Saturday, November 30, 2013


To clear some things up about Clan Cold Anter:

1. The Clan Blog is not "the best stuff" only for paying customers. It is extra stuff, like Facebook is extra CAF stuff.
2. Anyone who already subscribes to the farm is welcome to join in. If you can not afford the annual fee, simply do not pay it. There are options as little as five dollars a month.
3. If you feel like you already donated in the past and would like to join, email me for an invitation. I will happily send it.
4. If you have questions, please ask, as stated in the announcement.
5. DFTBA and please follow Wheaton's Law in all things, online or otherwise.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Worth Any Hardship.

It's cold here. Really cold. I don't remember November getting like this in the recent years but this week has had several days flirting with single digits. This morning i got an email from Connie (owner of Battenkill Books) letting me know she was a sister suffragette in the war against the chill via wood stove. She also woke up to a 53 degree home, so we had that in common. Wood heat isn't constant, but when you get into the groove and you finally get your place into a comfortable range, there is NOTHING like it. To know your house is warmed by fire, as ancient a comfort as human kind can achieve, and that it is a fire you build, maintained, and possess. It is worth any hardship.

I didn't head to any malls today. I didn't even hit the Tractor Supply in Greenwich. I did get new tires though. I originally went to buy used tires but they didn't have any in the odd bastard caliber of my Dodge Dakota, so I had to buy new. I explained I could only get two and the woman behind the counter and I figured out a way to make it possible to buy four. It took three forms of payment and a handshake but I drove home feeling like I owned a new truck and have one thing off the to-do list. It's also a huge boost in safety, since my last set of tires were showing the wires under the rubber…. It was time.

The farm is getting through the cold just fine. Nothing is tougher than those ponies. Merlin and Jasper have prehistoric coats and a shelter built into the mountainside. It feels like ages since I road Merlin, though it has only been two weeks. I place a riding moratorium during deer season. the last thing I want to do is be on four legs when people are out hunting. I miss it. When I'm not on a horse a part of me is gone.

I am still driving around looking for a passage red tail. I am starting to give up. There is always next year, and there is no rush. There's still a chance for luck, but I feel like the hundred hours I put in should have provided me with a charge by now. A lesson in patience and pleasure delaying.

Thank you to the Clan Members who signed up. I'd hug you if I could.

Words & Wool Workshop - Still Spots Left!

Come to Cold Antler Farm this winter for a special workshop called Words & Wool. It is a knitter's circle and writing workshop dedicated to the small homestead or farmer's blog and the marketing and promotion of it. Come learn straight from the shepherd's mouth how I built, promoted, and expanded my blog. Ask me questions about publishing and writing professionally, learn how to sell or pitch ads and giveaways, how to deal with trolls and critics, and keeping yourself inspired to write. If you like, bring a sample of writing to talk about and share with the group for a healthy and kind critique. Tell your story with eager ears listening....At the very least get some ideas for your personal, non commercial blog for your friends and family. It's a day dedicated to expanding your own brand and business, and getting the word out about your own website as another, vibrant, source of income for your farm and family.

And as for the wool? Bring a knitting project! If you are coming along to listen and talk, you might as well have something to work on near the woodstove. Other knitters will be on hand to help, give advice, share patterns and teach you the basics if you are new to the craft. Expect a comfortable day, indoors mostly, here at the farm. The class starts at 10AM and goes till 4PM, and if you want to stay after the class for a private party of creamy potato soup and bread fresh from the Bun Baker wood stove you are welcome to it!

If you are planning on coming and already signed up months ago, please email me to confirm you attendance!

Email me if you are interested, cost will be $100.00 for the whole day, and include a farm tour. Please pack a lunch for a midday knitting break. CAF Season Pass members just let me know if you want to come along!

Words & Wool
Jackson, NY
December 7th, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We're Not From Around Here

A few days ago I sent out an email asking for your letters. What I got in return was amazing. Letters from people all over the world, in so many different situations, stories and backgrounds. Your emails are helping me get through this rough time, one of a lot of self doubt and fear. I have hundreds to read yet, but I am getting to them as I can and try to respond to as many as possible. A few emails came to me about this post in particular, so I thought I would republish it (and perhaps update it a little). Out of all my posts this is always in the top five of my readership. So in honor of the holiday weekend with so many people running around to leave their loved ones for stores and sales, I thought I'd repost something for us. It's okay if the rest of the world doesn't get it. After all, we aren't from around here.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, all of you. Be safe, be well, and most of all: be of use.



We're not from around here. I know you see us all the time, but trust me, we're from some place else. We may have lived our whole lives right next door to you but we left quite some time ago. We found another place and it suits us just fine.

It's not far or hard to get to. Chances are you pass it all the time when you're driving too fast to work or throwing another frozen dinner in the shopping cart. You can't get to us that way. We aren't there.

We're the ones in the next aisle buying yeast, flour, sugar, and coffee. We buy provisions, not groceries. We learned that food tastes better when you grow it yourself. We started with just a few recipes then learned to chew at a trot and now the idea of Lunchables and drive-thru hamburgers makes us tilt our heads a little. We're not above them, not by a long shot, we just don't have those where we're from. Or maybe we did and forgot about them? I can't remember. It's easy to forget about such things when you hop the fence to go where we went. There just isn't a lot of shrink-wrapped circular ham there.

We're from another place. It's just like yours but the naps are better. We came for a bunch of different reasons but we sort of set up shop in the same community. It's not a physical location, of course. (It's much better than that.) It's a place in our actions, our decisions, our conversations, our hope. It's a place in our hobbies, our skills, and our secret desire to know what a warm egg feels like in lanolin-wet palms. It doesn't matter where we came from or who we were before, this new place kinda took us all in and showed us how to calm the hell down. What? You're confused? Oh, well, you probably saw us there and just didn't realize it. Remember when we didn't pick up the phone (even after twenty rings) because we were in the garden? Or that time we gave up a weekend to make a chicken coop? Or last Saturday when we spent the whole day at that indoor farmer's market talking to the people at the wool booth we'd never met before, but felt like we knew while you kept telling us the movie was starting in thirty minutes... That's where we left to go. Sorry we missed the previews, we were talking to our neighbors.

You can spot us pretty easy. Our men aren't afraid of facial hair and our women have been known to grab goats by the horns. Our children go barefoot and so do we. We're the quieter ones, in the corner, feet propped up on a second-hand coffee table in a fourth-hand wool sweater. That's one of us, right over there. See him? The one with the guitar slung over his back, and the black dog following his bike? See him now? He's the one with the saddle bags on the back wheel overflowing with a half bushel of tomatoes. No, he's not a tomatoes fetishist - he's canning today. He'll be eating fresh organic marinara in January pulled off the larder shelf. He'll let the black dog lick his plate when he's done. Yes, I'm sure. He's from where I'm from. We know our own.

See, where we come from people aren't scared of dirt—not even mildly abashed by it. My people will spend an entire August morning with a potato patch. We'll also spend an entire October night in front of a bonfire with homebrew and fiddles. My people know how to darn a sock and bake a loaf of bread. They know how to cast on and be cast away. Sure, we'll join you for dinner in a restaurant, but we'll probably opt for pasta. Where we come from food animals know what sunlight feels like and have felt grass under their hooves. We don't eat the animals from your place. We saw what they saw before they died.

We're not from around here, but you'll see us everywhere. We're walking down the streets of Montreal, Chicago, Seattle, and L.A. We're waiting for a Taxi on the Lower East Side. We're mucking out the chicken coop, chatting at the farm stand, jumping on the back of our horses and riding the L Train. We're everywhere and right next to you all the time, but we left that place and now we're gone. None of us are going back. We thought about it. It passed.

HOOOO! You should see this place. Man, it's so beautiful. I mean a Wednesday afternoon at 3:47 is fall-down-the-stairs stunning. We learned to see this. We watched the fireflies come out on the porch and missed the newest episode of CSI. Truthfully, we barely look at the television anymore. It's a side effect of the new place—there's just so much to do and we're scared if we let ourselves get distracted we'll miss the fireflies. We can only take so much tragedy, you see.

And hey, this place we went to—it's yours too. To be perfectly honest we're getting a little tired waiting for you to show up. Yeah, what you heard is true. The work is hard and the hours long, but I promise it's the best quiche you'll ever taste and the coffee is wicked good. When you're ready we'll show you how to hop the fence like we did. It starts with a mason jar or a day-old chick in your palm and the road map kinda unfolds from there. Somewhere past the cloth diapers and the raw milk we're hanging out, yes there, over past the used trucks and beat tractors. See the bikes and carts along the barn? Keep going and you'll find us.

We know when you start coming to our place you'll get it. You won't want to leave either. And we'll wait. We've got another saddle in the barn. We planted an extra row of beans. We put aside a few spare jars of tomato sauce and let the hens know there's more breakfasts on the way. We'll make room. There's always a place for you at the table.

