Thursday, October 31, 2013

Welcome TSP Listeners!

I am anticipating some new visitors to the blog, as my recent interview with Jack Spirko will air over at his website today. Jack is the host of The Survival Podcast, a wonderful online radio show about modern survivalism, and everything it entails. I talked with Jack about the my new book, the farm, horses, and falconry but also just to be a part of the community I have come to care so very much for. The listeners, interviewers, and Jack have done so much for this farm without even realizing it. Because of some poignant shows I've heard over the years (and some powerful ones more recently) I've had a fire in the belly to get out of debt, be more financially and socially responsible, be prepared for any inconvenience or hardship, and live a better life all around. While I don't agree everything on the show, the heart of it is awareness and responsibilty. I appreciate it.

So if you are coming to this blog for the first time, let me introduce myself:

Hi, I'm Jenna.

I'm a 31-year-old single gal on a mountainside farmstead. It's my land, and here I raise sheep, dairy goats, chickens, geese, ducks, hogs, rabbits, vegetables, honey bees and a couple thousand composting worms. I'm a lover of the Old Ways. I observe the Celtic Calendar, farm in a kilt, and work with a bow and quiver of arrows by my side. My business partner is a three-year old Border Collie named Gibson (named for my dream guitar, the Gibson J-45). My other car is a horse cart. I'm an author, farmer, prepper, sheep herder, equestrian, musician, cart driver, medieval historian, martial artist, trail rider, gamer, archer, and apprentice falconer. I garden, bake, sew, play the fiddle and make pies. I hunt, butcher my own game, and do not mind worms on hooks. That sounds dreamy, but I'm also a regular gal, deeply flawed and more stubborn than my draft horse and that is saying something. I make a living with this website, teaching workshops, raising livestock, and praying a whole lot. A WHOLE lot.

I run Cold Antler as my dream come true, But it's a dream I need to fight for every day. Lately it's been a real struggle, to be perfectly honest. But this is the place I write about all my victories and mistakes here. Read seven years of daily posts showing the whole evolution of this place (and me!) spanning three states and an abandoned "normal" career. There are also four books out there for you to grab if you so desire, about the journey I have been on over the years going from corporate graphic designer to homesteader. For more of a taste you can watch this:

Anyway! Back to that term: Survivalist I know people here it and cringe, specially people new to that term. It is so loaded with stereotypes, specially with shows like Doomsday Preppers making headlines and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction being America's New Darling. But thinking real survivalists are like television show tropes is like thinking everyone married in Atlanta is a "Real Housewife" so to speak. No, real survivalists are not wearing tin hats, watching the sky for helicopters, and planning their underground bunkers - they are people buying an extra can of soup at the grocery store on payday. They are people with some savings, a plan to get out of debt, and aspiring entrepreneurs. And listening to his show has taught me so much about gardening, livestock, permaculture, debt, emergency preparedness and living a life truly in regards to what we used to call The American Dream.

No Survivalists are whack jobs, at least not many of them. What they are is people like me, some of which may be nervous to use the term "survivalist" but only because of that perceived stereotype. But I am certainly a Survivalist and what I am doing on my 6.5 acres is what they are as well. They prefer a life very much akin to what you read about here: independence, liberty, freedom from debt, ability to produce food, and the ability to overcome any personal or social crisis - be it losing a job or loved one, or a 3-week power outage. That's what modern survivalism is. And I suggest checking out his Shows For New Listener's Page. It's free, simple to download via iTunes or his page.

So I hope you new readers stick around, read a bit, or check back over the next few weeks as I get and train my first ever red tail hawk! The story never slows down here, and there's a lot of healing the land and healing myself in store, too. I thank you for your time, and your support of Jack and his Wondership. And if you ever have any questions, need a warm cloak, want to come to the farm for a workshop, or just want a signed copy of one of my books - email me for details:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

View On My Mountain

This view comes from a field on top of my mountain, part of my neighbor's property that he lets me ride on. This picture was taken some time around 5PM, as the last of the day's light hit the path ahead of us. It always catches my breath how just a few hundred feet of elevation and a western side of a hill can change the whole world. When I left my farmhouse at a trot  (just moments before!) I was in gloves, cloak, and worried I should have a sweater under me. It was a windy, chilly, 43 degrees and once we hit the open fields I expected worse weather up on the balds… But no. I live on the eastern side, darker at dusk, and all Merlin and I need to do to feel warm  was go on a hunt for the sun. We did. My horse and I, we ran it down like a fox. Then we ran up that mountain path and cornered him here in this field. But unlike a fox hunt, there is no catching, just the joy of shared company. So I took off my gloves, pet my black horse's strong neck, and we kept running into the light. It's a way to preserve what is left of Autumn. The Days of Grace are practically here.

Snowfall, Dumb Supper, & Cloaks!

I was outside in the middle of morning rounds, walking somewhere between the barn and the sheep paddock when something got stuck in my eye. It took a second to realize it, but I wasn't seeing smudges o y was snowing! What started as a misty rain and rolling fog turned into a proper snowfall and right now the farmhouse and fields are being coated with their first kiss of winter. Somewhat fitting it's happening this close to tomorrow. As you guys know, the oldest word for what we call Halloween is Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) and it literally translates from the old Gaelic to "Summers End". I'd say a snow fall constitutes as such.

Tomorrow is the big day and I'm hosting Dumb Supper here with friends. It's an old tradition for those of us who take Samhain seriously. You invite over friends and family for a silent meal, potluck style. Everyone brings a dish but the catch is everyone brings their own meal, something that reminds them of someone they lost. We sit down to eat in silence, just some music playing and candles burning bright. It's kind of like a "moment of silence" done in respect, but lasts a whole meal. A place is set at the table for our memories, with a bit of everyone's food set on it. When all the meal is done we get out the instruments, drinks, and share in the meal and tell happy stories (or sad ones,if you wish) about those we loved and lost. Sometimes it's stories of people who passed away, others lost through things like divorce, entropy, mistakes, or distance. It's a relief, honestly. The whole night lets you remember, mourn, talk in a safe environment. It also helps you understand you are still among the living, and that in itself is a reason to celebrate! And we will. At least eight of us will fill the farmhouse tomorrow night and share a meal together by the woodstove.

Unrelated: I sold two cloaks yesterday and ordered the supplies to make them! I hope to sell a few more. They cost $125 (includes US shipping) and I hope to have the first round mailed by December 1, if not sooner. I make them first paid, first served, and so far I have everything I need to get out the needle and thread. I'm so touched that somewhere else out there in their own snows, wind, and rain readers will be pulling the same heavy cloaks around them as I am, staying warm. I custom-sewed special pockets inside my cloak and anyone who orders one should do the same.I'll include extra cloth for just such a reason. Sew in a pocket for your phone, your music player (be it ipod or tin whistle), wallet, folding knife, or perhaps a "weather pocket" made of waxxed cotton for matches, teabags, or tinder. A proper cloak is a house on your shoulders. It's a tent, a sleeping bag, wind-blocker, horse blanket, food storage, and more. It's all the rage, too, if you go by my inbox.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Spots Opened In March!

If you want to come this late winter/early spring to enjoy a smaller, more one-on-one fiddle experience come to Winter Fiddle Camp! It's going to be held on March 29th and 30th 2014. Winter Camp is special, even if it is a little less conveient travel wise. There is always the rist of date change due to weather delays and such. It will be held here in the farmhouse this year and half the size of summer camp. This means all who attend get a lot more time to work with me one-on-one and do so right in the heart of my homestead. Winter camp includes a camp t-shirt I design as well as a fiddle. I use a student model Cremona that is affordable and sounds good out of the box! It comes with a bow, case, and rosin and the only things you need to bring with you are the text book, a guitar clamp-on tuner, and a spare set of stings in case your fiddle breaks. We start the Saturday morning at 10AM and go until 4PM or so. Sunday the camp starts at 10 and the lessons are over by noon. This leaves an afternoon for people to travel or stay to jam, practice with me, or just hang at the farm a few more hours. I can not stress enough this is for total, hopeless, beginners! If you ever dreamed of being a fiddler and worry you can't read music, are too old, too busy, or just plain scared then come over. We start so basic and everyone is new. By Sunday you'll be well on your way playing tunes.T I heard back from a few students already and they are a handful of songs into the book and have them memorized! isn't that awesome?! They went from being unsure of how to tune the devil box to memorizing jaunty airs in under a week. Fiddle camp is magic. It's yours for the taking and I hope some of you sign up so we can close registration fast! Three of the eight spots are taken already!

