Saturday, March 24, 2012

merlin's lazy lunge!

A video from last week, getting Merlin warmed up to ride. Lungeing is getting the horse to walk, trot, and canter in a circle around you. Merlin is about 100 pound overweight, so getting him started to really move is a bit of a fuss. But he is getting thinner, stronger, and two nights ago was cantering under me and dropped 6 inches in his girth! I've only lost 3 inches, but hey, we are both working on it. Time and work heal things.

preparing for the day

In a few hours this house will be filled with energetic and excited people. We'll learn to bake bread from scratch, make cheese from milk, plant seedlings and discuss chickens and rabbits with chicks and bunnies in our hands. The house is filled with the smells of bread rising and baking, meat cooking slow, and a bit of wood smoke. I lit the stove and opened the windows, giving us all a feeling of campfires glow and warmth as the sheep face the rain on the hill. It'll be a great workshop, and I can not wait to start it!

Outside there are shoots of new grass, lettuce sprouting in the containers outside the front door, and a pony full of piss and vinegar. I'm about to head out and get everyone ready for the day, fed and happy. I hope I beat the rain. And I hope the 30-bale order of green hay I made does, too!

Friday, March 23, 2012

the whale

Up here in Washington County, in the town of Hebron, there is a field. It's not different from other fields around it. It's just another place to run the tractors for haying, maybe turned over for corn if the landowner feels like renting it. This particular field is on a high spot. It sees things. It is like its brethren. Just another bit of earth turned to the good work of making food. But there's something special about this field. Something unsuspecting. Because if you walk up to that far field in Hebron you will meet a whale.

Yes. A whale in a field.

In a hayfield overlooking mountains and farms there is a life-sized whale tail made of copper. It has no signs, no explanation. It just exists. It can be seen as it always stands, in sun or snow or thunderstorms. It waves goodbye, the last thing you see before it dives back into the deep. Could you imagine discovering it on a walk? Seeing this 10-foot-tall tail cresting out of the tall grass in autumn in dappled sunlight?

I want to see it surrounded by fireflies. That would be something.

It is a memorial, a grave for the heartsick. A husband had it commissioned and set in the middle of that hillside as a tribute to his wife, who was lost at sea in 1992. Beautiful. Not the loss, that is surely tragic, but what a homage. What a beautiful way to mark a loved ones impact in your life. Powerful, surprising, tangible, and permanent.

How large is it? Well, that is my friend and driving mentor Patty on top of a 17+ hand Percheron and the tale is larger than both of them. The grass is cropped here, it is winter, but you can image it as a monolith in front of you on a warm summer night. The grass dark blue and green, waving in soft wind. Nothing around it but the moon and flicker of a firefly's passing...

You decide how magical you want life to be. You decide how you want to see your choices, your family, your friends, your heart. You decide if you want to fall apart in mourning or celebrate a love lost with something that will remain with people their whole lives. You decide.

I think that might be the most beautiful monument in New York.

water dog

Gibson loves to chase things. Throw a stick into a ball pit, sand dune, or mud pile and he will plunge into it. Pond of cold water? No problem, lady. He's a fast, fast dog with a heart full of panic and power when it comes to the chase. I can throw a stick and he sails into the office pond after it. One happy sight, that!

Tim took a bunch of photos of Gibson The Flying Dog and posted them on his website, check them out and let him know he's a heck of a picture taker. He deserves it.

arrows and antlers

If you live near my farm (and are over 18 years old) you are welcome to come to my local SCA chapter's Archery Practice this Sunday from 1-3PM here at Cold Antler. We'll be setting up targets and a range for team practice, but beginners to archery are welcome as well as people interested in the SCA. Glenn Linn, my shire, goes nearly to Albany and north to Glens Falls. We hold practice all over the county, but are trying to have some more events south so people who don't feel like driving to Queensbury can give it a shot (pun intended). Meet the two archery marshals, T'mas and Eric and give an English Longbow a try. There will be smiling people, nice weather, and a light board of snacks.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bring Merlin Home and win my 1900's Fiddle

So, I have a few weeks to figure out how to come up with the down payment for Merlin. I've so far been able to handle the stable and boarding costs, lesson and training fees, vet bills and farrier. I am confident I can make him work and find a way to get him here on Cold Antler Soil in his own paddock by July 10th, my thirtieth Birthday. Riding him, spending time with him, all of it has been a dream come true. I felt strong on him, in control, and a member of a very special club of two. We go from a walk to a fast trot now without thinking. I know him, can move him where I want to go. The growing pangs aren't over yet, but the bond is formed. I'm gaining confidence, turning into a horse person, losing weight, and learning the pride of giving so much of your time and effort to an animal so dear to your heart. It is all magical. All of it.

