Saturday, November 10, 2012

One Hour Ride, One Good Meal

I was sitting in the farmhouse watching Last American Cowboy (an Animal Planet reality series about ranchers in Montana) when I couldn't take it anymore. I was not going to watch people ride horses on my ancient iMac when I could be out riding my own horse. In happy frustration I changed into jeans and paddock boots and threw on a heavy flannel work shirt. I lead Merlin to the hitching post in front of the house, groomed him, and without any groundwork just saddled up and headed up the mountain road.

I just wanted go give him a workout and enjoy the fresh air. My workout would come later (thank you Ms. Jillian Michaels) but while the sun shone at nearly fifty degrees, I wanted to soak up the vitamin D. It was a pleasant ride. We walked, trotted, and cantered up the steep roads, talking to neighbors and waving to cars passing by. Merlin got to brush noses with some quarter horses behind an electric fence and then whinny to another a bit up the road in a paddock. We were met by stray dogs, passed by angry drivers in fast cars, and stopped to talk to folks along the road. It was absolutely delightful.

Of course, I wasn't out in a -10 degree day wrangling angry angus heifers so compared to the television show we just trotted through the daisies, but still. Nice.

I'm happy about the decision I made to buy and work with Merlin. It'll be another year and a half before he is paid off, but when I get the actual ownership papers I will be thrilled. He's had his moments of stubbornness and strife, but at the end of the day he's a nearly bombproof multi-use animal that makes my farm life (and emotional life!) a thousand times better. It's hard to believe he hasn't even been in my life a year...

I came home and untacked Merlin and put him and Jasper out into their pasture to run through the dead grass and kick up their heels. Jasper tour off after a doe, snorting. Merlin raised his head, but was not moved to follow. He worked up a good sweat on the hour-long ride and seemed happy to just stand, drink, and eat.

This cowgirl is going to enjoy a Saturday night at home. I'll be enjoying the barbecued lamb ribs that have been in the crockpot all day simmering over rice and homemade bread. I started this new and wonderful habit of really enjoying one home-cooked meal a day in the late afternoon. It's not so much a diet as it is eating when I am hungry. Eating something I worked hard to raise, source locally, bake or cook. I don't fast the rest of the day, but meals are super light, leaving anticipation and total joy for the star meal of the day: supper.

Enjoy your Evenings, Antlers! I will too!

Fireside Farm Cat

A November Fire!

We were in the new green wagon, sitting on the buckboard and taking turns driving Patty's big gray Percheron, Steele. We had bellies full of ice cream and were talking and laughing. It was a happy scene. If you think a 30 degree day is cold enough to keep Washington County residents away from Battenkill Creamery, well, you don't know us very well.

Both of us enjoyed the few mile trip in the wagon. It was a beauty, and as a new driver I was jealous. It had a nice front seat and a bed in the back that could fit too comfortable adults, a load of hay, or any other gear you wanted to take to friend or field. I had finished my writing work and when I got a call around noon to come over for a cart ride I happily accepted. It was a sunny day, and as we made our way fast farm and field we waved to deer hunters by their trucks going over their game plans and stopped to chat with locals.

We were just taking in the Days of Grace. That's what this time of year is called around here. That window between the last of fall's warm foliage but before the first snowfall. It's your last chance to oil the tractor and repair fences, get in hay and feed, sight in your rifle for deer season, and get snow tires on the truck. It's both a ticking time bomb and period of repose. If you're ready for winter you can just throw some more logs in the stove, sip your tea, and wait for the snow to fall. Some of us with less experience or resources...we're working on putting walls on our horse barns yet. But either way, each team is grateful for the Days of Grace.

So you can imagine our surprise when we crested the Lake road and came into view of Patty's historic farmhouse and saw billowing clouds of smoke. At first, Patty just thought her husband was home from work and burning trash, but from the half mile away we could see if was coming from behind the house and their dog, Harley, was pacing and yelping. This was bad.

Patty had Steele speed up from his Sunday Trot into a full out canter. I was hanging on to the buckboard as she leaned forward to give him a little more chase in his reach. If you have never been on the back of a speeding wagon towards a fire with a ton of horse thundering ahead of you then you haven't known the true meaning of haste. It was wild! It seemed like seconds before we were running up Livingston Brook Farm's driveway and as we got towards the horse tack barn Patty just threw the reins in my hands and sped off the cart towards the fire.

