Farms are never just one farm. We exist as a community. We share supplies, customers, equipment, labor, stories and knowledge with each other. This image of Boghadair behind the Highland cow skull reminds me of the connection I have with Common Sense Farm, just a few miles down the road. It's a commune of nearly a hundred Messianic Jews and while we have so little in common when it comes to faith, politics, and lifestyle - we are all farmers and grand friends. Bogh was born under their farm stand and was adopted as a tiny kitten years ago. That steer was raised by them and when the skull felt out of place on their farm they felt it fit mine perfectly (the previous owner of this farm decorated the barn with skulls, which remain there till this day!). It's not just a snapshot of a cat but a reminder of those fine folks who I adore and all of years of buying hay, shared meals, learning Hebrew dances, learning their culture, tea by fires, and watching their children grow up in this community. A blessing indeed.
P.S. Coolest thing I learned from those folks. Amen is Hebrew for "So be it"
Spending all this time at the local Brewery in Greenwich with friends has gotten my brewing bug going again. Planning on creating a pumpkin beer for Antlerstock and will be gathering ingredients soon. But here is the cool part, instead of doing it from a kit I am going to buy all the ingredients separately and cook the pumpkins in my own oven for a real down home brewing experience! I feel like this is something I can figure out, and want to make about ten gallons of pumpkin stout for the event. I'll share the process here!
This morning I did something I have not done in far too long, I poured a steel container of curds and whey into cheese cloth. With all the activity of summer — raising the pastured poultry, getting pigs into the woods, sheep moving, horse training, puppy raising and the graphic design work — the daily milking of my two goats left the world of my kitchen and became a free way to add protein to the pigs diet. I would do all the chores in the heat, milk the goats, and pour their full milk pail directly into the pig pen to their squeals of delight. It added yummy dressing to their grain, fallen apples, and kitchen scraps. They were fattening up so well it seemed a shame to bring any milk inside and so for a few weeks only the bacon seeds got watered with that amazing stuff.
Not this morning! This weekend Patty and Mark are hosting a Garden Party and I offered to bring some chèvre. I forgot how amazing the process of making cheese is and how ridiculously easy. All I did (I swear!) was milk my goats into a pail, strain that pail into a steel saucepan with a milk filter, and add one packet of chèvre culture. That is it. I didn’t need to use the stove because the body temperature of the goats is already perfect for making chèvre if you do it instantly after milking (milk was around 90-95 degrees). I let the culture dissolve and hydrate for a few moments and then mixed it in with a steel spoon. I set the cover on it and then went out to the Argyle Brewery to meet friends and enjoy my version of Cheers. Cheese making level 34, done.
This mooring that pot-o-raw-milk that never saw heat and never saw any skill besides stirring in $1.50 worth of culture powder was a perfect division of curds and whey. If you’ve never done this, imagine someone took greek yogurt that was REALLY thick and plopped it in some warm water. That’s how stark the divide is between the curds and whey. I got out some butter cloth, poured the container right over a bucket of pig chow, and let the whey spike the grain for the pigs’ breakfast.
I took that bucket outside with Gibson and Friday galloping at my sides. Gibson is 95% healed on his paw but he still favors it sometimes. Friday is all hell out there, running at his side and pulling at his ears until he growls at her to stop. His patience amazes me. I thought for sure he’d put up with zero fuss from her but he turns into a golden retriever with a toddler when she is hanging off him. My hats off to him.
After pigs were fed I took the fat-pigeon-sized meat birds and separated them by half. Putting the now older birds into two tractors instead of the one they were sharing. Friday thought this was magic. The fact I could make things chirp and squawk in my very hands had her eyes bugging out of her head. I think I made her day.
So this morning was cheese and chores and I had to wear a hoodie to ward off the chill. It was a reminder how fall is on the way and I better start getting in wood and figuring out some solvency before snowily. Working hard to sell another book with my agent and doing enough graphic design work to keep wolves from the door and for that I am grateful. But in the meantime there’s the Washington County Fair, Garden Parties, and a last hurrah of weather in the high eighties due for next week to remind me that the river is still for swimming and the sun can still lighten my hair.
This is a design-in-progess for the side of a food truck. I love it. It's one of the several clients I work with five days a week to get low-cost graphic design to farmers and foodies (or any small business for that matter), but since agriculture is the world that knows me best, most of my clients are in muck boots. This is fine by me, and slowly Cold Antler Farm is becoming a Design Farm. This actually warms my heart. Graphic design is what I went to college for and since graduating in 2005 I was able to travel all over the United States and live in three different regions (The South, The Pacific Northwest, and Northeast) because I had a trade that could travel. I worked for HGTV, Coldwater Creek, and Orvis as a web and email designer but what I have always loved is branding and logo work. Now I get to wake up, do chores, feed the dogs, and sit down at my laptop with a cup of coffee and a record on the turntable. I can work from the farm, earn extra income, and actually use my college degree as a part-time pig farmer. Snazzy.
If you would like to buy a logo for your own farm or as a gift, just let me know via email. The cost is now on sale for $250. That includes as many versions as you need to be happy and there is no hourly billing. The average time from seeing first comps to a complete design can be as short as 24-hours to 8 weeks. It really depends on what it is you are looking for and how long it takes to create it. This goat logo you see here was part of my shotgun sale I did on Facebook - to create a logo for only $150 within 24 hours (or three iterations, whichever came first). I am not running that sale right now, but that client was happy and went from payment to logo in under 5 hours!
