Saturday, March 17, 2012

the long day: part 3

Gibson and I drove to Saratoga under the order of the vet. We needed a lot more Pro Pen G, Anti-Toxin, and I needed some other bits for the farm as well. I popped in and out of Tractor Supply, loaded up with new syringes, needles, and Penicillin but sadly they were out of Anti-toxin for Tetanus. I shrugged and decided I would call Shelly when I got home. It would cost more to get it from her clinic, but it would be worth it if Tetanus was the culprit like I thought it was.

I stopped at Starbucks next, buying the most caffeinated vanilla latte they could muster on a splurge. It's rare to get coffee that doesn't come out of a percolator or the office's machines, and never a decadent item such as that. I savored it.

Once home I felt the tiredness hit me. Always around 2pm it hits me. I drove home feeling that hollow kind of tired, too much in one day, even for me. Cripes, even the good people at the coffee joint couldn't lull me out of my torpor... But maybe a horse could?

After dropping off the supplies and the birthday hound in the house I packed up my horse gear into the truck and was about to leave when I looked up the hill again at the ewe in the sick pen. I could see her head, it was up. A good sign. I wasn't sure if she would make it or not but the fact she was looking around and no longer on her side heaving was positive to me. When I got back she'd need the second shot of Anti-toxin and another hit of antibiotics, but for now she seemed solid as could be.

I groomed, lunged, and patted Merlin. He seemed calmer after his morning freak out. I wondered (silently to myself and then allowed to other folks in the arena) if horses just have off days? Andrea, who was riding a Warmblood named Kanan laughed and said ponies certainly did. I laughed too. Merlin was starting to shine a little more in spirit and energy. I guess I'd have to be ready for him when he was feeling his oats. I patted his big black butt. Challenge accepted.

It amazes me that no matter how tired I am, or sick, or stressed out: around horses it fades into the background. You can't focus on yourself in those selfish ways around these animals. They demand the best of you, in kindness and in discipline. From the moment I take that lead rope from the pasture to the cross ties and start the gentle work of brushing out mud, combing locks, and picking hooves I am transported away from my own problems. I have tactical and practical tasks at hand and all of it a meditation in preparation for this sacred act of riding. And once you are connected to this beast through straps of leather and metal, you can't get lost in your own thoughts, you NEED to focus and connect. Maybe better riders can drift, but my novice legs and hands need to be entirely there. By the time I have dismounted and we are walking back to the cross ties I feel the way I used to feel at the monastery after an hour of meditation. Clean. New.

Take that, Starbucks.

When I returned to the farm I had the usual chores, and I have to admit I slogged through them. My horse high was memory, and I still had a sick ewe to reload with medicine, grain, sweet water and attention. I called Shelly for the medication and she left it in her mailbox for me to pick up. I did, leaving some money in its place.

When I tended to her, I realized she had moved. She was in another corner of the small shed, head up and alert but far from her water. I carried the bucket to her and she drank a lot, thirsty as Job. I snuck the needles into her, and she flinched a little. I took her fighting the needle, even that little bit as a good sign. I poured her grain in a container and asked her to walk to it. She tried to stand and collapsed. I sighed and brought it to her, feeling deep in my heart she was a goner. I loathed the idea of putting a bullet in another sheep. I handed her the grain and she ate. I said a prayer and left her to her sleep.

By the time the farm was ready for bed I was starving and in need of respite. I made a quick dinner, fed the dogs, and poured a stiff drink before lighting up the wood stove. It wasn't cold out, but cold enough to like some heat going while you sleep with the windows open. I hoped for a bit of rain, maybe a thunderstorm. It seems like ages since I heard thunder and I missed him. Very, very much.

The day was done. My dog was two. My sheep was under the grace of prayer and time. I turned on Braveheart for the pure therapy of it and I was asleep before I even took a sip of my rum.

