Monday, May 28, 2012

behind in emails

I am so behind in emails. I can't keep up with them all. Right now it is especially hard because of the combination of ending my office job and figuring out what is ahead. But if you just resend what you want me to reply to, or remind me (always remind me!), I would appreciate it and do my best to reply. If you don't hear from me always follow up.

Also, I rarely if ever check Facebook for emails, so please don't use that!

training day

Today was a full day dedicated to Merlin and his trailer-stubborness. I was warned when I first picked him up that he was a fussy loader, but that day we left his old farm he walked right into the trailer as if it was the land of grain and honey. A few weeks later we loaded him up again for our first ever trail ride and again, not a single problem. I quickly learned this was our honeymoon period.

March 1 was just three months ago. In those three months he's been professionally trained and so have I. He's been on trail rides, arena practices, and won a ribbon in a sanctioned dressage show. I'm proud of all those things but I am most proud of events like today. With the help of Milt, Horse Expert Fantastico, Merlin was broken of his trailer woes. It took some "tough love" but within twenty minutes he was walking up (sometimes jogging up) with me without so much as a tiny fuss.

How did we do it? This might sound primal, but it was damn necessary and not nearly as rough as it sounds. Horses are not Golden Retrievers. We weigh 175 pounds and they weigh a thousand. We needed more help, so Milt took a long rope with a snap at one end and ran it all the way through the trailer and out a window, then back around to him. His plan was to pull the horse forward using that pulley system while using the rope end near him as pressure and a block from behind. So Merlin was being both urged forward and pressured at the same time by this rope system. The rope on his halter was not meant to yank him, but keep him from turning around. Milt stressed that the HORSE had to decide to be on the trailer, not us. He fought for a while, feet planted firmly on the ground. We waited. Whenever we stopped the pressure he moved forward and got grain. Then Milt said to give his bum a few smacks with a crop, that it would be the last straw of annoyance and he'd load up. So there we were. Me in the trailer with the short lead rope, Milt pulling back with all his might(on the rump rope, not the horses face) and using the rope around his rear, and Patty with a crop smacking his great ass.

After he realized that he could resist and be smacked on the butt with a light crop with a rope pressing into his hindquarter or walk softly up into a bucket of grain he stopped being such a mule. All it took was two times with the rope method and then over and over we did it with nothing but a carriage whip if we needed some reinforcement from behind.

When the trailer portion of the lesson was over Milt rode him for an evaluation and to test him crossing over water. We walked down the driveway to a meadown across the road and Milt put him through his paces. He walked, trotted, cantered, and went through waist-high grass without eating.

Since Merlin isn't thrilled about streams, Milt basically made him stand it one. He started pawing the water, taking great spraying mouthfuls and loving it! Then without any issue he walked right up and down the rocky stream! What a sight, all that was!

We also got to try on a driving harness and hitch him up to a forecart. Sadly, no driving today as the rig wasn't pony-modified and too large for him. But we learned what he needed (24 inch hames, a 23 inch collar pad, and a haflinger-sized harness). It was still a treat to see him hitched up, calm as a saint, and waiting for a chance to drive down the road.

I think this pony will do it all. I really do.

P.S. This sounds rather violent. It wasn't. We were not causing Merlin emotional or physical pain. The "force" was the pressure of a rope behind his hindquarters and another on his halter holding his head so he couldn't turn around. The "whipping" of the crop was the same tap I give him in the dressage arena. I trust Milt, who trained Steele (who used to jump out of round pens and rear up in the cart harness!) and I trust Patty. No animals were harmed in the loading of this pony.

P.P.S. For more information on our exact technique used, check out pages 400-401 of Storey's Guide to Training Horses under the section "Loading the Spoiled Horse!" It explains the halter rope pull and rump rope method of loading in detail.


hoof and boom

today is about horses and thunderstorms. I have to finish up cleaning out and restocking the rabbit cages quick so I can be over at Patty and Mark's farm by 11Am. A natural horsemanship trainer (and experienced driving instructor), Milt, will be there. Milt has had a long and calm life with horses and he is going to evaluate and ride Merlin after he teaches us the best way to load him up into a trailer. It'll be....interesting, as the last time we took a field trip with Merlin it ended up with us standing for an hour in the hair begging the beast to step into the transport. Milt thinks he has his number, and can teach it to us. If we can beat the rain I'll spend this hot Memorial Day on the back of my black horse in some distant hayfield by a percheron and his lady, smelling thunder and fireflies just hours away.

More later. Happy Memorial Day, fellow travelers.

the dusty road

Dear readers, this is an audio-accompanied post. I want you to click this link, and turn your speakers on. As you read the story let the music be your soundtrack. Minimize the window and turn the volume down if it distracts you, as that distraction was not my intention.

There are so many travelers on the dusty roads tonight. We are all of us, the same. A kinfolk of shared hopes and dreams. We have all been so far away from our first homes for so long that we have started to see the road as all there is. We grow weary, and our horses make our bodies sore, and every day on this dusty road we feel ourselves moving forward but the destination has yet to arrive.

It is late and we are all exhausted. Yet in the distance, just over that rise of that gently sloping green hill, you can see the glow of campfires. Above the ruckus you see the white flag with the crossed shovel and hoe and you know it is your people. You can see the tops of tents and couples in lanterns glow, walking from the circles around the bale fires to their camps. This place is not our destination, but a respite along the way. A chance meeting of fates and faces. You don't know anyone personally, but every eye you meet you see yourself: another dusty-road traveler, making their own long journey to their farms.

You arrive under the flapping white banners, and a Camp Greeter walks out, smiling and hailing arms. "Welcome to this meeting place! You can set up your bedrolls and tarps over there. Set down your weapons, and find your pots and bowls." This is music to your ears. You heard rumors of this place, and finally you can rest and commune with your guard down. A gift to tired travelers on dangerous roads. A gift greater than any.

Some people have children, and others have dogs. Some are alone, save for their horses hobbled by their tents. Some move in clans of several families and some are lonely pairs. But tonight we are all sharing the same balefire and grab little metal pails to carry coals from it back to our camps. We are all thus nourished from the same fire. We bow our heads in a thousand different prayers in thanks for its burning.

Whatever your destination know that the day is passed, the fight has stopped, and there is nothing more you can do but rest and heal. Set aside the day's anger and fear. Whatever haunts you is not welcome here, and it is too late in the day to do anything else towards that fight. My dearest friend, you can relax.

Be mindful, that every stranger you meet here has their own story in their leather bound journal they clutch tight against their breasts. Assume that every single traveler you meet in camp is wearier than you, hungrier than you, and farther from first home than you. Only when you accept that everyone else has it harder can you open up your hearts to them and share a leg of lamb off the spit or ladle them a bowl of rabbit stew. Only when you understand we are all pilgrims, just passing through this road to our home farms, can we understand we are all the same.

