Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Milk Pail Diaries:
Milking Time Videos

growing pains

Merlin and I are going through a rough patch in our relationship. After 6 weeks of weight loss, conditioning, and regular care and training he is a different horse. He feels fitter, younger, and has been in trailers and on trail rides. But on Sunday he put his giant foot down and refused to get into Patty's trailer. He just wasn't having it.

Merlin is not scared of trailers. He has ridden them all over the country. He happily walked into that same trailer before, on several occasions. But this past Sunday Patty and I went to load him up for a trail ride at her farm and not only did he balk, he broke his own halter in protest backing up and ran away. (I have the rope burn scars on my arm to prove it.) He ran off any my heart stopped. I was absolutely terrified he'd run out across the fields of Washington County. Luckily, he ran right back into the barn and the people tacking up and helped by blocking all exits and escape paths. I walked up to him, tied the lead rope around his neck, and got him back into his stall. Patty and I found a loaner halter shortly after, and tried loading him again. I decided I wasn't above bribing the freaked-out horse, and got a small bucket of sweet feed from the grain room. It worked, and an hour of chaos, sore arms, and a cup of grain later...we were on the road.

At Patty's he was a jerk and I was a wuss. He didn't want to listen to a thing I said and started backing up every single time I got on him, crow hopping and throwing his head. I'm sure it felt scarier than it looked, but I am still new at this. Scared, I jumped off. Patty eyed me like a hawk. She wasn't mean, but she was firm. She told me the horse could not win, and I'd get back up on him. This was not something I wanted to do. There was no bravery in my heart. I started making excuses, balking, hell I wanted to cry. I was scared and frustrated. Never before has Merlin been so obstinate. I worried it was a mistake, taking him out after his freak out and running off. I worried I would get hurt. I just worried. It's what I do.

I ended up getting back in the saddle. The plan was not to let the horse decide what it was doing.

Today Merlin was going to:
1. Get in the trailer.
2. Get tacked up and I would ride him.
3. Get back in the trailer.

I got back on and off that horse at least four times. Each time I got more worked up, which of course made him wound up. I didn't understand what was going on in his head? Finally, when I was about to break into tears Patty got out a lunge line and attached it to his bit. Without controlling anything, she just held the emergency breaks while I rode him around her. We started in circles and then up and down the driveway. Eventually we took off the extra line Patty was holding and I walked him around. It wasn't the heroic trail ride, but he did as I asked and I didn't give up. Patty exclaimed it was a day for the books, a success. I just felt like a rookie.

Getting him back on the trailer was another big production, taking over an hour in the rain. Nothing seemed to work. He was just being stubborn. Finally I made a trail of apples and carrots between grains and he crawled in, practically on his belly. I took him back to his stall at Riding Right feeling conflicted.

Monday I wrote my trainers at the barn about the weekend, and both decided that the "pony had my number." Meaning he simply was acting out, testing me, seeing what I was made of. He knew damn well how to trailer and walk on a trail. But he also knows I'm new at this, and don't have the confidence to put my foot down and MAKE him do the things I ask.

Tonight I rode him, and he was the same. Fussy, stubborn, and unwilling to do some basic things I asked. I decided he would not win this time. IF he didn't want to walk past a gate, I turned him around in a circle and we walked somewhere else I wanted to go. If he refused to move forward, I turned him and walked around things. We weaved around the jumps, walking over ones on the ground like logs on the trail. We went through tight corners, from walks into trots. And we walked from the indoor to outdoor arena like I asked. It wasn't always pretty, but I stuck to my guns. I think Merlin learned that the girl on his back tonight wasn't the pansy on his back Sunday. I was gaining on him.

What it all comes down to is confidence. Merlin is demanding more assertion from me, more self possession and certainty. He is forcing me to step up my game, claim my authority, and do it in a way that isn't unkind. I already know whips and spurs aren't the tools he reacts too. This isn't about beating him into place. What it is about is out-stubborning him. He has no idea who he is dealing with. I have the gold, silver, and bronze metals in stubborn smelted together into a balking donkey trophy in my soul.

So we'll get there. We have trainers, friends, and resources on our side. This is just forcing me to be a stronger person. I accept the challenge, and am grateful for the opportunity to grow.

photo by jon katz

Monday, April 16, 2012

meet our new girl

i'm the happiest girl in new york!

I came home to this little ewe with her mother, the 2-year old ewe who abandoned Matt last year. Now we have another little bath matt, a freaky little curly-haired ewe lamb with a full belly, bright eyes, and with her mother in the field. Well done, Mama!

And more on the way!


Should Young Farmers Be Exempt From A National Draft?

I remember hearing a friend complaining about the Amish once at a dinner party, saying in angry tones how "they don't pay taxes or fight for their country". I raised my eyebrow at this. The Amish do, of course, pay sale and income taxes (save Social Security, and then only for self-employed Amish for religious reasons) and are pacifists. They don't accept Social Security checks or Medicare and are morally against taking human life. Also, It is our own nation's laws that allow them to be exempt, so my friend's true beef should have been with his legislators, not the plain folk. They are living their life both in accordance to the law and their faith. Their only fault is the lack of outsider approval, which frankly, they could care less about.

Unlike other pockets of the Amish in America, many of the faith in upstate New York are still farming. Land prices are cheap compared to Pennsylvania and Ohio, and the old abandoned dairy farms in the Adirondacks are being bought up and farmed by young Amish families starting new churches around the area. I wondered who this bitter complainer would expect to be growing their food in a time of serious and sacrificial war if all the young people on farms were drafted?

The average age of the American Farmer is 57+ years old, and only make up 2% of the National Census. The only reason that average age is so high and the numbers so are low is because most conventional farmers use staggering amounts of gasoline, inputs, petroleum-based fertilizers, and giant gas-gurgling machines. God forbid we ever had a draft coincide with a fuel shortage, or sky-rocketing gas prices, because this model would become laughably unsustainable and downright terrifying.

Food would become scarce, very scarce. The average town's grocery store only contains enough food to sustain their local population with three days of food. And the average citizen does not keep a full larder or grow their own food as many Americans had in the past. The older farmers could not put in the physical effort to farm traditionally without fossil fuels, and the younger able-bodied would be off fighting to lower the price at the pump. If the current model of conventional farming could not sustain us, and the backup labor was gone, could you imagine how invaluable the skills and farms of the Amish would become? How invaluable any smaller, sustainable, grass-based farm would become?

