Saturday, August 11, 2012

muddy buddies

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gle Mvah!

Well, I'm teaching myself Scottish Gaelic. Don't get too excited because it's what I do for five minutes before falling asleep at night in bed, my bedtime reading. And I'm doing it for no reason other than to better read the old tales and music from that land I love so much, that I'm drawn so strongly to. I have piles of Celtic folklore and tales and don't even know how to pronounce the places and names. I decided to remedy that and its been fun. I'm no expert, heck I am barely capable, but between books and Youtube on my iphone in bed it's not so hard to get into a thing these days. I thought I'd share a basic greeting conversation through my two Scottish critters here: Gibson and Monday, both from ol' Alba (that's Scotland in, well, Scottish). I have the proper spelling first and how to pronounce it in the parenthesis. And if you want to hear it all spoken and explained, click this link here.

Gibson: Ciamar a tha sibh? ( Kimeer a har shiff)
Monday: Tha gu math. Ciamar a tha sibh, fein? (Ha goo mah. Kimeer a har shiff, fee-in)
Gibson: Gle Mvah!! Tapadh leigbh!
(Glay Vah! Tapa lef!)


Gibson: How are you?
Monday: I am well. How are you?
Gibson: Very well! Thank you!

Bonus phrase! m' math cu! (mmm mah coo)
Translation: my good dog (male dog, female would be m' math chu)

Yes, I'm a nerd.

a note about emails


I am very very overwhelmed right now and can't keep up with emails. Sometimes (twice this week) folks emailed me to follow up on older emails and said they were hurt I did not respond. All my lack of response means is I didn't get to the email yet. I try to respond to as many as possible but often I have to prioritize emails for workshops and sponsors above conversational, advice, and barter request emails. I don't mean it as disrespectful, I appreciate all letters sent or shared. It is simply a matter of not enough time. It's only 4:40PM and I have received 324 emails today. About 30 are folks saying hello or asking advice (thank you, by the way)and the rest are blog comments to approve, emails from sponsors and workshop attendees, friends and family, and things like bills and company mailing lists. Between the farm, the book hitting the deadline, and planning for winter and expenses I am just behind, more so then ever before. I just ask for understanding and patience. If I don't respond, please send it again. If I don't respond to the resend, send it again! I am doing my level best.


feeling better, figuring out fall

Daylight did come, and I met the day with a better attitude. I really believe if you're scared and negative all you do is draw more fear and negative things to you. If I'm positive and act in accordance to my own will, things happen for the better. You can call it faith, magic, prayer, or the Mayan 2012 prophecy, I don't care. But I do know that you get what you think about. I chose to think about getting where I need to be.

Here's the situation. My mortgage and car payment are up to date. Merlin's payment is up to date. My student loans and trash pickup are up to date as of today. My electric bill and internet bill is up to date. My home, health, dental, and car insurance is up to date. There is a start to my hay stash in the barn and Patty and I worked out a deal that if I can't buy it all now I can buy hay from her second cutting she stores in her barn, paying as I go through the winter. So I have a backup plan for hay if I can't get it all in before snowfly, but I do want at least a 2-month supply on hand. I'll feel better knowing that its there. So will the animals. I can get a hundred bales, I am almost halfway there already.

Firewood news! I got a week-long farm sitting job($!) for a neighbor down near Cambridge's famous Content Farm and they took down thirty old trees last summer that seasoned all year and they need help clearing it out. They said if I am willing to help with my truck hauling and moving logs and cut and splitting their stove wood I can take home some as well, probably a full cord! Thats a fine exchange of time and labor for heat so I am thrilled. It will cut my boughten wood costs in half.

I need to order a large order of lumber from the mill to finish up the siding on the horse's pole barn, but Brett told me I could ask for all rough-cut, seconds, or scraps and might get a discount. I certainly know it can't hurt to ask the guys at the mill. Anything I can save is money that stays in the bank, to pay off debts and work towards my own freedom. I might be dog paddling while I do it, but my head is above water and that's success in its own right.

All these things are slow progress, but progress. All figure out already, and I knew them in my logical mind but like a comment said in the daylight post earlier, anything after midnight is just pure emotion. It's not about sense, just anxiety.

