Thursday, August 27, 2009

us highlanders

I've been enjoying my home brew birch beer. I made four quarts about two weeks ago and I'm proud to say none of it exploded and I pulled off the recipe with the same yeast I use to make my weekly bread. Opening a big mason jar and seeing the fizz and foam of homemade soda is surreal. Carbonation was never something I considered doing from scratch, but I just polished off a big glass of it with my dinner last night and it was wonderful. It makes me want to move onto the hard stuff—cider especially. Ali from Saratoga said I could learn about homebrewing from them. She's sent me picture of her husband and her in the kitchen making beer and they were hilarious.

It amazes me how interactive this blog has become. Between comments, emails, and phonecalls people have gone from internet avatars to everyday conversations. I talk online with Tara in Texas and Ava out west. I get emails about land for sale, stories, picttures and questions. I have guests coming to the farm from DC. Last night a reader asked for my opinion on a fiddle. Yesterday at the office a giant box came to my desk. Inside was Melissa's beautiful Ashford Drum carder which she gave me. I nearly cried at my computer. You have all become a community, tangible people who share my dream to scale down, simplify, know your food and learn old skills. I like us highlanders.

I still want to do Antlerstock the second weekend in October. It would still be a fall hike at Merck Forest with Finn and then a potluck/campfire at the cabin. But I would also consider doing an all-day Saturday workshop this fall. Would anyone be interested in a strum & cluck? It would be a dulcimer and beginner chicken care workshop with hands on work with birds and instruments. Everyone that signs up could make a donation to the farm fund and pay for a student dulcimer in advance. We'd split the day into chicken and coop time and music. It would be a full Saturday so let me know. A time to really work with stock and strumming. It would not be expensive, but something to help save for the future of Cold Antler. Any takers?

Oh, and just a side note. The farm may be months away, maybe longer. But I have made a big decision about CAF: I am buying a pickup truck. Nothing new, nothing expensive, just an old truck. Hopefully before early October so I have it in time for putting up winter hay. If anyone around here is selling a used small truck. Let me know.


Blogger Unknown said...

Have you thought about just buying a trailer instead? A lot less expensive than a whole truck.

August 27, 2009 at 7:28 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Home brewing is great! My husband is from Wyoming (land of few people but all drinkers) and has learned to brew to help us cut costs. Mead, honey wine, has been a really easy and tasty step into the home brew. You can have it straight or add all kinds of things like lavender, rosemary, hibiscus, etc. Not too difficult and very tasty. Good luck!

August 27, 2009 at 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought of you this morning, fellow Autumn lover! This morning's walk at 47 degrees had hints of wood smoke in the air, extra heavy dew all around, and the first time in awhile where I could see my breath. I've even thrown on a sweatshirt this morning and found my slippers. Terrific weather. :)

If it was in better shape, I'd just give you our old pickup. We've been looking into getting a new one so we could have a more reliable vehicle for winter travels back and forth from VT to ME to visit family and I have a sneaking suspicion we're going to have to pay to get rid of the old thing because no one has any use for it. It's constantly stalling and probably needs a new transimission and it's rusting appart. Good for nothing really. I'll stick it on freecycle for a few weeks after we get a new one just incase someone wants it but without the loving hands of a gear head, it's useless.

August 27, 2009 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Homebrewing is a blast! It's also really easy . . . surprisingly so. The mister and I have a batch of red ale going right now in the pantry, and I have Big Plans for some cider or mead once I can clear out some clutter and make room for a second carboy. I never thought about making homemade soda, though -- do you have a recipe or guideline?

August 27, 2009 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Ang said...

So happy to hear that you are looking into a truck. I know that you will love it. Looking forward to seeing a picture of you with a bed full of animals!

August 27, 2009 at 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does the flavor of homemade birch beer compare to that of Polar birch beer?

Blogging is amazing when it comes to making connections. I've literally received free, good quality computers from people on my other blog. The generosity of people astounds me every day.

I'm sad that I'm going to miss Antlerstock. :( That weekend is the Baltimore comic convention, and a friend and I are flying a third friend to Baltimore from England so that all three of us can go. I'm going to be gone from the second weekend to the third weekend. I hope everyone has fun, though, and I'd definitely be interested in a strum & cluck day!

August 27, 2009 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Vermonster said...

You know, I was just thinking about this whole community thing. I hope that I see it with my blog that I am currently working.
However, I can't tell you how many times when I talk about Jenna's blog to people, I say "My friend Jenna has this farm in my home state, and I need to stop by and see her when I'm there."
Jenna, you have so many friends because of this blog, your book, Mother Earth News. You have succeeded in bringing so many of us together and yes that is community.
You know me normally as Vermonster but with the new blog, I changed my moniker to Sophomore Mom.


