Monday, December 10, 2012

Big Easy Express

Mighty Nest, Mighty Gifts

This is my first Christmas as a self-employed woman and the gifting part of the holidays is a little tighter than usual (and usual is pretty tight!) So I have resorted to a little creativity. One of my favorite small gifts for friends and invitations during the season is what I call Warmth Jars. You buy a box of new canning jars (these pictured are Weck, more on why later) and fill them with herbal tea, ground coffee, cocoa, or a candle and let the glass container itself be the wrapping. I tie it up with some twine or wool yarn, but that's as festive as it gets. The receiving party gets a utilitarian container they can use for canning in the warmer months and something they could really savor now in the chilly ones. I always fill it with shelf-storage creature comforts and let the brand-new jar be part of the gift.

So why Weck? I'm switching over to Weck for a few reasons, mostly because of their total lack of BPA. Some canning jar lids have some wicked chemicals in them but Weck jars don't use those metal lids with the rubber bands, they just use glass lids with a disposable rubber ring. They are held shut by two little clamps when they are being set into the canner. They are simple, elegant, and still different enough to give even a seasoned homesteader a little ooohhh and ahhh. I learned about these guys, and their advantages, from the folks over at Mighty Nest who I approached to be a farm sponsor.

Mighty Nest is the company that carries these Weck jars I photographed and am giving this holiday season. They are an eco-minded home goods company with a flair for style and an emphasis on family life, food, and storage solutions. As a new Cold Antler Farm sponsor I urge you to check out their site and if you have a minute, send them a thank you for keeping this place fed, paid, and trotting uphill. Folks like Mighty Nest are what keep this dream alive!

Mighty Nest has a special coupon code for CAF readers, you can use it to get 10% your order from now till Christmas. Just use: ANTLER10 at checkout. You can get the discount no matter your purchase size. But you get free shipping, too, if your order is over $25 dollars. So for around twenty bucks you can get a bunch of Weck for free shipping. That's a lot of Warmth Jars, folks….

Happy Giving!


People have been asking on Jazz, my 14-year-old Siberian. He's not doing well, not at all. He has been in and out of the vet this past year, dealing with hair loss, infections in his ear, tumors, and losing his role as dominant dog in the house to Gibson. He took the slide down the canine social ladder hard, and slinks past Gibson life a medieval serf. This is the way of dogs though. Age and infirmity are natural reasons to lose your spot as pack leader. But lately, something far more complicated than dog politics has been bothering him. He rarely moves, sleeping the entire day if you let him. He seems to have loss all interest in life, and a walk to the mailbox requires an hour rest. The vet and I are consulting.

You Get What You Get

I wish I remembered the conversation better, but it is hard to wax nostalgic on small talk when you are out in the rain, covered in horse mud, and holding a board in place while a chain saw slices into it a few feet away. I was out with two amazing friends, Brett and Elizabeth, who had donated a wet Saturday morning to put up a wall on the horse's barn. We were joking around, and the banter went something along the lines of me jabbing on Brett for his incredibly detail-oriented and frugal ethic and my membership as chairwoman of the Seat-Of-The-Pants Society. It was all in good fun, but you could tell there was an edge of frustration in my voice. My carpenter ethic isn't anywhere close to Brett's and I knew we only had two hours. Elizabeth just shrugged and told me one of the best things I ever heard about personal interaction with those you hold dear. She said, "You get what you get."

I love that. It is like an injection of sense and perspective about any person you choose to invite into your life. When you take on another life and make it part of your own, regardless if it is a friend, a significant other, an in-law or even a new pet. Folks, you get what you get. You can waste time squabbling about the little things or just sigh and accept them. Ever since Brett and I became friends we've tolerated each other's quirks and differences. And as Elizabeth put it, every so perfectly, a few moments later when Brett was watching me struggle to set a board in place (upside down), "He gets what he gets, too." I burst out laughing.

The three of us got the boards up and reinforced. The wood was maple he milled himself up in the Adirondacks. The lumber was my Christmas present, he said. talk about the apex of handmade for the holidays, the man made a barn wall! Then Brett climbed up on the roof and fixed the few stray pieces that blew off with Hurricane Sandy. By the time the three of us were done the horses had a solid roof, a windbreak built into the mountain, and all of us were dirty, sweaty, and bleeding. It was a long three hours in fine Scottish weather, but it was spent with amazing people. I am blessed to have friends that will give up their weekends to help out this scrappy farm (emphasis on the scrappy), but every weekend and every project it gets a little better. The horse paddock needs a lot of work (right now it is just mud and sagging fences reinforced with electric) but even at this bleak moment in it's history it does the job. It makes it possible for me to live with my dream horses ride them all over this mountain.

Thank you so much guys. I think that wall needs a wreath! And when the snow does fall around here the mud will freeze and the place will look darling. I look forward to that first storm more than I ever did as a kid waiting for Christmas morning. Toys are nice, but a life lived in a way that makes you feel blessed everyday covered in snow makes Furbies about as appealing as the mud on our coveralls.

Here's to friends and sturdier barns!


There are people who wake up every day and give their time and energy to things that upset them. They focus on pundits they can't stand, on politics that make them angry, and reading websites and opinions that fuel their head shakes and rage. They post photos of war and mistreatment and violence. They hoist flags of separation and distrust. These people are suffering, and they gave themselves the cause. You can have sympathy for them, but don't dare offer them any attention or validation. It's like handing a shot of whiskey to an alcoholic. It is an unkindness of the worst sort to perpetuate a disease.

I can not imagine choosing to make yourself angry. I can't imagine abusing myself that way. Value yourself and your practices and instead of pacing at cage bars and snarling, support and rally behind what you believe in. Give your attention and love to the causes and cures that make this world better. Be a force for positivity and you will be amazed at the life that surrounds you because of that choice. Do not waste a minute on the things that bring you down or offend you. You're wasting everyone's precious time. Most of all, your own.

We are defined by the decisions we make.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Slower Highway

Sunday Drive

After the trailer tire blow-out we couldn't return to the parade site last night to load up the wagon. So it stayed in Salem and Patty had the idea of getting dropped off in town with Steele and just hitching him up and driving him the six miles home. Today the two of us and our good friend Joanna had a little adventure trotting home amongst the milk trucks and speeding pickups. But the town sections were just plain fun. This photo was taken by a local antiques's dealer in Salem after we left her barn/shop off main street. Steele did wonderfully. We road down route 22, then 29 and before you knew it we were back at LBF with a tired horse.

The Christmas Parade!

When the pony cart was loaded up in the truck I made one last revision. I went inside the farmhouse and grabbed the two wooden crows that used to hang on Merlin's stable when he was boarded at Riding Right Farm. The crows were a gift, given to me as part of a larger set. I decorate my tree with them and probably will indefinitely. But these two are still attached to the twine the gift was wrapped in. It felt like the thing to do. And putting the pair of storied crows that saw him through those first three months of lessons and introductions seemed important to me. I know enough to go with my gut and I tied them to the back of the cart. As I drove down the back roads of dairies and forested fields to the event I knew they were back there beside the brass sleigh bells, ringing loud and proudly as the sun started to set. A misty fog rained in and it felt good. I am a big fan of subtle precipitation.

The last time I was in a parade I was in a Girl Scout uniform. I remember it fairly well. It was our town's Halloween Parade, and I was in a wolf costume scampering down Delaware Avenue. It felt like someone had blocked off the streets not just from cars, but from the mundane. I was one of the specials, out there to be putting on the show. It's no surprise I grew up to be active in Drama Club and now do a lot of public speaking. It makes me feel a little more alive when there's a spotlight or a soapbox.

So being behind the scenes in the field where the trailers and horses were being tacked up brought up those same old childhood feelings of being part of something grand and special. We arrived an hour before the actual event, and I was feeling a little nervous. In the world of driving horses, your first parade is kind of a big deal. Suddenly that pony and cart you trot through your neighborhood and farm fields goes from the world of pet to performer and everyone expects him to act just as predictably and pleasantly as the new tractor pulling the float of homecoming queens ahead of you. So the pressure is on. You and your horse are to act like professionals, look pretty, and give the public something to point at and smile.

I was in no shortage of support. I was with Elizabeth and Patty. Elizabeth arrived at the farm at 8AM with a cordless drill and a ladder, and helped Brett and I put up a wall of Adirondack milled lumber (Thank you, Brett) on the windiest side of the four-posted shelter. Both her and I had spent most of the day outdoors in the mud and rain, and while the parade was far more whimsical than using power tools the wet chill of the fog and intermittent rain showers felt the same. It was the kind of weather that rattles your insides, makes you seek basic comfort. I didn't have a fireside in my pony cart, but I had a lot of heavy red wool in the form of a riding cape and friends. Sheep and company are really all this girl needs to feel at home anywhere.

