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!