I too am on this road. I too am walking home. Home to where our families, animals, and crops are bountiful and our minds are free from pain. Home to our dream farms! Home to our promised land, those places and hopes we clung to in our troubled sleep. Some nights on the roadsides, in tents battered by wind and rain, we nearly want to quit. We want to turn back. And yet every morning we roll up our wool blankets and pack our horses and ride along that dusty road. We are people of faith in the work. And all we want is to work more. It confuses others on different paths, and that is okay.

Because there are other paths out there, other tribes just like us. People who are setting sail for courses into the unknown realms, they are the hungry adventures. There are people waiting to board trains to the cities, guitars and portfolios under their arms, in search of successes and creative communities. There are packs of motor cars lined with men and women heading to the schools and universities of greater studies. Sometimes they put the tops down on their beeping engines and put goggles over their eyes, scarves blowing in the wind. You see them kick up their heels and shout in joy.

But we are the riders, the agrarians, the people all leaving those cities, towns, universities, and seashores to find a place where we can rest ourselves into peaceful labors of food and stock. Our hearts are out in the fields, behind a team of drafts or in gardens of black soil and healthy vegetables. We know of no better party than a barn dance, clink glasses of hard cider under the strings of lights in the rafters, and the fiddles make our hearts lighter. We are the riders of the dusty road. When it stops the earth will be so rich no dust can manage. Our horses hooves will step upon the furrowed rows of corn and wheat and we will weep from joy.

Gentle Traveler, friend on the path, you look as tired as I am. May I ask you this much? Set down your weapons, soften your hearts. Take long, deep, breaths and just look around. Everyone is like you, like me, hard traveling and desperately homesick. Look at you, you still don't get it? Soften your jaw, my dearheart. Let it move lose in your clenched face. Breath. Feel the softness of your cheeks, sun burnt and perfect. Feel that gentle skin between your eyes and nose rest and soften too. Breath. Now, smile. Smile and breath deep. You have reached a mighty camp this day. A tent city of hearts all beating for the same dream.

In a few days we will all pack up and move down that path again. But now just take time to realize you may rest, and be kind. Be especially kind to yourselves. Be proud of the dusty road. So many never left for this road, even if they wanted to. So many angry hearts watch behind dirty windows as your horses pass by. So give them some rabbit stew, as well. Leave it on their porches and kiss your palms before placing them on their doors with a blessing. Everyone is a tired traveler, even if they never leave their doorstops. Some of them are the most tired of all...

We will get there. We will all find home. But tonight let's eat, and water our horses, and share in some stories and songs. There are people dancing around the fires, hand in hand. Storytellers eyes light up around the packs of children. Couples rest heads on gently rising chests leaning against strong trees. No one is anything but grateful and that makes this place holy. Let's be gentle and warm, and find that place inside ourselves to understand the Dusty Road is home tonight. And there is no finer place to be than on the path towards a better home.

And someday, gentle traveler, we will share that cider under those barn lights. And when we do the road will be a memory, our hearts light, and there will be no regrets for the lambs we shared at camps like this. No regrets, just love and patience. Those two make the road a little easier to bear.

Always, those two.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

tomorrow, horses.

This is my farm, my story, my livestock, and my life. I share it the way people who tell stories always have. People have been sharing autobiographies and family tales since time out of mind. Blogs are a new thing, but the honesty's the same. Sitting around a cave wall pointing at hand-smudges of bison or typing into a Mac: we are sharing stories, our lives, the process.

I got a few phone calls today from a good friend. I told him about the sheep that died, and we talked about how upset it made me, and what that upset meant. It was a good, long, talk. The kind of which I have sorely been lacking. I'm so grateful he's a part of my life.

Spent most of the day at Common Sense Farm, enjoying their first ever Spring Farm Festival down at their beautiful 200-acre farm right in Cambridge's heart. So many people and animals, so many kids running unshod through the green grass. Gibson came along and took a swim in the pond and enjoyed the people and fruit-tree digging. I got to meet a lot of new people like local farmers and neighbors.

It was the kind of event you don't see anymore. A large outdoor gathering without cell phones or polo shirts. Just people and their kids running in wild packs playing games and smiling like foxes.

It was a good day here in Farm Country. And if the weather holds out tomorrow, and the thunderstorms hold their breath until dusk, Merlin and I will be out on a trail ride on the hillsides of Livingston Brook Farm. Tomorrow is horses. I can't wait to be back in the saddle as it has been a few days. I even emailed the SCA's equestrian folks to see how Merlin and I can start competing in events. If I borrow a friend's trailer I might be able to bring him to War Camp at the end of June up in the Adirondacks! We will see!

Also, I am looking into buying a digital camera, or bartering for a decent used one. Any suggestions? Please email me with trades (like a workshop day for a used, but serviceable, Cannon or Kodak of proper agency). I am feeling like these iphone shots aren't doing my experiences justice.

Common Sense Farm Festival Today!

I haven't seen this many beards in one place since the barnbuiding scene in Witness!

weekend warriors

and the day has just begun

I nocked my wooden arrow and raised the bow as I pulled back on the 35-pound bow. It's woven, waxed linen string amazes me. It is all it needs to send my arrow blasting 30 yards ahead of me. I hit the 4-point circle on the target and want to jump up and scream HEEEEEELLL YEAH, but I don't. I have four more arrows to go and this is a Royal Round, and another 2 rounds after that at other targets.

I'm happy out there. I'm wearing a long green Irish dress over a white chemise with a leather hip belt. On the belt is my tankard (igloo coolers of water everywhere, BYOT) a leather bag holding money, truck keys, and my phone, and the red favor of the house Lancaster. This event is based on The Wars of the Roses and everyone has to pick York of Lancaster when they sign in. I picked red, not because I'm a huge fan of the Tudor's, but because it looked damn good on my green dress. I shoot another arrow and it flies into the hayfield. By the end of the day I'll break one arrow and lose two more. It happens. Losing arrows is a great incentive to hit the target more.

It's 10AM and feels like 4PM. I got up early to do my chores and check on the ewe who was found caught up in the brambles after shearing. At sunrise I had walked out across the field with a walking stick in hand, Jasper at my side. The ewe was sitting up, eating grass and had enjoyed some of the water with maple syrup I offered her. I was so happy she made it through the night. Jasper nuzzled her, as he had since I cut her free the night before. An odd sign of friendship between two species. With the help of Bridget from Virginia (who had visited for shearing and spent the night in her bus in my driveway) we used the blue garden cart as an ambulance and carried the frail beast to a solitary pen near the other sheep. It was quite the haul but we got her inside safe with water, grain, clean bedding and I said a few prayers. Prayer never hurts.