P.S. When I walked outside the front door this morning that cotswold ewe was standing at the gate bleating for grain! She totally recovered!!!

storm in washington county, ny: grandma moses

Last Chance to Sign up for Plan B. May 19th

Last chance to sign up for this very special workshop about energy, peak oil, preparedness, and change is today. Only a few slots left. For more information on this amazing workshop held at the farm with James Howard Kunstler and Kathy Harrison Please Click Here.

3 miles, now

the long day: part 2

On the way home I stopped at the hardware store in Cambridge for some feed. They don't carry a lot, but they carry enough and will order in anything I need special. I had called in for Feed n Finish meatbird feed and wanted to pick it and some grain up for the sheep. I also needed my brooder supplies. I had to get fresh pine shavings, a new clamp light (my old one was the meat birds winter heating system) a new bulb, chick feed, and other somesuches of raising baby birds in your home.

Gibson love stopping at Hardware Stores. He gets to move to the drivers seat and stare at the dogs in trucks next to his. He never barks at a dog from inside the truck. He just stares like a ghost at them. Barking inside the truck is only for dire situations like new stuffed dolls or animals in Wayside's windows. Like I said, he has his priorities.

A few minutes after arriving back at the farm I saw Shelly's green Tacoma pull up into my muddy, puddly driveway. She drives a vet's rig, with refrigerated boxes and a large assortment of medical adventures inside. I was glad her nice truck was already mud-stained. It had been raining since last night. Everything at my place was wet, muddy, and all piles of chicken poo appear diuretic in their copper and white streams into lower places. It's gross folks. This place is heave on earth June into Fall, and passes for a winter wonderland when it snows...the rest of the time it's a war zone.

Shelly unloaded some gear and checked on the ewe. She found her looking weak as ever, unable to stand, breathing hard. Her head seemed to swivel, a sign of rabies. She adorned gloves and had a test for Ketosis done by making the ewe pee on strip of carbon paper. (To make a sheep pee you hold her nostrils shut). The test came up negative, ruling out Ketosis.

She said it looked like listeria, tetanus, or possibly rabies. I wasn't worried about rabies, but was cautious. I wear gloves to give shots, always wash my hands, and will have the animal's brain tested for rabies if it dies. But if she does have rabies, that complicates things.. I'd need shots and people who came in close contact with me would need them as well. It struck me that owning sheep could kill me, simply as shoving a tube into her mouth and getting her saliva into a cut in my hand could kill me?! If rabies is the culprit (and I pray it isn't) I'll know because there will be no uphill from here. She'll decline into a mess of neurological symptoms until she would be banging her head against the wall. I learned my lesson with this sheep, as the commentor said last post, never trust the seller's claims the animals have had their shots. I thought about how grateful I was to be alive and farming in 2012 with health insurance...

I don't think it is Rabies though. My gut says tetanus. I am making sure antitoxin is administered as directed, and in case it is listeria: lots of penicillin. I used to be scared, just last spring, of giving sheep shots. Now I am a maverick of the syringe. I know what goes where, when, and how. I hope a friend or neighbor needs to learn this someday, because I am foaming at the mouth to teach others what I learned. Keeping sheep isn't hard, but it requires moments of fortitude.

By the time Shelly left I realized I had twenty minutes to get to my riding lesson on time. Friday is my weekly lesson with Merlin, and I had not seen him since Monday night. If you think it crass to leave a sick sheep to ride a pony, keep in mind that when you make an appointment with a riding stable you best keep it. Cancelling for a non-emergency (we had done all we could for the morning - just time would tell) means the Riding business loses money, and not enough time to fill your spot. As a boarded and a student, I didn't want to start my relationship off on a bad note. I already got in trouble for trying on a driving harness in the cross ties (and rightly so. Non-driving horses were terrified as I slowly turned my horse into a robot before their eyes!) and didn't want another black stain by my name. I also was overdue. I had not been to groom or work with Merlin in three days. A shame, that. A mix of time, the office, and weather. So when I finally got changed into my breeches, paddock shoes, half chaps and a sweater and made it to the barn I had twenty minutes to groom and tack him. Whew...