It all comes down to the disconnection so many people have with their food right now. It is simply another cheap commodity, something that is just always there. You can do nothing buy nap all day and buy a hamburger for a dollar waiting for you, hot and ready to eat. The grocery stores, take-out menus, drive-ins, all of it gets about as much reverence from the average American as the crumpled up gas receipts in their pockets.

We've become so irreverent towards food and farming that the purest and most unadulterated forms of agricultural communities are seen as irresponsible or shirking duties. We live in a country based on the freedoms of independence and religion, and the folks actually acting on them are considered cartoons in an otherwise "real" society. In an oil shortage teams of "cartoon draft horses" could save a town from starvation.

Here is my question for you, angry anti-Amish and non farming contingent. Would you be willing to grow or raise your own food in a time of National emergency such as war? Do you even know how? If the answer to either (or both!) of those questions is no, then should the younger generations of sustainable farmers be exempt from a National Draft? I can't think of a more valuable piece of our social economy than the people growing healthy food. We would desperately need farmers less dependent on the crutches of mass inputs to feed us. I understand the importance and sacrifice of the soldiers, but who is going to feed them and their families if the world changed in ways we're not currently prepared to handle? Perhaps it is time to consider keeping the people serving their country food, in their country. It is not an act of cowardice, but an act of brave sense.

*Serve Your Country Food is the slogan of The Greenhorns, a national association of young famers.

90 degrees today... Who's laughing now?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

wool and light: 468 photography's magic

Fiddle Winner!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the fiddle contest, what a blessing and a gift that was. Thanks to your help this pony will be coming home to Cold Antler in a few more months of training, evaluation, and work. I was able to cover 2/3rd the down payment, and I am very, very, very grateful to you all. A random comment was selected from that original contest post and the winner of my early 1900's fiddle is....Sue Steeves!

Sue, email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com and we will set up your shipping info!

The Milk Pail Diaries
My first Chevre

This weekend I used an inexpensive kit from New England Cheesemaking to create chevre from Bonita's amazing milk. The kit cost around twenty dollars and came with cultures for curdling the milk, rennet, butter muslin, a recipe book and 4 molds. I thought making mozzarella was simple, but chevre made that cheese look complicated as a rubik's. Here's how easy it is to make chevre from raw goats milk. I started after morning milking on Friday, and it was ready to spread and serve Saturday morning. But most of that time was draining and cheese curdlin' - only took about 5 minutes of actual work, the hardest work was waiting!

1. Heat gallon of goats milk to 86 degrees in stainless steel.
2. Add packet of chevre culture, stir well into the warm milk.
3. Take off heat and let it sit with a lid for 12-20 hours.
4. Milk sets into happy thick curds you can slice with a knife
5. Strain through cheesecloth in a colander
6. Cover and let drain 6-10 hours
7. Salt, place in containers, refrigerate up to a week.

Produces two pounds of fresh soft cheese!

In the morning I set the drained curds into a mold and let it drain even more, to firm it up to be a free-standing mini wheel of salted delight. The other curds were fluffy and beautiful in the cheese cloth. I scooped them into a mason jar and set them in the fridge as a dip or spreading soft cheese. I took a taste and closed my eyes to savor it. It wasn't anything like any commercial goat cheese I ever ate. Light, fluffy, tangy (in a good way!) and reminded me of what good slightly soured whole milk cream and cream cheese would taste like if you whipped them up together. It was amazing, light, not at all "goaty" as I am learning over and over. I spread it onto an everything bagel and it was the perfect companion of light and fluffy cream to the seasoned and seeded bread. The hot bagel and the chilled chevre did a dance in my mouth and I think it was then in my heart I decided Bonita would be here to stay.

I don't think I can go back to life without a dairy animal in the backyard. It's just too much fun, too rewarding, and too damn tasty to go on without. From walking out with the pail to placing it in the fridge is less than 20 minutes a milking, and worth every second. Life is too short to live without a goat. And you can quote me on that, darling.

photo of Bonita by 468photography.com
photo of cheese by Melina Smyres


my bargain basement amish reject

Jasper hasn't gotten a lot of play on the blog lately, but he is a part of my farm life here, has been since he arrived last spring. His story is interesting. For those new to the blog, Jasper was bought off Craigslist from a pony dealer in Belcher, near Hebron here in Washington County. The man who sold him to me (for $500) bought him at the annual Cobelskill Amish Horse Auction down state. He came out into the ring driving a cart, and was being sold as a cart pony. The previous owner said he was "too wound up" for children, and he is. You need a pony calm as cold coal to have children driving it in road traffic. Jasper was a little too spirited for the Amish and their needs, so at 9 years old he was sent to auction, bought by a local pony dealer and sold to me.

When he arrived at Cold Antler he was underweight and dirty. I didn't even know he was in bad shape, since at that time I was so new to horses and (to me) he looked like a beautiful roan stallion of childhood story books. In truth, he was a malnourished, fly-bitten mess. But a summer on pasture with regular grooming, good grass, farrier visits, and harness work and he turned out to be a wonderful (if ornery and sometimes bossy) working pony. Yesterday he pulled a half-cord of firewood out of a back pasture, up a hill, and to the splitting pile on a wooden sledge. It was in a place no truck could go, and would have taken me alone several hours of back-breaking work carrying those dense locust rounds alone on a wheelbarrow with a flat tire. Even my fancy new garden cart would have been serious lifting and pushing work.

If I had an ATV or tractor, I could have used that with a wagon, but I don't think I'll ever farm with a tractor or four-wheeler, not on this land. It is only 6.5 acres and none of it flat. I live on the side of a mountain and I am certain I would flip a tractor over in no time, I don't even have a riding mower. But I am confident walking along uneven ground with hooves and chains. It feels solid. And Jasper did the same work without the sounds of engines, or using fuel I can't make, and made the day's work pleasant and easy.

Jasper did work, and hard. We used some felt from the Scottish Blackface to pad the breastplate, and it helped. We lead him from the bridle (he is not great at taking commands from behind with long lines) but so what? So it wasn't perfect, but he sure was handy. I don't think of Jasper as a performance animal, more like my own hoofed garden tractor. He doesn't have to be perfect, just willing. He was both to me.

