Saturday, February 18, 2012

maude and sal in the snow

photo by melina smyers

sausage party!

Just wrapped up the first ever Cold Antler Farm Meat and Beer Workshop. Eight of us got together to brew a five gallon batch of Sweet Stout from Northern Brewer, bottle five gallons of a coffee porter, and ground and cased a plate full of beer and cheddar brats. More on the workshop tomorrow, and more Bircthorn too, but right now I am going to enjoy a good night's rest. It is snowing here, gentle and wet like all spring snows. The farm is white a few hours and I am happy and tired.

Oh, and tomorrow I'll meet Merlin. So who knows what waits between that sunrise and sunset!

photo by melina smyres

Friday, February 17, 2012

chasing down a dream

one big harness

Worked with Patty and Steel today (and Jasper, but that is another story), went for an amazing drive on her 42 acres. Through a field, near the lake, along a gurgling creek...beautiful time. This is me proud as a lioness for getting off the harness (hames to spider) in one motion! Not easy when you're 5'3" and built like a hobbit.

Also, Patty makes the best rabbit ginger soup in the world.
photo by

freedom ranger update

Here is an update on the very wet Freedom Rangers. They are between 8-10 weeks old and thriving. On wet mornings they spend more time indoors with their food and water, but as the day warms and the sun comes out they get brave and explore about 20 yards around their haybale barn. The laying hens are far braver, but with such low forage about this time of year these guys stick close to their free lunch. They are all a bit damp because when I open the bale in the morning they all stream out, get wet in the rain, and walk around underfoot at my buckets of water and feed. It takes about 10 minutes to put down clean bedding, rinse and fill fresh fonts of water, and offer them about 5 pounds of food! Once the coop is cleaned, bedded, filled with treats and water they all seem to prefer it to the Laying Hen Bullies and cold and wet. Can't blame them. Comfy in there!

ordered these guys from

Thursday, February 16, 2012

driving into lettuce

Friday Driving might be a new thing here at Cold Antler. Heading to Patty's Farm to hitch up with Steel again and hopefully have some amazing photos to share. After we're done working her Perch we plan to come back to CAF to work with Jasper. It takes two people to get him started ground driving (one leading at the halter, one with the lines behind him) and hopefully the training will go well. As much fun as it is to learn the ropes with Steel, it will be a lot more gratifying getting my own boy back in harness. We'll also measure him for a proper collar, a better tool for his farm work than his light breast harness.

I've got salad on my mind. This mild winter is going to have me getting my thumb greener earlier than usual. I bought one of those 4-shelf bookcase style "greenhouses" on sale for 19.99 at the farm store and two bags of garden soil. I have some pretty shifty plans to make some seed starters and try to get some super-early greens going on the south side of the house. It's plan A in an A-D plan of sneaking in gardening before I have any business doing so outdoors.

Plan A: Try this little cheap greenhouse out, start some seeds in it on the south side of the house.
Plan B: Set up a South-Sider from Convertible Greenhouses to expand the operation.
Plan C: Once the meat birds are done with their hay coop, fill that somebitch with garden soil, cover it with windows, and turn the entire once-chicken coop into a giant cold frame. Hello KALE!
Plan D: Start the new garden outside behind the barn. Scare deer with fences of glory.

let's catch up

This is a video of the first year at the Jackson Farm, from closing day through the first winter, spring, and summer. From Gibson to Jasper. If you're new to this blog, consider it our introduction.

Nice to meet you, I'm jenna. Welcome to the farm!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

around the farmyard

photos by

pony update

I have been getting a lot of emails about Merlin. Everything from threats to stop reading the blog to Readers who want to donate to help pay for him. Folks, if I can not afford to purchase and keep the animal I won't buy him, it is that simple. I haven't even seen him yet, and when I do and the owner and I talk terms and such, he may very well be a current impossibility. But you can't stop a girl from wanting, trying, and kicking the tires. I need to at least look him in the eye.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

the greenhorn revolution

The Greenhorns, a new book hitting shelves in April about the passion and promise of young farmers in America, is available for pre order through Battenkill Books. While I am just one small contributor to this collection of fifty essays compiled by Severine, Zoe, and Paula, I am happy to sign my essay and write you a message of encouragement if you like. Heck, I'll even throw in Gibson's greenpaw print if you ask for it.

I asked Connie if we could do even more than pre sell the book. We are talking about hosting a screening of the full length documentary the book is based on right here in Cambridge. Battenkill Books, Cold Antler Farm, and a third party organization will be cosponsors of the screening if it all falls into place, which it will, because Connie is amazing and this county is busting at the seams with people in their twenties and thirties aching to get their hands back in to soil.

For information on how to pre-order from Battenkill Books, and to hear about updates and events visit, or click this link.

the luckiest

Valentine's Day is horseshit.
Happy Lupercalia, wolves.

happy valentine's day

Monday, February 13, 2012

merlin at the kentucky horse show


I might, might get this amazing 15 year old Fell Pony (my dream horse) for a barter and a song. The owners need to size down their herd due to illness, and this UK import is too good to pass up. He's 13.2 hands (a little taller than J, but thicker and well trained!) rides english, western, drives, drags...he's a beautiful gelding and I am going to see him this weekend with Patty or Wendy if they are up for it. Plus, Jasper would have an equine partner, finally. This is literally a dream come true for me. If this happens you will be reading a whole lot more about cart horses...