Sometimes designs get very complicated and take longer. Some people are in no rush at all and others want the design yesterday but so far I have been keeping up with the demand and promoting the hell out of it on Facebook and Twitter.
So what does this have to do with homesteading? Everything. It's a cottage business I can take care of from my own farm, serving the needs of a community lacking professional design for an affordable cost. I think any job you can do from wi-fi near your barn that helps pay the bills is an asset to anyone out there trying to make it as a Self-Employed Creative. Now while I am between book deals and trying to sell another book before winter - these logos are literally what is stopping threats to the farm and keeping the lights on. I feel lucky to have pictures of pigs and goats helping keep my own pigs and goats fed!
Do any of you out there have home businesses like this? Do you have a career that can make the transition to self employment? The arts aren't the only people out there consulting for sure and even teachers and nurses can leave their school districts or hospitals if they want to take up another version of their jobs at home. For many of us with Barnheart this is the dream. So how about yourself?
The chicken is in the oven and I managed to spend another day at this farm. I consider that a fine night. What an amazing aroma, filling me with comfort and expectation. I have a honey mustard sauce to dip the bird in and some fresh tomatoes from my neglected jungle of a garden, but food is food and I am content. Honestly, it's hard to write with this house full of that smell. If men wore a cologne that perfectly mimicked what a roasting chicken smells like I would be done for.
I am wearing an eye patch and I don't care for it. by "patch" I mean a large bandaid cut into the shape of an eye patch but it'll do. It's one of several hacking jobs I needed to pull today. I cut my eye Friday night with my own finger nail taking out my contact lens and it is healing slowly. I have sterile eye wash with one of those delightful eye cups, lubricant eye drops, antibiotics, and this handy patch but it still stings like the dickens. I read that it can take up to five days to heal a bad eye abrasion but I am hoping that tomorrow morning there's more white than red in that right eye and I start looking less like one of the extras in the Walking Dead. Oh, the other life hack - I cut apart my computer charger cord that my kitten Bree chewed to pieces and re-wired it, saving thirty bucks. I felt like MacGyver.
This week the farm will be dedicated to the work of weeding, mucking out the goat pen, and setting up new pasture for the pigs in the woods behind the farm. Patty found electric hog fencing at the dump someone set aside for pickup and she gave me a couple hundred feet to borrow! What a score! The pigs are doing well and are mostly eating apples, goatmilk, cooking scraps and pig chow these days. The farm produces 60% of their calories and I am glad because feeding four pigs is a heck of a job.
I'm signing off for the night but I look forward to a productive and healthy week full of healing eyeballs and proper garden rows. The truck is back from the shop in Salem and has a brand new inspection sticker and I am in love. Over all, I'd say it was a fine weekend even with the eye patch. A farm girl takes what she is given, works with it, and finds a way to make it all better. I raise my haymason to you fine people out there and hope your weeks are just as keen.
There is a chicken defrosting in the kitchen and I am excited. I am as excited as I would be if I was getting ready for a rock concert. It really is that simple, folks. Sometimes all you need on a Sunday is the promise of roasting bird to make the whole day feel like you are getting ready for a first date.
That bird in the fridge is a story. A story as complicated and beautiful as a chicken dinner can be. Let me tell you just what goes into a bird rubbed down with some olive oil and seasoning on a Sunday night out here in the sticks.
This chicken and a hundred others were mailed here by Kendall and the folks at Freedom Ranger Hatchery who have support this blog for years. The birds were raised in the big brooder out in the barn. A brooder handmade by the Daughton Family as a gift to Cold Antler years before when I first moved to this home in Jackson. And when rats chewed through the worn plywood years later it was the ladies at Windwomen Farm who delivered hardware cloth and supplies to make it critter proof for this years batch! The feed, the pine shavings, the water fonts - all the gear inside was purchased at the Noble Acre Hardware store, downtown. These are people who know me and my life, who have Gibson's picture taped to their jar of biscuits on the counter, and who have never failed to help me in any home or garden project. And when those finally birds went outside on pasture three weeks later they did so in the tractors made out of inspiration from Darcie Confar (who mailed me the materials list and aided in design) and crafted by the good hands of the Connelly Clan who helped build the first model. Patty Wesner came over and helped me build the second one. The third tractor was made by the amazing Brett McLeod, it is wooden and strong and did its part with this chicken dinner as well. Oh, and let's not forget the friends and neighbors who helped pay for all this - by ordering birds from me as co-owners up front. Bailey in Greenwich, Miriam and Chris in Saratoga, Tori and her Mother, the folks who run The Stovery, and my neighbor Manya. Those birds were being raised to feed six families, no small honor or task.
