Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Beautiful Frustration

I have been hunting deer since I moved here to Jackson, and with more intensity every year. The first year I simply bought my hunting license and planned on joining friends at Orvis for the occasional pheasant or duck hunt with friends. I just had the deer tags that came with it, and when I mentioned to my father I would give deer hunting a try he gave me his trusty 308 Winchester, and I walked in the woods with it a bit, never really giving it much of a try. But every year I tried a little harder. I asked farms with more land if I could hunt their land. I got books, watched videos, talked with hunters all over Washington County. Now, my fourth winter at the farm and I am out there every morning and night and watching the woods like a hawk from the farmhouse in the hours in-between. I'm a full time homesteader now and that doe or buck out there that could be in my freezer is more than some bragging rights - it's pounds and pounds of food in the freezer. It's money saved. It's free-range, wonderful, happy and healthy meat on the hoof and I have permission to take two deer this year (have a DMP tag and a regular season tag) and still have not taken a single white tail.

This morning I thought that all would change. I spend yesterday afternoon with the woman who now runs Maurice Sendak's old farm. She's a friend of a friend and recently attended the Wool Workshop I noted here last weekend. She gave me permission to hunt there, 160 acres only one other person is hunting! Hoo! SO I got up early this morning, let out the dogs, and grabbed my gear for the truck and wouldn't you know it? Flat tire. And I don't mean a low tire, I mean comically flat. There's a spare under the bed of the pickup but (and I am embarrassed to share this, but what the hell) I have never changed a tire. I understand how to, have watched it being done, but have never done it. I also don't have the jack or wrenches to do it, and the truck supposedly came with one but its not there anymore. So I let out a defeated sigh. The wild things will remain where the wild things are...

So I shrugged and figured I would hunt here. I headed into the woods where I had tracked deer last night, loving every second of being out in the forest at night. I had no gun, just the half light of the half moon and followed their heart-shaped hooves across stream and drift. I found where they slept the night before, found frozen (but fresh!) droppings and listened to the barred owls in the distance. This morning I didn't see any deer until I stopped walking and sat still in my little outhouse pop up blind facing the farthest pasture and hillside woods. Then I watched three does run across the forest and up over a rise before I even had a chance to lift my rifle. I waited for an hour for them to maybe come back to my line of sight but they didn't. And so I decided to head indoors, the hours before and long after sunrise gone and I had a house to heat, work to do, a tire to figure out, feed to order, and a house to clean before Game Night tonight. I would try around dusk and watch the woods some more. When the tire is fixed I'll return to the Sendak Estate and hope the deer there move slower or I get wildly lucky.

So far this experience with rifle season has been a beautiful frustration. It's such an act of hope, luck, an timing - this hunting thing. I have collected better gear, better aim, and better understanding of the woodcraft and skills of the hunt - but have not taken a deer yet. There's another week and I hope to get lucky, but even if I don't I only have even more fuel and excitement for next year's hunt. Or perhaps I'll spend a few more bucks and try muzzleloader season into Yuletide. Some friends have offered to teach me how to use modern black powder rifles and others even offered to loan me theirs. Folks with deer in the freezer already, of course. And I would do the same for them.

So this is why the blog and vlogs have been thin. I am out on the hunt. Out where the deer are flying and laughing and hope shines as bright as the half moon on cold creek water. That last sentence is good enough for me to try another year.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

He'd Look Good With Antlers

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, Antlers!

Here Comes the Storm!



Enjoy this new vlog, all about getting the animals and farm ready for a snowstorm! A big one is falling right now, and about two inches and near white-out conditions make me very grateful there is no reason to leave house, travel, or fret today. My work will be writing indoors and adventuring outside to make sure the animals are as comfortable and prepared for this as I am.

How is the weather where you are, fellow Nor'Easters? Those of you in the path of this farm, what do you do to prepare the animals? Do you worry about young trees at a tree farm? Do those growers out there worry about their greenhouses or polytunnels? And you folks enjoying summer in the southern hemisphere?! Well, nuts to you. Share your winter prep for farm and family here, because Your ideas might make someone else's winter a lot more comfortable!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Day in the Country

I was walking from the chopping block to the big King Maple in front of the farmhouse when I saw the truck pull up. I waved and smiled. In my left hand was a very recently beheaded Bourbon Red tom and it felt as normal a thing to be carrying as a pile of wood for the fire. The man in the truck yelled “Thanksgiving Dinner?!” and said it like a smiling wolf. I nodded under my wool hat, hung the bird up to bleed out and replied, “Someone’s got to do it, don’t they?” in the same carnivorial tone. He pulled over for what everyone up here loves to do: talk.

We talked deer and the season so far. We are strangers, but both belong to the Whitetail Tribe and found conversation easy. He told me his father had taken a four pointer in the woods above my land, but he had no luck so far. He did find a five-point buck, long dead on its side, probably a bad bit of bow hunting by someone in early October. He asked if I had heard the ravens talking about it, and I had. He said he preferred the sound of my roosters to the bragging birds, which made me smile. (Probably because they were enjoying more venison than he was this season.) We chatted for about five minutes before his father walked down the road in his camp, trusty rifle in hand, and I waved to him as well. Introductions and stories commenced. You know the drill. Nothing like sharing a deer with good friends...

