Monday, October 15, 2012

Make A Small Batch of Hard Cider!

Every year my friends and I gather to hand press gallons of fresh apple cider at our good friend Dave's home in Vermont. Sadly, this year a late spring frost ruined our apple harvest and few if any local apples were around in the wild or at orchards to forage or pick. Which meant no hard cider, the real reason we all get together to crush and press.

But today I decided no late frost was ruining my favorite Yuletide drink. I decided to just buy some fresh-pressed cider at Saratoga Apple, get a small fifty-cent package of champagne yeast at my local Zymurgist, and make my own small batch. It's so easy, folks. You should try it. It's not like beer brewing that requires timed boils and measurements. It's more like making wine. You just pour, add yeast, and let it sit. The yeast does all the work for you! And while it does require a small upfront investment in brewing-grade sanitizer, fermentation bucket, airlock, and some yeast it isn't a lot of cash. I think all of those things are under 25 dollars and nearly all of it is reusable for your next batch.

Making a small batch of hard cider is a great way to get into homebrewing in a fearless way, and a great way to support your local orchards. For this small batch kit you need very few supplies, but it will grant you nearly 2 gallons of the good ol' scrumpy ready to bottle for the holidays! Not a bad way to show up to a Christmas party.

To make the hard cider you just need a gallon and a half of fresh pressed cider. You want the kind that has no additives or "nutrition facts" on it. The best place to get it is from a local orchard that presses their own apples and sells it from their farm. Around here, it is everywhere. But even if you live in an urban area I'm sure the orchards ship it to local co-ops and natural food stores. Just make sure what you are buying is plain apple cider, nothing fancy.

Now, to turn that cider into alcohol you just need a few tools and any brew shop online can ship them out to you. You need a small 2-gallon fermentation bucket with a lid that has a grommeted airlock hole in it. Northern Brewer sells these for a few bucks, and I suggest buying one from the pros as they aren't expensive and you are certain to get a fresh and air-tight seal. You also need an airlock, Star San Sanitizer, a pound and a half of honey, and a package of champagne yeast. All of these can be ordered online or found at your local brew shop.

Now, let's make cider! To prepare in advance make sure you set out your cider on the counter to come down to room temperature before brewing. It makes the process faster and the yeast more active if the cider isn't cold.

1. Sanitize you bucket and airlock (just throw it in the bucket) by filling it nearly full with clean tap water and adding in a little over a 1/4 oz of Star San. Cover bucket and seal lid tight. Cover the grometted hole with your finger and shake a little to make sure all parts of the inside lid and sides of buckets get contact with the sanitizer. When done, pour out foamy liquid (foam is okay) and set aside. Do NOT rinse with more tap water. Take out airlock and set it aside on clean plate.

2. Pour in your gallon and a half of fresh cider. Dump pound and a half of honey in after. No need to stir.

3. Pour in half a package of champagne dry yeast. No need to stir that either.

4. Place lid on tight. Check all around so seal is good.

5. Insert airlock in lid. Make sure seal is also good.

6. Set in a dark, quiet place to ferment and bubble.

That's it. It really is that simple. You can make it more complicated if you like and heat up the cider first and stir in warm honey and so on. Mixing ingredients will make it ferment faster, but I am all about spending as little time as possible brewing and more time farming. In about a day or two you will see bubbling coming out of your airlock. That means it is working! Right there in your own home or cabinet you are creating alcohol, and not just any alcohol but really, really good apple ciser (honey based cider is called ciser). When bubbling stops (two weeks to a month later) let it remain in the same place at least another week. The yeast will settle and you can siphon it into sanitized bottles. At this point it is ready to drink but I like letting it season a bit longer. It sits in dark green or brown beer bottles or wine bottles in a cabinet until I am ready to pour it out and enjoy it. But be mindful and responsible folks. Homebrew cider is usually around 12-15% alcohol. So don't down a wine bottle and go drive a school bus.

So, Anyone going to try it?

Jackapple Cake!

I’ve been baking my father’s apple cake recipe and adding my own little experiments with it. I think this one takes the prize, try it this weekend, you won’t regret it.

Jackapple cake

3 large farm eggs
2 ¾ cup flour
3 large apples (go with braeburn or gala, if you get fuji use 4)
No red delicious apples, bake like garbage
¼ cup fresh press cider
2 cups sugar
¼ cup honey, heated
1 stick butter (half melted)
1 ¾ cup vegetable oil
Tablespoon vanilla extract
Tablespoon baking powder

Peel and dice apples and place in a large bowl with 1 ½ cups sugar (set aside other half cup for topping), sprinkle over them a light coating of cinnamon, and mix into a cobbler, then dribble warm honey over and mix that in as well. Set in fridge for 2 hours to let cure. Do not skip this step. When apples are cured, add all wet ingredients (half melted stick off butter, eggs, oil, extract) and mix with large wooden spoon. Add in tablespoon baking powder. Add flour half a cup at a time and stir in batter more than you think you need too. Batter will seem wet and yellow. Good. Pour into greased cake pan. Now melt other half stick of butter, add to it the sugar and some cinnamon and mix them into a wet paste. Use a pastery brush to lather it over the batter, making a sugar crust to bake into the cake. Bake at 350 degrees 30-40 minutes. Check after 27, when knife comes out clean it’s done. Serve warm with stove-top cider.

unexpected holiday

Today has turned into an unexpected holiday. I woke up early and had coffee and a divine breakfast of a slice of pan-friend, whole-grain bread with a happy topple of egg, red pepper, onions, squash and cheese. Inspired by all this seasonal cooking I've been watching online I was a dervish in that kitchen, pan frying up the diced veggies, whipping the eggs, and watching the slice of bread crisp up. It was amazing, so much so I wouldn't even share it with the dogs. Boghadair perched on my shoulder and tried to steal bites right from my lips but failed.

After that breakfast it felt safe to go get some provisions. Gibson and I loaded into the truck to hit the Stannard Farm Stand down route 22. I bought a gallon of cow's milk from their glass bottle exchange, and a hunk of good cheese. They were rick in apples and bought some honey crisps for snacking and baking. Tonight I may make my father's famous Apple Jack Cake (I'll post the recipe in a bit). I was in a foodie mood. The good grub, the new haul, my mind was in the kitchen.

But it can't stay in the kitchen forever, bless and pity it. With the new groceries put up, I went and got Merlin for a rainy day ride. We had some showers in the morning, and more on the way but right around 11 the sky seemed tempered so I saddled up and headed up the mountain. My perfect mountain pony getup is a kilt, paddock boots and half chaps, light sweater and wool knit cap. We did our usual over-the-stream and through-the-woods ride, sliding between walk, trots, and canters. The wind was brisk, but the horse in light spirits. We stopped (as we always do) at the top of the mountain overlooking Cambridge and the mountains of Vermont in the distance.

When we headed home I untacked the lug and set him and Jasper out to graze in the largest back pasture. They run out together kicking their heals and tossing their manes. In the new mist it looks like I'm witnessing some ancient equine rite. The Freeing of The Geldings, nothing else today would be half as splendid.

This truly has been a holiday, even on a gloomy Monday. I'm kind of celebrating, actually. Somehow the horse, truck, house, electric, everything is paid up and on time. This calm of course is just a few days of grace but I am enjoying it. In this homestead a day without financial panic is rare as a Washington County coconut. So I am savoring it. Between that and the gift of the Adsense links I might pull through October right into November. Those little box and text ads are powerful things, providing for the farm in their own way! Oh, here's some swell news, a box of McRea's Caramels came in the mail and if you think I haven't already snuck one in before lunch, then you are dead wrong. I got the sea salt and some other flavors. They are hand made by friends of the Farm Kate and Jason in Boston. They support CAF and I did a little sweet support of my own for them. Mmmm.

In a bit I'll call the farrier and make that appointment and then call about my beloved goats and their return. Right now though, I think I'll have a cup of coffee and sit down a bit. A girl needs to make her holiday last, and pretty sure if I went out to feed the sheep their flushing grain right off I'd be knackered before I even got out the mixing bowls.

shotgun goose (not what you think)

Found this video from the summer and couldn't keep it to myself. This is Ryan and I sharing the cab of the truck after he walked a half mile down the road. The geese rarely stray from the farm but after Gibson "herded" Ryan a bit down the lane he decided to keep waddlin' away from CAF. I drove and picked him up and gave him a lift home.

marathon stationary beasts

It was a busy and exhausting weekend, full of festivals and going-away parties and pancake dinners and late night tea with neighbors. Last night was spent indoors at Common Sense farm saying goodbye to some very special people. It was warm in so many ways, with smiling faces and hugs. And then their were days like Saturday spent entirely outdoors in the cold wind. And that's not a complaint mind you, but it is an acknowledgment. Long cold days outside make you a kind of tired of its own breed. When the wind is bitter and your body craves sleep, fat, and warmth you withstand time outdoors much like a sheep on the hills does, I assume. It's a marathon of stationary activity.