I knew what I had to do. I had to get the horse in the cross ties, remove the cart from the harness, remove his harness, and get him away from the house and into the pasture. I didn't know what was happening so I just went into action mode, and when the cart was removed and the horse secure I ran up to the direction I saw Patty speed towards.

To my great relief, she was on the phone behind the house with a garden hose. The fire was in the woods, not the farmhouse, but it was spreading out over a 30 yard semi-circle downhill. She said that ashes were dumped in the woods in the morning and must have caught on fire. She was calling the local fire department because she didn't want the cold wind moving the foot-tall flames and burning leaves towards the house (which was 2o feet away). She seemed to be doing all she could so I decided to go take care of Steele.

I move the cart out of the driveway so the fire trucks could get up towards the flames. I undid his belly band, but the tug chains up the hooks on his spider, and was unhooking the hame's latch and removing the fifty-pound harness when Patty made her way towards me to help. Steele is 17 hands, I can't see over him when I stand next to him. Patty is nearly six feet tall and could easily remove the harness. I carried it over to the hooks on the wall. She took off the collar and felt collar pad and I put them away in their proper places too. She then lead Steele out of the commotion where he wouldn't be scared of the sirens and lights about to arrive.

The trucks arrived ten minutes later, a man named Seabass in a yellow Uniform with a huge pressure hose was on it in seconds. His one small truck was able to contain the brush fire in moments. It was quit the thing to see. It didn't take long for the response teams to tame the possible danger. By this time Mark was home from duck hunting, feeling a little sheepish about the ashes, but glad to see the house safe. He and Patty chatted with the fire squad, explaining and listening to assessments and soon Patty went inside to cut everyone out there a slice of homemade apple pie with a gingerbread cookie crust. No one turned it down. Seeing a pack of men in uniform with eagles on their helmets eating slices of apple pie was so thick with Americana I expected Harley to run around with sparkers in his teeth.

Since it wasn't lethal, everyone was in good spirits. Which was comforting and beautiful to see. Lessons were learned and neighbors called to ask about the ruckus but within an hour of a speeding wagon ride we were all around the farmhouse kitchen table enjoying adult beverages and laughing. It could have been a disaster, but instead it was a story. A story that included ice cream, horses, farm, and booze so I was grateful as a fat tabby on milk truck day.

It's a different life up here. But no matter where you live, apple pie and doused fires make for a good night's sleep.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Back By Popular Demand: CAF Pancakes!

I love pancakes. I figured out this recipe from adapting a few and it creates the fluffiest, sweetest, pancakes ever. Feel free to add blueberries, chocolate chips, fresh fruit and powdered sugar to top it off. I only use cast iron greased with real butter when I make mine (If you're falling, dive) Enjoy!

Cold Antler Pancakes
1 1/2 cups organic flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanila
1/2 cup sugar
1 farm egg
1 1/3 cups milk

Tun on the range and heat up the skillet at a medium high heat, make sure a good spoonful of butter is melting in the pan and coating it with a good layer. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the egg and milk. Mix fast and quick and then give it about 4 minutes to set and get fluffy (from the baking powder) in the bowl. When "risen" pour into skillet to the size you like your cakes. You know a pancake is ready to flip over when the middle bubbles. Serve hot with real maple syrup (Grade B, son. Grade B is dark, rich, and get this tastes like maple.none of that flatlander grade A sugar water they sell in gift shops okay?)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Fires & A Lockout!

It's a Two Fire Night here at the homestead. For those of you who are new readers (Or confused, sorry!) This little 2-story white farmhouse is heated by two little wood stoves and that is my main source of winter heat. One is in my living room, a chunky rectangle of beauty called the Vermont Bun Baker. It's a stove with a built in bread oven and range. It heats up three downstairs rooms and the main house by itself. It's not a huge stove, only a 14-inch box, but because the living area of my house is 6 small rooms in 1,000 square feet of space it is more than enough to keep me comfortable. In the mud room there is a trusty Vermont Castings Dutch West stove and that was here when I bough the place. It lives within 10 feet of the houses plumbing, all of it. Since the only pipes in the house live here (at the convergence of bathroom, kitchen, and laundry all back-to-back by several walls) it is the real work horse stove. If I lost power, or didn't have any heating oil, it would keep pipes from freezing and the bathroom and kitchen comfortable.