Jasper, you are my Amish Reject Bargain Basement Cart Pony. The horse in such bad shape people emailed me concerned when you first arrived. But now you are winter plump and sweating through solid work. You carried in wood that will farm this house next winter. You did it willingly, kindly, and didn't bolt or cry when we broke the 100-year-old single tree. You stepped over logs, rocks, and climbed up steep slopes. You tore your cheap harness from it all, and I will get you a proper collar and harness to replace it soon. You may be too small to ride and too wild to drive on these mountain roads, but you earn your keep. And you let strangers work alongside you. And you never, ever, complain. I love you, kid.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

pony of the americas

Jasper the POA earned his keep today. He pulled about 7 loads (a full cord) of locust out of the back pasture today, as well as some larger logs. We used my Christmas present from Brett, a Jasper-sized stone boat to haul the wood. The flat wooden sledges are called stone boats because they were used to haul stones out of fields in great piles. Today they moved some big rounds of a tree that was cut down to make room for the new horse pasture that will be built in June. The photos were all taken by Melina Smyres, that's her Robert working with Jasper.

You win some...

Shearing Day turned out to be a bust when it came to the wool, but a boom when it came to the wood! We got Sal sheared, but it was an uphill battle the whole road. Since my used sheep clippers literally started smoking after a few minutes of use, we switched to hand shears and dog clippers instead. It took two people an hour (with several people holding him down - turns out he's a kicker) just to get one sheep done. It was hilarious, messy, stuborn work. Tim was there and took some photos as well, and I'll look forward to sharing them.

Well folks, looks like I'll be hiring the shearer this year after all. It's just too much time without the right tools. Jim McRae charges eight dollars a sheep and does an amazing job. I spent 2 hours and needed six people to save eight dollars. There's frugality and then there's just being dumb. I will let the pros take this on, and learn from them the proper way to do it with the right tools next year...Oh well. You win some, and you lose some. I lost the shearing game, but did we ever pony up after lunch!

After the shearing of Sal was completed, we had a big kitchen potluck. And when that work was all done we decided to move pile of fallen logs Brett had cut down for the new horse pasture. Using a bit of pony power, we teamed up and used a POA-sized stone boat to haul a cord of rounds out of the forest and into the splitting pile. More photos of Jasper to follow!


A large group of folks is coming up today to help with a full-work day at the farm and end with a big ol' potluck! I'm looking forward to it. This is my first shearing I am hosting and doing by myself, a big step in the small holding shepherd's career. In a few hours there will be bags of wool and a fine group of friends laughing, eating, and working together. Days like today, Hoo!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Milk Pail Diaries:
Happy Farmer, Here

good morning!

Good morning! I just wanted to check in quick and tell you that last night's Greenhorns event was wonderful, just wonderful. Great people, great farms, great food. I got to finally see the Greenhorns Movie in its entirety and it was so inspirational. It made me proud to just be sitting with my fellow stubborn agrarians in an auditorium. I read my essay in the book Write it Down, click here if you would like to read it—and after all was done CJ and his wife helped me get my new milking stanchion into the back of the pickup. It just needs a few adjustments and then I'll post a photo of us using it soon! Right now it is the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

Oh, and there is a covered gallon of goats milk and cheese culture setting on my stove to slowly turn to curds in 12-20 hours. It got a great and inexpensive chevre kit from New England Cheese making and can't wait to drain this cheese, salt it, and spread it over bagels on Shearing Day morning!

Riding lesson with Merlin in little bit, and then some unfortunate repair work on the truck. But it has to be done, turns out you need those front wheels to stay on the axles if you want to keep moving across the landscape. Makes me appreciate horses even more.

Only 4 spots left for the next season of the CSA! If you are interested contact me soon! If you join the 2013 season your wool starts growing soon as the sheep are sheared at the Potluck on Saturday! And you are welcome to come to the Shearing Day Potluck as well. It's not a workshop, there's no money exchanged, just an open farm day to work and help out with shearing and various other projects, but it will be a lot of fun and between the food and good people it'll be a big time.

Okay, I'm off to clean out the goat pen/horse stall. Enjoy your weekends!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Milk Pail Diaries
Tables, Tasting and Trials

Much to update on the Goat Front. Starting with a huge thank you to reader, CJ, who bartered a wooden handmade brand-new milking stanchion for a weekend pass at Antlerstock. He already has it build and loaded up and will hand it over to me tonight at the Greenhorns Event in Williamstown! How amazing is that?! I'll post a photo of Big Bonita on it tomorrow. I'm beyond pleased about it. The set up I rigged is working, but nowhere near as ideal as a proper milking stand. I sit on the ground on clean hay, but it would be nice to sit on a stool and be certain she wouldn't be stepping off.

Thanks to everyone's advice and tips, I have started to enjoy the milk here as a substitute for all the things I used cow's milk for. In my cereal, by the glass, in my coffee. Either Bonita is special or that chilling/freezing method really works because her milk tastes no different in flavor or texture than 2% Cows Milk. No "goaty" taste at all. It's not as fatty as the whole milk in my fridge, but way more "wholesome" than a skim or fat-reduced milk. I'm really happy about that. Most goat milk I have tried has either been off local food source shelves from neighboring farms, and way too "goaty" for my taste. But I can not tell the difference between this chilled, fresh, Alpine milk and the stuff I've been drinking my whole life.

I brought a glass-bottle pint with vanilla extract and sugar into the office today, for coffee. Everyone at work treating it like the black stain of the Company Fridge. We need some goat milk education around these parts...

Early 1900's Fiddle Giveaway This Sunday!

This was a fundraiser, no purchase necessary raffle. Winner of the fiddle giveaway to support bringing Merlin home.
For details click here!
photo by tim bronson of 468photography.com

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

the life i should be leading

Tonight when I got home from work I slid into my routine of chores like you slide into a favorite sweater, more comfortable and confident then before you put it on. I came inside first to walk the dogs and set down their dinner bowls, and then did the same for the cats and the dozen chicks in the mud room brooder. Inside my house right now there are six mammals and a dozen birds and there isn't a sound but the high-nasal snores of George on the dog bed by the crackling wood stove and the background chirping of new beaks plays as softly as the stream outside does when the windows are open on summer nights.

Outside the meat bird youngin's are nearly 4 weeks old and holding their own. They now scamper all over the farm from the pasture to the well. While milking Bonita tonight a little herd of meat birds came and started bothering us so I turned the teat into a squirt gun and shot a meat bird right in the feet. He squawked and ran off, and then ran right back to drink the milk puddle in the dry dirt. Lord, do we need rain around here. Ground is hard tack with little stubble of grass.

