Saturday, July 28, 2012

today's frame of mind

anyone in illinois want to farm?

I got this email from a reader in Illinois, and if any of you are local to that area and want to help a fellow greenhorn, why don't you leave a comment or contact her? I'm sure they would appreciate it!

Jenna,

I just bought a small farmstead (5 acres) unused for about 40 years and am reclaiming it over the next year so we can move in and sell products at farmer's market. I know you are very busy...but I was wondering if you ever thought of using a blog entry to promote community for other farmers. This is my problem, too much to do and too few hands! Just me and my 2 sons, age 15 and 4. I was I hoping that some people might be in my same situation and need help while there might be others who are not yet on a farm who might be willing to offer help. You could write of this and perhaps state by state people could support each other.

Probably a crazy thought, but I know no one where my farm is located: Donovan, IL. And thought maybe some of your readers would want to help out me on a designated "Clear the Farm day" And if I am in this "boat" others must be too. Even if it is needed help picking produce/clear land/clean a garage etc...

So boils down to I need help from some Illinois readers/ west Indiana readers and I can return the favor to them in the "Future".

What do you think?
Thanks for reading:)

Holly Young

PS. Green beans, broccoli rabe, swiss chard, peaches, potatoes, chives, rosemary, oregano, cherry tomatoes, purple beans, corn, and eggs are all happening on my city garden, Have 11 chickens and 2 rabbits!

Friday, July 27, 2012

don't burn your face off!

Storms were supposed to ravage the farm last night but they never came. The system passed south and north of us and I was both grateful and disappointed. You know what I mean, happy to avoid the hail and damage but so looking forward to the world twirling around for me a bit. I like seeing the winds pick up, and the trees shiver, and how a dry farm smells when the rain first really hits it. Not too different then water hitting a hot-plate, but smokier.

Rain today. A few possible storms, but mostly rain. The kind of day I stay inside and write and watch Braveheart. I already have a pot of coffee brewing on the stove and another saucepan of water heating up to throw in oats, diced apple, and brown sugar and cinnamon to make a filling (and cheap) breakfast of champions. It also is getting me into the flavors of fall, which for a homesteader means anxiety. I have hay, firewood, and savings to rake in before snow falls and so far I'm working on the August mortgage, but it'll all get done. It always does. Worrying about it gets in the way of accomplishing it. At least for me.

Today is also about getting ready for the weekend of workshops. Tomorrow is beekeeping with Meg Paska and Sunday is the big soap and candle workshop with Kathy Harrison coming to teach the candle part. Kathy you may recognize from National Geographic's Doomsday Preppers. (She was the most normal person on the show, homesteading in the Berkshires.) I met Kathy at the Mother Earth News Fair last year and we hit it off. It's her birthday Sunday, too. I may have to visit the new cupcake shop in Greenwich for her!

I'll be putting together everyone's soapmaking kits this afternoon. They include olive oil and coconut oil in jars as well as gloves and a booklet called "How to Make Soap without Burning Your Face Off." which I think gets to the point pretty darn well. It's out of Microcosm Publishing of Kansas, which makes a bunch of inexpensive and artistic indie booklets on everything from making your own herbal first aid kit to parenting for punks. Like all their titles, it's written in a friendly, and easy to understand tone with all the proper safety steps without filling the soapmaker-to-be with fear. I mean, I get it. Lye is a pretty dangerous thing. But as readers have pointed out before, so is getting into your car in the morning. Might as well make soap.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

firefly

I found this lightly used endurance saddle on eBay, darn cheap too. I had been eyeing up this type of comfortable, light, trail saddle for a while and was thrilled when this one was up for grabs for under fifty bucks. It is loaded with rings and straps to use for the trail, for attaching saddle bags and strapping down blankets or jackets. The kind of saddle for me: English, but with a little less class and a little more excited about the trail. I already gave it a name too: Firefly. The black synthetic cover and the yellow stitching reminded me of my glowing friends. The seat looks kind of like a thorax on an insect. I will transfer over my irons and leathers from the saddle I currently use (well loved, but on the small side for me) and give it a try next week. It's the first saddle I ever bought for Merlin and I'm excited to try it out when it arrives!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

monday, gibson, and me in the side yard

tater patch

bags-on-sticks and other miracles

Using the skill set I acquired from the trainer on Monday, I decided to give Merlin a try again today (after a well-earned day of rest to let it sink in for both of us). I decided to follow Dave's method to the letter, and started by tying a plastic bag to the end of a carriage whip and setting it by the farmhouse front door.