P.S. Next summer's August Camp will be the second-last weekend in Augst 2014. If you want one of those fifteen spots, holler! It would be an awesome chirstmas present, and if you want I can ship you a hand-written invitation so you can give it as a gift for the holidays, a birthday, or anniversary. I had two gifted campers this year (meaning they got the camp as a gift!) and they both loved it, both were men, and both left handed. It was neat seeing them shine. One prefered to play it as if he was right handed and the other swapped the chin rest and we re-strung the instrument backwards so it mirrored a right-handed fiddle. We make it work at this scrappy farm, and the music and laughter flows.

Cloaks for Sale?

Remember this cloak I featured before? It's hand sewn from a wool blanket, made without a pattern but just a few cut pieces of fabric and a needle and thread. I am curious if any of you out there would want to make an order of a CAF cart-drivers cloak? They take me a few hours, but I could make a few like this if people were interested? It's warm, nearly weatherproof, and I could perhaps find a seller of similiar kilt brooches for the clasps. I would take orders for just a few, and when those orders are filled perhaps take more? Email me if interested at

photo by Miriam Romais

The Fell Pony

A reader sent me a link to this video over Facebook. The Fell Pony Society madae this DVD to promote the breed and tell their story. I must grab a copy! The Fell is certainly the horse for me, and will continue to be the animal I ride, drive, and hope for. Merlin is the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to this horse. Enjoy some beautiful footage, and share in the joy.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Cold one tonight. The high is 23 degrees, and that is nearly ten degrees less than it takes to freeze the water troughs and worry a bit. It's well past dark but before I dare tuck in I am throwing a log onto the fire and taking Gibson out with me to the pig pen. I'll throw them an extra bale to burrow into. I wouldn't want to be a fleshy beast out in this weather, even with three of my closest friends against me. Treat pigs the way you want to be treated, right?


I found this video from last October, taken right before Hallows. A local radio station did a live reading of "The Raven" and I played it for the dogs on the little hand-crank. I watched it today when I saw Jazz, felt very sad. I realized that just a year ago I had three dogs, and that empty spot I forgot about went hollow again. I don't regret letting Jazz go, or my decision. But I do miss him. I suppose that is what October is about, looking back.

One Season Pass Left!

Email me at if you want to grab the last season pass, on sale for $250 for any workshop you want to attend (that isn't full!) for an entire year. An awesome gift. And if you buy one for a local farm friend I will even offer FREE an Indie Day with it. I want to sell this ASAP and it's first come first served.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Normal Day

Yesterday wasn't cold, not really. It was chilly though and the sun was behind many clouds. The wind was high at times, causing what chill there was to smack right into you. I was out doing chores in a heavy black wool sweater but the needles seemed to be a size too high and the little air pockets let in the bite. I felt like a chicken on an limb, one squall of wind and all my feathers fluffed and bare skin exposed, insulation taken away by sneak attack.

I was spending most of the day at home, but outside. Friends with chainsaws had stopped by earlier in the week and sawed down the logs stacked outside into  manageable chunks. These axe-ready pieces are called rounds, and I was splitting and stacking most of the day. The wood was a combination of ash, locust, maple, and butternut. It was nice and by mid afternoon I was smarting. It didn't help that I have been training often with a bo staff, learning my first weapons form for competition and where the staff struck under my armpits, and over my shoulders felt like I had been hit by…well, a stick. It hurt.

So most of my day was out in the wind with an axe. Gibson was at my side when he wasn't chasing turkeys or rolling in goose poo. My constant chopping was keeping me warm, even with the sweater's chicken-branch attributes. I was feeling good. My big plans for the night was hosting the Hoff Family for dinner and game, but that wasn't until after dark. It may be cold out, and snow was in the forecast, but I wasn't going to waste daylight. You chop more wood when words like "light accumulation" start to make headlines on the weather station.

I was excited for the company. We were going to play a board game called Betrayal at House on the Hill, which is pretty much a Role Playing Game in a box. Everyone picks a B-Horror movieesque character and we take turns exploring a haunted house, finding items and weird omens. There is no "board" for the game really, just random room tiles you place at random so the house is never the same. It's a lot of fun, and I liked that we had a haunted house theme so close to Halloween. Cheesy, but cheese is okay every once in a while. I had bought two packages of sweet Italian sausage from the farm stand down the road. I cooked them up in a saucepan with some oil and chopped onions and set them in a crockpot with some tomatoes to stew and simmer while I worked outside. I am a huge fan of slow cookers, specially on days like this. Between a hot meal and the promise of that wood stove I didn't even mind the work outdoors in the wind. In fact I kind of reveled in it.

I think people who constantly seek comfort, in every aspect of their life, are denying themselves the bliss of domesticated deprivation. To be in a controlled situation of wanting that ends in amplified simple comforts might be the human situation I crave above all others. For example, to put yourself through a painful jog only to get to the end where you can catch your breathe, get a mint shower, and sit with a cold drink? Or to pine for someone until you ache inside, only to finally kiss them while the record player turns? Or in this particular case: to be out in the wind chopping firewood only to return to a warm stove and a hot meal. That is happiness to me, and the stronger the lack of a simple thing the more cherished it becomes at the end of desire. I wanted to really appreciate that meal, the game, and the company and so when the chopping was done I didn't go inside. I saddled up my horse.

I have been using my lighter English saddle and wearing breeches lately. Usually it's a western saddle and a kilt but lately I have enjoyed the closer contact and lighter seat. I had on paddock boots and half chaps and it looked from a distance like I had on tall black boots. I took off the sweater for the ride and substituted my wool cart-driver's coat I made from a blanket a few weeks back. There's no buttons or toggles on it, just room for an archaic copper brooch of sorts of clasp it tight. It felt like I was wearing a wood stove. As I rode through the wind, the bite, and felt my cheeks turn red my heart was so cozy. I mean that literally, my chest was so insulated from the wind by the wool I might as well have been ridig in a weatherproof sleeping bag. So many modern fabrics try to keep you warm while being as light as possible, but I like the weight on me. I like the drape and heaviness over my body, wrapping around me as if the gravity was part of the conduction.

I rode without a care, and since it was nearly dinner time I sipped from a flask of bourbon. This was wonderful, all of it. I have been having trouble sleeping, more so than usual. I wake up at 3AM terrified about things I know I can handle come daylight. I have plans and progress in the sunlight but when I wake up at that hour all I can think about is being in trouble, losing everything, disappointed relatives, and heavy loneliness. It isn't the good heavy like the wool cloak. It was the bad kind. But here on the black horse I felt stronger, capable, that holy "okay". I had a roof over my head, friends, warmth, and a nip. I had a fire, a meal, and company coming. I headed down the mountain and let the last of the sunlight of the day sink in. I trotted Merlin home, waving to a neighbor in a black SUV heading down the mountain. I have no idea what they think of the Game of Thrones Extra heading home to her farm, but I don't care. If the boots cost $300 and the cloak came from Barney's I'd be turning heads in New York City. Here it looks like a costume. To me, it's just warmth on a mountain made out of a blanket. It'll do.

Company came and we enjoyed the board game, the potluck, and the warm house. I couldn't stop thinking about the day though, all through the night and the game. My thought was how historically normal it all was. The work outdoors, the ride on the mountain, the hope of food and firelight. We sat around a table talking and laughing, no movies played or iPhones lit up the room. We ate food grown by our community, local hogs who had they been alive would've felt the same chill I had. I share this not because it is some foodie/localvore pornography but because a day chopping firewood, riding a horse, and hanging out with friends, food, and stories is pretty much how our human kind passed cold fall afternoons for thousands of years. We worked to eat, to stay warm, and to keep roofs over our heads. That's all I did that day. The words of Eustace Conway come to mind: "I live for a living." That's my goal too. Even if it wakes me up every night this week.

So last night we delighted in good food our land could produce, friends, firelight, and the simple interaction of a shared story. I chopped wood. I rode a horse. I fed pigs, chickens, and prepared a meal. It feels so correct. I know this is over-simplification but it still rings true to me - how normal the day had been when compared to what people consider normal now. I am an eccentric riding down the road to so many, yet I'm the most ridiculously conformist person on the mountain when compared to all of history. How long until more people realize that normal isn't about fitting in with the flock, but living in a way that makes sense with the world. For me that is homesteading and writing on a mountain. For you it may be something entirely different. But regardless of our passions, hobbies, or locations we all share in common the needs of shelter, food, water, and companionship. When you live your life in a way that brings those things into your everyday work your soul feels a little fuller come sundown. I think this is what's normal. I think that's what we all secretly desire. We are basic animals with a legacy behind of many "normal" nights. It's a good way to be. It keeps the good heavies in my life, while scaring away the bad heavies.