(And just between you and me, If you want to get on the black dog's good side, let him lick your plate...)

Ride Along on a Trapping Drive

I drive along the roadsides, in all weather, looking for my bird. Me, the radio (EQX), and the lonely road. This video is just driving in the rain, some random song, and the countryside I live in. No words, certainly no hawks. Today I saw one bird, set out a trap, but I scared it off by not being patient.

Falconry is teaching me a lot of things, mostly about myself.

And for a while things were cold;
They were scared down in their homes.
And that's how the story goes,
The story of the beast with those four dirty paws.

Song Playing: Of Monsters And Men - Dirty Paws

Rain Delay: Apprenticeship Update

Every day, for hours, I am outside in my truck with hawk traps, scanning the countryside for a juvenile redtail. As a new falconer, this is the bird for me to start with and I am not allowed to buy, borrow, trade, or raise one from a hatchling. I need to obtain a freshly trapped bird on it's migration south. This is ridiculously hard for me. I don't know if I missed the migration or if it is running late. I do know I have seen harriers and juvenile bald eagles, which are other migrating species all over the place. But the brown-striped-tailed redtail little is eluding me. But not for my trying. That's for damn sure.

This is the last step towards becoming a practicing falconer. I went through the year-long application process. I had the help of a village creating the mews. I gathered supplies, food, gear, scales, and everything else and now I am down to the art of trapping a wild animal so I can bring it home and teach it to be my partner in grocery shopping. the only thing holding me back is the actual acquirement of the bird - which right now seems so unlikely. I feel like my chances are akin to being told that every day six strangers will throw a quarter into an Olympic-sized swimming pool and I can keep the quarter if I manage to glide past it underwater and it lands on the small of my back. It's statistically impossible, but not "actually" impossible. But Brigit knows I have no fear of long odds. I'm also a lot more stubborn than any hawk out there, for that I am certain. Right now there is a downpour outside and I'm not trapping. If there's a break in the weather I'll make a small loop around the area but that's it. I'm kind of relieved to have a day off. Hope is exhausting.

The upside: my raptor knowledge and awareness has shot through the rough. I can tell you the difference between a redtail or a harrier at 200 yards. I see birds everywhere. I am always looking up. I must see several dozen red tails a day now, nearly all haggards (adults) I can't trap. Though I have trapped two now, they were released. It is funny that a year ago holding a hawk in my arms felt like something from a storybook. Now handling wild adult hawks feels as normal as picking up chickens. There isn't fear, nor is there a lack of awe, just comfort. These birds just feel a part of me now.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I got a hold of a copy of S, the new book by JJ Abrams. It's not about directing movies, television or creating worlds. It IS a created world. I am in love with this. You are buying what appears to be a library book stolen from some Highshool Librarty. Soon as you open it you come accross the notes of two people - corresponding baclk and forth in the margins. They argue over the meaning of the work and so it begins: pages of clues, mystery, hints and more. There are so many things inside this book, things you pick up and work with to figure out the story behind the story. There are maps on napkins, newspaper clippings, postcards, snaphots, letters and scraps. It is all one masterpiece, and the most fun I have had sitting down with a book since I picked up the first Harry Potter book as a teenager.

Buy this book. Buy it for friends, for gifts, sure - but do yourself a favor and buy it for you. You will not regret it. It is amazingly fun, and less than dinner and movie for sure. Oh, and here is a fair warning: it is NOT something you should get as an ebook. You need to feel this, touch the ACTUAL napkin and legal papers inside, page through pages, decode clues, set out the inside stuff like a crazy person setting up his victim shrine on the coffee table. It is a rollercoaster in an armchair. It is wonderful.

JJ, you are married, make movies, and live far far away from this Civil War era farmhouse covered in snow. But tonight, we have a date.

Dedication is Plucking By Headlights

I knew it as soon as I picked him up by the legs. This was going to be a long night.

Brendan was a big Bourbon Red Tom, the largest and most handsome of the trio that has lived here since May when I bought them at the Poultry Swap. They cost twenty dollars and a barter deal. He must have weight thirty pounds, a giant bird and larger than I realized when eying him up from the living room's French doors. Originally I was going to slaughter a smaller bird with a limp, but he seemed a little too scrawny for the amount of people attending Thanksgiving Dinner at Livingston Brook Farm, and I didn't want to show up with some puny bird. Lucas, the Bronze Tom, wash';t going anywhere because he and I have an understanding: I think he's adorable and enjoy his peeping into my windows to say hello from the side porch. He's staying and getting a few ladies to keep him company: but Brendan and Limpy Bob toast. Bob gets a bit of a reprieve but he'll go in my freezer for Yule. Brendan has a dinner date this week.

It's a new tradition, but for the last few years I have provided the turkey for Thanksgiving for friends. I always prepare the bird-from living beast to oven ready—on the Tuesday before the holiday. The actions of poultry slaughter and dressing has become something as routine as baking bread or starting a fire - I don't have to think about it anymore. It is a skill I have and it is branded in me, part of me. But unlike setting kindling to flame or kneading dough - this requires some serious reverence, even if it if just for a minute. Taking a life is not a light task, nor should it ever been seen as such. I'm not saying we should get out incense and holy water, but I do think an genuine thank you for the animal's life is needed. So I say a prayer I read in a book once, "Thank you for this gift. We take you not in wontedness but in need." and I say this, to the bird, and take a moment to understand what is happening before the hatchet falls and the bird starts dying. It is not enjoyable, but it is necessary. And the sacrifice is worthy, always.

I started the bird with it's slaughter at 3:30PM, and it didn't take long for him to bleed out and for the work of plucking to begin. There is no plucking machine here besides my hands and no pot big enough to dump him in to loosen the feathers, so I treated him like a game bird, plucking him dry. It took forty-five minutes and it was far from a perfect job. The light went from dim to dark so I let out a sigh, grabbed a beer, and turned on the headlights of the truck to finish the gutting. The whole thing ended up taking an hour and a half of detailed, quiet, and precise work. It started to snow and I pushed on through, not noticing the cold from all the effort and the Tonton- effect of having my hands up an animal's cavity in a snow storm. By the time the cats were circling for bits of entrails and the night turned pitch - I ended up with a turkey that could not fit in a five gallon bucket. I brought it inside to weigh (held high over my head less Annie decide to make it hers) and weighted it in the kitchen. 22 pounds! 22 pounds of meat, bone, and sinew! Holy Crow! I don;t think I EVER raised a bird so large. And to be this big as a heritage breed (not known for their size, more for flavor) was enough to slap a grin across my face so wide it wouldn't fit in a five gallon bucket either.

It's in the fridge now, resting and relaxing from the stiff rigor mortis into edible, soft, stressless meat ready to bake. Tomorrow Patty will come pick it up and my contribution to our group feast will be dotted and signed. I give the bird happily to her, since she is the host and I get to share in the feast without having to do any of the cooking. I think she's getting the short end of the deal, but I'll take a good offer when I am handed it. In this lifestyle of turkey gutting by truck light in a snow squall, you enjoy the breaks when they are laid on the table.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lost Him

I got through the cold okay, but the sick lamb didn't. After over two weeks of care and attention, books and advice, neighbors and vet suggestions I went to check on him today and he was gone. I carried his half-sized body down the hill and set him in the truck bed. Tomorrow I will take him out to be composted. I won't be eating meat from an animal I couldn't diagnose. It was a sad day. I think that's enough for tonight.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Yeti: Comfort Level 356

Cold on the Way

A storm of sorts is moving in, and tomorrow's high temperature is forecasted around 25 degrees. It'll be a cold one and wind advisories are set to be up to 50-60mph. I'm up making a list of things to aid in the animals (including this typing animal's) comfort through it. In the mornining I'll get a bale of fresh bedding to the pigs, so they have some clean, warm, goodness to snuggle into. A bale of hay and a big breakfast is really all they need to hunker down. The horses will get some grain with their hay, for the same reason. They don't have bedded stalls but they sure handle the weather well on their hill and have shelter in their pole barn. The chickens head into the barn, where the goats will spend the day chewing cud and butting heads. The turkeys will hopefully not be blown away, as they hate being in any building though I have tricked them once or twice into going into the barn during freezing rain or hail. Sometimes I question their willingness to survive, those birds...

I'll keep a fire going here and spend much time as I can indoors beside it. A hot shower, a warm sweater, a cup of tea and some good books or movies when my work is done in the office will be happy place to find myself. It'll be just fine, but this kind of weather seems early for the level of harshness hitting. I hope it isn't a preview of the months ahead!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Letters From the Edge

I haven't been sleeping well. Last night I woke up around 1AM after a few hours of sleep and remained up until dawn, then got to the work of the farm and fire. It's anxiety, plain and simple. I'm not ready for winter and I'm scared about it. I don't know what it is about those early morning hours but the most manageable problem, the tiniest fear, seems HUGE and haunting at that time. I think of debts, projects, repairs, expenses, the tasks ahead just making it month to month and I am wide-eyed, heart racing, and wish I just had someone there to tell me I will be okay. This is the hardest year of my life, and I realize that now. I'm not giving up and the bank isn't foreclosing tomorrow, but soon as the sun sets I start to worry and do whatever I can to stop that worrying. It's not a good place to be.