And besides all these people involved, there is the story of the daily work of raising food. These are the chicks I bedded with extra hay on cold spring nights and set up with heat lamps on the lawn to keep farm from the chill and dew. I remember them glowing like paper lanterns on the side yard and confusing folks who drove by them on their way to dinner and a movie. I remember running uphill to protect them from thunderstorms and how strong I felt when I did so, naked and crouching under a solar shower, knowing once again that I love this life and the work involved. I think back on the days of heat waves, pulling them into the shade. I think of the days of rain - keeping them dry and comfortable. I think of hundreds of feedings and changed water. I think of how raising these birds meant living in one place, on one piece of land, and never taking a vacation from that fine duty. How being able to do that full time IS the vacation, and it is my whole life and all I ever wanted. I think of loading them up into my truck and taking them to Ben Shaw to be processed and singing Taylor Swift songs while Friday howled next to me over the hills and valleys of Washington County. And of course, I think of handing them out to the folks who supported me up front and the feeling of them driving off with pounds of meat raised with integrity and purpose for their families. That feeling of watching some one drive away with food from this place never gets old, in fact, it only gets richer.
So why all this background on a chicken dinner? Because it takes a village, literally, to defrost a chicken on this farm. If you think that is shameful you are missing out on the entire point. This is homesteading folks, this is it. Self-Relience is not the point and the longer I farm the more I believe that with all my heart. Homesteading is not about autonomy, it's about community. It's about making the choice once and a while to step outside the conventions of grocery stores and take out and opt for the road less traveled. Because you know what is on that road? Love.
All those people I listed above, all of them are only a part of my life because I chose this path. Not the path of raising chickens, but that is a part of it. I chose to make homegrown food a part of my life and that started with some potted peas in a windowsill and some backyard chickens in a rented space — and now here I am — on a piece of land I own in my own name, a single woman, living the life of her dreams in the service of six and a half acres of blessed mistakes and victories. And while on that path I met people I only know because of this blog and this life. Moving to the country didn't isolate me or turn me into a new Pioneer - it turned me into a community builder and humble receiver of lesson after lesson. It brought me people I love, who I can't imagine being without, and who constantly keep coming into my life. If gratitude had weight to it I wouldn't be able to swim in the river, for fear of sinking right to the bottom. It's a good problem to have.
So that is why I am so excited about a dead bird. It's not just a meal, it's a manifesto. It's what I work so hard to keep here through workshops, ad sales, stories, music lessons, logo designs and more. It's the reason I have not, and will never, give up on this dream. It's the reason I would rather stay home and turn up my iPod and dance with border collies or pony in the pasture while biting on a drumstick than leaving for a weekend in Montreal to see the band live. Because all of this good life, the "simple" life, comes from a complicated and beautiful tribe of lives who love this scrappy place.
Dinner is at 6, outside under the maple tree, come and join me friends.
This morning Gibson had a follow-up appointment at the vet for his injured paw. We arrived and talked with the vet, had his foot inspected and went over the course of care. It has been ten days and is healing well, if a little jagged. He is putting weight on it and seems to keep the bandages on. Im just so happy it isn't broken and he doesn't need x-rays. After the visit I got more vet-wrap, some antibiotics, and pain killers and when all was said and done I carried him off to the truck and came inside with my check book to settle the bill. I was promptly told by the folks at the desk that my appointment was already taken care of? What?!
As it turns out one of you sweet readers called the Cambridge Valley Vet Hospital here in town and told them you'd cover my pup's bill today. I don't know who you are, but thank you so much. You can't possibly know how much that meant to me and how it brightened my day. This month had over a thousand dollars in unplanned expenses from the vet office and truck repairs to pass NY state inspection with Big Red. Today's visit was not a thousand dollars, but it was an act of kindness and care and I teared up driving him back home, looking at the pill bottles and wrappings. This was not something I asked for or would ever imagine, but I did accept it. I thought of a Ted Talk one of you recently shared with me again. I'll post it at the end of this entry.
I know I live and farm alone but I never feel alone. Every donation, email, letter, story, subscription, and comment means the world to me.
The past few years I was dealing with things I will never feel comfortable writing about here. But I do know that many times when people sent a kind note, email, or donation through the paypal link I usually was too overwhelmed and scared to stop treading water to sent back a note of thanks. Not because I wasn't thankful, but because adding even that simple task was too much on top of holding things together in my heart and homestead. I'm not defending the oversight, just explaining the reason. I'm a very flawed person, but trying to repair that part of my own worth. So today I went right home and drew a thank you card with my return address, placed a stamp on it, and asked that the folks at the vet drop it in the mail and send it to the person who went out of their way to make someone's life a little easier today. If you feel compelled to support this farm, the donate button is on the right side, under the Barnheart graphic. I can assure you you will receive a Thank you email.
So the truck needs $600 worth of work to get inspected and legal on Saturday. So here is my idea: If four people looking for a deal want to take me up on this: I'll offer shotgun logos (meaning logos described by you and designed by me in under 24 hours) for a half rate of $150 through paypal.
The downside is this: you have to settle the design with me with either 3 iterations of back and forth changes or by 6pm Friday - whichever comes first.
Any takers?! I'll be just focussed on this until clients are happy, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!
Well, I've got 14 fat birds loaded into the back of the new pickup and no dogs were injured in the process! Compared to last Tuesday that is a stellar start to the day. In a short while I'll be driving over to Greenwich to deliver the birds for slaughter at Ben Shaw's. Then they get either picked up or delivered to neighbors who already paid for their birds when they were chicks. It's a good feeling, handing over those future meals. The pride in it never gets dulled and never grows old.