Bourbon helps, too.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Three Sisters

My little 4x4 pumpkin patch was not the dream I had last winter. Last winter I dreamed of brush hogging and plowing out a wild piece of property. I was going to use Merlin to plow it, and plant heirloom pumpkins and field corn. I was going to do this for food and expanding the growing area of the property, but honestly if it only got me excited for Hallows, that was fine too. I mean, if for no other reason I did that work with Merlin than to enjoy some late-summer cobs on the grill and to have the fading stalks and round plump squash...still totally worth it. I didn't manage to wrangle the funds for the hog, or get a hold of an old plow in working order, but that's okay. Like all farmers say, "There's always next year". But even if I didn't get my storybook pumpkin patch I still got pumpkins! I planted some jacks in a little compost-bed garden. And can you believe I got ten big, fat, squash and an army of little squashlings from that small space!? Here are what I call the Three Sisters. They are big round gals, ready to be turned into pie filling and one will be a Jack for Samhain. I'm really happy they are here. After three falls of failed pumpkins and horrid groundhog raids I have reigned triumphant! There are Jacks, homegrown to boot, in this farmhouse this Fall!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Meet The Parents

This is our girl, Bonita on the left.  And this is her "gentleman caller", Gias (pronounced Guy-us). I went to visit her today while loading some hay into the truck. I adore the people at Common Sense and they have become everything from hay suppliers to Friday Night dinner company and now, buck pimps. Since Bonita was bought from the farm part of the deal of taking her off their hands was she can always come three miles down the road to get bred in the fall. I offered to pay for Gias's services but they assured me "he was happy to do it". That made me grin. I'm sure he is.

Anyway, Bonita is doing great and seems to be enjoying the gentle company of Gias. He's also an Apline, and a young buck. I caught this version of American Gothic when I was checking in on our her and love how they both seem to be smiling. I think they make a cute couple and am looking forward to another kidding season! Looks like kids again during Winter Fiddle Camp!

Winter Prep Updates

Things are looking hopeful here, and that is encouraging. You are noticing a lot of hard selling here on the blog and that is simply in anticipation of winter. I'm really focusing on getting things together here so I can relax a bit and stop worrying so much about the weather ahead. I am a third of the way towards my goal to get these plans for the coming cold started. I got a source of hay to pick up tomorrow and the barn will host nearly 50 bales. For my amount of stock that isn't much but it is something, a respectable start, and on the road to comfort.

I haven't ordered a cord of seasoned wood yet, but hope to by early next week. I do have enough firewood to last a month or longer if temperatures don't drop too far. Right now the lowest it seems to get is around the high twenties and that is still fairly comfortable with just one stove going. I still need to get a chimney cleaner here but I'm not horribly worried. The main stove pipe is practically brand new and last year they wouldn't even clean it because it seemed so pristine they refused to charge me for it. I also have a sweeping broom to do parts of the job myself. So firewood is a serious need but also I have enough to get by.

The main priority is the mortgage, and when that is a little more stable I will feel comfortable buying things like snow tires and more hay. I'm behind on it, not dangerously so but more than I want to be. To catch up I am offering all sorts of deal and workshops, and will have more items for sale listed here. My dulcimer is on its way to Florida this week along with an antique radio to another reader. I am fine selling these possessions if it keeps me feeling like I have a roof over my head. While I'm between book deals and payments I need to learn that sordid, gritty dance of frugality and resourcefulness and ruthlessness to keep things steady. And if I can do this while paying down debt and saving a modest bit for emergencies, all the better.

This crunch is why you aren't getting so many updates on the farm this week. I'm in this survival mode that can't really relax until I feel a little safer. When I get there, and I will, get ready to hear as many sappy farm stories as you can handle. Right now, back to work! P.S. Only Two Season Passes left on sale, and you can get them right now FREE as part of signing up for fiddle camp, even if you sign up someone else as a gift.


14 hands, nearly a thousand pounds, and a neck as thick as a Percherons and they call the Fell a "pony".  I guess he is compared to larger drafts of the British Isles like Clydesdales, Shires, and the Suffolk Punch but I still cringe sometimes when people call Merlin a "pony". He's a far cry from a little saddle Welsh or shetland. But I suppose labels don't really matter. What matters is the work and the joy of the animal and in those terms, Merlin is a focrce to be reckoned with. He is magic to me. A lot of magic. And while his breed may be down in the books as a pony he's still tougher than most who share the name.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dulcimer For Sale!

You can have this beautiful, handmade, leaping-stag dulcimer signed in sharpie for your home or musical collection. It's a larger dulcimer, deep and beautiful sounding. If interested, email me at


Speaking in Saratoga Tonight!

Come to the Northshire Bookstore's new location in downtown Saratoga for a talk on all things Cold Antler. I'll be there reading an excerpt, signing books, telling stories and meeting readers. Gibson won't be there but some good friends will. Looking forward to it!


Not a sponsor by any stretch, but this Old Spice deodorant might be the most delightful addition to my morning bathroom routine since shampoo. It looks awesome, it works hard, and unlike other men's deodorants it doesn't leave harder working women who spend time in pig pens and around sweaty horses smelling like axe body spray. Nope. It smells like starburst candy. Not sure what that has to do with wolves or thorns but it does make me look forward to the new season of GoT even more.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Banjo Workshop Canceled

Some workshops sell out, others don't. This one only had one person interested so it is canceled. Please email me if you need further details.

An Offer You Can't Refuse!

Next summer's August Camp will be the second-last weekend in Augst 2014. Registration is open and I am offering something to encourage you to sign up. Anyone who signs up for next summer's fiddle camp before Friday of this week gets a FREE Season Pass. Yup. Sign up for next summer's camp now and then you have through October of 2014 to attend any workshops, classes, or events here. You can use this pass for yourself and give Fiddle Camp as a gift if you prefer. This actually ends up making the Season pass of workshops only cost $200 (the fiddle is $150 if you don't have one) It is a heck of a deal. With workshops coming up about everything from Horse and Harness 101 to Cold Antler Confidentials (which has people coming from the Midwest and ALASKA!) your season pass would include spots for those too if you wanted them. Spots fill up fast and I expect to get this camp sold out soon with this deal, so email me at You will be supporting this farm and the animals on it (especially the animal that writes) and giving me some peace of mind going into winter. I still need to pay the mortgage, get more firewood, clean chimneys and buy hay! As you well know!

SO here is my deal I have as an offer. If you sign up for Fiddle Camp, Dulcimer Day Camp, or buy a season pass for yourself (which I have three left on sale now) you get a season pass free. If you buy the season pass, you get a second season pass free to either use for another year for yourself or your your spouse/friend/whatever!
If you want one of those remaining spots for summer camp, holler! It would be an awesome Chirstmas present for someone if you already took the camp and YOU get a season pass out of it, and if you want I can ship you a hand-written invitation so you can give it as a gift for the holidays, a birthday, or anniversary. I had two gifted campers this year (meaning they got the camp as a gift!) and they both loved it, both were men, and both left handed. It was neat seeing them shine. One prefered to play it as if he was right handed and the other swapped the chin rest and we re-strung the instrument backwards so it mirrored a right-handed fiddle. We make it work at this scrappy farm, and the music and laughter flows.

P.S. Winter Fiddle Camp, Winter Cold Antler Confidential and Arrows Rising Camp is sold out! Others will fill up quickly so act soon!

Old Stone Wall

This is the old stone wall at the edge of my property, a good hike uphill and west of the farmhouse. I sit there on quiet mornings hoping to flush a grouse or take down a squirrel. I am also watching for signs of larger game, like deer. While my senses are up mostly I am in it for the stillness, the reflection, and the love of being outside in the forest. It's a holy place to me. A place where food, entertainment, excitement, and seasons swirl and glow. Hunting is a hike with hope and a gun. It is a huge part of my life now, for the pot as well as the soul. I adore it. It connects me to that primal and beloved part of my self that always shone deep. I was the little girl stalking sqirrels in her backyard with a cheap little bow and arrow. I was the girl who got lost at Girl Scout Camp, just walking into the woods to explore. I still am that girl. The only difference from then to now is my wonder only has grown, not diminished.

