Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Want to join us for a soggy but wonderful archery weekend, one spot is left since a person switched to October. Email me for a discounted last-minute price and it comes with a longbow!

Wee Bree!

Twilight Sparkle & Rainbow Dash

It took me well into my late twenties to get a pony, and it took until I was 30 to feel comfortable around horses. But I got there. I share this because I think a lot of my readership is as enchanted by horses as I am, but some of you think riding on a regular basis is as lofty a dream as buying a Ferrari to throttle down the sunset strip. Horses have this stigma attached to them that they are playthings of the rich. They certainly can be, but for most of the folks with saddles in America, rich is not an accurate adjective.

Like any animal in your care, you can spend as much money as possible on them. We all know pet owners who buy outfits, birthday cakes, grooming appointments, toys, doggie day care trips, behaviorist check-ins, pet psychics and run to the vet for any possibly discomfort in their animals. If we all had to spend that budget on our canines one in a hundred dog owners could afford a dog. And we all know that and many of us in the homesteading mentality chuckle at that kind of pet owner. So why do we still think horses are hay burning, expensive, toys for the affluent?

Here in Washington County it is not uncommon to see a trailer on a 1/4 acre with a horse on it. That horse has a run-in shed made from scrap lumber, a cheap electric charger on an extension cord to the house, and some used polyrope strung around on hand-dug posts. There are also people who remove stumps and trees from ten-acre fields, put up painted white fences, build barns with tack rooms and saddle stands, wrap their horse's legs in special tape, buy treats, hire groomers, enter shows, pay entry fees, buy luxury trailers and so on. But most of us are somewhere between the trailer park and the grand estate. Most of us have a horse or two held in stead by some inexpensive electric fences, simple shelters, an annual vet check. To give you an idea what Merlin costs me. His annual vet appointment was around $180 for 4 shots and a Coggin's Test. That price included the vet coming to visit the farm. Oh, and his hooves need to be trimmed every ten weeks (a $40 fee). He eats 2/3 a bale of hay a day, a cost around $2-$3 a day around these parts. The most expensive part of Merlin is what I pay to buy him every month and that is only because the previous owner let me pay over two years on a payment plan. Horses aren't expensive, not if they are something you want. Your cable bill for television is probably double what I spend on having a horse in the backyard. And his paddock, run-in shed, and fence insulators were under a $1000 for the entire set up. Because I did it with the help of friends, sawmill lumber, and rolled and stretched that fence with my own sweat equity. If you're willing to pitch it in gets really inexpensive.

But some of you don't have country homes or even backyards. Do you still want to ride? I know I did. I took lessons for a year before I owned my own saddle horse. Around here lessons cost about $30 for an hour. That includes tack, horse, and instructor. At a stable you'll learn to groom, saddle, bridle, fit, and evaluate horses. You'll learn to sit, use your legs, hands, and body. I made a commitment to a weekly lesson when I worked at Orvis because I had the money at the time to do so. But I am sure there are girls there mucking stalls, leading halters, and pushing brooms who rode for the time they put into work. And if money is tight for you, and you WANT to ride, you can make it happen to. I wrote about this before, how horses do not have to be fantasy animals if you really want them. I explained that just emailing local barns and stables that you want to help, are eager to learn, and have a strong back can get you in doors. Maybe it means canceling the cable, or turning in your smartphone for a cheaper one, or something else - but I have learned that people who want horses in their lives find a way.

One reader wrote me that she contacted a barn after reading that post. And she started working with a horse rescue/rehab center. She learned from a mentor, started riding, training, and now owns her own. It took a year from sending a random email. Sometimes, well, all times, getting something requires asking for it. She asked. Now she rides.

I know horses will always have that "richy rich" stereotype, especially in areas where the only horses are in dressage stables in the suburbs. But I think a lot of everyday people (and the majority of homesteaders with horses) are just regular folk. Merlin is my other car. I use him all the time to move across the landscape, to buy groceries, visit neighbors, deliver goods and just explore. Last week we went for an adventure to a big fire tower on my mountain. On the way up the hill we passed three horses standing in yards. Merlin and I walked past, waving. I wondered if the horses were scared of cards, or the owners too busy? Why would an animal not be ridden, not be used for what horses were trained and bred to do? I think to some people it's scary to leave the arena and to other folks time just slips away. But some are just waiting for a little inspiration. I think it's time to invite those neighbors to join us for a trail ride!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Longbows Have Arrived!

Here is a video showing the simple, beautiful, handcrafted selfbow that is a part of Arrow's Rising. Arrow's Rising is a two-day workshop teaching basic archery to beginners. All the students who come go home with their own longbow. I wanted to share this simple and beautiful piece of art. There are only 5 spaces left for October's event, so if you want them sign up and this very bow will be waiting for you, along with a lifelong skill of archery!