I'm on my second mug of iced coffee and almost done with morning chores. It'a already sweltering out there, the day should reach over ninety degrees. That means this woman might find herself in the river later, and since it is a weekday that means having it practically to myself. I've changed Gibson's bandage and decided this morning he'll join me for the delivery of the birds. He's not as comfortable with the big bench seat in the truck (which I have started calling Big Red) but he'll manage. I gotta say, he looks damn good up in that cab with me.
Speaking of Damn Good, little Friday is coming along so well. She's half Gibson's size and her feathering on her butt and arms is turning red like her mother's coat. I don't know if she'll be a black border collie with red tips but if that is the case it will suit her. She's a total spitfire and starting to feel like she was always a part of this farm. She pays attention, comes when called, sits, lies down, and in a few months will start training with sheep (under the wisdom of our sheep shearer, Jim McCrae). I tried to take a photo with her and Big Red but she wanted to make out instead. (I told you she was a spitfire!)
You wouldn't believe the amount of cassette tapes coming in the mail. I think there are over fifty, for sure. I love it. Talk about a fun unboxing, man, each of you and all your different tastes and stories are in those tapes. So far I have driven along the backroads to Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Bluegrass hits, and the best music of 1982. All of them, winners.
Gibson is doing so well. He is starting to put weight on his foot again, which the vet said was the first sign nothing was broken (we didn't take Xrays yet), and that is wonderful to know. I see no sign of infection and while he is still on his antibiotics he seems to be eating, living, and sleeping normally. We go back to the vet on Thursday for what I hope is the final checkup.
Tomorrow is a morning of chicken slaughter and deliveries, followed by as much graphic design work as I can handle. It's supposed to be rainy and that is welcomed right now. Rain makes me feel good about sitting in the living room and playing records while I move vector lines around on my small laptop screen. You read about archery, logging with draft horses, and running miles across the landscape but most of my life is right here - at this computer. That's not a complaint either.
I'll end this short update with this. Tonight on my five-mile run a neighbor I know only from jogging past her place and making small talk asked me if I wanted a drink of water. It made my day. The only reason I know her and her dog Rosie is because I slowly trot by her place a few times a week and we chat here and there. She has a gorgeous cottage, a perfect lawn, flower gardens and veggies. I told her how much I adored her home and pat Rosie on the head. I doubt we have spent a total of ten minutes of our lives together but tonight she reached out to the chubby girl huffing by and offered a drink and while I declined (because if I stopped and drank something 2.5 miles from my house I wouldn't want to run back to it) I have never felt luckier to live in this place. So simple. So perfect.
So tonight I raise my glass to the Owner of Rosie and the safety of small roads. Hail!
My Thursday Nights belong to a local brewery and the fermentation nerds I have met over the past few weeks. I love this about Washington County. There are people from local college and bar scenes that travel to the middle of nowhere to talk water tables and wild yeast with locals around a bar. A place where giant fermentation tanks are tapped like kids stealing candy from a store window... Tonight was all friendship, science, and taste buds. I felt like a character in a Joe Swanberg movie and loved every second of it. Here's to Thirsty Thursdays and those who come to raise their glasses!
So Gibson is doing okay, but can't use his front foot. Thank you all for the comments, emails, and messages. Tomorrow he goes back to the vet to inspect the stitches and get his bandage re-wrapped. Since the cut went right down the center and affects the bone and nail, it needs to be watched closely. So we return tomorrow to the kind doctors to make sure all is healing well. I'll try and take some photos from the visit (nothing gross) and share some of the story of Cambridge Valley Vet with you folks. They are literally a horse cart ride away and I have parked my horse there more than once!
This morning I was laying on the veterinary office floor, my forehead against Gibson's, singing Love Vigilantes to him quietly. Oh I just come, from the land of the sun... I whispered as I scratched the rough mane around his neck. It was a fitting song, at least by title. He was coming to slowly, having just had emergency surgery on his front paw. The sedation had been reversed but he was still high on valium and some other opiates so coming back into the world was taking its time. I waited. I love this dog more than I have any business to.
We had been at the office for two hours. When we arrived I carried him in and we walked into the exam room that was readied for us. The doctor cam in and I pulled off the homemade bandage of gauze and vet wrap (always in stock here at the farm) and showed them the ugly scene. Gibson panted loudly but seemed to be dealing with the pain best he could.
This morning while I was loading chickens into the back of the pickup truck to drive to the butcher for processing he cut his toe pad to the bone on the tailgate. I had my back turned to the dog as I was loading the squawking birds into a crate and he felt assistance was in order. I didn't see him jump up right as the tailgate was coming down. It all happened in a nano second. I had him at the vet's office an hour later, soon as they opened their doors.
He needed surgery, and fast. The toe pad was a weight-bearing toe and as both a working farm dog and athlete - stitches were needed. The vet said I could leave him here and return in a few hours but I asked if I could stay. Gibson has never left my side, and I wasn't going to start now. I asked if I could stay and be there for the surgery and the wonderful folks at Cambridge Valley Vet said I could.
So he was sedated with an injection on a blanket of the office floor. The technician left us alone with the lights out so he could slip away into a deep sleep and I held his head and sang. Part of me was terrified he'd die right there, seeing him go so limp and breathe so slow. I'm more prepared for most human beings I know to leave this world than I am for this dog.
