Saturday, July 21, 2012


tonight is going to be a night to remember.

Friday, July 20, 2012

progress is slow...

Thursday, July 19, 2012


just breathe

Someone emailed me today, asking for advice about fear. She asked. "When you are afraid, I mean really afraid, what do you do?  Afraid of life. Afraid of how you going to make it. Make the next payment, buy food, the basic fact of taking care of yourself?"

I get scared a lot. I'm scared right now, actually. I quit my job a little over a month ago and things are getting tight, fast. It's up to me to find the revenue to keep this place afloat doing what I love. This is why you see workshops, new ads, or the occasional item for sale. Money is a reality, and I need to earn a living like everyone else. Sometimes I get really worried everyone who reads this blog will just stop reading it, stop coming to workshops, stop looking forward to Antlerstock, and so on. I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating and scared, worried that deciding to make CAF my career was a pipe dream and a mistake. Worried I won't get the book deal I desperately need, and soon. Worried the power company will turn out the lights and the bank will take away my house and truck. I am a positive person, always have been, but I am also human. Fear is real. But we have the power to choose to fight it.

When I get scared I sing the chorus of the same song. I have sang it curled up in my bed at 3AM, tears running down my face thinking about a monster. I sang it when I was too tired or sick to really do outdoor chores, but knew the animals needed me, and this song came out while water buckets sloshed down my pants. I sang it when I didn't know how the mortgage would get paid this past June (first ever late payment, but I made it). I am sure I will sing it again, and soon.

So what's this song? It's called the Chillout Song, from the website of Ze Frank. One of his readers emailed him, asking for an audio hug of sorts. She wanted him to make up a song she could sing to herself when she was scared. Not only did he make up a song for her, he put it on his website and asked other people to send in recordings of themselves singing it. What he mixed together was this, and sent it to the scared woman. An entire online community came together, and the results are beautiful. Try it, if you need it. It helps.

Psst. If you can't listen to the song, try listening on his website, here, or buy it on itunes for one American dollar.

power: ride with us

Power is such a loaded word, isn't it? You can't hear it and not instantly file it away as something fantastical or maniacal. It brings up thoughts of Super heros or Gandalf waving his staff at a dragon. That, or it makes you think of ominous figures like despots, evil bosses, and abusive figures. It seems like a mythical thing, a dangerous thing.

But power isn't any of those things. Magic and abuse are not power. "Power" is nothing more than the ability to turn a decision into an action through a force of will. You want a cookie right now? You have the power to bake a batch, or go to the store and buy some oreos. You also have the power to bite into a Granny Smith instead, if weight is an issue. You have the power to step away from your desk and get some fresh air, take a deep breath, and think about your after-work plans. No one else is in charge of you. If you bought that lie, time to let it go.

You have the power to start a novel, train for your first 5k, go to auditions for your town's play or try to have your first kid. You have the power to ask him to marry you, or to tell the person you love them that you do. You have the power to get out of harmful relationships, negative thoughts, and squalor. If you think this is coming from a person with a perfect life, think again. Darling, I have my own dragons to slay and I'm no Gandalf.

You right now have the power to lose ten pounds, learn the cello, apply for a new job, plant a raised bed garden of winter greens, or take up kung fu. There's no reason, at all, that you can't be doing kung fu in your new garden after your first day of work at your new job in a size smaller pair of Wranglers.

You have the power to change anything you want to change. You just have to make up your mind and decide to do it. Then do whatever it takes to make it happen. The road isn't easy, but the logic is. Now, I'm not saying that everyone who tries, succeeds. But everyone who has succeeded at anything, had to try. You picking up what I'm putting down?

This is all within your ability and do not listen to a single person who tells you otherwise. They are a joke, and the joke is on them. Because no one who forces their negativity down your throat is a happy person, and in the end, the only person their anger affects is themselves. And they can writhe and spit hell all they want. You and me, we can watch them roll in their own filth from the backs of our horses. Anyone who avoids negativity in the name of their dreams can ride with me. We're heading west to camp, following the light.

I think it's important to realize this. That anything you want to work towards you have the power to try, and as long as there is breath in your lungs it's not too late. So many people wish into the air, but they don't try. They never really tried and they are the ones who end up yelling at everyone else. They didn't write down the game plan, get involved in any tangible way with their goals, not matter how small. Do not let yourself become one of these people. If you are one of these people, I invite you to change right now. Hop in the river, clean up your act, and join us. The view is better up here.

