Saturday, October 20, 2012

Amen, and other Fledgling Birds

Annie's Kingdom

Big Day For New Neighbors

In a little bit I'll be driving my truck up to Hebron to help a friend move. Jon and Maria are leaving their beautiful 90-acre farm to relocate to Jackson, just a pony ride away from Cold Antler. I'm so proud of them for taking the leap, and moving on with their lives. Their old farm hasn't sold yet (and it was reduced to $375!) but they aren't letting fear, or naysayers, or agents, or anyone tell them to wait. They wanted to move in by Halloween and today they are jumping together.

I'm thrilled to help them out, and to know them. Today's a big day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Some songs are old friends.

Pablo's Gaelic Pancakes

Halloween is a day of quiet remembrance. It has always been that. Traditionally, you are to remember the people you lost since the last closing of the harvest, a full calendar year. When I think about my life and the people in it just a few Octobers ago, and where we are now—it makes me pensive. You're going to get posts this month about big things, because big things are on my mind. Things that are October to me—like memories, death, the farm's sweet year, gratitude and love. I think tonight I want to write about loss and love.

Losing people is as natural as finding them. It happens to all of us, every day. The losing just isn't as pleasant so we tend to give it more of ourselves. We let ourselves punch underwater longer trying to figure out answers out of our hands and hearts. This certainly isn't a personal experience. I'm sure many of you have lost someone you cared for since last October. Some are lost through death, through anger, through success or change of address. Others through slower things like social entropy or dying light. The only thing all these random circumstances share in common is the end result: they are gone. This is October, and it's time to recognize that. Time to reflect. Time to move on.

There are people I lost I think of every day. People I miss so much that the memories cling to my ribs the way coral grows on sunken boats. Even at a confused glance the they remain beautiful and complicated. There are songs and stories that bring them back as if they're sitting right next to me on the couch. I love them so much. I miss them so dearly.

And then there are people I lost whose middle names I can't wait to forget. They aren't anything like coral. They are just rust, and if you don't scrub them off you'll start to break apart before you even realize it's happening. Rust has songs and stories too, but I can't listen to them any longer. Pablo Neruda wrote about people like that, and in his Song of Despair he explained them perfectly. "You swallowed everything, like distance."

So it's October and I feel it is my job to spend the days heading into Hallows' celebrating the people I miss and love and trying to forgive the ones I don't. It's hard to turn grief of into a wake. It's hard to forgive. But if I wanted an easier Halloween I'd buy a slutty maid costume and hit the bar. No, That's not my game. There's nothing wrong with having a frisky and fun Halloween, and I applaud your revelry. But there's nothing I want out there waiting for me in a bar in a Superman costume. And I'm not writing about any of this because I want comments about support, advice, judgment or pity. I don't think I want comments about this at all. It's too close.

Listen, someday I'm going figure out love. I'm not there yet and you won't be reading about Mr. Jenna anytime soon. But I have hope for it, and believe in it, and know it is as real of a possibility in my life as this farm was. And you know what? Someday I'm going to sing Pablo's Sonnet 25 out loud in Gaelic while I make him pancakes. He'll have no idea what I'm saying, but he'll know exactly what I'm saying. You dig?

Who knows. We're all a bunch of Luckless Slingers when it comes to love. We're all hoping we find (or found) that person that makes us smile so loud inside we can't help but sing. I won't settle for anything less than that, and that might mean I never have a partner at all. I'm okay with that, too. I've been single for over ten years. I'm good at it. It's my choice. I'm sure there are people out there to date casually, but I'm not interested in dating for sport. To me it's boring, just binging. I'll wait. Because it's all meaningless and lonely efforts without that song inside you. I know, I tried.

I'd rather be single indefinitely than in a relationship without Gaelic pancakes. I guess it all boils down to those famous words of Paul Virilio:

The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.

It's October, people. Take your chances.

Gibson Knows How to Nap

Farm Updates

A lot of plans ahead for the animals of Cold Antler. I thought I'd fill you in on what's in store. Starting with the Testosterone Reduction Program. There are just too many roosters here at CAF (just ask the Fiddle Camp attendees who slept 30 yards from the barn....) So I made a call into Ben Shaw and Tuesday morning Gibson, me, and a crate of seven roosters are taking them to be processed. Three of those boys are HUGE Freedom Rangers that escaped capture during summer slaughter but the rest are just accidental hatchery misfits that happened to be male in a very female workforce. All of them will make Freezer Camp by Tuesday night. That'll reduce the farm to a few choice males and a happy group of hens of mixed breeds.