As I was tacking up Merlin I got a wonderful gift. Members of the Daughton Family came out from the street side and my heart grew three sizes too big. I miss those guys so much. I haven't seen them as often as I used too. The busier my life got with becoming a full-time writer and farmer the busier I have felt. Add a new horse life into the mix and I was nearly a goner, but to see familiar faces and cameras was nothing short of blessed magic. I gave hugs. Holden helped me check the horse over and attach the last bits of clips and such and before I knew it - it was time for the show.

I backed Merlin up and tried to turn him to the right and he acted weird. He just kept backing up and not turning. This puzzled me, and had I had an ounce of sense I would have asked someone to grab his head and I would double check my work with the cart and harness. Instead the excitement had me giddy and ready to trot so I just turned him to the left and headed into the line up behind a team of heavy Percherons. Patty and Elizabeth had harnessed up Steele to his new wagon and were right behind me. Lights, Camera, Action.

In front of the Percheron wagon was a float themed after Willy Wonka. It was loud and happy. As I waited for the parade to start in my Hobbit cape with my fancy pony, I doubled checked the icicle lights on the tailgate I heard the lyrics chant, "In a world of pure imagination..." and felt like the gods had arranged a memory for me. Everything seemed to be working, everything was lit up and swell. Next to me Christina (another club member) was on her horse Maude. She rode up beside us with her black horse adorned in sleigh bells and holly. She wished us luck and within another quick minute I was asking Merlin to step out and take on the night.

The parade was magical. It was fun, and easy, and stressful and exciting all at once. People gasped at Merlin, pointed and smiled. We were a happy team, and between the music and the twinkling lights and the fog-lined streets it was a dream sequence of the finest order. Just a few slow blocks, but mostly sublime. Steele was behind us and just wanted to trot and act like a young buck does. He reared up a little and the crowd cheered. That photo from last night was a bit of nerves but I never saw an image of Steele looking more majestic!

It was when the parade ended that the real adventure began though. We were off the safe streets of blocked traffic and had to drive our horses and carts in the dark, past idling cars with bright headlights and through town streets. I thought of James Howard Kunstler's World Made By Hand books and how all the Washington County towns had horses and carts on the once car-driven streets. I never felt more like a fictional character in my life. I was lost in that whimsy when the team ahead of us picked up into a trot. Steele and Patty were behind us and decided to pass us since Steele was feeling his oats. I wanted to join in the fun so I asked Merlin to pick up the pace and instead of taking off he decided to kick back his feet. I was terrified. I was within four feet of losing my head to a strong kick and Merlin had never, ever, acted like that in a cart. Never had I seem him be anything but obliging and steady. But he kept crow hopping and acting like he was just about to send me and the cart packing. At this point I just wanted to hold my shit together and get him back to the trailers. I calmed him, got him into a gentle trot on steady ground and he seemed okay. I was shaken. You don't expect to have your horse slam you with his feet in a parade. At least I don't, not with this horse.

When we got back I hopped out of the cart and attached his halter (worn under the bridle - club rule) to his lead rope which was tied safely to the trailer. I got out and inspected that right side. I saw what happened. I forgot to attach the right side hold back. He wasn't pulling even weight, and the shafts weren't even. It must have felt like something was holding him back on his left side, when his right was free to move and run. I bet his acting up was more of a panic to escape the weirdness of the attachment combined with the excitement of the night parade, and it was entirely human error. As I slowly and calmly removed his harness and collar I caught my breath. We did it. We were in our first parade, and no one got hurt. There was close calls, some thrills, and various anxieties and imperfections but we did it. Another little goal met and checked.

We wrapped things up quick and members of the WCDAA chatted around the trailers. Some folks showed up too late and missed the parade. Others forgot equipment and had to sit it out. Everyone had a story of something wonderful or scary that happened. As I was brushing Merlin Jan came by. Jan has a team of very spirited Haflinger mares and they did amazing in the fray. I told her about Merlin's kick and my mistake and she grabbed my shoulders, "You were looking at your horses feet!!" and then hugged me! She said, "Well then! I guess you won't make that mistake ever again!" and I couldn't help but feel better. My shame melted into camaraderie. I think that's the true benchmark of finding a place you belong. Even at your most uncomfortable of moments you get a chance to turn lessons into stories and adventure, well, if the audience will tolerate the spin. Here in the land of dairy, draft horses, deer hunters and shepherds we tolerate a lot of it. It keeps the milk check livable, the horses from scaring us into our living rooms, and the hunts magic with hope and luck.

I ended that parade a little better of a horsewoman, and a hell of a lot better at optimism. Sometimes you need to cut yourself a little slack and sew up the tears in the morning. We loaded our horses and drove off into the night. We, the happy participants, the parade veterans, the survivors!

Lantern Walks & Cold Soup

Folks, I am going to go through the last 36-hours started from last night and going backwards. I'll fill you in on all of the goings-on, starting with last night. Feel free to ask any questions. And I promise not to include any images or mental imagery of full-body knitwear.

It was well-past dark and I was driving in my scrappy truck behind Patty and her entourage. She was pulling hour horses back to her farm after our adventure in Salem an hour earlier. We had just participated in the Christmas Parade and while that was its own adventure we were about to experience another.

We were less than a mile from Patty's farm on a pitch-dark back road when she slowed her rig to a stop and stepped out of her truck. I thought something was wrong with the horses, that she felt a slip or fuss in the back and wanted to check it out. Turns out the horses were fine but the trailer carrying them wasn't. A tire had gone so flat, so fast, that the hot air inside it was swirling around in the headlights like smoke. Patty and I were close to her farm, but when she tried to pull the two vehicles forward it crunched and moaned like the axle itself was being dragged across the floor. We discussed our options and decided to leave her car and trailer on the side of the road and walk the horses back to her farm. Merlin could spend the night at her place and in the morning we would be able to fix the tire.

I am somewhat of an emergency prep dork. In my truck was not only a 72-hour emergency bag complete with first aid gear, a change of clothes, extra socks, food, and water but I also drive with a sleeping bag, flashlights, and jumper cables. It may seem excessive to some, but when you live alone in the country and blow a tired miles from home without cell service, you might be waiting for a while by the roadside. Doesn't hurt to stay warm, have a snack, and read.

So anyway, I pulled out my battery-powered Coleman lantern and was grateful for it. No streetlights out here, and walking a black horse at night on a windy country road seemed dangerous. The moon was a waxing crescent. A mere sliver of itself, barely casting any light. The warm and wet day had left a blanket of fog near the wetlands on the left side of the road. If there was ever a moment to start filming modern day scenes of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this was it.

But Patty and I had been here before. We've had rough things happen, been stranded on roadsides and understood the immense luck of this flat tire. It happened just a half mile from her farm. So we took or boys off the trailer and walked side-by-side in the hand-held glow back to her farm. We talked about the parade, about the sweet chaos of it all. Both our horses had their moments of naught, but both passed the test with flying colors. They walked along the busy roadsides amongst the flash and pomp and shouting crowds and we were proud of them and ourselves.

As we chatted I kept thinking that what I admire most about Patty is that in her early fifties she is still game to get out there any grab life by the horns. She does this not through the ways you might be thinking, the heroic acts of driving heavy horses and running a farm. No, she does it through her decisions about how she is going to participate in life. Most people go to work and then go home and watch TV. They check email, scamper off to the obligatory family or work event and that's pretty much the sum of it. They have pulses, but that's pretty much the proof of their emotional existence. I did that for quite some time myself.

But Patty does things most people stop doing when they get out of college and she's got me doing it, too. We belong to clubs, and enter shows, and dress up for parades. We attend social experiences no online application has yet to compete with. It's these little events that seem so adorably inconsequential, but they are the kind of things that boil up a hunger for everyday life.

When you choose to take part in life you wake up in the morning feeling like you're going to a rock concert, but instead of watching it you are performing it. It's that pit-of-the-stomach thrill of participation that I think separates the young from the old. And you folks out there practicing for your church concerts, community theatre plays, hunting trips, and SCA meetings (or whatever the club or scene) know that same thrill.

A lot of folks roll their eyes at the idea of being in a club or having a hobby. It's become quaint and nerdy to thrive in a subculture. But I have never known or seen folks happier in this sordid world than the ones who are out engaged in an activity they love and surrounded by support of others who share their passion. It makes all the difference in the darkness.

So we walked the horses home without any feeling of fear or anger or worry. We had just been in a parade, had laughed and joked with people in our Draft Club, and had nothing ahead of us but a hot bowl of Goose Sausage Stew and a wood stove waiting when we arrived back to her farm. It wasn't raining. It wasn't too cold. And somewhere along that dark road I realized the reason we were happy was because we simply chose to be.