So today, try. I know I will.

We have the power.

civil war metaphorical pop music? YES.

on the lam

George escaped from the house last night only to get stuck in the netting around the potato patch ten minutes into his Freedom Ride. Gibson discovered him (I think it made his year) and then he threw up a mayonnaise packet.

Fun never stops around here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Don't Read This Blog
By Raven Pray Bishop

I've returned safely home from my visit with Jenna. In the time I was at CAF I milked a goat, shot a bow and arrow, made soap, swam in the Battenkill and fell in love with baby lamb Monday. These are memories I will keep forever of one of the rare, few and far between times I get to see my friend of ten years in person. I so appreciate her hospitality—and delicious homemade bread—over these past few days. With my new arrival on his or her way, who knows when we'll have this chance again?

At Antlerstock we farm-goers were sitting around the campfire and someone asked how I met Jenna. I think the story is very telling about our girl, so....once upon a time...

One day, all around our college dorm were fliers advertising Yoga Club. I'd been dabbling in yoga through high school and was excited to meet others who were interested, so I planned to be there at the place and time specified on the word-and-clip-art flier. Several days later, the fliers disappeared—vanished as though they never existed. Soon, however, new fliers took their place, this time for Knitting Club. Curiouser and curiouser, they had the same format and were scheduled for the exact same time and place as Yoga Club. So I changed my plans and arrived at that third floor dorm room, needles and yarn in hand. When I arrived, I found the room littered with cast-aside knitting paraphernalia and everybody was doing yoga. The girl leading the group (I think you know who this was) explained that she was told that she could not start yoga club because she was not a certified yoga teacher, so “Knitting Club” began in its stead.

It's this same “I'll find a way” attitude and perseverance that has led Jenna to follow her dream here to CAF. The knitting-yoga girl has grown into a woman whose vocabulary does not include the words “I can't” and this is why I believe people read this blog—to be inspired by her abominable spirit and to watch the amazing things that can happen with we give ourselves over to the “Of course I can” way of life.

But I don't read this blog.

When I tell people this, they can't believe it. But I don't read it because I get it “unplugged”. Since Tennessee (before Idaho), I've been one of Jenna's first-responders to the trials and tribulations of chasing and building this dream. I've been there for the elated, breathless phone calls when things went right and the late-night, tear streaked phone calls when they didn't. In her books and in her blog she writes with such a steadfast and humorous aplomb that it's easy to forget that this grounded perspective comes with a price paid in blood, sweat, tears and stress. Case in point—the instances of the dogs eating the chicks and the caged queen bee in Made From Scratch, when they happened live and unplugged, were downright traumatic. And when you know someone like I know Jenna, and you listen to a voicemail laced with tears and panic, you are reminded of that price she's paying each day to live this dream of hers.

I do have to say that these pained phone calls happen less and less these days. Lately, when I get the farm updates during our weekly phone calls, most mishaps, scares and tragedies are reported with the humor and perspective that happen when one comes into their craft and starts to get a rhythm. She's come a long way since the “ Raven, do you think it's crazy for me to write a book?” conversation. I think our girl's growing up, and I couldn't be more proud.

We have found ourselves living the lives that we giggled and whispered about over late night tea and candles in our dorm rooms. Both of our resumes tout achievements that are rare for women our age. Getting here, for both of us, is a story best told not through resumes, books and blogs, but through text messages, voicemail and three-hour phone calls. We've grown up and we've grown in separate directions, but through the years we've grown to trust we're always here at the end of the phone line to bear witness to each other's trials and joys. To give perspective—everybody needs that person who's going to say “cut the crap” as much as she says “way to go”.

Now we are entering the time in our lives where it's not about resumes and achievements anymore. We're playing for keeps here—she's full time on the farm now and I'm changing my name to Mommy—both labors of love that we've been pining for since we can remember; both requiring strength, perspective, dedication and spirit. It's a beautiful but scary threshold we are standing at now, and I'm thankful to know that we have each other—to know that I have a friend that is a voice of reason, an inspiration and a cheerleader.

It's sometimes easy for us to read a book or a blog and lose sight of the real person tapping away on the keyboard at the end of a day of real-life stuff. But aren't we lucky that there's someone who will share this life with us, inspiring us through that same yoga-knitter “I'll find a way” attitude that those old word-and-clip-art fliers foretold? I think we are.