...But it is a dream on loan. We are on a three-month free lease where I pay the boarding and training fees, and then on June 1, 2012 - I owe a down payment to make him officially mine. I thought my tax return would cover that, but it wasn't what I was expecting. (I actually owe money to the State of New York.) As the deadline looms I realize I need to get moving.

To help with the cost of Merlin and to secure him as my own horse I'm setting up this contest to help with that large down payment. .After that is paid off I have small, manageable monthly payments. I'm already preparing however I can to make that June 1 date, but I thought I would ask the community for help. And I don't want blind donations. I think such a gift deserves a proper sacrifice. So I decided to do a donation raffle and give away something so important to me, my dearest fiddle.

If you help, you will be in the drawing to win my early 1900's Guarneri-style Fiddle. It is German made, loud, proud and it means quite a lot to me. It is the one I play here at the farm. Your donation to help buy Merlin gets you a chance. Every ten dollar donation gets you a "ticket" so if you donate ten dollars you get a chance for the fiddle, if you donate 30, you get three names in the hat. I will also throw in a signed copy of Barnheart and a thank you letter.


If you think this crass, well, that is your right. I hope there won't be any mean comments but I do expect some. If you don't wish to help out, please don't. If you can't manage to donate, well then a word of encouragement is a huge help as well. And if you can manage to toss a ticket in the bucket, then I thank you beyond words I can write here. Donate at the button below. The email address is an old one of mine I no longer use, save for paypal (Celticbonfires at yahoo dot come) but I think Celtic Bonfire are exactly what I need to make this black horse a part of the story. I give away my fiddle with an open heart, and exchange it for the possibility that I can make this due date and hand over that check to his current owner.

This is a donation-based farm gift to help with farm costs. No purchase necessary to enter to win the fiddle. If you do not want to donate, just leave a comment saying you would like to be entered as well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

lunch break

74 degrees today, and G spent his lunch break at Orvis swimming, fetching and shaking. I'm grateful as hell I can bring my dog to the office everyday. And even more grateful that there is land, ponds, and time to spend with him while I design websites and emails. Look at that boy fly.

Thanks to Tim Bronson, who took these pictures today.

just out of the pond!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

what is your dream?

If you read this blog, you are reading the constant story of one woman working towards a creative, agricultural life. If it seems like I already achieved that, I haven't. I have reached many goals but I am a far way off from waking up on a Tuesday morning and not packing up for the office. I work towards it every day and shamelessly believe I can make it happen. I appreciate you reading along, and your encouragement and shared stories and advice. But what is your dream? What are you hoping for in your own world? You know so much about me, but I want to hear more about you? There is some serious mojo in finally putting it in words.

Tell me.

photo by jon katz

Grace, I named her

I would like to start out by saying I am writing this while a clear cucumber mask fastens itself to my face through come chemistry of air and time. It's a cool, chilling feeling. Kind of like someone just gently brushed my face with toothpaste. This is a new sensation for this farm girl, but an important one. Taking time to take better care of myself is becoming a higher priority. The farm is doing better with it, too. Ever since I started jogging I have felt a new energy, and the healthier octane is helping too. I am sleeping better, stretching better, reminding myself to breathe slower. "Ground and Center." I say, about twenty times a day. I stop and close my eyes and breathe.

I rush too much. I do things too fast. Things like washing my hair in the shower, shaving my legs, and running a comb through wet locks are done too fast, borderline angry. Like I am in some sort of constant anxious rush. I am learning to see this, stop it, breathe.

Ground and Center. Ground and Center.

The first heads of lettuce seeds are poking up. The bedding that blanketed the garlic since last fall has been brushed away. Jasper spends all his time in the big pasture now, and all that room to run has him calmer and more willing to train. The new litter of kits seems robust and Grace (so I named the Cotswold who survived) has returned to the rest of the flock. I watched her run down the hill to the other sheep tonight, slightly amazed I did it. (Well, that me and Shelly VMD did it). Watching that big fluffy butt tromple* down the muddy hillside was quite the sight. Quite.

I'm getting ready for the weekend workshop and the upcoming laying hen workshop in a few weekends. I ordered 45 chicks for it, a combination of Golden Wyandottes, Road Island Reds, and Dark Brahmas. All of them are hardy Northeastern friendly birds who do well in backyards or small farms. I look forward to that class a lot. I still remember my first chicks in Idaho. I remember thinking "Here comes the rest of the story..." and smiling as I watched them for hours.

Things are good, busy, but good. I work with Merlin as often as possible. Gibson will start herding lesson and Sheep Doggin' Clinics again soon. Lambing might start in mid to late April, depending on if Atlas did the job or not. A lot of ifs and maybes, but all of it keeping me on my toes.

*I made up the word tromple right then, but people with sheep know what I mean. It's a jaunty but specific kind of sheep trot.


Urban Homesteading Workshop This Saturday!

