Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cold Antler Confidential! What a Workshop!!!

Kathy Jones and I were outside behind the farmhouse just as the snow was starting to fall. We had our bows and quivers on our backs out and were walking to my practice target. The light storm had been predicted all day. I'll admit, for a while I thought it would hinder the workshop, worried about parking or road travel for the guests. But it all worked out and it wasn't until all the guests were driving off that the first flakes fell. I was grateful. Grateful for their safe trips home and for the beautiful display happening all around me. Kathy and I were celebrating. She and I had just spent the day talking to new farmers, dreamers, and future chicken-keepers and we had earned a few shots at the stump. Kathy is a hell of an archer and brought some of her beautiful bows for me to drool over and try. I had a simple self bow, the one I will use for Arrows Rising in hand. As the snow covered our shoulders and found its way between fletching and finger - we started to shoot at the old target against the wooden fence.

As I hinted, these arrows flew in celebration. The first ever Cold Antler Confidential workshop was wonderful! My living room was filled with good friends, farmers, and new faces. I hosted people from New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. We did have a few last-minute cancelations due to the dodgy weather forecast - but for a first shot at such an event it could not have gone better! We started out with introductions and stories. The crowd ranged from recent college grads to aspiring retirees. There were folks with day jobs, part time gigs, and backyards already full of livestock but curious about where to go next. I really liked this mixture of people, everyone with their own questions and hopes. And when introductions were over I introduced Kathy Jones as the first guest:

Kathy and Mary run Windwomen Farm south of Cold Antler, closer to Albany. What started with a few acres and a hunch has grown into a diversified farm with land, animals, and experience gaining speed. These amazing women plan to run a sheep dairy and already make beautiful butter, yogurt, and cheese. Kathy came to talk about everything from passive solar greenhouses to chicken water tanks. And that was just the start of the day!

Following her talk was Cathy Daughton of Firecracker Farm, a family homestead in Whitecreek. Cathy talked about her history with producing her own food from a few chickens in Missouri to raising boys, pigs, and steers up here in Washington County. Like Kathy she answered any question that came her way from "How DO you kill a rabbit?" to the wisdom of steel vs aluminum fencing. Everyone seemed so comfortable with these two women, and the small audience relayed ideas, plans, and questions at happy whim.

After all that I wanted to give Anne Hatton a chance to talk as well. While not started on her full-fledged farm yet - she will. If I know anything about this lady, she WILL! Anne recently moved from Key West to Cambridge NY (only a few miles from my farm!) to a 200-year-old home with several acres. Her two teenage sons and her husband are along for the ride, too. Anne was invited to talk because I wanted folks in the middle of the process to share their story as well. Anne is post Leap of Faith and pre-farm, a precarious and exciting place to be! She also kindly fielded questions and asked a few of her own.

We broke for lunch and folks were given a chance to chat, swap numbers, and see the farm. The sky was blue and spirits were high. I introduced the guests to the goats, sheep, horses and the poultry. Gibson, Annie, and the cat had already made several laps and hands their own. Maude glared at people from the sheep hill, the way only a nine-year-old matriarch can. I imagine Maude to be a mix of Maggie Smith's character from Downton Abbey and a modern biker gang member: grace and anger. That's Maude.

After lunch we talked about how to move past the dream and into action. Me and the other speakers at the event all gave our advice in this regard. We covered extension services, and how you can still attend a sheep workshop if you live in an apartment. We went through internships, loan programs, organizations and opportunities I personally could help folks get started with. Other guests talked about their states Farmer and Landowner match-up Programs and I went through a must-read list of books and websites. There was a lot of note writing! My intention of the workshop was for the people involved to go home with lighter hearts and higher hopes. To see what they want is possible and to see all the ways you can make it possible. We succeeded.

To wrap up the workshop Tara and Tyler of stopped by to talk about their experience buying land, building an off-grid home, and how starting from scratch changes the game plan. Their story is so amazing - World Travelers to Viking Timber Frame Builders and their advice about their own ever-changing goals and adventures was a grand way to end the day.

Cold Antler Confidential was great. But it wasn't great because of my farm, it was great because of the people who make up this community. I am so lucky to have friends around me who care so much about supporting me and others. To have folks from all ages, walks of life, and in various stages of their dreams come and talk openly about their journeys was such a gift to all who attended. The core of this workshop is the casual stories: people opening sitting around a fire telling each other about their mistakes and accomplishments, cheering each other onward, and seeing that they aren't alone in wanting this kind of life. I encourage any of you out there thinking about this kind of lifestyle to attend in April because it really does show you the story behind the farm signs, blogs, and family photos. Having real folks give the real deal on the long roads to their dreams and the good fights to keep make them happening was a knockout success of a day.

I got this email from April of Boston this morning.


Thank you so very much for opening up your home and sharing so much today.  It honestly was such an amazing time.  I loved being around like-minded people and hearing all of the different stories.  I greatly appreciated it.  Keep doing what you're doing because it is fantastic!  And I love your home and land- so beautiful!

And it even ended with arrows, snowflakes, and smiles. Talk about a wonderful day!

Thank you Kathy, Cathy, Anne, Tara and Tyler for giving your time and energy to the day. Thank you to all the folks who traveled and shared their stories. And thank you to Maude, most of all, for not stabbing anyone in the parking lot.


Blogger 3 Dogs Barking Farms said...

I would be happy to share my perspective of farming with what you got not necessarily what you dream of having I know I know it's not as romantic but still valid I think!

January 19, 2014 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Yes do come in April!

January 19, 2014 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Fisher said...

What a great idea - I like the notion of "Confidential" as a way to swap stories, hopes and dreams of farming. Hope we can make it to the next one :-)

January 20, 2014 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

A great day, no doubt. I am happy for you.

January 20, 2014 at 11:42 PM  

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