After they left I dry-plucked the bird’s breast, back, legs, and underrump. I let the tail feathers, feet, and wings in tact and placed the heavy carcass into a plastic feed bag in the back of my truck. Not the prettiest casket but this was no funeral, not today. This bird was a celebration. A bird raised from a poult by my good friend Joanna, then finished here as a free range gobbler. After morning chores I killed him, removed the head, and was now proud at a site that would have made the girl I was ten years ago throw up. Things change.

I wasn't rushing with the bird. When I started homesteading I felt I needed to turn a dead animal into a member of Freezer Camp as soon as possible. Now I enjoy the flavor of meat hung a while in cool weather. I could finish him off later that day, as I was heading to a friend's farm to do more of the same. Patty needed help butchering four roosters and offered to let me use her big scalding pot to loosen the tough feathers on the tom. I would head over there in the late afternoon.

But before I headed off to help with the rooster harvest at Livingston Brook Farm, I had a very special goodbye to take care of. Jasper was picked up by the wonderful folks of Crabapple Farm in their new-to-them trailer. It was bittersweet, to say the least. He was a great little pony, and now is going to a home that will use him as the main star of their show. He’ll plow and pull, be ridden and loved. We have a mutual good friend, Kathy Harrison, and I hope to get updates and photos of his new digs soon.

Earlier that day (pre-turkey chop) I had sat with him in the field and had a short talk with him. He was laying down, enjoying the warm day and the sun on his back. He looked so scruffy in his winter coat. I told him I was proud of him, and that he would do well in Massachusetts. I don't know if he cared or understood but it was something I needed to say. He closed his eyes and took in the rays. I scratched his head, told him I loved him, and wished him well. So, for the now, Cold Antler is a one pony farm. If Merlin cares, he hasn’t shown it. I hope to find a haflinger or second small draft in the spring or summer. Maybe sooner if the right gelding comes along and I'm holding a heavier purse.

After Jasper left and the farm was settled in for a few hours (this means checking that everyone has ample food, water, bedding, fencing and such) I headed over to Patty and Marks' farm. I arrived around 2PM and we worked into the dusk and after dark getting those five birds ready for the freezer. Patty and I got some Jackson Pollock splatters on our clothes, but all the birds had a good and quick death. They hung by their feet from a small tree near her woodshed, like the worlds' oddest Christmas tree. One at a time they were dealt with, turned from the feathers and blood to the comical rubber-chickenesque broilers. We used pliers to pull out the tough wing feathers on the big tom, each of us working opposite wings. It was a true test of teamwork! Then Patty dealt with soaking and plucking the next bird while I gutted and sorted through the organs - keeping nice pieces for Italics for his training sessions this week. We laughed and talked, enjoying each other’s company, stories, and catching up in our little work party of two. When an invitation for dinner slid my way I accepted with gusto, because I had not had a bite to eat all day and was so looking forward to the meal.

What was on the menu? Rooster, of course!

Patty took one of the fat birds we harvested and cleaned it inside in her giant kitchen sink. Within moments it was on the rotisserie, basting in its own fats and juices. Talk about a fresh meal?! He spun his slow dance while we finished up. Target the cat circled and pestered us until we caved and threw him a bit of offal. He accepted it with gusto, too. And I understood his hunger because as I carried a cleaned bird inside to be rinsed in the sink and bagged, the kitchen smelled of the Sunday roast and root vegetables (with the garden dirt still on them) were set out to be the Roo's dancing partner for dinner. If there are luckier women in NY, I don't know them.

And that is how my day in the country ended; with good friends in a warm house enjoying a farm-to-table meal of chicken, mashed potatoes, beats, and turnips - all from the soil and chicks of Mark and Patty’s farm. It was a day in the country for sure, and here I was at the grand finale with a glass of bourbon on ice, a full stomach, and blood on my kilt. A winning trio if there ever was one to behold. And now at 9PM I am ready to grab the lantern and do the night rounds, and then head to a warm bed early. The fire is roaring in the wood stove, the dogs are asleep beside me as I type, and tomorrow morning I’ll be back in that blind before dawn watching the sunrise with hope in my heart and cartridges in my gun.

Here's to many more ahead, and I will fall asleep dreaming of my antlers.

Jasper Left the Farm Today

Bittersweet, but a lovely continuation of his story. He left today to be the star of his own farm, a family's trusty steed at a small organic farm. It was sad to see him leave, more than I realized, but now there is an open door for another horse here. No rush at all, but I am excited for the rides ahead.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Buck & Bucks

I was sitting behind one of my hunting blinds, praying for some good luck, when a wind blew over the farm and the stench of buck filled my nose. Now, I know what you are thinking? You can smell deer? No, I don't mean that kind of buck, I meant the randy and stinky kind you rent from a neighboring farm to impregnate your dairy goats. The smell is something between a wet sheep and a moldy sock, if they were heated up in a microwave together and set on a paper plate in your kitchen. Nothing like manure or carrion, a totally different smell. I guess it's the smell of goat sex and I can say with absolute certainty I am grateful I am not a goat.

