have plans for a super low-cost, low-energy chickloo out in the snow by the barn this winter. I'll purchase an inexpensive garden tractor/single car type tarp-covered "garage" and line the sides with pallets and haybales. A thick floor of pine shavings and straw, hanging heat lamps and feeders, and cozy meat birds should cost less than 300.00 to set up and be used over and over throughout the season. I'll post photos and updates as we go, but right now the Rangers are still in that amazingly-cute fluffball stage. They'll live inside with me for another 3-5 weeks and slowly we'll learn how to make-do outdoors.

You know your life is permanently changing when the idea of suspending heat lamps in a backyard chicken camp makes you want to spend the night drawing plans and sketches, and researching recipes yet uncharted...

P.S. Thank you for all the gifts and cards! Today I reached the 45 dollar mark towards the Heifer International Fund, and someone sent a beautiful set of presentable cookware...amazing. I am AMAZED!

Monday, December 19, 2011

tough love

This has been a tough morning.

I started writing all that had been going on here in the last few days and (even) hours while waiting for the chimney sweep to get here. The paragraph was full of drama. A series of accidents and incidents, personal strife, fear, and anger at myself. I looked at my blog post, shook my head, and hit delete. Not because I wanted to hide it from you, dear readers, but because I am fairly certain that writing about strife, fear, and anger just creates more and more of it. It causes me to get sucked into feeling like a victim, or fills my head with notions of things that haven't even happened yet. I don't want to live that way, not anymore.

I'm not saying I won't share bad news about the farm on the blog, or turn this into the fluffy-bunny of homesteading network. But I don't think any of you need to hear about my problems that you already have yourselves... things like money issues, relationships pains, medical problems or any sort of negative talk about politics, farms, bloggers, or farmers.

So here's what I will share about today:

Today amazing things happened. Through a lot of luck, love, community and phone calls disaster was avoided, stress relieved, and problems dealt with in a timely fashion. This farm was full of animals that got attention, feed, water, room to move around in and explore. The dogs have full stomaches. The house is warm. The electricity is on. The truck is getting repaired in the shop. I have a 4x4 rental sitting outside waiting to take me to work. I am blessed. I am lucky. I am grateful.

Tonight I would love it if every reader posted to share something they are grateful for, too. It can be anything, just something that makes them happy and that they truly appreciate. Write it down. I can't imagine the positive energy a list of gratitudes can create, but it has to be stronger than a list of pity-filled comments or there there's. I want to be uplifted, not consoled. I want to be proud of the generosity, kindness, and good will of strangers who sit down to check in on this blog. I want to hear about your grandchild's first steps, your puppy's healing leg, your overcoming cancer, your husband's warmth, your sister's laugh. I want to hear what you are smiling about.

I'll start: I am grateful for all of you who support this farm, in every way. Your comments, donations, workshops, emails...your love is a reason to wake up and create words and pictures and keep this dream alive. Thank you.

whoever mailed me this, you made my week

appreciation and tidings

A few weeks ago I posted about a little girl from an urban homesteading family in my hometown that needed your support. Thanks to your generosity, kind words, emails and calls...this family pulled through. Shellee wrote this to me to post on the blog so that all of you who donated and offered prayers and assistance can get an update. I am amazed at this community. It heals.

My husband and I would like to thank all of you for the prayers and generous donations that came our way through this difficult time. I had been waiting to hear from the doctor and finally have an update. Madeline will go into surgery on December 27 at 7:30am. This will be her 4th surgery (She will have one more and hopefully that will be all). She had a KUB xray (kidney, urinary, bladder) in Nov and her Dr said that the stones have moved down right at the base of the ureter!! This is fantastic news because they may not have to make an incision. He had said he is really trying to avoid that because her condition is lifelong and will more than likely have stones in the future. If they go in and surgically remove through incision, it may make it difficult in the future if they ever have to put another stint in ( her last surgery will remove the one that's in right now). So he is going to try to break them down by laser as best as he can and hopefully pull them out which means less hospital time after.

This has been a lot for our family but through our faith and the smile on a little girl who has been through so much, makes you realize what really matters especially this time of year. She is an active, fun-loving, kindhearted child, and I never want to break that sprirt. She prays for the children in St. Chris's every night that they get to be free (I think she means from the hospital...I never asked because that is between her and God and he knows her heart). Christmas is her favorite time of year so I was worried about how she would react having to go down again. As much as she doesn't want to get another "nap" (as we call it), she is ready for this to be all over. I pray this will be the last time she has to deal with stones.