With all the 3-month old Freedom rangers in freezer camp, the farm sure is less frantic. 27 9-pound birds running around sure did make a scene when cars rolled by. I've been enjoying them with friends, giving them as gifts and eating them here at the farm. Over at Patty's we had one for Easter Dinner and it was perfect.

The sheep are in their main paddock and I hope a few will lamb soon. It is almost that time and every day I come home from the office or an errand I listen for those mama sheep chortle throat sounds and baby bleats. Jasper in is the pasture next to them and is loving this mild weather and open spaces. right now nights are no colder than the mid thirties. He runs around the fields, eats his hay, drinks his water down and is working off that pent up stall feeling. I can't wait till he and Merlin are in their new paddock together, something I hope to have ready by my Birthday weekend in mid July.

I ordered goat cheese rennet and supplies to make some soft cheeses from Bonita's gallon and a half of milk she is giving a day. I experimented with mozzarella tonight but it was a disaster. Too much heat, too little goat milk, and too much rennet made a suitable alternative for Styrofoam. But hey, fail again better next time! And next time we'll go for a proper chèvre.

Shearing is Saturday, and you're invited. Looks like three gals from the SCA will be coming and a few readers from the blog. Should be quite the day! If you are coming bring something to eat and share and some clean clothes and shoes to change into! Tim said if the Battenkill Race (huge bike race this weekend in Cambridge. HUGE) winds up and his photo work leaves him time he'll try to make it over to get some shearing photos.

I'd call that a day, friends. I am about to tune up my fiddle and enjoy a nice Guinness as a nightcap. It feels deserved tonight, as there's a properly running farm out there producing eggs, meat, wool, milk and the starts of green vegetables. Lately I feel like I am ever more comfortable with this land and work. I am handling the challenges they offer. It's part of the journey of learning a whole new lifestyle. It excites the hell out of me. I'm growing as a farmer, and growing into it. It feels like the life I should be leading.

Not much else to crow about around here...

P.S. My arms and hands are sore!.

heathen from the city that dreams

Greenhorns Events and Screenings!

Tomorrow night I'll be at Williams College in Williamstown Mass for the Book Launch Party of the new Greenhorns Book, a collection of essays by young farmers. As a contributor to the book, myself and another contributor/local farmer Luke from Quincy Farm will be there for readings and a Q&A. I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be a fun event with many young and enthusiastic college students and new farmers of all ages. There will be good local food, a movie, speakers and the whole shindig is Free!

And if you can't make it out tomorrow night, know that on June 29th there will be a Greenhorns Screening and Book party right here in Veryork, hosted by Battenkill Books, Cold Antler, Bedlam Farm, and others! You can come and see the movie, buy a signed copy of The Greenhorns, and enjoy a day here in Upstate New York with writers and farmers. It won't be at Battenkill Books, probably at the Freight Depot (our town took a debunked railroad station and turned it into a community arts center) but I plan on being there with Gibson and I think Jon and Maria will be there as well. It'll be a downright hootenanny.

More Greenhorns Info and Events!

More Battenkill Books info and Events!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Milk Pail Diaries:
First Milking at Cold Antler Farm

Bonita arrived at 6AM, delivered in a large dog crate in the back of a pickup truck. The man who delivered her, a brother named Zyrah, at Common Sense was heading to pick up her replacement in Bellow's Falls. He helped me walk her over towards the barn and get her milked. It took two of us, since I had no way to contain her, no stanchion of any sort, and she was nervous being in a new place. We tied her collar and leash to a tree and I help a grain bucket while Zyrah milked her in about 5 minutes flat. I could not believe his speed, three times as fast and forceful as my beginner's hands. I thanked him, grateful just to get the chore done. He walked the full and foamy pail to the side deck where no one could hurt it.

I stood there with Bonita, who was gently nibbling my black sweater. I had not anticipated the importance of a stanchion, the stand that secures the goats head in a loose vice while they eat so they can't move while the milking is done. As I went about morning chores I tried to figure out an inexpensive solution. I didn't want to spend money on a trial enterprise and I didn't want to have a horrible experience either. As I racked my brain I set her inside the pasture next to the sheep. It was where Jasper spent his time when he wasn't in the stall. I figured I'd give her two acres to explore with the strange new sheep a fence away so no one could bust heads, start with the nosing and smelling first. Instead of checking out the pasture, or the sheep, or drinking her water or eating her hay she simply whirled around and in one motion tore down the woven wire fence.

Then I had this stupid moment of panic.

This was a mistake. What the crow was I thinking? I can't contain a goat here, that's why there was a goat kicked out in the first place. And what the hell where you thinking when you took on a goat without anything but a borrowed steel pail? How are you going to milk her when there isn't someone here to hold her? You really aren't capable of this....

I let my inner panic last another few minutes. I walked around the farm frantically doing chores, fuming at myself and my mistake. With one hand full of eggs I grabbed the metal milk pail off the deck by the lip and it splattered out of my clumsy, distracted hands. I wanted to cry, and I didn't care how cliche it was. I was in over my head. I didn't have the right tools or know-how. And I just ruined the first ever pail of Cold Antler Farm Milk....

I let my stupid inner anger last another 45 seconds and then snapped out of it. Why put myself down? Why be angry? You want to change your circumstances, change your attitude about them. I opened the gate and removed Bonita from the place she was destined to fail in. I tied her off at a tree and then took Jasper out into the pasture where he could both have more space to trot and run, and open up a goat-containment zone. I placed her inside the horse paddock and she simply walked out under the latch chain in one deft squeeze. I added a second chain lower down on the gate so she couldn't do that anymore and she started knocking around Jasper's woven wire fence. It had a top line of eclectic already, but that doesn't stop a goat till they've already climbed a fence to get to it. So I grabbed some more t-post insulators and a roll of wire and added a second goat-nose level of electric shock to the inner fence. Now I was cooking with gas.

I got her some fresh hay, clean water, scratched her head and went inside. And she stayed.

My day between milking was ideal, almost sounds fake when I write about it. With the goat secure and her bag empty, I had Gibson help me wrangle those chickens. We ended up taking eight to Ben Shaw in a crate in the back of the pickup with the new Chocolate Drops album blaring. I picked up their CD and the newer Sarah Jarosz album (haven't gotten to that one yet). I love that I bought both of them in Cambridge. Battenkill Books carries some killer CDs and The Village Store does too. I get the whole digital age, but I love holding LPs and CDs, looking at the artwork, setting it on a shelf. Anyway, I digress.