The gents name is Saturn and he'll be living at Cold Antler for a month or so. Common Sense Farm let me host him. He's a purebred Alpine. It was absolute chaos when he jumped into the girls' pen! I have never seen anything like it. It was like some cartoon devil, or Krampus in goat form racing around the barn and pen sputtering and bouncing and just the most excited I have ever seen any male (of ANY species) for the possibility of sex. Why pan was given goat features, I no longer question. Madness. Absolute madness.

But by nightfall all the girls (who were not interested in his advances and no goat loving ensued) and Saturn were as calm as old friends. Now the herd outside is a trio for a while, and if they do mate by Yule that means by the end of May there will be kids here again. This is later than usual, two months later, but that's because of logistics and Saturn's services. Instead of bringing Bonita down to stay at Common Sense it seemed easier to bring one goat here. And they needed him attending ladies at their farm first, which he did, but then his dancing card had two free punches and he came here.

This is part of the goat's wheel. They need to be bred in the fall so that kids can be born in the spring, milk can flow, and the farm will have not one but TWO milking goats again. Ida is the Bonita-in-Training since she is 18 months old and Bonita is pushing eight now. I hope to always have a alpine in Bonita's line, she was my first milking goat and a wonder and a blessing. She's been here for three seasons now and I can't imagine this farm without her and her kin!

So goats are here, doing what they do. Wish them luck (well, wish Saturn luck) and perhaps if you have any to spare you'll send it my way. I still hope for some venison in the freezer shot, prepared and butchered by my own hand. It will be a first if I manage it, as I have been hunting for years and have yet to get that lucky moment. Oh, and stay warm guys! 12 degrees tonight!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You're a Furnace

This morning I arose in a very cold house. It was 48 degrees in the warmest part of the living room. How cold is that? Well, I'll put it this way. I woke up to the sound of Annie drinking out of the toilet, strike that, cracking through a layer of ice to drink from the toilet! Now, that is something not everyone can claim they've experienced! And as awful as that may sound to some of you, know I could have avoided it. It was a choice, The farmhouse has two wood stoves, one in the back mudroom near the pipes and one in the living room. Had I stoked both the fires and got up a little earlier it could have been a lot more comfortable this morning, but since the temperature wasn’t dropping below zero outside I chose to put my energy towards sleep instead of comfort.

And sleep I did! I got a solid 8 hours under wool and sheepskins, Gibson curled up under the covers by my chest. Together we are a kindled fire and when I woke up this morning I was warm as could be inside my little nest. I woke up smiling in the dark and watched the steam rise off my skin and swirl in the air around my curvy body. I laughed in absolute joy at this, because I’m not sure what could be more proof positive that I am alive and well in this windy world? Fire always win the battle over ice and I am a goddamned furnace. Now, I wanted to share what happened next because I think it may bring some of you out of a place of worry or despair and into one of joy and power. I started a fire. Hear me out.

When I laid in bed I knew I had chores out in the bitter wind, some hunting to do in the icy forest (venison means saving money on food!), and a list of deadlines, bills, worries, and obligations. I knew I was behind in the mortgage, over my head in many ways. I am not waking up to a world of financial or physical comforts by any stretch, and that is because of the choices I made in my life. I could either sit in bed with wide eyes and fret about these things, let worries about money consume me, let the easy heat of the undercover realm keep me prisoner, and roll over and pray to win the lottery...

Or I could get up and let my skin steam.

I headed over the that wood stove, naked and crouching, like something out of a National Geographic about primal man’s first invention of fire. I opened the stove and saw all I needed to see. The keystone that changed my view on the entire day: hot coals. I opened the tightly-sealed woodstove and the first flash of oxygen lifted those coals from embers into sparks and a red light lit up my face in the darkness. A red light I created through a lineage of choices, from installing the stove years ago, to harvesting firewood, to stoking the fire last night, to opening it this morning to let that light shine on me. Next to the stove was a hatchet, some light pine, and paper. I had all the tools I needed to start a real fire, right there next to me! Another series of choices I put in place. And what do fires offer? Comfort, heat, warm water, energy! I chopped up some wood and within moments I had kindling. I placed it in a all tee pee around a red coal. It smoked and then erupted in flames and soon I had a proper fire. I added larger dry wood around that little triangle and soon a small dance of atoms was a true roaring stove blaster. Guys,  fire was there all along, I just needed to bring it into being with the right tools, preparation and knowledge.

I got dressed, made coffee, let the dogs out, and started my day. The animals were fed, the farm is humming, and I already started a new logo project for a reader’s farm and handed over a new comp sheet of logos to another college for their draft horse club. This was work I was trained to do and helps bring income to this farm. It's an act of creation, of skill, of light just like that fire. I avoided Facebook, Paypal, Reddit, Twitter...the whole damn internet. I didn’t want someone else’s picture of their ten-point buck or engagement ring or new kitchen counters or their awesome night out starting my day with any sense of lacking. Not because other people's joy makes me sad, but it's hard for anyone to see such things and not feel she is already starting the day needing to be something besides the naked, laughing, perfect rubenesque farm goddess she already is.