When I pulled up to Riding Right Farm I saw Merlin in the front pasture as always. He was out grazing on the new shoots of grass poking through the mud. I called his name and he ignored me. Then I made some smoochy/kissing sounds and the warmblood in the paddock next to him started sprinting towards me and taking a queue, he did too. Watching him run beside a stretch of electric tape next to a warmblood is like watching Seth Rogen rush at you next to Brad Pitt. He came to me at a full run and I stood firm. I respect this 1100 pound pony, but I am not afraid of him. He stopped, nosed my palm, and let me slip his halter over his head. We walked towards the cross ties inside the riding barn as always. He acted totally normal.

Inside the barn he was fine. But I left him on the cross ties to shift in his hooves as I slipped into the tack room to get his dressage saddle (on loan from Patty), and my helmet. I grabbed his grooming bucket and went about the business of brushing off mud and such. He was fine. Fine until I started cinching down his saddle while a truck backed up outside....

The BEEP BEEP BEEEP of a backing up truck sent his head in the air, snorts out of his nose. I didn't know if I cinched his saddle too tight or if the truck scared him, but he acted wild compared to his normal zen self. I quickly got his bridle on and we headed into the arena. Both of us a little flustered.

Andrea, our current trainer, was just finishing up a lesson with an owner/rider just as fine a match as Merlin and I. This woman was tall, elegant, graceful and lean. Her horse was a dressage beauty, just as finely built and disciplined. I stood there, chunky and stout next to an animal just as chunky and stout and laughed. A Hobbit and her cart horse staring at an Elf and her war horse. I thought about all the things I wasn't. I thought about the ewe in her pen. I thought about the amount of day ahead of me yet (it was 9:54 AM) and felt very tired. I love this life, but sometimes it wears you so thin you worry you will disappear.

I tried to mount Merlin in this state of anxiety and distraction but he fussed, backed up, threw his head in the air and stomped. He never acted like this before and Andrea told me to get off. I did. And as I grabbed the reins he reared up in the air. I remember Andrea's face, and I remember that I should be scared, but I wasn't. I didn't want to ride him but I wasn't scared to grab those reins and calm him. Something was wrong. This was not his normal behavior.

Instead of riding him we checked his girth, saddle, bridle, teeth, bit, everything. We lunged him instead of a riding lesson and he seemed to start out scared and nervous and the calm into his normal self. Maybe it was the truck, or maybe it was the fact that 3 days had gone by without real work? Maybe it was me and my frantic mind...whatever the case, he was NOT interested in being ridden and I didn't feel like testing out my helmet. I decided to try again tomorrow after a good lunge warm up if there was any free time at the barn. Saturday is a lesson-heavy day. We will see. Might require getting up with the crows...

I told Andrea I would be back later that afternoon to work him again. I think it was mostly the lack of consistency in our training. A week and a half of effort and a three day break in his world was enough to get too much energy in him for a walk/trot lesson. I thought about what lay ahead on this long day. I needed to be heading over to Saratoga to buy the medical supplies I needed for the ewe (more anti-toxin and Pro Pen G), some early lambing purchases (just in case I get lucky), and feed the hardware store didn't carry. I needed to get the brooder ready, rework Merlin, and make time to buy silly things like food and laundry detergent. The TSC in Bennington was the same distance away, but the Saratoga one was parked next to a Starbucks...

I already told you I needed a bigger boat. Off to the big City...

photo by 468photography

Friday, March 16, 2012

hello, dolly!

