Friday, October 26, 2012

Horses and Storms Ahead

In a little bit Jess (AKA Rabbit on the blog) will be here from Ontario, and arriving after a 9-hour drive south into the States to hang for the weekend. She, Melina, Robert, Elizabeth, Joanna, Mark, Darcie, Tom, and a bunch of other friends and faces from the Cold Antler Farm community will be here this weekend to celebrate the working horse. They are all equine enthusiasts and everyone has different levels of experience. Some have just dreamed of horses and others have a few in the backyard. Patty will be co-hosting the event and sharing our stories about Merlin, Steele, Jasper and Ellis. Trainer/Farrier Dave will be also showing to talk about finding the right horse and answer any questions Patty and I can't. Folks coming for the day will hear about horses from a beginner, intermediate, and advanced equestrian. I'm the humber beginner but anyone who has read this blog this past year can see where I started and where I am now. It's a beautiful story, horsefeathers and all.

The weather is a bit tricky, with rain on the way, but I think we'll just have a proper Scottish day of overcast skies and the occasional shower. If the campfire gets canceled then so be it. I think everyone will be happy to touch harness leather and long manes and ask questions and learn about the way to act and be around horses. Some folks just want to be here to learn more of our stories, and some are serious CSA farms wanting real experience with the animals before they decide on a team or a tractor for their own farms. It's going to be such a grand time.

I took Merlin out yesterday for some ground work and a nice ride and while out on the mountain I realized this was the most comfortable I had ever felt on him, or any horse. He wasn't at his best. A little jumpy and nervous from a few days off and construction equipment near the road—but I felt I was at my best. I've learned how to ride, really ride. And when I say that I don't mean I have amazing form or dressage-ring elegance. I mean I know my horse and how to be comfortable with him and together we are travelers without fear. I used to be scared of him, always scared on some level. I'm not scared anymore. Not of him, and not of many things that used to make me shake. But I think it took the forest and the black mane to show me that. And the friends, teachers, and trainers along the way.

That's not to say I don't respect him and the dangers of riding a thousand pound animal in the forest. Of course there are risks and safety precautions. I never leave the farm without his saddlebags containing emergency gear like a halter and lead line, first aid kit, rain coat, hoof pick, and a cell phone in my pocket. But I don't ride expecting there to be a problem. If a problem comes like a spook or a bucking halt I know what he's thinking and how to solve it. These are the kinds of things you learn through miles in a saddle, not through books or lessons. I think for me and horses the recipe just needed enough time to simmer. That, and the right horse. Merlin is nothing short of a gift from the Almighty and I'm thankful for him every single day. I'm going to be riding Fell Ponies the rest of my life, I'm quite certain, and he may be the one reason why.

Food Mythbusters

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Then and Now

Jennaism Cooking?

I've been getting a lot of recipe requests. People wanted to know about things like my pumpkin pie, naan, and pies in jars. I have the link for the write up about jar pies here, and my apple pie recipe is on Huffington Post. But generally, I do not use any sort of recorded measurements or recipes. I learned to cook through the building blocks of a single recipe and from there its all experimentation and luck. For instance, for last night's curry I steamed a pile of chopped summer squash, red pepper, and cauliflower with a bit of salt in a large basin like pan that was a hand-me down from my friend Jim. It's a semi-wok so I steamed right there in the pan and then added my yellow curry paste, some cream, some honey, and cheese curds. It was a pretty farmy curry for late harvest but it was good. I served it over basmati rice with naan and no one left the table hungry. But nothing is written down. It's all just "doing" and as frustrating as it sounds I think that going freelance is how most of us learn to cook.

I do however, have the easy naan recipe from online I used as my base of operations. You can click here for that. I didn't use a lot of the ingredients they suggested, like minced garlic, melted butter or milk. I just read how to do it changed it up in a way that seemed more appealing. Here's a Jennaism change: after I fried them in olive oil in the smoky skillet I would butter them with melted butter via a cook's brush and then gently sprinkle sugar and sea salt over them. It made a savory/sweet combo that was pretty boss if I do say so myself. I find with naan people either want to use it as a rice/meat scoop (like me) or eat it as a side dish. So I offer it up in a basket and let people decide, but there is always more honey and salt on the table if they want a flavor boost.

I adore cooking, but most of the time my recipes are just me saying things like "add some flour until it feels *just* sticky enough to be annoying and then stop even when you want to add more because it won't get in your fingernails" That isn't really specific. I could write Jennaism recipes though, but they'd be more like a narrative with food than measurements and rules? Do you want some of those? Does anyone else cook like this? You must.

And The Beer Winner Is...