With the goat milked, dogs walked, sheep in hospital, animals hayed, grained, and watered there was nothing to do but get dressed up and the truck kitted out with bows and arrows. I left the farm at 8:00AM and had already been working three hours. My breakfast was some green juice and a small bowl of granola with goats milk. I was fortified, armed, and in a dress for the first time in months. I felt a combination of excitement for the War of Roses down in Concordia (Albany) and worry about the ewe. But at this point she had nothing to do but fight. So I left her, cursing myself for not counting the sheep when they came in to be shorn. I just called the woolly mass in and penned them and in the chaos of preparing for company and the shearer arriving early I didn't realize one ewe was gone. A quarter mile away in a bramble, she was stuck. It was my own fault. One simple act: counting sheep, had made all the difference in her chances.

Bridget asked if I would write about it? Or if I ever held back events on the farm because I didn't want to share bad news? An honest question. I told her I would write about it. What happens on this farm is an open book. I make mistakes and I share them. When lambs die, dogs get sick, or gardens fail I write about it. When I fall off horses, am scared, or broke: I write about it. I don't think people who are serious about landing on their own farm someday just want the sweet side of farming. I think they want to know mistakes happen, animals get sick, die, and all I can do is learn from mistakes and not make them again. I know now I will never bring home one new lamb alone to this farm again (pneumonia). I will never eat a pig with a bright yellow-cyst-covered liver. I won't plant broccoli without a goose fence. I won't forget to keep mothering ewes well grained to avoid Ketosis (Lisette). But in two years here and 20+ sheep later I have only truly failed four in five years of living with sheep. May that number ever diminish.

I think about the ewe between arrows, but my mind goes blank each time I take aim. I'm not good at this, but I have learned so much. I learned how to string my bow and tighten the string too. I learned proper form and sighting and the types of bows and tools. When my second round was done and score sheets filled in to be sent off to our shire's head of archery, T'mas nodded and said I looked like an archer. He said that with the white rose of York hanging around his neck, too.

When I got home later that day I found the ewe dead. She didn't make it. She was frail, thin, weak. I carried her into the hearse that had been an ambulance hours before and moved her out of the pasture fencing. Too tired to bury her I covered her with some old wool. I had driven four hours, spent all day in the sun, came home in a rush to see to the dogs and goats and was just exhausted by the time that ewe was out of the pen.

This morning I buried the ewe in a grave under the compost pile behind the goat pens. She was set in the earth and covered with the well composted bedding and manure of the pigs from this past winter. By next summer the pile will just be black soil around the skeleton of a horned sheep. I'll fork it out, grateful for its wealth in the garden. I smiled a bit, thinking of those vegetables of the future. The amazing red tomatoes and brilliant pumpkins and almost laughed at the idea of death being an ending. This organic compost is as alive as any galloping horse or flying hawk. As alive as you and I. It's just the next form in the circle. Earth must be fed.

And when I have a beautiful vegetarian meal next summer of garden tomato sauce over roasted peppers and onions and how those vegetables were grown over the blood, bones, manure and corpses of a farm's livestock. There is no such thing as an organic "vegetarian" meal, of course. The vegetables just ate the meat first. It was their turn, simple as that.

I sighed when the work was done. The ewe under the piles of brown, wet, soil. The water yet to haul for the living. Hay deliveries to be arranged, a soapmaking workshop to plan, and in a few moments I'll be down at Common Sense for their Farm Festival and people will see the three lambs of this farm's crop and feed them bits of grain and stroke their fluffy heads and I will be so proud to be the person who introduced their parents, got them into the world, and found them this ideal home. I don't know of a more balanced life than starting your day with an ovine funeral and ending it with a lamb in your arms.

Whew....and the day has just begun....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

a day at war

I spent the day with 300 people who care more about what makes them happy than what other people think is silly. I shot a longbow next to marksmen so talented that people parted ways to let them through, reputation as strong as Moses's hands. I spent the day with men in kilts, women in long dresses (or armor), and watching craftsmen work with blacksmith's bellows and Damascus steel. I saw embroidery, and children without electronics listening to stories. I saw dogs running and playing around toddlers and barefoot companions by burning campfires where food roasted and turned. I was hot and I didn't care. I was sunburnt and it felt like blessing. And I tied for my best score ever out there on the archery range and shot enough deer targets to fill my imaginary meat freezer with enough venisons to feed a clan.

Life in the current middle ages is pretty great. And my next big event is War Camp in Warrensburg, NY. A day where equestrians will be out and I'll be damned if I won't be up there with Merlin and a jousting spear in my shaking hands one fine day.

Don't let anyone tell you not to do what makes you shine.

Friday, May 25, 2012

shearing snapshots

atlas shrugged (then got a haircut)

full day

Today was a such a full day. So much happening. Running the gamut from blissful to tragic, it reminds me of why I chose this path. I watched a college-junior WWOOFer intern hold a lamb in her arms for the first time while we delivered it to its new home. I also had to cut a blackface ewe free from a horrible tangle of brambles that had trapped it all night. (She is eating and drinking and will be okay, but terrifying to discover). There was sheep shearing, goat milking, wool carting, lamb chasing, shots, foot trimming, ice cream runs and new friends.

More details tomorrow. I need to get some rest and painkillers (think I really did a number on my back wrestling ewes for the shearing) and get ready for tomorrow's archery event in Albany. Heading south to shoot a longbow in a green dress.

Shearing photos to follow!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shearing Tomorrow!

Email me if you want to see the big show, 2PM here at the farm. Professional shearers will show the flock a thing or too about haircuts. If enough folks come on out, we'll go out to dinner after or BBQ at the farm!

this is blowing my mind...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The fireflies are back...

May I never spend a summer without them.


A friend asked me on the phone tonight how work was going? A harmless question, but all I could muster as a response was how awkward it feels being inside those walls. It's like the divorce is finalized but we're still sharing the same house for another two weeks. It's cordial, but distant. Both parties knows the other is down for the count and already thinking about what's ahead. There will be an internal job posting soon to replace me, and I am already planning speaking and farming events for weekdays. We're both moving on.

That doesn't mean it isn't scary. The choice to leave the office is one I believe in with all my heart, necessary on so many emotional, career, and social levels it surprises me it took this long in the first place. And yet there are faces I will dearly miss, memories and laughter, strong friendships and connections. I hope we all stay in touch, and remain close friends. If I don't see folks like James, Andrea, Sarah, Bryan, Chrissy and Tyler I'll be mighty sad.

There's also a lot of stress and fear and mistakes I made at that office. Things I said I can't take back, people I am silently grateful I don't have to see anymore, and half-hearted responsibilities and tasks I long ago lost the fervor to care about.