Got an email from Brett: He said I'm a bad influence... he went ahead and got his first riding horse as well. A 14 hand Haflinger Mare named Dolly. Dolly is a 13-year old ex-carriage horse from Burlington Vermont. She rides, drives, does it all. Brett said he'd been putting off getting a horse for a while, because folks told him he should. But he saw Merlin and I, me taking the dive, and felt foolish enough to grab the reins as well. Now his Highlanders have some company, and a fine horse has a good home. They'll be riding into the sunset in no time...

the long day: part 1

I woke up, without aid of any alarm at 5:36AM. That's my internal morning, the time by body is ready to work. It amazes me every Friday, Saturday and Sunday that I don't want to sleep in. That I want to get up and stoke the fire, start the coffee, and watch the sunrise with Gibson or Jasper. Yet on the office days I curl my body around Gibson and ask him for "just ten more minutes..." I know the crazed rush ahead of us. The work of the farm, dressing presentably, packing for the day, and leaving Cold Antler for ten whole hours. It's not the office I dislike. I love that place and the people in it. But it is the having to rush to go someplace so soon after waking without the option to return till nearly dark. Hard on me, that.

I was up with a lantern and the ailing cotswold ewe moments later. I found her breathing heavy on her side, kicking her legs with a sad effort every few moments. I did as Shelly told me, propped her up on her tummy so her head was up. She let me, and raised her head to look at me. She was still there. I have seen sheep beyond "there" and she was with me. I checked her eyelids. I checked her feces (normal pellets) and I brought the white tub of honey and electrolyte water over to her and she drank, greedily. I handed her a cup of grain and she ate. I gave her more anti-toxin, penicillin and tried to remember a time in my life before syringes and viles of antibiotics filled my fridge.

When she was in an okay place, I fed the rest of the flock. I fed Jasper, the meat birds, and the laying flock. The two male geese (Cyrus and Ryan) were out and about but Saro was on her new nest. They drank the water out of Jasper's bucket and Jasper eyed them through a mouthful of hay. The rabbits were seen to last. They are always last, luck of being indoors when everyone else is out. I checked on by does and found a new fluffy nest of white hair. My Palomino doe had a healthy litter! What a nice surprise on the morning with so much ailment on my mind! I fed my two breeding does, and my buck and Megan's herd in their cages. All the rabbits were doing well. After some fresh hay, pellets, and water refills they seemed to be doing great. Even the new mama.

I called the post office. It wasn't light out yet, but Jeff answered. I asked if any chickens had arrived under the name Woginrich, and they had. I could pick them up at any time. I texted Cathy Daughton, whom I was splitting this first shipment of Freedom Rangers with. I asked her, if at all possible, if she could do me the favor of babysitting all 50 until Saturday morning? I had been up with the ewe and the vet until late, and didn't have time to prep my brooder or a bag of chick starter handy yet. She said of course, but she could come pick them up. I had enough going on with the sick ewe. I told her I wanted to drive them down. Not only did she deserve it for the babysitting, but I needed something to do until the vet arrived around 8:45. I wanted to fill up my time so I didn't pace around worrying. She obliged. and I zoomed out the door with Gibson to the Dodge.

We headed out the door and turned south onto route 22. The sun was just starting to rise. It streaked blue across the horizon and I scruffed his ears. "Welcome to Level 2, son." I said. It was his birthday. It still amazes me that the day he was born I was living in a cabin in Vermont. My life has changed so much since then.

3 miles later we were pulling into the Post Office's empty lot. As soon as I walked into the glass-fronted building I could hear the little red birds. The Freedom Rangers from Pennsylvania were all in their little box, waiting for feed and water. I thanked Jeff, and loaded them into the back of the truck. Gibson eyed the box and then returned his eyes to the road. 50 chickens in the back seat no longer bear much acknowledgment. He is after all, a proper adult farm dog as of the today. Guess he wanted to act like it.

We headed south to White Creek, but first I stopped at Stewart's for Coffee. I almost bought a sloppy breakfast sandwich, but avoided the temptation. I had lost 5 pounds and two inches around my middle since Merlin came into my life. I could run 2.5 miles and wore out a pair of running shoes...I wasn't about to show up to our riding lesson smelling like cheese and bacon when he wasn't even allowed to eat grain. I bought an energy bar instead. I won't give up coffee, though. Not for anyone. I don't care if Merlin was a friggin' unicorn. Coffee's a deal-breaker.