I got an email from soemeone who just started reading the blog and was confused at my recent posts, the self doubt in them at least. He went back and read through from 2007-2010 and said it was another person. He as right. I think about that girl and the world apart I was then. So much has changed, turned harsher and harder. I'm the same person, but I'm also entirely different. There's no turning back now, but sometimes I miss the ease, the comforts, even the bad parts.

I guess I'm scared because I don't know how this story will end. Will the farm collaspe on itself? Will I get some Hail Mary break? Right now I'm in this survival mode and it's exhuasting and terrifying, but at least every morning I wake up with a mission. I may be scared but every day I feel so alive, driven, hopeful and aware. All I want to know is that I make it through to the other side of this fear and confusion and things are okay. That I can make the mortgage. That I won't be alone in this indefinitely. That I can fix mistakes, forgive, forget, and move on. But tonight I'm just scared to fall asleep, and praying for daylight.

This blog isn't about showing you how to decorate your chicken coop or thrify ways to sew your kids lunchboxes. This isn't a lifestyle blog, a mommy blog, or a content provider for random ads. This is my life. If you want rainbows and puppies, go elsewhere. If you want the raw, terrifying, amazing, and life changing story of a girl turning into a woman in the dirt, horse sweat, and harsh reality of living in the north country alone, welcome. You'll get it here. You get to hear about a person growing up, growing middle aged, and every triumph and fear along the way. Some nights my wallet is thick, the wolf is far from the door, and doubt is a weak little ghost in the corner. Some nights are like this, and I pour my heart out to strangers hoping some can find empathy and understanding, email a kind word, or do something else to help me feel like what I'm doing here is worth the nights I'm scared to go to bed. Tonight I am scared to fall asleep, and it's only because soon as I do I will wake up sweating and shaking, hugging Gibson like a life raft and counting breathes to calm down.

So tonight I have a request for you. I am asking for your help. I want anyone else out there in these same shoes — or people who have felt like this before — to send me an email telling me their story. If you are a farmer running your farm alone, tell me about it and how you deal with the stress? What helped you get through it? Are you also a woman trying to find her place in the world, tell me about it. Are you a guy who used to work really hard as a single man until you found a partner that made things easier? Tell me about that. I want to hear that things get easier, that life can change for the better in an instant. I want some proof that things are okay. It matters so much to me, having slept 4 hours in the last 48. I think knowing that other people are treading water too, or have found their safety, would be a huge help.

Letters from the edge, that's what I need. Send them to:

Indie Music Days & More!

If you would like to give a special sort of gift this year for the holidays while supporting a small farm, have I got an idea for you! Readers of this blog can be gifted classes, workshops, Indie Days, and gift packages. To help get this farm more solvent, and to go into winter with the firewood, new tires, and the mortgage a little closer to caught up. Consider one of the following ideas this holiday season, it creates a truly unique and special gift and is so important to keeping this place going.

1. Fiddle Camp (2 days with an instrument!) is on sale for $250 and comes with a season pass. Reduced even further if pairs or couples sign up and pay together.

2. Want to gift a personal Dulcimer or Fiddle Day that comes with a whole day at the farm, lessons, and an instrument? We can do that, too. I just call these Indie Music Days. MID go from 10AM-4PM and take place on the farm at the season and day of your choice. The person attending needs nothing to attend but ends up leaving with a new instrument and how to play it. Music Indie Days can be either Fiddle, Banjo, or Dulcimer and come with said instrument - prices vary based on instrument but the Dulcimer is the least expensive and the easiest - and that package starts at the same price as Dulcimer Day Camp. It's one-on-one learning and a whole day spent at the farm. Music isn't your thing? Regular Indie Days can be arranged with time dedicated to everything from harnessing a draft horse and logging in the woods to making soap from a freshly milked goat. My farm is open to learn, share, and laugh alongside with.

3. Season Passes for couples (or singles) on sale, for the price of two group workshops come all year.

4. Gift Subscriptions: Have a spouse or friend who likes reading the blog, offer to subscribe in their name and send me their address and I'll send them a thank you postcard from the farm.

5. If you are local I offer a variety of farm stuff.

Email me for details on any of this:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chasing Feathers

The past few days have been all about hawking. I wake up at first light in a cold house (around 55 degrees) and go about morning chores. Then when all the animals in my care are fed and seen to, I head out with my traps, binoculars, and big hopes. I am on the hunt for a hawk I can partner up with, and the first step is finding her. So I drive on lonely country roads, past farms and houses, and to the fields lined with trees that red tails sit in. Now that I am looking for them, they are everywhere. I must see 20 a day, sometimes more. Finding a juvenile in that lot is hard, most have passed through this area but some may still be around. There is still hope I will trap the bird I need to learn this ancient skill with. Falconry is old, over 4,000 years old, and it is the most highly regulated sport in America. Just signing up to try has taken a year, and that's only because of amazing people like Ed and Buddy, holding my hand along the way.

yesterday I caught my first bird, seen above. I was by myself, Ed having left to check in at home. Neither of us expected the trap to take, but it did and the bird I thought was a juvenile was caught. Sadly, it was an adult red tail and I of course let it go. It was beautiful, and handling this wild thing was a quiet, borderline reverent experience. I do not think of hawks as holy things, no more than I think of you and I as holy, but I do treat them with respect. I slowly and calmly approached it. I gently hooded it (for my safety), grabbed his feet, and untangled him. Not sure what to do next I set him on the ground gently and he took off for the tree linene. It was a rush and a tease. To have waited so long for a bird of my own, to train and learn from, and to have to let a finally-caught one go was a lesson in patience and trust. I'm not in this falconry world for a pet or a buddy, I am in it for the hunt and the partnership. To me it is like working with a draft horse in harness, or herding with Merlin: two totally different species working towards a common goal. It is special, humbling, and inspiring to know that this world never stops making me gasp. There is a hawk out there for me, and perhaps now that I know how to catch him, he will hold on tight next time.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Low Bar

I walked up my pasture's hill with an empty five gallon bucket, my crook, and my sheepdog by my side. I was in the same battle-worn Carhartt pants, wool sweater, and knit cap I had been wearing all week. My hair was brushed and plaited into pig tails, for hygienic reasons if nothing else. It had been too cold, (and I had been too busy) to just hop in the shower. When you work from a home office and everyone expects you to look a little feral - you don't mind the break. I digress.

My dog and I were walking up the hill. The sheeps' heads darted up at the sight of Gibson but I called him back to my side, muttering in Gaelic. I only really feel comfortable enough with the language to converse with my dog, who answers more to "Cu Dona" than Gibson now. Though I say it with love. Cu Dona, Tha gaol agam ort. I tell him, all the time. I do. He is my heart.

Anyway, we looked the part, but weren't going herding but were headed to the last of the apples in the back pasture. The plan was to hit the tall branches with the crook and then gather them into a bucket for the pigs, a way to stretch their grain and my pocketbook and vary their diet. So the bucket and crook had a purpose for sure, but the dog was just along with me because, well, because Gibson is always with me. I didn't even think to leave him inside and as I knocked and grabbed apples for the pig's dinner he lay where he could watch me and the sheep, comfortable in the 20-eight degree afternoon wind as if it was high summer.

I fill up the bucket half way and then head down the hill. The sheep all bleat and baa at us, knowing full well what is in the buckets and demanding some hurled their way. I oblige and chuck a few apples into the pen and the seven sheep stampede them as if it was the last bit of sustenance on earth. The lamb is still unable to walk, but eating and drinking well. He seems mentally sound, just as if his spin stopped working. I'm talking it over with some small livestock neighbors, friends and farmers but I may have to put him down. I won't until I talk with a veterinarian and several friends, but I worry about it.

Gibson and I feed the sheep their hay. We feed the pigs, too. Bonita is back and her and Ida enjoy half a bale while I carry the other half back to the pigs. They enjoy their greens as well and what they don't eat they turn into a comfy bed on these cold nights. I'm grateful I have been home for a few hours sewing (two cloaks mailed today!) and so the house is warm from indoor activity and the stoked fire. It is well over sixty degrees, possibly sixty-two and to me that is an oven. Thanks to the warm blankets mailed by readers my heart and my home are warmer then ever before. I know some of you send them to turn into cloaks I could sell, but some are too precious to touch. One is pink and from Holland, it has tulips and I sleep under it every night. Another is an old Hudson Bay blanket, it is on my bed. They are the two nicest things I own. Well, besides my animals.