I'm a big fan of long days outdoors and how coming inside to a warm wood stove and some soup and crusty bread can revive you...but my friends, it was a brutal day! I was at the Ackland's locally famous CiderFest at Maple Lane Farm, which was full of hundreds of kind people, amazing just-pressed cider, hay rides in tractors and an entire two buildings full of potluck treats. I was there helping Patty give cart rides in her new green wagon with Steele. I had not slept well the night before so by 3PM in the wind, after being up 12 hours already, I was ready to come home and tuck in. Which is what I did, with gusto, around 4PM. I came home from the day outside, fed the animals and did evening chores and then lit the fire in the bunbaker and fell asleep by early evening watching River Cottage Road Trip. Wild Saturday night.

Over the weekend I found homes for some of my future pork shares and did a lot of cleaning and regular house chores. Bills were paid, parents called, and groceries gathered. I even cleaned out the fridge, and that was a revelation. My fridge insides look totally different than just a few years ago. The inside of it looks like a third world market. Cloth-covered glass bowls of meat and butter and glass jars of milk and cream. There's carrots with tops still on them and heads of broc and soon I hope a few rows of homebrewed porter to join their ranks. There are very few bar codes in that fridge, very little packaging. It's the way my whole life seems to me moving. I mean, you can't slap a license plate on the back of a horse's bum, right? Anyway, I hope to add to the cold larder today and pick up my half of a lamb I split with Patty and Mark from Livingston Brook Farm. My own sheep are not in the meaty way right now, and so we bought a lamb from up in Hebron. I will play around with some masala recipes, also with gusto.

P.S. Goats should come home today or tomorrow, I can't wait. I miss having those two scoffers here. It will be one happy reunion, that is for certain!

P.P.S. Do any Fiddlers want to come up next weekend for the potluck? If I can get four of you or so, I'll be happy to host it but if people are just busy or travel is hard we can do it later in the winter?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

In Today's Mailbox!

Read This Book.

Questions for Non U.S. Readers?

So I am watching my River Cottage over oatmeal and have some questions. These are mostly about the UK (being on my mind watching the show) but I'm curious about other countries too. I am wondering if the US is homesteader and hunter friendly in comparison to other countries based on these questions that come up watching the show. I'm not sure if everything is so by-the-book because of the TV show or laws?

1. Is it illegal in the UK to slaughter animals at home?
2. Is it illegal to hunt without a guide or game keeper?
3. IS there public land for the general public to hunt?
4. Does your town, village, or country offer hunter safety and licenses?
5. Is it hard to get a hunting rifle?
6. If you have a rifle, can you use it to dispatch your own livestock?
7. How much is a quid compared to a pound? Is that the same thing?
8. What does "knackered" mean? Tired? Crappy?
9. Are public gardens and allotments common?
10. Can you keep chickens?
11. Is homegrown food common?
12. Why does Britain use metric units in cooking?

goats and social butterflies

It's 24 degrees outside but inside the farmhouse is a comfortable 62. Not bad for just one woodstove lit an hour ago. I love that this place is heated with wood, and this year I was able to acquire all of my heating wood through donated time and help from friends, barter, and some old fashioned horsepower. This morning, around 5:15AM I went out with Gibson in the lantern light to chop some kindling for this morning's blaze. He chased shadows while I split some seasoned elm. I used the splitting axe and then the hatchet to make the slivers that I start my fires with. So far I haven't used a single "cheater" fire starter compound or ez-light log. I'm proud of that little accomplishment, and the money I save using a little more elbow grease. I can now start a fire on a rainy day in a few moments with just a match. And if that makes me sound like a purist, don't worry. I still start my bonfires with soggy wood and a little liquid boyscout.* Helen Nearing, I am not.

I'm making a pot of oatmeal on the stove, heating up some yerba mate, and thinking about my goats. The girls have been gone a while now and their loud and proud presence has been missed. Funny how just one piece of the puzzle missing leaves it so clearly incomplete? Goats belong on this farm, and their creamy milk could not be more missed. Oh, the homemade soap, and the milkshakes, and the fresh chevre and coffee turned creamy tan....

Bonita and Francis return tomorrow, delivered safely home from Common Sense Farm. Othniel and Yesheva will be coming along, both to bring my two fine does but also to say goodbye for a while. They are leaving for North Carolina for leadership training in their church and won't be back until late January. It's a bit sad for me, as I have always had these two farmers just a few miles away to help over the years. They taught me so much in basic livestock care, of which just a small portion I have paid forward so far. I'll miss them, even if it is just a few weeks. People always warned me having a farm would make me less social, keep me away from people. It has kept me away from some people, sure. But it has also drawn so many new friends and experiences to me it rivals my four years at college, easily so. It's how I met Yesh and Oth, and how you met me. Farming has been my social butterfly, I just needed to open up and let it. The people who email, come to workshops, read this blog, shake my hand... There were more people on my college campus, but then broth is really strong stuff around here. And the folks around the dinner table are lovin' every bite...

*lighter fluid

Friday, October 12, 2012

This Just In: Francis is Pregnant!

I have two knocked-up goats!

Battenkill Books Drive Going Strong!

Battenkill Books is my town's small indie bookstore. The first time I walked in there I was with Gibson, then just a puppy. I had recently moved to Jackson and Connie, the proprietor, was behind the desk. I said hello, she gave me a Happy greeting and then Gibson lifted his leg on some fiction. Any normal bookstore owner would have done the reasonable thing of asking me to leave with my dog. Connie shooshed my apologies, grabbed some paper towels and told me not to worry about it. Gibson, and all kind dogs, were welcomed in the store. I decided I would never buy a book at any other store that day.

When barnheart came out, she hosted our launch party and it was a hit. She's done the same for other local authors like Jon Katz, James Howard Kunstler, and Meghan Mayhew Bergman. She cares about her literary community, and because of her and the other authors blogs, outreach, and support all ships rose with her tide. I'm grateful to her, and her store, and to the other authors I listed. Connie is amazing, using a combination of savvy business sense, fierce spirit, and a true love of books—she is an unstoppable force.

It takes some serious brass to open such a business in a town of around 1,800 people.I would like to support my community as much as possible and will be hosting a contest of sorts. If you call up Connie, or email her, and order any signed book by me, Jon, James Howard Kunstler, or Meghan MB—and tell her it is part of the CAF Book Drive then you are entered to win a drawing from my farm and Storey Publishing. Storey will be giving away a basket of homesteading titles and I am giving away a free Season Pass to any events at this farm for a full year. All you need to do is call or email her, and tell her I sent you. You can order Made From Scratch, Barnheart, or Chick Days and I will sign them for you however you like. Gibson will sign them too if you ask (he hasn't peed in there since that first time) and I can assure you other local authors will sign them to your liking as well. It's a great way to stock up on special holiday gifts like a signed edition of Rose in The Storm or World Made By Hand. You just can't beat Washington County Based Fiction!

So if you want to enter for the season pass and a bunch-o-books, call the fine people at the bookstore and order something from a Washington County Author. You get a unique gift signed just for you by the author's hand, and you could win a bunch more. Either way you end up with something special: a handsome book for yourself and the satisfaction in knowing you are both supporting a small, rural business, authors, and a community on the rise.

Me and the whole W.C. Thank you. Except the cows, who do not talk.

Here are the Books Storey has Donated for the winner!
Chick Days (signed)
Barnheart (ditto)
Made from Scratch (ditto)
The Backyard Homestead
The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock
Barnyard Games and Puzzles
The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference
Root Cellaring
Farm Anatomy

Battenkill Books info:
15 East Main St.
Cambridge, NY 12816
(518) 677-2515
photo by jon katz, who makes meatless pizza

Hugh's The Man

If you raise or cook a lot of farm-based meats then you probably already own a copy of the River Cottage Meat Book. It's my meat bible, the one book I go to regardless of what I am making, from home-ground sausage to glazing a pheasant. But it wasn't until this week I started actually watching (devouring, really) the amazing River Cottage Series on the BBC. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a chef with a big dream and a beautiful mission. To bring small holding quality food to all of Britain. He's gone from a small 1/3 acre to a 44 acre farm in abut a decade and the shows around his journey have followed the whole way.

