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...