Turkeys follow me around and I feel zero guilt about taking one of them out next week for Thanksgiving Dinner. It is an honor to present a fat, healthy, turkey you raised yourself and prepared yourself. It is also a great gift that I don't have to cook it. I deliver it to the Wesner's and they'll roast it and invite me to a seat at their table. I have driven trucks I bought myself with one check, and I have been given raises at various corporate offices…but nothing compares to being the turkey provider at Thanksgiving. I beam.

Earlier in the day, before the sewing and the evening chores, I drove over to Livingston Brook Farm to check the Swedish trap for a hawk. There wasn't one. There hasn't been any activity with that trap all week and last, and I hope that is just a streak waiting to be broken. It took so long and so much community, effort, study, and hope to get my Apprentice License to trap and train a hawk that here I am at the finish line and unable to see the ribbon. Tomorrow I think Ed and I will go out trapping together, which means driving around the country side in his Jeep and throwing small traps from a slow moving car in hopes that birds perched along the roadside fall for them and let me take them home. My fingers are crossed and my heart is beating fast. It feels good to be so excited about a thing.

So that is the afternoon into the evening here. Tomorrow I may get a hawk, and if I do you will certainly here about it on here. I can not wait to share this adventure with you, to write about it for anyone interested in the relationship, if not the sport itself. That's a big task to wrap my head around right now, though. It's all one step at a time, just like learning Merlin was. Just like getting this farm was. You take a step and before you know it you're standing on your own land, then you're in a saddle, and before you know it you'll be on the wing.

Well, let me have my little romantic moments. They carry me on. Tomorrow: maybe a hawk but tonight I'll certainly get a shower and set out a new pair of pants. It may be a low bar for success, but I'll take what I can get.

Bonita is Back!

Back from her mate-cation, she is back with her daughter and her return inspired some goat-pen improvements. I reinforced the main gate and removed all the clumsy baling twine. This morning it was so nice seeing mother and daughter chew on their Second Cut while I carried feed off to the pigs. And having a goat that is pregnant in your backyard is like money in the bank. It means kids (which I can sell or barter), milk (soap, cheese, and MILK!), and saved money on groceries. While goats are a troublesome bother when it comes to fences - they sure are worth it. I can't imagine not having a few goats in the backyard. They make life better, richer, and a lot more interesting!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sneak Peak

This is a nice short little documentary, done quite well, about a few new young falconers and their first ever Red Tails. I really enjoyed it, and watching it in my trapping time is something akin to being a kid watching Christmas Specials before opening presents on Christmas Eve. I hope to be in their shoes, soon. I'm heading out with Ed again this week to drive around and throw traps from his Jeep, but the big Swedish trap I rigged here is also in my service. After a week without any action I moved it to Patty's Farm (no mean feat) and we set it up in a quiet pasture below some trees. I'll be driving over to check on it and get some hay around noon today. Fingers crossed, but in the meantime I have plenty of winter prep to do in the form of splitting logs, saving for snow tires, sewing cloaks, and putting up bales.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Game night is a big deal around here. My friends and I meet up once or twice a month to gather around a table, bonfire, or living room and take on a good game. Usually we play games like Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Small World, Carcassonne, Tsuro, or Lords of Waterdeep or something along those lines...but lately, we are in love with trading in clay and reeds for home improvement. Enter: Agricola!

Agricola is a game for planners, and so it is a game perfect for farming. It doesn't hurt that it's also ABOUT farming, (17th century European Style). In this game you are a pair of young farmers new to your land living in a wooden hut. You don't have any children, plowed fields, or animals. It's just you, grass, and this cabin. Everyone starts out like this and as the game progresses you start to choose what your farm will specialize in. Some people opt to plow field and grow vegetables or grain. Some people build fences and stables and raise pigs, cows, or sheep. Others become anglers, potters, or basket weavers. It's up to you how your little couple grows and as the game goes on you need to take care of them: feeding them, birthing offspring, keeping piglets in the house while you wait for your turn to put up a fence….

Yup. It's like farming all right.

Agricola is highly strategic. It's mostly about watching what everyone else is doing and reacting. I always think I'll win with my fences and sheep, but I haven't yet. But even losing the game with some friends and good hard cider beats winning a lot of others. It's cut throat, smart, clever, and super competitive. I highly recommendcomend it to all you board game fans. The rules are a bit intimidating, but if you can find a game in your area at a local game shop, and learn while playing, it is easy to pick up. Grab a copy and gather some homesteading friends and get pumped. You'll be popping out kids and buying wild boars in no time.

Hawks & Sewing

...Have taken over my life this week.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Five Spots Left for Summer Camp!

Fiddle Camp is filling up fast for next August! To make Fiddle Camp (next summer) more attractive I would be willing to make anyone thinking of coming with a spouse or friend a deal: sign up two people at once and I'll discount the price of the two day camp $100. That's $500 for two people, two fiddles, and two days of music here at Cold Antler next August. Email me at to sign up. I will offer 2 of these deals. No more than 4 people at that price....

Oh, and YES that still includes a FREE season pass for the buyer, so you can buy it as a gift and give them the pass or keep the pass for yourself.

Opening Weekend!

If we lived in a better age weekends like this would be Holidays: Opening weekend of deer season, Warm as September, Hawk Trapping with amazing men, and a full moon! I've been up since the dark before dawn each day with hot coffee and my father's gun, sitting in the beautiful forest watching the sun rise. Saw a beautiful buck yesterday but no luck (turns out he was stalking me and ran off just as I turned around), and today I saw no action. But I have been out with my Falconry Mentors, Ed and Buddy, who have been teaching me so much about the starting out of the sport. Yesterday we drove around with BC traps (Bal-Catri) and saw at least a dozen red tails, but caught none of them. I was just excited to be out trying to catch my tail. It was such an uphill climb to get to this point, to actually be in the act of "possibly" getting a bird to start training is making me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I can't believe the time these men are investing in me, who they hardly know, and it makes me wish all of hunting had this kind of sponsor/apprentice situation. I'm certain I'd be a better deer hunter if it did!

Oh well, luck to all those out there hoping for a full freezer and lighter heart. And on this full moon—oddly warm winded and full of hope—I hope to catch a bird that will teach me to be a better person, in every sense.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Trap Is Set (Thanks to Ed, Buddy, and Merlin)

Last night before I could head over to a friends house for a game of Agricola - I had the following things to check off my to-do list.

1. Feed the Sheep, horses, and goatling
2. Feed the chickens, rabbits, and nesting duck hen
3. Bring inside water bottles to defrost
4. Medicate and check on the lamb in special care
5. Carry water buckets
6. Cover winter greens
7. Feed dogs and cats

Oh, and close the trigger latch on the Swedish Hawk Trap, cover it with a cloth, and get feed to the pigeons in the cage below it. You know, normal farm stuff.

These last few Days of Grace before true winter is the rush, force, and hope that is the end of the hawk trapping season. Apprentice Falconers all over the northeast have either already trapped their passage hawks and kestrels. Experienced falconers are out enjoying the hunt, flying their readied birds and doing that ancient dance I can't wait for my fumbling feet to learn. Falconry, like archery, like riding and driving horses, like tending livestock, milking goats, learning kata, making soap and sewing cloaks - these old skills and ways are what make me shine. Every time I learn one I feel like I am given a key that unlocks a lost part of me. I know a lot of these things seem archaic, of fantasy, to a lot of people. To me it is the most comfortable and welcoming life possible. Land that feeds me, adventure right out the front door in the form of a horse cart ride through the country, a gallop up the mountain to visit Mr. Tucker, or to trap and train a hawk!

The trap on my hill is heavy, about the heft and size of a large doghouse. It's a frame with cage wire, a special pigeon compartment (with food and water) and a triggered perch. It is the most harmless way to catch a young bird. It has been sitting in my driveway since Saturday's disappointing anti-trapping, since it was too heavy to lift alone and I didn't know where Ed would want me to set it. When I got the last of my paperwork in, I called Ed and told him I was finally legit and he came over that same day to help me set up the trap. He asked me if I had a four-wheeler to move it. I said no. HE asked if there was a gate we could open that would fit a Jeep through? I said no, sorry.

But I had a horse and stone boat!

What goes better with falconry than horses, I ask you? Nothing, far as I'm concerned, so I had Merlin harnessed and ready to hitch by the time my mentor arrived. I hitched up Merlin to the stone boat holding the cumbersome trap and I drove him to the back field as if he had been assisting falconers his entire life with such tasks. Ed followed behind us with a small cage of pigeons protected with a burlap cloth. While Ed and I loaded and sprung the trap Merlin nibbled on the grass. It didn't take long for the apparatus to be readied and our work finished. Looking at the trap I had all sorts of questions and learned all about difference cultures traps. There are so many ways to snare a hawk it was baffling as it was fascinating. There were net traps, bent sapling traps, and traps loaded with homing pigeons that released them soon as a hawk was caught. Which meant the falconers knew to check the trap when the bird of the assigned color returned. It's the original text message. I was in awe of this clever history. And wait till you hear this, some falconers used to cover themselves up with leaves and dirt and tie a live pigeon to their belts on a short leash and then a bird landed on their bellies and started in on their fat meal the falconers would reach out and grab the bird by the legs! WILD!