Patty changed her entire life to make room for happiness. I did, too. People do this everyday and it is a thousand times more heroic than riding a galloping horse. I think happiness comes not from money or opportunity but from simply knowing when you are not happy, recognizing it without pity for yourself, and changing it. That's the most powerful force in the world. To leave a bad marriage, to seek support and comfort, to forgive and forget. It's those big things, and the little things, too. To take up a musical instrument for the first time, to finally get a passport and book a flight, to get dressed up and go on that blind date. It's the being scared and standing up for yourself anyway. It's the understanding that being happy isn't the same as being selfish. And it's that fine line between being a victim or a volunteer in a bad situation. Happy people are not happy because of circumstance - they are happy because they got out of them. Not that that's easy, but it is an option. Always an option.

You need to be the person who makes you happy. In my experience, the saddest people I know let themselves believe they are responsible for another adult's happiness, that they owe it to them. It is a burden I consider the worst sort of abuse. No one can carry that weight.

That night Patty, her husband Mark, and I sat in the farmhouse and enjoyed that soup with cold well water. We had some complications in our long day but they were nothing but obstacles we both chose to ignore. Tired, content, and free on a Saturday night we just smiled through the conversation. We could worry about the world when the soup got cold.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

36 Hours

So much has happened in the last 36 hours. I haven't been writing because I've been out in the thick of it. I promise to write down heaps of it soon as I have iced my sore body, slept, had a stiff drink and got the wood stove roaring. But tomorrow, darling. I promise. Right now I just want Radiohead to sing No Surprises to me and sip an adult beverage.

Here's a teaser of what's ahead on the blog:

Long hours in tree stands.
Barn construction in the rain.
My first parade with Merlin!
Merlin freaking out (my fault).
Downtown Cambridge Events.
Banjo Camp In the works.
Art Shows.
Weck Jar review/gifties
Season Pass giveaway.
Broke down on the roadside.
Fiddle Love.
Walking horses a half mile by lantern light.
Jazz is in bad shape.
I am tired and happy.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Full Body Sweater!


Would You Like Some Coffee?

Battenkill Books has a little coffee machine near the armchairs. Gibson has inspected it. It's quality stuff, he thinks. He doesn't drink coffee (and I shudder at the thought of a Border Collie hopped up on caffeine) but he does enjoy hospitality. He'd crawl inside you if you let me. Crawl inside and turn around three times and lay down right there by your heart beat. These dogs are not easy dogs to live with, and not for everyone, but they are the dogs for me. Intense, dramatic, obsessed with their work...sometimes bite. Sounds like a farm girl we know.

The Hunt Draws to a Close

I woke up at 4:30 this morning and was in the tree stand before sunrise. It was dark when I climbed up that rickety ladder, and I watched the morning stream in one minute at a time. One goose wing at a time. One blue shrapnel of light at a time. One frozen toe at a time….

No deer were seen that two-hour sit above the world. And none were seen in the three-hour afternoon sit either on another farm in a blind. I think those deer are onto us. That, or this hunter had her chances laid out on silver platters and blew it. Whatever the outcome, circumstance, or chance I have two days to try before the 2012 season is up and the gun gets put away…

Tomorrow I won't be hunting. Besides a non-stop rain in the forecast I have a barn wall to nail together in the morning and a holiday parade in the late afternoon/evening. I am certain the barn wall is being put up but the parade may be a literal washout. Regardless, this farmer will continue to hope for a deer in the last 36 hours of trying. And if not, well, there's always next year? Right?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gibson's Tribute to A. Wyeth

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Last Chance For These Workshops!

1 Spot left in Winter Fiddle Camp in Feb!
1 Spot left in Herbalism with Kathy Harrison in April.
2 Spots left for the Wool Weekend in Feb.
2 Spots left for Dulcimer Day Camp in April.

And, if anyone who currently holds a season pass wants to order one for the following year, or buy a new season pass as a Holiday gift. I am offering an entire year of workshops to the farm for just $250. Offer is only good through Friday. And with the spring poultry workshops, rabbit 101, and a special emergency farm prepping class with Kathy Harrison: you will get your money's worth!

Parade Practice Drive

For the first time in months I suited up Merlin in harness and a cart and went for a mile-long drive along our quiet country road. Only it wasn't quiet at all. The wind was up and blustery and the overcast sky seemed ominous. There was a road crew working on cutting some trees near power lines across the street so there was also loud construction noises, back-up truck beeping, and heavy machinery going up and down the road. You know what I thought? This is some serious parade training!

Merlin did well. Fantastic really, considering how long it has been. He walked, trotted, and (shhh) cantered along our paved mountain road. He did a few great 180 turns and wasn't bothered by the crs and trucks that passed us. I'm sure deer watched the hunter being silly from their hiding places in the forest.Which is okay by me, most of my heart has given up on this year's deer. Oh well. It's hard to feel sordid in a pony cart.

Merlin handled the cart and me as if harnessing up and heading down the road was something we did every day. Perhaps we should? He loves it and I love it.

You know, I think I bought a driving horse that tolerates being ridden!

Did I Hear, Parade?

Ready to Roll

Yesterday I picked up my repaired and reinforced cart from Tink's place. For ten dollars he welded and painted over the new metal. I was so excited. Not just for the parade in Salem this weekend, but to have my cart back. Merlin is a blast to ride, but there is something special about putting on that harness and hitching him up to that cart. Driving horses is a hobby and skill few people possess any more, and not for the lack of interest. When I hosted The Farmer's Horse workshop back in October there were people of all sorts and interest levels, but one couple from a New York farm south of Cold Antler really struck a cord with me. The couple have a vegetable CSA and were on the fence between getting a team of horses or a tractor. They came to the workshop to learn in a safe and welcoming environment, to get on a horse and behind a cart and learn things likes tack and harnessing. I just got an email from them this week saying they made an offer on a team of Hafflingers! For them it was a no-brainer. Horses offer a kind of work, pace, and nostalgia their members would adore and they would love too. A horse-powered farm means you not only can market a truly sustainable product to your customers but you have these animals you can saddle up and ride across the pasture, or meet new people with, and attend things like parades and trail rides. Ejay and Kim will be cantering across their fields on their own mares by next October. I hope they come back to help teach at next fall's horsemanship and fellowship workshop!

I digress. So the cart is back and for ten dollars at Rite AId I was able to buy some garland and battery-operated lights and this weekend the little Yuletide Wagon will ride along in the Christmas Parade. With garland and lights, and a fake crow attached to the back you best believe we'll be a sight. I can't wait to trot down the city streets with my boy.

To the people of Salem I exclaim, Behold a Dark Horse!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Welcome Will Moses!

This is a big deal! I am thrilled and honored to announce that artist Will Moses and the Mt. Nebo Gallery have joined the community of sponsors for Cold Antler Farm. The folk artist is an upstate native, and great-grandson of the world renowned Grandma Moses. The scenes of my adopted hometown, and many other hometowns around this area, are captures in his paintings. His work has been shown in galleries around the world and his paintings can be purchased as prints, notecards, calendars, and several books. I own a copy of Will Moses' "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and it never gets put away. It is always in my living room, a testament. Here is a bit from the website, for you to know a bit more.

Soft, shadowy foothills dotted with traditional white farmhouses; weathered red barns tilted haphazardly on broad patchwork sweeps of green and hay-gold fields; small clusters of black and white cows grazing placidly in the distance…it's all part of Moses Country. And, the 200 year-old farmhouse, where Will Moses has his studio, is as solidly traditional as the surrounding landscape…the white house where the legendary Grandma Moses began her career. 

Born and raised here, in Eagle Bridge, New York, Will Moses creates paintings that reflect the quiet beauty of this tiny community nestled close to the Vermont border. Will has created a vivid, delightful miniature world, peopled with villagers who have stepped out of the past to charm us with their simple, everyday pastimes.

As a fourth generation member of the renowned Moses family, painting is a natural tradition for Will, who began painting when he was four years old. Encouraged by his grandfather, a well-known folk painter in his own right, young Will was allowed to experiment freely with paints. Forrest K. Moses was totally committed to self-expression and passed this freedom of spirit along to his young grandson. Stimulated by his grandfather's confident approach, Will developed his own unique style of Americana.

Today, Will continues to carry on the family tradition. Although his style is reminiscent of that of his celebrated great-grandmother, it is more complex and sophisticated.

Basically self-taught, Will has honed his technique to capture all the most minute details in sharp-edged focus. It is a technique that has gained him considerable attention in art circles.