Urban Homesteading 101 - March 24th 2012 This weekend will be a workshop for those of you in the suburbs or the city who want to take a daytrip out to the farm and learn about what can be done to be more self-sufficient in your own backyards or fire escapes. I'm exscited about it, and to have folks at the now (almost GREEN!) CAF. Folks are coming up from Virginia, Burlington, Boston, and Manchester for a day surrounded by like minds, farm critters, and inspiration. There are a few spots left if you want to join this party, and if the weather is nice feel free to stick around Saturday night for a campfire and music (BYOB -Bring Your Own Banjo - I got the homebrew covered).

We'll start the day learning to bake bread from scratch (no bread machines or kitchen aids here, folks!) and cheese making 101. The entire morning will be these two domestic basics: bread and cheese and for lunch we'll be enjoying our morning's creations! (as well as other potluck goodies). The afternoon will go over container and small-space gardening, introduction to vermi-composting, backyard chicken basics, and small-scale rabbitries. Everyone who comes along leaves with heirloom seeds ready-to-plant for early season crops and all you need to make a few pounds of mozzarella at home! There will be a drawing for a small library of urban farm books too!

Sign up for these, or any of the workshops below by emailing me at

Learn about other workshops HERE

photo by tim bronson -

bright idea

I saw this online, and I fell in love with the idea. Take your standard yellow glowstick and break it open, pour the activated contents inside a mason jar and what you have is a fairly magical looking firefly jar. They last about as long as any glowstick would and would look amazing for an outdoor dinner party, children's birthday bash, or to scare chickens with in the coop.

Directions here at Curbly

Sunday, March 18, 2012

hit the target from 40 yards!

Not the bulls eye mind you, but I hit that round target from the 40 yard line. Not bad for a first time out with a longbow in the afternoon sun. I missed many more times than that, but I learned to string, tighten, adjust, aim, shoot, and work with arrows today. Two hours of target practice here in Washington County. T'mas the Marshal, was a great teacher and so was Eric (host and other archery Marshal). Made some new friends, and Gibson got to help "find" arrows after we were done shooting. A nice day in the sun.

another 14th century day...

Things have slowed down back to a normal pace. I'm just in from morning feeding and chores. Everyone is chomping away at their breakfast and I just put a pot of coffee on the stove. I'll be whipping up some eggs for a quick chomp and then off to train with Merlin for an hour or so. We'll lunge first, then ride, and then cool down with a walk side-by-side around the arena. While he was a bit miserable Friday, he was fine yesterday. I rode him for half an hour and without a single flinch on his part. His walk and trot as steady as a 30-year-old schoolhorse. Part of me was a little scared, after he reared yesterday. But I refuse to let that get in the way of this partnership. I trust him.

Most of this is trust.

After a lazy morning of eggs, coffee, and a Fell Pony I'll be gearing up 14th-century style for my first archery practice with my shire of the SCA! I have a 6-foot long hickory long bow, three wooden arrows, and a leather quiver lined with sheepskin and decorated with two Celtic wolf heads. Items I slowly collected to take up this new sport, which I've always wanted to get better at. Besides summer archery camp as a girl scout, and looking at complicated compound bows in sporting good store: I'm a novice in this martial art. I'm interested in the target practice, contests, medals and games...but honestly, as a small land-owner I would feel far more comfortable taking a scrub doe in my garden with a bow than out hunting with a high-powered rifle. I like the idea of low-tech hunting, and a summer being trained as an archer with wooden traditional gear—it's all leading up to dinner... On the next few months I'll collect more arrows, set up a practice range at the farm, and shot at fake deer in my woods. I feel like a Daughton Boy.

I have always been drawn to the bow, but it took reading the Dies the Fire books, by S.M. Stirling, to really push me to the point to order a hickory longbow from a traditional bowyer. (Not as expensive as you think, it's a stick with a string). I got mine from, and it has "The Lord is my Shepherd" burned onto it near a leather hand grip. Juniper Mackenzie would appreciate that.

What's the SCA? It's a modern club for historical reenactors. In the SCA you pick a period (pre 1600) and a country to base your studies on. Not surprisingly: mine is 1300's Scotland. In the Society I have a Scottish peasant name, and my persona is pretty much the exact same thing I am in my mundane life: a shepherd on a hill. Only in the SCA I'm just like everyone else with a bow and a Border Collie and a pony. Just another geek not afraid to to divulge in a little fantasy to make this life a little more interesting.

(And in the case of learning to bow hunt: more delicious.)

So that is my day: livestock care, cooking, riding practice, archery, and then more cooking and livestock care, then bed. Not too different than a shepherd in 1300, no? Well, with antibiotics and a Dodge Dakota, but I'll take those.

Yup, I'm a dork. Proud to be.

psssst....and guess what's next...

photo from