But that's everyone's story, isn't it? My experiences at my job are just like any high school graduate's, summer camp counselor's, or ex band member after a tour. You love some of it, regret some of it, and miss all of it. A corporate office is just another box of dying animals, people trying so hard to matter and expand, even though they already are beings of expanding matter. Well, it all belongs to the backlist now. And there's no way to grow that don't hurt.

I think I'll be writing about this whole transition a lot. It'll help me ride through it. I hope that is okay, as it isn't really about farming or the farm, but it is about how becoming one changes you. Will that do?

1,000 new business cards came today!

with a spelling mistake! isn't getting you here, baby.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the open door

I was walking back to the farm, covered in sweat from a jog, when I approached the strange mini van parked in my driveway. I'm not used to people showing up unannounced. My farm isn't on "the way" to anything. So far the only ones who had were the local members of the closest Jehovah's Witness congregation. I assumed I was about to be witnessed to in all my cool-downed, pasty sweaty glory when I got a big wave. Stepping out of the van was a jovial woman with shoulder-length gray hair and a big smile. She said her name was Sandy and she was a professor in New Jersey. She wanted to know if she could hire me as a speaker, and bring a pack of college students up to the farm for a lecture, tour, and some farm work?

**Antlered throngs of angel choirs sang**

She said her class would be up from the 11th -15th of June. I was covered in sweat and looking about as attractive as a garden slug but I couldn't stop my big, wolfish grin. I told her I just quit my job and would be available whenever she needed me. She seemed as happy as I was at the idea. Just a week out of the cubicle world and I already had a gig lined up at the farm! I took it the way I take all things, as a sign. A little slap on the back from fate, telling me I made the choice that made my world dance.

We talked a bit, and she gave me her contact information and told me we could work out the ideas about speaking rates. We parted quickly after that because I could see Sal limping on his bad leg (an on and off injury) and the 5 escaped sheep who for the 45th time had used their thick early-summer wool to get through the fences. I sighed and thanked her and set to work. In a few days the flock will be shorn, Jim McRae will be here Friday afternoon (let me know if anyone wants to come for that?). After they are naked that fence will not allow a single escapee.

I digress. Point is the meeting was fast and auspicious as a pair of crows flying over a first kiss.

I came inside and an email was waiting from the University of Vermont, interested in having me take part in a speaker series about food and farming. I was now nearly staggering about. It was late June, between meetings with my publisher about future books, the Meat Bird workshop here at the farm with Brett, and the Greenhorns Premiere at Battenkill Books on the 29th. My dance card was filling up. Filling up suddenly! As if the open door of my choice had let a rush of opportunities in.

Hot dog!

Only 5 Spots Left!

winner of the book giveaway!

Melissa! who posted at: May 21, 2012 9:34 AM

Monday, May 21, 2012

an invocation for beginnings

I adore Ze Frank. I don't know him, of course. But I used to watch/read and follow his site and projects and videos. He stopped doing his bit for a while and now he is back. I found his message just as inspiring to me, as a new full-time writer, as it could be to anyone. Enjoy it. Enjoy it and get started.

the goat dance

When it comes to goats, fences are everything. The same fence that can keep back a team of Percherons, a flock of sheep, and hundred alpaca (alpaci?) is nothing but scoff-fodder for your average goats. Goats climb, tear down, and crawl under wire field fencing. They laugh at t-posts. If your wire isn't hot, even for a few hours, they will know and clamber over it like drunk hunting horses out after a fox. This is the goat dance. The escape, capture, and evading that makes up the reality of adding caprines to your life.

The only way I have found to keep a goat in a pen is to either use panels (read solid) made for sheep and goats with well-spaced metal or wooden fence posts, or electric netting or wire. At my own farm I learned this the hard way. My first goat, Finn, was not happy as the lone goat amongst a flock of sheep and would not stay inside the woven wire fences. He got out and into the road, into poisonous plants, and all other sorts of trouble and made sure the sheep got out too. I didn't have the pen I have now (originally built for a horse!) to contain goats, and so he went to live on another farm.

Now my set up is goat-proof. Inside the barn are large 1x8 inch boards strong and sturdy, three high with about 12 inches between each board. They have woven wire stapled to them in case little Francis wanted to crawl though. Outside a large metal horsegate (also reinforced with woven wire to prevent crawl-throughs) is strong enough to handle any goat arms. And, the fencing all around the outside area is electric. So my goat pen is more of a goat jail, but that's what it takes in small spaces. If I had a 7-acre field it would be a different story, they could roam a little more and be as interested in escaping (at first!), but here at Cold Antler goats have to be smartly contained.

My advice to anyone considering goats, go for it. But consider your fences and barn first. Get an experienced goat farmer, homesteader or Extension agent to check your set up or help you prepare. As someone who learned the hard way, I can not stress enough how much having people with goat experience in my life with Bonita and Francis has improved things. Goats are dear friends and treasures here now, not a hassle. Not something all farmers can say and it took some hard lessons to get there. But you got to start somewhere, right?

book giveaway!

I thought a book giveaway would be a nice way to start off the week. I had a few extra titles after this weekend's workshop and decided to also throw in a copy of Barnheart (signed) and of The Greenhorns (also signed at my essay). To enter just leave a comment! Say hello, say what's growing in your garden, or share a plan for this week on your own farm or home. A random winner will be picked tomorrow morning, this is a shortsale folks! Comment and enjoy four titles to add to your own library or give as gifts.

Now, off to the office!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

onward to archer

Archery practice today. I had my first ever series of Royal Rounds this time. Royal Rounds are official marksmanship tests hosted by the SCA. There's a 20, 30, and 40 yard 6-arrow target shoot and then a timed 30-second firestorm where you shoot as many as you can to scramble for points. My scores, beginner level. But I am really enjoying getting to know my longbow, the goose feather arrows, and the culture and tools of the archer.

If I complete two more rounds, on two separate days, I will be recorded in the SCA records as a bonefide Archer of Record. I'll be awards a hand-forged, metal medal with a pair of black arrows crossed over a circle to show others I'm a student and beginner archer at Society events. As my skill increases, so will my status. It's a fun way to work towards something. And something as useful as archery is welcome around here. For hunting and recreation, it'll be nothing I regret.

Onward to Archer, is how my Sunday ends.

Plan B was AMAZING!

Yesterday in the cool shade of a giant maple tree my farm turned into an amphitheater. Twenty of us sat on the hillside and standing at the base, in front of a row peony bushes and a parade of Geese, James Howard Kunstler talked to us about the future of energy, oil, climate and economies around the world. To some of you, that may sound like a contradiction. This man talking about doom and gloom amongst flowers waiting to bloom on a sunny day, but that isn't Jim's message at all. Jim is all about paying attention, realizing what is actually going on in the world and accepting changes with logic, grace, and a sense of humor.