I strongly suggest you check out these series, as much for the recipes as the inspiration and politics. You can do what I did and start with Escape to River Cottage or you can just pick any show. All of them are available online in full. All of them have something to teach and share. I especially love the traditions and history incorporated in a lot of the episodes. Things like May Day celebrations, Halloween parties, and Christmas Medieval Feasts with a ten bird roast! (Tuducken, move aside. Hugh fit TEN different birds inside a turkey!)You can also get them through your library or order online (just make sure you order the right discs for your region!).

I can't praise him, his ethic, or his farm enough.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

We Ride Through It

This is an audio post. You don't need to listen to the chosen song while you read it, but if you do it will feel a lot more like how it felt to me. Just open this link and then turn up the speakers a bit, minimize the Youtube screen, and read the post below to a soundtrack. You can always replay the song if you read slower than the music. It loses nothing in the repetition.

The wind was picking up just as Merlin moved from a fast trot into a full out gallop. We were on our way up the mountain, heading towards the farm. All around us the yellow, orange and blood red colors of Father Autumn glow. The new squall of bright leaves surround me and the black horse as we climb upward. Every reach of his feathered hooves goes a little farther. I can sense the muscles in his strong back change and lengthen. I lean to his neck and tell him in a whisper, "home" and he is alive in a way a fiddle is in an Old Time solo. He isn't a racehorse, he's a highland pony and past his prime and so am I. We are moving fast and I am feeling everything in his gait. My left side slides deeper into that stirrup for balance, my body leans forward to meet his own center of gravity. We are a nothing near as graceful as a poem but certainly as comfortable as a chorus to a favorite song. He is my horse, and this is my Holy October, and the world was created for this moment.

As the wind slows down and the last sheet of leaves fall I pull gently back into a trot and then a walk. At his hooves a pile of sugar maple leaves swirl, just touching earth for the first time. It must be a humbling fall. I say a prayer under my breath, as this is the month of reflection and mortality. Merlin is sweating and snorting and flicks his mane a bit as he calms himself into a walk. I pat his neck and sit deeper into the saddle. This is Autumn.

I was in kilt and tall boots, a comfortable sweater around my stout body. A black helmet I used to wear in the dressage ring protected my head. I needed the helmet today as we were out on an adventure. We had just been down at Jon Katz's farm, a three mile ride that involved crossing a small highway and some new grassy fields. Merlin didn't care about the trucks whizzing past his hide but he hated the new, wide, field of grass. He must have felt exposed, or smelled a freshly killed deer. I will never know. I can just ride out his panic. A woman from a few months ago would have been scared at his protests, stomps, and crow hops. But I had come to know this horse the way you know a beloved old pickup truck. I sang to him, a few verses of I Will Go, and took in deep breaths. If I was calm and confident, he would feel better. And he did, and we got within a few yards of Jon's back pasture's electric fence when we realized the only way to come to the front door was to turn around and hit the highway (which I wasn't going to do). Oh well, the saddle bag with the bottle of Slyboro Hard Cider would have to wait till I saw Jon again. He was just back from a book tour, and he and his sweet wife Maria deserved some seasonal booze.

We headed home up the mountain at that walk, which is a mode of meditation in a way. I don't have to think much about his auto-pilot amble but I am ready at any second for a rifle to explode on the mountain and spook him (poachers are rank around here) or a car to meet us around a turn. I accept these possibilities but do not ride like they are going to happen, not really. I accept his each step, and the way the hillside smells like wood smoke and dead leaves and think about my dinner recipe of wild rice and yesterday's pheasant. I am contemplating a glaze of honey and butter and coarse seal salt on a bed of kale, served over wild rice. Merlin will have some of Nelson Greene's hay. He skips the honey butter glaze but not by choice.

I think about the two beating hearts on the road. Me and my three decades, Merlin and his fifteen years. I think about the last flight of the pheasant I shot, about the bright yellow leaves on the road, soon be brown. To so many people Autumn is a time of death and coming fear. Halloween is a cartoon. To me this is the one month in the whole year I can not help but wake up and shake with gratitude that I, Jenna Woginrich, am still among the living. I haven't taken my last flight across the tall grass yet. I haven't fallen from the tree. This is a season of death and somehow, someway, I am able to ride through it. It fills me with a wholesome appreciation. It makes me shake a little, the swiftly passing beauty. October is a red fox trotting through a field of corn stumps. It is a pheasant's bright red and green plumage on the tall grass frost. It is a black horse and rider in a flurry of singing leaves.

This is my Halloween. my Great Holiday, the oldest holiday, the most primal holiday we have as a species that lives in common and hunts by daylight and not because of old Celts or modern costumes. Halloween is my greatest Holiday because if I let it be the festival it once was—it reminds me that I am alive in a way that only *just* surviving near death can invoke. It fills me with hope, rebirth, compassion, forgiveness and reflection. Halloween saunters and ambles through us and washes us with life itself. It has for over 3,000 years. It turns us from the confused and distracted into aware animals. He leans over our tight, stretching, necks and gently whispers,


....and it is all we can do to not stop running.

hold on tight

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Hunting We Will Go!

I love the hunt. I love every aspect of it. I love getting up early in the morning and packing my shotgun in the truck. I love the hugs from friends who arrive with white clouds of breath escaping with their words. I love the excited whimpers of the dogs and the way a mug of coffee feels on the truck ride to the game lands. I love the anticipation, it's my favorite drug. And most of all I love the brisk pace you keep up behind a dog with a nose in the thick brush and the burst of energy a flushed up cock bird explodes with into the sky. There's a few seconds of communication: who's taking the shot, where did it drop, etc. But mostly it moments is pure pumping adrenaline between intense and tempered strides across the landscape.

I was with Holden Daughton, Patty Wesner, and Patty's dog Harley. Harley's a Large Munsterlander and a hell of a tracker. With that dog we had the secret weapon against the hiding birds. He would sniff them out and scare them up into the air where we could take safe shots with our guns. I had my trusty .12 gauge with Upland and Small Game shots. Patty and Holden both had the lighter .20 gauge shotguns better suited to the bird hunting. But my trusty pump Mossberg is my all around gun. I use it for turkeys, pheasants, varmints, and with a riffled barrel and some slugs Deer in November.

We walked across the fields and wetlands for hours, in and out of rain showers, watching the dog and smiling wide as we each got a chance to take home a pheasant for each of our farms. Patty got her bird first, a fat hen. I got to shoot at my bird second, a nice flush and straight line of flight just 10 yards away from me. I managed to just hit him in the bum but he went down and Harley helped us find him when he did. After those two back-to-back successes it took a long time to find Holden's bird. We had just about given up and were practically back to the truck when the biggest cock bird we saw all day shot up into the air and Holden smote it down. Harley retrieved it from the treeline and we three happy hunters went back the truck with grins across our tired faces. We had walked for hours, stood in the chill rain, and had the kind of constant alertness that makes just a few hours feel like a marathon. It was one content ride home to Cold Antler after that.

I love animals and I love hunting them as well. To some that sounds like a cringing contradiction, and I understand that completely. I was, afterall, a vegetarian for ten years before a rare bit of hogget crossed my lips. The transition for me was based on ecology, politics, and how animals live and coexist in this little green world. My place in the scheme of things is a pack animal that hunts by daylight. That is where my bliss writhes and turns up to the sun. Everyone's got that place somewhere and mine usually ends up with a wood stove and a stew pot. To each their own.

After everyone went back to their own farms (after a celebratory brunch at the beloved Burger Den) I went to work cleaning the bird on the tailgate of my truck. There's not a lot of meat on a pheasant, but there is a surprising amount of yellow fat. I cut off the birds head, skinned him (faster and cleaner than plucking), cut off the hefty thighs and breast and set the rest aside to compost. All that was left was feathers, a ribcage, and entrails really. I put it into the compost with a shovel and brought in the two pounds of white meat. I set it in a big pyrex bowl of cold water and ice cubes that would slowly cool the bird down. Soon I'll add salt and bay leaves and make a simple brine to soak it in all night. This brine will soften the tense new meat and make it retain moisture better when it is cooked. My plan is to either make a crockpot pheasant and wild rice soup with potatoes, squash and carrots or make a honey glaze and roast it and serve it on a bed of wild rice with a side salad. Both ideas are making my mouth water a bit as I type this and I suppose the weather will tell. If it is a cold and blustery day tomorrow stew will be the word of the day. If the sun shines and I spend a deal of it on horseback, then a roasted bird by the wood stove will win. Snow is already in the forecast here for Friday with a night time low of 26 degrees!

