Saturday, August 18, 2012

monday meets george

black out!

Just as I was deep into editing the final parts of my newest book I was overcome with exhaustion and took a nap on the daybed in the living room. When I woke up 20 minutes later to the sound of distant thunder I could sense the lack of electricity instantly. Computer fans and electric hums were off and I realized I didn't hit save. I groaned and rolled over on the day bed, and let a limp arm hang off the edge towards the floor. Gibson licked it from some nest he made in the netherworld and I smiled. I may have a few hours of work to redo, but at least I have a border collie.

The last few days have been so rich in activity and friends I don't think you have the patience to read a post as long as it should be. So I'm writing about the blackout now, and will update you on Brett, Patty, and my day of horsing around later. I also have a goose story about Ryan's great escape and news about the Washington County Fair, Fiddle Camp, and a Kerrits giveaway for all you riders out there so stay tuned! Anyway, back to the blackout:

Power outages are not rare nor do they effect me much. It was still light out so I had enough sense to set out all the oil lamps (only one needed a new wick which I keep in a mason jar in my pantry) and some candles for when I came back. I decided to go down to Common Sense and enjoy their Friday night dinner and meet up with Ajay. He's been down there a while and is leaving this weekend. He's not leaving Washington County though. He's fallen in love with the place and the people and decided he's sticking around and has already lined up a work-for-board job down the road from me. He's excited to start out on his own but bittersweet about leaving the community who he enjoyed living around so much. No one said decisions were easy, and certainly none that have to do with following a dream like owning his own farm. He could stay at Common Sense but it would be a trade of living in a utopian commune for personal freedom. He's too much like me to make the trade so he's setting out to save and work for his own land. I admire his grit.

So I got down to Common Sense and the place was lit up with candles and the last of the natural sunlight. Friday night starts their Sabbath and so everyone was in their best clothes and the cloth tables were set with candles and fresh flowers for the fish and sweet corn dinner. Their gas stove, collected rainwater for toilet flushing, and lack of AC in general made the night seem no different than it did any other Friday. If it was any different, it was just in beauty because the five-alarm post storm sunset mixed with guitars and candlelight and laughing children made it even more dear. I sat out with Ajay on the porch of the mansion and asked him how he felt about all this change? (A proper question in a blackout) He seemed torn.

Today is all about writing and chores and then dinner over at Jon and Maria's place. I'm bringing the salad.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

trail ride with brett and dolly!

fall workshop drive!

Winter is coming, and you don't have to be from the House of Stark to know how serious that is, you just need to be a farmer. So far my preparations include a barn with 50 bales of hay stacked inside and a cord of firewood, plus another cord ordered to be delivered in September. I still need about 150 more bales of hay and another 2-3 cords of wood. I am finding ways to make it work, but the sooner I can prepare before October the more I will be able to enjoy the fall and feel safe in this little white farmhouse. To be perfectly honest, I am starting to worry. So this is my attempt to try and remedy that.

I decided to run a workshop drive today, with the goal of selling ten workshops before the weekend! If you have any interest in the following, consider signing up for a day or weekend at the farm: learn to play the fiddle, spin and knit wool, promote your own writing and blog, intro to working horses with guest speaker and natural horsemanship guru Trainer Dave, and of course, the nonstop festivities of Antlerstock.

It is how I support myself now, entirely, so your participation is so very appreciated! If you live around the area and find yourself wanting to go to more than one or two workshops a year, you can also buy a Season Pass, which is a huge confidence booster and blessing for this farm when they are purchases. They cost the same as Antlerstock and another workshop for a couple and I do sell Season Passes at a discounted couples rate.

So, click this link here, to see all the classes, passes, and workshops being offered. I hope I can motivate some of you to head over here for the fellowship and fun. The farm and I truly appreciate it and all you do as readers and fellow story tellers on your own farms. I thank you again, and hope to see you in my living room soon!

Monday is back on the Market!

The folks who were going to buy Monday had to decline after changing their minds, so the little ram lamb is back on the market. He is almost totally weaned and friendly as all get out. If anyone is looking for a ram out of a proven line, for breeding or for a flock member, please let me know. He is $175 or a barter of equal value. I am looking for more young laying hens and draft horse gear. That or ten dollars in US silver coin (1964 (and earlier) quarters, half dollars, dollars, and dimes.) It's not practical to keep him here on the payroll. It is for a ewe lamb giving birth to a pair of twins each year, but not to a ram lamb. So in the spirit of farming, if he stay's he'll be a delicious Yuletide feast.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

OMG, there are TURKEYS in this thing!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

you have nothing to lose

I think there are few things as powerful as the written word. Words can be curses and prayers, sonnets and swears, lyrics and prose. Our language is a gift, and something that stirs things inside us. Words are everything to me, and the reason I am writing you today. Folks, strap into your seat belts because we're going to make magic happen starting now.