Puttin' On My War Antlers!

So today is the beginning of a serious crunch time. I have a few weeks to get hay, firewood, and bills paid before snow fly. I have a plan, and some really cool things to offer you guys, but mostly this is going to happen by being very frugal and a little sacrificial. I have horse tack, instruments, and such to sell as well as discounts on workshops and season passes. My goal is to have a mortgage payment in by Hallows, a cord of firewood delivered, money set aside for at least two snow tires and more hay stacked in the barn. All of these things are possible if I get serious, which means putting aside a lot of fun stuff and getting to the business end of this little farmstead.

All this hay and firewood should be here by now. That's for darn sure. I do have about a cord and a half of wood already in the backyard - a combination of roadside orphans from crews taking down trees and other odd jobs delivered by the wonderful Hoff Family. I do have a modest emergency fund started. I have cut all sorts of spending and found ideas for bartering for things like extracurricular classes like Tae Kwon Do and such to keep that going (Black Belt is a huge dream I want to make happen). So those austerity tasks are in place and I'm not starting from square one, but I do need to buckle down and really focus on making an income this week. I do not have enough firewood. I do need snow tires (back ones have no tread left!) and I do need to pay that horribly wonderful mortgage, just like everyone else around here. I'll get it done. I know I can. I just need to take off my romantic antlers and put on my war antlers!

I don't panic about money as much as I used to. That doesn't mean there is any more of it, but the statistics are on my side at this point. It has been 18 months or so since I quit my day job to make it as a self-employed Jack of All Trades. I may be behind in some preparations but when you look at a year and a half of making it, it comes down to days behind. I am buoyed by that reality and the self-reliance that comes from knowing with enough effort you can make things happen in this time and place in the world. I'm so grateful to be here, right now, in this place. If a woman decided to shoot bows off a black horse in a men's skirt a couple hundred years ago she'd be burned at the stake. Today we just Instagram.

So I'm going to be selling ads for some expired spots, emailing folks, pushing subscriptions and offering a ridiculous deal on Fiddle Camp and Indie Days and hoping together as a readership, students, and friends we can get this place safe and prepared for what's ahead. Here is what I'll need to do to get started on winter prep:

Cord of dry, stackable, delivered firewood: $200
Two snow tired (to start) bought and mounted: $250
50 bales of hay in barn: $150 -200 depending on place of procurement.

So all that in ten days?! Here I go!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mini Power!

Check out this handsome pair of miniature horse geldings that attended our 7-mile river drive today along the Battenkill! Yup, hard-working minature horses pulled four people in a wagon today for seven miles! When you realize the pair of 17-0hand Belgiums ahead of them were doing the exact same thing you can't help but awe at these little brutes. In horse terms, they sure get better hay mileage!

We often think of "draft power" as big, expensive, horses or lumbering oxen but that isn't the case at all. My two huskies pulled me in a dogsled for years. That's draft power from an animal. Goats, sheep, and dogs can all be trained to pull small carts, too. And any equine is fit for the task. Look at the working donkeys at Common Sense Farm, riding mules, and the working horses of my Draft Club. If the dream of being a teamster or having some horse power on your farm seems daunting, know that ponies can work, too. It is a joy beyond measure moving down a country lane in a pony cart. Once that becomes a part of your life there's no going back. And the entry fee doesn;t have to be an 18-hand Percheron. You can start with something you bought off craigslist named Skittles. They all pull, darling. They all pull.

Colorado Trails!

It is easy to feel alone when it's just you on a farm. Even in a world with the internet at your fingertips, email, letters and phone calls it can seem barren of people after a day mucking out a goat barn. I have a lot of friends and neighbors around, so there isn't any logical reason to feel lonely but it does creep in from time to time. Sometimes that gets overwhelming. But photographs like this make it a lot easier. I got this photo from a reader in Colorado who sent along a copy of my book, taken out of the saddle bags. Somewhere halfway across the contingent a person I have never met has a piece of my story with them. She too is out with her horse and dog. I was so touched to get this picture.

When Made From Scratch came out people sent me photos of the book near their license plates, to show the states people are reading in. I'd love to start collecting saddle bag photos! If any of you ladies or gents get a chance to hit the trail with One Woman Farm, send along a photo and I'll post it here. Don't have a horse? Throw it in your goat's backpack, or your in your own while hiking with the dog. I would love to see more people and their animals out and about with a copy of the little square book. It'll be neat to see the world from your eyes, like this vista in the American West.

Yes, my friends. It sure doesn't feel lonesome when you realize far away there are folks just like me figuring things out, with similar stories and the same sore legs. I'm so happy to have you along for the ride, literally.

photo: Rachel Burmeister

Friday, October 18, 2013

The October Road Home

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Announcing TWO Dulcimer events at the farm!

I am sitting here trying to think of ideas that would excite people, and make them want to be more active in the farm. The Indie Day Experient so far has been wonderful, but I am always trying to figure out ways to get people more and more willing to make the trip. I know when I lived in Knoxville I saw signs at a small bookstore for a dulcimer class that came with an instrument, and I was floored at the idea. It's one thing to buy an instrument you know nothing about and pay for lessons, but its a whole different thing to be given an instryment by a teacher and leave that same day with tunes at your fingertips. Dulcimer Day Camp here was a huge success, more than I ever thought it could be. People took to their instruments like birds finally shown what wings can do. Within an hour of the class we were playing a song in rounds. By the end of the day people who never touched the instrument were playing I'll Fly Away. They really did. Holy Crow, they really did. Below this post I'll list all the details about the camp in on April 12th. But before I do...

If you are not available April 12th, and if you are going to be around Veryork this winter or later this fall, how about a Dulcimer Indie Day? I would be happy to get you an instrument and have it here ready to be yours. We can spend the day here at the farm, either inside by the woodstove our outside with the animals (weather depending) and you can leave with something really special: music. The sulcimer is not a hard instrument to play, at all. But it is beautiful, haunting, and a real piece of American history. So don't wait for a workshop if you want to be playing Christmas Carols by December, just email me and we'll make a date.

Announcing Dulcimer Day Camp!
April 12th 2014
6 Spots left

Come up to the farm this April when the snows are gone and lambs are on my mind for a Saturday dedicated to learning the Mountain Duclimer. Everyone who signs up for the day gets an Apple Creek Dulcimer of their very own. We'll spend the morning learning about the history, tuning, and strumming patterns and the afternoon learning your first songs! You will also leave knowing how to read tabs (so you don't need to know how to read music to attend) and the basics of jamming by chord and ear. Come knowing nothing and leave with an instrument and a few tunes, and the ability to teach yourself more!

Just like fiddle camp you arrive knowing nothing and leave not only with your own instrument, but the knowledge to tune, play, and enjoy it. The dulcimer is a wonderful way for even the most skeptical of wannabe musicians to start with. It is tuned to itself and there isn't really a way to play a wrong note on it. As long as she's in tune, she'll make sweet music for you.

So if you ever wanted to add some music to your campfires, living rooms or farm front porches and and learn to bring home that beautiful music. Meet other beginner's, and enjoy Holy October on the farm. If you already have an older dulcimer then all you need to do is get it checked by a music shop and possibly get it restrung. If you own a newer dulcimer but never really learned, then sign on up and get inspired. You'll be strumming out Shady Grove in no time!

Please email me if you are interested, cost will be $225.00 for the whole day and the instrument, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch or plan to eat out in town. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along, you only need to buy the book and dulc!

Season Passes On Sale!