I feel better, more in control. I know I'll get the mortgage paid on time, and the truck payment on time, and soon everything will be ready and ordered for the barn. I have Brett and Ajay to help with the hard stuff and big plans to make for the Fair and Antlerstock and all of it will come together. I was feeling scared last night, but I don't think I'll go there tonight. A little valerian and chamomile tea and some rest will pull me through to dawn without a fuss.

You can't let despair get a hold of you, if you do you're going down. Negativity hunts in packs like a pride of lionesses. You slow down enough to let one jump on your back and slow you down and in no time a hundred other things weigh you down until you can't even try to swing. You are helpless, punching under water. I am not going there. I have a plan. I made my choice. I'm farming right here, dammit and nothing is going to slow me down.

Lionesses, eat my dust.

Attn: Tomorrow's Rabbit Workshop Attendees

So things are looking good for tomorrow's workshop! We'll meet here tomorrow at 10AM and do morning introductions and a farm tour, have an indoor lecture and then go out to the barn to talk about what to look for in stock and such. After our lunch break (please remember to bring a sack lunch!) we'll field trip over to Livingston Brook Farm (just 10 minutes away) for the slaughter demonstration and tour of Patty's larger rabbit operation. She'll have animals for sale so if you want to leave with your own livestock, bring a cage. She charges 40.00 per Flemish Giant and has other breeds available as well. If the folks attending could email me to go over directions and such, I'd appreciate it!

So bring along your meal, cages if you need them, and rain gear just in case. We'll have cover and a garage for the demo at Patty's but there will be some time outside that your raincoat might help with. And if anyone out there wants to join in there are still some spaces left. Just email me, and we can work out the details. Looking forward to it!

Five Year Anniversary!

So this week marks the 5-year anniversary of Cold Antler Farm. Five years of one person's story, covering three different farms in three different states. I thank you all for reading. You've helped turn a renter's dream into her full time job. It took a few years, sure, but we did it. In celebration of the last five years and many more to come, I thought I'd share the first ever post from back in August of 2007.

Welcome to the blog for Cold Antler Farm. Cold Antler isn’t a place - It’s an idea. Named for my love of cervine symbols in ancient cultures and the poems of Han San, Cold Antler seemed like the perfect name for home. Right now Cold Antler is a retired cattle farm in Sandpoint Idaho. Here I raise chickens (heavy laying hens and some black silkie bantams), angora rabbits and a hive of honeybees. I also tend a few hearty gardens. I live with my two working housedogs, Siberian huskies named Jazz and Annie. They are working pack and sled dogs, and like everyone here at the farm, they do their part. My goal is greater sustainability and self-sufficiency in a world where those two things seem to have gone out of fashion. Being a renter, this takes a little more ingenuity and adaptability than the permanence of a regular farm...

This will be a place that hosts all farm-related posts from my personal blog and specific updates on my upcoming book. Idaho rural living, and local farm events (Like the upcoming county fair later this month!). Readers of Dogcoffin, will see a lot of double posts between the two blogs as this one becomes my main online contact and the coffin goes into a protected or offline mode. So thank you for taking time to check up on the barn at the end of the world and check in often.

small gift, big smile

Yesterday was my lesson with Trainer Dave and Merlin. Some of the Daughton Clan was there including Jacey, their oldest daughter and her new baby girl, Jane. Jacey loves horses, has ridden all her life and was looking forward to some time at the farm to be around horses and trainers again. I was honored to have her along. We learned new things, tricks and steps. Dave said I'm looking better, more comfortable. I told him for me it was time in the saddle. The more I do a thing the more comfortable I am. Every day I ride Merlin I feel I am growing as a person, getting braver and more patient at the same time. Not a bad gift from a black pony on a hill.