The 52 of us headed south again on route 22. The sun was up now. The truck warm ever since my friend James Daley kicked the right part under the dash by accident that got the fans working again. I turned on the radio and Keith Urban was singing. I sang along. Like many radio songs, you don't realize you know the lyrics. I sang to the poppy country song and sipped by coffee. Gibson hung his front paws out the window and smelled cows, mud, and morning light. I remember thinking how trucks, country music, and dogs hanging outside of windows used to all be considered foreign and other. The trucks and country music were shunned in a faux-class assumption of ass-hattery on my part. Now I can tell a Toyota Tacoma from a Ford F150 at 200 yards. The dog hanging outside the window would be considered irresponsible. Gibson has been rolled by sheep, ran full speed into fences, busted through briars, bled, muddied, and gnashed teeth. He doesn't wear a leash. He doesn't mind the risks. I let him be himself. I smile (but I still hold onto his tail).

We arrived at Firecracker Farm shortly after. The coffee was gone and Gibson leaped out to pee on some nice unsuspecting bush. I handed the box of chicks to Ian (farm manager) and soon Cathy's youngest, Seth came out. He looked like he just woke up (He had) but was game for some poultry farming.

Within a few moments the fifty birds were under a warm light in a new wooden brooder. We chatted, talked about our animals and Tim's trip to Cambodia. Papa Daugton and her eldest son, Holden, were away. It was Cathy and the boys and fifty chicks for the now.

I only stayed long enough to see her pig (beautiful yorkshire gal), and wake up her own farm for the day. Her flock of Wyandotte and Swedish Flower hands colored the lawn like ornaments. They were all fat and happy, twice the size of my birds. If anyone has a way with poultry, it's Cathy Daughton. I beamed looking at her farm. So blessed to know these people, folks I only got to know because of this love of food, animals, land, seeds, and life.

I headed back home with the birthday boy, calling Dr. Shelly on the cell phone as I pulled out of the farm's steep drive. I'd be at the house to meet her before 9AM. I still had a full list of errands, lessons, chores, plans, vets, training sessions and more ahead of me... I looked longingly at my empty coffee cup. Then at Gibson.

"We're gonna need a bigger boat."

happy cakeday, gibson!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

the vet just left...

My neighbor Shelly (farm veterinarian of immeasurable compassion) just left. We had spent the past hour out in the rain, tending to a Cotswold ewe I discovered cast on her back after my evening jog. She was fine when I headed down the mountain, but when I returned to my driveway, panting and chest heaving from the mile run uphill, I saw a pile of wool and four hooves in the air by the lower gate.

Not good.

I thought she was just stuck, so I went to her and tried to turn her upright. She just shook a bit and leaned back over. Something was wrong, but she wasn't dying. She seemed to be in great pain and I saw her swollen belly and thought it was bloat. I called the vet then, and Shelly came up the road in her vet truck in moments.

In the rain we checked her pulse, eyes, temperature and I held her while Shelly felt for broken bones. She said nothing was broken, nothing was bloated. She had okay color under her eyelids (white eyelids are signs of ketosis) and she seemed t want to eat at the hay she was presented. Shelly thought it might be tetanus or a hard blow from another sheep that sent her flailing and bruised, cast her over and shook her up. She was given anti-toxin and antibiotics (just in case) and together we carried her up to a private sheep shed on the hill. Our feet digging into the mud (me still in my running shoes!) and set her on her own dry bed of hay.

It was dark. We sat with her in the lantern light and talked in the little sheep shed. The cotswold was looking for food, alert enough to want to eat and chewing on her hay bed. My gut tells me she will be okay. She was nothing like the sick sheep I put down, or the lamb with pneumonia from the early summer. She seemed okay, just hurt or drunk. Like as if we caught her the day after a party where she twisted her ankle but was still wicked hungry.