Nothing puts out an inner fire like self doubt. So I just did my work in this morning storm of creativity. I planned out seven new workshops to announce today, a special on season passes, sold a left-handed longbow, and figured out exactly how much I need to earn each day in the next two weeks to have the mortgage caught up by Yule. And I will accomplish that goal. Damn right I will. I'll do what it takes to wake up on that Solstice morning to a warm house in the black, if it means selling Merlin's harness off his back. I'll make it because I understand the way that fire worked.

See, when I was naked and cold in the dark all I saw was a hint of possibility: a red coal. But I knew with every piece of my being that dry wood, a little effort, and a hatchet would be the perfect combination of intention and violence to bring out flames. As I did the work no part of me doubted that the fire would come. It's just want happens next. It's proven fact, that this mixture of circumstances makes a fire. So no part of me doubted that within ten minutes I would be sipping hot coffee in a wool sweater. And no part of me doubted that fire would bring heat, and inspiration, and that washing wave of blessing for living this life on my own terms. It’s a Wednesday morning and I am about to spend a day writing on my own farm! That was a fairytale through most of my twenties until I realized I was a furnace.

You are a furnace, too.

Here's what I want to share today: don’t focus on what you lack. Don’t start your day with other people’s accomplishments. Start your day knowing you are capable of making the life you desire. You need to see your own story as a pile of embers that just needs the work of kindling to explode into something wonderful. I live my life that way everyday. And when I am scared or anxious or worried about silly things - I remember the certainty in which fire comes from hope and force. And as long as I am able to hold the coals of that metaphor close to my heart and ignite my own life’s goals I can achieve anything. It requires being focused on the good of yourself, the good of others, and the bounty of this kind world. And it also means moving yourself out of a sense of victimhood and lacking and into one of power, a gift you can only give yourself. But once you start playing with fire, it’s hard not to feel like anything is possible. The proof is here at this small farm and hundreds of others out there among you fine folks.

You never have to worry about me. This farm will always be okay and only grow to be stronger, healthier, wiser and better equipped to help others find the same happiness if they want it. And I think the best thing I can do to make my fire burn a little brighter is remind you that you also have a hot coal in there somewhere. So choose to be happy, and it is a choice. Smile when you are cold, naked, and scared. Light the Need Fire of your own story, and share that heat with the rest of us. We sure as hell need it when the toilet bowl freezes...


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Farming Changed Me

Join Us This Weekend or For Yuletide!

Wooly Weekend!
November 22nd 2014
Here at CAF

Join me at the farm this November for a comfy workshop inside by the wood stove. We will talk about all things sheep, wool, and spinning! The workshop will begin outside with the sheep and go over the basics of what Living with Sheep is like and what to expect along that journey. Then a sheep will have some wool sheared off and brought inside to begin the wonderful story of yarn! The wool we cut will be washed, dried by the fire, carded by hand, and spun with a drop spindle. Watch and help turn the hair off the back of an animal become a clean, warm, and beautiful piece of hand spun yarn.

Bring your knitting projects and share your own work with wool with other workshoppers. Try a spinning wheel out. Sit and listen to stories of my own flock, lessons learned (good and bad) and what having sheep in your life can mean and be to you! This is a workshop both for fiber fans who love the art of knitting as well as people considering adding a trio of sheep to the backyard.

I hope that Patty Wesner will join in with us as well, talking about her experiences with her first ever flock of sheep she raised as feeder lambs. She will be harvesting their fleeces, but as sheepskins for the farmhouse and not wool. Another approach, and one that comes with some amazing lamb masala in the end! So join us here in the farmhouse to get a broad introduction to sheep and wool production at home.

Yuletide Cheer
December 6th 2014
Here at CAF

This is a new event here at Cold Antler Farm, one I never thought to offer until my last two books came out. This is a workshop talking about farming within the traditions and mythology around the Wheel of the Year. The Wheel of the Year is a general term for the pre-Christian practices of agricultural Europe. In my case: the Celtic Tradition. Since it is so close to the Solstice and the farm will be lit with bayberry candles, fresh fir branches, and a small tree inside the window we’ll start at Yule and talk about each of the eight festivals of the Wheel and how the farm life dances along with them, in music, story, and myth!

