Friday, February 1, 2013

New Iron and Wine: April 16th!

Settlers of Veryork

The temperatures dropped over night, well below freezing, but after the last few weeks anything above twenty degrees feels downright balmy. This morning the house was around fifty five degrees and it felt as comfortable as seventy. I think my body is just adapted to the new temperatures I have given it. My truck doesn't have working heat right now, at least not the vents that push it towards you in any efficient way, and I simply dress warmer inside it and weary toe warmers on my socks for longer trips. I have been wearing kilts so long with tall insulated boots that I am never cold in them, certainly not when temperatures are this balmy! Yet some folks see me with bare knees and think I am nuts.

I'm not nuts, I'm comfortable. It's a lot easier to get on a horse, jump over a gate, and move all around the farm quickly in a kilt than it is in confining jeans or overalls. I wear good riding skivvies below them (full-seat breeches I chop off above the knees) and heavy wool hose under my boots. The kilt guards the soft thighs from the saddle and the breeches keep my rump in place. And I can not tell you how nice it is to see the pleats flowing over the cantle at a canter. I know, technically, that kilts are men's clothing but sometimes even the toughest canvas utility kilt feels like a flowing skirt and I get this spicy dash of feminine happy time. I'm proud to be a tough chick, but I'd rather be a tough chick in a tough skirt. I'm not the overall type.

I think it is fascinating how adaptable us human animals are. Given enough time to grow comfortable, we get there. It's how we happen to be the same species and yet live in so many varied climates and conditions. But someone from the Congo in Lapland and you be there will be some discomfort, but given time and a few generations their grand children will just think of sweaters as boots thick as seal blubber as normal. Put a Lap in the Congo and the sweaters come off, with joy. We're an adjustable lot, us.

I'm excited about tonight! Some blog readers from Minnesota who are moving to Veryork (building a haybale-insulated thatched cabin in my old Vermont stomping grounds!) are coming over for dinner and so is my friend Tom who farms in Massachusetts. I met all of these folks through Cold Antler. Tom met me at the Mother Earth News Fair and Tara and Tyler emailed me months before and said they were coming this way. I met them through coincidence when they happened to already know one of the pig share owners who stopped by the farm on a pickup night last week. We got to talking about games and apparently they are huge Settlers of Catan fans and on their trip cross country they even brought their own copy of the game. They seemed thrilled to find folks to play with in a new town. I have never played before, but I have heard a lot of great things and went over the rules online. Tom hasn't played either but we are giving it a go. Fun!

I have grown to really love spending time with others in games and stories. It seems more in tune with the homesteading lifestyle to enjoy a round of storytelling or card swapping by candlelight than everyone sitting around a screen or spending over a hundred dollars as a party to eat food out we could cook better in our own kitchens. Tonight will be a good meal, with good people, and a proper snowfall outside that suits these winter months instead of that recent scourge we all just wiped off our boots. I'm grateful for all those things.

P.S. For those who ask, I wear kilts from, if you order one check the sizing chart! They do not work the same as jean waist sizes, so be warned!

P.S.S. Thank you for the contributions! I ordered a low-end Canon Rebel! Hay and wood is also on the way! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

P.S.S. You ready for some Birchthorn?

New Slippers

Talk about an appropriate gift! A friend sent me a gift certificate to a very geeky online store where I scored this pair of Hobbit slippers on sale. They are so warm and comfy, I don't even mind the busted toenails. Cold floors in the morning? THEY SHALL NOT PASS!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Strange Times

The last two days have been so incredibly strange. The weirdness is the weather. It went from a week so cold that the trap below my shower froze solid, to the last two days of wind and rain and temperatures near sixty degrees. When I woke up this morning there was a literal howling through the downpour. Gibson was at the window, watching the world swirl around his little haven. He looked concerned.