Glad I have my wood in!

This Just In!

Bonita has been bred! There will be more milk!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

laying my cards down

It was a long day, as every day has been since Antlerstock ended. A normal person would have taken a few days to rest and relax, but instead the weekend has invigorated me a thousand times over. Since everyone left here Sunday I started learning a new song on the fiddle, helped friends build a new pig pen in my barn, tore down old polyrope and put up a stronger horse fence, rotated pastures and started flushing the sheep for late fall breeding, and other things I can't remember right now. Oh, right, I got a second pig. Alison, a genius reader already named him. Lunchbox, meet your little buddy Thermos.

I just put a Freedom Ranger in the oven. He roasting whole, covered in a massage of olive oil and herbs and sitting on a bed of kale, potatoes, squash and carrots. The whole party is in one huge cast iron skillet and baking as I type. In a few moments with the smells of a cracklin' bird and a roaring fire in the Bunbaker, this place is going to be downright charming. Outside is a little wet and windy, but my jacks carved this weekend with the antlers and crescent moon, and smiling leers are guarding the front door from any sort of discomfort. It's nights like this you stop, take it all in, and breathe deep.

Here I am.

I got an email from Brett in Gaelic. He speaks fluent spanish and thinks my Gaelic learnings is pretty ridiculous (and he's a McLeod) but I laughed when I saw what he wrote. I had to translate it.

Cò an caora sin còmhla riut a chunnaic mi an-raoir?
(who is that sheep I saw you with last night?)

My response:

Ur Mathair
(I am not translating due to tack)

It was a nice laugh. I also got a nice green owl card from California, it arrived and made me light up. A nice Samhain greeting on a cold blustery fall day. And not just any day, but a day hardened by work and ending with a new pig and a chicken in the oven. Tomorrow if the rain holds off I'll take Merlin up the mountain to take in the fall foliage at its peak. Are we supposed to want more? If we are, I'm laying my cards down as is.

And It's Not Even 4PM...

Woke up.
Walked Dogs.
Put Sheep in Pasture.
Fed Critters.
Wrote Words.
Inspected Horse Fence.
Re-wired Horse Fence.
Picked Up A Little Pink Piglet.
Piglet Escaped!
I Caught Him.
Bought Power Drill.
Bought Whisky.
Reinforced Pig Pen.

Friday Night of Antlerstock

Antlerstock started Friday night, with folks coming from all over America to enjoy the weekend of learning, fellowship, and firelight. There were people from just six miles down the lane and as far away as Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Montana, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, and beyond. And when I say beyond, I mean it. One darling woman named Emily came from Australia! It is an honor in itself to be someone's destination—but when the people who come are as kind and game as this year's bunch—the honor transcends into celebration. I had a wonderful, exhausting, and productive weekend. I hope they all had the same.

Friday night was the campfire, and folks brought a covered dish, baked bread, desserts, or drinks to share. We sat out behind the barn in my firepit area, an open circle of ancient apples and in the shadow of the old barn. I was feeling tired, and happy to not have any workshops or events that night. Before the first folks arrived I had spent the day setting up the portable toilet, unloading over fifty bales of hay with Nelson Greene, fixing the horses fence, cleaning, and preparing. When the night brought me sips of Guinness, hard cider, and a pulled pork sandwich under the stars...I was feeling very content. All around me were neighbors, friends, and old faces from last year's Antlerstock along with new folks I only knew from emails and comments. It was great to finally meet them all in person, shake hands, hear each other's stories and raise a glass to the weekend ahead.

I brought little Boghadair (Bo-yeh-dare) out to the campfire, and he was a hit. Riley brought out his guitar and I had my fiddle. We played some music, simple chords and fiddle slides and long bow strokes. It was end-of-the-day music. The kind you sit and hear feeling grateful you got where you were going. Then Elizabeth took over the fiddle, and Brigit played her drum. The music was a background, not a concert but still a hoot. Kate, who was a student at Fiddle Camp, brought her fiddle and played for the whole fire circle! I was so proud of her, she did wonderful!

Eventually a rain seam opened and we all called it a night. It was around 10PM and all of us were going to be up early to prepare for the morning of backyard forestry, horse logging, sourdough bread making, and soapmaking. In just a few hours Antlerstock would officially begin...

Lunchbox it is!

photo by

Monday, October 8, 2012

Name That Pig!

More on Antlerstock over the next few days, but I want to introduce you to the new pig! He's in his new-and-improved pig pen that Patty, Kate, and Jason helped me build today. The pen was a long time coming, but made necessary when this guy escaped during Antlerstock and had to be caught in the middle of Adam's lecture on homebrewing. He screamed in a way most of the guests have never heard before and poor Riley (who drove from Ontario) got pig-screamed at right in the face. Riley helped me get him back in the pen and secured it best we could with extra field fence used to make a roof (he jumped out the top). But now in his big space with water, hay bedding, and plenty of feed he seems darn content. He just needs a name...

So, suggest a name! We already got a bunch at Antlerstock but I wanted all of you folks who couldn't be here to help with a name as well. The runners up so far are Lunchbox, Sizzle, Spotted Dick, and un cochonnet. What do you think?

P.S. In the video I say the pen is 10x15 feet. But I was wrong, more like 10X12.

Meet The New Kitten, Boghadair!

Photos From Antlerstock!

Andrew of Brown Dog Photo has just sent me a link of dozens of photos documenting the entire weekend. He is an amazing photographer, and you can even buy prints if you like of all sorts of goings on and CAF critters. Just click this link here!

Sal and all photos in the link by browndogphoto

Learning About Harnessing Horses

a few rainy day photos

photos by weez of coyote crow farm

Through The Woods

I am running through the woods behind Merlin in full harness, trying not to lose my grip on his driving lines or tripped by the 300 pound log we are moving out of the forest. I have driven Merlin in a cart moving down the road, ridden him at a canter through hill and dale, but I have never had to hold onto a thousand pounds of equine momentum in a rose thicket while trying not to be crushed by a recently fallen tree trunk. There is too much going on to be scared and too many people watching to stop.

All that is keeping us ahead is my commands and the 15 feet of leather connecting his bit to my hands. the lines are new, not yet broken in and slick as eels. I hold onto them with white knuckles as I dodge the log, jumping out of its way and moving ever forward. Merlin just punches ahead not giving me much trouble but in his own sort of hurry. Speed is his friend and my danger. I feel the rose thorns grab my shirt and tear hole after hole.

He wants to trot and I want him to walk and we are having a spat while people watch us coming closer an closer to the farmhouse. A rose bush catches my red cowgirl shirt and I can hear it shredding into pieces. I feel a loose piece catch and hold me back enough to tighten the lines and Merlin tosses his head as we stop. I am stuck in the thicket and someone (I can not remember who) takes my long-sleeved western shirt off and frees me to go ahead. Merlin bursts forward with the chain and log and all I can think of as we come into the gray daylight of the backyard is I'm so damn glad I had a tank top on underneath...

We got the log up to the chopping station where Antlerstockers who had watched a workshop on proper log splitting techniques were eager to grab the Fiskars and try out their new skills. I am just panting, inside and out, starting to feel the chill of the 45-degree wet weather as my sweat dries off and cools against my skin. I'm in a kilt, rubber boots, and cotton tanktop and for possibly the first time in my life I do not care if my arms look fat. I just moved a friggin' tree out of the forest with a draft horse and it was about to be chopped up for heating fuel. I put my fists on my hips and let out a long laugh mixed with a sigh. I'd been in car accidents, roller coasters, and bad plane landings but none of that could match the rush of moment. I pull myself together as someone comes up to ask about directions to the Burger Den. I try to tell them and can't through the squeals of the new piglet in the barn, trying to escape. My head is in thirty happy places at once, as I lead Merlin to his post to untack him and turn him back into his paddock. A cloud starts to shower us and there in the rain, covered in cold sweat, mud, and blood from my new thorn cuts I am explaining how amazing the chicken tenders are at the Den. The whole place is a frenzy of new and old friends and faces and folks heading every which way to take photos, listen to workshops, and share stories. No one minds the passing shower and soon my arms are clean of all dirt and red. Wet, tired, and happy I take in a deep breath and pull on a dry hoodie.

This was going to be one Hell of an Antlerstock...

photo by weez

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What a Weekend...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

here we go...!!!

Antlerstock starts in half an hour!

Friday, October 5, 2012

can you hear me now?