Win a Cheese Making Kit!

The fine folks at Hoegger Supply, a Cold Antler Farm Sponsor and my go-to Goat Gear and Cheese making Supplier have offered you Antlers a free Mozzarella and Soft Cheese making kit! To win all you need to do is leave a comment about Cheese or goats! Every comment is an entry towards winning, so comment all you want! Share it on Facebook as well and get an even bigger chance of winning! This contest is free to enter and will be announced later this week!

And a note about Hoegger, these guys really know goats. I met them in person at the Mother Earth News Fair and talked with them face to face. Even the staff handing out catalogs and buttons knew about mastitis signs and hood trimming. So if you need something or have questions, call them. Their herbal de-wormer is what I use on my own goats and have since it was recommended to me years ago by the very crunchy folks at Common Sense Farm, whose never used anything but herbal wormer and never had an outbreak nor have I. So Check these guys out, and enter again and again for a cheesemaking kit!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Workshops for New ChickenFolk!

Well, it's that time of year again! I am announcing the spring chicken and backyard livestock workshops. I hope to see some new faces at these! I will be hosting two different workshops about chickens. One is all about raising laying hens for those curious about what it all entails. The other is about raising meat birds and includes a demonstration of home slaughter and butchering. A general backyard livestock workshop for folks considering the homesteading lifestyle and want to have a primer with a non-stop Q&A session all day will follow. Below are the names and dates of all the events!

Breakfast in the Backyard
May 17th 2014

This is an introduction to keeping laying hens! There will be chicks present, human and fowl kind alike. It's a full day from 10AM till 4PM at the farm, enjoying cuddly little ones (the fowl kind) and learning everything you need to know to get started with this gateway drug livestock. This is crash course in how to raise backyard chickens for beginners, answering questions and sharing experiences. This is a great opportunity for people who just need that friendly push to take the plunge into the poultry world. No experience with chickens needed to attend, and I am confident anyone leaving CAF that day will go home with confidence that they can raise their peeps to laying hens come fall.

The workshop will start at 10AM and start with group intros and talk on how I came into birds and how they changed me into the homesteader I am today There will be a tour of the coop and farm and more discussions on housing, healthcare, and a Q&A period as well. I would also like to host a group discussion about the importance of self-reliance and the first steps of adding animal husbandry to our modern backyards: both for food security and local production. It will be a day of like minds, baby chickens, farm animals, and probably a fiddle tune or two.

BBQ in the Backyard
May 18th 2014

I will also do a workshop on small-scale meat bird production. This all day events (also 10-4) will include a talk and instruction in home processing of poultry for the larger with a live demonstration. You’ll go home knowing exactly which boning knife to buy at the kitchen store and my secret leg loop trick for hanging fowl by their feet without a fuss. All the basics of raising backyard meat will be covered, but the bulk of the day will be on how to safely and humanely turn animals into food. (Trust me, I am an expert on the SAFE part after a mistake with a gall bladder and food poisoning). This will take place on the farm, too.

All workshops are limited to ten people, and slots are filled when the workshop is paid for to secure your space. If you want to come to both workshops, that is fine too. There is a discount for couples who attend both and singles who attend both - with added discounts if you are already a Clan Cold Antler member. For details on such savings email me at


Happy to share that this spring's first hatching of Antlerborns has arrived! They are a happy lot with a mom born and raised here last summer. Antlerborns are Cold Antler's homebrew of chicken. They are part Swedish Flower Hen, Pumpkin Husley, and Ameraucana. They lay blue/green/whitish eggs and have the survival skills of the cast of the Walking Dead. Scrappy, clever, and all the colors of fall. Happy to have the new brood here and in the sunshine!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Solid Ground

Today I joined the small crew at my friends Tara and Tyler's land to help raise the frame of their home. It was wonderful. I'll write much more about it in the morning when I am less tired and sore, but tonight I will share pictures. We didn't finish the entire job, but with just half a dozen folks, some ladders, and some primitive tools hand-hewn from tree stumps we put together a gorgeous timber framed home Tara and Tyler started over two years ago in Minnesota at a workshop. Today we erected the six posts and beams, joining bits, and braces that created a beautiful skeleton. I'm so grateful to have been a part of this, and to have them in my lives. They are as solid as the house we are building.

Friday, April 25, 2014

We Did It!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One Woman Farm Wins Big!
2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award

Happy to announce that my last book, One Woman Farm, won the 2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award! What an honor! This is my second literary award to date and for someone who writes about chickens and hog roasts that is quite the thing!