We laughed, asked questions, engaged with him and Kathy Harrison outside on the freshly mowed lawn. Jim brought a cooler of beer! When I asked why his response was, "I thought people would get thirsty!?" Can't argue with that.

His talk was the post-lunch break event. The whole morning was spent inside and out with the energy and positivity of Kathy, who introduced us into the practicality and ease of being ready for everything from ice storms to economic fall outs. She made us all laugh, shared her own story and her gadgets. She brought along samples of everything from crank radios to dehydrated asparagus and potatoes (which when re-hydrated taste exactly like any other potato. Her whole anthem was about being able to take care of yourself in any scenario, and to understand that no one can do this alone. She wanted us to understand the importance of knowing your neighbors, making connections with people in your community, and actually knowing what is going on in local government and politics. She thinks our selectman and school boards will be a lot more important to us than we can feasibly understand in the next few years. I think she's right.

Everyone left with full stomachs, with signed copies of books by the visiting authors, and smiles on their faces. I think the crew that made it out to the farm yesterday was happy they made the trip. That's something I am quite proud of. Any time anyone goes out of their way to support, visit, or share in this little 7-acres of heaven I am on cloud nine, even when the day's whole concetration was on the uncertain future, I feel pretty darn good on my pile of dirt.

bonita gives a wink...

photo by

Friday, May 18, 2012

Announcing Cold Antler Farm Fiddle Camp!

Come to Cold Antler for a weekend-long event, August 25th and 26th. You are welcome to join me for two days of the farm, campfire, and fiddles. This is a camp for people with absolutely no experience with the fiddle at all—never held one, can't read music, think they are hopeless case—but really want to learn. All you need to do is sign up and I'll take it from there. The fee for the weekend will also include an entire beginner fiddle package. Everyone who signs up will get a quality student fiddle, case, and bow with rosin to boot. The only requirements for supplies on your end is to purchase the book "Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus" by Wayne Erbsen and a standard electric guitar tuner. We'll be learning by feel, by ear, and by a system of music notation called tablature. This means you won't need how to read notes to play, just be able to read and count to 4.

The weekend will start off with an early morning introduction, how to string, tune, and hold your fiddle and bow. We'll then go into the basic bowing motion and finger positioning on the D-scale. We'll brake for lunch and then spend the afternoon learning your first tune, Ida Red. There will be plenty of time for practice, too. Find a place in the pasture with Sal to work out your D-scale. See if you can balance a chicken on your bow while you drone? (I'm kidding about that last part). Saturday night will include a campfire with live music. I'll have local musicians and friends come and you are welcome to bring your own guitar, banjo, or whatever else you'd like to play.

Sunday is a day dedicated to learning more songs, droning and shuffling techniques, and plenty of practice time between one-on-one sessions. Enjoy the farm in its late-summer splendor, taking in the sounds and sights of the animals and gardens. I personally guarantee that anyone who signs up and WANTS to play will leave my farm a fiddler. This is not a hard instrument, and the building blocks you'll find here will be all you need to go home and learn every single song in Wayne's book. This would be a great gift, couples weekend, or graduation present.

Fiddle Camp is a full Saturday and Sunday, 9AM - 5PM
Each workshopper gets a student fiddle package
Each student gets a CAF fiddle Camp T-shirt!
Camping on the farm is an option (it will be August)
Cost will be $350 or $200 (sans fiddle) a person.
Limited to 15 people or 8 couples.
12 Spots Left!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

June 8th 2012

I can finally share my Big News, since now all the pieces have fallen into place. I do apologize for being a blatant tease but the pay off is worth it. This is the big one folks, everything I have been working for on paper, books, workshops, and sweat and tears:

I have resigned from my position at the office and will be a full-time author and farmer from here on out. I'll be making a living through my own words, choices, and actions as a self-employed business owner here in Washington County. I'll be writing and hosting workshops and events to cover the mortgage and growing my own food and livestock to cover the groceries. For eight years I have been working towards this one thing, and my last day at work is June 7th. Time to jump.

I have made all the preparations. There's a humble, but survivable, nest of savings set aside and I am arranging alternative health insurance through my local chamber of commerce. I have projects lined up and much work and writing ahead of me, not to mention the workshops and events here at the farm. I am not asking for any help from the readers, and won't. This is my choice and my life and I can't spend any more time of it behind a desk working for somebody else. I have to make this step or I'll never be able to respect myself. I am thrilled and somber about it. Making this decision is a step I have been hesitating over out of nothing but fear. Fear isn't welcome here anymore. Ever.

I am so happy about this, so terrified about this, and so very ready for this.

June 8th is the first day of the rest of my life.

Plan B!

2 spots left for Plan B on May 19th, 2012!
Any last-minute takers! Workshop is tomorrow at 10AM!

can't wait!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

before a storm

I sat outside under the big, leafy, maple tree as the wind picked up and the sky went from gray to angry. I had shoved off of work an hour early, after explaining plainly to my boss that I was not going to milk a dairy goat in a thunderstorm. My timing was impeccable. I had just finished the milk chores, grained the pony and sheep, checked the fences, fed the rabbits, and chickens for the evening when the first rumbles whispered in from the west. Inside the house dinner was already in the oven. I could smell it if I got too close to the kitchen windows while filling up buckets at the rain barrel. I made me salivate like a dog. It's one of this winter's meat birds now crisping in the keep, bathed in olive oil and spices. That bird and a pot of wild rice, gravy, and a spring salad from the garden would be my evening meal. It's consort, a hard cider. I look forward to this the way a person who has walked a great distance and can finally see her campsite looks forward to a fire and rest.

So I sit outside under the big sugar maple and feel the wind. I'm wearing a canvas kilt, one of those snazzy tank tops with the bra built in, and a wool hat my mother gave me for Christmas two years ago. It's a big brimmed, floppy, brown wool hat. Not a cowboy hat, but something like a lady's sun hat if it was left to sheep to build. I used to dislike it and now I love it. I only disliked it because I was a chump who cared more about what people thought of the hat than its direct purpose. I now know this is happiness (and comfort's) suicide. It is the perfect shield from rain, snow, and sun. I put it on and let it plop about like a character from before. Like one of those people who garden in black and white photos from Appalachia. It is shapeless and thrifty. I feel timeless.