His name is Merlin.

I'm dizzy....

sausage party!

Last night I got out my sausage making gear, placed some natural pig casings in warm water to set, and started mixing meat and spices for Sweet Italian Sausage. I didn't have the pork on hand, but I did have a 50/50 mixture of grassfed beef and lamb. Since both meats came ground, I didn't need to grind them so I just used the steer-horned cast iron sausage stuffer to fill the shockingly strong casings.

It is meditative work, even if it is a little messy. You take the soaked intestines and slide them over the metal tubing, then the spiced meat is pushed through. I tie off one end and use kitchen shears to make the knot clean. As the meat is stuffed and the casing is filled I either twist it into links, or more elegant half-circle curves. It doesn't look like what you see in the store, but it doesn't look unappealing either. I'd dare call it beautiful if cased meats could be called such a thing. Now they are sitting in the fridge to take some time to cure up the combination of spices and ground. You can fry them up soon as you case them, but most sausage resources I came across said waiting is better. I'll do as I'm told!

I am lucky to live near a little independent grocer in Shushan who not only sells good meats and sausage-making supplies like spices and casing, but also teaches class in it. His clients are most interested in making products out of their wild game, but the same classes would apply to homesteaders and homemakers who want to turn their backyard turkeys and pigs and chickens into a value (and flavor) added product. I think its a great skill for anyone to learn though. You can source really healthy meats and herbs from your own garden, local farms, or green markets and with a minimal amount of gear make your own artisan meats in a very short amount of time. My 3-pounds of Italian steer and lamb links took 15 minutes, plus 15 minutes of clean up and an hour pre-soak for the casings.

This coming weekend is the Sausage Party* here at Cold Antler Farm. Should be a nice crowd, too. A lot of folks are coming to learn the basics of homebrewing and sausage making. We'll spend the morning working with casing, spices, grinders, meat and the non-electric tools of the trade and then after lunch we'll brew 7 gallons of beer. Two of those five will be made with a super-easy Mr. Beer beginner kit, and then the other five will be a traditional grain and hops combination over the stove. WE'll auction them both off at the end of the night with a beginner sausage making kit too, so some folks will head home with two cases of beer or pig intestines in salt, FUN!

*not that kind, sorry ladies.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

making tracks, taking a rest

Went for a mile run down and up the mountain today. I'm getting back into the swing of running (a sometimes hobby that should be an always hobby) and it makes me feel so good. I didn't bring my running shoes home from the office gym, but I am not a girl to let myself off the hook that easy. So today I went for a jog in my Georgia Work Boots, the same ones I muck the horse stall with. They worked fine. I came home blowing hard, heart pounding, and feeling like my body has a proper use. I hate running while it is happening. It's hard. It hurts. But I am euphoric when I get through it.

The rest of today and the next two nights are dedicated to rest. I pre-programmed the blog posts through Wednesday and will be taking time after work for exercise and relaxation. Right now I am going to stretch, read, and eventually get to the holy act of Sunday Roast. Tonight I'll enjoy an herb rubbed chicken over carrots and kale with a home brew. I backed out of some club meetings in Albany to rest easy, making the farm and a good meal my only work today.

things will be alright

One of the songs that has stuck with over the past ten years is Phish's Farmhouse. I used to dance to it with my old Golden Retriever Murray in my parents kitchen. Last night while falling asleep next to Gibson I started singing it to him. He was in his usual place, back against my chest where he has slept nearly every night since he was an 8 week old pup. I don't know if he sleeps there out of habit or solidarity, but it is nice. I was upset from the past week. So I started whispering to my little black dog the lyrics I sang to dogs before him. His tail thumped as I scratched his ears.

Welcome this is our farmhouse. We have cluster flies, alas, and this time of the year is bad. We are so very sorry there is little we can do but swat them.

Gibson has this ability to seem almost human in his interaction. He did something incredibly sweet next. He scooched his body around so his head was facing mine on the pillow, and he placed his paws up onto my shoulder. Somewhere along the road he learned that his paws can work like my arms, and uses them to hook around hips and shoulders and bodies in what appears to be a hug. I'm sure it is some canine form of dominance, or maybe just the way he is used to getting closer to me, but whatever it is, last night it felt like I got a hug from my dog and I really, really, really needed it. So I started to cry and that's how I fell asleep. Not sad, not overwhelmed, just finally getting out all that emotion I had been building up from the things I share (and do not share) here. I sang the whole song to him, but I must admit, it is the chorus I like best.

I never ever saw the Northern Lights
I never really heard of Cluster Flies.
I never ever saw the stars so bright.
In our Farmhouse things will be alright.

I'm feeling much better this morning, and will head out for a jog in a little bit. Enjoy your day. I will be enjoying mine! I got a farm to see to and lungs to bust!