Anyway, tonight is a Two Fire Night because both stoves are roaring as the temperatures drop into the teens. It's a comforting job, keeping them going, and especially comfortable after locking myself out of the house at sunset and needing to call a local tow-service to help me out....

See, I stupidly locked my car with the keys in it. The truck and house keys. I usually hide a spare set outside the house but it turns out I hid it so well I couldn't find them. I called the police, and the police told me to call John.

John's Automotive is a towing company just up route 22, eight miles north or so. John was the man who came and took away the Subaru when it died. I sold it to him as a dead animal and he took it away. He remembered me from two winters ago when I called and said he would be right over. I couldn't believe my luck.

He arrived in fifteen minutes. I kept myself warm by doing all the nightly farm chores and checking on the animals with the time I had to fill. Moving hay and buckets of water kept me warm, but I was happy to see him when he pulled into the drive. In five minutes he opened the door with some aparati-of-rescue and when I asked him how much I owed him, he shrugged, and said "I dunno...twenty bucks?" I just blinked at him. Then went inside to get the truck. I thanked him over and over, and as he slipped the check into his wallet he said, "Well, I made money on that Subaru I bought from you. It's the least I could do." I smiled, shook his hand, and waved goodbye as he pulled out to fix another problem in Jackson. This place, I tell you...

So I'm here inside, warm as a fat cat, and grinning. I had a good dinner of homemade bread and hot soup and am about to tuck into a book and some quilts by the fire. Tomorrow, I'll get some spare keys made and take on some new projects, but for the now, a full stomach and rest.

Stay warm, Antlers.

I'm Proud of Trish!

I got this email last week from a student of this past summer's Fiddle Camp. Trish and her friend Wendy drove up from across the state, no small feat, to attend the two days of instruction. Both always wanted to learn so when they arrived their fiddles were waiting for them. All they brought was their textbooks, tuners, and the will to learn and practice. Now, just a few months later she's blown through the book. She even sent a video (but my email couldn't handle the file size). I'm so very proud of her. Trish didn't win the "best performance" contest at the camp, she was an average beginner, but she had the determination and desire to learn. Now she's learned, literally, every song in the book! When I read these words my heart melted. Let the music flow!

Hi Jenna,

Hope this finds you well. I always enjoy your blog; keep up the good words! I just wanted to tell you that last night I learned the last and final song in the W. Erbsen Ignoramus book, and I've also almost mastered two other numbers from The Irish Fiddler. This is all due to your encouragement and I wanted to thank you for that! You're the best. Happy Halloween!

Trish Kleinfelder

William, War Owls, and The Good Fight.

A few months ago I was at a dinner party talking with friends. Maria, a neighbor, was explaining that she didn't want a Psycho inspired shower curtain in her bathroom. It featured an outline of a man about to stab the person inside with a knife. When I agreed with her, that I wouldn't want that particularly violent decoration up in my house, another person at the table slammed down her fork and laughed, calling me out. "Jenna, your favorite movie is Braveheart?! And you don't want a violent image in your home!" I had no reply to that. I mean, shucks, she was right. Braveheart is an extremely graphic movie, with a whole lot of violence starting with a shed full of dead kids 10 minutes into the reel...

But still, her joke caught me off guard because I never ever actually thought of Braveheart as a violent movie, and I mean that with genuine sincerity. To me it was three hours of romance, and courage, and underdogs fighting against tyranny. It was about one person changing history, a real man, who despite his awful death never gave in to his oppression, even as he was being murdered because of his beliefs...

Yes, it's an epic legend in which violence happens, but I never watched that violence with any shock or discomfort because it was part of the bigger story.

I mean, I raise pigs for food and most of the time with them is delightful. There's scratching ears, hope for delicious meals, and then a period of blood and violence followed by a happy year of shared dinners. I know comparing a pig's life to that of William Wallace is pretty crass, but the point remains the same. Violence is sometimes necessary in a story. It doesn't mean it's the point of it.

Braveheart will always be a story of loss love, hope, and the ability to continue the fight through small odds. The self-sacrifice, the Christ metaphors, all of that isn't part of its appeal to me. That movie is all about hope and unwavering faith. But this is coming from a gal who's mother told her from the time she was ten that she should join the Army...