With my trusty Bag-On-a-Stick I went upstairs to my office/tack room and brought down my english tack, changed into a pair of favorite Kerrits tights, and set up everything I would need to work with Merlin, from fly spray to helmet, on the grass where I tack him up. Once the setting was locked and loaded with gear and space, I went to get my stubborn pony.

With just a lead rope and halter I did the same ground work Dave showed me, to best of my ability. I made sure that when I moved in a direction, Merlin was moving out of my way and then squaring up to show me both eyes and relaxing before we moved forward with any more motion. If he rested a rear hoof or sighed, I walked up and pet him. If he acted up I waited until he slowed down and relaxed again. Twenty minutes of this and he wasn't blowing or sweating, but watching me. Just learning that when I step around to the right, he best step to the left and keep his front facing me, those big hindquarters safely tucked away.

Happy with our ground training, I started grooming. I am not a fast groom, nor a fast tacker-upper. I check feet and clear the frog of any mud or stones. I brush legs, belly, back, rump, neck and mane. I rubbed his forehead Amy Flemming Style. I then saddled him up, tightened the girth, put on his bridle and walked him to the mounting block (AKA Lehigh Valley Farms milk crate) and hopped on him.

I instantly thought of my riding instructors Hollie and Andrea from Riding Right. In Hollie's book, the very first lesson is "Have a plan before you get on." My plan was this: to have a short, pleasant, ride with Merlin on a quiet country road. To go up the hill a short distance, just to the neighbors driveway (about 100 yards), and then stop him, turn him around, get him past my own driveway and down the mountain a quarter mile or so. Just enough to communicate and enjoy the summer sun and the feeling of being with him. Then stop, turn home, and before I get home turn him back towards the road and have him walk a bit before dismounting a good ways from my driveway (so he doesn't assume driveway = done work). If you can follow that, then you either have horses or aren't giving yourself enough credit for critical thinking skills.

So that was my plan. A short ride where we do all the things we have been struggling with and then end facing away from the farm and dismounting when I please, not him. But first I had to get him out of the driveway. Soon as I got on he started heading towards Jasper, so I did what Dave told me to do, Take his feet out from under him and turned him in a tight circle and gave him a piece of heel when we were facing the road.

He fussed for about 45 seconds and we were out of the driveway! I think I actually Yee Hawed!

We followed the ride plan perfectly. We rode uphill, turned around and then went past the farm a quarter mile or so. I bet we could have gone farther but I wanted this lesson to be all about him getting rewarded for doing as I ask. He did everything I asked, and was a perfect gentleman. I walked him the short way home, took off his tack, and sent him back into the paddock with Jasper and a cookie.

This is such great progress folks. A horse I couldn't even get to leave my yard took me out on a pleasant stroll. And I did it all without needing a trainer or a friend around for support, so I feel brave. Time to celebrate with some lemonade and then some archery in a kilt!

The Farmer's Horse:
A Hallow's Workshop

I am quivering with excitement as I write about this! This October 27th the Saturday of Hallow's, Cold Antler Farm and Livingston Brook Farm are co-hosting an all day workshop on the Farmer's Horse. A whole day dedicated entirely to equine draft power for field, road, and pasture!

The point of the workshop is to learn the basics of taking on a horse, pony, or mule as a beginner farmer. Whether it is a farm pony like Jasper or a bigger draft like Steele, this is a day for you to gain some hands-on experience and get your questions answered, farmer to farmer, about the realities of working and living with horses.

This is not a horse-training demo, professional clinic, nor is it driving lessons. It is a friendly first step towards working with horses in your own life. It's an introduction to the broad-backed basics of working horses. The breeds of horses and work, the equipment and harnesses, and will end with a lecture by a seasoned Natural Horsemanship trainer's advice on choosing a horse of your own some day.

The day will start out at Cold Antler Farm where you'll get to meet Jasper and Merlin and learn the basics of housing, fencing, and keeping a horse on small acreage. We'll talk about riding your horse, and the kinds of saddles and styles of bridles, bits, reins, and tack. We'll talk about what to realistically expect cost wise and how I manage to do it here at Cold Antler. We'll harness a horse together, going over all the pieces and parts of that complicated beast. Learn what those strange words and straps mean, and how it all fits together and what they do. Lead Jasper along with a stack of firewood on the back of a stone boat. Learn about curb chains and blinders with Steele. There will be discussions on how to proceed in your own area, too: mentors, local draft clubs and such.