August 27, 2009 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Vermonster said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 27, 2009 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

If I didn't live so far away I would definitely be a taker on the strum and cluck weekend. Count me there in spirit.

August 27, 2009 at 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Mike and Kendra said...


We have a 4x8 trailer you can have. All it needs is to be registered. It's cheaper than a truck and will hold about as much.

August 27, 2009 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

If I didn't live in Georgia, I'd LOVE to join you for a strum and cluck. Sounds fabulous!

Blogging has really opened up windows of communication for me. It's amazing how people from all different backgrounds and places can come together under one commonality and become friends. I love it!

Hope you find a truck soon! I grew up with a big old Ford and really miss it sometimes. It will make farm life much easier for you!


August 27, 2009 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Sending good thoughts your way about the truck!

August 27, 2009 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger kmfukuda said...

If I were closer, I would definitely be up for the weekend, but after our trip to Australia earlier this year, money is now a bit tight.

August 27, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Ahh, but can your car PULL a trailer...that's the question. :) We have a 1989, very small Toyota pickup. It is 20 shades of UGLY, and we paid about $1800 cash for it. However, it is an absolute CHAMP, has never given us a single problem, will run until the end of time and is big enough to carry anything we need. It also gets (surprisingly positive) comments everywhere I go. My husband understands that he will need to pry my cold dead fingers off the wheel if he ever expects to get rid of it. I adore it, and I've never been a "truck person".

Let me know if you guys start an all-star chicken band! :D

August 27, 2009 at 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Kat P. said...

I vote for the trailer too...and I'm pretty sure the Subaru could pull it as long as it's not a huge stock trailer or anything. I have a 9 year old mini-van - had them take the bench seats out of it the day I picked it up at the dealers so I'd have that huge FLAT area for hauling cargo. (The dealer has since gone out of business so I have no idea where the seats ended up.)

My mini-van is my truck but it's enclosed. Minivans are the only vehicles I've found that can hold two large dog crates side by side. I haul big paintings flat in the back, I can put 8 or 10 bales of straw in there, 8' lumber slid up between the two front seats - you name it. I even fit two large Dogloos in it once. Last year I had a hitch put on and bought a 4' x 8' foot utility trailer for hauling bulk compost and mulch.

I've thought about a truck but have always concluded that it wouldn't be nearly as useful for me as the van. I also haven't found any SUV that even comes close to the utility of a mini-van. I'm in semi-suburbia so I couldn't do sheep and goats, but if I could, I'd figure out a way to carry them in the van.

August 27, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Kat P. - I can carry goats in the backseat of my Corolla. You could TOTALLY carry them in your van. Just in case you had any doubts. ;)

August 27, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger omnicharm said...

Homebrewing is simple and very satisfying. My husband and I brew a stout, a belgian ale, a brown ale, a european ale, and italian lager clone, and a witbier. We (and our friends) love them all. The cost of the ingredients is so much less than buying beer at the store and the end result is quite tasty.

August 27, 2009 at 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Celia said...

I LOVE this blog! I am leaving today to head to the mountains for a long weekend and I can't wait for the cooler weather!!! I live in Virginia so I'm not sure how far you are from me but I would love to come to your strum and cluck Saturday! I don't play an instrument but I would LOVE to play with your chickens!!!

August 27, 2009 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger HotFlashHomestead said...

Jenna, just remember to pay cold hard cash for that truck. You don't want any more debt on your credit report, since you're looking for a loan for property soon.

I'm also wondering if, since you are currently doing farming activities, if a truck or trailer might not be deducible as a business expense on your taxes. That would be a nice break!

August 27, 2009 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jenna- I would LOVE to come up for strum & cluck weekend...& I'm geographically capable of doing so! (It just depends on the final date you choose) I am Totally interested in learning all I can about it sounds like an ideal way to get some hands on experience. As for the strumming....I really want to learn to play harmonica, but I'll be happy to sit & listen - and maybe pet Joseph?

August 27, 2009 at 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 27, 2009 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Rene said...

It's times like these I wish I didn't live on the exact opposite end of the country from you. I'd LOVE to do this. I hope you have a good time.

I'd like to second either and old toyota pickup or a cargo van. The toyota trucks last forever and are cheap to repair. I also like the cargo vans because they're great for hauling stuff regardless of the weather.