When he was out I carried him to the surgery table and myself, two technicians kept a hold of him while he was shaved, cleaned, and the deep wound was sealed up with stitches. The doctor was wonderful and Gibson didn't seem to notice the injections of localized pain killers or the needles sewing him back together. He was bandaged and the Vet went over the care plan to his recovery, which will take a few weeks. Then I was given that room again to be there when he woke up.
He opened his eyes like they weighed thirty pounds each and thumped his tail once. I was never happier to see him. His eyes dilated and his breathing sped up, but he was back. It wasn't long before he was able to stand, walk, and control his body again. I carried him anyway, back to the truck, and had a pocket full of antibiotics and painkillers. No chickens were slaughtered. My checking account was, though.
I came home and set him up on a fleece. I called Ben Shaw to apologize for not making the appointment and I called any friends expecting poultry, told them what happened, and made plans for next Tuesday instead. Sometimes life just happens, and things change. This was one of those days.
Gibson will be okay and I'll figure something out. I always do. I posted a special on events and logos over on Facebook (3 Paw Special) in hopes to drum up some business. I just wanted to update you on the emotional morning and the luck and blessing that is a good country vet just a mile away. Gibson will recover and be his old self by October or sooner. Right now though, he's sort of a pathetic mush of drugs and limping.
I guess one dog's surgery is a chicken's reprieve? Silver linings are out there for someone on this rainy day.
Mornings, as a rule, should not begin with picking up entrails but some just do. When you raise livestock you sign up for deadstock. Today was one of those days. When the border collies and I headed outside for morning chores I was busy feeding the sheep and horse on one side of the house while the dogs were heading over to the chicken tractors. (Chicken tractors are a lot more fun to watch for a puppy compared to the galumphing sheep and pony. Think pinball vs bowling.) As I made my way to join them I was taken aback to see Friday with a fat little chick in her mouth. I had heard no odd squawks or squeaks and surely would have if she had taken the bird alive. I yelled out "Leave it!" in the most demonstrative tone I could muster and she ran off, dropping the dead 3-week old chicken. I ran up to the chick tractor and saw five dead birds in various stages of having been eaten and a few stuck in the chicken wire, killed while being pulled through the inch-wide hexagons.
Raccoons were back. Luckily the twenty adult birds that were headed to be slaughtered by Ben Shaw the very next morning were fine. Those were birds already promised to friends and neighbors. These birds, the chicks, were for one other friend and myself, and I had counted a loss of a dozen. Welcome to homesteading: sometimes things die.
I set up the Hav-a-hart trap right away, setting it behind the chick tractor with one of the bodies of the fallen. Then I went into protection mode. Setting up lights and a radio for the night, as well as setting my alarm for a late night watch. The .22 was loaded and by the door with a spot light ready for Half Past Dark. I would not lose these birds I worked so hard to raise to a varmint freeloader. Nope.
I sleep on the second floor of my house all summer in a bedroom with a box fan in the window. I wonder if that fan is the reason I didn't wake up for the tussle? But not even Gibson heard it (who sleeps next to me like we're an old married couple, gods help the man who ends up here and has to fight for that stop), and him not hearing it makes me even more certain it was the raccoons. Foxes take one animal at a time after a huge noiseburst and run off with their prey. Weasels sneak in and kill as much as they can, sucking blood out of toothmarks in necks like little vampires. Fisher cats pull horses up into trees and perform black masses... but raccoons, they pull and tear like a kid lose in a ball pit. This was raccoons.
I hope they bring their Fantastic Mr. Fox A Game tonight, because it is on!
Do you have any old cassettes of good music sitting around in old drawers or in your attic that you don't want? Collecting dust and useless to you? Well my new truck doesn't have a working radio or CD player, but it does have a cassette deck! So if you have stuff you are going to toss you want tearing up the backroads of the W.C. By all means, homes. By all means.
Pop them in an envelope and send them to:
Cold Antler Farm
Cambridge NY 12816
The little pup picked up from the airport in early June weighed six pounds. Now, two months later, this little demon weighs over twenty pounds and is on her way to becoming a real farm dog! She's a totally different creature than Gibson, who was always sweet and calm even as a puppy, but that isn't a bad thing. Not by a long shot. Friday is a firecracker and a force to be reckoned with. She's fast, whip smart, playful with some serious sass and loves riding in the truck. She goes with me all the places I bring Gibson, too.
Occasionally we have our girl time when it is just us. Usually on some sort of farm errand in the truck so we blare pop music and I sing and she barks. If she isn't barking she's staring at me with the what-is-it-you're-saying-lady look. Still, delightful.
Good morning from my second cup of coffee and second record on the turntable. It's Saturday morning and I am done with the chores and getting ready for a proper weekend, which means less office time and more outside time. Today that means a jaunt to the post office and A&J Farm supply in Salem. Still, sounds pretty good from my mug of heavy cream and caffeine here in the farmhouse. Lovely, this.
I'm excited for the day. There is nothing of import planned, but I'm still excited. I know the day started with sunlight, animals, music and some lofty goals. All that is ahead of me is enjoying the trying, which has always been my favorite fuel. Some people run their days on a sense of duty, or anger, or passive participation - but I opt for the higher octane, hope. I'm a big fan of what could be. It burns cleaner than what has been.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. How many of us are in situations - be it physical circumstances (like homes and jobs) or emotional circumstances (like depression, anxiety, bad relationships) - because we're protecting yesterday? The psychology of prior investment is a dangerous thing and the number one killer of Barnheart. If you put the last ten years into one career, one home, one life every day of that ten years was another dollar in the bank based on that choice. Add if up and suddenly most of who you are is that set of circumstances. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but it is crushing if you aren't where you want to be and feel you've put in too much time into another life. You can't get excited about today, much less tomorrow, when all of your energy goes into protecting yesterday.