Lunch will be brought, bagged. Please bring a picnic style spread for your own enjoyment. We'll most likely break sometime in the early afternoon.

After lunch we'll drive a few miles over to Livingston Brook Farm where we'll meet Steele, the Percheron with power, and see the same stuff on a larger scale and enjoy some time in the back of a cart. Patty will talk about her own experience with her horse, how they learned together. She'll give you rides and show us her different vehicles (cart, sleigh, and forecart) and talk about the uses and advantages of all.

After all that a Driving Specialist/ Natural Horsemanship trainer will be there to give an afternoon lecture on selecting the right horse for you, and what to look for when you are ready to grab the reins. This will be a chance to really ask the hard questions. A nice wrap-up to our day of Draft School 101.

When the workshop part is over we'll dismiss and those who want to stick around can stay for a cookout/campfire are welcome! And get this, we'll end things right. With the light of lanterns and jack-o-lanterns we'll enjoy a campfire reading of excerpts from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and sip hot cider and warm stews under wool blankets around the flickering light. And if you never heard the tale of our own New York State's Headless Horseman after a day with horses around a campfire...well, you best come and find out!

If interested, please email me at Jenna@itsafarwalk.com to sign up. Half of the workshop fee will be needed upfront ($75) and the second half paid the day of the class. Discounts for couples and groups, as always. Mark your calendars and get out your deerskin gloves, we're going grab those reins!

night in the 'toga

Spent last night doing something out of the ordinary. I went out to Saratoga with a friend for dinner, and after my amazing meal at Hattie's, walked the city streets. The racing season just started and the historic track just a few blocks from the heart of the city was humming. The energy from the days races spilled over into the town. Tourists and race fans from all over were in milling about, filling up restaurants and swaggering down the street. I loved it, the whole scene. (I rarely get to wait for pedestrian walking signs anymore.) The whole night in the city was a bit of a fairy tale. A tale that started with southern cooking and ended with three shooting stars seen from the view of a hot tub. What a way to end a Tuesday.

As for this sunny Wednesday, I'm about to get back in the saddle for the first time since Dave was here to work with Merlin and I. I'm nervous about it, because going out alone is always harder, at least mentally. With out another person there I lose a lot of confidence, and second guess myself. But I keep remembering that Merlin is my horse, and this is our partnership and all the friends watching or taking videos do not alter the communication between us. I'll get on his back, and do my best, and hopefully report back with progress, even if was hard won.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Humidity: Life in The Shire

When I stepped outside my front door this morning with Gibson to do the morning chores I was stepping into a brand new world from the one I left the night before. It has been so dry, for so long, and this morning the blessed humidity was back and I was bubbling with energy. My body instantly burst into a light sheen of sweat. I took in a deep breathe of the wet air and let it fill my lungs, smiling. In half an hour my body would be dripping, and then I'll change into running gear and really learn what humidity is. Water and life, everywhere. I love humidity.

People complain about this weather because they feel it is uncomfortable. Yup, sure is. So why is being uncomfortable bad if you are a healthy, young, human animal? Why do we think constant comfort is normal? Or good? I know a lot of people who are never sweating, never heaving, never working their bodies and they are killing themselves doing it. I may be a sweaty mess of gasping effort, but you can see the white of my eyes and I am getting into the best shape of my life.

To me, humidity is the reason I am comfortable. Sweat and heat, those are not things to avoid. Those are the things that make my body hum. They're also the things that make my farm, hell, my region of the country, hum. Last night I sat outside in a hammock in the dark, watching thousands of fireflies light up my farm while thunder rumbled in the distance and lightning danced. The storm was far off. If I was in danger, I didn't care and wasn't moving from under the giant broad-leafed king Sugar Maple. I was barefoot, and below my swinging feet was a lawn of soft grass and clover. My arms were feeling long and strong. They were deep brown in their summer tan, and wet with sweat (the default condition this summer). Bits of hay and chaff covered them like sparkles, sticking to my skin like so many set jewels. I felt beautiful. I felt lush, and heaving and alive out there swaying above the world. I felt young, full of possibilities, and I could not stop smiling. I was drunk on this free summer, where a Monday night means nothing different than a Friday night.

All around me the fireflies waltzed, the thunder purred, and the sky shot full of light. I was so tired from a day of shooting, riding, writing, and running and this resting pose felt decadent. Even though the world was hot, I knew what it felt like to be dripping sweat and gasping for breath earlier, running up my mountain to drop pounds and remove toxins from my body. In comparison this humid night was a cool breeze blowing through a sauna. It was heavenly.