To help raise the money for the mortgage, I am offering a HUGE discount on season passes. If you are interested in taking up the offer, you can email me at and sign up for a full year (or a year tacked on to your current season pass) for just $250. That's the price of just two day-long workshops and it goes to help keep this place running. I have three spots to sell at this price. So consider it as a great gift, a treat for yourself, a resource for your own homestead, or just as a way to help keep this show on the road. Thanks for your time, and now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

So, Bonita is Gone (romantic weekend away)

So Bonita left in the back of a pickup truck on Tuesday. The guys from Common Sense Farm came to deliver hay and since the goat pen is right next to the hay stash we started talking goat sex. If that comes across as jarring, let me explain. We were not discussing anything vulgar, just the breeding plans, does in heat, and all the normal stuff that comes along with goat sex. I have found out through this blog that to some people just saying the word "sex" instantly makes some people assume something dirty. It does. Goat sex is  filthy! Bucks pee on their legs, chest, and beard - they mount whatever is in heat in front of them. But just because something is sexual or messy doesn't make it immoral. Good grief. All farming at the basic level is dirt, sex, and death. The more you make these three things a normal part of your life the less patience you have for those who squirm at the subject. I say that with nothing but a smile in my tone, but it is a warning. A lot of folks who visit here are really drawn to goats and dairy, but not exactly thrilled about all the pee beards, the sex, the placentas, and the training involved to make a dairy operation in the backyard. It is a bit dodgy at times, but so what? What in life isn't uncomfortable sometimes? Most of the good stuff is.

Anyway, I asked if all their does were bred and Othniel explained that they were, or nearly. Since we both have indoor areas for our goats to breed comfortably (with the addition of headlamps and night watches) I am not worried about snow on the ground during the birthing process, specially with three kids under my belt from last year! So a late February birth is okay with me.

Bonita has been showing signs of being in heat, super friendly attitude combined with plenty of lip smacking, and excess bleating. The day I came back from showing an Indie Day guest around Common Sense's Dairy operation she nearly crawled on top of me at the smell of buck on my sleeve. Timing is everything when it comes to successful breeding, so I asked if I could bring Bonita down to their farm for a romantic weekend away. Othniel shrugged and said they could take her right there and then, and they did. Ida, her daughter, did not complain. She had her head sniffing around the chicken feeder and was jumping on hay bales when Bonita hit the open road.

So that story has started over again. Bonita is dry now and no milk is coming out of this farm. Yet there's a promise of a full udder in the spring, thanks to goat sex. I sent my girl away on a truck for a few days.  I'm not worried about her at all. Bonita is a brick house of sass and savvy. I am a little worried about their young buck though… That's a lot of woman for a guy who just started pissing on his face.

Ah, farming.

Cold Antler Confidential is SOLD OUT! (for January...)

But due to such intense interest, I would be happy to offer it for April as well. We could do more of the workshop outside, weather is more predictable. If you would be possibly interested, let me know via email at - It would be April 5th 2014. Holler if you would like one of those spots, possibly?

Monday, October 14, 2013

First Hunt of the Year!

Launch Parties & Firelight

Friday Night was such a wonderful experience. The space at Battenkill Books was crammed, with people standing outside the front door! I was so very touched because half the faces I saw were friends. Out there in the crowd were neighbors, my TKD family, ex-coworkers, local authors, farmers and readers that gave up their Friday night to hear me read, talk, and sign some books. That's a big deal because the Friday of the holiday weekend had all sorts of performances, art openings, and dinners planned in our little town. But even with all the hootenanny we packed the place. People brought flowers, hay bales (yes), and stories and Connie was able to put out a spread of homemade cookies and apple cider from the Roundhouse Cafe for anyone feeling peckish. It was a big time!

I started with a small introduction, which went something like this: "You know, It's really hard for a single girl to find a hawk in this town..." and that got me some laughs. If I can get people comfortable, I am more comfortable. I explained that we were here for the book event, but I'm not making a living as a writer. I told them Cold Antler had become a blog, a farm, a workshop center, a classroom, and freelance hub. I explained about part-time jobs, passions, hobbies and products my little acreage produces. Most people know this at such events, but I always feel better explaining I kill chickens as well as write stories about them. I find people are more forgiving of clumsy prose if they realize the same person who plucks feathers and bones porkchops hands in the manuscripts.

I then dove into bit of reading, sharing the opening of the book. I made sure to thank Storey for the beautiful creation, and the ilustrator who captured the scrappiness of the farm. Then I opened the floor for questions. I was asked about the farm and my story, but a lot of people wanted to hear more about Falconry. I don't know how many authors are asked at their signings "So how DO you trap a hawk?!" but I was. And I was thrilled to answer it. When people get excited about what excites me, that's my roket fuel. We talked birds and bows for a while, and the whole time I gabbed Gibson was at my feet. He's my wingman. He was there because this is his farm, his book, too. But also because he is occasionally asked to sign at such readings. When all the questions were wrapped up he received many hugs and pats on the back.

Afterwards a group of us headed to Livingston Brook Farm for a bonfire. It was exactly the way I'd want to end an October Celebration. I sat there on a hay bale, watching the warmth around me and could not have been more content. I had such amazing people around me, sparks and cinders swirling around my tired head. I had a glass of whiskey, a good dog, and a story out there for people to discover. And that's the reason I think I am so happy with the books I write - they are friend nets. There are a couple hundred thousand better writers out there than me, but I don;t know how many are as open. The books and blog gets a lot of me, the good and bad. Six years of my journey from renter in Idaho to five-book author in New York are written down, almost daily. This has brought me all the people around me, all the workshops, friends, faces and firelight. I will keep at it long as people want to be a part of the story as well. Long as they want to read, show up and trim goats feet, ride horses, shoot arrows, and offer advice. I'm here for it. And I hope you stick around, too.

Luceo Non Uro.

photo at top by Miriam Romais - portrait by Jon Katz


Driving horses has become a favorite skill. It is something learned by hours and miles, not from books or lessons. You need someone to give you the basics, encouragement, and confidence to hit the road but after that is is all Hard Knocks. You learn as you go.

Three Runes & Paper Men

When I was seventeen years old I chose my three Runes. The legends say you reach into a bag of Rune stones and without looking, let your hands search out your three. What you pull out you hold tight in your hand and then place, upside down, left to right on a flat surface in front of you. As you turn them over and reveal them you are shown your fate. I chose in this order: Algiz, Wunjo, and Jera. They mean Protection, Hope, and Harvest. I have never forgotten them. They are my whole story. They matter.

I bring them up because I always connected them with my greatest desire: to someday fall in love and be loved in return. Cold Antler is my life, my work, and my passion. It is a dream come true and I am so grateful for it. It has made me a writer, and a farmer, and set me free into the world of terrifying self employment. It is mine and I will do whatever it takes to keep it alive, keep it going, and keep me here. But the farm isn't my whole story. My whole story has not happened yet. The big part involves paper airplanes...

Paperman is an animated short that came out a few years ago, but I just recently discovered it. Take a minute and twenty-two seconds and watch the trailer above. If you do so, you'll understand the rest of this post. I want to write about being single tonight, which is something I generally ignore. At least, I try to. I have no idea how transparent I am when it comes to men on this blog, but I try to keep it to myself. But tonight I realized I have been writing this blog for over six years and not once have I mentioned a significant other. That's because of two reasons.

1. I don't write about my romantic life. It's mine.
2. I don't have one.

And here is why: I'm that guy. I'm the paper man. I'm Jim from The Office. I'm Elizabeth Bennet. I'm Jay Gatsby. I'm the whole friggin' cast of Twelfth Night. I am the person who falls hard. The type of person who knows with absolute certainty when someone is right for me. When it happens (and it has happened, twice) I feel those paper airplanes. It is a joy, a drug, and it overtakes me. It is the most intense sensation I have ever felt, the most vulnerable I have ever been, and when I am in the middle of it my whole life has more volume. It is wonderful beyond my ability to communicate here. I'm not saying that falling for a guy is what defines happiness. I am saying that hoping that feeling is reciprocated is. I am happiest and most alive when the *possibility* of love exists. I would like to say I'm happiest when actually in love, but I have never had that. I think love takes two people. Unrequited feelings may be intense (they sure as hell work in literature) but that isn't love. Love needs a witness.

Does that make sense? Probably not. I'll try to explain. I am 31 years old and have been single most of my life. I've wanted love. I did try. But I think the trying is what ruined everything. I don't think love is something you can fight for. That's punching under water. Love is the water.

And so far in my life I've been soaking wet in that blessed water two times. The first time I felt safer than I did in my entire life. It was the first time I ever felt the airplanes rise around me and it made years of my life magical. That guy politely ignored the airplanes until he had to impolitely ignore them. I was not his Daisy. It was long ago and I have forgotten his parent's names, but he was Algiz. The second time was all hope. I felt like a fast dog chasing a train. I had one moment that lasted a few seconds that made me the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. I was not his Daisy. It was a long time ago and I have forgotten his voice, but he was Wunjo. That leaves Jera. As a farmer and a dreamer I like that I have one more shot and it's Harvest.