She wasn't due until May if she was pregnant, and so Ketosis was nearly ruled out by Shelly. She thought it was a systemic kind of tetanus, or possibly a really bad blow from another sheep that knocked the wind out of her and left her ragged. Whatever it is, I will be checking on her through the night. If she doesn't make it, she'll be tested for rabies and buried out where the ones who left before her went.I am soaked. I am tired. I am proud I did all I could.

Wish this little girl luck. Wish this shepherd good luck, too.

I am heading up the hill with a bucket of honey water right now.

photo by

A Twilight Knitter's Farm Potluck! Raise a Barn!

I am officially inviting you to....A Twilight Knitter's Picnic and Potluck Farm Fundraiser! Here's what I have planned! Come to Cold Antler this June 23rd to enjoy a day dedicated to wool, sheep, wool craft, food, and the farm. There will not be a workshop involved, just an open-house day to set up your own camp in the pasture or lawn and enjoy an all day feast board of shared food, knitting projects, and animals. Bring a campsite and conversation. Talk about your farm, or farm dreams and knit until the torches are lit at dusk and the fireflies come out and dance. Everyone who comes along that afternoon can plan on bringing chairs and a blanket and a covered dish and I'll have the bbq fired up for brats and dogs and burgers, and the whole day will just be about conversation, knitting projects, farms, vitamin D, and a day spent with friends to catch some sun and enjoy good food. Wh
I'll have the drum carder and drop spindles ready to use and teach, to anyone interested in learning on the fly. There will be a bucket of soaking wool, and some yarn and books to buy from CAF sheep. Merlin may be back at the farm by this point, or not, but Jasper will be there to accept all the apples and carrots you can offer and we could do a harness demo with him.
Note that it will be an outdoor event in summer. While there will be shade, cold water, and a running stream there will not be indoor events or air conditioning. Good children are welcome, as this is a private party, but know that they can never be unattended due to large animals with hooves and electric fences.

As the day wraps up there will be a campfire and a movie. Bring your blankets to the area in front of the red barn and we'll project a movie from a projector up onto a sheet on the barn wall after dark, and let the fireflies glow. We'll watch Babe while eating pie and ice cream. Instruments and homebrew welcome for the late night revelry after the little ones are home.
This will be a fundraiser to help build the new horse paddock for Merlin and Jasper, so there will be a donation requested. This is for people who want to enjoy a day out with like minds, support CAF, and help put two horses in their new home. Email me to sign up!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Congrats Winners!

Congrats to our winners for the Ignoramus books from I saw so many comments and will be sponsoring two winners myself on top of the winners from Wayne's giveaway. The random selected winners are:

Angie @ Crazy Country Momma

contact me with your selection and address, we'll ship them out right quick!

2 miles, now

Yesterday I ran two miles. The day before I rode. Today a hay delivery is coming to the farm and between the office, farm chores, storing and loading the 20 bales, jogging, and cooking dinner I don't think an hour and a half will open up to ride Merlin. But tomorrow it will, and all through the long weekend. We have our lessons with an instructor on Friday mornings, and I am learning a lot. Not just about riding better, but about Merlin and my relationship with him. While neither of us look very different, changes are happening. Everyday excersise and a healthier diet (80% fruits and veg) has lightened my step. Last night's run wasn't anything to write home about, and was very tired and had to slow down to a walk a few times, but as a reader here has said in the comments. "You're still lapping the people on the couch" and that phrase always helps.