This trap isn't as cool as pigeon texts and belt snatching but it is something marvelous in itself. It may trap a hawk, or it may not. I haven't seen the young male I am used to seeing watching my chickens, and he may already be long gone, head south at the first real frost. But even if I don't catch one here there's a chance we may all head upstate to a pheasant game park with a hawk problem that will allow us the privilege of trapping there. So my fingers are crossed, hope is high, and my hawking kit is ready to go. I have a great community, good teachers, and a horse that hauls Swedish hawk traps. It'll be just fine.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Falconry Update

I received my Federal Falconry Permit via email today from Linda at my Region 5 Migratory Birds Permit Office. She was so wonderful on the phone, and so kind to me yesterday. And I made sure when I mailed it off I made time to call her back, just to thank her. She said that phone call made her day. It must have because myferderal permit was issued in under 24 hours, unheard of. I am sending her a thank you gift of a signed copy of One Woman Farm. She was a huge part in making this dream real. So thank you, Linda of Massachusetts. You are a blessed creature. And soon as my mentor Ed lets me, I am trapping a hawk!

The Falconry Road, So Far

It was a little under a year ago that I decided to actually become a falconer. It was something I had wanted for a long time, but like most larger-than-life passions you're not sure where to start or if a "normal person" can realistically do it. Since starting out on this path lined with impede feathers and kangaroo jesses, I can confidently say this much: Falconry is not for normal people. I'll explain this more as I tell you the story that got me to where I am today, which is just a few days away (I hope) from trapping my first red-tailed hawk.

My introduction to Falconry was back in 2008, at the British School of Falconry in Manchester, Vermont. I was staying at a local hotel while on a job interview for Orvis (at the time I still lived in Idaho)and when I saw for fifty bucks I could take a class and have a hawk on my fist, I jumped at it. When in my life would I ever get to be that close to a hawk?! It seemed like an amazing experience and I took the hour-long class on calling a bird to the fist, an explanation of the hunt, and learned about the beautiful Harris Hawks at the school. All of this was unquestionably awesome, but what most inspired me the most was the instructor. Her name was Dawn and talking to her about the sport, the hawks, and how many people actually participate at home was sending my notions of reality into hyperdrive. It was 2008 and I was talking to a professional falconer. That in itself was jarring to realize, that this was how someone made a living in this world! And that people did this from their rural and suburban backyards, on urban rooftops, and all over the world. This was something I wanted to be a part of. It felt correct the way sitting on a horse felt correct. It felt like something I did before, and had not done in a long time. So I asked Dawn how to get started and she handed me a pile of catalogs, resources and her email address. If I got the job I should contact her. She would help me.

Fast forward five years later: I finally own my own land, have property, and work from home. I had forgotten about Falconry, for the most part. I was so busy with horses, sheep, clubs, and such that it seemed to be something for "another time", slotted into that horrible mental filing cabinet we call "eventually". I hate eventually. It's a horrible place the scared parts of me go. But I didn't see how I could manage it. I of course, was totally ignorant of what that meant. I didn't know the first thing about what it cost, what it took, or what it meant to be a falconer. I just assumed it was for later. That was until I drove by a few people flying their hawks in a local field. I pulled over and watched them, normal, paunchy, Regular Joes. What did they have that I didn't have? What made this a part of their life and not a part of mine? Nothing, of course, but the effort to get up to their level. So that day I emailed Dawn, who I still had a contact with through a mutual friend. And I started. All it took was making up my mind to do it.

I asked if I could go hunting with Dawn and her husband, Mark. They both had red tails and told me I could join them on a rabbit hunt in late February. We went and I was hooked. Running through the woods with dogs and hawks, hitting brush with big walking sticks, watching the birds zoom and dart towards rabbits in the thick. It was grand. I took them out to lunch after as a thank you and asked them what my steps would be. How does someone join this club? Become one of them?! Turns out you ask. Shocker. I don't know why I am always surprised that this is how the world works. If you want something, you ask for it. If you're told no, you ask again in a different way. You need to always ask. Not beg, not plead, not expect.... but ask. Open yourself up to a strange new world and it wraps you in its arms. At least that has been my experience so far and I have the horsehair to prove it.

Taking Dawn's advice, I reached out to the internet and discovered a local Falconry Association. Through a few emails with their Beginner Coordinator, I was shown the first easy step (and my first interaction with my county's Special License Department). I called the Albany SL Department of the DEC and told them I was interested in becoming a Falconer. In less than a week a large package arrived in the mail (free) with a study guide, a phone list of all the licensed Falconers in the state, and the steps needed to get started. It looked like before I could do anything I needed to reach out to someone who was willing to take me on as an apprentice. That's how falconry works, it is still a mentor/apprentice relationship. A beginner needs to find a teacher who will get them started, and it is asking a lot. A mentor not only is responsible for you, but has to give up a lot of time and energy. I called the person who seemed to live the closest to me: Ed Hepp.

Ed is in his seventies, a retired Carousel Horse carver, and has a zero-tolerance policy on bullshit. He asked me to come over and introduce myself, and talk a bit before he agreed to any teacher/student relationship. I certainly couldn't blame him. I arrived at his farm house on a cold, late winter morning and not far from his driveway was what looked like a large chain-link dog run with a silver hawk on it. It turned out to be a Siberian Goshawk Hybrid, a bird I would get a closer look at later. Ed and his wife Patty invited me inside for coffee and a chat. I had with me all the stuff I hoped would prove to Ed I was serious. I had books loaned from friends, a leather gauntlet, hood, and other gear from a beginner falconry kit I ordered online. I had ALL the paperwork that came with my packet, including a form that the state wanted signed by my future mentor. I showed these things to Ed, talked with him, and pleaded my case. He was hard to read, but kind, and seemed willing to take on another apprentice - which is something he had not done in years.

So I had a mentor, I had a dream, and I had a giant-ass book to study about raptor biology, migration, health, and hunting. Time to grindstone the nose and hit the books. I studied for a few weeks, and signed up with the DEC to take my exam on an April morning. I needed an 80% or higher to pass the exam. I got a 91%, and when my score returned in the mail it also came with a "Facility Inspection" paper, a proper Apprentice License Application, and requirements to get such a listen. I would need the following to earn my Apprentice Falconer License in the State of New York

- An 80% or higher on my exam
- A licensed General or Master Falconer to sponsor me.
- A Mews (aviary) for my hawk or kestrel, inspected by the state
- A collection of Falconer gear (list in packet)
- A weathering area (hawk kennel) for exercising/fresh air
- A $40 check
- A signed letter of intent from my Sponsor
- A Small Game Hunting License
- Proof of passing a Hunter's Safety Course

And that, friends, is what you need to APPLY. It requires networking, gathering random and odd supplies like Kangaroo leather foot straps called jesses, special swivels and leashes, scales with perches on them and a collection of dead, frozen animals to defrost for hawk food. On the road to becoming a falconer you start picking up fresh roadkill in plastic bags. You grab the dead chipmunks and mice your cats killed. You set out mouse traps, and keep the dead mice. I was starting to answer my own questions about the type of people to pursue this sport. It isn't normal. There is absolutely nothing normal about it. I was asked to do more to get a permit to "possibly" trap a hawk than I was asked to get a 30-year mortgage. No wonder so few people do this, the red tape alone must weed out the average raised eyebrow. But if you know nothing else about me, know this. I am stubborn as steady as a steam engine. I don't care if I move slowly, I'll get where I am going.

And you do all this because of the vague hope of a relationship with a wild animal.

It took a little south of a year to collect the gear, build my mews, and get it inspected. When I finally handed in my application it took another month or so to get it back, but eventually a form that had my name on it and the word Apprentice Falconer was in my hands. What a rush! I made it! Time to trap a hawk and start training it. I felt like all this year I was clinking and chinking my way up a roller coaster, waiting for the big fall. This trapping was the fall, the joyful descent into a strange and wonderful world of partnership and a shared hunt. I had worked with dogs, horses, milked goats and galloped my horse across a mountain but to train a wild beast to know me, trust me, and work beside me was something so grand and terrifying just the pursuit of it was making me get out of bed in the morning. Falconry was making life exciting, really exciting.

Trapping day came and I drove over to a neighboring Falconer's house on a high. I was elated. I had my gear in the back seat, my license I worked so hard to acquire (thanks to a small village of helpers who made it happen), and now folks with traps and knowledge would invite me into their tribe. I'd be going home with a red tail hawk. I sang. I smiled. The cold morning sun filtered into the truck cab and I had a canvas bag of gear I never thought I'd buy sitting next to be on the passenger side. This was all a dream come true. Finally, the day had come!