My mom was right. I am a fighter, not a lover. I was always drawn to martial disciplines and activities. I spent my adolescence in a karate gi, competing through high school and then competing again in Tennessee as an adult. I love horses, hunting, archery, running, and took classes in Japanese swordsmanship for fun. It's who I am.

So you can see I have some bias here. I'm drawn to these stories, and tried to live them in my own humble mythology. In my own head I am, at this moment, fighting for a life of personal creative freedom and better health. And I like, hell I LOVE, stories and legends that make me feel like this healing and change is possible through the motivation of the individual. I recently watched an animated movie called Legends of the Guardians, and loved it. I was told to watch it by a friend, not because of the story, but because of the special effects and artwork. It delivered this in spades (I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful film) but once again I found myself rooting for the underdog. I fell into the story. There's not a big difference between the real person that was William Wallace and fictional war owls. Not in the context I'm writing about, anyway.

And yet, when I posted about it on Facebook a woman I know with children said she thought it glorified war and didn't like it. This, just like the violence comment about Braveheart, surprised me. Both of these stories include war, death, and intense violence but they aren't about them. The war is a character too, an avatar for change. Sometimes violence is the conduit for change and sometimes it isn't, but deploring such an inspiring message because it includes violence seems, childish. It seems like someone avoiding discomfort despite the bigger story. I hate this. It is the one thing I do not have any patience for. The most popular books in the world ends with the hero getting tortured and killed, that certainly wasn't what he spent thirty years teaching people to focus on....

So, I'm a gluten for punishment who likes shooting pointy things. Yeah. I still I don't want to join the army. Nor would I do well there. I barely made it being told what to do in the corporate world, much less in a society where obedience to orders means life and death.... But again, that's not the point I am trying to make.

I think in this world you're a fighter or you're not. You either decide to take control of your destiny or you hand it over to someone who will. And trust me, there's always someone happy to control you.

That is the real story of humanity. There are fighters and followers: and only you can decide which you're going be. I get emails and comments every day from people who say they want a life like mine. I want to shake the computer and say "Then Go GET IT!!!" I'm not rich, or born into a farming family. I didn't even know what a harrow was until two years ago. I'm on this farm, not because of luck, but because for years it was my single-minded goal I worked towards every friggin' day. And when I realized I couldn't have my farm the way I pictured it, owning a deed and working at home, I chose to live that life in my heart anyway. That's the secret. That's the trick. I stopped being a graphic designer, not in June of 2012, but the day I signed my first book contract in July of 2007. And even though I new it would be a long, rough, road to get to this point I never felt it wasn't possible. I made the decision to just do the work, make the changes, give up the things I needed to give up, and remove people from my life who told me it was impossible.

If you have a dream, you need to fight for it. You need to decide following it is worth the fall out. If you can't stir that effort of will you will, I promise, find yourself living under someone who can do it for you. Too many people out there are letting life happen to them and acting like that's their lot. I've seen these people who let life happen to them. I know some. They turn into monsters. They are dying from a totally curable disease but they let it fester through apathy. It kills faster than dehydration.

You can have a farm. You can fall in love. You can get that job on the 34th floor with the corner office. You can RUN for office. You can become a parent. I don't care what your dream is, it just requires your total dedication to it. That's all. And that means a lot of painful sacrifice, and discomfort, and losing people and all the other crap. But what you gain is a meaningful life, actual wealth. And how lucky are we to live in a time and country where any man or woman who wants it can make it happen. And neither age or income or sex or whatever excuse you want to offer is irrelevant. Because even if your dream has limitations, it still can thrive to the best of your ability. You think you're too old or poor to be a farmer? Whoever told you that, including yourself, was wrong. Buy, borrow, or steal a pack of seeds. Read everything you can (if you're blind or in a wheelchair, the have someone read it to you) and figure out what those seeds need to succeed. Grow it in your sunny window. Harvest it. Sell those tomatoes to some other person who wants them. I promise you, once they know your dream and story support will rally around you. It has to. And in the moment of money exchanging hands to feed another person from food you raised you became a farmer. You did it. Shit, when did a perfect life become the definition of a meaningful one?

Your limitations are in your head. Your possibilities are endless. If you want something, if you can't sleep dreaming about something, if you need something...then for the love of the gods, FIGHT for it. Even if you fail, or get hit by a bus, you spent your blessed time here living for something real. And in the end, that's even more important than the having of it. And when you let that become your reality, you change. Everything changes. And suddenly that life that was happening to you, is happening because of you.