Humidity is my best friend. It means I live in a place where water is so abundant that it thrives in the very air, in the mud under my feet, in the flashing sky. My friend Othniel says we live in a deciduous rain forest and he is right. The Northeast is so lush, so alive, that you can put a rock out on your front lawn in the shade and it will grow moss. Life is always finding a way here. And the best part of course, Autumn. When all this life explodes into one last party of color before sleep. When nights wrap you up in heavy hooded sweatshirts and your favorite pair of jeans at bonfires and Halloween cornfields. It's the payoff in relief and respite a summer of life offers. Celebration an entire season that ends with that first pristine snowfall. A howl and a prayer.

I lived out west for a while and while I appreciated its particular kind of beauty, but it wasn't correct to me. I didn't realize that until I moved back to New England and saw a spring explode the forests and hillsides in non-stop green. It was shocking, almost a fantasy. I remember just staring at a May forest totally shocked. It was the most life I had seen in a year. Holy cow, it was a festival of lushness, almost pornographic. Not just trees, but thousands of leafy, bustling story tops where pines were the rarity. Growth below in vines, mosses, bushes, flowers, ferns. Everywhere sunlight touched there was clover or grass. Here was the Shire, not the Misty Mountains.

I belong in the Shire.

this looks wonderful...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Merlin and Trainer Dave

Dave came over today to accomplish two things: trim Merlin's feet (he's a farrier) and help me with my bossy pony (he's also a great horse trainer). He did both, and by the end of his two-hour visit I was on the back of Merlin, trotting up forest roads and around the mountain with a huge smile on my face and my boy sporting a brand new pedicure. It was such a joy to have my horse back, to be moving across the landscape as a team and not fighting in the road. I learned so much today, and I want to tell you all about it.

Dave started with ground work. Teaching Merlin to respect his space and get out of his way. His tool for this was nothing more than a piece of plastic on a carriage whip, but it did wonders. Fifteen minutes of following orders on the ground (with lots of helpful explanation from Dave) and Merlin was a calmer, quieter, pony. I was amazed at this and pieces of things I was watching on videos and reading in books were coming together right in front of my eyes. A good horse in the hands of a good trainer is a beautiful, beautiful, thing.

After we did the flag-based ground work in a circle, Dave took him up and down the road on his lead rope, driving him ahead of him and controlling his direction with his trusty plastic bag on the stick. Merlin behaved so much better around Dave, and for a lot of reasons. Mostly because Dave knew exactly what buttons to push and started him out on the ground establishing himself as herd leader. That groundwork, I am quickly learning, is the gold standard of horse training. Everything starts on the ground and leaping up on Merlin and expecting to be a cowgirl was a recipe for disappointment. He and I both need that communication time on solid footing. The learning curve here is straight up, folks.

After much success with him on terra firma, we gave Merlin a break from training for his hoof trimming. Dave worked right in the front lawn, checking and clipping his feet while talking shoes and tack. Merlin is barefoot and Dave thinks he is doing well without shoes and unless I start driving him to town every day he should do well unshod. I agreed. Merlin stood like a statue for him, calm as a monk in deep zazen. Dave stood back, crossed his strong farrier arms, and said "This is a NICE horse. He's better than you realize. He may need some work, and so do you, but he is a NICE horse." I lit up the front yard with my grin.

After that we both took turns riding him. Merlin really put Dave through his paces but through consistent work we got him out of the driveway, up and around local dirt roads, and I watched a pro put my pony through his paces. I picked up some hints and tips and by the end of the two hours Merlin was doing exactly as I asked of him, little to no fuss at all. We rode better today than ever before and I was grateful.

Here's the two problems with Merlin: lack of foundation work and me. He was given a long break from regular riding (about four years) and then handed a green rider to start with him again. A rider who knew how to trot around a dressage ring with trained school horses but had little experience and confidence around a greener horse out on wild trails. I went from 0-60 in my expectations and now I am learning what it takes to keep up with my goals. It's taking guts, sweat, patience, money and dedication. But today was a huge step in building a healthier partnership with Merlin and learning how to communicate, correct, and convince him to work with me. Dave was amazing, and we already planned to have him come back in a week. We're going to ride Western next Monday, a first for me.

So stay tuned for more horse tales here. The story is far from over! After all, Merlin and I might enter the Washington County Fair in a few months, or at least start driving regularly. His cart is almost ready and I am growing so much out of these experiences. No regrets, only excitement!

LAST CHANCE TO SIGN UP!
Beekeeping 101 Workshop with Meg!