This will be a workshop taking much on farming and faith, finding meaning in mythology and ancient traditions and why I chose this path. I hope that folks interested in the Wheel will come and share their stories. There will also be open discussions on spirituality and farming in general, the importance of feeling connected to your land, and how spiritual groups and communities in general are a part of life here in Washington County. So it’s a little deeper, a little more introspective. But if your faith and your farm are connected you may be interested in joining this discussion.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Comfort of Pigs

It has been a day of cold, hard, rain here at Cold Antler. Thank goodness it is rain, because if this was snow I wouldn’t be able to see outside my bottom story windows. Days like this are for certain things around here. They are for writing, wood stoves, and watching Braveheart. That is what I prefer to be doing, at least. But now that I raise pigs I need to consider the comfort of the porcine contingent and a large part of my outdoor work today was making sure they were comfortable in this weather.They are not complicated animals but they are very different from the horses, sheep, and poultry when it comes to weather like this. Merlin and Jasper could care less about cold or rain, avoiding their pole barn for anything short of a blizzardcane. The chickens just get wet. They walk around strutting in soggy plumage, none the worse for it. The geese, well I think it goes without saying what waterfowl think of their namesake and the sheep just choose to not prefer to be dry. Everyone rides out the weather for the simple unpleasantness it is. So do I.

But those pegs need to be dry, warm, and toasty. They will be miserable in constant wet weather, especially where they sleep the night. And so in this downpour of a day I spent a good portion of it laying down fresh wood shavings in the outdoor pig pen. They have a bowl of a nest they curl into at night and it was getting muddy, so I sopped it up and added hay for a good blanket. When it turns dark they’ll lay in a pile of hay, and if you go out with a flashlight in the dark all you will see in the cold night is steam coming off a pile of gently breathing hay. It’s delightful.

Snow is in the forecast and that means their pen needs hay bale walls and some other winterizing, but right now they are dry and content in their hay spa. The boar in the barn got the same treatment, but already has the advantage of being indoors to their outdoor pen in this weather. He still took me up on the offer and buried himself in the deep bedding, only a tail showing on a big pig ass sticking out of the hay. A happy scene for sure!

So the rain is here to stay, at least until the chill comes and it turns into soggy snow in a few hours. But I can head to bed knowing that those who seek comfort have found it. And fall asleep watching Braveheart and dreaming of bacon and pork chops earned by days such as this...

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Snowfall of the Season!

Last night the snowfall came down gently, covering field and fir and giving everything that clean and cozy feeling new snowfall only can! I'd say this place got around an inch, but the wind and mush of warm earth have it already melting. I am thrilled anyway, because for the first year since I moved here I am prepared for a true winter. There is so much firewood stacked, and food in the pantry and freezer! I do need to store up more hay and animal feed, but that will happen shortly! But for right now I am sipping coffee, fire burning in the stove, and I know there is enough here for everyone's breakfast and dinner. That's a good way to start a day!

P.S. Sorry for the lack of vlog posts this week, it's been very busy but soon as things slow down a bit tomorrow, I plan on posting a bunch in a row! Thank you for all your views and kind emails and comments! And please do subscribe to the Youtube Channel!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Passable Dragons

It is snowing outside, and the first white cloak of the year is covering the farm. I just came inside from throwing a tarp over the hay bales in the back of the truck. There are just three back there, enough to last a short while (till after tomorrow’s breakfast rounds) until I can head out and grab more from Nelson Greene up in Hebron. It was dark and I did a quick job of covering the hay bales, which had a light dusting of sugar on them already. But the sound of the crinkling plastic blue tarp made the sheep think I was rustling with sacks of feed and so they can bursting from their dry pole barn, leaping down the hill between the flakes, bleating like lawless children.

The sheep were disappointed. There was no corn or grain. I covered the hay and wished I bought tarps for the exposed parts of the wood pile. I stopped myself from letting out a four-letter word. This would only be an inch of snow at the most and would melt in plenty of time for me to remedy the situation. Plus, why stain such a beautiful night with angry sounds?

Merlin didn’t agree. He let out a demanding whinny into the night air. Smoke and steam came from his mouth in the cold dark and it made me think of Chinese dragons from my college history books. Those dragons always had hair like lions and long snouts. Merlin was passable in the dark.

I came inside with a large armload of firewood to a warm house. It was a good day of mundane and pleasant events. Gibson and I went to the laundry mat in the afternoon, then I let him stay at home and took Annie for a ride over to Patty’s farm. When I arrived at her home she was warming up in front of the large Rumsford fireplace. Those shallow fireplaces kick out a lot of heat! She said she was dealing with a little bit of a bug and couldn’t wipe the chill out of her. I nodded, knowing that all morning the farmhouse was abnormally cold feeling by what the numbers said. It felt colder than the thermometer allowed. I lit a fire and wore a heavy sweater indoors and couldn’t shake the chill either. I think it was a hint of the first snow. Perhaps?

I am happy to announce the pigs did not escape their enclosure today. They did escape twice yesterday though. So, I guess we’re even.

I am tired and warm and looking forward to this first snowy night of the year. I lit a pine scented candle, the horse cart and hay are covered from the snow, and Gibson is asleep right here in my lap. A happy scene, all this. We’ll tuck in without fear of the passable dragon outside the door. We both know he’ll tuck in soon, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

GREAT YULETIDE GIFTS!

So there are plenty of places to pick up some holiday gifts, but how about giving something special from the farm! I have everything from season passes to archery lessons for sale! Pig shares to fox pelts, music lessons to Indie Days spent with a goat and some soap making or here for one on one harness and cart work. The farm needs the support and share in the experience, meals, stories and songs of Cold Antler this Yule!