Will Moses has had several well acclaimed exhibitions of his work in the United States, Canada and Japan. The Japanese are enthusiastic collectors of Will's art and Will has personally toured Japan with an exhibition of his work there. In North America, Will continues to make appearances at art galleries and folk art shows, meeting friends, collectors and admirers of his work. Recent public exhibitions of Will's work have taken place at the Cahoon Museum of American Art, The Everson Museum, The Bennington Museum, the North Shore Art Gallery and the President Ford and Reagan Libraries.

Will Moses's paintings capture a lifestyle that still thrives here in this corner of the world. You can still find horse-drawn sleighs and flocks of sheep on our backroads. His paintings are not just reflections of our past but nods to our present. As someone who spent the day picking up her horse cart and decorating it for a parade today, I assure you, that statement is accurate.

You can take a little piece of my world home if you like. His website features frame-ready prints and books already signed by Will. It may not seem like a big deal, but a copy of Will Moses's Silent Night?, or The Night Before Christmas signed by the artist, is not a small gift! And even if you don't want a print or notecard in your home, if you have a moment, thank him and any of the CAF sponsors you see here. Think of them for your Christmas Shopping. They make this farm, and this life, possible. So please visit and say hello, place an order, or just check out the site for a peak into my world!

Soooo, you eat here often?

Stags & Tankards

I'm inside the farmhouse while the rain settles down over the mountain in heavy drapes of fog and mist. I'm just in from a few hours out in the forest behind the pastures, tucked in a blind and hoping for the sight of stag or doe. No luck. I spent yesterday afternoon in a tree stand, did not see a flick of a white tail in the distance. Again, no luck. I'm consoling myself with, not a mug, but an entire tankard of strong French roast. It isn't a hundred and fifty pounds of dead animal, but it does in a pinch. My dear friends, I am down to the last week of hunting season. Hope grows weary.

After a long, humid, dawn-into-morning sit I came inside with my gun slung over my shoulder, past the sheep grazing the last of the grass these Days of Grace will offer them. The weather went from cold and snowy Saturday to oddly warm. It was 48 degrees or so as I trampled through the woods home to my fireside. As I past the dairy goat pen, the scuttling chickens, the pigs in their slumber nest and watched the sheep eat I wondered if the reason I had not taken a deer was simple natural law? Hunting is the act of acquiring food. I am surrounded by such a wealth of food it is staggering. Why should I, of all people, be given the gift of venison when I am surrounded by chicken, lamb, pork, milk and eggs? I shrugged. I thought of the pickups and men in camp waiting in line at the McDonald's Drive-Thrus for their McEggwiches with a ten-pointer in the bed. Few of us modern hunters have that primal need to just eat what we stalk. Perhaps it's just a matter of luck and chance. As the author S.M. Stirling says*, The dice have no memory.

So I will keep trying for a deer until Sunset on Sunday. That's the end of rifle season here and I do not have any weapons or permissions to hunt beyond that time. Honestly, part of me welcomes it. When the clock runs out I can finally hang up my hunting kilt, put the bullets away, and tuck into a hot cup (or wassail) of coffee on mornings like this. I've lived 30 years so far without shooting a deer. I can make it another.

In other news, I am finally getting some sides put up on the horse's barn this week. Brett is coming to help out so it'll be done right. I can milk a goat and turn her harvest into soap, cheese, and milkshakes but hand me a hammer and nails and you have yourself an emergency room visit. I am not gifted in the realm of making wooden things out of larger/other wooden things. I envy folks with any sort of building/carpentry skills. Very much so. It's good to finally get them into some 4-season shelter. We've been lucky that so far only rain and sprinkles of snow under a 1/4 inch has hit the farm. As a thanks for his hard work I plan on cooking Brett and any helpers who show up to aid in the barn work a dinner to remember!

Somewhat related news: I should be heading over to Tink's to get my repaired cart. Someone asked me how I broke it and I'm not sure I wrote about this, but back in the early fall I took my friend Ajay and I for a ride through the mountain trails here and the old 1940's bike spokes couldn't take our combined weight over their rust. So think is repairing the rust with some welding and I am no longer taking passengers older than 12 on my cart! I hope to get a larger, more practical cart in the future like a meadow brook or a fore cart but right now it isn't in the budget. Someday!

You folks enjoy this rainy Tuesday. If it's not raining where you live, just click here. (That site is simple but might be the best thing on the internet.) And if you see any deer, point northeast and send them that way. I'll take a drifter!

*Then again, he would also say aphorisms are worth their weight in gold.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jay & Molly Were in Town!

After Saturday's workshop I was able to see a live performance of Jay Unger and Molly Mason right here in Cambridge. Hubbard Hall, our little opera house, is part of my closest town's busy arts calendar. Plays, performances, lessons, workshops, and speakers come to it often. I don't know many towns that offer Irish step dancing and cello classes the same week as yoga and meditation sessions - in a place where no one blinks an eye when a train or horse cart passes by. Washington County, I am telling you, is a magical place.

That's the stage of Hubbard Hall, Cambridge's downtown opera house. It's a small wooden stage with a backdrop painted in the first decade of the 20th century (some say even earlier). It's a curious picture, which I exclaimed "Look, Japamsterdam!" when I first saw it. The combination of a deep lake and tall snowy mountains next to weirdly Amish people near a gristmill was whimsical. It's one of several hand=painted canvas backdrops that roll down from the rafters, but even without seeing the others, I'm pretty sure this ones's my favorite.

The concert was amazing. Fall down the stairs, amazing. The only way I was able to go was because Connie at battenkill Books offered me two free tickets since she couldn't find a sitter in time and didn't want them to go to waste. What a gift that was! I sat front row and center, just ten feet away from the due and their beautiful music. They covered hits of the sixties (the 1860's) and some of their own writing. The night was farm-themed. They played hits like Speed the Plough, Snow Bird in the Ash, and Hoedown. I couldn't stop the smirk from racing across my face.

A fiddle and a Gibson J-45 (I am guessing her's was from the late 1950's) were my entertainment that night. These are my two favorite instruments in the world. The J-45 is the guitar my sheepdog is named after, my holy grail. Far as I am concerned The whole world does not need a bass, or drums, or a single electric sound when it comes to southern mountain music. It just needs these two beautiful sets of strings. I had to use an effort of will to not break down and cry during the Lovers Waltz. I couldn't help it. It brought up so many memories, thoughts, and dusty dreams. If strangers or a song can well that up in you, that is something powerful. I don;t know what to say. Waltzes do me in folks, my heart beats in 3/4 time.

It all ended with Ashokan farewell, played traditionally and then an encore presentation of it all fast and snazzy! A perfect evening in a packed music hall on a cold night. I love this place. You just can't know.

I Miss This View

Some people are legend. In this neighborhood, Tink, is such a legend. The man runs a fix-it shop a mile down route 22. Need new brakes? Tink can do it. Your lawnmower stop working? Tink can fix it. You want 50 heads of seed garlic, Tink can TOTALLY do it. I'm heading down there now with Gibson and my broken pony cart. If Tink can repair it quick and cheap then it's a possibility that Merlin and I could be in the Salem Christmas Parade Saturday! I'll put a wreath with a crow in it and lights on the cart but how fun could THAT be!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Words & Wool!

Yesterday morning I woke up to three things: a border collie paw slamming into my solar plexus, a gasp of surprise, and snow. I instantly forgave my roommate. Coughing and drinking some water in the basking glow of the cheesy electric fireplace I was looking out the second-story window at a farmyard covered in a dusting of snow, with more on the way. I jumped up and down. I couldn't help myself. I called Gibson to me and as he jumped up to hug me.

But the snow! The weathermen just wanted an inch, tops, but that was enough for me. A beard to cover up the frozen piles of chicken and goose poop was like winning an backyard makeover giveaway. I had a few hours to get the farm (and the farmhouse) ready for the workshop. Folks had signed up from New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Virginia and Vermont to spend a day with Cold Antler, myself, Jon Katz and some drop in guests. We would be talking about blogging, writing, inspiration, internet politics, trolls, ad sales, and anything else that would come up from the attendees. At the moment I wasn't ready for any of that. I was, however, ready to wrestle a sheep.

The ewe who was barely able to stand (the same one I threw my shoulder out on carrying up a hillside) was ready to dance. She stared at me, and the syringe in my hand, and wasn't having any of it. She scampered off with the grace of a ballerina in fat pants and I had to grab a hold of her horns, clamp her between my legs, and hold her down to give the injection too. She unwillingly obliged my doctoring and then ran off to join her fellow suffragettes. She was clearly doing better.