The thunder starts to speed up and rain hits the brim. I take off my rubber chore boots and let my bare feet feel new grass just kissed by rain. The coolness of it is a blessing. The comfort in knowing every animal in my keep has been made comfortable and full in the belly before I would retire to a house of fiddles and roasting bird makes me feel so wealthy I want to write checks to strangers. All I did was cut out of work early, feed livestock, and sit in the grass unshod but these things change seretonin levels in my body. A perfect combination of respite and toil, hope and force, and the knowledge that I too will tuck in with smacking lips and cool cider, it over takes me. The rain is starting to fall but I don't want to go inside. I want to just sit out here and hope, and pray, and thank everyone and everything that got me to this small piece of land on a mountainside. It has become my whole world.

For better or for worse, it is.

the photo is tim's


In the weeks since I announced I would be moderating comments I have only had to delete one angry, anonymous (of course) jab about Merlin. I am amazed at how just sharing that I would read things before they were posted has changed the entire tone of the audience. And another neat thing is happening, people use the comments section as a quick way to send me a note. I'll get a comment announcement and when I open it it'll say "Hey, don't post this but I just wanted to tell you about..." and share some advice, or an email address to sign up for a workshop, or just a message for me. It's all wonderful. I'm so grateful for the kinder tones and secret messages and just wanted to thank you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

it's show time, baby

The morning of the show started earlier than usual. I was up at 4AM, so that chores, feeding, and milking could be done in enough time to shower and preen for the ring. I had a borrowed blue jacket, a crisp white shirt, a fancy tucked-in collar. I had washed my half-chaps and paddock boots with a scrubber brush and everything was looking as good as it possibly could. I had to be at the barn around 7:00. That would give me enough time to get Merlin out of his stall (all horses in the show were kept in stalls for morning grooming instead of being turned out into the muddy paddocks) and have him brushed, washed up, and braided if I saw fit. I would slip on my jacket, place his number on his bridle's brow band, and start warming up for the ring by 9:00. Everything was planned out.

expecting a new, pudgy, Fell Pony to be suiting up for the dressage ring. Even at a schooling show in a rural part of upstate New York there are some fancy horses in that show. Warmbloods, high-stepping agile beasts who cost more than what I owe on my Dodge Dakota. Who would think the new girl who showed up with a bossy pony 13 weeks ago would be entered in the Dressage Show? I walked out into the pasture and placed his halter over his head. Both his feathered feet and my previously scrubbed paddock boots and half-chaps were covered in mud. That'll teach me not to pack my muck boots...

The morning was a frenzy. It started out slow, washing feet and combing out dry mud. I picked out pieces of pine shavings from his stall piece by piece from his long mane and tail. When he was suitably groomed, passing for clean, I decided not to braid his mane. Who was I kidding, really? He's a Fell and will remain one in his truest form for the judge. She could take us or leave us. With Merlin in his stall I walked over to where the trailers were parked and Patty and Steele were working to braid his long mane. Patty was on a stepladder as Steele munched from a bag of hay. He looked beautiful, cleaner than I have ever seen him. I was almost in shock at the site of him. I adore my Merlin, would not want any other riding horse in the world, but by Epona herself Steele looked like a giant marble statue of a horse. A life-sized Breyer in perfectly molded contours. Makes a woman weep, that kind of beauty on the hoof.

Percherons and Fell Ponies are not the usual dressage breeds, but we weren't the only outcasts. Haflingers, Spotted Drafts, Paints—all sorts of horse flesh was about. We fit in just as much as anyone else trying their hands at the USDF tests. It works like this: You enter the ring with your horse and trot around the outside of the arena. Then, when a bell rings you have 45 seconds to start your test. The "test" is really a memorized routine. I would be expected to trot into the ring with Merlin, a straight line at the judge. Then I'd hustle and jive through walks, circles, crossing the arena on diagonals, free walks, and so on. Whatever the test pattern is, you do it, and you do it the best you can. When it is done you halt your horse and bow your head in salute to the sport, the judge, the whole damn event. Then you exit the arena and wait to see how you did on your score sheet. The only person you are competing against is yourself, you create your score. The placement is simply high to low scores. Amazing how simple something so gut-wrenchingly nerve racking can be, huh? Merlin, Steele, Patty and I were warming up by 9 in the indoor arena. We walked, trotted, and circled in practice. By the time my name was called I walked down to the area where we were supposed to enter. A young boy, around 6, saw me on my mount and whispered to his mother "Mom, what is THAT? Identity issues from children aside, I thought everything was going well. I mean, the horse was clean, right? I was dressed properly, right? We had our number on his brow band, the right time....So what could go wrong?

Lots, actually.

Merlin remembered the outdoor arena. He remembered how fun it was to be in there and have the girth spin the saddle under him. He remembered the panic and the stress of it, and started backing up. Hollie, my guardian angel, saw this and told me to "get that pony in there!" and as if she could read horses the way pilots land a plane explained exactly what to do to get him inside the arena. "Pressure from your outside leg, loosen the reins, crop!" and so on. I just did what she said, gave some heel, and he entered at a fast walk. Okay, so we were in the dressage ring. We walked around the outside of the arena (we were not allowed inside until the judge rang the bell) and then I realized how much Merlin hates being trailered. The judge was sitting inside a trailer, a house from sun and rain. Merlin trotted by it and bucked a little kick, right in front of the judge... "He's got some spirit, huh?" I heard in a murmur.

He kept acting up, trotting in place, not wanting to go forward. The judge could see it all but until we started our test she couldn't start marking that score sheet. I got him down to where the official arena started and waited for the bell. The bell rang and the test started. here we go... Merlin and I entered the arena at a trot, right at the judges. We spent the next five minutes going through the routine I had lasered into my brain. We slowed to walks, made tight corners, picked up trots again at specific points. We did fairly-round 20-meter circles. And when it was all over we stopped on a dime and I saluted to the judge. People clapped and I finally let out the breath I was holding the whole time. The judge left me with some kind remarks and I exited the arena.

We did it. Merlin and I passed, if not placed. We didn't get one objection or correction announcement. It means that even if it wasn't pretty, it was competent. And to even enter a dressage show with a horse I had once only dreamed of, had only known a few months...was magical to me. If I got a big fat green ribbon that said 'Participant' I would frame it. It wasn't about winning, it was about showing up and trying. An event and day that marked a right of passage. I trained, I signed up, I tested, and I survived. Turns out I got third place. A ten-year-old on a white welsh pony beat us. Steele and Patty were right behind us in fourth place, by LESS THAN a point! Amazing when you know she entered her first dressage show with her cart horse after THREE LESSONS! Amazing, those two.

When you walk in my home the ribbon is hanging right on a mounted photo of Merlin. There is nothing humble about it and in this case, that is fine by me. That horse is a blessing, a lesson, and a teacher. He's coming home to the farm in a few weeks and I can't wait to wake up to that shaggy face every day, ride him around the farm and across neighbors' fields. We have plenty of adventures ahead and by Antlerstock I hope those of you coming out will get to meet him, feed him a carrot, and tussle those locks. Just don't mention anything about girths or trailers, he doesn't like to talk about them.