So that's why I'm single. Not because men don't occasionally pursue me. Not because I haven't been asked out. I'm single because I don't see the point of anything short of paper airplanes. If that spark of renewed life isn't there - I'm not lit. If that beautiful hope isn't saturating colors around me and making me smile for no reason at 2:48PM, then I'm not interested. I have been told this is foolish, hollywood, tripe. That I have been raised on romantic comedies. That "real" love is nothing like this. I would believe them if I haven't felt the proof. Not infatuation. Not fascination. Love. And while I know all intense emotions do change over time, just like people. I believe some folks get lucky. Some people's fireworks turn into fireplaces, not as sporadic and intense but warm and constant with the occsional spark. That is what I am talking about. That's what I'm holding out for.

People say life is too short for such fantasy love, but I think it's too short to ignore it. I know what it feels like to be in that cartoon up there. It may have only been one-sided, but the honesty of intention was there. I'll find it again. He's out there and he's single for the same reasons I am: He's the paper man. He's Jim from The Office. He's Elizabeth Bennet. He's Jay Gatsby. He's the whole friggin' cast of Twelfth Night. He's the person who falls hard. He's the type of person who knows with absolute certainty when someone is right for him. When it happens to him (and it has happened before) he feels those paper airplanes. He may not live on a farm or even know what a Rune is, but he knows his own path. He knows how to fold, and throw, and hope. He sends out airplanes. They are his whole story. They matter.

I hope he's ready for harvest. I could really use the help.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gibson Signing

Friday night was the Book Launch for One Woman Farm, and Gibson was there to put up with me using his paw to sign books. He enthusiasm for the task is clear by the look on his face, but such is the price of free kibble in an authors house. I offer the warm bed, two squares a day, and all the love he can handle and occasionally I make my roommates do silly things. He was a sport.

Monsters in the Road

I was coming down the mountain rode in the horse cart, Merlin was at a pleasant walk. I was lost in the rhythm of it. I am well aware that when Merlin is moving slowly it is at the pace of a human's brisk walk. But I'm not walking. It's not about speed. It's about being carried. A good cart horse at a walk is like swaying in a hammock, a hypnotic jaunt. I was enjoying the quiet thrill when I saw something wild up ahead. Because of the bowl shapes in the mountain I was head downhill but a swift uphill road was facing us, a neighbors driveway. I saw what I thought at first was a large gray fox or a dark coyote, until I noticed the long tail. My body tensed and my gelding felt it through the long lines just like children hear whispers between tin cans tied with string. He lifted his head and stopped dead, ears alert and forward. Now the pair of us were staring ahead at the monster not 50 yards ahead of us on the opposite hill. I thought of my neighbors a few miles south with game cameras in the woods who spotted a catamount last fall. I thought of all the weird Northeastern beasties so few people deal with: fisher cats, weasels, Yotes, foxes and coy dogs. As my mind was going through my flip file of predators Merlin dropped his head and walked on. I didn't understand why he lost his edge until I realized the monster was heading for us.

It was Yeti. My Cat.

Maine Coons are big. And I write that with a smile on my face. So don't forget that while you're laughing.


Antlerborns! This is the rare, Autumn-colored, birds being bred here. It wasn't planned, but through natural selection and great genes my flock of Antlerborns went from 4 to 20 and still hatching. They are a rare mix of two super rare breeds: Pumpkin Husley and Swedish Flower Hens. Protective and dedicated mothers, brown egg layers, predator savvy, high roosters, and will fight a red tail hawk for a dollar. I saw it. They are fighers, not lovers. But may be the greatest blend of feral-minded layers I have ever had. They eat almost all their food in the forest, rarely hanging around the feeders. I hope to eventually only have Antlerborns here at the farm, but right now there's just two mother-brood groups like this. But I must say, they are pretty. I'm proud of the happy accidents.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I would love nothing more than to sit here and share all the stories from the Launch party, Friday's Indie Day with two wonderful folks from Harlem, and about last nights bonfire in celebration of One Woman Farm... But right now I am dealing with a cold/virus/whatever that has me feeling like someone hung me out on a clothseline to dry. It's been creeping up on me the last few days but hit me full force when I returned from an 8-mile drive with Merlin. I was just plain beat. So I will return with stories, photos, and more soon as I get about 12 hours of sleep.

Also, I will post the photo of the amazing mason jar lid pumpkin that was mailed to me today.


Friday, October 11, 2013

You Have No Idea How Much This Helps

Dear readers, friends, and neighbors! A few folks have come to me asking about this option on the blog and I think it is a great idea. Instead of asking for reader donations, I am offering a reoccurring subscription to people who want to compensate me for writing the blog. This is not mandatory of course, but it sure is appreciated. Supporting a word farm like this one does take a village, but the produce is free!

It works like this. You sign up for a specific monthly amount (several options) which is automatically sent to me from their Paypal account on a certain date. It may not seem like much but if ten people are welling to pay ten bucks a month for thirty days of writing, video, and stories you can see how that adds up. Right now the blog only makes money through ads, and that is unreliable at best. This way I can depend on a regular payment for the time I spent here, even if it is a modest one. Mostly, it is a way to keep the place going. I hope you will consider supporting the blog this way. It is truly appreciated and lets me know the interest level and value of the work, very important things for a writer.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

He's Big for a Border Collie

Gibson, Son of Riggs, is big for a Border Collie. Like his father he is fifty-plus pounds and stands 26" tall at the withers. Most working collies are between thirty-five and forty-five pounds, but Gibson at his super-fit weight (not a bit of fat on him) is over fifty pounds. He is a monster, but he is my monster. A gal can't help who she loves.

Lovin' Indie Days!

I had such a wonderful time yesterday, hosting an Indie Day for a woman from Ontario named Jacqui. She came with a hankering to talk about pigs, and we did. We didn't just talk either, at one point we were both in the pig pen, scratching ears and discussing fences. We also talked about cheese making, fiddles, men, fate, the importance of finding your spot in the world and second chances. It was like being with an old friend. I never met the Librarian before yesterday but it felt extremely comfortable, like someone I knew.

I think this is pretty normal for Indie Days, so far all the people who have signed up have been wonderful, attentive, and extremely happy they showed up. I think it's the best way to really immerse yourself in something I can offer like archery, fiddling, livestock, horses, crafts, and such. Workshops are amazing and there are always discussions and questions but nothing beats the one-on-one conversations that last a whole day. I really got to learn about Jacqui and her story, her farm dreams, and I wouldn't be the least surprised if she ended up with some pigs at her partner's farm in a few months. Not surprised at all.

Tomorrow a couple from NYC come up for the day, I think the focus is on goats. I'm sure Bonita and Ida will be happy to run circles around them and be the demonstration crew for everything from hoof trimming to shots to perhaps a visit to Common Sense to see their herd and talk to the Goat Maven herself, Yeshiva. I'll let them decide. But I am so excited to share what I have done here, and what the plans ahead will be. I guess I just love the concept of Indie Days, and feel so blessed to be paying the mortgage by dong what I love most, which is getting beginners excited about taking up the same things I do in my feral little life.

If you want to sign up for one, please email me at!

Blind Hope = Unapologetic Flair

The clock is ticking now on my Falconry Apprenticeship. This whole process of finishing the application process should have been completed two months ago, so the state offices had the time to properly review and mail the license. This takes about 45 days. If I don't get my license back in time for Ed and I to trap a Red Tail Hawk before trapping season ends, which is the end of December. As an apprentice it is illegal for me to obtain my first bird through purchase, barter, or gift. I legally have to trap a juvenile wild hawk and train it. It's part of the Apprenticeship program. Two years of trapping and training wild birds of prey and my sponsor can suggest I receive my actual Falconer's license. That is a long way off, but for the now, I need to get permission to get started!

In a blind, hopeful, attempt to get the DEC office to open and process my application sooner I have made this envelope. Hoping it catches the processing departments' eye. I wrote a thank you note on the back and covered it in illustrations. The sooner I get my license in the mail the sooner you'll see me with my bird. Then the work, REALLY starts. I may be the only blogger tracking this whole process, from first intention of starting the program through trapping and training the wild bird. I hope you are as excited as I am! So wish me luck and godspeed on my Apprenticeship!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gibson Is Not Impressed...