But I'm still not going to read the blog, Jenna. I'll keep getting my CAF news unplugged.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

unrelated paragraphs

One of the biggest changes since leaving my office gig has been my attitude towards cleanliness. The house is cleaner than it has ever been, but my showering goes days between soap ups. before you cringe in your desk chair, here is why: rivers and rain. Last night a storm came through while practicing at a target in my backyard and I got soaked. I mean SOAKED. My motto: when you are falling, dive! So I took off my kilt and shirt, and sat down in the rain behind my house. I think it was my first ever time on green grass naked in the rain. Talk about a real shower... It was bliss. I got totally cleaned off from sweat and grime and went to bed content as a tired coyote. You could hear me purr from route 22.

The first crop of fiddles came to my door today. Five large boxes of Cremona Student models were waiting, each with their own case, bow, and rosin cake inside. I opened one up and felt as excited for its new owner as I was the first time I held my own fiddle. I got the bridge set up, the strings in tune, and rosined the bow and was thrilled at the quality of it. Compared to my first fiddle these were museum pieces. The long strokes of the bow were sweet after a day driving to Albany in a truck without air conditioning. 97 degrees and farm work I am okay with. 97 degrees and Albany I am not. I never was that into concrete and volume.

Hot days this week. I spend them all farming, writing, riding, shooting arrows and running. This place is a medieval boot camp, but I am feeling the healthiest I have felt in months. I got my highest score of the summer at the last team practice, double what I started with. It's amazing seeing what a few months of practice can teach the body and mind. Now when I aim an arrow, it matters.

Merlin and I train nearly every day. He and I made some progress today thanks to a garbage truck, but that's another story. We will ride on. If he think he can out-stubborn me he's got the wrong girl.

Storms on the way, followed by fireflies. I am ready for the barn.

Go Against the Grain with me!

Homemade bread is a staple at this farm. It is as naturalized in my environment as other native kitchen species like dark roast coffee, raw milk, and freezer chickens. My bread machine is pretty basic, just my two hands and the will to knead. My supplies are a bowl, a large spoon, and a few choice ingredients. Together this human animal and her learned skill has made this farmhouse smell like heaven and nourished my body and soul. I'm pro carbs around here. As the saying goes, happiness weighs more.

And yet, I recently decided I wanted to add another level to this love affair. I want to grow my own wheat right here in my own garden. Not a lot, not amber waves, maybe an amber raised bed? And not only do I want to grow it. I want to harvest it, mill my own flour, and make a broom from my own straw. I understand that we live in a time when bread is just a few dollars a loaf, waiting for us in plastic wrap at the grocery store. But I also understand how many preservatives, chemicals, diesel, and dangers go into something so wholesome produced so commercially. I want to go against the grain (pun intended, with gusto) and make this basic food from the ground up, something few people do. It'll be a lot more work, but a lot more rewarding. I'm certain of that

I want to do this, and I want to do it with you.
Keep reading, this is about to get real, people.

I want to make my first grain harvest OUR first grain harvest. I want to share in the journey from seed to bread together, as a community all over North America and beyond. I want to learn right along side you, with all of you there to get dirty, laugh, and support me along the way.

So here is the plan: We will plant in the spring, basic wheat, spelt, or whatever grain you prefer and follow our progress through next year's growing season. Then, at the very beginning of next August we will all gather with some of our dried wheat (stalks, head, and all) here at Cold Antler and learn the ancient skills associated with these humble grains together. We'll mill our own flour, of course, but we'll also learn to use the straw for crafts like broom making or hat weaving. It'll be a day of celebration and harvest, stories shared here in the farmhouse of our adventures "bringing in the sheaves."

So Join me in this! Anyone who wants to plant and read the story here, certainly can. But for those interested in another level of dedication and in supporting Cold Antler Farm can go against the grain right along side me in our own membered club. I am officially starting my Against The Grain Society right now. The Society is a combination of everything CAF has ever offered, online writing, a book, supplies and a workshop here at the farmhouse. Sign up for the price of an enhanced workshop ($160) and get the following:

• One pound of organic wheat seed in a cloth sack
• A copy of Storey's Homegrown Whole Grains by Sara Pitzer
• An invitation to The Society's Harvest Party here at the farm next Fall
• And a membership card with the special address for our own Society blog.