One of the greatest things about starting this blog was hearing from others who had the courage to let Yesterday go. I got a comment from Alyssa that brought me to tears last night on Sara's Law:
...Jenna, Just thought I'd pipe in. Back in 2009, we owned a Suburban Chicago house on a postage stamp lot, and it was there that I lived vicariously through you. I dreamed of having my own wood stove, my own horse... something more than our little square-box garden. In the Winter of 2010, we decided to up and move to New Hampshire sight unseen (I quit my job, yikes! My husband transferred with his company to give us some stability.) No family, no friends... Nothing, except for our two dogs and a hankering to renovate an old house and *finally* get some horses. In 2011, we closed on an former dairy farm built in the 1800s and quickly added two horses to our 'family' - a draft cross (riding, for me!) and a Haflinger (riding, driving and farm work, for my husband.) It's been a blast... lots of work, but a total blast. My husband now shows the Haflinger in farm shows, and we take trail riding vacations with them. I could never imagine returning to an office, working from 8-6...
I got really emotional reading that, because her story is my story. It's so many peoples' stories. But every once in a while someone comes out and says "I DID IT" and the fact CAF was a small part in making that happen is the kind of fuel enhancing goo I need. It's the extra stuff that keeps me seeking out new music, adding miles to my runs, not giving up on this place even though I get messages all the time telling me to quit. I'm not quitting because this little blog had a small part in getting a couple from Chicago to ridding across New Hampshire on a pair of horses. Alyssa and her man chose to stop protecting yesterday. They released their grip on the life they worked so hard to build and realized that claw marks on regret are not as pretty as hoofprints in the dirt.
So I am calling for stories. If any of you out there made the big and brave leap to a farm life, even though that meant risks and fear - share your story here. For every person that comments there are hundreds who don't and may need the proof on screen that others are doing this, too. Take a few minutes and tell your tale of making homesteading or farming your new reality. If you are in a a slower, more controlled and less risky form of making a change - share that, too! Anyone working towards their better circumstances - please add your story here in the comments.
I do without many things I can't afford, Ginger. I do think a safe vehicle is something I can't do without, not living alone in the north country. And I think 2 grand is humble budget to have for a used farm truck.
Ginger, I have no problem asking for loans from people I don't know. I don't know the people who funded my mortgage, nor do I know the people that financed my old truck. I never knew the people who signed the checks at the accounting office for the office jobs I had before, either. I'd much rather borrow 25 bucks from 63 people who know me through the blog and are cheering me on than through some institution of faceless numbers, but that's me.
Oh, as for the part time job? I have about a dozen. I am not just a blogger who rides her pony and lives on hand outs. The donations this farm gets is appreciated, but can't cover the feed I go through in two weeks, much less run a household. I'm an author, freelance magazine writer, pig farmer, music instructor, speaker, archery teacher, essayist, poultry slinger, ad salesman, graphic designer and more. All those things make up living a life I can wake up and respect myself for. I'm damn proud to ask for a couple grand I don't have from strangers when the money I do have is paying back Chase Bank for the farm I've managed to buy, maintain, and keep for half a decade. It's proof positive I don't have to be a part of some sad system of corporate banking or quivering before bosses when things get tough.
I've been in this blogging game long enough to know any negative comments and backhanded compliments tell me a lot more about the commenter than they do about me. If I click on your name and it's a blank profile, Hell, that always makes me smile. It instantly discredits you. Head over to GOMI if you think wit is the same as snark. It's not. Just like being confident isn't the same as being an asshole.
And that, of course, goes for all the positive comments, too. I can't believe the praise any more than the snark - both are just manifestations of how the person typing feels about themselves and the world. What I write here is a manifestation of how I feel about the world - that's what my entire blog is. Happier people write happy things. Miserable people make up screen names and tell people living a life they see as unfair to get a job. My life isn't unfair, it's just my life. It's the choices I made - like asking on a blog for help buying a truck. If you see that as weakness or shameful, that's your shit. That has nothing to do with me, at all.
Oh, and the farm thing is working out splendidly! Thank you for asking! Money is always tight but I don't consider having money success. That's a recipe for a garbage life. This morning I took care of my animals (and the animals of friends and neighbors I am feeding) and came inside to work on graphic design clients with my new puppy chewing a bone at my feet. I took a break from that to run 5 miles and now I am getting ready to shower, run errands in town, and start laying out my novel Birchthorn for the editor (its' due to the fine people in New Jersey on the 15th). I'm busy, creating, writing, and producing food and art. I'm losing weight, making new friends (last night was awesome at the Argyle Brewery!) and last week met with a movie producer about helping out with a an indie filming in the area in the fall. There's a local radio station here that plays Radiohead and the Ramones and even though I live in the middle of nowhere the local pizza place will still deliver if I'm too tired to cook and just want to binge on Paranormal Activity Movie Marathon on Amazon Prime. But I am eating a lot less pizza these days and feeling healthier and sexier than ever, oh, and about to get my dream truck. Ginger, I'd sooner starve to death under a bridge than go back to the life I hated living in some office chair. Which is exactly why I never will. But go ahead and hold your breath.