This weekend is the first archery practice for my local shire of the SCA. I'm a new archer, and me and my 6 foot hickory long bow, quiver, and three arrows have our first lessons and target practice today at a member's farm a few miles north. The guys who run the team will be coming to see if my place would work for a practice as well and I'd be thrilled to host them.

photo by

Monday, March 12, 2012

never feel poor

There are hundreds of tiny seeds outside in the little greenhouse, peas and lettuce, kale and spinach. I grow heirlooms because I feel like I am growing secrets. Plants only for those willing to seek them, you can't find them in stores. My Amish snaps, my Rocky Top lettuce, my Russian Kales purple as Puff the dragon. They are sleeping babes now, under warm comforters of soil and sunlight. But in a few days their will be a sea of green life. It never gets old. You never feel poor.

Warmest night in months tonight. This shoulder season has the windows open so I can hear the rain and a fire still burning. The kind of weather and circumstances that make it feel like you are camping on a weeknight. Between the pot of tea on the stove and the sore inner thighs I'm nursing with a shot of whiskey, I feel good.

I had a great ride with Merlin today. Probably because when I finally got to the barn he was warm and wet from either a day in the sunshine or a training ride with Andrea (our instructor). Either way, we groomed and tacked up and headed out for a nice couple rounds of the arena. His trot was the smoothest and most comfortable it has ever been. These past few days since he has arrived I have spent more time on horseback than ever before in my life. Having just one mount to focus on, and one rider, you learn so much. You get as comfortable with the motions and movements as you do a favorite bike or car.

Ordering chicks tomorrow for the Breakfast in your Backyard workshop, a great introduction to chickens here at the farm. We eat yummy egg-centric foods and talk brooding coops, and chicken care in general. If you are coming, please drop and email to remind me of your plans to either take home chickens or not?

As for all you cats coming to the Urban Homesteading class? Well, I hope you like Pizza because we'll be making cheese, brewing beer, and talking container vegetables and chickens for certain. Buckle up.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Win a Beginner's Guide to Mountain Music!

Let's talk about what really matters folks. Music. You'll read about horses a lot lately. And in a few days you can expect to see photos of pea shoots, lettuce sprouts, and my bucket of lambing supplies (fingers crossed) But right now I want to talk about music, or more importantly, finding music of your own.

I put off playing the fiddle for a long time. The reason? I thought it was too complicated to teach myself. This wasn't a harmonica or six-string in the attic, this was a violin. This was something taught to small Asian children at age 4 so they could finally present it at Carnegie Hall after a decade of 4-hours of practice a day. And if not concert/quartet classical—it was taught at the knee of secluded Appalachian cabins where Old Timer's who learned by ear and magic taught their progeny how to hoe down. Whatever the case, it wasn't for a clumsy 24-year-old with a station wagon who couldn't read sheet music. I didn't even try.

Then I found Wayne Erbsen's book, Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus. It was written for me, I felt. A person with absolutely no idea how to even hold the fiddle, with grand dreams of sawing through Shady Grove at a campfire, and no ability to read music. I had the dream and Wayne had the path. He's been teaching Old Time Mountain Fiddle in North Carolina for a few decades now. He knows exactly how to approach, calm, assure, and support the new player. His book, a $20.00 eBay fiddle, a guitar tuner, and his CD is how I learned to play. And since I learned to play through tabs and ear (listening to the music and matching it on my own cheap instrument) I soon cold pause scenes in Songcatcher and Cold Mountain and play them after a little trial and error.

I will never forget when I realized I could read, that it all made sense. It was a Berenstain Bears book and I was around 5. I felt that exact same way when I could pause Cold Mountain and play "Ruby With The Eyes That Sparkle!" through just listening to it. That's what Wayne's books do. They don't teach you to play the fiddle. They teach you how to teach YOURSELF to play.

I wrote him to thank him when writing Made From Scratch, and every so often on Facebook we swapped messages Recently he got in touch with me and offered to giveaway a copy of ANY of his Ignoramus series books to a new banjo, mandolin, fiddle, or guitar picker out there. If you were waiting for a sign, here it is friends. Borrow your uncle's banjo and leave a comment in this post saying what book you'd like to win. One of you will randomly be selected and Wayne will ship one of his books to you.

Thank you Wayne for this giveaway! And as for the rest of you?
What do YOU want to play?