Raise your bows and shine, not burn.

Look Everybody!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Living The Dream

Evening chores were done well, but done in haste. I wanted to get some time to warm up, stretch out, and shower before I met friends for dinner. As I walked around the farm, dolling out feed and checking on the stock I kept looking ump kept hoping for those first flakes…

You see, the first snowfall here on the farm is going to be a big deal, regardless of when it happens. Because for years I have raised animals and made Cold Antler my focus and it wasn't until this very season that I could wake up on a weekday and watch a storm come in from my own farm. If I had one complaint about my day job it was being expected to show up during a snowstorm. I was, of course, capable of getting up and driving to work but I didn't ever feel safe on those roads and I didn't like the idea of being away from a place that might need me. Of all the farm fantasies I had back then, it was being home for a snowstorm during a weekday that topped the scales. To be up on a Thursday morning checking the weather reports, watching the sky, not worried about being half an hour away in another state as the weather howled… If we get an inch or a dozen inches, I will be here. It means the world to me.

If you asked me what success means, to me it means being excited for a snowstorm on a weekday.

P.S. Flurries are coming down!

Best Seat In The House

Words For Mountains

There should be a word in the English language to describe the series of quick events I am about to describe. Some kind of fluent, beautiful, but intense word with connotation of risk and awe. That is what I was thinking as Merlin finished his loping gallop to the top of a mountain hillside, quickly stopped to a fast walk and with barely a flick of my wrist and turn of my head towards the vista before us, pivoted on his back feet to show me my world. It happens fast, the run, the thought, the motion and the turn and the end result is this surge of endorphins and wildness. You feel not like a rider, and not like a horse, but as if you somehow managed to become a part of the weather. You're a force as natural and strong as fast-moving air and thunder. This desire to shout with joy or hug his thick black neck overcame me. I was euphoric up there on the bald earth over looking the purple mountains yawning for snow on their arched backs. He stomped his front feet in place, wanting to continue on but I held him as I closed my eyes in a short prayer of thanks.

I sat there for some time under the cold sky. I tried to will some snowflakes down to the earth but my effort was in vain. You can't rush Mother Nature. She works on her own time. And after all, I'm just one of her many guests enjoying my extended stay. Merlin is too, and as partners we turned back towards the trail and into the woods.

We continued the mountain ride at an easy walk. He was blowing a little, a tad out of shape from the last few weeks of sparse riding since Antlerstock. I had less time in the saddle and decided yesterday and today that the cold was no reason to leave him in his paddock. So yesterday we rode along the mountain road, and today we hit the mountain trails at Tucker's place. Merlin was a gentlemen today, responsive and quick. I was min good spirits, too. I was singing in Gaelic to him, chorus and verse of a song I am learning, and this (along with a loud, orange scarf) was our notice to any deer hunters that we were not, in fact, cervine.

The day was getting colder, as if somehow the closer we got to noon the more it wanted to snow. I was warm on top of the black mountain pony, in layers of flannel and a sturdy, wool-lined, English waxed cotton jacket a reader mailed me from when she lived in England. It fits me as if it was made for me and I felt like an character from some myth on that horse in my wax jacket with shoulder cape for the rain. The rest of my clothes were pretty standard: knit gray hat, cowboy paddock boots, jeans. But that jacket on that pony made me feel like a character from the Gunslinger and The Hobbit combined into one Washington County cocktail...

We returned from the mountain sweaty and starting to feel the chill come back to us from the lack of motion and concentration. I curried his back and put away the tack and returned him to his boyfriend Jasper so I could check on the fire and get back to the writing I was doing between outdoor activity. I had a piece due to HandPicked Nation about Barnheart to finish and deliver. I had my day of snow posts to share (I love this, by the way), and some work on other literary adventures I can't really talk much about now, but folks, there is momentum back in this creative life! I don't have any contracts or new books yet but I am confident I'll be writing more than the four books I have. If Barnheart is my disease of the soul, then writing is my number one therapy treatment.