Here's a photo of earlier in the summer with Brett and I on our mounts Dolly and Merlin. We look shrimpy, but only because Patty took the photo from the back of her 18-hand Warmblood Ellis! (Our draft stock are both 14 hands.) Brett will be here in a few hours to help instruct and join in with Antlerstock, but I wanted to share this story before he arrived.

I got a call from Brett yesterday afternoon. The reception was bad. "Can you hear me?" he asked, a bit fuzzy between the static, "I'm riding home from work on my horse." The phone died out shortly after that but it didn't matter because I was laughing so hard I couldn't talk anyway. Brett got the college he teaches at to allow him to take "his other car" into the office when he teaches. Dolly the Haflinger mare stays at the college's draft horse stables while he teaches and then he can saddle up and ride her home. So how about it, Cell phone calls from horseback!

I love the company I keep these days.

Send a Hallowe'en Greeting!

The Celts believed Hallowe'en was the Agricultural New Year, and so it was their New Year's Eve. Back then their life revolve entirely around farming, and when you live in a harsh four-season climate like the Highlands, you see the year differently. I mean, look at it this way, if you worked your bum off the entire summer just to survive the winter you'd see that timespan as fairly important. When the first frosts came and killed the life in the fields, leaving you only what you had reaped and would feel like the year was over too. That's why the gaeilc word for November 1st's Holiday was Samhain (Sow-an). It translated literally into Summer's End. It was a a harvest festival and a time to remember those who you lost since last winter. A lively wake, and a time of bonfires, music, stories and magic.

I started getting Halloween cards in the mail last week and they keep on coming. It's a nice tradition here, and that I have like minded friends who think Summer's End is a darn good reason to reflect and smile. My cards are lined up in my living room, just where I put my Christmas Cards when that season comes along.

Why not join me in the tradition? Send a Halloween card this year. The person who gets it will be delighted. I always try to stick a small gift like a packet of seeds in with it. I'm much more into the traditional holiday than the modern fun house/gore/garbage. I send seeds and tell people I love them. For a holiday all about food and community, not a bad way to go. If you don't celebrate Halloween/Samhain why not just send a nice fall note card to friends or family for no reason other than to say you love them and am thinking about them? If you want to send a Summer's End greeting here, mail it to:

Jenna Woginrich
Cold Antler Farm
Jackson, NY 12816

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting Ready, and Books!

I was standing on a wooden chair in front of my house yesterday, mopping the vinyl siding with a squeegee. This is not something I usually do on my farm. But with Antlerstock coming up I want the place looking its best. Green mold had grown on the creamy white siding from the month of wet weather and it was looking a little too much like a hanging ham instead of a storybook farmhouse (which is what I am going for). So I stood outside mopping my house, wishing I had more red mulch, and trying to figure out how to make soap in the rain.

All in good spirits though, you see. Antlerstock might devour this whole week but it will be a blast and I can not wait. By this time Saturday morning the whole place will be transformed. People are coming from all over America (and the world!) to visit this little 6 and a half acres a writer and her dogs share. I have gotten four people's offer to supply us with tents (Yay!) and the show will go on. So rain be damned and may the Tein Eigen burn on!

It is an unusually muggy day here, humid as a rain forest and gray as moorland. I love it. I love precipitation and I love wet, miserable weather. The more rainy, blustery, and cold the outer world the more my home becomes a sanctuary, a place of happy respite. I just did a pile of chores outside, everything from cleaning out rabbit cages to taking notes in my moleskin about what feed was low and how to stack the hay in the barn. Nelson is brining in a load of 50 bales Friday. By the time people are here from Antlerstock I will have been cleaning, mowing, stacking, and preparing so much all I will want is firelight and an adult beverage.

I have been getting requests for book recommendations. Someone wanted to know what to read to learn more about Scottish folklore and Celtic history and music, another is interested in sheepdog training. If you are interested in Scottish folklore, I suggest starting in the shallow end and working up to the deep end. One of the reasons I am learning Gaelic is to read the original stories and tales as they were written, but diving into a 12th century storybook might not be what you are looking for. I don't have a title for you, but I can suggest a type of book. Find a basic introduction to Celtic folklore and legend. Stories will lead you to other resources and legends and build from there.

And as for dog training I suggest a video or two, instead of a book. Starting with Time Well Spent, by Aled Owen (Gibson's great grandfather is on the cover!). Or the two video series The Shepherd's Pup about starting with a young border collie from the puppy on. If you live in the North East, I suggest joining NEBCA, because it has a library for members and you can rent out videos and books for just the shipping costs mailed right to your door!

And if you just want to read something for entertainment, here is my recent love affair with fiction which was recommended to me by one of you! The Emberverse Series by S.M. Stirling! It is a series of books that take place starting in 1998 in Oregon near Salem and Corvallis. The books are a fantasy series, but not in the dragons and wizard sense, instead one day around dinnertime a white flash lights up the sky and all modern engines, firearms, electricity, steam power and every other modern convenience or invention simply stops working. Cars stop working in the middle of the highway. Planes fall out of the sky. And all of America (and the rest of the world) has to figure out how to restart society in the chaos. What happens in the destruction of one world is a creation of a new one with new religions, new societies, and a sort of Feudal reality America has not seen in hundreds of years. There is A lot of Celtic folklore and legend involved, as one of the surviving tribes is lead by a woman named Juniper Mackenzie, who starts a modern Celtic Clan in the Pacific Northwest. Anyway, it was these books that got me into Archery this spring. Since gunpowder stops working the bow and arrow become mighty once again and are a huge part of their life and culture. You can get all these books on as well (which I suggest for your commute to work or in the gym or doing farm chores). You can get it for free here. They start with Dies The Fire and in paperback I think it is eight bucks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Antlerstock Weather Forecast

I am hoping for sunshine and clear skies but Antlerstock will happen outdoors in anything short of a downpour. So bring raingear, extra clothes, umbrellas, whatever it is you need to be comfortable out in the wet. The campfire is still on for Friday and Saturday night, but if the weather is really bad and rainy they will be canceled. There will be no indoor workshops at all since it is impossible to fit everyone into the small farmhouse. Everything happens outside so be prepared! I'll be out there with rubber boots and a raincoat!

And the Garlic Winners Are...

Grand Prize Variety Pack:
The Weekend Homesteader!

Three Runners Up:
Molly Piper
Charlotte Boord
Commander Jay

no birds, but a beautiful walk...

harley is on it...

I love the hunt, the whole thing of it. Yesterday morning I walked at least four miles through wild trails, thick brush, and tall trees. There was no one else out but myself in the entire acreage of State Game Land, just 4 miles from my house. It is a beautiful place to hunt and one of the things I love most about our resource policies. Here in America wildlife is a public resource, owned by all taxpayers. You need to apply for a license to hunt (even on your own land) and record what you take to your state's game authority, but it is a system that works. For someone with not enough land to really hunt on, having a public park I am welcome to shine my blaze orange in is a gift.

I walked for a while, hours at least. I didn't see a single pheasant but I was also dogless. A good hunting dog is almost necessary for a decent pheasant hunt. Without one I am hoping my clumsy walk through the forest with my shotgun will shock a cock bird into flying off in front of me. So you walk loaded as your gun, intense and alive. You notice things you would never notice on a casual hike. The way mud sounds when you step heavier into it. How a songbird lands in thatch. How your breath seems to scream compared to the rest of the world. It is poetry, and necessity. The economy of movement is frugal.

I watched a Great Horned Owl swoop just over my head and it reminded me of my father. He used to go deer hunting and once a Snowy Owl flew over him and I never forgot him telling me that story, and how quiet the great bird was.

It was just us predators that day. Besides the owl I ran across redtail hawks and saw the flash of a fox take cover. We were all out hunting. I was hoping for a pheasant, a grouping of doves, turkeys, grouse...anything really. So many critters are in season and fresh game is a journey on foot and in the kitchen. I'm hoping for better luck today. Patty and her dog Harley are going with us, and Harley sure does love to hunt. He's a Large Munsterlander, a German bird dog breed that looks like something out of an oil painting. I'm hoping he flushes out a mess of pheasants, and Patty and I both leave with the promise of dinner. It's wet out there, and warmer than I would like, but I'm as game as the fowl. So here's to good dogs, good friends, and willing birds!

P.S. thank you for all your support in that last post! A flood of positive and encouraging comments and emails came through, as well as folks interested in last-minute tickets to Antlerstock, workshops, and even my Google AdSense report came in from last month! Thanks to my readership I have a jump in morale and next month's bills. I am so thankful! Now come to the farm and celebrate!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Mythical Readership

Here's what I have learned from over five years of blogging. When it comes to online etiquette people are far too sensitive about what they read and far too insensitive about what they say in response.