We teach our children to be humble and accept the things God gives you. You may not always understand why things happen, but she knows that God makes everyone special. She believes God gave her stones to help other children with something they may be going through. And in her prayers at night she always puts herself last.....she's 4. I'm so proud to have her as my daughter. She teaches me to see what life is really all about. God has good things in store for this one!!! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all for everything. You will always be a blessing to our family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!

Love Shellee Snyder

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 degrees

It's 12 degrees outside, and that's a new kind of cold for this farm. So far the lowest temps have been in the high teens, but last night the mercury dipped to ten degrees and when the farmhouse stoves went out around 2AM the house dropped to the low fifties. This isn't horribly cold, but chilly enough that when I reached over to hug Gibson his black fur was cold to the touch. When I woke him he stretched out his lanky body so he was easily 5 feet long from front paws to back paws, and then curled his spine back into another ten minutes of sleep, tail covering his nose. He must have learned that trick from the huskies.

Today's work includes some everyday chores like repairing the sheep fence, turning out the pony, and loading up the truck with some hay from Nelson's farm for the barn's larder. I'll pick up some more feed in Bennington and stop by the home-brewing shop so I can pick up a valve I am missing for siphoning the hard cider. I'll call the farrier for Jasper (his feet need some trimming) and the butcher about the pigs. They have a date with destiny soon. It feels like just last weekend I picked them up with Tara. But by the time those two are in my freezer Tara will have a belly the size of a throw pillow under her shirt. Life rolls.

There's a Christmas Potluck tonight at my friends' house in Arlington, and I'm bringing a big pot of mac-n-cheese with veggies. It's a comfort food potluck, by the sounds of everyone's menu and for nights this biting, I welcome it. Right now however, I have hot coffee by my side and a list in my head of errands and supplies, chores and plans, recipes and outfit selections.

I hope you all have a wonderful and festive Sunday! The solstice is in just a few days, and that means starting the 23rd, the light returns! Days will get longer, and Christmas even more special. At least, to me.

parts of a cow

Yesterday I posted a photo of two steer feet, muddy and bloody, in the snow-sprinkled grass. I shared the photo because I wanted to convey the raw reality of harvesting livestock for the table without showing the whole steer half skinned, hoisted on a giant tripod, with a near decapitated head covered in blood. The feet seemed to get my point across without being sensational.

I was mistaken. Emails, comments, and complaints came streaming in. I removed the post because so many people were offended, and offending people is not something I wish to do before the Holidays, or any time of year. What shocked me about the upset parties was that only one of them was a vegetarian. The others were people who happily eat meat but felt showing the feet of the steer was gratuitous, and using the word harvest was dishonest or elitist. Some thought I sounded cold and naive. Others were just grossed out.

Here's the thing. If I posted a picture of a perfectly cut raw steak on a plate, I assure you I would not get a single complaint. That raw part of a dead animal, because we are used to seeing it, is acceptable. Yet it is carcass, a once-moving sinew, the insides of a beast, a far more gory and intimate display than anything I shared here yesterday. The feet were two black hooves on the grass of a small family farm, with mud and exposed bone, gently being covered with snow. I wrote how my life with animals had changed, and that the experience of seeing those feet was just like the experience of seeing a filing cabinet in my office. They are a part of the process, objects that should not effect how you go about the work of your day. And so people assumed I cared about the death of the animal as much as I care about filing cabinets. That was both insulting and the exact opposite of everything this blog is about. Why is seeing backyard livestock slaughter as a part of my everyday life offensive?

If you think my acceptance of livestock death means I don't care about animal welfare, conscious eating, and invoke deep gratitude for the lives lost to sustain my own than I have done a horrible job of sharing my heart.

P.S. I put it back up...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

firecracker farm steer harvest this morning

First thing this morning I was at Firecracker Farm with a plate of apple cake and a card for Ian Daughton. The card said "Happy Steer Day!" and had the first ten dollars inside it as a down payment on the beef I ordered months ago from his steer. Today was Tasty the cow's harvest date and I was there with a few other folks to see the process, take mental notes, and talk to the butcher about an appointment for my pigs later this winter.