Student Fiddle, New! With bow, case, rosin, and 2 Hour beginners Lesson Whole Package: $85

Quarter Share of Pig (pork picked up next fall!) - That's a min of 25 lbs of meat (not bone or live weight, MEAT) as a combination of ham, sausage, bacon, chops and roasts!: $175

SEASON PASS TO CAF EVENTS (including next ANTLERSTOCK!) ON SALE: $300

Yote pelt: $75

Fox pelt: $75

Longbow and 2 Hours of Lessons for Beginner at farm!
Bow is Handcrafted by a US veteran, stained and around 25lb draw: $100

Dulcimer and 2 Hour Lesson at Farm: $100

Alpine Kids! (reserve from Bonita and Ida!) $50 Deposit

Three Workshop Pass (not Antlerstock, good for 3 years) On SALE: $150

INDIE DAY! Spend a whole day at the farm for One-on-one lessons!
Prices vary by activities and supplies needed, just email me!

Email for any of these: jenna@itsafarwalk.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Smote Sounder!

The farm exploded in animal alerts this morning, and I shot out of bed right quick! I could hear turkeys gobbling, sheep bleating, geese honking, horses' whinnies, and goats' hollers. Gibson and Annie ran to the sliding glass doors downstairs, barking their heads off.

I was at the window with them, looking for some sort of reason for all these symptoms of discomfort. While my critters do let me know if breakfast us running late, it is rare that such a joint ruckus is sang in chorus like this. This is the sound of raccoon raids or a fox with a chicken in his mouth. It’s the sound of sheep figuring out the fence isn’t turned on because I needed to bogart their charger for the goats. I looked, Gibson and Annie looked, we saw no beasties or escapees. The key word being “saw”.All I could think of was one word.

Pegs.

“Oh No…” I thought aloud, Gibson looking back at me with concern. He knows that sound means get-dress-and-lets-get-to-work. And so in record speed I slipped on dirty socks and damp wellies. I stuck my baggy house pants into their knee-high rubber. I threw on a fleece and a bandana to keep the hair out of my eyes and we headed outside to see if there were pegs running amok.

I call pigs, pegs. It’s what a swineherd yells in my favorite novel, “HEEeeeeyyyy PEGS!” to his sounder. He had a thick hill country accent for that fictional world and it was delightful to read and the character was a pleasure to meet.

So here is why I was so concerned over the pegs. Yesterday some friends come by, Miriam and Keenan, and they were game to help do some down and dirty farm work. And when I say down and dirty, I mean it. We were going to build an extension on the pig pen. I had plans to double their enclosure’s size but that meant running more electric fencing at snout level. Well, that’s no big deal, right? I had the posts, insulators, and wire laying around somewhere in the barnyard and Enough spare wire fencing to stop any flying powers, so starting at 2PM after a night lunch of pot pie we headed outside to get our hands dirty.

And that was my first mistake. Because I don’t know about how your homestead’s run but around here if I think any (even a minor) construction job will just “take an hour” it usually needs five. Especially if the job is done with all farm-found supplies! I think I have enough t-posts, and insulators, and such and something is always missing. I did prepare for this day, in theory, at least. And took inventory of what was around. I knew for this small project there was enough stuff. I wasn’t expecting the electricity and wiring to fail though.

Which is exactly what happened. For some reason the wiring around the base of the pen wasn’t working? It was earlier that day, and the charger was only a few weeks old so I was at a loss what was causing the lack of juice? This wouldn’t be a big problem if we hadn’t gone through the process of building the entire new addition on their pen, and had it fenced just waiting for the zap to make it peg-proof. See, porkers are notorious rooters and snufflers. They stick their noses in the dirt and turn it over with such skill and speed they make rototillers look like action figures. And it only takes a few determined pigs an hour or so to root, dig, or snuffle their way right under a woven wire fence. Most pig operations (at least around here) don’t even bother with wire fences for just that reason. They use electric netting or just the wires and posts. I use wiring, because I have it here and I think it gives me the mental comfort of there being a non-electric barrier to slow them down if the fence juice fails. That electricity is what really keeps the now hundred-pound oinkers in check.

With the electric wiring all strung up were were done with the construction phase. It really only did take an hour or so to expand the pen and rewire it. But without that jolt the whole thing was a time bomb of pig escapism. Now it was almost dark. My friends were getting numb fingers and too polite to go inside to the house. I was troubleshooting like a mad woman. Replacing older wire connections, walking around the fence line, swapping out the charger for a new one, using new extension cords, trying new plugs in the house…. it was getting darker and darker and it was well into the night when finally the sparks flew and the fence was live. After hours in the mud, pounding fence posts, running fences, wire, and a few prayers we got the pegs secured. Something clicked in the chain of consequence and the jets fired up. I still don’t know what did it, but I was too tired to ask questions. The three of us cheered when a pig got a zap on the snout and stopped digging around their barriers. If you think that is unkind, you never had to herd escaped pigs back into a pen after spending several hours in the cold dark mud finding the dang missing link.