Living Room

That's a weird term, isn't it? Living Room. James Howard Kunstler said it best when he said "We called it that because it's where the TV lives..." but some gathering rooms truly are full of life. I like to think the little Hob Keep at Cold Antler lives up to its name. A lot of life happens here. Animals are everywhere - inside and out. Heat comes from the firewood, another living thing. There is live music in this room, and lamplight, and candle flickering. And in this wonderful photo by my good friend Tara there is proof positive that while many living rooms out there are of the well-groomed and domesticated varieties a few of us have gone feral. Which makes me grin like a wolf.

photo by Tara of

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I am happy to annouce the winners of the following contests!

Shari Zupan, you won the fiddle from that Contest, email me to make arrangements to get it!

And Goat Song, you won the Bee Book from Meg Paska! Email me as well!

Congrats Winners!And thank you to EVERYONE who commented, entered, donated, wrote emails, sent letters, or waved as they drove by the farm in their trucks and cars. I am so grateful for this readership, and so grateful to this community in general.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lambs & Eggs!

Maude can't help herself. She is who she is. And who THAT is, well, it's no mother. But bless her heart she is trying. This Easter morning I woke up to the baaing of her little girl, who I named Brianna. (Pronounced BREE-uh-na not bree-ANNA). Bree had been hit with that glorious eastern light at around 6AM and so was ready for breakfast. Gibson was curled against me, the little spoon. I told him we had work to do and instead of shooting out of bed like a rocket he lazily stretched his entire body. When Gibson does this little spinal magic trick his front feet reach above my head and his back paws reach below my feet. He's a very large Border Collie. And he's a very active one as well, but on a Sunday morning after a night of taking care of an infant even he has his limits. Eventually he rolls out of bed as the bleats grow louder. Annie growls and turns over in her sleep on the sheepskin at the bed's foot, and I accept with tired dignity that even on days of such import to so many people - I have a goat to milk and a deadbeat mother's child to feed breakfast. And that is something I write with a smile.

When the cats are fed, dogs relieved, and I'm dressed and ready I head outside with Gibson to the barn. We milk, grain goats, feed horses, haul water buckets. Gibson does his "rounds" which is a happy euphemism for herding turkeys and sending broody geese into tantrums of honking. We come inside with a big canister of goats milk and I can't help but feel mighty. Walking away from a barn where animals you love have been milked, watered, fed, bedded, and do so in a safe place makes you proud enough. But to have that 2-liter stainless steel mini-canister in hand makes me giddy. It looks just like a smaller version of the larger milk canonizers large dairies use, but it's sized for a one or two-goat operation like mine. It has a lid (which is a blessing) and is hard to spill over. I stride tall in the sunlight back into the farmhouse, my heart singing "Dairymaid!" in the best ways possible. I wish I owned a big skirt and a corset. I could really ham it up.

Before I headed outside I had started the bread maker with a wheat loaf, and put coffee on the stovetop. So when I come inside I smell the yeasty rise and perking coffee. Bree is scooped up and the warm milk is poured into a bottle for her. I feed her 3oz and send her back outside to spend some time with the flock. She toddles around and Maude comes to her, wary. Maude doesn't hurt her, and even lets her rest or sleep beside her. She just wont let her nurse. Which is why Friday night myself and my two good friends Tyler and Tara had to pin her against a pole barn wall to milk out her colostrum. I got a good dose in the wain, but I'll be damned if I'm doing that four times a day. I said a silent prayer to Brigit that the farm has a working milk faucet in the goat pen and decided bottle feeding wasn't so bad.

So despite Maude's general misery, she is tolerating babysitting while I take care of the actual raising. Later today Bree will get her CDT shot and her tail docked. Shots are fast and I use a rubber band on the tails so there won't be any horror or bloodshed. Just a rubber band. For those wondering why people dock tails on sheep, know it is not an act of vanity. Wooly sheep grow wool just about everywhere, including those long tails. If a lamb or sheep gets a case of the runs, or gets that tail cut open and bleeding, it invites bot flies and other diseases. You want a tail that no poop can build up on, ever. And if you think it still sounds barbaric, google image search for Flystrike on sheep. You will start mailing me more rubber bands!

In other farm news, Jasper is still for sale but no one is interested in buying him at the moment. I am on the lookout for feeder pigs, and have been making contacts as I have shares to provide to co-owners of the future oinkers. I planted a bed of peas in an act of whimsy yesterday and did it without apology. The hens are providing well over a half-dozen eggs a day and neighbors stop by to chat and trade for them. Yesterday my neighbor Sarah stopped by to show me an amazing basket she wove herself and I was stunned she had only been doing the craft since February. I think we may have to work out a small egg-basket for ten-dozen eggs or so! It was gorgeous!