The goats are bred and back in their pen with Monday the ram lamb. Their fate is pretty blissful. Kidding will be around March 9th and last that week and while no part of me is nervous about Bonita, Francis is a new mom and might need help. I hope Yesheva is back from North Carolina by then as her midwifery might be needed! Monday seems to be growing by the pounds and will make a great table lamb or new breeding ram here at CAF. Since he is only related to one of six ewes it's not out of the question here. Might involve penning away his mother to avoid the line breeding but that is an issue for next fall, not this one. Atlas should return in December or so to revisit his old stomping grounds and serve the flock. I'll have to pen up Joe and Sal to make sure the job gets done right, but that's not hard to do. Just walk into a pen with apples and grain and those boys will follow me anywhere.

Just as Meg Paska warned me during her bee workshop this past year, my hive did swarm and took the queen with her. The bees didn't make it and I never found the swarm so I'll start with a new hive in the spring. Anyone out there who wants to barter a hive for what I can offer, email me. At least I don't have to worry about wintering them over, one less thing to fuss about in a snowstorm.

The horse barn still isn't walled up for winter, and I'm not sure how far along it will get. Right now I just can't get the finances together so I may just get some long boards from Home Depot to reinforce it and some plywood to make a wind break. It won't be pretty as planned but it will suffice.

The piglets have stopped escaping and remain together in their new deluxe pig pen. Between their pig ration in a bag and their main diet of scraps from the house both Lunchbox and Thermos have grown and have grown to trust me. They let me pet them now, specially Lunchbox. In the morning I go into the pen to serve up breakfast and they are always spooning in clean hay together, snoring. I feel like I invaded their personal space but they care little when last night's roasted chicken drippings and some cracked eggs coat their grain. All if forgiven in food.

Jazz is still healing up, but so much better than he was this summer. His skin and hair are all fresh and clean and growing back fuller than ever. His eyes have gone uncloudy and his energy level is high too. He can walk a full mile with his tail in the air. Annie hasn't changed this the day I met her.

Boghadair is a firecracker. Hoo! As I write he is playing with my pant legs and then leaping over Jazz's back to run circles around the kitchen before shooting across the farmhouse to go upstairs. All the dogs tolerate him and his fox clever ways. He's litter box trained, eating like a horse, and so fun to snuggle (until he bites you). I love the little guy. And with winter's call bringing in the mice I am thrilled to have him on board. I caught four mice just last night.... ugh.

Jasper and Merlin are getting all excited for next weekend's Farmer's horse workshop. I think this will be my favorite of the year, not just because this was my Year of the Horse, but because the people who are coming are not equestrians, but dreamers. Folks of all ages and without experience who just feel passionate about the possibility of a horse on their farms (future or present). There will be a young couple who run a CSA and are on the fence about tractors or a team of work horses. There are young couples in their late twenties and thirties who are just drawn to riding and carting. There are people who have owned horses for years, and people who have loved them from afar. And we're all meeting here next Saturday to learn together, work together, and spend a day on two farms with four beautiful horses and their gear. And it all wraps up with a cookout and warm cider by a campfire where I will read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as it will be just a few days before Halloween! And what could be more fitting than a farming horse workshop in New York in October than that?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thanks Jennifer!

October Stories

It was warm today, too warm. In the sixties and sunny and that's all fine and dandy in September but come October I want sweaters and snow-kissed nights and a world shutting down for me to turn around three times and lie down in. Instead we got this burst of warmth and light and I supposed the best thing to do was enjoy it. I took Merlin out for a long fall ride through trail, forest, across stream and up a hillside out towards our rode. I love that horse, and what he has given me. He's a book in himself and one I can not wait to write.

We got home and he returned to Jasper and I let them both out into the back pasture. There in that amazing october light they grazed and swished their tails and told the silent stories horses tell with low heads and raised ears. I sat in the grass to listen, trying to hear whatever I could in the warm wind.

Bottling By The Gallon

I'll be bottling beer tonight, around five gallons. Two weeks ago at Antlerstock Adam King did a great and involved introduction to homebrewing and brewed a demo batch of porter for everyone to watch. As a parting gift, they left it here and I was thrilled to accept it. I have some pop-top glass beer bottles and some growlers of various sides to fill with the flat beer. I'll use a siphon and with the help of some table sugar added to each bottle before capping—I'll have carbonated beer ready to drink in a week.

I'm excited about the mini 32 oz. growlers I ordered from Northern Brewer. Once carbonated and ready to drink these will be coming along with me as gifts at Halloween parties and dinners. I love the typography, and of course they are reusable (though they need new lined caps for every filling). If I could get Northern Brewer to support this blog I would, I've ask but never got a response. But I don't care if they do or not because those boys in Minnesota know their stuff. Every kit or recipe I have tried from them has turned out to be the best beer I ever tasted. Soon as these 5 gallons are bottled and carbonating (priming in the lingo of brewers) I am going to brew up another 5 gallons of their sweet stout. It'll take an hour of boiling over the stove in a big steel kettle. It's a fun hour though. I play audiobooks on the speakers and listen to stories (Currently listening to all three unabridged Lord of The Rings Books) while I seep grains, pour malt, add hops and sip my last homebrew while I dream of the current one. It's gotten to the point where there's always going to be something fermenting in this house.