I am so grateful for their help! Keenan and Mir were truly tough about it, carrying posts and logs, running the wires and handing over fence rolls and wire cutters. They stuck it out and when we finally found success were came back into the farm house too tired to do anything but sit around the fire, enjoy a slice of pizza, and celebrate a small victory.

But, I guess you could understand why that outburst this morning had me jumpy. I worried the pegs had escaped and were messing up the joint like the little hooligans they are (and I say that with love, since this group is the sweetest foursome ever to grace the farm), but they are troublemakers for sure. If the fence wasn't holding its charge I was certain they would already be in the kailyard. And when I did head outside in my drab clothes, frantic and silly, I found that the reason for the sing song was nothing more than a small herd of whitetails leaping across the fences and upsetting the sheep. Their white plumes high in the air and they leapt off, unimaginably graceful and high, away from the farm.

When I went to the pigpen, there was four happy beasties staring right back at me, snorting for their break from the fast. My smile was wide enough to spread butter on.

Photo by Miriam Romais, sounder stopper!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Two Horses

Friday, November 7, 2014

Win a LifeStraw!



Today’s vlog is all about EDC, or Every Day Carry. That means the items you never are without, or you carry with you every day. My four basic items always in pocket or sporran are: knife, cordage, fire starter, and cash. Those things are essential for my life as a modern homesteader. I also cover what is always in my day pack. This is not a 72-hour bag, but instead just the very basic things I wouldn’t want to have on my person for a short walk in the words or drive into town. I hope you share your own items you consider essential EDC, leave a comment or suggest others to me!

One item I focus on in particular is LifeStraw, this award winning and beautiful little piece of modern design should be in every purse and car in America, it’s inexpensive and possibly life saving! I am going to GIVE AWAY a Life Straw to a person who comments on this post, so please leave a comment about your own EDC or what I may have forgotten!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

One Share Left!

Only One 1/4 share of pork left for next year's pigs! That means no more shares until 2016 growing season! So consider buying up this last share? This is for next spring's piglets (so next fall's harvest). If you live within a drive of Cambridge NY it is a great way to support Cold Antler! I thank you for even considering it! For details and questions: jenna@itsafarwalk.com

There Be Dragons Here!

A reader mailed me this gift of a wood stove steamer! How perfect for this farm! A little myth and magic is always welcome here, for sure. Thank you so much!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tavern Fare

Yesterday morning I poured the entire 22oz bottle of hard cider over the slab of pork. The clear liquid covered the three pounds of meat and the scientific part of my brain understood that the acids in the alcohol would help break down and soften the flesh as it slowly cooked all day. That’s all well and good, but the connoisseur part of my brain wasn’t interested in the technicalities in the least. All she could think of was how good slow cooked pork tasted that had marinated in hard cider all day, a perfect pairing of flavors and a true taste of what this little farm has to offer the world.

When the bottle was empty I set it aside and grabbed the bottle of honey. It was hard not to smile with joyful anticipation. This was pork I knew by name, that I raised from a shoat, and had been butchered on this farm. The cider was from the farm, too. It came from last fall’s bumper crop of apples, collected with friends, hand-ground at a pressing party with the help of a restored fruit press from the Civil War. Now that cider was being used to break down the muscle of a pig named after a fiddle tune. I topped off this happy scene with a half pound of honey, courtesy of the ladies just outside my living room door.

This. This, is living it right.

It was a lot of food. Too much for one woman. I sent a message to Mark and Patty and invited them to join me. They have fed me countless meals at my farm and I wanted to return a bit of the favor. I knew if I cooked some rice and fried up some kale from the garden in herbs an oil, and got some buns whipped up I would have a feast. I still had a bottle of mead left over from Samhain and here in the farmhouse there was home-brewed cider, ale, and a sweet young wine. Why eat alone?

Mark and Patty did join me and it the farmhouse was warmed by the fire in the wood stove, wood cut on this farm (at least in part) and dragged from the forest by draft horses I knew, that had ridden on the backs of, that I have kissed their noses on cold days. The house was 67 degrees (ridiculously warm for me) and the food smells of bread, meat, rice and kale was a spell on all of us. We ate, we laughed, we drank dark beer and mead and caught up on stories of a new team of oxen Patty helped get for her work. Mark talked of hunting and weather - two topics we never get tired of.

Five years ago this would have sounded like a fairy tale. Something for people in taverns in Tolkien novels to taste and speak of. Dinner with a name? Cider I knew in the apple? Friends with tales of oxen and goose hunts?!

Now, life is often scary and far from perfect. There is no security, and that is something few are willing to go dancing without. Well, actually, that’s not true is it? There is far much more security here, and I feel much safer than I ever did working for a paycheck from an employer that could lay me off whenever they felt like it. The finances might not be predictable, but my job security is watertight. I’m never going to fire myself. And instead of a pile of groceries there is a freezer full of meat and wild game. There is a network of neighboring farms of every sort. There is wool for hats and sweaters, timber for heat, vegetables in the garden, and eggs, milk, cheese and bacon out there on the feather and hoof. This is the most volatile safe place in the world.