I sang along with "I Am a Country Girl" and dropped off the birds. Then with my crate of birds heading to their fate, and a dog tired from the work that boils in his blood, I took us both home. I put Gib in for a nap and changed into breeches and half chaps. Time to see a horse.

I had a good ride with Merlin, the arena was all ours. We had a rough trail ride on Easter Sunday, he didn't want to cross water. But this ride was great. He did all I asked and I am starting to feel comfortable and natural at a posting trot. We didn't push it, a short and productive practice. And when we were done I tussled his mane and kissed his forehead and asked him if he was getting all the love he needed? He nosed my pocket and I gave him a cookie.

The afternoon was dedicated to chores and errands. I cleaned out the meat bird chick haybale brooder/coop. I checked the bees (thriving!) and I watered the baby plants of greens, garlic, and peas popping out of the first raised beds planted just a few weeks earlier. I put off writing (shame on me) but what the hell, I was ridiculously happy. I even had a plan to make the sorriest excuse for a stanchion ever. Get this: a flag pole holder.

While picking up grain at the hardware store I saw a wall-mounted, swiveling, flag pole holder. Something clicked in my head and I bought it on the spot. It was made so you could mount it to a wall and stick a pole at any angle you wanted, basically a lever you tightened at will. I got out my cordless power drill and mounted it at goat-head height on the outside barn wall. Instead of a flag, I stuck a plunger dowel into it and tightened the screw that would hold my "flag" in place. With a grain bucket hanging in front of it I could do the same thing the fancy metal milking stands did at Common Sense.

When milking time came at 5:30 I was a little nervous. This was it. There was no one here to watch or help, and I was counting on an $8.99 aluminum flag pole holder with a toilet sucker handle on it. I washed my hands, rolled up my sleeves and grabbed the stainless steel pail. It was on.

I filled a plastic bucket with sweet grain and walked over to Bonita. Her bag was HUGE and she seemed happy to see me, all bleats and head bobs. I set the milk pail down and opened the gate. I set her in place over my rigged stanchion, her body against the wall, and I clamped it comfortably shut, using a piece of baling twine to close the top from her lifting her head out. She didn't flinch. She just went to chompsville. I set the pail under her teats (just two!) and started going to town on those suckers. Milk squirted into the pail with a happy force, and I realized I didn't have to be dainty. I went faster and harder and she just ate. It took till the pail was half full before I realized it was working. My head pressed against her side, my arms working one at a time like little pistons. In about 10 minutes the work was done. I set it aside, hugged her, and helped her out of her head lock. Mission Accomplished!

I grabbed the pail and walked it inside, we weren't home free yet. I still had to strain it, bottle it, and do the dishes. I didn't have a strainer, but I did have some gadgets I bet would work. I grabbed a small mesh metal strainer and a coffee filter from the vast collection I inherited when I bought the farmhouse. They had been sitting in a box unused, waiting for a purpose to call them by name. I set the filter paper in the strainer, slowly poured in the foaming milk, and watched as every goat hair and fleck of hay stayed out of the Pyrex bowl below it. I smiled. I could not believe I was making this happen. I poured it into a recycled bottle from Battenkill Creamery and shut the lid. I set it on the kitchen counter and gawked for a while. I just made milk happen... Me. I had never held a container of milk that I was entirely responsible for, ever before. It felt like it was worth an unspeakable sum. After a few moments of quiet revelry, I set it in the fridge. From walking outside to finishing the milking dishes it took 25 minutes. I was impressed. I always thought a milking chore would take an extra 3 hours a day, but one goat wasn't bad at all.
I guess tomorrow I'll find out what goatmilk coffee creamer tastes like...

Milk Pail Diaries:
Meet Miss Bonita

good boy

I would just like to take a moment this morning to thank my panting, filthy, exhausted, and wonderful dog, Gibson. Together we just wrangled and grabbed six frantic Freedom Rangers (and hope to catch a few more still). They were well down in the forest, hard to catch. But Gibson managed to gather and hold a few in place so I could scoop them up and put them in the crate in the back of the truck. It wasn't a pretty, but it sure was teamwork! In a little bit we'll both be driving over the mountain to Greenwich to deliver the birds to be slaughtered for the table. I took today off as a vacation day, so I have time to figure out this goat and meat bird business. So far its been a little hectic! More later!

Milk Pail Diaries Teaser: I did not cry over spilled milk.

Monday, April 9, 2012

CSA Update - New Shares Open

Shearing Day for the second year of the Wool CSA is underway on Saturday. The wool sheared will be skirted, boxed, and sent off to the mill for the people already paid and signed up for their share of wool. Folks from the very first year have been mailed their shares. Due to just three sheep and a limited number of longwools turned into skeins of yarn the first year's share turned out to offer 2 or 3 skeins of wool and 2 or three sheets of felt. Everyone who signed up has either got their packages or has them in the mail this week. It took longer than I anticipated, and for that I apologize, but not a single investor went without a return. Some farm CSAs aren't so lucky. I am am sorry the mailings took so long but am happy I have product to send. If anyone is frustrated know that I did not end up making a single dollar of profit. The wool, sheep, feed, shearing, shipping costs and milling cost three times what the shares paid. But, thanks to those shares paid I was able to buy the flock to begin with. So I consider that first year breaking even. What I lost in cash I made up for in lessons.

If you signed up for the second season of the wool CSA, your yarn is starting its journey this Saturday. If you could please email me to let me know your current mailing address and involvement in the program I would really appreciate it. I'd like to send out a postcard with some updates and dates you can expect your shares. You can expect it by late summer, and I am hoping everyone gets 2-3 skeins, felt, or roving. We may do a raffle for some extra value products like a wool rug from the pieces of blackface wool not fit for felting and such.

As tradition holds, every shearing season spots open up for the following year's CSA. If you are interested in the 2013 season of wool (meaning your shearing date is NEXT year and your wool is NEXT summer, email me for a spot). I decided to only take 12 members for 2013. My flock is too small to make 25 people content. But I can really make 12 people's year who want to both support this small farm and the entire Cold Antler Dream. It is first come, first served, so email me at Jenna@itsafarwalk.com if you would like a share in the warmth.

photo by 468photography.com

listen to this

The Milk Pail Diaries:
First lessons in milking goats...

I arrived at Common Sense's giant two story barn a little early. The folks assigned to tonight's milking had not arrived yet so I made myself at home with Smudge, the black and white barn kitten. I scooped her up in my arms and walked down to the goat pen where Bonita was waiting for me.