After that bold task was completed, and I was covered in muddy snow, I took to the other animals and their feeding and checking-up-ons and came inside for a hot shower. While washing the sheep poo out from between my nails I thought about the workshop. In two hours fifteen people would be there to talk about some important things in my life: this blog, how it works, and how it could work for them. That's a tall drink of Pro-Pen G to order up. Here's a neat fact. You can't get sheep poo out of your fingernails without resorting to a potato scrubber and hydrogen peroxide. You won't find that little gem on your Snappy lid, folks.

By 10Am the living room was stocked with chairs, friends, and new faces. We covered some basics and Q&A, and then just an hour into our discussion a fellow author knocked on the door. James Howard Kunstler took me up on my invitation to stop by. His blog, books, podcast, and novels were fairly popular and he was a success at the very thing most folks at the class wanted to learn more about. He sat with us for an hour, talking and taking questions. The day's schedule went off the rails but the guests didn't seem to matter. We broke for lunch and I hugged Jimmy and thanked him with a bottle of hard cider. He was a lot better about accepting that kindness than my sheep.

After our lunch break Jon arrived, and spent over two hours talking about the changing face of publishing, his experience as a writer, blogs, and taking questions on everything from trolls to email responding time. Both he and James were wonderful, doing the kind of presentation I would not even think to give. It was professional and poised, but friendly and without apology for their practices and beliefs. My own talk on the web was a little more personal, but I've grown really comfortable with at least a third of the audience, and the Season Pass members, and it felt more like a living room full of friends than an interview. I don't think the folks minded, not at all. You certainly get another level of intimacy at these things at the farm (not in a dirty way). Folks sat and knit, listening with their ears when their eyes tried to tackle a row of a new sock or sweater. It was a delightful combination of busy hands and open minds and when the wood stove grew too warm and the speakers had wrapped up their things we headed outside for a farm tour.

I showed folks the sheep, the horses, the goats, Monday, the pigs and the rabbits and chickens. My entire operation is within a 40 foot radius of my home. A half circle that leads to gates and barn doors and the chicken coop. It's not what you see when you close your eyes and imagine the Fisher Price farmyard, but it is real. It's scrappy and humble, but making food and wool and cheese right outside the kitchen window. And anyway, it's what I have to offer. No one seemed dissapointed, which was encouraging.

Folks left after another session with me in the living room. We covered more questions and some shared their own writing and stories, and after that everyone was ready to pack up for their drives home or to their hotels. I had farm chores and then a dinner date with Jon and Maria, so all of us punched our dance cards as we hugged and waved goodbye. I was tired, but inspired. the snow that covered the farm in the morning was just beginning to melt as the sun set. A warm front was coming in and as the sun set the gunshots from some lucky hunters echoed over the mountain. So much happening on one country road. I would have jumped up and down then as well, but a woman needs to learn some restraint. I carried buckets of clean well water up to the horses and whistled a few bars of Dixie as I thought about the concert I'd be enjoying that night. Traditional live music, dinner with friends, and another workshop under my belt with happy people heading home to create the world they want to live in. No complaints here.

Well, save for that morning punch from a dog, but perfection isn't the goal.

Herbalism 101 with Kathy Harrison!

Have you ever wanted to know more about the healing properties of plants? Does native and ancient wisdom raise your eyebrows? How about healing a case of the common cold with nothing but dried herbs from your own larder and honey from you own hive? It doesn't have to be witchcraft or fiction, just basic and practical herbalism. It's a topic I am interested in and want to learn more about as well. So I asked a good friend with a great garden to come and teach us all.

The first Saturday in April will host a very special workshop here at Cold Antler Farm. Kathy Harrison, author of Just in Case and National Geographic Channel Doomsday Prepper, will be here to talk about natural medicines. She's a gardener with an extensive herb garden who makes a number of salves, tinctures, decotions and infusions from easily grown herbs. She knows how to turn dried plants from her own backyard (and foraged from the forest) into teas, salves, tinctures and lotions. Kathy will talk about everything from planting to harvesting, and do a demonstration of making salves and ointments. Bring a notebook, questions, and tolerate a Border Collie in your lap and you'll love this spring day.

The workshop will start out with introductions and a basic overview on herbs. It will include a lecture on the beginning herbalist's garden, and from there take us off into the world of homegrown healing arts. We'll discuss what herbs are best for what ailment or symptom and all the business that goes into procuring them. This is a workshop for the person interested in a small garden they can tend, harvest, dry and then implement in everyday remedies. Something to set next to the taters, carrots, and lettuce patch. Some plants feed our bellies and others calm our minds. If you're already learning how to grow a meal, why not learn to grow the remedy for the stomach ache that might follow?!

We'll talk about specialty gardens, like for example, a calming garden. A bed of mints lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and valerian. A small 4x4 bed with these herbs could be turned into teas, rubs, and bath soaks. Even aromatherapy can play into herbalism. What the day will achieve is getting you acquainted with the basics to start out.

Everyone who comes will get a small herbal manual called Herbal First Aid from the fine folks at Microcosm Publishing. You'll also receive some seeds, and Kathy might bring plants along as well (season and weather permitting!).

Sign up my emailing me at This workshop is limited to a small number of people due to the books, seeds, and plants included in the workshop budget, so it is first come, first served as far as reservations go. If you are a season pass member and want a spot, email me quick to claim it!

Workshop Rundown
Date: April 6th
Time: 10AM -3PM
Cost: $125
Spaces Left: 6

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Good Morning From Cold Antler!

It's snowing outside and, even if just for a little, the farmhouse is coated in a thin layer of beautiful white. Holiday music is playing on Pandora, coffee is on the stove, and I am getting ready for a day of friends, fellowship, and music!

Good Morning!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Brett & His Timbersports Team!


This morning I woke up totally renewed after yesterday's exhaustion. I felt that old jones for coffee as I happily went about morning chores with Gibson at my side. Every single morning it is he and I, on the mountain, checking on the stock and making creatures comfortable. I felt good. I felt really good. The sleep did wonders, and I was in a brand new flannel shirt with my dog. That marks mentioning because buying new clothes is rare, and nothing beats the softness of a new, never washed, flannel shirt off the rack. It was under my black wool sweater, the one I learned to ride Merlin on. It's a combination now of border collie and horse hair, if you look close enough. I mean that in the most endearing way possible.

So I was out there, carrying hay and water buckets, singing to my dog and could instinctually smell the coffee brewing on the kitchen stove. The fires were lit and no matter where I was on the farm I could see and smell that woodsmoke, the undeniable certainty of warmth ahead. Homesteaders are a race that devours deprivation with great joy for the promise of the simplest hand-crafted comfort. Coffee by a wood stove after morning chores with farm animals is pretty much homesteader cannon for satisfaction. As indisputable as the temperature.

So I go inside, and I pour a mug of coffee, and I start writing you guys love letters about the healthy turn-around with the sick sheep, and the concert and workshop tomorrow, and I am in the kitchen listening to Jay play Ashokan Farewell when I can't stand it anymore. I need to make some music. You start playing the fiddle and you'll understand. You can't help yourself.

So I go get my Silver Creek fiddle, and I realize from the drop in temperatures that it is sadly out of tune. So I clip in my Snark tuner (best tuner ever) and sit hunched over my devil box in front of the fire for about seven minutes of plucks and adjustments. Happy with the GDAE tuning, I snap my head up to play and…


I holler in pain! I had a cramp in my next going down to my shoulder. It was there since yesterday evening I bet, lying in wait for the perfect moment to spring. Hauling a 150 pound ewe up a hillside after being awake 40+ hours is what tore up the muscle, but that moment of stillness and hunching over is what did me in. I took some ibuprofen, and attached a heating pad to me like a parrot on my shoulder, and decided I was officially middle-aged. Not a bad thing at all.

So my body has officially told me to slow down for the day. I hope to heal up fast, I always do, but right now I am just grateful this happened before morning chores and not during or after. I can sit out for the next few rounds and be right as rain for evening work, perhaps done with a little less gusto. Now, if you would please excuse me. I am going to fill up a syringe within Pro Pen G for a date with a lady on the hill.

Four Spots Opened!

Below you can see two workshops coming up, one being tomorrow. Four people had to cancel so I have a few openings for this sold out event. It's called Words and Wool and it's a day dedicated to writing, knitting projects, authors, blogs, and getting your website out there. It's about learning to market, make some cash, and make your blog work harder for you. Author Jon Katz will be here. Other authors who are locals may show up as well. Last Chance lower rates are available for those interested. So if you want to get an amazing Saturday in the W.C. Lined up for tomorrow come to the workshop here and then enjoy a live show by Jay Unger and Molly Mason at Hubbard Hall. It's not to late to sign up here and get tickets for the show/Contra dance! And for those interested in music: This winter beginner fiddler workshop is sold out, but in the spirit of the wonderful and successful fiddle camps I am offering a version for those of you who are looking for instant gratification and less squeaks and squawks: Also, a less expensive instrument. Check this out.