Meg Paska, of Brooklyn Homestead , the beekeeping author and urban farmer of wonder, will be here July 28th for a beginner's beekeeping workshop! This is for all types of farmers, homesteaders, city-dwellers and rooftop adventurers. Bees can live anywhere an 8-framed box can go. Don't be discouraged if you live on a postage stamp lawn in the middle of Queens or a 1/2 acre plot in suburbia. Beekeeping is a great companion to chickens and gardens, a beautiful and natural addition to your food-producing backyard. Meg will cover all the basics, do a demonstration and talk with the Cold Antler Hive and hopefully (bees be willing) we'll do some extracting and everyone can go home with some of that sweet, beautiful, gold.

We'll do a raffle at the event for a complete beginner kit as well. Everyone who attends can enter for this grand prize: a hive body, frames, veil, gloves, smoker, hive tool, beekeeping book, etc. You just need to add the bees, and you can talk to Meg about that. She sells them and Patty over at Livingston Brook Farm is pleased as punch with her NYC bees at her Washington County Farm.

Pack a bagged lunch, there will be plenty of iced, bottled water available for the drinking. If you are coming from out of town and need a place to stay, check out Cambridge's Chamber of Commerce site her for lists of inns and hotels. As all workshops go, starts at 10AM and goes till 4PM. Will include a farm tour, lunch break, and regular joshing and mucking about that we have all come to adore.

Sign up by emailing me, Season Pass members simply let me know you'll be attending.

photo from rooftopfarms.org

Attention, Workshop Folks!

If you are coming to the Soap and Candle Making Workshop this Sunday, please email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com. I am gathering the supplies for soapmaking kits and need a final count of folks leaving with soap making supplies. Also, if you are coming to Beekeeping 101 with Meg Paska on Saturday, let me know as well. Looking for a final count as some folks changed dates or upgraded to Season Passes.

Everyone remember to bring a packed lunch! See you this weekend!

always by my side

Gibson and I are always together. We've never spent a night apart, and even when I worked in an office he came with me. He's been with me since he was 8 weeks old, the night I drove him home from the Albany Airport in my old orange Ford pickup. He knows no life but Cold Antler Farm, and spends his days being the kind of dog other dogs can only see in television commercials. He is barely ever on a leash, listens to me at conversation tones and speech, and never leaves my side at a party. He's welcome everywhere I go in my small town—Battenkill Books, the Alexander's hardware store, my bank, the Battenkill river for a swim—he is welcome too.

I should write more about Gibson. He's grown into an amazing dog and my closest friend. I don't know if we'll ever step into a herding trial field together, but he certainly works this farm. He helps me catch chickens, gather sheep, contain lambs, and keeps me warm on cold nights. He rides along in the truck, smiles all the time, and just a look at him and I beam.

Border Collies aren't for everyone, but they are mine.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'll be the phonograph

deer on cat tranqs and other normal things

This image of "Highland archers" shows an unshod team of kilted hunters springing upon some apathetic deer in the woods. The one on the left is apparently tripping on cat tranqs, since it didn't think to run off until the archer was about to brain him. I saw this image and laughed at it, and then stopped laughing when I realized today was my archery practice. And I wear kilts. And I spend a lot of time barefoot....

And I can't wait for deer season.

Hmm.

Today on the way to our usual team practice, Elizabeth and I were talking. I was telling her about a friend who came to visit a few months ago and was very nervous about germs and ticks. I explained to Elizabeth about this woman's constant washing, body checking and bug sprays, her several shoe changes, refusal to swim in the river or eat food from the farm. I must have sounded totally shocked and Elizabeth said, very patiently, "I don't think you realize how different you are, and how your far from normal your lifestyle has become. And now that you aren't even going to the office, you're REALLY out there." I agreed with her, and thought about the HIghland Archers, and realized I had more in common with them than most people I graduated college with. What do you think it means if the people in woodcuts are more applicable to your Tuesdays than the ones in fashion magazines?