Nothing I write here is aimed at anyone personally. Not because I don't care about you, simply because I do not know you. I'd like to meet you all but that isn't really possible. If you take offense at something I write understand it is not like taking offense at the words of your family, children, or friends. If your sister in law knows your a vegetarian and says "Vegetarians are stupid" at a dinner party you are attending, then it makes sense to snap back. I would never say Vegetarians are Stupid, but I might very well share a hunting story, pig slaughter, or lamb recipe on my website. Writing something contrary to your core values is not an affront to you.

I am not perfect.
I make mistakes.
I write it all down.
People yell.

I have older readers who send me emails as if I am their daughter who stole their car on prom night, and younger readers who think eating a chicken is on the same level as setting fire to a church. When people send angry comments or emails it does not change what I think or do. It just seems batshit crazy. Like a person waving their hands and yelling at headlines of a newspaper in a crowed grocery store. There is no validation or dignity in yelling at the internet. I delete those messages and comments. Heck depending on the email address or name, I don't event read them anymore. I just hit delete. It is a powerful tool for self preservation.

Level headed readership online has become as mythical as a unicorn. Something people swear they once knew long ago, but no one has seen evidence of for a long time. But I know they are out there, because most of my readers are thoughtful and kind people. Many folks find ways to converse about disagreement through email or in comments in a civilized and respectful manner. Those folks have my full attention. But anger falls on deaf ears here. No one is allowed to treat me, or my farm, or my readership that way. So I invite all level headed readers, as mythical as you may be, to step up and be heard.

I want this blog full of unicorns.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The First of Holy October!

There was a horse in my backyard this morning. I turned the corner and there he was, black as coal and (I swear it) smirking at me. Merlin lowed his head to take out another bite of lawn. I rolled my eyes. There was a time when a loose horse—any livestock really—would have sent me into a panic. I just walked over to his halter and lead line, grabbed the container of horse cookies and walked up to him. He took the cookie and let me slide the halter over his head and lead him back to his pen. Jasper was there waiting, having never left HQ.

It was a damp and chilly morning, weather I adore. The day was set for pheasant hunting in the damp breeze followed by a ride with friends Patty and Christine. I didn't plan on spending the first hour of that hunt mending fences, but that's exactly what happened. While the horses ate their hay I pounded in new t-posts and fixed the electric wire that was torn down.

The whole morning, at home fixing the horse fence or out stalking pheasants was blustery and glowing. Glowing in the sense that at any minute a cloud could break and sunshine streamed into the forest, illuminating the red maples. All around the chilly woods were oranges and reds and oranges, as if they too knew the Calendar date and put on their church dresses. I was thrilled to be out in it, out with the bluster and the color. It felt like the fall I grew up with, what I missed with such a dull ache for years when I lived in Tennessee. I love that state but it has no idea how to have a properly miserable wet October morning. Brigit bless and pity it.

After the hunt, Merlin and I were picked up by neighbor Christine. She lives just a few miles south near Content Farm. I felt like a kid waiting to get picked up for a play date, and just as excited. I was wearing a green kilt, half chaps, paddock boots, and a favorite sweater. Merlin would be in his western tack. This is becoming my riding kit of choice. The kilt covers my legs from rubbing and the tall half chaps protect my legs. It's a lot easier to get on and off the horse as well, what with the kilts added mobility. Jeans, even stretch jeans, make it hard for me to throw a leg over Merlin. In a kilt I just hop up.

The afternoon ride was a series of quiet thrills. We rode from Livingston Brook Farm over to Maple Lane Farm. We passed stone walls and Bob and Caroline's herd of Haflingers. We went down truck roads in the fields, up steep pastures, and along hedgerows to ponds and trees. It was great fun, and Christine was a great addition to our usual duo. Her horse, a young quarter horse gelding named Dream, was just great. It was their first feral riding adventure away from home and that 15.2 hand superstar did everything she asked, didn't spook once, and looked beautiful in the few rays of Autumn sunlight. Steele and Merlin did just as smartly.

I am so much more comfortable with myself and that horse. When I get on him I just want to run! I adore the sensation of moving swiftly on horseback now, something I used to fear. I got in a few goood jaunts today and it was better than hunting, or mending fences, or nearly anything at all. To think I waited thirty years to canter a horse across a field on a Monday.

Brigit bless and pity me!

pheasants be warned...

First day of hunting season was toady, what a great way to welcome October! I spent a few hours in the misty fields along route 313 watching pheasants fly through the air (took a few shots, but no pheasant dinner tonight) and talking with other hunters. The upland scene is a cordial one, and a younger fellow showed me the best place for luck. He had two beautiful cock birds in his vest and I was envious. Roast and smoked pheasant is a food to behold. I have big plans for pheasant pot pie...

This will be an active hunting season for me. I have my shotgun and my father's deer rifle and look forward to pheasant, goose, duck, and deer in the freezer. I will try my hand at all, but even one or two lucky days makes the sport the thrill and savory goodness it is.

I wish all you fellow hunters good luck this season!

the raw milk debate

A few posts ago I spoke about raw milk and was not surprised at the emails and comments I got in return. There are plenty of people who still think all raw milk is one and the same. It is not. There are two types of raw milk. The kind of milk from factory farms that needs to be pasteurized to be safe to consume, and then there are animals that are actually "pasture-ized" meaning they live outdoors on green grass, in small healthy herds that produce beautiful raw milk. Not all raw milk is created equal. Let's start out by saying just that.

I personally do consume it right from my own goats in the backyard. My little backyard dairy has been an amazing experience with animals and food, making everything from milkshakes to cheese right in the kitchen with milk so fresh the cheese tastes like the spring itself.

There have been several movies and books written about the raw milk debate over the past few years and I suggest all of you watch them. The movie Farmageddon (trailer is above) just came out a few years ago and deals mostly with dairy raids and raw milk. The book, Raw Milk Revolution, also dispels myths and fear mongering we've heard for years.

I will say this. Everyone I know personally know who is strongly against raw milk is because either their doctor told them so or they saw a scary report on television. They do not know any organic dairies personally. They do not know how to milk a cow or how lactation even works. Folks, doctors are not organic farmers and television thrives off fear to sell ads. I'm not saying kids are the elderly don't croak because of disgusting and poorly grown raw milk. I am saying not all raw milk is the same. And don't believe everything you read or hear, and certainly don't believe it without hearing the other side of the story.

My stance on raw milk isn't that people should or should not consume it. That is a personal choice for each of you to make. My stance is simply consumers should be allowed to make that choice. A blanket ban on raw milk goes against our rights and consumer freedom. If you want to buy factory farm, chemically and hormonally treated milk at the grocery store go ahead. If you want to knock on a farmer's door with a half gallon mason jar and fill-r-up, that should be just as legal. I do not believe the government should be allowed to stop people from eating what they want of their own free will. I feel strongly about that. What do you think?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Horse Carts & Driving Goats to Hotel Lovin'

This morning started with loading a pony cart into my pickup truck to go visit Scott, the Blacksmith in Salem. Scott has a shop full of all sorts of curiosities and wonders. There are old gates from an 1800's estate in Brazil, 1940's motorcycle parts, sculptures and projects galore. It's a very modern shop, but the spirit is certainly old timey. Scott has a serious beard that goes down to his chest and I bet when he is working on something of wrought iron he looks likes a man stepping out of history....

Anyway, I called him to check out my broken cart. He inspected it and said it basically needs a new frame and that the old 1940's bike forks had rusted out. It is pricey repair job and I need to weigh fixing the rig or putting that money towards a new one. Either way, nothing is happening just yet. Even if I wanted to fork over the money for new forks, it would be two weeks before Scott even had an opening. He's backed up with customers and projects through Columbus Day and beyond.

On the way home from the Blacksmith's shop I decided to stop at Patty and Marks. As I wound along the beautiful autumn road towards Livingston Brook Farm I saw Patty and Steele driving down the road in her new wagon. The beautiful 4-person vehicle was Deere green and yellow and Steele looked like the King of Draft Horses pulling it under the gray skies. I slowed down enough to talk out the truck window and I told her I'd meet her back at the house.

We ended up going for a ride in her back fields on the new wagon and chatting. It had rained all morning and looked like more rain was on the way, but for the moment we were dry. Steele did amazingly well in his new rig and when we were done with the ride we unharnessed the horse and went inside for tea by her wood stove. A fine afternoon visit with a good friend on a Sunday.

