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!

Monday, December 5, 2011


look at this shirt i got!

P.S. Winner of the Plan B workshop announced tonight. I fell asleep early last night and had a rough morning. Need time to use the number generaotr and count it out.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

ghost of a station wagon

Saw my old Subaru today. It was parked next to me at Rite Aid. The mechanic I sold it too last winter had finally gotten around to fixing and reselling it. It had a local used-car lot sticker on it and had been freshly washed and detailed, but it was unmistakably my old 2002 Silver Forester. It had Annie's clawmarks, barely visible from being buffed off the passenger side panel where she hung her body out to catch the air. It had the same dings and cracks, things a used car place could paint over and spiffed up, but never put the trouble into molding back into a perfect body shape. I let out a sigh, like seeing your old flame with a new spouse.

I saw my Subaru and felt instantly nostalgic for it. For the days I spent exploring the Smoky Mountains in it, the two cross-country road trips, the scary mountains of British Columbia with mountain sheep on the corners of the railing-less curves. I looked at my old station wagon, and remembered the work it did. The animals it transported. The way I felt so capable and safe it it. I remembered the snow storms out west, the trips to Palmerton from Knoxville, and the day I brought home a baby goat curled up in the front seat. Then saw the girl I knew from the IGA open the door and step inside it. She's a soft-spoken teenager who worked after school as a checkout clerk there. She now owned it. I wondered what it would be for her? I wondered if she ever could fathom how much of the world it saw? If she knew how much the old owner would have loved to have kept it had she the funds to repair the transmission. The girl pulled out and drove away from me, and when I saw the green bumpersticker on the back hatch I wanted to run up to her window, tap the glass, and ask her to come out and give me a hug. I didn't care if I scared the scrap out of her. That sticker made me beam. In bright white letter it stated:

No Farms. No Food.



This morning when I stepped out my front door I came upon a glorious sight. Atlas was fervently mounting a blackface ewe. TRIUMPH! I was thrilled, never more happy then to see the ram lamb I bought as a babe, raised, cared for, and kept from the flock until these fine days and see him do his duty for the future of this flock. I punched the air and jumped. Here's why my life has lead me: NFL touchdown dances in the driveway while sheep hump in the distance. Makes you feel rich.

Sal watched from the hill like he the second gunman on the grassy knoll. But Atlas kept at it, and a few minutes later when I returned to the flock to freshen their water, I saw him and Sal butting heads through Sal's pen fence. Hormones are certainly in the air. If this keeps up, I may not need to bring in another ram after all. That would be a blessing since I just found out from my insurance that I can get a whole new truck door and other damage covered if I cough up the $500 deductible. So I am going to make that happen, because the door isnt safe, and the ten dollars more a month in premiums is something I can eat. The auto shop wants the truck delivered to be worked on the morning of the 19th.

I am keeping close to home today to keep an eye on the sheep drama and start getting all the CSA orders out. What has been keeping me from sending your humble shares is I have not had the time or resources to get to a professional printer to make the labels and such. Then I realized, who am I selling to?! My members don't want flimsy paper, they want their wool. So I will send out the raw products of felt and wool you so patiently waited for with holiday cards and the share's end thank you letter. I hope to have them all to you soon. So there's that.

This morning I do have one errand. Gibson and I will drive north to get a load of hay and then come back to drive it back to the barn. I will cut that well such a wide berth you'd think the motherpumper was on fire.

P.S. This is the last day to enter with a comment in the Winter Prep giveaway a few posts below. Joining in the conversation could get you a free ticket to hear Kathy Harrison and James Howard Kunstler here at the farm talk about everything from storm warnings to Peak oil and how to handle whatever comes your way.

Announcing Cold Antler Farm Webinars!

I have been getting suggestions through comments and emails to have some sort of online version of workshops for folks who can't travel, but want to support the farm. I have been mulling this over, trying to suss out the best way to meet such a request. I run most workshops in a casual and homey style, people are welcomed into this farmhouse like old friends and enjoy an afternoon at Cold Antler meeting the writer and animals they are used to spending internet time with everyday. They are friends to this farm they know well. So how do I turn that into a video? I don't have the ability to film myself, or hire a film crew, so how could I offer a webinar option? How could I price it? How would the subscriber even get the information?

Here's what I have come up with. I am offering a year-long pass to webinars based on the workshops the farm is hosting. You buy your pass like a CSA share, and then as each of the workshops happen here on the farm, you are emailed a link to a private video explaining (by me) how to do the things we are teaching, in detail. For example: the black sheep wool workshop coming up is a workshop in all things yarn. We'll turn raw wool into fleece, use a drum carder and drop spindle, and learn to knit. A webinar pass-owner would get video footage from the workshop, and step-by-step lesson exactly how they are explained to the people there in person. By the end of this year, you'll have videos on wool processing, chicken care and raising, backyard slaughter, mountain music 101, homebrewing and sausage making and more. Each instructional video will be between 10-20 minutes and non available to the public. And, if you do buy a webinar pass (which would be a huge help to the farm now) I'll offer you a half-price admission to the in-person workshop of your choice! So, there you have it. Learn to frail a banjo, butcher a chicken, and wash wool. See tours of the farm and meet other CAF community members through video and clips. I think it'll be a hit (and possibly a future DVD).

A year pass to these videos, a half-priced admission to a future workshop at the farm, and knowing you are helping a girl in New York work towards her dream. I hope some of you sign up. I think the price to cover a "season" pass of videos (probably rounding out to 8+) will be a $100 even. That is the number that seems accurate to me for time and energy put into them, plus the added value of future workshop savings.

I know you can probably scrounge up free videos all over the internet, get library books, and take free classes to learn many of these skills, but what you are getting for your money is a comfortable and clear series of lessons from someone who is trying to figure out a way to make this farm work, one mortgage payment at a time. More and more, this blog is becoming my business and life. It is what I want to do for a living, but first I need to find a way to make a living at it! Workshops, books, magazine articles, and CSA shares so far aren't enough to keep this place running and bills paid on time. While it is a bumpy road right now trying to figure out bills and day-to-day needs. This was an idea that struck me yesterday while feeding the pigs and seemed like its own form of CSA, and that is the spirit I offer it to you in.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I hope some of you will sign up. I'll happily throw in a signed copy of Barnheart to the first 5 people to get a season pass to CAF's workshop webinars.

Email me at if you're into it.