How I see and live with animals has changed so much in the past few years, and I am very content in my current practice of living with, and being the reason for, the death of the animals that feed me. It feels correct. Those hooves are not grotesque to me at all, no more than a filing cabinet is at the office. The metal cabinet is simply a part of the job, an object that is a small part of a larger process. Steer hooves are just one small part of an end of one animal's story. A story so complicated and interconnected with man it is insulting to me now when people pretend their meat never had legs to stand on. I am grateful for this animal in every sense. I'm proud of Ian and happy to support him.

As a farmer I now know death is not an ending. It's a continuation.

a chariot of cats

A small wooden statue of the Goddess Freya watches over my kitchen. She sits on a throne with two giant cats by her side. In the old words, she was the patron of love, protection, and fertility and was pulled on a chariot by two large cats. She's a lover and a fighter, digs music and ale, and believes in animal-powered transportation. That's my kind of girl.

Freya is in my kitchen because two years ago when my world was falling apart she showed up at my door and then everything changed. I was broke, evicted from my rental farm, and scared but then a reader mailed me this simple statue in the mail and wrote words that boosted my spirit. He told me to be strong, to trust the process, and that he knew I would be okay. He wanted me to have a reminder about strong women that came before me, that have guided people since time out of mind. I love this statue. I love that it was a gift from a stranger that arrived at my door, given to inspire and invigorate my hope.

Freya pulled through, all right. I ended up at this farm a few months later, a miracle considering I had no savings, poor credit, and no idea how to buy a house. All I knew was how to want it. I trusted in the readers who supported and believed in me. I found a realtor and mortgage broker who were patient and explained exactly what I needed to do to make this place happen. I saved, planned, paid-off debts, and with the help and support of many loved people I was able to come home to Cold Antler. Everything magically fell into place for me. The sellers were motivated, the USDA's loan didn't require a down payment, the closing costs covered by the owners, and so on. The experience confirmed my beliefs in trusting a dream, putting your emotions and intentions out there, following through with hard work, and knowing it will happen. You practice those four things with all you've got and you can do anything. You'll find your home, your farm, your dream. You will make it happen. Hell, you might even arrive on a chariot of cats.

I was thinking about that statue, that story, because it is now two years since she showed up at my door and how different life has been. There have been some tough times, most not even written down on this blog, but I trust the farm and my heart to pull me through.

I'm spending Christmas here at the farm and it is causing serious repercussions with my parents. They aren't angry, but they are disappointed. They see the choice to stay up here to keep things running choosing the farm over them. I suppose I am, but not in the way they think. My farm is not as important as my family, but taking care of the farm is more important than visiting my family at Christmas. If that sounds horrible, you either never ran a winter farm alone in the Northeast or your a first-generation farmer's Catholic mother. Either way, it's tough. Even Freya doesn't have this covered.

To my family, I'm sorry. I love you so much. I wish I could send Jasper to pick you up with bells on and bring you here to spend it with me and everyone else at Cold Antler this holiday. The three dogs, 31 chicks, 28 chickens, 2 pigs, 16 sheep, 5 rabbits, 2 geese, wildlife, and wood stoves.

I'll fill you in later today about how the farm life is changing here—the projects and plans—and the decision I made to cull out Pidge from the flock. But first I need to bake an apple cake for a farm-business meeting and then go watch a cow die.

Friday, December 16, 2011

LAST DAY to order Barnheart for Christmas!

This is the last day, last chance, to order a signed and personalized copy of Barnheart from Battenkill Books for Christmas Delivery. this is an amazing way to support Cold Antler, indie book sellers, and my rural community here in Washington County. If you are looking to own a special edition (first, signed, editions are special!) as a a present for a friend or to add to your own collection, these books ordered through Connie at Battenkill Books will be signed by me (Gibson too, if you request his paw print) just three miles from the farm in my community's independent book shop.

Connie can take your order, call me to come sign it, and we will mail it to you or anyone you want to send it too. She's mailed books to Canada, Brazil, Europe, and the South Pacific so far, so she can get it where it needs to go! Today is your last chance to order a copy and have all the delivery taken care of for you for those people still on your life, so give Connie a call or drop her an email, it's more than a small business, it's showing the entire Big Box industry book buyers are looking to support smaller shops. Amen.

Now, while I think today's Christmas cut off might be for U.S. Delivery, it is good to know your friend serving overseas or in-laws in Mexico can still share in the story of Cold Antler, if you want to mail it their way, inked by the girl and her dog.