And I was welcomed into Buddy's home as if he knew me his whole life. Ed arrived shortly after I did and there was a trap or three, bait pigeons they acquired, gear, warm coats and more. And just as we were getting ready to head out the door I was asked by Buddy, "Do you have your license and Capture Authorization?


I thought the license WAS my authority to capture. Isn't that what the whole process was for. I stood there, stupid and dumbfounded. Two men, five pigeons, and a Saturday afternoon had congregated for me and I messed up. As it turned out you need more than an Apprentice License to trap a bird. You need a Federal License as well, and ONLY when the state has proof you are on the government's books can you apply for authorization to trap a wild animal. The other guys assumed I knew this, because I should have known it. I didn't. My heart sank. Two agencies, another fee, possibly weeks of waiting and only a small window of time before all the juvenile hawks head south. Ed was quiet, and I asked him if I had a chance. He tactfully said if I didn't get my paperwork in order soon it would be next year. It was the Saturday of a three-day weekend. No offices would be open until Tuesday, at the earliest. That's three days already burned. I sighed a lot the way home, cursing myself for being so foolish and not checking all the fine print.

I went home and re-read the letter from the state. It explained there, plain as day, that I needed my Federal License to trap. It said nothing about a capture authorization, but that didn't mean I didn't need one. I also noticed I needed paperwork I didn't have anymore - like the approval of my facilities by the Game Warden, my letter from Ed accepting me as a sponsor. My heart sank deeper. What was going to be a painful wait and forms was now a wild hawk chase.

Yesterday I called the Feds and the woman Linda who worked there was wonderful. She explained to me exactly what I needed for my Federal Falconry Apprentice License. It turns out I didn't need a copy of my mews inspection (old form online) but I did need a letter from my sponsor, a check, and proof of my state license. I bothered Ed again, he wrote me a letter that morning, and I overnighted it through the USPS to the the Federal Migratory Bird License Department and I called back Linda to thank her profusely and tell her it was on its way.

So where am I now? I am waiting for my Federal License. I am waiting for a phone call back from the state to see if I need a Capture Authorization. If I do, then I will drive down there to Albany and have them sign one if I have too. And when I have those things I can take the Swedish Hawk Trap out to my pasture, load it with pigeons, and pray and pray a Juvenile Red Tail was stubborn and well-fed enough to last this long into the early November Cold. Technically, I have until January to trap but the longer I wait the harder it becomes. So here's hoping I get what I need, set my trap, and start training as soon as possible before the snow scares them off.

I feel patient and frustrated. I feel nervous and excited. I feel agitated and invigorated. I guess those aren't normal things to feel about trapping a hawk in your backyard, but I think we already established that I'm not very normal. Which is fine by me.

So stay tuned. There may be hawk feathers yet.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cloak Second?

This cloak looks great in the afternoon light, next to a sheep paddock with a brass brooch. But I made a few mistakes making it and had to repair several of them. While I think it is pretty, this one isn't good enough for a full-price buyer. But if anyone wants a cloak (and brooch) at a lower price complete with the little mistakes I would sell it to you at a steal and mail it tomorrow. Here are the faults: it is a light wool, not heavy enough without a sweater below it. The hood is a bit wonky, too large. And last, I used white thread which shows in sharp constrast to the green wool. But if you are just trail riding with your horse or feeding the chickens at dawn, it is a fine piece of clothing. Email me at and you can have it. As for you full-price buyers, don't be discouraged that you aren't getting it sooner, yours will be much finer!

Get Your Maude Stockings!

One of the folks from the Cold Antler Community here gave me this stocking as a gift last Yule. It was in honor of Maude, and I adore it. A stocking I will always use and cherish. Karen (the very talented sewer of said stocking) approached me after last year's Antlerstock with the idea that she could sell some on her Etsy shop, and that sales from the shop could possibly help support the farm, too. So If you are already hankering to get your holiday shopping done and want something truly unique on the fireplace, I suggest clicking here for her shop, Useful & Beautiful.

You can order your own Baaa Humbug! Stocking as well as other things she has handcrafted. All of them are up-cycled or recycled goods, so realize it is a pretty ethical and green business, as well as useful and beautiful! I want to Thank Karen for my own Maude Stocking and for her support. I'll be posting an image ad link to her shop through Christmastime so anyone who wants to grab some gifts there has time before snow fly!

A Hard Truth

We don't have a healthy relationship, I'll admit that up front. He isn't supportive of me, never has been, and I guess that is the root of the problem. Other guys in my life - hell, they'd wake up next to be just excited to be alive but not him. If he wakes up at all it's only to eat the groceries I paid for, use the bathroom, and then goes back to sleep for hours at a stretch while I work.

It's so frustrating. If I had more self esteem I would have kicked him out long ago.

You can't make him do anything. You can't expect him to appreciate anything either. I know he's using me. I can just look at receipts for the proof. He knows it too. And the worst part? He doesn't care and he doesn't care if I know that. It's as if he came into my life knowing I existed only to serve his needs and somehow our society just accepts this. People see us and they even see how he treats me, they say nothing. Once I was hosting a dinner party and he just walked through the room, glanced over his shoulder, stared daggers and walked out the front door. He was gone for days.

No explanation.

He hurts me. He physically attacks me sometimes. I have the marks to prove it if you don't believe me. One minute he's sweet, his cheek against my own and a moment later I'm bleeding. Nothing that would put me in the hospital but still… It's abuse. He does all these things with such graceful nonchalance it gives him this indisputable air of entitlement. I think that's the most unsettling part of the whole thing. He treats me like this because he knows he can, and I'll keep loving him.

This is why I'm a dog person. Cats are awful.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Home Day

Spending the entire day at home cleaning, organizing, trying to tame this feral farmhouse. I always keep the place civilized, but things like dusting and scrubbing rarely get the attention they need, which makes for a heck of a mucking out a few times a year! Today is that day, and between chores inside and out I'm working on some logo designs for folks and sewing up a cloak to mail off. I have six to mail before December first, planning to do one a day all this week.

Back to cleaning. I'm getting all the tack laying around the house up in my office (tack room, really, as the sign on the door says). Horses have become such a normal piece of my life I have forgotten that coat racks and backs of dining room chairs aren't really the best place to stick bridles and crops. It also makes finding things a goose chase. So I have moved all the collars and reins and harness and halters up to the office, dusted and hung like trophies. I know this sound so....boring, but really, cleaning helps me think. A house in order (a little order even) makes the work at computers and outside more digestible.

Outside in the farmyard things are a little unsettling. I still have a lamb that isn't healed. He is eating, drinking, baaing and having normal bowel movements...but he won't (or can't) stand up. His legs are like jelly under him. I have given him a worm drench, Vitamin B, selenium, all and everything -talked with farmers online and on Facebook, and with local vets and farming neighbors. They all have a different idea, but I have treated him for all their diagnoses. So I am hoping simple time, care, and patience has him back on his feet soon.

I have a duck hen sitting on a nest of eggs. A goose doing the same. Silly waterfowl, always laying right before real cold hits.

I'm hoping to get a hay delivery today of a few bales to thicken up the barn, and mailing a few important bills. School loans, Merlin's monthly payment, and the electric and internet fees too. This is also "Home Day" work, keeping the lights on and internet chugging along.

I miss Bonita, and hope to have her back from Common Sense Farm soon. Her daughter Ida has grown such a woolly coat these past few weeks she looks like a baby bison. She has a masculine build and big bold head like her mother. She is growing like a weed! I am very glad I held back on having her bred this fall, and will only have one goat to worry over kidding and milking with. Bonita is such a powerhouse of dairy that in her peak weeks she is offering a gallon and a half a day. Imagine if everyday you came home from work to find another gallon jug and half gallon carton in your fridge! It's nuts, and one of the reason the spring pigs are some of the best tasting in the lot! They get half their calories from goats milk overflow! It's one of the systems that works here, that I am proud to have in place. So even when their is a sick lamb there is hope of cheese and babies in a few months. Ups and Downs, they are all of farming.

okay, back to cleaning...

Beautiful, beautiful, Gaelic

Nuair 'tá mé imithe
Nuair 'tá mé imithe
Aireoidh tú uait mé 's gan mé ann
Aireoidh tú uait mé 's mo aoibh
Aireoidh tú uait mé 'chuile
Ó, aireoidh tú uait mé 's gan mé ann

Barn Birds

There are five pigeons in the barn right now, bait birds for the Swedish Hawk Trap I am borrowing from a neighboring falconer. Even though I wasn't able to trap on Saturday, there is still a slim chance I will get all my paperwork in order before it snows and could possibly trap later in this week. It's a long shot, but just in case I have everything here from traps to bait. These guys are quiet, enjoying round-the-clock care and a window in the back of the barn. If I can't trap they will go back to their pigeon house, at another falconer's home. I'm not very enamored with them, but I see the appeal. For me, I'll stick with chickens.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Go In On a Pig?