My afternoon from there on wasn't nearly as exciting as stalking deer and pony mountain stances. I mailed packages at the post office, did some light errands in town. Alli, from Saratoga stopped by to pick up a tent she leant me for Antlerstock, and she brought a pint of beer as a gift and I thanked her. (In hindsight, I feel bad I didn't invite her in for tea but I was out walking the dogs when she arrived and we talked outside the house. Sorry, hun.) But yes, I walked Jazz, Annie and Gibson a half mile and watched Jazz power through it, though I could tell the half-mile was a bit much for his hips. And now I have more writing, and some housework, and bread in the oven waiting to come out and cool. Tonight I have dinner with friends and more farm chores and I plan on popping in a few more times before the storm! So keep reading!

Jasper In a Saddle! Mongolian Superstar!

I have been working with both the horses these past few days. Merlin is getting back in shape from his hay-buffet break since Antlerstock and Jasper is just starting to leave the world of pasture pet into working animal again. Now, Jasper has always been used here and there for light farm work. He's pulled logs, (half this year's firewood) a turkey tractor Brett made, and kept Merlin in line as his companion. But after that talk with Trainer/Farrier Dave I decided to start doing more with this amazing litle horse.

I was told today by a friend about the riders in Mongolia, famously using smaller horses for packing, racing, and saddle. The images online are astounding of these grown men and women on small ponies, racing across the tundra desert! I won't be racing Jasper anywhere, but I did hop on his back yesterday to see how he felt about it. He just kinda stood there and then walked in a circle. He was confused and I didn't have a bridle on him, so there wasn't much direction to give but he seemed just fine. Perhaps Jasper is my Mongolian Superstar! I doubt it, but it sure would be great to have a second horse that children and small adults could ride or pony along with Merlin and I on the mountain.

In weather-related news. Still no snow, but I hear tale of a Nor'Easter? I think that means just a lot of freezing rain, squalls of snow, and *maybe* some accumulation. I hope so. I am dreaming of a white Friday...

photo from this article on the Nat Geo blog

Stalking Deer & Doing Chores

With a belly full of oatmeal, the dogs settled, and a kitten scampering around at full throttle—I decided to change into a blaze orange hoodie and go for a walk in the woods. See, I have this hunch that a few large doe scamper along the sheep and horse fence every day, early while I am in the farmyard. I see their droppings, the natural trail trodden along the fence lines. I don't have a lot of land, but it is enough for a doe to trot through and hunting season is just days away. I was walking out this morning at dawn to see if I could sneak up on one.

The air was cold, the ground covered in frost-tipped mint. I was trying to be silent but a frosty fall morning is not the easiest time to not crunch through the woods. I walked out past the campfire area, past the logging trails for the horses, past the ancient apple trees covered in shadow...And then I started walking along the stone wall that marks the edge of my property. I had not seen a single hair of a deer and so wasn't paying attention and was mildly shocked at the loud barking scoff from just thirty yards ahead of me. A deer! A BIG deer! It let out that whiffled blast of air deer holler as a warning and was gone fast as it heckled me. It leaped away, all white tail and high head and I couldn't tell if it was a buck or a doe, but it was certainly large.

And large means meat. A lot of meat.

I can't hunt until November 17th when rifle season opens up. I have a bow and broad heads, but I didn't take the NYS bowhunters's safety course and so I wasn't allowed to buy that early hunting permit. I was disappointed, but even though I wasn't stalking with a bow in hand it was fine and exciting walk in the woods.

I returned to the farmhouse with cold feet, but high spirits. Seeing the deer on my land in a place I could get a clean shot meant there was a chance my freezer would not be lonely before the pigs are butchered. I just need a little hope, the tiniest possibility of future pleasure, to feel like the whole world is my oyster. I danced through chores, Gibson at my side. Together we got the animals fed, watered, and their pens and nests re-bedded if needed. I knew the day, and the night, would be cold so I just tried to offer as much comfort as possible.

The pigs snorted and squealed for their pig kibble, Merlin hollered for more hay (tough luck), and the goats nickered and lolled their heads in that freaky-excoristy goaty way with wide eyes unblinking. I gave Bonita a kiss on the nose and told her she was glowing. She was. I mean, I can't be certain her and Francis are pregnant but they sure seem like it. The chickens seemed to be already celebrating with an early baby shower by scuttling around the goat pen hoping for fallen bits of grain. The ladies are on a lighter ration and will be switched to just hay soon. As advised by fellow dairy goat owners, too much grain = too much kid. I don't need vets here helping pull giant goatlings out of anxious moms.