If you are struggling with the decision to take the leaps I have. I can’t offer advice, as the decision is your own. But know from this table in the corner of a small tavern—lit by firelight and warmed by friendship—I have not a single regret. There will always be wolves at the door of those who leave the flock. That’s just how it is, and I’m fine dancing with wolves. They keep you on your toes.

Tonight I am writing this under the light of the full moon, casting in on this living room. There is good fiddle music playing, a fire in the stove, dogs asleep at my feet, and dinner on the hob. The animals outside are all fed and well and while there is still one more set of night rounds before I sleep I am grateful beyond measure for this scrappy life. This week I sold a spot for Spring Fiddle Camp and a whole pig’s worth of shares to friends and neighbors. I may have enough scrapped together by week’s end to turn over a (late) mortgage payment but I am still dancing. I am in a sweater from High School and only own four pairs of shoes, but that is mighty fine by me. My lifestyle is my style. And my four shoes are plenty to keep dancing with those door wolves under the full moon.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Wait, Just PLAY!



One of my favorite events of the year is the Fiddle Camp weekends, or any day I get to share this instrument with a very specific type of student. You might be that student and not know it, too! I am talking about the person who loves fiddle music, who owns bluegrass CDs, who has the tune of Ashokan Farewell memorized, but doesn't think they have the time or talent to play. When these folks come to Fiddle Camp and leave within the first day playing their first tune, the look on their face is priceless. No one comes out of camp playing like an expert, understand, they only have held the thing a few hours, but they do leave knowing how to bow, tune, and teach themselves. That is the real reason to come to camp - to have your hand held through the toughest introduction parts and leave with the confidence you can take it from there.

This weekend is a Fiddle Day Camp, just a one day workshop to learn. And in March is the next Fiddle Camp Proper (taking reservations now)n but if you don't have the ability to come here and no one around you teaches mountain music - you CAN TEACH YOURSELF. Get a full sized fiddle (4/4) online, get the book mentioned in the video, get a snark tuner and choose to just learn and you will. If I can do it, you can as well. There's no reason why anyone watching this video now couldn't be playing carols by Yuletide, and I mean that.

I hope you enjoy this vlog, it is just an introduction to the very basics, but it might be the inspiration to give this supposedly "scary" instrument a try!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roar and Howl

I love mornings like this! The wind is howling outside, literally howling, and I am inside with hot tea and a roaring wood stove. Roars can beat out howls, at least indoors. That is what I am betting on anyway, since the wind is so mighty I can hear it trapped inside the woof stove. I get sucked down into the piping, pulling and winding its way into the the house and ends up being drowned in the crackling fire. Makes you feel so grateful for a warm place outside of the wind.

 It is gray outside, and the snow didn't come. There was a sprinkle of flurries here and there, but nothing that lasted through this bluster. I made pancakes after chores and decided to spend the day at home. Still fighting this cold, and while I am feeling better than yesterday morning - I'm not going to push it as much as I did yesterday.  And since it feels like I still have the whole day ahead of me (clocks back and all that) I feel like this morning might not amount to much more than a movie and a hot second cup of tea.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Good Day for Hobbits

I have a cold. I’m not sick in the stay-in-bed-all-day sense (that would drive me nuts) but I am taking it slow. At 2:30 PM I started evening chores, super early. I topped off all the animals water, fed extra hay or grain, and made sure the pigs had a whole bale of fresh hay to snuggle into. I wanted everyone content and full in the early afternoon so come sundown I could crawl into a pile of covers and sleep off the coughs and sneezes.

I got the animal chores done and then decided to hit the pre-snow prep. Since I spent a good hour covering the kale with garden cloth and stacking the last of the split wood in the shelter of the side porch, I assume it isn't going to snow, Murphy being the lawyer at most farms. But it felt good to do the work.  The most storm and cold weather prep I did the more I started to feel better. I stopped sneezing and my nose stopped dripping. I brought in enough firewood for the rest of the weekend and then came inside to check out my favorite porn site (weather.gov) for a fix. Looks like a low around 30 degrees tonight and slightly colder tomorrow. It'll be a chilly rain out there or a slushy snow, either way I am grateful for a good wood stove and warm dogs and having brought in all that damp wood to dry by the stove instead of hauling it in all weekend.

Right now I am inside watching The Fellowship of the Ring and enjoying the finest of medicines: hot cup of tea, lemon, honey, and some whiskey. Together they add a little courage to the cold. I'll be sleeping in a few hours, I'm sure, but right now I am just happy to have all the animals settled in and ready for the coming slurry of poor weather. Gibson is resting beside me, like always, and all I have to do for the rest of the night is watch Hobbits and think about how much better I'll feel tomorrow. And perhaps wake up to snow?!

Thank You!



Thanks to all who mailed along a Samhain/Halloween Card! There were more in the mail today, after taking this photo and I adored them all. To open up mail with Antlers and stories, kind words and encouragement. Thank you all so much for making this holiday season so special. I already miss October, but am excited for the festivals ahead!