Anyway, I can't think of things "working out" any better way.
How's your day going, homie? Pretty good? I hope so. Cause if this commenting on stranger's blogs thing isn't working out you may need to make a change.
Okay folks, here it is: I need a truck. My current truck, the Dakota, has been demoted to the role of farm truck, both by myself and the fine state of New York. That means the truck is still insured, but it isn’t allowed to leave a 25-mile radius of the farm and should only be used for farm work (delivering animals, getting hay, etc). It’s just a beater that I kept beating and it is on her last legs….Like, she stops working and stalls out while you are driving her... it is time to get something dependable, cheap, and trusty.
I found this girl on Craigslist. A 1989 Ford f150! She’s got 4WD, barely any rust, and a NEW transmission! She’s for sale for 2 grand. A truck in this good of shape for that price is a STEAL and exactly what I need for both farm and writing gigs (speaking events, signings, etc). The guys selling it is a musician in Connecticut and we spoke on the phone and worked out the details. This baby is coming to Cold Antler if I can wrangle up the funds this weekend!
I planning on buying this used truck outright. It’s safer, easy and cheap to fix, and honestly… it’s my dream truck. I also am done buying new vehicles, it just isn’t my reality and a payment plan at a dealership isn’t in my budget.
But I don’t have the money for her. That’s where you guys come in. I am asking for help with this loan, which to be funded requires that fifteen people loan me $25 a piece for it to qualify. Note - this is a LOAN, not a kickstarter or crowd funding. You get your money paid back to you, automatically deposited back into your account as I make the small monthly payments to Kiva.
So I’m asking for you to consider making a small loan to help this farm get road worthy again? Click here to help make it happen!
A few years ago Sara Law got a hold of a copy of one of my books. She read it and enjoyed it enough to see if the gal she had just learned so much about on the page was active on the screen? So she looked me up on social media. I am very active on Facebook and Twitter.
Through Facebook we chatted and she signed up for some workshops and events here at the farm (Arrows Rising and Antlerstock). I saw a lot of Sara last fall and was so impressed with her smarts, bravery to travel and try new things, and her passion for the Simple Life. We became fast friends. Now she is seriously considering her homestead dreams and changing her life from Toronto-based designer to homesteading-based designer... exciting stuff I can relate to! So why am I telling you about Sara? After all, her story is like so many of the friends I made through this little website. But I'm talking about Sara this morning because yesterday I got to see that girl interact with her dream horse - the Gypsy Vanner. And how could I not share the story of a fellow dreamer looking in the eyes of her own happy future!
Sara's from Ontario, but a few times a year house sits for good friends of mine here in Veryork (folks she met through the CAF scene), watching their 40+ acre Farm and animals as her own haycation when they go on away. She loves it. A quiet farm with rolling hills, a lake, trails, horses and sheep to herself while she works off her laptop. All of us can get that appeal!
Well just recently I saw that Sara had a crush on the Gypsy Vanner, an Irish breed of horse that is hard to not love. These animals are sturdy, easy keepers, with the kind of hair that makes my 14-year old self squirm with joy. If you know me at all, you know that the Fell Pony is my dream horse and always will be, but even my Dark Horse leanings can't help but fawn over the Vanners. They are built and sized just like a Fell Pony, but with a temperament like golden retrievers. After all, these animals were the family cart horse - needing to be around children and the elderly as well as experienced horsefolk.
There are at least two Gypsy farms around here, and one is small and sweet and just an eight minute drive from my barn. Thanks again, to Facebook, I got in touch with Sugar Hill Acres. I told her about my love of small drafts and my Fell and how my friend Sara was visiting and this was her dream horse. Misha, the farm's owner, was happy to oblige and so we set up an appointment time.
Yesterday was a lovely day, sunny and mild. In the afternoon we got to visit Sugar Hill, as planned, and both Sara and I were excited. We arrived to the mountain-top farm and the view was breathtaking. And if the mountains weren't lovely enough, the fact that these horses were waiting to greet us, that was icing on the carrot cake. There were two mares and one of their foals (the other mare is pregnant!) and they were so gregarious and sweet. The little foal walked around us with that Great-Dane-awkwardness of a 6-week old and charmed my socks off. I can't say I wasn't a little smitten at the whole thing.
If I was smitten, Sara was in love. Seeing her touch those manes, look into their eyes, and be nibbled on by the little filly was so touching. I can't speak for her at all, but I know Barnheart when I see it, and she had it BAD. And if you already have a bad case of this wonderful disease, going out and getting your fingers in a mane is only going to make the condition worse. Which is wonderful.
Sara, Misha and I talked for a while. We talked horses and homesteads and she was so welcoming and polite. I may have discovered another local trail riding buddy. Can you picture Merlin and a Gypsy Vanner Mare riding through the Autumn forest, be still my heart! Misha had a baby monitor with her to listen in on the newest addition to the family that wasn't a horse, her three-week-old newborn in the house. I was extra glad I brought her a bottle of wine when I saw she had fillies and babies to care for going into fall. Suddenly Cold Antler Farm felt a lot more manageable! Thank you Misha, for letting us be a part of your farm for a little while and meeting your lovely mares.