And a Sunday was exactly what I wanted. I wanted an afternoon of rest. I had big plans for cleaning the house and basic chores, you know, just relaxing with my own fireside book. Of course, all that changed. The phone rang. It was Yesheva, my goat mentor and dairywoman of local notoriety. She wanted me to bring down my does to be served. The farmer's doe that had been staying in their extra pen had been bred and gone back to her farm—so there was an opening room at Hotel Lovin'. Yesh didn't call her open pen "Hotel Lovin'" but I did. Because the only reason to stay at Common Sense Farm was so goat sex could happen. Goat sex means kids in the spring and kids in the spring mean milk and income. All good things, and all require a stay at Hotel Lovin'

I did not hesitate. I didn't have large enough dog crates or a stock trailer so I loaded them right into the cab of the truck. It was just three miles to Common Sense so I figured we could pull it off. And we did. I had them down at their big Dairy barn within 15 minutes of that phone call and in the next week they will be bred by a beautiful purebred Alpine buck. This is just the first step in the cycle of owning a dairy animal, but I am excited to be a part of it. The trip did kind of ruin my afternoon plans of laziness, but no one ever said pimpin' was easy.

P.S. I am also proud to say not one pellet of goat poo hit the truck's upholstery. They were better than my dog in the Dodge. Who knew?

Last Day to Enter The Garlic Giveaway!

Annie's Seeds has offered to host a giveaway perfect for you fall gardeners out there. By leaving a comment here you can be entered to win the grand prize that is their Garlic Variety Pack! This is a combination of six quarter-pound packages of heirloom garlic seeds, and trust me, that will do you.

The variety pack is a good idea for any of you shopping for fall planting as well who are new to growing garlic, reason being, you can see what soft or hard variety grows best in your climate and soil. I can't win my own contest so I plan on buying it just to see what comes up. Then next year I can go whole hog with that winning variety and save cloves for the following year.

So enter to win a mess of garlic to plant now under a deep bed of mulch! And even if you don't win, Scott has offered three other runner up winners to pick their choice of a quarter pound of any single variety of garlic offered! Please only enter one comment per person, as to be as fair as possible. Know that comments are moderated so after you hit submit I need to read and approve it and that doesn't always happen instantly! And, as always, if you share it on Facebook you can come back and double your chances to win!

Happy Planting!

Kids and Food Rights

Yesterday's event at the Library went well! Myself, a chicken, and around a dozen kids and their caregivers showed up at the Library on the rainy day. I held the little Golden Laced Wyandotte against my chest as I talked about chickens, feathers, eggs, farms, and anything else the kids wanted to talk about. The kids were whip smart, and knew more about their food than I thought they would. (Not every kid knows ice cream, cheese, and hamburgers come from the same animal!) and everyone got to pet the bird, handle multi-colored eggs, and tell be their chicken stories. When it was over parents came by to ask adult chicken-keeping questions and everyone was kind and patient. I could not have asked for a better first Library experience and I thank Jessica and her young family for inviting me!

On an unrelated note, this is just a reminder to folks coming to Antlerstock that meals will not be provided, as originally intended. This is upsetting to me as well, but as the USDA cracks down on farm-to-table meals I can not legally serve you any food at an event you paid to attend unless it was prepared in a USDA kitchen and I had the license to transport it from there to here. That, or build a fully inspected stainless steel government approved food-preparing kitchen (Which I have not done, I'm working on lumber to build barn walls first.)

Some people think this is paranoia, but as a person who's home is also how she makes her living it is a very real threat. If any local USDA inspector came here and saw me serving chili I could have Antlerstock shut down and a fine that would destroy me. It is happening all over. So right now food is not a part of workshops. I tried to hire some catering companies to feed you instead but the cost was astronomical, everyone's ticket price would have doubled. It seemed most reasonable to have folks pack a lunch. Again, I am sorry. I can offer you a discount on future events if that will help with your costs.

For those who are passionate about farm-to-consumer rights I strongly urge you to join the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, AKA the Food NRA. Cold Antler is a member and part of the movement to get small, sustainable farmed food out of the world of taboo and into the world of normal again. Raw milk back on the table!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

goat sex and auctions

Bonita and Francis, my dairy goat duo, have a big week ahead of them. In the next few days they will be transported to Common Sense Farm where an Alpine buck named (and I am not making this up) Little Britches will serve them up a helping of lovin' If that goes as planned I can expect kidding in early March, and a pair of does ready to freshen and get back into the dairy swing.

I'm lucky my mentor and her herd are three miles away, and that for breeding time I have someone to show me the ropes. It's a debt I hope to pay forward. I am slowly doing just that. Last Thursday CAF friend and Season Pass member, Sarah had me come over to show her how to trim hooves and give CDT shots. It was an easy knowledge to share and I was honored to make the house call. By the time I left Sarah had trimmed a hoof and gave a shot herself. If any of you live close enough for me to run over and help, I happily will.

Right now Bonita is dry. I did my last milking the day I returned from Antlerstock and barely a half pint left her teats. After months of milking her every day it is a weird vacation. There is no freedom like the freedom from a dairy animal, you feel like you could go run the Amazing Race (coincidentally, New York State goat farmers Josh and Brent are...). It's a perfect time to add swine to the farm, the morning pig work will take the place of milking and by the time kids are hitting the good earth the pig will be in the freezer. At Antlerstock I will get my little tamworth/GOS cross piglet and I'll let you guys name him.

I'm off to my first ever auction tonight, over in another part of the county. Some gals hit the bars on Sunday night, some hit the horse-drawn equipment auctions in Washington County. I hope in the next few years Jess and Riley and the clan from Key West are coming over for a Saturday night potluck and talking about their farms with me. I love that some readers want to make this place home as well. I think of you all, and often.

...and for my next trick!

I didn't wake up in the middle of the night last night. I slept the solid, happy, sleep of a person who achieved her small goal. I woke up to more rain (we are in for a spell of it) and was excited to take on the day. I went out with Gibson to feed the critters and returned to coffee and oatmeal. My body was soaked by my mood was airy as a maple leaf on the wind.

There's a chicken in a small cage in the back of my truck. She's one of the Golden Laced Wyandottes I raised from a chick this spring. She's in the truck because in about half an hour we are off to share in a little adventure. This morning is my first ever Library talk for children! I'm heading a half hour south to the Schaghticoke (Skat-eh-coke) Library and really excited about it. I adore kids, specially the ones old enough to talk and too young to stop imagining. I am going to tell kids about farming, chickens, food, and my book Chick Days. It'll be a hoot!

Strike that! It'll be a Bok bok!

Friday, September 28, 2012

What does Cold Antler Farm mean to you?

Bringing Home the Bacon!

If there was ever a testament to the magic in this green world, it is this small farm tucked into a mountain in foothills of the Adirondacks. I just set up the payment for my mortgage online, it will be deducted early next week. Just writing that makes me swell with calming joy. It's a bit late, but I made it.

That fine payment happened after a day of tackling my fear with constant action, but it also happened because of a little tealight beeswax candle. See, I was trying to focus on the steps to take towards meeting my goals—lost in meditation staring at the candle—when I realized perhaps the candle itself was the key?! So I emailed the people on the box, folks I met at the Mother Earth News Fair. Within a few hours I was able to sell an ad to the fine people at Scent from Nature. They sell beautiful, heavy, all natural beeswax candles I adore and meditate with here. The same candle I lit this morning lit the whole day in service to the light. If you get a chance send them a message on their site (link is over there on their ad on the right and in this post) and let them know their support keeps this place going. They signed on for six months and it was what pushed a tittering home bill over the precipice into the world of PAID!

And if that wasn't good enough news, I got kind emails from readers who need design work and logos, a few small donations, and someone who owed me for a workshop paid up as well. This makes for a night of celebration! It is raining outside but the fire is burning bright in this farmhouse! I opened the windows to let out the heat out and let in the cool winds and sounds of rain. I love this combination of indoor comfort and outside bustle. It makes the living room feel like a campsite. I cracked a hard cider and will enjoy my beef soup dinner. Life is good.

And if all that wasn't enough to celebrate, I worked out a fine barter with a local heritage pig farmer just south of Albany. Betsy will be bringing to Antlerstock a Tamworth/Glouchestshire Old Spot cross piglet from her first ever farrowing! The little barrow was a trade for her ticket to the festival and I am thrilled to have her, and the little boy, here at the farm. I best get the pig pen ready!

