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