If anyone local is interested in going in on a pig for next summer, let me know please? Just message me on Facebook or Email?

No Hawk

So there was no hawk trapping. Turns out I needed alot more than a NY State Apprenticeship Liscense, which I didn't realize having never done this before. It took a year to get my liscense, but that was just the FIRST step in forms, permits, and such. I needed a Federal license, too. And to apply for my federal paperwork I need forms back from the state... It's a huge pile of red tape, and we figured it out this morning around a pile of hawk traps.

I'm upset. This may mean Falconry is out this year unless I somehow can wrangle the State and Federal government to pull out all the stops, and this isn't exactly a high priority for any bureaucrat. Which also means no chance of a falconry book deal, which really effects the farm's bottom line as that was my best chance for another contract before Yule. So it's an emotional and financial blow, and frankly I am bummed out. It's not a real problem, of course, but it is a huge let down. I left my house a few hours ago thrilled to start on this journey. It may very well end up being another year.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Well, Guys.....

I think I am going out hawk trapping tomorrow with my mentor Ed and local falconers...

I may come home with a bird!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Support CAF Going into Winter

So with snow just a few weeks away and winter preps still in need of some serious supplies (i.e. snowtires, seasoned firewood, and hay)I have decided to pile evertyhing CAF has to offer in one place: this post. All the offers, deals, and ideas I have to support the farm are here. If you already have a season pass, reserved a spot at Fiddle Camp, or can't wait for Beltaine to start shooting your first longbow....then I THANK YOU, but I also ask you post this on your farm-friendly Facebook Pages. So here goes:

Workshops: Cold Antler Farm hosts all sorts of workshops - everything from blogging to bows and arrows. You can buy a one-time pass for any of the following workshops (price is usually around $100 for a full day workshop), or you can buy a season pass. The season pass regularly costs $450 dollars but right now it is on sale for $300. This includes things like Fiddle Camp! (though it doesn't include the purchase of an instrument if you need one here waiting for you). I think this is the best value I can offer. And to help persuade you I am offering a FREE season pass to anyone who buys Fiddle Camp as a gift. That means you pay the $350 for the camp and fiddle, but you get a year of workshops at no extra cost. It's a blwo to my pocketbook in the long run, but that's okay if it gets people here and the word out.

Here is a list of workshops planned for the weeks and months ahead. I'll be adding back the button on the right side of the blog so anyone can click to see the events at anytime. Workshops are a fun, comfortable, and beginner-friendly environment to learn new skills, meet like-minded people, and support my work here as a writer/blogger/small farmer. You can pay per event or if you live relatively close you can buy a season pass, which costs the price of two or three workshops paid up front for a whole year! Email me at to sign up for a season pass or any workshop at all!

Indie Days!
These are personal workshops, private and full of one-on-one skill teaching time in everything from setting up a sheep fence to learning the fiddle. They are twice the price of a normal workshop but ten times the focus and attention.

Fiber Festival Wool Workshop!
Friday October 4th
Come spend a long weekend in Washington County, join us for a wool workshop the day before the fiber festival starts and spend the weekend putting your wool, carding, spinning and fleece buying know-how to good use. Stay for Dulcimer Day Camp Saturday if you like!

Dulcimer Day Camp
October 5th
A day camp introduction to the Mountain Dulcimer. Comes with a dulcimer!

Open Backs and Hallowed Hearts!
Saturday, Holy October 26th 2013
Learn the basics of the 5-string banjo with expert Julie Dugan! A workshop not to be missed!

Words and Wool
December 7th
Come talk blogs, writing, marketing and all things online in the farmhouse! Knitting too!

Fiddle Camp - Winter and Summer 2014
Come for a weekend and learn the Fiddle, comes with a fiddle! Most popular workshop, hands down!

Cold Antler Confidential! Session 1

Saturday Jan 18th 2014
A workshop to inspire you to act! Get That Farm!

Arrows Rising
Beltane Weekend, 2014
Come knowing nothing, leave an archer with your own bow. Nuff said.

Cold Antler Confidential! Session 2

Saturday April 5th 2014
A workshop to inspire you to act! Get That Farm!

NOTICE: Workshops are non-refundable for any reason. However, if weather or illness prevents you from attending, your credit is good as long as I am hosting workshops here so no money goes to waste! Subscriptions: A very low cost option that makes a huge difference is blog subsciptions. This is a way to compensate the writer (in this case, me) for the blog you read. To me it's like paying for a book at a bookstore. It isn't necessary, and I know some of you can't spare a dime. But for those of you who are too far away to atend a class, or not interested in wool designs, this is a very appreciated option. Right now I think there are around 27 subscribers, and they contribute something like $275 dollars a month. That is such an amazing thing to wake up to in your paypal account, enough to covera truck payment or buy enough feed for this place to last two weeks. And if everyone who read the blog signed up for only five bucks a month I would have the equivelent to my old corporate salaray. That isn't what I expect at all, but it is an example of how powerful 500 pennies can be to a stranger (16 cents a day!). It matters. Please subscribe if you can. If you can't, don't worry, the blog will always remain free.

Cloaks: You can purchase wool cloaks hand sewn by me from army surplus blankets (new blankets, not used ones!) for $125. They come with a Pennular Brooch, the old fashioned clasping method of kilts and plaids. My cloaks are hooded, of course. They keep the rain off, keep the warmth in, fit all sizes and shape and look great. I'm bringing back an old style that works. I have sold 8 and plan on making as many as I can handle. Shipping in the US is included in the price.

YardSale: Here are some items I am selling. You can buy them! Pickup Only**

Monday the Yearling Scottish Blackface Ram: $175
Alpine Goat Kids (Due in March): $75 male, $100 female
Antlerborns: $20 a chicken, straight run pullets and cockerals
Horse Collar (23" wide): $100
English saddle, pad, girth, and bridle: $150

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


For this post to make sense you're going to have to watch a few videos, but I promise they are either short or delightful. The first one is my own video (short), filmed by Patty, of herding with Gibson on my hill. The second (delightful) is by a personal hero, John Green, of the Author/Vlogbrothers fame.

Okay. Here I go.

If you watched that video you probably saw a girl and her dog herding sheep. That's because that is what the video is about. But when I watch that video I see nothing but failure. I see a dirt-covered hillside that once had beautiful grass on it. I see an overweight, broke, woman with low self esteem. I see a dog that is doing the exact opposite of the commands I am saying to him (i.e. Going Come By when I say Away and vice versa). I see failing fences. I see erosion. I see shame. No part of me was proud of this video. To me this is dirty underwear printed in the town newspaper.

I see this because I have lost perspective. I really have. And I didn't realize that until a few days ago when someone forced it down my throat. See, what you have there is a video of a girl and her dog. That's what it is. All those negative things I associated are not necessarily shared by anyone else, certainly not all of them (I hope). But that didn't matter, because that is the lens I have seen myself through for the past two years. If I'm honest, the last five. I see myself as a failure, and any "success" I have along the way is just a residual offset of larger failures along the way. This is a sad way to live. I wish I didn't see myself this way; But I do.

And that is what I was thinking while Brett interviewed me for his Doctoral thesis. His PhD is based on modern homesteaders and community, or something like that. So he asked me questions about my reasons for getting into such a lifestyle and what my measures of success were. These are perfectly logical questions to ask, but I kept using them as an excuse to apologize to him. Apologize for the scrappiness of the farm, for the sick lamb in the room with us, for the sheep that got away while herding. I apologized for over-grazing, eroded topsoil, and broken down barns. I wanted to cry during this interview, because all I could feel was failure. This farm feels like a failure in so many ways. I expounded on this by going through all the mistakes I made and the plans to fix them. I told him about selling livestock, re-seeding pasture, fixing fences, power washing the mold off the house, and just saying all that felt daunting. I told him that how this farm looks is a direct representation of how I feel about myself: a mess. I told this to Brett. And he just let the recorder go on and asked simple, non-emotional questions. Then he said something along these lines and it was a smack in the face.

"Jenna. When I met you, just three years ago, you were… farmCurious. You had three sheep, a few chickens, and that's it. Now you have mastered this place."

Brett isn't one to hand out compliments. I didn't believe him, but he had my attention. Master? Are you kidding me? Yet that strong a word has a lot of weight and it made me pause, think, and reevaluate what I had all around me.

I thought about how the day before I had taken two live roosters and turned them into food. How I taught this skill to a friend and together we butchered seven birds. I thought about my demonstration bird and the perfect kill stroke of the hatchet. I thought about the dozens and dozens of birds it took to get to such a point of confidence in teaching such a slaughter to others. The woman just a few years earlier was a vegetarian who thought fox hunting was along the same lines as vehicular manslaughter. That growth is something.