The day started with fear and I set it aside. I cleaned up the house, had a good shower that scrubbed away all the doubt and worries and set into a day of action. The fruits were plentiful, returned in kindness and sales and pork. I can only say that if it wasn't for this community's encouragement I am not sure I would have had the strength to push through the collar like I was. You are all my Tein Eigan, and I thank you for the flames.

Of course there are October's bills to worry about, but it isn't October tonight! So instead I am going to enjoy my dinner and my apple drink and sit deep into my chair by the fireside. Sometimes you need to rest on the journey and tonight is just that, a comfortable campsite along the road of life.

A comfortable campsite with the promise of bacon by candlelight...


thanks henry

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can''re right."

-Henry Ford

rain and snow

I walked around the farm in the light rain, Gibson at my side. The morning was cold enough to require my trusty green Carhartt hoodie over my work kilt. My feet were warm and dry in Meredith's hand-knit wool socks inside my brown rubber boots. A hand knit cap I made myself was on my head, as much for warmth as its weather shedding double layer of Jacob and Bluefaced Leicester. Every step was a splash and as my dog danced around my heavy feet I sighed. Things are getting stressful, scary even. My mind is reeling with fall expenses, bills, projects, and the real world of money. These are the kinds of things that can swallow you if you let them.

I can't allow the doubt or fear to take over Cold Antler. If I do the place just becomes a bubbling pit of bills and sleepless nights. You look up at your ceiling in the dark and all you can hear are the words of doubt people have been telling me since day one. You haunt yourself, and it is worse than any headless horseman (and that's coming from a New Yorker).

I understand the situation as what it is, that bills need to be paid. I tell myself the same mantra, You have always made it work and you always will...You have always made it work and you always will...You have always made it work and you always will.

I find a way through positive thinking and a lot of prayer. My goal for the day is to pay my mortgage so I don't have to even think about it during Antlerstock, so I can just enjoy the October weekend for what it is. I'll spend the whole day trying to make that happen. Contacting sponsors for ads, offering you folks discounted season passes and workshops, selling items on Craigslist, posting of facebook: whatever it takes. I know nothing happens to solve the problem unless you change how you view it, and work your rump off to fix it. So in the honor of attraction and a brighter tomorrow, here is a blog post from December 2012. I know this hasn't happened yet, but perhaps it will.

The first snowfall of the year came down fast and bright, like the ringing of a giant brass bell. What started as a cold, wet rain after dark turned as the cold came on down the mountain. I knew it was snowing as I fell asleep, not from my window's view but from the lack of raindrops hitting the pane above my bed. Snow can be amazingly quiet, even when it is angry. We are alike in that way.

In the morning three inches of perfect blessing covered the farm. This marks the end of the Days of Grace, that holy time here in the Upper Hudson Valley after the leaves have all fallen and before the first snowfall. Up until last night farmers had a last chance to catch up on all the winter prep chores that snow makes more dodgy. Tractors are oiled and under cover. Large round bales have been taken into the field to save on winter square bale efforts. Defrosters are in troughs, larders are stacked, and everyone has enough coffee to make it through the weekend, if not the month. These tasks seem like common sense, but they are mighty. they are what make a morning like this a thing of beauty and repose, and not fear.

I think back to late September when I was so scared. Money was tight, down to my last few hundred dollars. I had no idea how the horse's barn would be walled, heck, I didn't know how I would even afford the lumber. But it got done. That and the firewood, hay, bills, mortgage payments and everything else. Partially thanks to the efforts of the blog, readers at workshops, and a hundred other small measures. But also thanks to the long-awaited book deal that sent me a check in the mail. Opening that envelope at the mail box let me release a sigh so powerful the birch trees swayed as it left my lungs. No book deal is a fortune, but it is enough to cover a few month of expenses and in the world of self-employed farming writers it is heaven sent. I was so grateful to receive it the earth below me rumbled.

I know I have to head out soon to do the morning rounds but a fire comes first. It may seem selfish but it is certainly not. A fire started before the outdoor work starts means comfort promised on my return. I bedded the fire around 10PM last night, setting a think yuletide log on the fire to chew away at. By morning just a a black snake of charcoal remained but the embers below still turned red when I blew on them. With some newspaper, hand-hatcheted elm, birchbark and locust hulls I can start a new blaze in moments. The first heat of the new fire lights up my face and my spirits. To look out glass doors onto a world made new, with elements life fire at your back, you feel lucky in ways Superbowl winners only dream of. Fire now roaring, I head out in wool and wax cotton to tend my animals. They waited long enough.

After everyone else is fed I can come inside and feel that kiss of firelight, shed off my wet layers and heavy boots, and wrap myself up in a blanket on the floor in front of the stove. On top of the bun baker is a tea kettle of water and a percolator of coffee. I just need a bowl of oats and a mug and I can it there and eat breakfast in front of the stove like a child eats her cold cereal watching cartoons on a Satturday morning. I feel that same level of bliss from mindless contentment. I have food, and heat, hot coffee, kind dogs, and a day ahead of writing to do. That time between morning chores and the day's work is also a mini Holiday. A Moments of Grace, if you will. I sit there and enjoy the grog and gruel and take a moment in deep thanks that this is where life has allowed me to canter. I am home. I can stay here a bit longer. It is enough.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Holy Crow! Countdown to Antlerstock!

Just a little over a week to Antlerstock! For folks traveling in for the weekend, remember that Friday night is a casual (workshop free) BBQ here at the farm. It's not part of Antlerstock, just a private party from 6-9PM or so to enjoy a little campfire and talk about the weekend. It's a great place to meet others who are staying at the same hotel or Inn, figure out car pools, relax after a long drive, and talk about the weekend ahead. If you are coming to the Friday night event, please email me to RSVP so I am ready for you.

Note that meals are not provided at this year's Antlerstock. Workshops start at 9:00 AM and go till 5 or 6 PM so you need to bring along your nosh and picnic gear. It never hurts to throw in a blanket or folding chairs! And there is always a midday break if you want to hit a restaurant. I will have bottle water available for those who want it.

There are still 2 spots open for Antlerstock due to cancellation. If you want to be a part of the BIGGEST party of the 2012 year here in North Country October, please email me quick to take the tickets! And if you aren't sure if you want to commit, I will offer them at Season Pass Rate and it will also include NEXT YEARS Antlerstock. The farm could use your support and I'm certain you'll have a big time! Come See Washington County! Shucks, some readers are even moving here because of this little blog!

Last Chance Slots For Workshops
2 spots left for Antlerstock 2012
3 Spots left for Words and Wool Dec 1st
5 Spots left for Fiddler's Rendezvous in Feb
8 Spots left for Dulcimer Day Camp

Antlerstock 2012 Itineray! Friday Night: Arrive at 6PM for a casual meet and greet and campfire. Not an official part of antlerstock, but a private party for folks who want to come a night early and just relax, find the farm, and get their bearings. We'll have a cookout, potluck style, so bring a dish and BYOB. It'll be a nice time.

Saturday: Antlerstock begins!

9:30 AM - sign in, morning mingling, and tour
10:15 AM - Backyard Forestry
10:15 AM - Soapmaking
11:00 AM - Sourdough Starter and Baking
11:00 AM - Harnessing up and moving logs with Merlin/Jasper
12:00 Noon - Safe Axe work, chopping and stacking 101

1PM - Lunch Break, bring a packed lunch or drive into town for a meal!
Stay for a homesteading talk under the King Maple

2:30PM - Backyard Rabbits and Chickens for eggs and meat
3:00 PM - Getting Started with Dairy Goats
4:00 PM - Timber Sports talk and demo
4:00 PM - Conversations Under the King Maple: Wrap up
5:00 PM - End of day, enjoy a drive around the WC, welcomed back for a campfire and music at 7PM lit by jack-o-lanterns. Story time and music.

Ongoing daily activities: cider pressing and pumpkin carving.

Sunday: Day 2~

9:00 AM - Horses for the homestead, riding and work
9:00 AM - Salves and herbal remedies
10:00 AM - Hombrewing 101!
10:30 AM - Fiddles and Dulcimer Overview
11: 00 AM - Pruning fruit trees and forestry

Noon - Break for Lunch!

Ongoing daily activities: Optional Tour of Common Sense Farm, Soap Shop and Poultry barn

1:30 PM - Cheesemaking 101
2:00 PM - Highlanders and backyard Beef + Pigs 101
3:00 PM - Sheep and Wool for the homestead
3:30 PM - Energy and the future, conversation
4:00 PM - Blogs and Freelance for the Homestead
4:30 PM - Wrap Up under the maple tree