Monday, May 14, 2012

back tomorrow

These last three days have been so unbelievably busy, and I have not been home much beyond basic farm chores and errands. Just 5 hours ago I was walking back to Brett's truck 2 miles from the Canadian Border at an Amish Harness shop as locals ran by in buggies and waved. Just minutes ago I lured and re-caught 13 escaped sheep who I first found out had escaped while eating a burger in Lake Placid. And just seconds ago I realized how tired I am and yet how much I want to write.

All of it tomorrow, and big news as soon as I can share it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

photos from the big day

Today started milking a goat at 4:30 AM and ended with a slice of rhubarb pie and red wine in a hot tub. A big, long, post coming up soon about my first show, but to hold you over I thought I'd share photos from the day. I have a bunch Mark Wesner took to post tomorrow, but for the now, check out what Mike McNeil took of the show. Merlin and I on here and Patty and Steele are right after us!

And a Happy Mother's Day to you all!

Photos Here!

out of seven!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I am so nervous about tomorrow's dressage show...

two old men sleeping in the sun

a day for the garden

There are big plans for the garden this year, starting with the small row of raised beds I have along the horse fence by the house. A small kitchen garden, but a happy place already full of new lettuce, kale, pea shoots, and garlic. Today I'll plant a heap of stuff I picked up as six-packs from the Stannard Farm greenhouse a half mile down the road on route 22. I also decided to turn the south side of the house into two herb gardens. There is already a beautiful sage bush I inherited with the house and a bit of hoe work, anti-poultry fencing, and some topsoil is all I need make that dream come true. As important as it is to feed yourself, it is also important to know how to heal yourself.

I want to grow herbs for stress-relief, sore muscles, colds and flu. I'm not anti-modern medicine by any means but there is wisdom to the folk remedies. Most common illnesses can be cured with the right care of the body and help with rest, meditation, herbs and positive thinking. That's my experience at least. This year the plan is to grow things for teas and tinctures. I would like to start an echinacea patch and various mints, chamomile, rose hips for vitamin C.

Do any of you grow medicinal or tea gardens and herbs?

spoon garden markers from this etsy shop!

Friday, May 11, 2012

morning kits

Every morning the little, bottomless, meat rabbit hutches get moved around. They still get feed pellets and water bottles, but eat the grass down to nubs. Usually twice a day it gets scuttled about, leaving a neat square with little brown turds. It's a tight little mowing operation, that.

I like raising my kits this way, out in the sunlight, on the green grass. It's a fun task, too. Moving that small crate and watching them hop along. In a few weeks they'll be in the freezer or bartered off to other farmers, but today is grass and sunshine. They eat and soak up the rays. They watch the chickens, put up wit Gibson's stares, and sleep in a pile in the little sheltered section. They don't know what's ahead tomorrow, neither do we, but at least the rabbits take it all in stride. Focus on the grass. Feel the sun. Stretch like you mean it. Eat till you're full. Always be ready to move.

We all just have today. Live it like meat rabbit.

turkey wrangling: level 600!

so starts the work

It's Friday morning and the farm is alive. The goat's been milked and the dogs have been fed and walked. Right now a half gallon of fresh milk is chilling in an ice bath in the sink and tonight after evening milking I'll make cheese from the day's full gallon plus. In a bit I'll go outside and see to all the birds and rabbits, sheep and Jasper. No sign of the turkey's since they wandered back into the woods last night, but I'm not worried. They spent a week here at the house, where water and feed flowed. They are fairly easy to herd where you want them to go.

When chores are done I'll get changed out of kilt and sweater into breeches and half chaps. Friday is our lesson day down at Riding Right, and by "we" I don't just mean Merlin and I. Patty and Steele have their lesson right after mine so always spend the morning with our horses, learning and working on our dressage tests for Sunday's show. We always stop at Central House in Salem afterwards, Patty's long horse trailer right out front with Steele waiting patiently while we enjoy our salads and paninis. It's become a happy ritual.

Merlin will be back here at the Farm by my birthday in July. Brett and Patty and Mark are certain we can get a proper horse paddock ready for him by then. Since the land is cleared and the wood hauled out it is more a matter of slapping together a quick run in shed, some fences, and gates. It'll happen. I know it will.

I'm excited about the interest in the Fiddle Camp! So far three are signed up and a few more emailing interested. I'll start designing t-shirts and we can all vote on the winner here.

Okay! I need to get off this old computer and head outside. So starts the work!

P.S. Ryan Gosling healed up great!

photo by jon katz

Thursday, May 10, 2012

my favorite photo of me and jasper

photo by

rough morning

A lamb just died in my arms. One of the twins, a little ram. When I called in the sheep from the back pasture 14 sheep and two lambs came running out to greet me. I looked around the black and white feet, but the third lamb was nowhere to be found. I grabbed my crook and I walked around the sheds and feeders. He was nowhere to be seen.

Then I walked out to the farthest pasture. I could see the small white clump in the grass. I ran over and found him wet, dirty, but still alive. I carried him inside the farmhouse and wrapped him in a towel, set him next to the small electric heater in my bathroom. While he warmed up I put milk on the stove to warm and got a bottle ready. He took to it and my heart soared. If he was interested in food it was a good sign. He suckled and when I took the bottle away he baaed. "That a boy!" I yelled. Then he convulsed, cried out, and went limp. His heart stopped beating next to my own. He was dead.

And now I need to go milk a goat, and get a shower, and go into the office late. I'll go into that office and spend a day inside an building pumped with heat that doesn't come from fire, light that doesn't come from sunshine, and cool air that doesn't come from wind. A place with windows that do not open. I will sit in my desk chair and start working on email marketing and spreadsheets. I'll think about the dead lamb, and listen to people talk about our job as if it was some how a part of the real world. As if anything that entertains itself beyond the gates where blood and shit, dirt and compost, sex and birth, and shaking death was real? It isn't.

Reality is out where the lambs die.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

look at that boy STRUT!

herding lessons starting again soon!

The Milk Pail Diaries:
A Month of Milking

It has been a full month of living with a dairy animal as a single woman with a full-time job. I thought I'd check in and let you know my thoughts now that milking a goat has gone from novelty to a regular chore around here. I have now milked Bonita, my large alpine doe, over sixty times! She has produced over 45 gallons of fresh milk! All of it done by one gal, by hand, over the course of thirty days. And now I can not imagine having to buy milk from the store. Just like eggs, veggies (in summer), and most of my meat, milk has wandered from the realm of things I was just a consumer of and am now a producer.

This little dairy is chuggin' along.