And there she was... Bonita's a French Alpine doe, 3 years old with a black face and back and a brown body. She's the largest doe in the herd giving a gallon and a half of milk a day. The farm is happy to loan her over because they are getting a new doe from the community in Bellow's Falls Vermont and want their herd more uniform in size and production. Bonita is a great producer, but also larger than they prefer as far as children and families handling her. So they are happy to let me give goat owning a test drive. So am I.

I walked right into the pen and said hello to the fine lady. She did this thing were she showed me her upper plate and bottom teeth, lips curled back. I have no idea what this means since sheep only do this right before sex and I hardly know this woman. But she didn't try any moves, she just did the weird lip thing and sauntered around. I shrugged and scratched her ears. Then I checked out her teats. Two can play at this game.

Man, where they swollen! I started to feel a little doubt rise up in me. I mean, that entire fleshy milk container was packed with 2/3rds a gallon of warm milk and its my responsibility to get it all out in a quick and gentle manner in a way that doesn't cause mastitis or Lord knows whatever other goat-milking vapors I might cause through my clumsy hands.

Soon Yesheva and her children arrived, along with some other community members I know well. I've lived three miles away from Common Sense farm for two years now, sharing equipment, meals and conversations over hot mugs of tea. They've become good friends and farm co-conspirators over the years. We've bartered livestock for hay, built my sheep shed, and their landscaping team plows my driveway and has shoveled snow off my roof.

So when they ran this goat idea not only was I excited, but felt like I was in on something special. Bonita isn't just any Alpine, but a doe from a farm that cares for its animals so well their barn is usually in better shape than my living room (WHEN I have company over) so I feel both excitement and a little fear. I don't want to do anything wrong, or cause any harm.

Before I knew what was happening, a man opened the goat pen and let two out. Bonita and her pal Iris. They both bee-lined for their milking stands with such excitement I was shocked. Then I realized they were so used to the routine, the grain in the stands, and the relief of the empty bag...why wouldn't they run? It's like one wild date night in hyper speed. They get dinner and felt up in ten minutes flat.

With Bonita locked and loaded in the metal milking stand my lessons started. I was handed a warm, wet rag that smelled like lavender. It was a castile soap they use to clean and gently massage the teats before milking. This "lets down" the milk into the teats. It was a quick massage, and then on with the drying towel. Now that Bonita's swimsuit place was cleaned (and my own hands washed) a metal pail was set under her udder. I tried to recall the woman at Byler's Farm in Slatington Pennsylvania who taught me how to milk a cow on a family outing when I was. I used my thumb and forefinger to make an okay sign around the teat's base, pinched it off, and one finger at a time closed my fist.

Milk squirted into the pail!

Holy crow! I was doing it! I kept at it, and quickly learned how little pressure I was using. In the time it took me to get an 1/8 of an inch of milk in the pail my partner at the other stand was done and onto his next doe. So I have it some moxie, and a little more gentle force, and it came out faster and thicker. Okay, okay, I'm getting the hang of it. MY arms weren't used to it though. I got tired quickly, and had to switch hands. Eventually as the pail filled up I could feel her emptying out. When nothing came out of the back left teat I focused on the back right (which had plenty left). Yesheva praised my work, even if I was slow, because I wasn't causing milk to go "back up into the bag" a bad no no. This is what causes that scary mastitis disease.

In about fifteen minutes I had done the job. The milk pail was foaming with a happy half gallon of fresh milk and I felt like I just won a game of chess. I did some complicated and timeless, something people have been doing for hundreds of years. A dance between hunger and style. And the results were right there in front of me. Checkmate.

Tomorrow Cold Antler Farm turns into a micro-dairy!

P.S. Bonita will arrive early tomorrow morning. I'll get her milked outside the barn with a pail of grain and a tie out, and then walk her into a pen where she can meet Jasper through the safety of a closed stall door. I think having them side my side for a little will be good, in a way that Jasper can't hurt her if he is anti-goat. I don't think there will be trouble but better safe than sorry. Wish us luck and drama-free equine/caprine love.

Milk Pail Diaries, starting tonight!

Today I'll be heading down to Common Sense Farm to learn the proper way to hand-milk a goat. I'll be learning as part of a short-term experiemnet here at Cold Antler. I will be bringing home Bonita, an Alpine Doe in milk for a few days to see what it is like living with a dairy animal. I'm excited to see if it is something that fits into my life. She'll be keeping Jasper company, since his stable built last summer is a fully goat-proof space. It has wooden high fences inside and a strong electric fence outside. Goats are supposed to be fine companions for horses. too. I am excited to play with some recipes and share what I learn here. Get ready folks, because The Goat Diaries start tonight!

I had a little wether here once named Finn. I adored raising that sprite. But he had the poor luck to come into my life between moving and before I had any space suitable for a large and capricious animal. I'm in a far better place now to handle a goat, and if this trial period proves good for me, Jasper, Bonita, Common Sense, and I enjoy her she may stay. I'm not entirely sure it is what I want, but if the Universe throws you free goat milking lessons and a trial doe...I'm going to bite. I would be lying if I wasn't a little excited about living in the land of milk and honey...

P.S. The bees are doing amazingly this spring! Honey for sure this summer!
P.P.S. Comments are now moderated by me before they go public.

Kathleen Stoltzfus, you WON!

You won the recent book giveaway!
Email me your address and I'll send it off to Deb!

that time of year again....

photos by 468photography
Freedom Hangs like Heaven Over Everyone: Iron and Wine

good news!

So I am 99% certain that at least one Blackface Ewe is pregnant! She has a bag on her big enough to feed twins! She would be due in the next week or two if Atlas did the job. Fingers crossed for lambs!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Henry David Thoreau On Facebook

I read this last night on Jon Katz's blog. I just had to share it...

Thoreau finished his dinner soon after moving to his cabin on Walden Pond – fried rat, wild cat, roots, berries, raw fish, mushrooms – and he sat down to record the meal. He wanted to share the experience of living alone at Walden Pond, to demonstrate to himself and the world that he could live near nature, make his own decisions, shed some of the fears and restrictions of society, live a life of self-determination. He saw his page as a living “Walden.” When he finished eating, he clicked on the “Publish to Facebook” button and went outside to gaze at the stars, stretch and relieve himself in the woods.