(CAF Season Pass members only need to pay for supplies and shipping)

That site will be a place to share recipes, post photos of our crops, support each other with advice for the garden or kitchen, and then harvest together as an online clan. This special site also means that you don't need to come to Cold Antler for the in-person workshop to be in the club. Instructions on buying a home grain mill, harvesting your seeds, making brooms... all of that will be available on the secret blog. We will plant in the spring in our "fields" (raised beds and gardens!) and follow the story together.

If you want to join the society, or give it as a gift, sign up by emailing me at - You can expect your membership kit of organic seeds, party invitation, book and instructions by August 1st of this year. Now, off to the fields with you!

Monday, July 16, 2012

pony chess

Merlin and I are going through a phase, and it is akin to a spoiled toddler getting everything he wants and just hearing the word "No." The first ride with Merlin was paradise, but ever since that incident with the bear (or whatever spooked him) he learned that balking and putting up a fight means getting his way. We have been playing pony chess ever since. He tries one move, then I try another. I call it "pony chess" because I remember reading about what Jon Katz called "border collie chess" with his dogs, who constantly test and outsmart him in a game of wits. Here's the horse version.

Example 1:
Yesterday he wouldn't go up a road because it involved a hill he didn't feel like going up. He stopped, that was his move.

My move: I turned him around the way he wanted to go (towards home, easy to do) and then backed his big rump up that hill! It took us 15 minutes with breaks and such, but I didn't give up.

Example 2:
He didn't even want to go down the road yesterday. Didn't even want to leave my driveway. That was his stupid move.

My move: I lunged him, walked him down the road, mounted him and rode him back home (which he wanted to do) but then stopped and got him to turn around and start walking away from home. That was a victory of patience, and I should have stopped there and called the day a small success. But I started feeling cocky and decided to ask him to go back off the main paved road to our usual dirt road trail.

Last Example:
His move: He would not go up that road.

My move: Ask with more force, use crop.

His move: Bucking and Kicking, No MEANS NO!

My last move: I stopped him hissy fit. Made him stand. Dismounted, and called Dave and Milt, local horse trainers, to come show me how to show him who's boss, safely.

So we will get through it. I'm not giving up, not stopping work with him, and I am not scared of that blowhard. I just need to be patient and learn how to make my point without causing his hissy fits. And maybe what he needs is a trainer to ride out those fits and STILL get what he wants. Merlin is testing me, probably for a mixture of reasons. But I did not get this horse to look out. We will ride again as a team soon, it'll just take some hard work, stubbornness, and magic and I got plenty of all three.

P.S. That image from yesterday was taken by Raven, a friend who is visiting the farm now. I do not have folks who document the blog for me, like someone asked, but I do hand friends cameras when they arrive! Raven will be posting a guest post later. She's known me ten years, pre and post farmer, and thought you guys would like some back story.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

merlin and i have some things to work out...

Drunk Rabbit (serves 5)

To make a satisfying rabbit dinner for up to five people, follow this easy recipe I created last night. It is an adaptation of a meal Patty Wesner cooked for Ajay and I a few weeks ago, but a little less refined. It still tastes great and makes a hearty meal for ladies and lumberjacks alike.

1 rabbit (2-3 pounds, fryer sized)
a bunch of garden carrots
1 tall can of Guinness
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of olive oil
garlic salt
package of egg noodles
pepper to taste
flour (for thickening meat broth)

Place your rabbit in the crockpot, the whole thing (bones and all) and cover it with the can of draught and the 1/2 cup of oil. Place carrots all around it and sprinkled some garlic salt over it. Set it on low for a few hours (4 here) until the meat is falling off the bone. You are almost done!

Remove the meat from the bone and set bones aside for broth/compost/chicken treats. Place meat back in the juicy beer broth and add your 1/2 stick of butter and a bit of flour to create a creamy texture, like a gravy to your rabbit stew. When you've added enough flour to make your sauce more like said gravy, you did it. You just made some drunk rabbit stew.

You can scoop it into bowls and enjoy it with some crusty bread or, do like the Wesners do, and boil some egg noodles and serve it like a form of farm house stroganoff. If I serve it over egg noodles, I always add butter and garlic salt to the noodles before I serve rabbit over them.