When we were done with the lesson, I told Jacey to hop up. She was happy to ride him and I got to see what a lifetime of riding looks like. Merlin was perfect for her and Jacey looked like a pro. When we were done she asked if she could brush him (of course!) and she braided blooms of Queen Anne's Lace into his long mane. There was a real connection there, that woman knows horses. I can only hope to get there some day myself. As a thank you she offered me a little gift, a small hand-painted watercolor.It gave this tired gal quite the big smile. Thank you, Jacey.

daylight on the way

Well, it's three in the morning and I can't sleep. I'm up because I am worried about this fall. I feel like I won't be ready for it, there's so much to prepare and plan for. It's mid August and I have only 42 bales of hay put up and one cord of firewood. I have plans and sources for the hay and wood but the gathering of it all is slow and nail-biting.

I do not regret my decision to leave Orvis, I needed to leave for many reasons and each of those many reasons was justification enough to move on. There are so many exciting things ahead for me: The Mother Earth News Fair and my keynote address there (I'll be talking about you guys, hint hint), Fiddle Camp, Antlerstock, and October herself. I am grateful and I feel blessed. I have supportive and loving friends, and every day is filled with so much beauty it can bring me to my knees, and often does.

But the truth is that 8-5 job was a grounding point, not real security by any means, but it was easier to fool myself into thinking it was because that's what all of our peers and family think it is. Every two weeks money came in no matter what, long as I stayed on the payroll and the truth is, I miss it. Here, every day is open and free but the past month has been dedicated entirely to figuring out how to get my feet on the ground and prepare for winter. It gets scary, especially alone at 3 in the morning when everything seems impossible and daylight is hours away. I don't want to be rich, I just want to know I'm breaking even and the bills are getting paid, wood is stashed, hay is in the barn, and then winter won't be as ominous. I can focus on the firelight instead of the cold. It's a choice to focus on what's good instead of what's bad. I try to be positive but it is hard sometimes.

Having a website like this is hard. If you write about fears concerning money, people think you are asking for it. I'm not asking for anything, and I'd like to make that clear. But I do want to share the part of the story that involves it. Because I think a lot of readers out there want to transition into full-time farming or self-employment and while I would never go back I think there are ways to prepare that make the transition easier. I thought I did those things, but not enough of them. I am learning from my mistakes one 3AM at a time...

Daylight is coming soon. I'm not giving up the good fight.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I gasped when I saw it!

a boot story

These boots were purchased at Whitman's Feed and Tack down in North Bennington, Vermont years ago. Before I ever took a riding lesson at Riding Right Farm I went to the store and asked if they had riding boots on sale. They did, but only western style. These Ariat men's paddock boots were on sale for sixty dollars. I wore them under a pair of jeans to my first English Riding Lesson and realized pretty quickly they weren't the right gear for the scene. People had on tall boots and shiny black paddocks with half chaps. I was told I didn't have to buy any gear for the lessons, but most people realized that knee-padded breeches and boots or half chaps made a big difference after an hour in an English saddle. My instructors were right, and so I set aside my cowboy boots in my mud room, to be worn another day when I felt I could pull them off.

So the western boots sat. I forgot about them. They stayed out of the way in the mudroom and my summer of riding lessons turned into fall, then winter, and then spring came and my mudroom was full of chickens. Well, if any of you keep or raise chickens indoors as chicks you learn about the dust that builds up everywhere around them. My barely-worn boots turned into chicken dust-piles.

Somewhere around last winter I stopped caring about what people at the office thought about my outfits and wanted to wear my cowboy boots. They were disgusting and neglected, crusty with fecal dust. I decided to throw them in the washing machine and let them dry in the cold sunlight and what was left was a patina of faded, softer leather. I started wearing them because I liked them. Just to the office, or out on weekend work chores. They broke into a perfect form of foot and ankle. I didn't wear them to ride, I stuck with my English garb, but I sure wore them and proudly.

Today after my lesson with Trainer Dave I realized how perfect they are for riding now. They soft ankles and pointed toes, the support and flexibility at the same time. I adore my old boots and I'm happy they grace the sides of a sunburned brown pony on a mountain rode. They might have been bought by inexperience as a mistake but they are now worn true to the cause. They make me feel authentic, and free, and just the sight of them makes my spirit lift. Those boots mean time on a horse, my horse, and the rest is

history. P.S. Unrelated, but true. Boots and Dutch are the best nicknames ever. Aint that right, boots?


vindaloo and headaches

It's been a wild couple of days. In the last 36 hours I ate lamb vindaloo with Brett, rode in a horse cart, rode Merlin, shot clays with my .12 gauge, swam around the ruins of an old grist mill, helped dig fence posts, did chores, worked on my new book, got ice cream, and it all wrapped up last night with me driving down to Common Sense Farm fast as I could after hearing he fell off a 15-foot hay wagon. Amazingly, he was okay. He was checked out and was a little sore, but himself. We
went out for ice cream after at Stewart's.