Thoreau, committed to a life of simplicity and very little use of technology, was at first reluctant to bring a computer into his tiny cabin, or to get a Facebook Page. He didn’t like the Internet, and had refused to do his banking online. Of course, he had no money, so that wasn’t a huge sacrifice. But he really disliked social media, the idea of all these strangers coming into his life. Writers should work alone, be mysterious, he complained. He didn’t want to meet his friends from childhood, and he hated the idea of e-mail. His publisher persuaded him that waldenpond.com would help him market “Walden Pond,” and sell more copies of this dubious project to people who did not want to live on a pond in the dark and hunt and cook for themselves. You know, his editor said, brand yourself.

When Thoreau came inside after swimming naked in the pond, and capturing a frog for dinner, he was surprised to see more than 100 comments on his Facebook posting. “Fried rat!,” said one comment, “you better get yourself to a doctor now. You will have parasites and worms in the morning.” There were more than 20 comments from animal lovers horrified that he had eaten a cat...

read the rest over at bedlamfarm.com

Cold Antler Farm Joined!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

chickens in the road

I've been paying attention to Suzanne McMinn's Chickens In the Road blog lately, its quite the website. Not just a blog but features, recipes, the works. She recently got a horse and boy oh boy, I wanted to walk down to her farm, sit on the porch, and talk manes and tails. I confess I am not up and up on the farm blog scene but it is enjoyable to find someone that resonates with you. Suzanne seems to have achieved the life I strive for, a self-employed family farmer in this new farm economy. She makes a living sharing her passion and her family with other new and determined farmers, and what could be more fulfilling than that?


Yes, I'm looking for an immersion blender, a tabletop espresso machine, and a chicken coop, thanks.

Friday, April 6, 2012

it's fancy time, people

I have no idea what kind of chicken that is. It's one of Tamine's crazy cross breeds from his jungle fowl stock. That hen with the blue face and white feathers sure is a looker. It's fancy time, people. Look at that bird and treat yourself to something nice. She would.

I can't rest the night before a workshop. I'm so excited. I baked a giant cast-iron pan of apple pie from New York's finest, and a braided egg bread with butter and sugar crust the size of a basket ball. Tomorrow is all about chickens here at Cold Antler. The meals are chicken (eggy breakfast of bread, quiche, and pie) and a lunch of chicken tacos. There are 45 little chicks awaiting their future homes in the brooder and a houseful of new chicken owners coming to meet them. Jazz and Annie will camp out in the bedroom upstairs. They "like" chicken.

By like I mean eat.

...if it all went away?

I loved reading everyone's responses to the technology post, what we require for daily sanity (and in some cases, survival) all over the world. But today I have a new question, and it is something I think about fairly often: What would you do if it all went away?

What do I think? Well, I'm walking a thin line. I don't think we're going to see the world change quickly and harshly, like some do. But I do think rising gas prices and a shifty economy will make our future far more local and less energy dependant. I would be lying if I said my interest in equine transportation, food storage, clean water, backyard chickens, seed safes, etc was about prepping for the end of the world. I just like this lifestyle. It makes me feel safe and useful. I am not creating a fort against the Zombie Hordes.

I do think our current lifestyle will go from being cheap and normal to very expensive and abnormal, and in the next few years. It is foolish to think otherwise. I don't think we'll run out of oil or electricity, but I do think if we don't make strides towards more energy independence we are looking at serious trouble. (And I don't mean as a nation, I mean as individuals.)

The best protection against rising food and gas prices is a safe source of food at home, and a strong community ready for anything. I am for every American learning to use less energy in their homes, driving less in their cars, and producing a substantial amount of food at home. I'm for it not because I'm afraid of the future, but because it seems sensible. I want pantries and larders to be as normal again as walk-in closets. (Come to think of it, walk in closets can hold a lot of food!) I want my readers to have enough set by that if anything scary ever did happen: from ice storms that take down the grid over night to $9-a-gallon gas price spikes: you are all okay. I think expecting everything you need to be at a store and an outside source to home to your rescue is both irresponsible and dangerous. I don't think this is about fear, but about sense.

On May 19th the most well-attended workshop in this farm's history is going down. It's called Plan B, and it's a full day entirely dedicated to the future of energy, peak oil, and preparing your family and farm for uncertain times ahead. It is not a tin-foil hat meeting of conspiracy theorists, but a group of concerned homesteaders and citizens talking with three authors. It will be quite the event. Featured speakers are:

Myself - Homesteader working towards a transitional farm
Kathy Harrison - Community organizer and disaster prep expert
James Howard Kunstler - Peak oil lecturer on the future of energy.

The workshop is mainly about two things: Preparation and education. It will start with getting ready now for any sort of disaster, pandemic, food shortage or economic collapse. Kathy Harrison will talk about her communities efforts to create a place ready for whatever the future throws at them. (She's well known for this subject, too. National Geographic did a spot on their new show Doomsday Preppers. about them!) And the second part is about larger national and global issues, focused around a conversation with JHK (I also got him to bring his fiddle, which will be a treat) about what is actually going on out there. What to expect. He lives just over the mountain in the next town and is a good friend.

No event at this farm has gotten such a response, people are flying in and staying at local hotels to talk with myself, Kathy and James. Two couples are staying here at the farm, one from Philly and another from Canada. Others are traveling from around the Northeast. Young couples are making the trip, so is a group of five seniors! All of them coming to learn and discuss. Kathy will be teaching us how to use a pressure canner and food dehydrator to store a garden's bounty. Others are more interested in hearing JHK's views on what is ahead. Everyone is very engaged and excited, which makes me think there are a lot of people thinking about this? Are you?

Do you think change is in our future? Are people talking about it being negative and foolish? Do you agree, and are taking steps toward a more sustainable life? Or is it all too scary to even think about?

most boring herding job, ever

everyday, regular, totally normal excitement

I just got back from delivering a truckload of chickens to Ben Shaw's farm. I must admit, it was a wonderful drive. Gibson and I in the front seat watching the sun welcome our county to the day. Near my thigh was a happy little cup holder hugging a hot cup of coffee. It wafted waves of delicious mist in the chilly morning air. Behind us, in various ramshackle cages, covered with an old blanket for wind protection, were nearly twenty fat chickens. I easily caught them by dumping a pound of feed at the parked truck's tailgate and one at a time lifted them like tubby tabbies into the back of the truck. There was no rush, no stress. I just picked them up from the buffet one at a time. All of a sudden a bird would be eating next to his buddy and then I would gently scoop him up. He'd be gone, like an alien spaceship teleported him to his next incarnation with nary a fuss. His buddy, still eating, would look to his left for a second and cock his head "Hey? Anyone see Mitch?" and then go back to eating the feed with gusto. (Chickens do not mourn their MIA friends when there is food to be eaten.) The sheep watch all this and bitch the entire time. They assume anything in a Blue Seal bag is for them, and since I dared to empty its contents into another animal's maw, I was a heathen monster to be heckled at. And boy, did they heckle.