Justine Navarro!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Naan, Kittens, and Halloween

It took a while to get naan down. Now, a few trial and error meals later I think I have it in stride. I make a sweet bread dough with one egg and a quarter cup of sugar, a little milk and salt, and let it rise an hour. Then It is rolled out with flour strewn all over the counter into little pancakes the size of my hand. They are fried in a cast iron skilled in a bit of olive oil and then set on a plate, one by one, as they pile high. Tonight I'm making a quick yellow curry with veggies and cheese balls for Jon and Maria, who love Indian food as much as I do. Last night I made a lamb masala for Patty and Mark. This might just be an underground curry joint in a few weeks at this rate. I'm just kidding. Masala Farm is right up the road. If anyone was going to be a Washington County curry joint, it would be them.

I'm loving hosting friends for dinner. It's a big hoot, and sharing the farmhouse isn't something I get to do much of. A lot of folks come by the farm for workshops or visits, but not many are treated to meals and bottles of wine. It's a shame because if you want a seasonal outing I beat your local corn maze, no contest. Right now the inside of my house looks like a set from Harry Potter. There are brooms and crows, pumpkin lanterns and strings of Halloween greetings. There are gourds and leaves and cider-smelling pumpkins and a warm stove keeping off the wet chill. There's a little brassy kitten running amok and trying to chase Gibson's tail when he wags it. When he grabs it and bites down Gibson looks up at me with his ears back and eyes wide in pleading makethedemongoaway lady makeitgoaway. I pick up the little monster and set him closer to Annie. Annie doesn't tolerate fools and just rolls him aside with her jaws, which are roughly the same size as Bogh's entire body. I wouldn't call it a peacable kingdom, but the natives aren't restless. And the animals' antics combined with the fiddle music on the computer radio and the decor...the house takes me away.

I made this farmhouse from a fantasy. It is surrounded with things I love: antlers and crows, moons and dogs, autumn's smells of scented candles and saddle leather. The place is never really warm, but there is firelight and plenty of wool sweaters. As October gets ready for his final bow into Hallows, I'm here and ready for our last dance. With the big day getting closer I am hoping the weather holds out. A rainy Halloween is appropriate, I guess, for a day of reflection. But the Saturday before is all about horses and cookouts and working animals and I am hoping for some luck with the weather in that respect. The Farmer's Horse will happen rain or shine, so be prepared and dress for that, friends. If it is raining we will cancel the bonfire at night, but if it holds we'll tell stories and sip cider and enjoy some of the end of the fall together.

Hey, Garlic Winners!

Scott from Annie's Heirloom Seeds said he still needs to hear from two of the four winners? If you didn't get in touch yet to claim your prize, email me at Jenna@itsafarwalk.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This Just In: Americans Eat Cows!

There's now a national controversy at Green Mountain College because the school's working farm has decided to turn two ten-year old working oxen into food for the students. The school has decided since it is an actual sustainable farm that the two steers will be turned into burgers, but many students and alumni are upset. Upset because this particular burger would have a face and a history of service to the college behind it. Below you can click for a link to the story.

The Jenna from 5 years ago would have been appalled at eating any burger, much less a working animal's flesh. The Jenna from today would ask you to pass the A1. And that's not meant to sound harsh or cynical. I adore animals, I have dedicated my life to living for and with them, but I feel about these oxen the same way I feel about Farm Sanctuary and other "rescue" options for edible livestock: A place for not-hungry people to feel good about captive animals not being eaten. I can expand on this later. But for tonight, read the story and see how you feel about it. There is also a discussion on my Facebook page.

Meet Your Meat

Today's Your Last Chance to Enter!

Lots of excitement around homebrewing lately. I decided I would offer a giveaway to inspire some of you folks to take a shot at it. If you want to be entered to win your very own Beginner's Beer Kit from Mr. Beer, just leave a comment in the post. If you already brew, this could be a great Christmas gift for someone you want to get hooked. I mean, It's how I got started and I was never disappointed with these guys or the beer the kit made. It is a no-boil kit, so you don't have to worry about advanced chemistry. You just need a saucepan, a faucet, and a place to stash your very own mini-keg. In three weeks you'll be cracking open bottles of your own homebrew, in time for Thanksgiving!

Winner Picked Wednesday Night! And if you share the link to the blog/contest on Facebook you can enter a second time. Thank you for entering and following along with Cold Antler. It's appreciated and this is a way for me to show that and help someone out there get into a hobby. So comment away, share on FB, and think about what kind of beer you'd want to brew if you could brew anything at all. (Hint. You can!)

Kit pictured above is the advanced kit. That's the image they had on the beer kit page at mrbeer.com. Just know I am giving away the basic starter package at a $39 value.

Making An Entrance

Woke up earlier than usual today. My alarm rang while the world was still very dark and I didn't want to leave the warmth of my blankets and sheepdog. Gibson wasn't thrilled to get up either. In the 48 degree house our bed was probably closer to blood temperature. But you can get a Border Collie out of bed if you whisper a herding command into his ear. I just asked him "Where's the sheep?" and he leapt to the window.