I wasn't worried as much as I was unsettled. It felt like April, not January. April is a creepy month to me, my least favorite month of the year. I have no idea how beautiful October got all the cultural associations with death and fear. October is the opposite. It's teeming with the harvest, with glowing firestorms of colored leaves and ornaments of apples and pears in the trees. No month makes me feel more alive, more grateful, more content. October to me is exactly like the feeling of finally coming home to your lover, leaning back in his seat, and how it feels to find that place curled up against him, your head on his chest. It is bliss and safety, what we all pray to feel. That's October.

But April? April to me is rotting and rumbling earth going through the worst of ugly puberty. It's a necessary ugly period for future blessings. I understand it's role but I can't stand the entire feel of the month. Trees are usually barren and those horrible Easter flowers like lilies come out in people's living rooms; things that smell so putrid only their vulgarity can hide the wafts of embalming fluid and pancake makeup in funeral homes. I hate April. It's too dark for me. A season of zombie-like resurrection, and now my backyard feels like it when it should feel like something out of a Courier and Ives winter scene over a mantle. Take a fistful of wet mud, spit on it, pour some cheap perfume and a rotting egg on top and then set it in a warm place to fester where cat hair and dust give it a smoldering crust…. and you have April.


So, as you can imagine, this feels wrong. But there is some good news, most importantly, that this horror is over soon. Temperatures should drop back into the teens and snow is in the forecast for the next few days. And with the blessings of winter, comes a healthier flock. My sheep are looking wonderful! Even little Grace, the Cotswold with the poor constitution, has made a full recovery and is getting harder and harder to trap and give injections of ProPen to. The goats are fat, and kids are just 5-6 weeks away. And that means fresh goats milk is only 5-6 weeks away! The fiddle weekend in early Feb is packed and I am working on getting last minute preparations in order. The wool weekend is also jammed with folks and I am thrilled to spend two days with fiber, wheels, carders, and my knitting needles here at the farmhouse. Merlin is soaking wet. But he looks like something out of the LOTR set with his locks whipping in the wind and his dark eyes scanning the ground for hay flakes. He had grown so chubby this winter I can't help but giggle at his belly, but it's mostly water weight. After a good ride or cart trip he slims down and the cart shafts don't touch his sides and his girth is too loose for comfort. So it goes!

So, in summary: The weather is gross but the farm is thriving! And I can not thank those of you who contributed enough. It looks like I will be able to purchase a new camera shortly, but I am very interested in your suggestions. Some people mentioned the Rebel, correct? Any others you like that non-professionals like myself can get better-than-average results with? I can't wait to snap more photos and take more videos!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spreading Wings, Lifting up CAF!


I have decided to announce a pledge drive! This blog is a free site, and will remain so. But it takes a considerable amount of time to write, video tape, and photograph things here. I have dedicated my entire life to the farm and to its documentation. It is now my fulltime job, and I am so grateful to have it. With that said, I depend on your readership and support though workshops, book sales, ad clicks, and contributions to keep the dream alive. I would like to invest in a professional-level camera and update the entire website to look more modern and easier to navigate and search. Pledges will also go to simply running this place. The money will cover things as simple as hay costs and chicken feed - as well as website redesigns and design programs. So today I am running a pledge drive from the readership. You can donate a dollar, ten dollars, or whatever you feel is correct. This is of course, totally optional. If you do not wish to contribute, that is totally fine. I'll still be here regardless, writing to you.

I have had the donate button on the blog for years, it hides down there below the barnheart graphic. But - as other authors have already stated - this sounds like a charity option. That is not the point. I see these pledges as a way to offer the blogger compensation for a website you enjoy and follow, a contribution toward the effort and expense of the farm.

Thank you, so much for reading. And happy pledging!


From Scratch Magazine!

I am proud to share that I was featured in the new online magazine for homesteaders, From Scratch Magazine. It is delightful, and one of the best publications I've seen about modern homesteaders and downshifters. It deals with our issues, understands our style, and is filled with interviews and stories. It celebrates our life in a beautiful and engaging way. You can sign up to get it delivered every month (I believe it is free!) and enjoy some farm porn with your morning coffee.