When I was at the Zymurgist in Saratoga a few days ago a scruffy guy in his early twenties came in with the focus of a scientist in a lab coat. He carefully picked out grains by the pound, then the right sealed package of hops and yeast. He was brewing on a whole different level than I was but I sure was intrigued. He would be making a wort from scratch. Wow. I stared at him in awe. He's doing what I hope to do someday, know the craft so well I can just shop for the perfect blend to make a house brew. Though to be honest, what I really want to do is grow my own barley and hops and make my own TRULY Cold Antler blend.

That's a ways off, but for now I am thrilled with my adventures in kits and kettles. And the beer I am bottling today was from a no-boil kit by Munton's. Which means this 5-gallon batch was made from a pre-made wort so easy yo brew Adam showed us in under half an hour. Instead of boiling your own mixed grain/hop wort it comes in a can and you mix it with warm water then add yeast and BAM, you just made beer at home. It's a safe way to get started if homebrewing makes you nervous. Those Muntons box kits and the well known, Mr. Beer starter kits are a great way to get cracking.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jasper's Luck

Jasper is the luckiest horse in the world, he really is. The little guy may not get all the pomp and glory in words that Merlin does, but trust me, both horses would agree he's been the one kissed by luck.

Jasper came to Washington County via the Cobleskill Amish Horse Auction. A fellow member of the WDCAA, Rob, bought him on a hunch after seeing him trot out into the auction ring pulling an EZ entry cart. He was in full regalia, harnessed and stepping high. In the auction book it had a warning though: very spirited.

The Amish are not looking for Very Spirited Ponies. It's not that they are against personality in their working animals, but ponies aren't used the way a sassy Percheron may be used. Ponies are some children's first ever harnessed and driven horses. They are used as all-purpose ATVs for their kids. A good and well trained cart pony can take a pair of kids to a neighbors for an errand, follow behind the family buggy on the way to church, or let a kid hop on top of bareback to race across a field. This is what Jasper was supposed to do, but he was failing. Too much energy and too much kick in him and that is no good around working animals and children. So he was sold, and sold with that deadly stamp of "very spirited" and no other Amish Farmer would take him.

But Rob wasn't Amish. He was a pony trader, and he knew a good bet when he saw one. He took Jasper home to his pony operation and started letting his (then 8-year-old) son ride him after a period of evaluation. He had his older daughter ride him bareback, and he *tried* to get the horse to buck him or someone off, and he didn't. Turned out Jasper wasn't as much of a monster as he seemed.

It was around this time of Jasper coming to Washington County that I was thinking about getting a horse. I wanted an animal to learn with, something to both cure my fear of taking that first equine step and be useful around the homestead. I think I had the hunch most people new to livestock have, which is to start small. Look at the rise of the Nigerian Dwarf dairy pet, the bantam flock of roosters, baby-doll sheep and the popularity of miniature cattle. I don't think this is an accident, I think people getting into livestock want animals they can handle and house, and it is a lot easier to house a trio of Nigerian Dwarfs than it is a pair of full-grown Nubians. Smaller animals also can thrive in smaller spaces, and with just a 1/4 acre of pasture fenced at the time (the rest was all electric netting) I wanted a pony that could live with and protect the sheep, share their housing and fences, and just sort of melt into my life.

I wanted a horse, but I wanted a Nigerian Dwarf, not a Nubian. I craved an animal to pull a wagon, not ride. I wasn't ready for that yet. Riding a horse around my own farm or down the road seemed something from a movie reel, not reality. Something for people with big walk-in stall barns and white fences and level ground for arenas and miles of fields for pasture. No, what I wanted at this point was a 10-12 hand pony that could live on this farm, be harnessed, and used in cart or lead by the halter to pull things like a small analog manure spreader (meaning a wooden box on wheels full of his own poop and the sheeps' poop and a pitchfork I could fling on the highest field). My goal were humble.

But getting a pony seemed a huge and scary commitment, even if the animal was small. I found a white draft pony online and emailed the seller. It turned out to be Rob and the horse turned out to be in it's twenties and too big, a Haflinger cross. I wanted a younger animal and I explained to him what I was looking for. I told him I wanted a smaller pony I could drive, or ask to pull firewood. Something I could jump on the back of if I really wanted to, but mostly to live with my sheep and do odd jobs. I explained the barns I had, the fencing, all of it. He said I should come meet Jasper.