Before I called it a night I spoke with Ajay over the phone, seeing if he wanted to go to the hospital and how he felt. He said he felt fine, never better, but he had never been this busy in his life before. Technically, he doesn't have a job. He left his old horrible (his words, not mine) insurance gig in the city and is trading labor for room and board in the Commune. He laughed as he explained it. He said he's never had less personal responsibility and more Societal responsibility. He has to get up at 6, work all day outdoors, then also help with meals and moving people and repairing trucks and going on errands. He loves it, can't imagine doing anything but farming, but he's never known how much a person can do in a day until he moved to Washington County.

Boy, did I ever understand that.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And the winner is...

Sonya Chisenhall! Email me Sonya and I'll mail it out!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

i like this artist. a lot.

Monday, August 6, 2012

riding on my mountain

Merlin and I have grown as a team more in the past three weeks than ever before. Under the gentle and empathetic teachings of Trainer Dave and his western methods of loose rein riding we have been unstoppable on this mountain. Yesterday we went on a two-mile ride. It was a combination of walking, trotting, and cantering the whole journey and I never felt more alive as a rider. We left the farm and headed down the road, weaving along the shaded, tree-lined switch backs on the grassy berms until we hit the junction for route 22. We then turned around, not interested in testing our highway skills yet, and headed back home.

Today we went up the mountain instead of down, up the road until we hit a stretch of fields already cut for hay. They belonged to my neighbor Tucker, who had given us permission to ride on his land, so we stole ourselves. We turned off the paved road and hiked through the forest till a break in the trees opened us up and showed us there are still sights to explore just a mile from our front door. A beautiful vista of mountaintop fields and sunshine lay before us. It reminded me of the balds I used to hike to in the smoky mountains. Such a strange and wonderful thing to climb a mountain and find open land at its top! I could see the famous fire tower, a mile or so up a trail I do not know yet (adventure for another day). I could see mount Equinox in Vermont. I took a deep sign and leaned back in the saddle as we walked slowly through the clipped grass. There was no fear, anxiety, or worry about cars or wildlife. I trusted Merlin and he trusts me and it felt like peddling a bike around, we were sharing his four legs and nothing could stop us.

We did so much exploring. We trotted and cantered through the fields, finding ancient stone walls, shady paths, and droppings from stag and coyotes. We stepped down into steep sections so lush with raspberries I could smell them as the horse crunched some under feet. Merlin, surefooted as the highland-born pony he is, stepped over an old stone wall and out into the second clearing. A great blue heron soared overhead, looking for pools in the mountain stream teaming with brook trout. Bliss, is your wild home land seen from horseback.

This is exactly why I wanted a horse. I didn't care about bloodlines, ribbons, or top hats. I wanted a partner in adventure, a way to move across the landscape. I wanted to go outside my own home, tack up, and head out into the unknown to take on the whole world. I wanted to shown what there was still to explore, to feel him pump up a hill at a gallop. I wanted to be able to ride to neighbors and visit, get to know my local topography, and wave to people I know by first name and talk about the weather. I wanted to use my horse the way people used horses every day 100 years ago. ATVs and cars be damned, I have a celtic pony and I know how to use it.

Merlin and I have explored over three miles of my mountain. There are other people with horses and barns on our journey but we don't ever see them out on the roads? I suppose they are either uncomfortable riding their mounts or don't have the time, but it is something special to trot past the homes of people on the back of your horse while the blue glow of their televisions light up their living rooms. You feel like your out at recess and their still in class. I wasn't even sure why people were inside? It wasn't even eighty degrees today, perfect weather and with a nice wind to boot! I know I shouldn't assume. For all I know folks are ill, or have melanoma. Maybe they just need a day shut in with a movie (I certainly understand that desire to shut off). I honestly don't know, but I can't help but be grateful for my horse and how he makes me want to be outside and living in the green world. He is such a blessing, connecting me with others and teaching me to appreciate a canter up through a wooded field.