August 27, 2009 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

We just did our first batch of homebrew and made hard apple cider. It was a super easy, fun, quick entrance into brewing. Here's my documentation on my blog of the process -

Go for it. We just had the second bottle last night and it's already mellowed even a bit more and is fantastic.

August 27, 2009 at 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna, if you make this strum & cluck a regular or annual event, I will be there for one in the future! Being in Cali, I'd have to plan a bit more ahead to get decent flight, car, etc but I would totally be willing to do it! The dulcimer sounds amazing. :)

Also- since you know you can fit the livestock into your car already... I vote for the trailer idea. Esp since you have 1 offer for one already! Good luck!

p.s. did you change the options for leaving comments? I don't see the option to leave name/url anymore.... anyways.

Erica in San Jose

August 27, 2009 at 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is so inspiring to me. My own homesteading dreams seem more possible to me. :)

August 27, 2009 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Hi Jenna,
My husband and I are in for Antlerfest--we're coming from Cali and will combine the trip with a few days in Boston. Let us know when you have a definite weekend and we'll make our travel plans. Looking forward to meeting you, the doggies, and all the other creatures at Cold Antler Farm.

August 27, 2009 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger nancmcp said...

Can't come in the fall, but would love to come in the spring.

I've only been visiting this blog a couple of months after seeing you in ME and reading MFS. I'm impressed by the community you've engendered. Not all blogs do.

It's amazing how generous people can be when you just put your dreams out there...

August 27, 2009 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I love your blog. I have been following you all summer and you give me hope that I will one day be able to live the homesteading life. I want to live the way my grandmothers grew up. When I think about all of the knowledge that they took to their graves, thinking that it wasn't important anymore, it just makes me miss them even more.

August 27, 2009 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Shari said...

I really wish I could make it to antlerstock. Sounds like it would be a blast.

I've been wanting to try my hand at home brewing too. The Hobby Farms Home magazine I got last week had an article on it that seemed like an easy to follow tutorial. I'll have to give it a try sometime.

My husband just called me that he was coming home with a gallon of liquid sugar (sucrose). He is a truck driver and had some left over after his delivery. This stuff is supposed to be 3 times sweeter than granular sugar. It seems to me I should be able to make some kind of alcohol out of it, but have no clue how. If anyone has any other ideas of how to put a gallon of super sweet stuff to use, let me know. I'd hate to waste it.

August 27, 2009 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Rachel B. said...

I want to do some homebrew, just need the flavoring. I really want to come to Antlerstock! Perhaps if I have a decent car by then I might, but I'm kind if iffy about 4 hours on the road by myself. I was thinking Amtrak but have no way of getting from the station to the farm. Another fear is, I might never leave.
P.S. I'm buying my fiddle. :)

August 27, 2009 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

I would love to come to Antlerstock and/or strum and cluck...I have to work that weekend though. But, if it goes well, I will totally be at the next one!

By the way, the "haycation" was right near where I grew up!

August 27, 2009 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger David Shearer said...

I'm sure you are getting plenty of vehicle advice. But just one more opinion can't hurt, can it? For your size of operation the best bang for the buck is going to be a Ford of Chevy 3/4 ton pickup. They are virtually bullet proof, are every where, cheap to work on, and parts are plentiful. Not to mention that there is very little that these trucks can't do. The upside of all this is the money you save will be better spent on a down payment on your future farm. But if you are hell bent on getting a funky looking pick up, forgo the Corvair, and consider a VW pickup. Looks just like the old bus, but without the roof. Again, cheap, easily serviced, durable, and parts are relatively cheap.
David Shearer
Arroyo Grande, CA

August 27, 2009 at 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow what a great idea! I especially like the 'cluck' part!

August 29, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Bobbie said...

I am interested in the cluck and strum weekend in Oct

August 29, 2009 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Bobbie said...

I recently moved so I could have chickens and goats - don't have the goats yet, because I need a fence. The chickens are in a chicken coop made of a dog kennel for the time being. I loved your book and bought a fiddle and percolator after I finished reading it. Haven't gotten too far on the fiddle yet, but last weekend when my daughter and her fiance (who makes his own beer and wine) visited from Buffalo, NY, we ground coffee beans in my antique coffee grinder (which had only been a decoration before this) and then perocated them and enjoye a coffee on the patio! It was so fun and delicious! I have made cream cheese from fresh goat milk, and then used the leftover whey to make my own sauerkraut and it was wonderful! I just want you to know I really love your book! My dream is to have my own dairy goats so I can produce my own milk, and make cheese, butter, yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut!

August 29, 2009 at 9:32 PM  

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