Introducing Dulcimer Day Camp!
April 13th 2013

Come up to the farm this April when the snows are gone and lambs are on my mind for a Saturday dedicated to learning the Mountain Duclimer. Everyone who signs up for the day gets an Apple Creek Dulcimer of their very own and a basic instruction book. We'll spend the morning learning about the history, tuning, and strumming patterns and the afternoon learning your first songs! You will also leave knowing how to read tabs(so you don't need to know how to read music to attend) and the basics of jamming by chord and ear.

Just like fiddle camp you arrive knowing nothing and leave not only with your own instrument, but the knowledge to tune, play, and enjoy it. The dulcimer is a wonderful way for even the most skeptical of wannabe musicians to start with. It is tuned to itself and there isn't really a way to play a wrong note on it. As long as she's in tune, she'll make sweet music for you.

So if you ever wanted to add some music to your campfires, living rooms or farm front porches and and learn to bring home that beautiful music. Meet other beginner's, and enjoy a spring time farm. If you already have an older dulcimer then all you need to do is get it checked by a music shop and possibly get it restrung. If you own a newer dulcimer but never really learned, then sign on up and get inspired. You'll be strumming out Shady Grove in no time!

Please email me if you are interested, cost will be $225.00 for the whole day and the instrument and book, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch or plan to eat out in town. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along, you only need to buy the book and dulc!

Words & Wool with Jon Katz!
Dec 1st 2012 - 4 spots left!

Come to Cold Antler Farm this winter for a special workshop called Words & Wool. It is a knitter's circle and writing workshop dedicated to the small homestead or farmer's blog and the marketing and promotion of it. Come learn straight from the shepherd's mouth how I built, promoted, and expanded my blog. Ask me questions about publishing and writing professionally, learn how to sell or pitch ads and giveaways, bring a sample of writing to talk about and share with the group for a healthy and kind critique. Tell your story with eager ears listening, and a border collie in your lap....At the very least get some ideas for your personal, non commercial blog for your friends and family. It's a day dedicated to expanding your own brand and business, and getting the word out about your own website as another, vibrant, source of income for your farm and family.

Jon Katz (that's him loving up his donkey Simon), the New York Times Bestselling author will be here as well to do a talk about how he started blogging and how the internet has helped grow his brand. He writes and shares his amazing photography at His blog is one of the most popular farm blogs online now, with nearly 5 million hits! Some of you may already read it, and those who don't, should. It never hurts to have a little more Washington County in your life! He'll be available to share his own experiences and do a Q&A as well as sign any books you may have for him. And as for the wool? Bring a knitting project! If you are coming along to listen and talk, you might as well have something to work on near the wood stove. Other knitters will be on hand to help, give advice, share patterns and teach you the basics if you are new to the craft. Expect a comfortable day, indoors mostly, at the farm. The class starts at 10AM and goes till 3PM, and if you want to stay after the class for a private party of creamy potato soup and bread fresh from the Bun Baker wood stove you are welcome to it!

Please email me if you are interested, cost will be $100.00 for the whole day, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch for a midday knitting break. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along!

Season Pass promotion: Sign up for either workshop and you can pay a little more and be welcome back all year long as a Season Pass Member. SPM's are a driving force of support and goodwill on this little farm. They keep me going, as all of you do who read, email, comment, donate and come out to scratch Gibson behind the ears and tussle Merlin's mane.

Sheep News: Joseph Reporting

Good News, All Around!

So I have some morning updates for you! First off, the ewe was standing up and walking towards me this morning! She pulled through the night and waddled down the hillside to join her fellow flock mates for early feed. She had an appetite, too. I am so happy, there's a good chance she'll pull through! She needs to put on some weight and get her immune system back into shape, but the sweet feed and antibiotics are making that happens. Thank you for your kind words and wishes!

Second! If you are coming up to the farm tomorrow for Words and Wool, dress warm and be excited for snow! It looks like (and feels like) snow around here, and it'll make the stay at the farm cozy. Remember to pack a lunch or plan to grab it at a local shop around here. We have several places just within a few miles. And if you are staying in the area Saturday night, get your tickets at the Hubbard Hall website (our little opera house in town) for a live performance by Jay Unger and Molly Mason! Jay you know from his famous song, Ashokan Farewell, made famous by Ken Burn's Civil War PBS Series. Molly plays a mighty fine Gibson J45 (What Gibson, the dog, is named after) together it is some sweet music. After the workshop at 4pm there will be a Contra Dance in town too, with Jay and Molly playing. And it is downtown Cambridge's Cash Mob day. All the local stores will be open, including Battenkill Books, for you to grab some holiday cheer at.

Healthy Sheep, Snowfall, and Fiddle Music! Welcome to Washington County this Weekend!

P.S. I slept nine hours last night. Blessed rest!

Hey Lady?

Hey, Lady? Where do you want this bucket? It's a pretty good bucket. I slayed it good. It was rolling around and bucketing and acting up and I just circled it until it stopped! Dead stopped! You ever scare a bucket into stopping, lady? It's the BEST! I scared it and then SHABAAANG! I was on it, biting it, fighting that bucket and giving it the ol' what for! So I killed this bucket for you, after scaring it into a stop, and I think you should use it for your farming. You can use it to carry water to those fluffy bags of suet on the hill. Hey?! HEY! Where did you go? You think buckets just ARE? They need to be chased into corners and defeated, lady. I did this for you and you're just walking over there, up there? Walking around the house? OMG, you are coming around the corner with TWO MORE BUCKETS! HOW did you kill them so swiftly, and quietly? You are a bucket ninjaperson. Ooooohhh boy. Wait till the suet bags here about this!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I've been up around 36 hours. I just came inside from carrying a sick sheep up a hillside, medicating it, and setting it up with fresh bedding, food, and water. It was the grand finale to a very, very long day. When that good task was completed I said a few words of support and kissed her forehead, and then set about the night rounds on the farm.

I fixed some of the horses' fence. I carried buckets of water, and hay bales, and set up new mineral blocks in plastic basins. The pigs were tucked in. The goats were nickering between mouthfuls of hay. Somewhere in the distance I heard a hunter's gunshot. Everything hurts. I'm out of energy and out of breath. None of this is a complaint. Everyone in my care is as okay as they can be right now. All of this is a prayer.

I'm taking a deep breath.
I'm drinking a big glass of water.
I'm sitting next to my fire.
I'm stretching out tired muscles.
I'm hoping for the best.
I'm happiest wanting.

So here's to desire. Shepherd Out.

If You're Coming This Weekend

No Sleep. Sick Sheep.

I couldn't sleep last night. Not more than a few moments in-between long stretches of anxiety. Sleep has been hard won lately. This time of year is stressful for me, The Holidays. And I was up worrying about things I can't change or control for most of the night. When the sun finally arrived I told Gibson we were going to take care of the animals and then try to catch a nap when everyone was content. That was the plan. But farm's have a way of not caring much for the farmer's plans.

I went outside with Gibson and noticed a Blackface ewe on the ground near the gate, looking at me with bright eyes but away from the rest of the flock up the hill. Sheep are not loners, and if one is by itself it is either bringing life into the world or preparing to leave life altogether. Any notion of sleep was lost, ran off with that broken leash we call Circumstance. I knew what I was going to have to do to treat the ewe and it required a trip into Greenwich to the refrigerated section at the Tractor Supply. The ewe was weakened with an infection, I have seen it twice before on this farm and managed to heal the last sheep showing the same signs. I give three 9ml shots of Pro Pen G (per my vet's instruction), amp up her selenium intake, give electrolytes to drinking water, and up the caloric intake of the flock. This treatment has never failed me when acted on at the first signs of struggle. I wanted this ewe back on her feet for the breeding season around Yule.

Something about the farm takes away any selfish desires you may have, or dare consider having like naps and the such. Instead of feeling deflated, I felt infused with purpose. My energy was back. There was no room for the luxury of anxiety, because I had a job to do and it could be a matter of life and death. I asked Gibson to push back the flock and let me focus on the little girl with the wobbly legs. I looked her over, checked her eyelid color, searching for signs of bloat or wounds. She was just weak. I think it is a vitamin/mineral deficiency, probably selenium. I am of course, not a vet, just a farmer writing in her journal. But my experience and diagnose felt correct.

I fed the flock and the rest of the animals and then headed inside for a shower. The farm supply store would not be open for another hour and a half. The hot water felt better than usual in the cold house. It helped get me back into the real world, out of that torpor of self-pity and fear. The night before was lost, ran off with Circumstance. Life is give and take around here. I would not have time to light a fire and enjoy a cuppa at home, not today, but no matter how tiring the day grew it would be easily set aside in the whitewash of genuine need. Soon as I looked more like a citizen than a meth addict, I jumped into the truck and headed to town to get the meds.