I got up shortly after and got dressed. Outside there was a big dog crate of four fat roosters. They spent the night in confinement so their stomaches would be empty for their date with Ben Shaw. Now, you may think four roosters wasn't worth the effort of a trip to the abattoir, but these guys were not your average-sized cocks. These were Magnums, easily weighing in around ten pounds a piece. Most of them Freedom Rangers who escaped capture earlier this summer and had a full autumn to keep putting on weight and grow even larger. But now the boys of summer had hit that plateau where more food doesn't equal more meat and it was time for Freezer Camp. The monsters had their date with destiny and I had plans for a roast dinner Friday night with company.

After feeding the horses, goats, and sheep, waking up the pigs with slops and new grain, and throwing some scratch down for the chickens—I drove the truck around back where the crate was waiting by the coop. I hauled it up into the bed and Gibson and I headed up over the mountain towards Greenwich. It was a fifteen minute drive to Ben Shaw's family farm and I passed an old coworker's home along the way. Her Subaru was warming up in her driveway and soon she'd be heading the opposite direction I was going to her desk at Orvis. I felt a pang I didn't expect to feel. I don't regret a thing about quitting my day job or my life at Cold Antler now—but it was like stepping back in time into a past life for a second. Getting that sense-memory shock of the early morning civilized commute. I would be all showered, in a nice outfit, heading into a long day of design, laughter, friends and lunch breaks with dogs and ponds. It was in no way a bad scene. But now I was in a giant black wool sweater and cap, flecked with hay and certainly not showered. I had oily hair in braids and an empty stomach. There was no just-ironed cardigan and steel thermos of coffee. I made a little sign of blessing and drove on past, putting it behind me. I had a mission in mind.

You would think roosters in transit in the back bed of a truck going 40 MPH along country roads wouldn't want to crow. You'd be wrong. The four tenors crooned the entire drive. They crowed at dairy farmers moving cows. They crowed at kids waiting at bus stops. They crowed at a cop waiting to catch speeders. They crowed at Gibson, who watched them whining out the back window. And when we got to the town of Greenwich and stopped at Stewart's (our local chain of gas station/mini marts) they crowed there too. We pulled into the blue-collar gossip hub with hay flying and roosters making like their voices were their last-chance auditions for a life on Broadway. Construction crews eating their donuts laughed, folks driving kids to school pointed. I just got coffee. Talk about making an entrance….

I arrived at Ben's place and unloaded the birds. He said it was a twenty dollar minimum charge and I could come back in half an hour. I agreed, deciding that I just paid three dollars for a coffee and seltzer, so an other two to have someone do a job that would take me an entire morning to complete (and an unpleasant job at that) and headed into town to get some provisions. I went to the grocery store and bought one of those aluminum cheap turkey pans for the big roos and when I checked out the woman clerk said, conversationally, "Oh, you cooking a turkey this week!" and I said no, that I had this for a chicken big enough to fit in there and she just nodded the way you nod at crazy people to make them go away. I had a wolfish smile at that, and told her thanks and good morning.

So how did it turn out? Well those four roosters weighed in at over thirty pounds! I picked them up and it felt like I was hauling off a bag of kibble. Now, I just paid fifty dollars for half a lamb with Patty and Mark and that didn't even come in at half the weight of those fowl. I was happy as I could be to hand Ben's daughter a crisp twenty and load up my truck with my groceries, meat, and giant turkey pan. The ride home was quieter, and when I passed the neighbor's empty driveway I didn't feel anything.

Change is good.
Roast chicken dinner is great.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Living Grass And The Dead Sea

I picked up a truckload of hay from Nelson Greene's farm this afternoon. It was a beautiful drive. Still a little too warm for my October tastes, but I didn't let the sunny sixty-degree afternoon spoil my day. I was determined to enjoy it. I cleaned out the back bed, and called for my farm hand. Gibson jumped up into his spot in the cockpit of the Dodge and we headed north to Hebron.

I rolled down the windows and I hung an arm out my side, and he hung his front paws out his. I turned up the stereo and The Lumineer's were just hitting the final few choruses of Dead Sea, which I adored since the first time I heard it, so I smiled wide and drove on, singing along. What a sweet little song that is. I looked over to Gibson and sang to my smiling dog.

Like the Dead Sea
You told me I was like the Dead Sea
You'll never sink when you are with me
Oh Lord, like the dead Sea


Gibson doesn't sing but he knows when I'm happy and he gets the energy of the joy. He closed his eyes as the truck picked up speed, the wind knocking back his black and white mane around his face. What a grand dog he is. What a beautiful (okay, okay, I admit the weather was lovely if you're into that sort of thing….) day. What a good task we had ahead. An afternoon of loading and unloading fifty-pound bales so that a few weeks from now when frost covers the world my sheep, goats, pigs, and horses have good grass of the summer to munch and roll about it. I like this work for a Monday afternoon. It suits me.