But I'm not that different. I root for the New Directions at Nationals EVERY YEAR (and I sing along). I never miss the Daily Show and Colbert Report. I have Mac-n-Cheese with powdered cheese stuffs in a box in my cubpoard. I get stupid crushes. I own every season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and stand by it as the best television show of all time and anyone who disagreed has simply never watched it. I post on Reddit. The Postal Service's song Brand New Colony can still make me run uphill when my legs are shaking. I buy Chinese take out. I swoon over Jamie Fraser. I wanted a pony growing up. I have a degree from a state school I no longer use. I subscribe to Vogue. I love getting a dress on and going out to dinner. I fall in love every five years with such focus and ridiculous loyalty I can't cheat on those people I'm not even dating, because it feels wrong. I bite my nails. I drive horribly (but park awesomely). I've been on It's a Small World in Disneyworld. I think Neil Patrick Harris might very well be the next step in human evolution. I fight with my parents. I have a fridge plastered with stickers and photos. I love romantic comedies that feature Hugh Grant and/or Sandra Bullock and when they are together I feel 13 souped up on sugar and hope. I like concerts and burritos. I love dogs. I drive a used truck I owe more money on than I care to admit. I'm not perfect. I'mnot even that good at farming. I'm a million lightyears from Martha Stewart. I'm not everything you think I am.

But yeah. I don't care if I step in chicken poo barefoot in a kilt while shooting arrows. But if that's your bar for normalcy I was gone a long time ago.

So, woodcuts. A+

sunsets and twinkle lights

Yesterday was such a wonder. It was a day off, in every sense. A day off from fighting with Merlin, from jogging, from archery, and from writing. I called it off as a true Saturday, and with the exception of the usual morning and evening chores, I was a free woman.

My good friends, Patty and Mark were throwing a beautiful outdoor party for their Californian daughter, back for a visit on the east coast. It was a day in her honor, a sort of post-wedding reception for all the friends and family who didn't make it out to Mexico for her Destination Wedding the year before. And what a party it was. Catered with a 200+ chicken bbq, a gold-dusted cupcake tower, sunflowers and daisies as far as the eyes could see, and a live bluegrass band under a tent—what a feast and what a show!

I put on a sleeveless sundress, did my hair, makeup, grabbed a white casting shirt and felt like a Kennedy going to a garden party. Big events like this aren't really a part of my normal life anymore. Either due to distance from the farm (or everyone I know being busy with their own farms) grand levees like this are a scandalous rare treat and this one would be full of younger folks my age visiting from Boston, L.A. and New York City. I was excited to dress up, meet people, dance, and be merry in general.

I was bringing a Gin Bucket, and it was welcomed. For those of the uninitiated, a Gin Bucket is a 5-gallon container (usually a bucket or large cooler) holding the following: ice, lemon lime soda, 2 handles of gin, fresh-squeezed lemons and limes (toss in the halves after you squeeze them), and seltzer or tonic. It is pretty much a mini-keg of Gin and Tonics, and just as lethal. But it is a lot easier pouring giant ladles of the Gin Bucket potion into mason jars then it is serving and mixing 30 people the separate summer mixed drink. So The Gin Bucket came to the rescue in a giant plastic hardware store plastic bucket and Patty and Mark welcomed it behind the bar. No one complained, and all the folks from the West Coast had never had a Gin Bucket ladle before so I think I may have helped spread that disease.

The action was between 2-6PM, and that whole time Ajay was working hard tending barn inside the old threshing barn, making people whatever he could manage from his ten years of restaurant experience (which is anything they wanted). By the time I had my big dinner plate of chicken and pork, fresh rolls, and a cupcake I had to run home to do my chores. When I returned the bulk of the day-time guests had left leaving around fifty people mingling to the stereo, and I saw Ajay in a lawn chair taking in the sunset with a mixed drink. He looked tired and happy. I joined him, Gibson at my side, and we just sat in lawn chairs, (tired and now with a slight buzz) as the sun made its way down behind the valley. Better than television, and enhanced by the soundtrack of Josh Ritter playing over the stereo. The song Girl in the War triumphed into its last verse as the last rays of light hit the hay fields.

That is what contentment feels like.

By night fall the same farm was transformed into a beautiful wedding dance and table area. It lit up with hundreds of tiny white lights and it felt like a firefly after-party, twinkling above people dancing on the lawn barefoot or making their third Cosmo of the evening sing in their bellies. I got to meet new people, dance, sing with my sheepdog, drink, eat and laugh and it was exactly what I needed after a hard week of farming, writing, aiming arrows and training my pony. Patty and Mark put on the dog like no one I've yet to meet and I already told them I wanted my wedding reception there. "For you girl, okay."

Theoretical wedding, of course. No romance in my story right now, won't be for a while I'm sure. But someday, someday friends, I am going to waltz barefoot under those barn lights and hold on with fierce joy to him. He'll feel it too. And even if he never waltzed with a black pony riding dire wolf before, well, there's a first time for everything. Right?

Right.

last night, under the lights