When I wanted a farm of my own and had a few months to figure out how to pull it off—I wrote it down. I sat down in a little dirty cabin in Vermont and sketched out in letters exactly what I wanted. I wrote about the sheep and the hillside, the farmhouse and the barn. I wrote about Gibson, and horses, and the commuting distance to work. I did it because I saw it on a movie and I was desperate. Some friends leant me their copy of The Secret and writing down plans was a part of the DVD. Today I can look back at the past few years and attribute most of my manifested life to believing it is possible, thanks to that random video.

I want you to do something right now, right here. I want you to leave a comment stating what you want. And I'm not talking about a new truck or to pass your final exams. I mean the BIG PICTURE. Write down the thing that keeps you up at night, the dream that is stalking you, waiting to pounce. If you are shy do it anonymously. I don't need to know who you are and no one else does either. What matters is that you actually put words down. And when you are done, copy and paste it into a word doc and print it out and put it in your wallet or purse. Carry it with you, not like a burden but like a letter you are going to mail. Have it on your person the same way pockets are on your pants. Do it and see what happens.

You may not realize it, but taking the time to write down a dream is actually the first step in making it happen. You are doing so much more than writing. You are physically turning your thoughts into reality, and if you don't believe me check your back pocket. A real, tangible thing will be there. And while yes, it is a piece of paper it is also so much more. That paper is an action you did to work towards a goal. You build from there, little by little and suddenly the words on your paper are just your life.

When things get scary, or you feel you are losing your destination point, take out that scrap of paper like a compass and point yourself back home. If you can read it, close your eyes and picture it, you are the most powerful force on earth. If I can do this, you can do it. It worked for me and I spent the day with friends in Washington County riding horses on a weekday. I think this blog is the reason why, and not because of the workshops and books, but because every single day I am sharing my hopes and dreams with the world. That is a powerful thing, an ancient practice, and the Need Fire it creates only brings more good into my life. I am so grateful for it, and I want you to have the same. So please, write it down.

You have nothing to lose by sharing your dream. Nothing. Do it and you will be taking the first step towards making it happen. And when you are sitting on your own farm's front porch in a few years, your boss having let you telecommute and your first ever backyard broiler is roasting in the oven filling your house with a scent you thought was only reserved for heaven— you can take a sip of cold beer, reach back into your wallet, take out that faded, stained, and thin scrap of paper and know what it feels like to not only behold a dark horse, but ride it.

truth seekers, lovers and warriors

"Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers and warriors."
-Hunter S Thompson

I was so touched by the photos Jon took here yesterday morning. It was a barter for a new chicken for his farm. He took over 400 photos, a rapid fire of split seconds caught between Merlin and me. This photo of my reaching down to stroke his neck is my favorite portrait ever taken of me. I almost can't believe it is me, and I think back to that day in my corporate office last winter when I came across his ad online and posted it on my facebook page as a joke. I never thought I could actually own a Fell Pony, or any riding horse of this level because I had been trained through a culture of negativity to not believe it was possible. I was a chump that confused negativity with "realistic" a word so often used to crush people. Reality is a verb, not a precept. It's what you do.

I am reading the dreams of people below and am crying over them, because they make me so damn happy. All these folks just wanting simple things: homes, safety, the ability to love and walk and smile for one authentic moment. No one wants a million dollars or a private jet, they just want their basic needs met and some are struggling to do so.

Holly from Illinois has a great idea and I want to make it happen. We're going to figure out a way to connect local readers to other local readers, wherever you are in the country for a day of Farm Support. We'll pick a day in early September to get everyone who wants to spend a day helping another farmer out and meet new friends. If this is something you would be interested in, either hosting or helping, keep following the blog for more details. I have time to help local farms if you need me, just ask. And I will need help building Merlin's Barn. Maybe some can help with that or loan me and Brett a ladder? Anyway, stay tuned. Inspiration in action is on the way.

fiddle camp update!

So this is who I have listed as attendees for Fiddle Camp. The (f) after your name means you have reserved a student fiddle for yourself as well. Please let me know soon as possible if you should be on the list and aren't, or if I have something else wrong let me know. I have 13 fiddles here waiting for people, based on my paperwork. This is your last chance to order one before camp, so if you need one let me know. I am getting and setting up Cremona Student sets.

Also, if you are attending, make sure you bring along these Four things: your copy of Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus, an electric guitar tuner, and bagged lunches. There will be bottled water and access to a bathroom, of course, and we can all go out to lunch if we prefer. PLEASE ALSO BRING A SPARE SET OF 4/4 VIOLIN STRINGS!!! Because chances are when learning to tune they may break and you'll need a reload. So pick up a set at your local music shop or order a set online and stash it with your gear. They cost around twenty dollars, sometimes less.