Read It Here!!!

Goat Morning!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wool Landscape!


We had a bit of snow yesterday, just enough to remind everyone here in Veryork that this winter is not like last winter. Last winter was so mild you wanted to build a bunker, but this year a week in the deep freeze has us all feeling a little scrappier, a little thinner.

Today I drive down to the butcher's shop to pick up the pork. I have backseat full of boxes and a freezer to fill. It's the main adventure of the day, but there are others things going on as well. A ewe named Grace has fallen down with the shakes, a bacterial infection. She was the ewe who experienced this before and I think the week of nights well-below zero gave her mild constitution the ol' what-for. Yesterday I made her a hospital unit in the small shelter on the hill and she was doing well this morning when I checked on her. She was trying to stand on her own and eating the hay and grain she was offered. She's looking much better, and in a few days of medicine and rest she should be right back to her old self.

Between the pipes, the temperatures, the tired ewe and the amount of firewood I am blasting through— I will admit to feeling a bit shrammed. But today should break the spell and they want highs in the thirties and (gasp!) forties, so it seems like fine weather to turn the truck into a delicious porcine hearse. Here's to warmth and puppies, both of which are in my immediate future.

(No, the puppy is not mine. It's Patty's new OES pup she is bringing home Saturday! She already named it Darla, but I insist on calling her Moneypenny)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Boy

photo by meg paska of


Went to the Co-op in town yesterday with a wooden box instead of a grocery bag. I was going for things like eggs (my birds are on winter break), milk, cheese, oats, and other things that do better in a sturdy container. Here is my loot from the little store. Battenkill Creamery milk in glass bottles, cuts of good cheese wrapped to order, Murray Hollow bread (fired in a huge outdoor oven, the BEST I ever had), some peanut butter, oats, and whatnot. It's a nice haul. And a different looking trip to the grocer than just a few years ago when everything came in plastic packaging and could be put into a microwave. Not anymore, no sir. This is a home where food is cooked. The microwave is now in my tack room being used as a western saddle stand and doesn't come out unless I am using it to heat up curds for mozzarella stretching.

Things change if you let them change. Sometimes they change on their own accord. I didn't plan on changing my grocery orders this much, but it happens one change at a time. Bar codes are showing up less and less around here. It's starting to seem odd, when I do see them. I was at a friend's house the other day and she could use her phone to scan her cereal box for a coupon. I get it, but it still made me squirm a little. I wonder if as I get older, technology in the name of labor saving or convenience will turn me spiteful? It already is starting to. I feel that labor and time are mine to choose to spend. I do not want the opportunity stolen from me, as it takes away any change of feeling gratitude for the work. I care a lot more for satisfaction and gratitude than coffee heated up in 30 seconds. I am glad Battenkill milk bottles do not have scan codes on them. I hope they never do.

Wood and Hay!

Right now, outside the farmhouse is a humble pile of firewood and hay. In the last two days I was able to work out a barter for a cord for a workshop, and my friend Patty sold me a truckload of hay out of her barn. It's not winter stores, but it is a few good days of feed and a solid month of heat and it is right outside my front door. If a Nor'Easter blew in and covered us with 10 inches we would be okay, no one would go hungry. It's a good feeling, however humble. And I ordered more hay, too. A whole trailer load thanks to the kindness of the readership and the goodness of this blessed place. You know, it's a full moon tonight? Light a candle for your hope. It goes a long way.

Meg and Neil will be here soon, the pair who run Seven Arrows Farm on the Jersey Coast. I adore New Jersey and I adore Meg and Neil. I promised them a warm(isn) farmhouse and coffee and they are bringing breakfast! We are planning on hooking up Merlin for a cart ride and enjoying this last day of truly biting weather outdoors. In the next few days a warmer wind will come through and by Monday night they want snow and temperatures up in the thirties (at night!!!!). I can't wait!

But for now, friends and horses!