You can also order books by another local author, and good friend, Jon Katz. His new book "Going Home" is about dealing with the loss of a beloved animal in your life, and his first book about living full-time on Bedlam Farm, "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm" is still my favorite, because it talks about living here in this area, alone, and with a farm through a crazy winter (I can relate). You can get any of his (he has scads), and my signed books sent your way today and under your tree by Christmas Eve!

So that's my commercial, thank you to all who already ordered Barnheart, Made From Scratch and Chick Days. It is such a boost to see a stack of books you wrote being mailed all over the world to folks who are interested in these 6.5 acres on a mountain. I'm grateful, and hope those of yours who receive these as gifts are happy with them and find their way here to see where the story goes next!

Battenkill Books
15 East Main St.
Cambridge, NY 12816
(518) 677-2515

Or just click here to order online:

the freedom rangers have arrived!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Local Service PSA

Holiday Hay Drive for Schoharie Farms

Date: Saturday, December 17th, 2011
Time: 9:00am-2:00pm
Drop off Location: 4-H Training Center,
556 Middleline Road, Ballston Spa, NY 12020

Farmers in Need of Hay!!Please participate in a holiday “hay drive” to help farms in Schoharie County affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. A volunteer with a large truck will pick up hay in Saratoga County at the 4-H Training Center on Saturday, December 17 and then deliver it to farms in need.* We need at least 20 farms to donate 20 bales of hay.

The recipients would be grateful for your donation. (Please no poor quality or mulch hay.) Email or call Jennifer Conte at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County if you are willing to donate. ( or 518-885-8995 ext. 232.) We also need volunteers to unload and load hay on the 17th. This would be a great gesture of generosity to those in need this Holiday Season!!

Thank you!
Jennifer L. Conte
Extension Community Educator
Cornell University Cooperative Ext. of Saratoga County

winter meat birds and radio blitz

Tomorrow morning I will be getting a call from the Cambridge Post Office letting me know that 30 Freedom Ranger chicks will be waiting for me inside the warm walls of their Head Quarters. This is a new enterprise, winter meat birds, and I'm trying it as an experiment with my friend and coworker Steve. Steve and his girl Molly approached me with the idea of them buying the birds, and I raise them. The deal being I get to keep half, so they get 15 naturally raised birds in winter with having to do anything but punch in a credit card over the internet, and so do I. The chicks will start indoors and move to a haybale, lamp-lit, corner of the barn for when they are older. We'll see how it goes, this is after all, an experiment.

So the post office will call here around 6AM, and soon as I return and have all of the birds happy and content in their brooder, taking the first steps in their lives as Cold Antler Poultry: my radio tour starts.

What the heck is a radio tour, Jenna? Well, you might ask! I am new to this, but I am fairly certain I sit by the phone all day and every ten minutes from 7:27Am till 4PM radio stations from all over the US call for live interviews with a crazy 29-year-old day-job slingin' farm girl and to talk about Barnheart. I'm excited, and a little daunted. These are all live broadcasts, from Minneapolis(KTOE) to Nashville(WRLT) to Denver (KFKA-AM) to Los Angeles (KKZZ). Talk about a day of promotion.... I think I'll need a glass of water and a shot of whiskey by dinner time. Whew...

Outside meat birds and the book tour, there is a lot happening here at the farm. My evening and morning chore times are the longest in this farm's history. I would gather 3 hours a week day are now dedicated to time outdoors just keeping the basics running, and 6-8 hours a weekend day. With the horse, pigs, and wood stove alone morning chore time is doubled, and without hoses or extra hands, just moving buckets and hay can be a workout that makes Jillian Michaels look like.... well okay, it's nothing compared to her workouts, but it still gets my heart racing.

While the winter-farm work is tough, don't read my words as complaints, they couldn't be farther from them. YEs, the work is all-consuming, and some weeknights I am so exhausted I get home, eat, and crash soon as everything with paws, claws, and hooves is satiated. But nights like tonight, before a radio tour and with a promise of a morning fire in the wood stove (not lit when I am leaving for the office for ten hours) fills me with that same ol' feeling of joy I started feeling back in IDaho when homesteading went from bookshelves and directly into my veins. Yes, the work is everything now, but it is wonderful, and it is bringing me a freedom and sense of worth so thick, authentic, and real I sometimes think if I fell to the ground my own energy would make me a magnet, hovering 6-inches over the muddy ground.