I picked up 17 bales and Nelson helped me tie them down. I handed him a check and he asked if it was okay to cash it today? It's the kind of question that keeps me coming back to his farm as a customer. If I told Nelson to hold it three weeks he would (and he has, trust me), but instead I nodded and told him it was okay. The fine people at AdSense sent along my payment today and it was enough to cover the hay order and my truck payment. What a blessing that was, to have the blog itself earn enough money to feed the animals for a few weeks? Who knew?

My heart is dedicated to change right now. Nothing deep or drastic, just changes I need to keep this place moving well into the future (and me too). New habits, new diet, new books, new projects, and all sorts of things too exciting to talk about just yet. But I can say I feel pretty darn good about whats in store for me. Not to tease too much, but y'all best just stay tuned, ya hear?!

I'm Like the Dead Sea
The finest words you ever said to me
Honey can't you see?
I was born to be your Dead Sea

Getting Ready For A Big Week

I've spent the weekend mostly involved with other folks lives and projects, not my own. It was a nice change of pace to focus on other things. Not because CAF has been a bad place to focus, but just because you gain a little more reflection away from your own messy world.

And trust me, Cold Antler is messy. The rains brought mud, the frosts brought dead grass, and what is left around here to munch isn't much. The horses and sheep are on 100% hay now. Not a bad thing but I need to get more later today. I'd like to pick up 20-30 bales or so. That's a lofty goal for a short bed pickup in one trip, so I might not hit that, but yeesh, ten bales is even enough to help the barn look less empty. Last winter I had the sheep and Jasper to feed. Now with two pregnant goats, a ram lamb, and two horses hay doesn't last as long. I go through 2-3 bales a day! Looks like it'll be a winter of a lot of hay errands. Oh well, I have sources and storage ideas ahead.

Patty is thinking of stopping by this morning to help measure and figure out the best way to close up the horse barn today. It's not heavy work but it does require getting the right lumber and materials and planning a work day to sling it all together. I'm not worried. It'll get done. It always gets done.

If it is going to be as lovely a day as the weathermen are suggesting I think a ride is in order. If I can get the office and housework done, I will saddle up. There's a lot of preparation for this week and the workshop this weekend. I have a house and two guest rooms to prepare, Dave to remind/check in about speaking Saturday night, roosters to catch for slaughter tomorrow, a cookout to organize (bbq chicken I'm guessing?), and horsey logistics to cover. I am thrilled about the entire day that Saturday will become. I have picked out my passages from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and figured out the campfire. I have two spots left for anyone thinking about getting a horse. The workshop covers riding, pulling, driving carts, logging and will have an expert on hand, but mostly it is for dreams who want to stop wishing for a pony and start buying saddles!

P.S. Check out my Facebook for pig shares and updates.

P.P.S. If you are coming this weekend to the farm, bring a folding chair! All I have is hay bales, which are fine but some of you folks might want something less heavy to haul around!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Mariner's Revenge! (classic)

Leave The Light On

Spent yesterday moving Jon and Maria, and it was such a gorgeous day. What might sound like a lot of work turned into a wonderful community event. They had five good friends come to help, all different ages and with different abilities. Kurt and Ben did most of the heavy lifting (I helped with some) and loading up their trailer. Maria and I hefted bags and boxes and delivered luggage and frames and shows and everything else smaller than a chest freezer. Jon organized and helped and set up his new writing office. Two of their friends who are long-time Cambridge families helped carry gear, sort, and provided a full lunch board with cold cuts, sandwiches, and veggies. It was the perfect division of labor, everyone doing their part and happy to do so. And through a day of trips back-and-forth between the farms, furniture arranging, heavy lifting and hard sweats we ended up with a home. A real, honest to goodness, home. That photo is from the pizza dinner we shared last night in celebration. Frieda, Maria's loyal art hound and ex-terror was watching me with mild interest. One of these days I'm going to pet her. Last night wasn't that night though.

I wanted to come back at dinnertime with something special. Since they were making the pizza dinner I was providing dessert. I made a few tiny pies in jam jars quick and as they baked in my oven I grabbed a pumpkin off the porch steps. I was going to carve a smiling face, but changed my mind. Jack-o-lanterns are powerful symbols you know? They were set on porches and front windows as lanterns to the spirits who passed away. In some legends they lit the way home for the ghosts of loved ones lost, so they could spend one last day among the living. I don't really believe in ghosts, to be perfectly honest. But I do believe in memories, and they may be very much the same thing. A light to the past, a torch to invite nostalgia and love. I really like the idea of leaving a light on. Hope's a mighty gift.