Campers List!
Diane R and her husband (f)
Sam! (f)
Kate M. (f)
Dawn and Peter
Linda W (f)
Kate N (f)
Brian B (f)
Hwa Su K (f)
Roberta M
Sarah C (f)
Jamie E (f)
Leshem C
Trish K (f)
Ellen (f)
Stacey F (f)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Merlin and Me

photo by jon katz

drought on an urban farm

A long-time reader of this blog has been hit hard by the drought in the American Midwest. She wrote, asking if I would be willing to post about her project to save her urban farm. It got lost in my emails and was recovered tonight. She's raising money to rebuild a food source for her community and perhaps some of us can help?

Click here for more information and to help

upward over the mountain!

One of the best feelings in the world is being on the back of a horse you love as he canters up a hill. Here's a bit of a far shot, taken by Jon Katz when he stopped by earlier this morning. I'll post more later from the shoot, but I just wanted to share this bit of joy before I head out to do my evening chores. A girl and her horse, what a thing to behold!

potato patch!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

three mile soundtrack

1. Carry On. Fun
2. Soul Meets Body. Death Cab for Cutie
3. Some Nights. Fun.
4. Walking Far From Home. Iron & Wine
5. Happier. Guster
6. Folk Bloodbath. Josh Ritter
7. Sound of Setting. Death Cab for Cutie
8. Empty Northern Hemisphere: Gregory Alan Isakov
9. Carry On. Fun.
10. Passing Afternoon: Iron & wine

x marks the shock

I have an X on my right upper arm, just below the shoulder. You know the place, where comic sailors have mother tattooed on their biceps. My X isn't a tattoo though, but it sure is a brand. I got it today when I was stupid enough to go work along the sheep fence without turning off the 30-mile cattle charger I use to keep the woollies in. I was dumping out the dirty sheep's water tank and stand in a pool of muddy water when my shoulder touched the bare wire. I screamed, and I mean I screamed, more out of shock than pain. It was not something I would recommend to any of you nice people. Shucks, I wouldn't recommend it to any of you mean people. It was rough. Lesson learned.

I now have a perfect little red X on my arm though. I kinda hope it sticks.

rabbit for dinner

Yesterday's Meat Rabbit Workshop was small, but packed with information and experiences. In one day we went from the foundation stock and what to look for in your breeding animals, to housing, breeding, kit rearing, and breed types. The day was split into two halves: the morning at my farm where we went over the land of the living—and the afternoon at Livingston Brook Farm where we learned about the land of the dead (more on that later). The entire morning was spent in lecture, either in the farmhouse or out in the barn. The stars of the day were Gotcha the Silver Fox and my chunky Palomino doe who doesn't have a name, but does have eyelashes that would shame a fawn. Everyone got to see a normal mating (Gibson, the little pervert stared wide eyed at this)and we discussed the safest and best ways to bring the little ones up in the world. I tried to cover every aspect of the backyard meat rabbit herd, and what to expect in the experience. We broke for a casual lunch and then packed up into Karen and Joe's Urban Assault Vehicle and drove to Patty's!

Patty taught us all about harvesting the animals. She showed us a simple, quick, and silent way to quickly kill the rabbits using a metal rod like a broom handle behind the animals head, lifting the back legs until its neck is broken in one gentle motion. This isn't easy to explain, but if you youtube search for "broomstick rabbit method" you'll see what I mean. From there she went through her expert method of butchering the humanely killed animals. We went through the system with three rabbits and then stepped inside her beautiful farmhouse to learn about cooking methods and freezer packing. She explained her fool-proof brown and simmer method and showed us how to quarter, butterfly, and best pack the rabbit meat for storage. Patty and Mark were certainly having rabbit for dinner that night, hosting some neighbors from across the road. I bet it was amazing. In fact, I'm certain, as I've eaten rabbit at her place enough times to make the claim!

The day of rabbits covered it all, and I think the brave folks who came out to see the entire enterprise were happy they did. Everyone learned something. Some learned rabbit butchering was NOT for them, and other's got tips and ideas for their future buck and does. I know I came home to a house smelling of Drunk Rabbit Stew, a Cold Antler Farm staple crock pot dinner eaten over buttered egg noodles and it was legendary in taste and scent. My friends Ajay and Geoff came over and each had a serving along with me, both new rabbit conisuers, and both enjoyed it. (I think it is impossible not to enjoy anything with both butter and Guinness in the recipe.) Heck, even the dogs got to enjoy a taste!

I'm a fan of meat rabbits, have been for a while now. It's one of the topics I'll be talking about at the Mother Earth News Fair and will continue to teach and lecture about here at the farm. I think their the perfect backyard protein, maybe even better than chickens. They are quieter, easier to dress and cook, and more people like it than dislike it once they get the gumption to try it out. I think rabbit and venison have become my top shelf meats, my new palate's favorite flavors. I'll keep breeding and enjoying the former, and pray I get an arrow in the later. The good news is even a bad shot can come inside on a cold November night to a bowl of Drunk Rabbit, regardless of the gifts of the hunt. I don't think that's a bad consolation prize at all. In fact, with a side of crusty bread and a wedge of cheese and home brew in a stein, that might be this woman's version of heaven.