...But I am. I have signed over a hundred copies of One Woman Farm and the orders are still coming in! You can get this book from anywhere in the Internetland, or your local shops, but ONLY through Battenkill books can you get a signed copy made out to you. And if you ask in your order, Gibson will sign it too. He is getting better at stamping his paw on pages, as anyone who bought Barnheart and now OWF can see by his improved penmenship. Pawmenship?

Click Here to Order a Signed Copy!

AND! If you are in the area or want to come out and say hello. Friday night, October 11th at 7PM Connie and the gang at Hubbard Hall are hosting the Book Launch Party! Come and get copies in person, say hello, ask questions and support an awesome store in this one-stoplight town!

P.S. I'll be bringing Gibson so please leave your kind dogs at home. He is the jealous sort.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Falconry Update: Inspection Tomorrow! *I HOPE*

I have been asked to update you on the state of my Falconry Apprenticeship. Where I last left you I was waiting for a state inspection by a game warden. I still am. I must have called my local office up in Warrensburg five times a week trying to pin down an appointment with an officer. I got an appointment back in September but the warden never showed. A month of calls and phone tag later I am (fingers gently crossed) being inspected tomorrow. What that entails is a comprehensive look at my preparations to this point. He will go through a list of requirements that include facilities, perches, equipment, and animal welfare. If he signs off on the work done here I can include his report with Master Falconer Ed Hepp's letter (his agreement to be my sponsor) and an official Falconer's Apprentice application to the State of New York.

Then I put it in the mail and pray.

I need to get my license soon as possible so Ed and I can start trapping. I can not trap or start training a bird until I have the approval of the State in hand. This isn't so much meant to be a hassle for me as it is a systematic weeding out of people who aren't willing to go to all this trouble over a 2-pound bird. The Powers That Be want to make Falconry Licenses a lot harder to obtain than a hunting license or drivers license. Trapping a wild animal is a huge responsibility and I am actually glad it has taken a year of preparation to even begin the application process. No one on a whim would spend a summer building a mews, weathering area, buying supplies and ordering dead frozen quail if they weren't serious about the sport.

So hopefully tomorrow I will mail off my application. If I am granted an Apprentice's license then I can trap and begin working with my red tail every day, training him or her to be my partner. I am optimistic and excited about this. I can't wait to share the journey with you, either. So wish me luck, say a prayer, place some lavendar in your pocket or touch those prayer beads, folks. This woman's head is full of feathers right now!

Céilidh For One!

There was a fit of music in the farmhouse this morning, a perfect little céilidh for one. I couldn't help myself. It started with the dulcimer, my beauty. The lovely thing carved with leaping harts and vines sat in my lap like a tired cat and instead of petting it I strummed out I'll Fly Away. I played it about 4 times in a row, letting the music stream out of my finger tips and fill the room with the same energy and happiness I feel when you catch dapples of light between autumn leaves. Golden, smooth, energetic and plucky. The song changed my morning mood and made me hungry for more. I grabbed an Irish whistle and played a few tunes I love, Pigtown, and Star O' The County Down, and a prayer tune without a name I made up when I was 17 and still hum to this day. It wasn't long before I ached for a fiddle like hands ache for a lover. I played songs until my arms cramped. It was an hour of nothing but music. Blessed as the day.

I blame all this revelry on this past weekend's workshop. Dulcimer Day Camp was lovely. WIthin an hour of first touching their new instruments we were able to play a simple tune in rounds, all ten of us in sync. More than once I closed my eyes and just listened to the happy sounds. Unlike people learning the fiddle, toying with a dulcimer isn't biting or squeaky. Everything on the instrument is in tune, all of it sounding like someone drunk in a sundress. We learned "I'll Fly Away" that day as well, doing each stanza in tablature and steps. People left with instruments in their hands and a tune in their pocket. I call that a good days work.

That workshop (and this morning's jam session) totally inspired me to make music—even simple quick music—a part of my morning routine. It changes how you stride into the day. It swirls calm and goodness around you. I knew I had a pig pen to clean up and heavy bales to lift around the farm but it was made light work by a lighter heart.

I hope those of you who came to this rainy farm on Saturday enjoyed your dulcimers and the music they made. I hope you are still strumming and well onto more songs. I want you to know how grateful I am you came to this farm and attended the workshop, but even more so I want you to know how great it is getting music back into my daily life. Wherever you are, I urge you to join me in my morning céilidh. It's not coffee, but it's got a thing.

Silly Rituals & Strong Hearts

A reader from Texas wrote me with a question about a recent post. Usually these are questions about livestock, small business, or local places to lodge for workshops. Instead this woman asked me about three branches in her area that could offer protection, as she didn't have birches and maples in her backyard. I wrote her back explaining that the trio of herbs I used are from folkways of the British Isles so their woodlands and legends would be local to their fauna, but since I have a Giles-and-Willow-level collection of grimoires on hand I looked up traditional protection herbs for the southwest of America. It didn't take long to see that Cactus, Amaranth, and Rosemary did the trick. Other trios included Oak, Elder, and Willow or Aloe, Burdock, and Sage. In a pinch a small circle of cloth, roughly the size of the palm of your hand filled with rosemary, cinnamon, and mint and tied up with some string is said to go right in your pocket and protect the person. You can get those herbs at the grocery store.

Now, I am sure a whole lot of you are rolling your eyes or smiling at the folklore I just presented. It must sound like total hooey, witchcraft, or old wives tales. A bag of plants or a bundle of sticks can not do anything to stop a tree from falling on your car or from catching the flu this winter. You would be correct. 100% correct.

But herblore isn't about magical properties and whimsical happenings. It's about intention and action. While it may sound ridiculous to carry a sack of spices in your purse you need to look at the whole picture. Choosing to do such a thing shows intention, it shows you care about the outcome. Collecting tree branches or making an herbal pouch is choosing to act instead of doing nothing. It is saying "I am worth the effort to protect." and instead of worrying or doing something destructive (complaint or spreading your fear) or distracting (Real Housewives Marathon with ice-cream) with your time you are choosing to do something that appears ridiculous but in reality is totally shifting your thoughts about yourself. As silly as this old folklore may seem do you understand that mental shift? It's why prayer is so powerful in the words of the believer, It's choosing to act instead of be a victim.

Now, if a hurricane ripped apart this farm no trio of sticks would save me. This is not Harry Potter. But think about the mentality of the person who feels they have the power to change their lives through the smallest action? Example: think of all those people who lost their homes to tornadoes these past few years. Imagine a woman returning from her evactuation to the crumbled remains of her old house. She may see what's left of her front door, and a trio of branches blwoing gently in the wind among the remains. Some might scoff at the sight of it, thinking how stupid it was to think three sticks could save anything. But that's not the mentality of such a person. I bet a person who hung branches for a storm has the mental attitude that they can always make a difference if they act. And that is a mentality that helps in any disaster. A Branch-hanger may lose everything she has in a storm but you can bet as she walks around the remains of her home she'll pick up a few pieces of it to store in a box in her new home, a reminder that she survived the worst. Perhaps thinking she deserved to be saved in the first place is what made her evacuate. Perhaps that was the protection all along. And a person who survived a storm certainly has gratitude in her heart, the kind of heart we need in a world that never stops falling apart, where storms never cease.

So do branches stop hurricanes and floods. Of course not. But action, caring, prayer and hope certainly help in any disaster. I choose to believe that these old rituals, spanning hundreds of years and millions of people, have been handed down to teach us such lessons in an easy, digestible way. I carry herbs in my pocket not because I believe they are storybook magic tricks but because smelling them all day, feeling them when I go for my wallet, finding them on laundry day reminds me that I care enough about myself to want me to be safe. It's like a hug, or a word of encouragement. It's also a reminder that when I worry I can either do something positive and change my thinking or do something negative. Worst of all, I could ignore the world around me and do nothing at all.

I prefer to be thought of as silly, eccentric or old-fashioned with my revived traditions than to feel powerless in an overwhelming world. I think it is just that thinking that created Cold Antler, and what could be more magical than that? That IS the magic, folks.

I choose to live in a world where I can affect my own life. I choose to believe that my actions, however small, cause change. I choose to believe that being a positive, powerful, and loving person can only bring me more positive, powerful, and loving people into my life. I believe in horse hair, hawk feathers, and dog smiles. I believe in efforts of will, hard sweats, and getting lost in prayer. I believe there is more to this amazing life than just dirt, sex, and death. My life has always been magical because of this. My life has always been saturated with gratitude and luck. That's worth looking silly to those with harder hearts or rational minds.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Storm Coming!