When the farm was fed. When the ice was busted out of the water throughs and clean water replaced them. When the dog's tongue was hanging down to his knees in happy exhaustion. When the gray sky grew the lightest it would be this snowy day.....I went inside to warm up and write. Gibson, was so reluctant to come inside from the farm life outside he actually backed up into the house, begging eyes the whole time locked on mine. We came inside and I asked for a hug and he leaped up, paws around my hips and pressed his head against my chest. Some people can't stand dogs that jump. I friggin' love it, look forward to it even. He got down, slinked off into the living room where the cat was now asleep again. And I headed to the office to work.

Snow Update: 1-3 inches tonight into tomorrow, starting late afternoon! But none so far!

Before Dawn

The morning started early, around 4AM. I was having a rough time sleeping so I decided to give in to my 45 remaining minutes before the alarm chirped and start the day. It was dark as a yard up a hog's bum, and cold. The temperature indoors was in the low fifties upstairs and mid-fifties downstairs. Walking barefoot downstairs I pranced a bit, trying to avoid too much skin-to-cold-floor contact. The base of my wood stove is soapstone and there I rest heavy hand-knit wool socks to absorb the heat of the stone through the night. Even if the fire dies around 3AM I still get toasty feet. I slip them on and let out a happy sigh. Tiny luxuries skimmed off the surface of voluntary deprivation.

Before dogs are leashed and walked, farm chores seen too, or even a trip to the WC to pee: three things are done first. A fire is lit in the stove from last night's effort of kindling and firewood. The tea kettle is set on the stove to heat up for hot cocoa, steam, and oatmeal. And I get dressed in very, very warm clothes.

With these things done I am ready to face the outside. The lows weren't as bad as predicted, low twenties instead of the teens. I still appreciate my riding gloves and their leather grip, a wool scarf, wool knit cap, a polar fleece jacket and tall rubber boots. I'm still in my house pants—a loose-fitting, green, and comfortable—handmade by my friend Yesheva. Without meaning too I am wearing three items of clothing made by people I knew. Up until a few years ago, this would be horrific. I haven't bought a new item of clothing since last year. Everything I wear now is used, goodwill, or made by friends. A concession I am happy to make to live the way I do.

Jazz and Annie are on leads. Gibson is loose, running around trying to take in where every animal is he hasn't seen since last night. The sheep are silent, still resting on the hill. Merlin isn't. He hollers to me for hay, and expecting this, I have a few flakes waiting by the woodpile. I let the (now empty) elderly dogs back in the house to return to their naps. Gibson and I stay outside to feed the horses. I can't see Merlin charging towards me in the dark until he is practically on top of the gate. He dives into his breakfast and I head down to where I left the battery-lantern last night to chop new wood for the morning's fire. Gibson, who hates waiting for me to pile wood, slinks away to terrorize Defiance the turkey, asleep on Merlin's pony cart. I start chopping, smiling when I hear the explosion of gobbles and flapping wings. I can hear the kettle start to scoff gasping whistles indoors. I call my dog and head inside with arms loaded with more wood than any reasonable woman would carry.

Inside the first bit of morning light lifts the mood of the room. Boghadair is asleep in front of the stove fire on his red, wool, blanket. Jazz and Annie are on the daybed, already crashed. I have big plans of stalking deer, feeding a farm full of animals, carrying buckets of water and de-icing troughs...but before that, before ANY of that, there will be oatmeal and hot chocolate. Because, my dear friends, today is supposed to give us the gift of the farm's first snowfall. A big deal to me this year, and I'll explain why later. I check the weather on my phone, before I even see who is president, and tuck into my apple/cinnamon porridge. I sit on the bench by the stove and watch the sun rise. The sky is gray, wonting. I wont, too.

A Snow Day, Together.

Today we're supposed to get our first true snowfall, up to three inches. I'm beside myself! I know I left my day job back in June, but being able to be at my farm while the weather turns is going to feel like my first day of Freedom all over again. In honor of the snow(and my glee) I'll be telling the story of the whole day—from morning chores and firelight to the first few inches. Check back all day, and see what is going on at Cold Antler!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted Here Today. I Hope You'll Vote, Too.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jasper in the Saddle?

The horses had their feet done today by local trainer/farrier Dave. (Sorry about the angle, Dave.) As he was trimming Jasper's feet we got to talking about using the little guy as a saddle horse. I haven't ever tacked up Jasper and rode him, but he was trained to ride and drive before I had him. I like the idea of getting him back in the habit of regular work.