I thought about the sheep I just sold him, four large and healthy animals we loaded into the back of his truck with our own hands and my dog. Gibson and I are not sheepdog trial stars, nor are we anything special. But we did work as a team, him reading me and I reading him and communicated the work of gathering sheep and at the end of the day he had certainly helped to do the work he was bred for. That doesn't just happen. It was three years of working and living side-by-side, on this little farm. That relationship is something.

I thought about that hill side I am so ashamed of. And how even if it is a disaster, it is MY disaster. That this is land I own, bought myself, and raise food on. That I had a whole plan on paper for re-seeding and healing my mistakes and that is something. Even though it was a sloppy first-three years it was also impermanent. This wasn't a jail-sentence, but an interim. And a mistake that one summer of proper seeding and nature's blessing could return to grass, and eventually, livestock. The video is showing you dirty underwear, but you can do laundry. It's never too late to wash those drawers. That realization is something.

And yes, my body isn't something you'll find molded out of plastic at the GAP modeling a sweater. But you know what, it's my body. It is alive in every sense, and only getting better with every year. It's got curves and it knows what to do with them. It can buck hay, carry full-grown goats, ride a draft horse up a hill, and hit a bullseye with a good arrow. It can run, swim, smile, and shine. It has loved men, climbed mountains, and smote epic summer jogs. Plastic people can not do these things. They do not even try.

I felt better after Brett's interview because it allowed me to see myself as more than I had before. It made me feel better. And watching this video from John Green, it seemed to validate the experience. How often do we forget that a simple phrase, quote, movie, or experience can change things in a person. How often do we hold back kindness, when it could be everything the other person is grasping for so blindly. I like John's story. And while he is talking about a decade and change before, it still holds true to my own experience. Sometimes things get better because you decide to make them better. So from a few dead chickens, a dirt hill, and four sold sheep I got a little perspective, thanks to Brett McLeod. All it took was letting myself choose to see the positive instead of my haunting negatives. I am all those things I said in the beginning of this post, but I am more than that, too. I am a woman (not a girl) who has fought and won the life she desperately wanted. I have gone from half-hour rides on dressage horses at lesson barns to traveling miles by horse cart from my own front lawn. I have learned to spin wool, chop firewood, heat my home, milk goats, breed critters, and sell pigs. I am a hopeless romantic, morally secure, spiritually wealthy, and a powerhouse of hope and force. I have grown so much, more than anything else on this farm that was ever so planted and it truly floors me when I think about it. You can go back to the beginning of this blog and read a life from a total beginner who had no idea what was happening, just the passion to try. Now there's a lot more frustration and fear, yes. And a lot of healing of mind and land to happen, but I am certainly equipped to pull both off. I needed a lumberjack to tell me that. I needed a witness.

I am not a failure. Cold Antler is not a failure. It's just a beginning.

And that's some serious perspective.

P.S. If you aren't watching the VlogBrother's videos, you should. What started as youtube videos between two brothers in different parts of the country has become one of the best social and political works of our time, talking about everyting from Gay Marriage to Bronies.


Thank you for all your comments and advice on the little lamb (and a lot of emails about snow tires!) I am happy to share this video of the little lambchop when I just checked on him a few moments ago!

Winter Preps & The Sick Lamb

The last few days have been very busy and yesterday finally allowed me a bit of time to catch my breath. Thanks to the help of friends like Keenan, Brett, Miriam and Patty, all the firewood in the splitting piles has been cut, split, and stacked. The sheep sheds that Atlas has destroyed have been repaired and one was even moved to another part of the farm. Atlas, Knox, and two other ewes were loaded up and sent to live at Draftwood, Brett's farm in the Adirondacks. Two big roosters were added to the larder thanks to a community chicken slaughter Sunday morning, and 25 bales of hay were put up in the barn. So in the last few days (thanks to the amazing people in my life) I acquired cord of firewood, 25 bales of hay, 10 pounds of meat in the freezer, a repaired shed, a transported shed, and I even fit in some time for an amazing meal and hot tub soak.

I got pricing on some snow tires (so expensive!) and am looking for some used ones online instead. So far progress towards my winter prep goals has been slow, but I am gaining on them. I may not be ahead of the race but I can go to sleep knowing I have all the food, water, heat, and shelter I need on this farm to be safe. So do my animals.

Most of them, at least. I have a weak little ram lamb that has been down since Saturday morning when I found him near the water trough. He was brought inside to be inspected, medicated, and observed constantly - so I made him a lay-lined bed in the dog crate right in the living room. He spent two days inside and showed slow recovery, if any. It was confusing because when most sheep go down like this they either die or are back on their feet in under 36 hours. Not this little guy. ProPen and electrolytes weren't helping, but his body seemed unable to walk and stiff. I decided it was most likely White Muscle and gave him a shot of selenium. He was also drenched for worms... I'll check on him in a bit, as I hope that will do the trick. I can not call the vet, as its simply too expensive right now to even consider for the cost of the lamb. So I am trusting my own experience and care, time, and a little prayer. If you raise sheep and think it may be something else not related to WM, Tetanus, or such - let me know please. Home remedies are welcomed, too.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bringing Home a Wild Hawk

People have been asking me "Just how does a person trap a hawk?!" This is the stage I am at in my apprenticeship, and soon I'll be trapping a bird to take home and train. Here is a video I found on youtube of a young falconer and his sponsor trapping his first bird.

One Season Pass Left!

One pass left for the half price sale, hope some one grabs it!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Good Morning From a 54 degree house!

I woke up to the sound of cud being chewed. That content and rhythmic song. It's pleasant, sure, but not the kind of pleasant I am used to hearing in my living room at 5:30AM. I had fallen asleep downstairs by the wood stove on the day bed. On nights like this—when the temperature drops ten or so degrees below freezing—you sleep closer to the stove. The lamb next to be was coincidental.

The ram lamb was in the house because I found him yesterday morning looking droopy and walking as if he was drunk. All the other sheep were fine, but he was staggering like a frat boy at 3AM. I went to check on him and he didn't run off like other lambs, and that was a bad sign. I scooped him up and brought him inside to check on. I looked him over in my bathroom, going through all the signs and stages of a few possible causes of the illness. Finally I decided to go for the standard TLC treatment for sheep: ProPen, Electrolytes, and Observation. He was given a few doses and drenched with some sugar water and now he is recovering well. My house smells like a barn and Gibson is highly motivated to remain indoors.

the little lamb will be fine. I'm not worried at all. I've seen this before and my best bet is some sort of bacterial infection that knocks them out like we get knocked out by a stomach bug. Some meds and softer care and he'll be back up with his mom and brother in no time. And they should be excited about that because the sheep shed that was literally ramshackle (Atlas, my ram, destroyed the walls) was repaired yesterday by my friend Brett. He stopped by to pick up Atlas for his flock and was kind enough to help nail back together the bits of the farm destroyed by his charge. He shook his head though, saying it might be Atlas's last year at his place. Apparently this guy has a bent edge on destruction, wrecking houses wherever he goes. Monday (my up and coming Ram) seems a lot more gentle. It's a plus when the last guy tears down buildings like 1980's rock stars destroy hotel rooms.

Yesterday was nuts. A sick ram lamb. A shed repaired. Livestock pimping. And seven chickens slaughtered. Yup. I got a call the night before from Patty asking if I could come and show her how to dress out a chicken. She has taken care of countless game birds but most of those critters don't get the whole skinless/gutless/roaster treatment. I was happy to help because I had two roosters destined for the pot as well. It took us two or three hours to get through all seven (three laying hen roosters and four GIANT cornish crosses she was gifted) but we got it done. We were disgusted and impressed by the Cornish Crosses. For all their mutant-waddling- grossness they sure do put on the pounds. The bird we had last night dressed out at 11.5 pounds, no joke. That is a HUGE chicken and I have photographic evidence to prove it (see below). Four of us had a meal of just ONE side of the breast and a leg Mark gnawed on. Impressive is indeed the word.

So that's what I have been up to: Lamb nursing, chicken killing, miracle witnessing, Dumb Supper hosting for Samhain night, and dreaming about deer season. Just two weeks or so and I'll be praying for antlers. Wish all of us here luck, and check back soon for more soon. I have a story about dinner with our memories, a new workshop, and sewing updates galore. Lots of cloaks being mailed out, which I am SO grateful to be doing for you fine people.

P.S. I just got a phone call from a neighbor falconer asking if I was allowed a transferred red tail, or if I had to trap a passage bird, since he had a beautiful female ready to be let go or given to another falconer. I sadly had to decline the awesome gift, since I need to trap a young bird and train it myself... I never thought I'd be turning down hawks on Monday mornings from my home office. Life is neat.