Three-Branch Storm On The Way

It's early October and the sky is gray. it's windy as all get out and the world outside my office window is like a autumnal snow globe, but instead of white plastic puffs circles of yellow locust leaves dance. It sounds pretty, like a fan on a field of sunflowers, but it isn't. We are under a tornado watch and the world is incorrectly warm, around seventy-five horrible degrees. That is not right for this part of the world in mid-autumn. I can see the sheep on the hill laying down in the soft dirt, watching the other side of the fence where the grass is growing outside their paddock. They had a breakfast of hay and fresh water, and usually by this time of day several of them (Ruckus, Brick and a lamb) have jumped out like hinds and are eating the illegal grass. Not today. Today even the most athletic and bravest of ewes is hunkered down. I'll be doing the same.

I had a hard time sleeping last night, which happens to me a few times a week. My mind reels with anxiety, worried about everything from the mortgage to pieces of idle conversation that may have gone wrong earlier in the day. I worried about the fact that my email had been down for 36 hours and it is the only way I make a living anymore, through that little inbox. People signing up for advertising spots, or for workshops, paypal and such are all connected to that simple email address. The small Ohio-based company I buy hosting through was closed for the weekend and I just wanted my old email account back. It's back now, which is a relief.

I get confused by my anxiety. I don't trust it. While things are tight now and I'm behind on my mortgage, I'm only a few weeks behind and I've been self-employed for a year and a half. That is a pretty solid track record. Nothing to be proud of really, but nothing to grant the kind of hell I put myself through alone in the dark. The lights have never been shut off, the dogs and I have never missed a meal. Hell, a chicken has never missed a meal here. The garbage still gets picked up on Tuesday mornings and the truck payment is up to date. Besides snow tires, chimney cleaning, cordwood, and a few personal dental concerns things are pretty solid. I can not complain. And to have such mundane concerns going into your second year of self-employment makes me feel darn blessed. I need to remember this when I get worried. I need to remember I always find a way to make it, and come hell or high-water, I'll keep making it. Sorry for the cliches, but they apply.

So why is it that at night, when we are alone, we worry about things WE KNOW we can handle during the day? Why do we have that heavy feeling on our chests and dryness in our mouths? Why do we fuss? Why do we doubt the blessings we know so well? I have proof of the good, the bad is always going on spec… I feel like a fool, most of the time. The anxiety steals this holy month away from me. It makes me writhe and rub my hands together. Last night I forced myself into a calmer state. It took some work, but it got me back to sleep. Another blessing, that.

Let's hope those blessings carry over to the storm. Being the old fashioned gal I am, a trio of birch, maple, and holly get gathered and hung from the front door. It's a prayer against damage, and something people have done on sheep farms since time out of mind. It can't hurt. When a three-branch storm is headed your way you take caution. I'm not a total fool.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pony Kiss

caught by Miriam Romais!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Email Down

Please message me on Facebook if you need to contact me, or sent me any workshop queries or important news since yesterday. Thanks!

Friday, October 4, 2013


I Am An Addict

I am an addict. I truly am. I'm the worst sort, too. The kind that goes into frenzy for what she wants, driving miles out of her way to get a fix. The kind that consumes without thinking, without noticing the growing consequences. The kind of junky that suffers from mood swings, bloating, tooth aches and maddening desire. Yes. It is scary to admit, but also a huge relief to finally come clean.

I, Jenna Woginrich, have an addiction to sugar.

I didn't realize it until I started a huge change in how I eat. I started a primal/paleo diet a few weeks ago and refined sugars are not a part of it. Neither are grains, soy, high-fructose anything, white potatoes and beer. This has been an amazing gift to myself, this kind of eating. I am losing weight, have clearer skin, and brighter eyes. I am never hungry, finding myself having to make myself eat. I have double the energy. I feel lighter, and clearer-headed than I have in a long time. I am a a month into eating this way and this morning I woke up feeling the way a chimney must feel after a good cleaning - all the gunk removed. I also feel like just now I am finally gaining the benefits of my martial arts training, farm chores, and walks. My body knows what to do with energy better. I'm an efficient machine. It is wonderful.

I should also note the word "diet" is a bit of a misnomer. Paleo eating is more of a concept than it is a set of rules you follow. For more on this read the great essay by Jack Spirko I linked to above. I'll post about this on Facebook so we can have a full out discussion there, too.

However, this new enlightenment required a few weeks of all-out misery. It wasn't until I stopped eating sugar that I realized how much I was consuming. It was in my coffee first thing in the morning. I'd eat it with something else sweet, too. It didn't matter if it was syrup on hash browns or a pumpkin muffin, I was eating sugar. Throughout the day I would binge, both on natural sugars and unnatural ones. Even though I thought I was eating healthy most of the time, I was far from it. Eating a plate of free-range eggs covered in cheese with three pieces of toast is no healthy meal, regardless of how happy the birds are.... And I realized that when I got serious about changing things in my diet and really stopped the intake.

When I stopped eating as much sugar I had horrible headaches, cravings, and I swelled up like a balloon. I was grumpy, beyond grumpy. I would sneak in bits of sugary carbs here or there, feeling like the shameless addict I was. For example, I would buy a Stewart's muffin and eat a bite and then give the rest to Gibson in a guilty fuss. He'd chomp it down and I'd feel that rush you get from a hit of the good stuff. Sublime, like pouring smiles on your brain. Oh, sugar. You were the one for me.

That was back at the start of the diet, now those cravings are gone. Yesterday I did that same bit. In a moment of weakness I bought a muffin and took a bite. I thought I would get that little buzz but it felt like chewing wet cardboard. Glory Be! I thought about the meal I ate earlier in the day, my own pigs' bacon and fat drizzled over cooked kale with herbs. It was a cereal bowl's worth and I had to make myself finish it. Besides a cup of coffee and this bite of crapffin it was all I ate that day and it was nearing 6pm. I probably wouldn't eat dinner. A few weeks ago one bowl of food would have left me ravenous, but since all those refined things are gone what was once filler is now fuel. A meal like that is a primal mix of meat, fat, and mostly vegetables. It is what our bodies have been designed to consume since the earliest phases of man's evolution, as we are the descendants of hunter gatherers. Siberian kale and domestic pigs might be a modern take on that ol' diet but the honesty is the same. I gave the whole muffin to the dog. Dog food is what it is.

I wanted to share this because of how great it feels and how well it is working. I have been struggling with my weight for years, being the kind of person who eats her feelings and then feels bad about it. I have tried so many fads and extremes, from veganism to carbless to juicing fasts. But those diets weren't me. This one is. This is the food I grow, that my neighborhood grows. It embraces farming, hunting, high-activity lifestyles and my love of a rare steak. This I can do. I look forward to sharing the results over this winter and hearing other folks' stories as they kick out grains, excess dairy, soy, sugar and starches. It sounds like zero fun and hard to do, but I can tell you I am far from restricted. I am enjoying the eggs, meat, and veggies this region produces with gusto. And I have been known to splurge on some "paleo" junk foods as well like Chinese spare ribs and chicken wings with blue cheese. But mostly I just crave real, fatty, meaty meals with lots of veggies. Every once in a while I'll splurge on a beer but since it's just bread in a bottle I stick to cider. And you know that is no big sacrifice for me. Hard cider is really high in sugar so that is a special treat as well, but I don't end up blowing up like a balloon after two bottles like I do with ales.

I think a primal diet is a wonderful diet. It embraces the foods us homesteaders and grass farmers produce. It is a perfect way to support local CSAs, veggie stands, farmers markets and meat producers because the diet strongly urges to avoid confined meat and chemically treated veggies as much as possible. Some think this makes it elitist or too expensive to do, but like I said, I ate one bowl of food yesterday and could hardly finish it. When you eat better for your body you need less, and want less. his means you SPEND less. When you aren't causing your glycemic index to impersonate a roller coaster, you don't want to shove bread down your maw every 5 hours.

So am I still a sweet addict? Absolutely. I will always be one. My brain is trained that way, but I'm not going back to that life. I have no doubt my extra pounds will slink off in a matter of weeks and the way it'll feel to slide into a size 8 jean again and work outdoors all day will be a far better feeling than any French Toast platter. But for the now, based on how I feel as I write to you, how excited I am for the pulled pork in the crock pot and picking kale out of my own garden for dinner….. the old me can keep her French Toast. This girl's gone wild.