I tell you these summer days passed by with saddle, foot, and bow are becoming legend in my own life. I adore every hoof mark, stride, and knocked arrow.

And the very best part?

It's Monday.

you know you're a CAF reader if...

This is how your kid is dressed for the Montreal Highland Games! Thanks, Grays!

checking in with maude

Sunday, August 5, 2012

See You Tomorrow at 6PM!

This is Connie Brooks, owner of Battenkill Books, my town's wonderful bookstore. The Border Collie is Red, Jon's new pooch from Ireland. I love that my downtown district has the following in a two block radius: an organic food co-op, art galleries, a train station converted into a community arts center, yoga classes, a farmer's market, a concert hall, hardware/feed store, and a place like Battenkill books where I can get the newest issue of Mother Earth News, The Believer, and The Coffin Factory in a town of 1,800 people. It is extremely cool for a certain type of person (like me). This is the same town two blocks behind the bookstore Common Sense farm is using hand-powered wheel hoes and neighbors are riding horses down North Union street.

Tommorrow night a good friend is doing a talk at Battenkill Books about his new e-Book, The Story of Rose. If you don't already read it, you should keep up with Bedlam Farm, and tap into Jon's stories and musings on country living with his wife, dogs, donkeys, and chickens. That blog taught me a lot about overcoming fear, negativity, and embracing support and love. Jon is also my new neighbor, as he bought a new farm just down the road. Anyway, He and Connie will be talking about e-books in general, how they effect writers and book stores. I'll be going to support them both, and I hope some of you show up as well. Always a big time in Cambridge.

photo by jon katz

wild rides

24-Hour Kite Stores

I used to do this little social test with new acquaintances to feel out their outlook on life. After I'd known someone a while, or been on a few dates with a guy, I'd tell them I always wanted to open an inner city 24-hour kite store. So that no matter what the time of day, or whatever the income level, people could get a kite and fly it if the wind picked up. Didn't matter if it was in a city park, a ghetto rooftop, or behind kids' bikes as they raced under the streetlights making their own wind. To me, kites mean joy. They are time outside, attention to nature, and simple bliss. I think the world needs more 24-hour kite stores.

So I told this to people and their reaction told me more about them than any profile or conversation. Some people laughed, others raised their eyebrows, some changed the subject and some told me of their fear of heights. But most people had one of two reactions: a positive and supportive one or an instantly negative one. They either thought it was a beautiful and whimsical idea and asked me questions about how I would run it or they would instantly dismiss it as a horrible business decision and a stupid idea. Some people went out of their way to be nice about being negative, "Oh how adorable, but who in the inner city is going to pay for a kite? How could you afford rent? What about the crime rates, etc etc." and they would say this in honey tones just short of patting me on the head with their patronizing voice. Others acted tough and aloof, would cross their arms and then start asking, "So you'd get a big non-profit to sponsor it right? Public outreach and community events and all?" And even in their tough-guy stance they were actually interested and talking about possibilities. Just because someone is acting nice doesn't mean they are, same goes for acting tough.

There are people who live their life as a series of opportunities. They hear new things, new ideas, and they find a way to support and encourage the things they see as good and valuable. If they find something negative or a waste of energy they avoid it and forget about it. Other people choose to live in fear, or on the defensive side of those who they disagree with. They put less energy into encouraging the things they support and more energy into tearing down the things that threaten them. I choose to be the positive type of person. It's why you will never see me write something negative about another person on this blog. I might rail against factory farms or an industry, but you won't see me tear apart a person. I think the only reason I have been successful at this farm (a measured success but I'm still here) is because I do not let negative ideas or people into my life. It's a protection of my spirit and a recipe for happiness. And anyone, at anytime, can decide to be a more positive and encouraging person. Every minute is another chance to turn it all around.

Spend your time with people who fly kites, either metaphorically or literally. You're better off.