This is what I love about the Homesteading Dream in 2015! You can pick up a book written by a stranger and through the amazing powers of the internet, end up looking your dream horse in the eye. I'm rooting hard for Sara's homestead and future Gypsy horse. She'll find a way to turn that hope into something real like as all of us will who are more stubborn than we are practical. Those are traits I admire.
That might be a very "pony" way of looking at this world but it got me this far, and I'll take that over practicality any day.
Charlie Puth is on my good side. This morning as Friday and I were cresting the hill in the Dodge I was belting out his song Marvin Gaye, and could not stop smiling. Friday was watching me with her head tilting back and forth from the passenger side, but I couldn't help myself. It's just a fun song. Why not? Why not just smile and sing as your truck growls and stalls up the mountain road? I did, and even though I didn't know all the words I knew the chorus and was having a friggin' blast. In the bed of the pickup were 27 meat birds and we were on our way to deliver them to Ben Shaw for processing. I was looking forward to coming back to the farm with coolers of roasters in plastic bags and proud of myself for the birds I was presenting. Charlie knew.
Friday was with me because she spent the morning eating her kibble in the crate and not out helping to herd and wrangle the 30 birds I was supposed to deliver to Shaw. Why were we missing three? Because I am a woman of many faults and after opening the door to the first tractor and catching a fat rooster in each hand to carry to the crates in the back of the pickup, I forgot to close the door. It took about a nanosecond for the rest of the birds in the tractor to teleport out. That meant a dozen birds were just all over the lawn and not where they needed to be - on the way to freezer camp. With Gibson's help we got nine more stranglers and the other fifteen in the other tractor. Not bad odds. Certainly good enough for me. I sang even louder.
Gibson trotted into the farmhouse panting and happy, covered in dew and mud and chicken shit. He had done the work other border collies only dream of and I had zero guilt letting him lay in front of the fan while I grabbed the new kid for the delivery. And that is how Friday and I ended up in the truck, singing Marvin Gaye, and wishing I had a second cup of coffee.
After the birds were dropped off, crates unloaded, and I had an hour of time to kill before I had a giant plastic tub of ice and plastic-wrapped meat — I headed into Greenwich for gas and a trip to Tractor Supply. While paying for my gas at the register, the girl at the counter said something amazing. She said, "You look like you're going to have a good day" and I think she meant I looked excited. I was. She certainly wasn't talking about how I was dressed since I was wearing the same old plaid shirt, tank top, and jeans I wore the night before to meet some friends for a drink in Salem - and the clothes had dealt with the sweat, dog hair, and literal crap of catching a dozen roaming birds. But I was excited for the day. I had raised these birds to slaughter weight. I was driving them in a truck I bought and (kind of) maintained all on my own. And it was a Tuesday morning and I was paying for gas in a straw cowboy hat and still managed to get mascara on. Wonder Woman, in the flesh. Some days I pull it off.
The rest of the day was just farm chores, a long run, an outdoor shower and email correspondences but as dinnertime approached I was squirming like a first date. One of the people who got some birds from me was my neighbor Manya, and I told her I'd deliver her chickens via horse cart that evening. So after goats were milked and pigs were fed all the dropped apples and goat milk they could eat I harnessed up Merlin and headed down the mountain. I had a little cooler in the back and was very proud of the story in that styrofoam. While Merlin trotted down the mountain I thought of the days I ran back here to cover those birds up from storms on the horizon. I thought of spring days with frost warnings and setting up heat lamps in the yard. I thought of the help of Patty and the Connelly clan who helped me build the tractors. I thought of all the mornings and evenings where I moved those animals to fresh grass, filled fonts, offered grain... And here I was delivering them to people I care about. Makes you feel rich.
I got the birds to Manya and her family, we chatted and caught up, and then I headed home under the cloudy sky I expect after a hot summer day. When Merlin was untacked, combed, and set back into the pasture with the sheep I would head over to Livingston Brook Farm to hang out with good friends and Sara fresh outta Ontario. I had people to feed, people to see, people to drink with. I was heading up the road to the home I owned with the aid of a horse I knew better than most people know their first cousins. I was rich. Disgustingly, wonderfully, blissfully rich. And I'll remember that when I crank up the radio over the truck's banging.
I have started wearing the Border Collies puppy collars as bracelets, complete with chew marks and metal tag stains. This is my own form of punk-rock farm girl fashion. Fellow dog people, sport your pup collars! It reminds you of how small they once were, hell, even Friday is up to a 14-inch collar already. They grow up so damn fast...
The blog of author Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm. Where pop culture meets agriculture! Here she writes about her adventures following her feral life as a self-employed writer, homesteader, archer, falconer, equestrian, martial artist, hunter, spinner, brewer, geek, and real-life Game of Thrones Extra. She loves movies, music, running far, and eating animals.
On twitter @coldantlerfarm
And when the children are safe in bed, at one of the great holidays like the Fourth of July, New Years, or Halloween, we can bring out some spirits and turn on the music, and the men and the women who are still among the living can get loose and really wild. So that's the final meaning of "wild"- the esoteric meaning, the deepest and most scary. Those who are ready for it will come to it. Please do not repeat this to the uninitiated. -gs