Dave assures me his broad back, strong legs, and sound feet could handle a rider fine. I think it would be wonderful, even if he just ponies along and rides with Merlin and I carrying a friend or a guest on the mountain. Jasper is a 11.2 hands, a small horse for sure, and I have no plans to ride him across the country or even an extended trail ride, but a few outings would be nice. I think might just give it a go!

Yard Sale For The Horse Barn

I'm down to the wire with snow on the way soon. Hoping to pull together what I need through the next few weeks. If you'd like to help out I have a few items for sale. If you are interested in any please email me at Thank you for even considering it, and thank all of you for you readership, kind words, encouragement, and support. All of these things can be mailed in the US. They have shipping costs too, but not much.

Bareback Trail Saddle Pad - $60
Brown. Never used, save for trying it on once. It has build in saddle bags and stirrups too. Just needs a girth and a horse!

Signed copy of Barnheart and Made From Scratch (hardcover) - $50 Both are first editions, signed, and I'll throw in a few bars of goats milk soap.

Endurance English Saddle: $85
I bought this synthetic saddle and never used it. It came right when I switched from English to Western and right now it is worth more in another home. No stirrups on it, just the saddle. Takes basic English leathers.

Wool Bundle: $50
1/2 pound Bag of RAW wool from Joseph to hand spin into yarn along with a homemade CAF drop spindle. I will also throw in one skein of Maude's wool from 2010. This is very precious since I only kept one! The rest went out to CSA shares.

Season Pass Sale
I have Three Season passes on sale, left for $250. This is a great deal even if you just make Antlerstock and another workshop. If you already have a season pass put it towards 2013! it's a HUGE help.

You can purchase any of these things, or regular workshops, by using Paypal. This link says "donate" but regardless if its a donation or a purchase taxes are paid on all paypal receipts.

P.S. 2012 shares (second year), your wool is still at the mill, it was shipped late and you will get it soon as it is returned to me. You are not forgotten. It's just a slow process.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Make Pot Pie For Friends

Chicken pot pie is just chicken stew in a pie and there's no reason to be fancier than that. Tonight I'm making some Thor Rooster Pie and it'll be done with two very humble kitchen appliances: a crock pot and a bowl. The stew will be made in the crock pot and the butter crust in a bowl. The recipe is simple: place whole, thawed, chicken in 7-quart crock pot and cover with two cups of organic chicken stock and a bottle of beer. I usually pour some olive oil on the bird and shake some poultry seasoning on it at this point sa well. Place on low and let cook for a few hours until meat is falling off the bone, turning the bird every two hours or so, so that the meat doesn't get dry on one side and soaked on the other. When the meat is falling off the bone, take out the bird on a big plate and take as much meat as possible off and cut into chunks no bigger than a quarter. Return the boneless meat to the beer/broth and add chopped potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, diced kale, and any other veggies you want to eat with your pie. Let cook for a while until potatoes and carrots are done, soft enough to cut with a fork in half. Then, to finish the stew, you will slowly add a bit of cream (maybe a half cup) and flour. You'll be mixing the flour in in a little at time to avoid clumps and you'll do his until your broth turns into a creamy stew. It has to be pie filling so go for thicker. At this point add your seasoning to taste. I add chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and some paprika and onion powder.

It can sit in your crockpot on warm, being stirred every so often to keep it fluid. Then you can make your crust. I take two sticks of room-temp butter and add flour (maybe 2-3 cups?) and a few tablespoons of VERY cold water, added very conservatively and work it with my clean hands until I have a good dough. That's all a butter crust is, butter and water and flour. Roll it out and line your pie plate. Fill it with stew and give it a nice thick crust. Make sure you use a fork to seal the edges all around, making sure it sticks together tight. Make some slices in the top for ventilation or shove a pie bird in there. If you like, brush some melted butter on the top and sprinkle it with a little sugar. The sweet and savory combination will make your dinner guests plotz.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Serve by the slice, sides great with mashed taters and something green. Don't fuss with cookbooks, just play jazz. Taste along the way, don't be scared of salt and butter, and make sure everyone's wine glass stay's full and you're golden.

Storm Barn Repairs

It looks worse than it is. It's mostly blown-off roofing and the main structure is fine. In the next few weeks we'll add sides and fix the roof but I am lucky this was the worst of the damage on the farm.