And of course, once the day gets rolling there is no point in slowing down. I know if I nap I'll just have another night without sleep. So I went about the farm doing chores, medicating the sheep, adding more minerals to their grain, and then going for a walk in the woods to see if any deer were active at the midday hour. They weren't.

I'm keeping an eye on the ewe, and moving her to shelter soon, on clean fresh bedding where no one can disturb her healing process.

I am starting to feel the day catch up with me now. I am feeling tired. But the next thing on my list before nightfall is to check the entire horse fence for working electricity and get that ewe in a safe place and some more meds in her. What I need is a massage, a hot tub, a green juice, and some sleep. I'll get those things by and by. But for the now, it's sheep medications and keeping the home fires burning. I'll update with more on the ewe as I learn more, but sending healing thoughts our way if you have them to spare.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


A Celtic Huntress

Someone left a comment about this painting, located in San Francisco presently, but painted in 1890 by George DeForest Brush. It's called A Celtic Huntress. And there she is, the fast fast dog herself, holding an arrow on one side and a canine on the other. I don't know this woman but I instantly identified with her stature, build, haircut, companion and hobby. I don't share the ginger locks but this is a woman after my own heart. Darken her hair a bit, give her a rounder nose, bigger boobs and a border collie and you have a modern Celtic Huntress. How funny. I had no idea a little bit of my spirit was in San Francisco. I bet Mr. Brush didn't think a bit of his painting's spirit was in Jackson.

Our stories aren't ours. They are the world's.

Comfort in Any Wether

Sheep find a place to park for the night, and rest so still on my mountain that by morning their wooly coats are covered in the same frost that covers the fields and forest. When I walk out to feed them I am always shocked by this. Sal and Joseph (senior wethers) come right up to greet me and I stare at the flakes and ice on their backs. It looks like someone broke into my farm with those spray cans of fake snow and tagged them. In the name of winter herself, my sheep have been graffitied with living proof.

They are eating Nelson Greene's nutrition-packed second cut hay. It's so green, so lush, I always tell people I'll never starve with it in the barn. I just need to re-hydrate it and throw some balsamic vinaigrette on it, and BAM, mealtime.

It surely is winter here. The farmhouse seems to always have smoke coming from its chimney. The menu has changed to warm soups and teas, crusty bread and more protein. My body seems to crave more greens than ever before so I am sticking to the two-vegetables one-protein method for the afternoon meal, my only true sit down meal of the day. Mornings are all about coffee, maybe some oatmeal or yogurt, but mostly coffee. I don't get hungry till around 2-3PM and cook a nice meal and then I'm set for the day. I fall asleep around 9PM most nights after a full day of farming and writing, so I don't ever find myself hungry before bed. It suits me. I feel lucky to find a way to eat that makes my body, mind, and winter self feel correct about it.

Tonight will be pretty basic. A broc and cauliflower stir fry over a little rice with a few slices of good beef from Yushack's market in Shushan. Tonight I'll put a chicken into the crock pot and let it take the journey from breast meat roast to curried chicken to stockpot and then the bones go to the pigs who chomp them with a glee unknown to most.

Unlike the sheep, pigs do not gain a layer of frost. They sleep under a blanket of straw, close enough to spoon, and savor comfort more than many humans do. You can learn a lot from a sheep and a pig. You can be a soldier on a hilltop, or a glutton under the covers. I try to find myself somewhere in the swirling seas of moderation. I'm a firm believer in moderation in everything, including, moderation. Sometimes you just gotta be a swine in the hay. You dig?

I'm a Plain Paper Gift-Wrapper

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Maude Doesn't Want You Here...

But I do. So who cares what an angry ol' sheep says?! If you are considering buying a class, workshop, or private lesson with me for a Christmas Present for someone, let me know. I will send along a letter you can give in an envelope as a gift and Gibson will sign it as well. An invitation for their very own workshop of choice, Antlerstock weekend, private fiddle or dulcimer introduction, or an afternoon of learning to do whatever it is I can help teach. It's a great way to see the farm, support it, and give a gift that will be pretty hard to forget. Email me if interested!

What I've Hunted So Far

So far this hunting season has not produced a single ounce of venison for the table. I was given the gift of several chances to take some beautiful deer, but my inexperience, hesitation, and general clumsiness had a way of trumping any celestial opportunities granted. So I haven't been able to bag a deer and maybe I won't. It seems like the deer have caught on to our shenanigans and places once crawling with cervine activity are now barren as the harvested corn fields around Washington County. Well, barren of corn. Seems like every harvested corn field in the county is crawling with deer I can't legally shoot. Deer are like men. You see them everywhere you can't have them.

I have been writing about hunting a lot, and that's because I am doing a lot of it. If I am not taking care of the farm or running errands I am in the forest or a tree stand. The Hunt has taken on a mythical veil to me, it's something more than just aiming a gun at a buck. It is hours and hours of silent meditation, but meditation on the edge. Kind of like sitting in the lotus position on the edge of your roof. Probably nothing will happen, but if it does you better be ready, safe, fast, and wolf-quick in your decisions. It's exhausting and frustrating and exhilarating at the same time.

I have also been getting lots of emails and comments with advice. Some say to leave the bucks to the breeding stock and aim for a small doe. Some say get the largest animal you can for your tag, ensuring more meat in the freezer. I read all these comments and emails and smile, because these are tips for people who have the luxury of choice! Darling, I will be lucky as a duck to even get a *chance* to shoot a deer this season and it won't matter to me if it's a ten-point buck or a graying doe on the lam from another hunter. I will take the animal chance, luck, and a good quick death offers (if I am lucky enough to have one). If I do manage to shoot, kill, and gut a deer it will be thanked. It will be professionally butchered. It will feed myself and friends over storied meals of how the beast went down. And it might inspire other women to take up the good sport, too.

I think that attitude is what makes me a hunter, not the actual taking of a life. To approach the hunt with respect, patience (working on this one), and wonder. I saw those poachers shooting at cheap hits from the road and they may have a garage full of deer at their homes, but they aren't hunters. They are killers. Out for the easiest path to results, regardless of law, other people, or safety. To me a hunter is someone who takes life for the table, not the wall mount. It takes it with humility and the understanding that we too will die someday. The words of Kahil Gibran:

When you kill a beast say to him in your heart, "By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand. Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven."

So I have not managed to take a deer into the mightier hand. I have no antlered meat in the freezer. But I have been hunting and here is what I have tucked away in a game bag close to my heart:

I have sat for hours in the forest and remembered again what a joy it is to simply sit still. I have snuck up on a great blue heron, and looked at its offended eyes before it flew away in wildly loud flaps of its wings. I have shared a tree stand with a chickadee, singing inches from my ears. I know what the sound of a flock of geese sounds like overhead, when its not honking. Their wing strokes are sirens at sunset. I have seen bucks trot, antlers raised to attention, and does coyly avoid my virginal hands as they take aim. I've sat through snowflakes, and sunrises, and watched a baby fawn cry for its mother as it ran across a field in the blue cold dawn. I laughed with crows. I studied owl songs. I stared at tracks, and blood sign, and heard stories of a dozen hunters and their hunts. I have done this, all this, and it is just half a season gone.

I am joining a sisterhood and brotherhood of people who have reconnected with a primal urge, and I am not talking about killing wildlife. I mean the urge to provide for their loved ones and family in the most basic way possible: deeply nutritious food. It is a sport not of death, not really. It's a sport for the survivors. The brave. The patient. The storytellers. And the poacher chasers.

It is timeless.
It is satisfying.
And it is mine.

Art by Rajewel

Hunting Return Party

I have been hunting over at Jon and Maria's farm this season. He has a tree stand out back and it's a dandy place to watch forest and field from. And every time I get back from the woods I am greeted by Maria's flock of wool sheep. They have snazzy coats and a snazzy sheepdog and are friendly enough to walk up to me when I baa at them the way Sal and Joseph baa at me. I think it's sheep for "Heeeey, Laaadddy."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thank You!

I just got the email from Connie at Battenkill Books that every book by me, Jon Katz, and James Howard Kunstler has been sold out! And she has A LOT of them! Woo Hoo! Thank you to all who called, spoke and chatted with me, emailed, or just shared your support. Little things like a few dollars for a book add up and you made Connie, and all of us local writer-types, mighty happy! Well done, Antlers!

P.S. Over a week of hunting, 20+ hours in the woods, no deer yet.

So Here's My Number, Call Me Maybe?