Click to see all his books at

proud and lovely

This horse is changing me. Waking me up. I didn't realize how languid I had gotten in my own heart, how much stress had put on pounds, thinned my hair, and made sleeping through the night hard. Acquiring Merlin, and dedicating my time and money into conditioning, training, and grooming him has done the same for myself. I want to heal with him, lose the pounds, thicken my coat, feel sweat and sun. I made a promise to him that every day we worked him, I would work too. So today I rode him for a half hour and I came home and jogged two miles.

It's not easy to do for me, not yet. In about ten pounds and two weeks it'll be easier, but today was a dogged little jaunt of curses. But I see Merlin trot in the mirror, blowing and sweating under his brown saddle pad and just when I am about to quit I think about my boy with a metal bit in his mouth and 180 pounds on his back and he doesn't quit. I can do this if he can. Together we will keep jogging. He is in my heart up every single hill.

Junk food has lost its appeal. I want to eat food that makes me want to jump on his back and ride. This is what a bag of carrots and some yogurt makes you feel, not Chinese Take Out and Diet Coke. My fridge is healthier, my water intake (while no where near his) is up. Every day my heart races. Watch on this blog, and see the change take place.

And not just working out, either. I was told to buy a product called Cowboy Magic for his long mane and tail, a detangler and tamer for keeping him clean and burdocks less willing to cling. I thought to myself, "Well, if I am going to buy him hair product I am going to buy myself a cucumber face mask!" So I did! A little extra pampering for the Farm Girl. I'm proud of him when he is looking his best, and feeling proud of myself, too. Tim took photos today and I felt a little more together than when Jon took his. That has nothing to do with the photographer, I just mean I had a hot shower and combed my hair instead of showing up in a head scarf and lumpy sweater! I may not be a size 6, but I am down to a size ten instead of a twelve and I wasn't scared to wear breeches and a more formal riding top that didn't hide all my flaws like the fishing sweater does. I'm proud of what my body, however imperfect, can accomplish. I'm prouder still of what's ahead.

He makes me feel proud and lovely.
Something I have not truly felt in a long time.

photo by tim bronson,

driver's ed at livingston brook farm

photos by tim bronson of 468photography. Click that link to support a local artist and buy professional, inexpensive, prints of Cold Antler Farm! Bring Maude and Sal home!

wet reality

We live by the calendar. Regardless of who you are, how much money you make, or where you live your measurement of time is the year. Whether that means you’re cranking up towards the September Issue or corn shucking: your timeline is based on 12 months of constantly rotating 30-day cycles you will never escape, even in death. When you die people will mark it by the day and month as they did your birth. We are an animal that only understands time through numbers. The notion that dates aren’t related to time is nearly inconceivable, a system as undisputable as rain.

I was born on July 10th 1982.
There’s a thunderstorm in the distance.

If those two sentences both sound like factual statements, then you understand my point perfectly. But that first sentence? Darling, we made that up. Human beings decided how to measure cycles in the earth and this was the system proven over time. It is handy for record keeping, holy days, and rites of passage. It isn’t real like a thunderstorm though. Go back far enough, long before we spoke to each other, when the idea of agriculture was as far away in our primitive minds as Disneyland. Then you can understand. We invented time. Earth invented thunderstorms. Thunder and Lightening are beyond collective recognition. Walk outside in one and feel the world shake, light up, and your body get wet as if it was tossed overboard. Feel four old elements, earth, air, fire, and water slam into your life.

This is real. Time comes and goes for certain, but it isn't marked by numbers. It is marked by birth, love, sex, death, dirt, blood and rebirth. Become a farmer and time changes, your birthday loses meaning. There isn't youth, middle age, and retirement. There is just alive.

Go ahead. Tell a caveman your birthday. He’ll just stare and ask what’s for dinner.

I am starting to prefer wet realities.

-excerpt from my current manuscript: Days of Grace
photo from