"Gibson, Sheep." I say, and the dog who was circling the flock of BBQ wings shot up to the sheep gate and everyone scattered or shut up right quick. Well, everyone save Joseph, who thinks Gibson is as harmless as a tuft of quackgrass. I think the only way Gib and I will ever move Joseph is if Gibson crouches behind him and I push him over. Oh well. Some times the sheep wins.

Today is a busy day. I have to clean and cook for the workshop tomorrow, but I also have a farrier appointment with Merlin (his feet are overdue) down at his stables, an oil change for the truck in town, and I have to pick up those same birds and write Ben a check late afternoon. I think about how busy I am these days, and how my "days off" are a hundred times more full and thriving than my days in. That's a good feeling and I'm sure many of you can relate to it, too. Certainly is you're as crazy as I am, running a farm and a day job at the same time.

I'm looking forward to sharing my riches with friends today. Steve and Molly's (who are on vacation) will go in the chest freezer. Some will go in my fridge for tomorrow's workshop lunch (chicken burritos anyone?) and the rest will be delivered by the Poultry Fairy (read: me) today to Livingston Brook Farm, Shelly my Vet, and others. I asked Jon and Maria if they wanted one but since they are coming over to pick up living chickens tomorrow, they may not be interested in bringing home one of their dead roommates. Or maybe they'll surprise me?

Excited up here in at Cold Antler Farm. Much ahead, and much exciting news to come. I just need to arrange an equine pedicure and do a lot of Window washing first!

photo by 468photography.com

Thursday, April 5, 2012

happy feet meat

I look outside and see two Freedom Rangers in the side yard, scratching in the new spring grass, puttering about in the sunlight. They seem content in their chickenhood. Tomorrow a bunch of them will be rounded up, caged, loaded in the pickup, and delivered to Garden of Spices Farm in Greenwich. That's Ben Shaw's small farm where they will be processed for my freezer for $3.00 a piece. They will feed me, workshops, and my friends. The original trial thirty from Mr. Fox (I love that my chicken stock farmer's name is Fox) did so well I have another twenty chicks in that haybale barn right now. I donated thirty to Firecracker farm. I'm just so dang happy with them. In three months they went from chirping fluff to eight-plus pounds of happy meat. They are thriving, and I am proud of both their size and the meals they will create. Steve and Molly get the lion's share, but I get a few, and I will share some with friends. For the most part, these birds will wait in Freezer Camp to be called to dinner as I see fit. It's a a good and safe feeling. The chicken tastes amazing, too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

technology and the farmer

I have been thinking about technology a lot lately. My relationship to it, and the amount a person needs in their life to be happy. In contrast to the home I was brought up in, my lifestyle is very low tech. I don't have the TV and movie playing devices (in their earlier incarnations or current) and there are no video games here either. I ditched my microwave in the kitchen, and I am fine with not repairing or replacing the dryer. There are no auto-drip coffee makers, Kitchen Aids, blenders, or toasters. There is no cable, no air conditioning, and the conventional heat system has reverted to a backup barely ever used. I do not use my broken dishwasher.

I do not I do not miss these things. I do not feel I need them.

What do I use? My ten-year old computers, my iPhone, my electric stovetop and oven. I watch documentaries and the Daily Show on Hulu to unwind. I run this website and fledgling business of workshops and writing through the internet and my home. I am not, as I have said before, anti technology. I just don't want to use the parts that get in the way of my own goals and well being. A cable television in my house and a stack of video games and DVDs mean I would not be writing into the night. I don't have an important and busy life with three kids or an executive job that requires me to save as much time as possible in the kitchen. I love to cook, do dishes, and ponder while I listen to audiobooks and putter. Again, I have no qualms with technology, efficiency, or convenience. But I use them all as tools. The life I chose requires a kind of utilitarian presence, and I want to give it my full attention.

I understand my choices may seem contrary, and I understand they won't work for everyone. I am sure there are plenty of people who think a smartphone is the Devil's hands but would wear armor into battle for their dishwashers. Everyone has their vices and favorites. I am curious what things for you are must-haves and what you would like to give up? Do people in your family demand television even if you want to give it the boot? Would you rather go to prison than live without AC? I suppose geography, abilities, and family all tie into this. What is your relationship to technology? What would you do if the power grid broke down? Or if all those machines and distractions didn't work?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

lilly the (not so) brave

Every night I spend some time with Lilly, the shy Maine Coon that is slowly learning me and this house. George, her brother, made himself at home that same day and pretty much runs the show around here now. Lilly stayed hiding, making a realm of the crawl space under the farm's kitchen you get to from her magical wardrobe. (Okay, it's just the space behind the washing machine.) She is sweet, and gentle, and seems to enjoy human contact but is afraid to go out into the big bad house and seek it. So I make time for her, and hope she grows some stronger heartbeats.

In other (slightly related) news: my dryer died. Good riddance. I now have clotheslines outside. They work in all seasons and when they are loaded it feels like a stream of prayer flags, waving from a little electrical independence. As it turns out you can air dry, heat dry, wind dry, or freeze dry clothes.

i made a decision

Today is about making decisions. I made some very serious ones since breakfast, and one of them was made just now. I have made the decision to no longer argue on this blog. I will not be responding to people looking for arguments or demanding answers to personal information. This blog is one woman's personal story, to work towards a creative and independent life. It will constantly be in a state of change and personal growth. It will go through periods of struggle, success, fear, joy, and goals hard set.

I welcome advice, conversation, helpful comments and criticisms. I even welcome all out anger if the comment or email comes from a person willing to share their email address and real name with the world as the person they are judging has. But I am not going to join in the fray anymore. It makes me sad, and tired, and makes me lose focus on my real goals.

This blog is watching one person trying to life the life she desires. I hope to do so honestly, and to encourage those people who share in similar dreams. That is all it is. I choose to stop arguing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Just recently watched this beautiful documentary, one of the few new ones, about the Amish. A year of seasons, church, tragedy, and family issues in three states. It is so beautifully done, and the tone very even (some pro and very anti-Amish opinions) but worth every second of watching. These people intrigue the hell out of me.

You can see it here on PBS's website.