Cyber Monday Cash Mob

Today is the infamous Cyber Monday. As someone who spent the last eight years working for online retailers, I have seen this go from a catchphrase noted after marketing reports came back from Black Friday sales to a National Holiday. Right now most of us are looking for bargains online, be it at work, school or at home.

I'm not against it, not in the least. I think it's great if you can get a deal online today. I myself got an electric fireplace for my bedroom, to keep the place comfy when I know the woodstoves are too weak to pump heat upstairs. It looks like a little parlor stove with fake flames and I'm sure I'll feel like one of those people in the Amish Fireplace infomercials as I drift off to sleep. But I got it for 50% off. Yay America.

So we all know today is Cyber Monday. But did you know here in the middle of powder-sugar coated farm country there's another big sales event going on? It's Cash Mob day at Battenkill Books. I'll be heading down to the store with Gibson from 12-2PM and you are free to call me up and say hello, and order a signed book while you're at it. You can even tell me what to write in it over the phone and you can listen to me make Gibson put his paw into a stamp pad to sign it as well. (You can *almost* hear his eye's rolling.) And if you already have a signed book of mine, you can get a signed book of Jon Katz's or Megan B. You can order the new scary book from James Howard Kunstler. And if non-fiction about peak oil isn't your bag you can order his novel World Made By Hand, which is about what Cambridge would be like if America's economy collapses and we lived back in the post-oil lifestyle again. I love that book. It's like walking into another dimension, my own county but where everyone gets to town in a horse-drawn buggy and farming is the new aristocracy. It's a trip.

Anyway, You can call or email Connie at Battenkill Books and order anything you like. She will also wrap it and mail it wherever you wish. So if your cousin in Tampa needs a good book, send her a wrapped copy of Rose In The Storm or maybe get your Mother In Law a Kobo? Supporting this little store makes a big difference and keeps me and my local community of writers and booksellers in tip-top shape. And if yuou balk at the idea of helping a distant "local" store, I understand. Think of it this way. Is your local bookstore in the middle of a town of 1800 rural people during deer season? Connie can use all the support she can get!

Contact Info:
# 518-677-2515

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Poachers at Cold Antler

I was in my blind, on my property, watching for a deer and knocking a pair of antlers together when I saw a green Ford F250 slowly drive along my property line. A few moments later I heard two shots a few hundred yards from me and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I was livid. "Are you friggin' kidding me?!" I said through gritted teeth. They had shot towards me, since the deer was between us.

I hopped out of my blind and walked through my property to the road where the truck was driving along. In my bright blaze orange there was no mistaking me for a deer. As I came out of the woods I saw a man in camo walk out of the truck with a gun. I knew now there was a driver and a passenger. They saw me storming down the road and sulked off. I scanned and searched the woods for blood trail or a dead animal and found none.

Thinking that was that, I headed back home through the woods. Knowing my hunt was ruined for the morning and quite mad about it. If there was a deer (and clearly there was since they shot at it) It was dead or long gone. And just as I was packing up my optics and blind cloth I heard another shot, just down the road. Now I was pissed.

I got in my truck and sped down the mountain. There they were. I pulled along side the F250 and a kid in his mid-late twenties stared at me, saying nothing. Brownish red hair dirty under a hat and a scraggly start to a beard. He seemed either in shock or drunk. "You are shooting from the road into private property and towards me in my blind! Now LEAVE or I'm calling the police!"

He just stared at me some more, slowly turned his head forward and drove off. I took a photo of their truck and plate and headed home. But then I felt weird, and decided to wait a little on the road. Sure enough they were heading back. I yelled "Get lost' and they hollered some obscenity back and I then drove home and called the police.

I drove back to where I saw them and saw a buck, laying with his head up and legs tucked under him. As I was walking toward it a police cruiser came up behind me. I waved, pointed to the buck in the brush (the officer could not see him, brown on brown isn't exactly easy to view to a non-hunter's eye). I asked if it was okay to scare him off, because I was pretty sure that was the exact reason they were driving up and down the road with a gun. I walked 30 feet up to him and he took off. I couldn't tell how large of a buck it was. But I was thrilled to see him able to run away. I felt protective of him. He was from my forest, my pasture. If me or another legal hunter with permission took him from the mountain, well okay. But some scumbags taking cheap shots on posted land don't deserve a buck like that. Take cheap shots on your own property.

Right now state and local officers are on the mountain road. They have their plate number and description. IF they have the nerve to come back I hope they get caught. It was scary, dangerous, and stupid.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

This Just In...

I was just walking Jazz down the road and happened upon a buck lounging by my pond the size of an Allosaurus. I have never seen a deer that big. He watched us, and I watched him. He sprang off when I took a step towards him.

Whew. That is the second big buck I saw in the first week of hunting season. Didn't get to take a shot at either, but it is encouraging knowing they are out there...

Want to Learn to Play the Fiddle?
Only 2 Spots Left!

Due to the amazing successof Fiddle Camp I have decided to add a second camp for the winter! It will be Feb. 9th and 10th, a Saturday and Sunday. A chance for people who couldn't make it to the summer camp, or just need more time for travel plans. Since no one will be out in the backyard sleeping in tents "camp" seems like a bad name so I'm calling it the Fiddler's Winter Rendezvous. This one will be only for half the amount people and held indoors here in the farmhouse, but remain the same in spirit!

The Rendezvous will be the same 2 days of instruction for the absolute beginner fiddler. You'll come knowing nothing, not even how to hold a fiddle upright, and leave playing music. You have a 100% guarantee from me. I promise that anyone with any musical ability (or none at all) can come knowing nothing and leave with a song in them and the skills to learn more. You'll learn to teach yourself the beloved mountain reels, aires, gospel and folk songs of the American South. I supply the violin: set up, and ready to play, and you just supply yourself and the text book.

So why put off your dreams folks? Why just listen to those fiddles on the country station and Allison Krauss cds. Start making your own music and do it with a community of support and other adult beginners around you. Spend two days here in beautiful Washington County while the farm is wrapped in winter white and the hotel and Inn rates are cheap! You'll arrive here at the farmhouse mid morning and we'll start with the basics and get you acquainted with your instrument and then spend the rest of the weekend going through the method of learning my ear and touch, the way people learned in the mountains, so that within a few weeks of practice you'll not only be able to hear a favorite song on the car radio, but figure it out on your fiddle too.

The cost for the fiddle, Rendezvous t-shirt (featuring an antlered fiddle), and two days of instruction is $350 a person. It costs a lot less if you bring your own fiddle. But basically, you can come with nothing and leave a fiddler. And if any of you are looking for a Christmas Present from your darling spouse, this could be the one to remember. Learn an instrument, support a scrappy farm, add music to the world.

Proceeds of this event go directly into firewood and lumber purchases for the farm: firewood to heat the place this winter and lumber to build the walls on the pony barn so Jasper and Merlin have some solid 3-sided protection from the north country winter!

Getting Big, Getting Pushy

The pigs are growing how pigs grow: fast and pushy. Lunchbox and Thermos are eating and sleeping machines, ravenous one minute and catatonic the next. But between their bouts of hunger and rest they are social, gregarious, curious and nippy. Lunchbox is much more so, of everything. He comes right up to me for a scratch while Thermos watches from a safe distance, only to waddle up if jealousy and loneliness overcomes his fear. I wonder if how they were raised has anything to do with it? Lunchbox, the large Old Spot cross was born on a small sustainable farm in the pasture. Thermos also came from a small farm, but was born in a cement horse-cum-pig stall in a dark barn with many other litters and siblings around him. Thermos was also on the small side when I bought him and Lunchbox arrived at Antlerstock roaring with personality...

My pig analytical skills are fair at best, and I have no idea how they really feel about their lot here at Cold Antler. But I can assure myself they are comfortable, well fed, and getting plenty of light, stimulation, and the occasional wrestling match. In a few months they'll be harvested to feed myself and five other people. I am keeping 3/4 of one pig and I bartered off the remaining 1 pig and the other in three shares. I did this so I get paid in pork for my time, but other folks can cover the piglets, butchering and feed costs. It's a reality of this lifestyle, you don't reap all you sew. To make it financially viable I can reap a mighty sum of pork, but the lion's share goes to other supporters. The trade off is I get to live with, and get to know these fine animals. I get to be there through their whole lives on this farm and make sure they have a quick and kind death.

The pigs are doing their part and I am doing mine. Being my third winter keeping pigs, they have become part of my evolving notion of the Holidays. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a roast leg of lamb and a bucket of feast scraps for a pair of pigs curled up in the straw in a warm barn lit with soft light in the snow. I now look forward to walking out to that barn with a lantern and hearing their snorts and wuffling while favorite yuletide carols play into the earbuds. Not conventional, I know. But music to my ears all the same.

Rumos of snow tonight. Stay posted.