I have totally converted to goats milk in my house. I use it in my cereal, oatmeal, coffee, iced coffees, chocolate milks, milk shakes, baking and cooking. I learned to make cheese, watching the curds transform overnight and drain right here in my kitchen sink. Chevre is my new favorite bagel spread. And the time I spend with Bonita has helped grow our bond in a way you just don't get from sheep. It's closer akin to horses, only instead of riding and working, you're milking. It's a quiet skill. I like milking. With one goat it takes minutes, and I have my post-milking chores down to a science. I ice the steel sink first, half filling it with cold water and ice cubes. It cools while I milk outside in my little stainless steel flat-sided pail while Bonita eats her grain and minerals. When milking is done I feed the goats their hay and then soak the milk till it is cold in the sink (about 15 minutes to half an hour). After that it is strained, poured into half-gallon or quart glass containers and set in the freezer for two hours. It comes out pipin' cold and slightly frozen, but really does remove any possibility of "goaty" flavor for a few days.

I appreciate what it is doing for my body. My forearms are the most toned they have ever been. I have dedicated myself to months of regular yoga practice and Downward Dog's got nothing on Descending Udder. It's made my fiddling easier too, since I am using my gripping hand muscles so much more than before. I feel stronger a month into goat ownership. And that fact that only three escapes happened mean my fencing skills are stronger too!

I did say that milking has gone from novelty to chore, but that isn't accurate. Milking is different than pouring grain into a chicken feeder and moving bales of hay. It requires an attention all of its own. It's become a mix between meditation and conversation, never one or the other. It's a mindless action in some senses, letting my head wander a bit, but then a back hoof starts to wriggle or there's a loud fart or something that reminds you to be reacting to the animal your head is pressed against as you empty those teats. So it's neither delicate or brash, just what it is. Just like farming.

BIG changes coming....

photo by 468photography

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

rainy morning updates

Another morning of milking a goat in the rain. Not anywhere near as bad as it sounds. The rain was more of a mist, gentle and making your clothes cling to you. I like this kind of dampness, where precipitation and perspiration mix. On a long day outside it can grow weary, but this morning a hot shower and a steaming bowl of oatmeal were month a half hour away. It is easy to sing through chores, wet and smelling like goat, if those promises are kept.

The rain grew harder but Jasper and the sheep (and their three lambs) weren't deterred from their morning meal. They are eating what's left of winter hay while the pastures heal and grow. Four days of rain means a lot of new green. I welcome it.

Yesterday while walking Jazz and Annie on our slow mile jaunt, I told Jazz about all your well wishes. He has trouble on the walk sometimes so we go slow. Allowing him time to throw up if he has too, walk at his pace. We stop at the stream and he and Annie adore wading through it, lapping up water, feeling cold stones on their heavy paws. As we were just leaving the stream and heading home I saw the green Tacoma I know so well rolling up the mountain. It was Othniel and his son, ShimShoan. They had a lawn mower in the back bed. Othniel said out the window, "We heard your mower was broken! We've come to mow your lawn!" and I beamed. I knew the rain was coming and four days would mean knee-high grass. I was trying to keep up with it with my reel mower, but its old and needs sharpening, so this was a blessing. I walked the dogs home and ordered Jay's Pizzeria's largest pie with extra cheese for us. They weren't leaving hungry.

So the lawn looks beautiful, Jazz is still plugging along, and the lambs are well. Goats get milked, even in a downpour and the new turkeys are making themselves right at home. One is for me and my Thanksgiving Dinner here at the farm and the other I bought for Jon and Maria. They'll pay me to raise it and have it harvested for their own table. I'm proud and honored to do it.

I have been practicing with Merlin. I'm excited and nervous about this Sunday's show. Anyone who wants to come and watch is welcome, we ride at 9:30 on the dot and Patty and Steele ride right after at 9:36. Come up to South Cambridge and enjoy a day of pretty horses and jittery people. The weather will be divine.

Monday, May 7, 2012

jazz isn't well

Jazz is my 13-year old (possibly 14, not sure since he was adopted) Siberian Husky. He isn't at death's door, but has slowed down so much from his large leg tumor and thyroid problems that a mile walk is enough to end him for the whole day. It seems like yesterday this fiery wolf was pulling me across the Idaho forests. Now he has a hard time getting up. It is hard to watch. I don't know how much time he has with me, but he may have all of it.

Today was not one of the good days.


It is not this weekend! Please note the date was changed months ago, but folks are emailing me about directions for Saturday. It is May 19th!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

the monster and the mother

The ewe who's lamb was taken away will not stop crying out, sounding the call that once brought her babe running to her. It's hard to hear. Sometimes this place makes me feel like a monster. I steal babes from loving arms, chop off heads, hang bodies to skin and gut, and rip plants from the ground. It's just part of the story, of course. Every act of violence and deceit has a reason and an opposite cause. I am hearing that wailing mother, and it is ripping me up inside. But I also nearly cried through my smile, handing over the most beautiful ewe lamb in the world to Yesheva. It would be one of their new breeding animals, raised by an entire community who would call her by name. These are my friends, that lamb was a symbol of an entire year of work. She did not cry for her mother on the ride to Common Sense, just sat in Yesh's arms next to her 17-month-old son Rhea's car seat. She looked like a fertility goddess of spring. Her farmer's glow, perfect skin, flowing hair and lamb and child side by side. I was so proud to be a part of that photograph.

This weekend I engaged in so much physical labor and sleep I lost three pounds. I've been having a hard week, too many things happening at once and none of them pleasant. Nothing worth sharing here, and nothing consequential to my health or the general goings on of the world. Just life, family, old dogs, and friends and all their particulars and sustainabilities. I will be okay. I'm turning thirty in a few weeks and I still have so much growing up to do.

I don't know anything that heals me like work, save music. Tonight, tired and sore I set a pot of tea on the stove. While it puttered and smoked off whatever remains on the burner, I grabbed my fiddle in the kitchen. The fiddle I bought in Idaho, moved to Vermont with, and brought to New York. It isn't my 1900's Fiddle, not the one I gave away. It is a cheap fiddle from ebay. It sounds fine though, at least to me. All I wanted to play was one song, a favorite Appalachian Ballad I first heard in Tennessee called Blackest Crow. I played it until my hands ached.

I learned that song so many years ago, I brought it from Tennessee in my heart, learned it in Idaho on my first fiddle, played it on countless summer nights in the hammock at the cabin in Vermont. It rang out of this farmhouse tonight like an anthem. I played it clean. I played it with drones. I played and sang at the same time. I wish I could tell every practicing therapist in the world to hand their patients a pitchfork, a pig pen, a long walk and a fiddle. If it can help me fall to sleep it can help anyone.

blackest crow

now THAT'S determination