So no pity for this girl when she talks about buckets and chores. I am alive, in love, and singing out.

My focus on losing weight is holding steady, not losing much more, but not gaining any either. I am down ten pounds with 25 to go. I am not making stellar progress, but I consider starting a wellness program a week before Thanksgiving and losing ten pounds by Christmas success. I am drinking green juice, lean meats, and cutting out (but not avoiding totally) carbs. I dropped a jean size. I feel lighter, happier, stronger. It is good.

The webinars seem to slowly be gaining some footing, sold a few passes and am inspired to do even more. The next one will be shorter, and just about rabbit harvesting and storing (not raising rabbits, that will be in the spring), but I think it is going to be good to know. Someone suggested a DVD CSA, which I think is great. If you want to sign up for the whole year of web tutorials, email me at and you can get a DVD or Data Disc with all the webinars saved for your viewing pleasure whenever you want. You'll get the DVD after this season, but be able to watch them online as they are filmed. (The Dulcimer tape will be finished this weekend and emailed to subscribers!)

Hoo! That is plenty for tonight. I'll check in tomorrow with chick pics, radio stories, updates, news, and more. Right now I am going to head outside and feed the crew before I return to my stack of mail (so many cards, thank you!) and some down time.

photo from

One Fast Move Or I'm Gone

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

start in the shower

A lot of us are striving towards a simpler life, whatever that means to us. IF you read this blog you may have the notion a simpler life involves moving to the country, getting livestock, and cutting back on blatant consumerism as a lifestyle choice. For me, that's true, but I think for a lot of people The Simple Life doesn't have to start on a few acres in the sticks. It can start in your shower.

That might sound scandalous, but let me ask you to humor me for a second. I firmly believe that the window to a person's soul is not their eyes, but their shower. The amount of paraphernalia, bottles, mold, and laundry scattered around are a better instant-slice of your frame of mind than anything else. Bathrooms are raw. They are private, a place that prepares you for a public life, kinda like your head. How you set up your bathroom, its state of cleanliness and its amount of potions and products is a better judge of your state of mind than you might think.

So indulge me, dear friends. Close your eyes and picture your bathroom tub or shower. Picture the towels, mats, razors, soap dishes, bottles, shampoos, and shaving creams. Do you need all of those things? Really need them? Could you whittle down that pile to one shampoo bottle, one bar of soap, and a razor in a small glass on a shelf? Could you put the razor away in the cabinet? Could you wipe the tub clean and bleach it, make it feel new?

Where there is one shampoo choice, one bar of soap, and one clean towel on a rack with more hidden away.. there is simplicity. I think removing excess, clutter, and such from open spaces in your home is a first step. Fill a closed cabinet with all those shampoo bottles and extras, deal with them another day. But tonight, see if you can set out one nice bar of soap, one bottle of shampoo, and one fresh towel for tomorrow and just notice how walking into a more-basic environment calms you. How the work of cleaning yourself is without choices that hinder your mood or thoughts, and how before you even get dressed to go to work you have appreciated a small step and accomplishment.

A farm, sure, someday. But tonight, let's domesticate our showers.

P.S. In full disclosure, my bathroom could use a decent scrubbing and some organization, but I am down to basics. All excess if out of sight, out of mind.

the perfect pair

As a thank you for farm sitting last month, the Daughtons found me the perfect present. A two-cup vintage enamelware percolator, in teal! This small wonder fills my giant bee mug from the Pig Barn Art Show over at Bedlam Farm. Together they are an unstoppable morning team. I can percolate coffee so strong it could clog your truck's fuel injectors and fit the entire min-pot in half that mug. When life is right, it's right.

Monday, December 12, 2011

on the table

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.

She just nodded.

Webinar Sample: Mountain Dulcimer 101

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!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

working on it!

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!

Check back before bed!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

saratoga streets

goslings and kits

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!

kale, booze, and books

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!

Friday, December 9, 2011

First Webinar this Sunday: Mountain Dulcimer!

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!

recess for snow birds

the meaning of the season: charity

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.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I can't wait to see this...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

i will go

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.

Goodnight, my antlers are cold.

the exhasuted celebrity

a little music for your afternoon

Thanks for this, Alli

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


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!