I did and the rest was history. I met Jasper on a miserable wet and cold spring morning and watched him jump out of a trailer window in a panic, and let me walk up and halter him and lead him back to Rob. I watched him get tacked up in western gear in the downpour as his son road him at a walk, trot, and canter around their backyard. I watched him allow all this, with his calm and even temperament, and I decided he was the pony for me. I paid him half his selling cost on the spot ($275) and arranged to have him delivered by Rob in a few days. I came to Rob's farm as a shepherd and left as a working horse owner. Holy crow. Times were a changing....

I didn't know enough about horses to even know he was underweight and in shoddy condition. To me he was beautiful. That photo above is a few days after I brought him to Cold Antler. He looks like a different animal than the one in the video below. Who knew under that gray winter coat and dirt was this dappled white king? Who knew he had muscle and strength and power? I didn't. But I did know to have vets, and farriers, and plenty of grass and sunshine at his service. He really healed here and looking back at how he started I can see that more than ever. Jasper is one of my greatest success stories. By just being himself, he makes me feel better about myself.

And Jasper lived here and worked here, and he did thrive. But no horse should be totally alone. Jasper wasn't, as he had the sheep and me, but sheep do not make the best companion animals for a pony. When Merlin arrived Jasper's life improved in unspeakable ways! He now had a larger pen, a companion, someone to run and rub against, kick and whinny with. Those two are my odd couple for sure: Merlin is so calm and steady and authoritative and Jasper is all piss and vinegar and goofiness. But it works. It works brilliantly. And now with Merlin being the more trained animal on the farm, he is used for work and Jasper's life is just running, and playing, and bumping heads, and eating out with friends. Merlin is doing nearly all of the work and Jasper is on a holiday, so he may have hit his own personal paradise.

I want to get Jasper in harness on a cart soon. What I know now about driving and horses has given me the confidence to try and I bet soon as J is in a cart he'll do wonderful! But right now he is a party animal, on vacation, and loving every minute of his life. Not a bad way for an Amish reject to turn out.

Making Toast

Pasture Time

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Does October Mean To You?

Trading It All In?

Back in the high twenties tonight, not as cold as I'd like it but a fine temperature. It's a temperature of change and possibilities. Possibilities like a blustery wind of flurries, or the death of all the pesky flies, or maybe a new type of dough in my woodstove's bread oven. I have been craving soda bread and just watched a man on the BBC use Guinness instead of buttermilk and added baked apples and a cheddar crust. Can you imagine the divine bite! A crusty sweat apple bread loaded with cheese and the savory tang of that black nectar? I have fallen in love with cooking good food. Fallen hard. I now eat less than before but everything is precious, quality, and made with the intentions of wholesome fortifying nutrition. Well, you know, most of the time. I can eat some boozy soda bread too.

Been working outdoors a lot this afternoon. General stuff that needs to be done like picking up any old trash the mud brought to the surface and fixing fences, but also work like turning over the gardens before the earth freezes and sleeps. Most of the hard graft was dumping all the stock tanks and refilling them with buckets of clean well water.

While I did this the sheep and horses grazed together in the back pasture. On these chilly days it sometimes feels like another country or time. A black prehistoric looking horses sharing a meal near prehistoric looking sheep. It warms me up, regardless of how cold the night gets. I'm so drawn to their world, work, and smells. I love the way Merlin smells after a long ride, all sweaty and warm. I love the way the Blackface horn's feel in my hands. I love the cart rides, and lambing season, and the way those new lambs smell against your chest on a cold spring morning. I think about all the choices that got me here, and keep me here, and I try to think of something that someone could offer me that would make me turn over my riding boots and shepherd's crook and you know what comes to mind?

Absolutely nothing.

The Girls Are Back!

The goats arrived last night after 8PM. I was in the farmhouse living room, chomping down on a quIck slice of homemade pizza. I had to use up the veggie's from my morning deconstructed omelet on toast and a veggie-piled pizza was just the trick. I could only eat a slice and a half and that was something I am coming to realize about homemade food. When you make it with care and time, from kneading the dough to crumbling the cheese on top—it fills you more. I could easily house four slices of flat, pizza house pie and not even remember eating it. But the homemade slices were so thick in veggies and pillowy dough one slice was plenty and the second piece was a battle I could only start to enjoy.

This morning was just oatmeal.

But yes! The goats are home and I am thrilled to have them back at CAF. The morning started the way I like it, stepping out on the front marble steps and hearing that happy bleat of Bonita. Somehow, she knows before any other living creature that I am awake and possibly carrying grain. I heard that bleat and just smiled. It's the sound of life feeling correct.

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?