To end this morning update: I am riding Merlin every single day and it is the one place (besides archery practice) that I can not feel anxiety, even if I try. Merlin and I tack up and go on adventures with his saddlebags packed with lunch and water bottles and a first aid kit. Our next big adventure is treking to the old Adirondack Fire Tower on the top of my mountain. I look at it every day from my horse paddock and it feels like the Misty Mountains, something out of a Tolkien book. I see it and look at my horse and think, "We are going on an ADVENTURE!" and secretly plan them right outside my front door. Which, in its essence, is what homesteading is all about. I know there is a wild and wonderful world out there, but my heart is like a Hobbit's. Home is where I thrive. And when you live on a mountain with the animals that ride, hunt, herd, run, and work beside you don't spent your late nights paging through pamphlets for cruises. There's nothing wrong with cruises, but I'd rather let my nightstand pile up with seed catalogs, tack suppliers, and maybe a dream of a mini-cabin in the woods for guests someday. My adventures lie here, and here is where I thrive, and this morning I am tickled to just have another day to enjoy it.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate this fine day. And to those who don't, like myself, Happy Sunday. Tack up those horses and enjoy the ham! I'll be eating some homegrown ham for sure today and spending it with good friends. I'll also be going on an Egg Hunt, but the unofficial kind I go on every day. Still, we celebrate when we can.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Maude & Her Lamb

Friday, April 18, 2014

Last Chance to Help & Win a Fiddle
Picking Winner Saturday Night!

So I am happy to annouce that Merlin, my Fell Pony, is nearly paid off. I am just a few payments from legally owning Merlin and am trying to expedite that day with a contest here on the blog. This is a FREE CONTEST. It is an act of appreciation. I will give away a fiddle ,plus a day of fiddle intro lessons on the farm, and a signed copy of all four of my books to the winner of this drawing. It is FREE to enter, all you need to do is comment on this post with a word of encourgement or horse story of your own. But for those *who want* to help in a financial way, you will see a donate button that lets you make a finacial contribution as well. Every dollar donated towards bringing Merlin home for good is an entr, as is every comment. I stress again, every dollar is an entry towards the fiddle and day here at Cold Antler, but if you do not wish to spend a dime you can simply leave a comment to enter.
Why am I hosting a fiddle giveaway? Because the farm needs your support. It really does. It's on shaky ground and right now any comment or dollar is a big help. If you can't or don't want to donate that is fine as well. To ente to win just leave a comment. To enter ten times, you can leave ten comments or donate ten dollars. But for those who have followed Merlin and My story through years of blog posts, books, and pictures on Facebook I urge you to help make him offically mine. I ask because I am so close (three payments from official ownership) and want to remove this monthly bill from my life. And for just leaving a comment or sending a dollar You could end up with a lifelong gift of music. I'll spent a day with you learning what I know of fiddling, and you'll leave with a fine instruement of your own. Fiddle Camp is sold out until next spring so take advantage if this invitation. Maybe a day here in late June, we could be sharing a campfire, clinking mason jars of hard cider to a year seen thus far.

Donate and Comment. I thank you. And I thank you.

no donation or purchase needed to win the fiddle. It is a fundraiser with a prize, not a lottery. Winner does not pay shipping costs.


When I hear the sound of complaining sheep from inside the farmhouse I let out a long sigh. It is not the heckle for grain or the regular, communicative, baas but the sound of unjust escape. It's the jealous sheep sound that roughly translates too tattling, "Hey, hey heeeeeey!!! She is out of the pasture and eating lawn grass and I want out tooooo heeeeyyyy!!!" And so I closed the laptop I was working on and headed outside, expecting to find a lamb in the front yard or some broken part of fencing I would have to stop my design work and repair after wrangling the sinners back to their purgatory.

When I walked outside to the sheep paddock there was no escaping. There was something far more drastic. I let out a loud curse word I rarely say then literally jumped up and down. Maude was standing over her very own lamb. I swear it.

I was absolutely stunned. This was nearly impossible. Maude had NEVER lambed, and I never thought she could. She had been bred nearly every autumn of her ten years and not once had she conceived. This was known, as the day I got her and two other woolies in a barter for fiddle lessons I was told she was not a breeding animal. I didn't care at the time since sheep were pretty much a wool project only, and the deal was too good to pass up. But today a little miracle happened, Maude produced a half Scottish Blackface and half English Border Leicester!

Meet the new girl! Maude's baby! The tiny little magic lamb!

So far Mama isn't thrilled about the blessed event. The complaining voice I left my freelance work for, turns out that was Maude. She was acting as if a mistake had been made and I better take care of it, NOW. The little girl wasn't cleaned half as well as the other mother's cleaned their lambs. So I went out with a towel and checked the little girl over. She seemed healthy. I watched the new mother and her babe and every time the little girl tried to nurse Maude head butted her away. At first I thought my towel job removed her sent, but that wasn't the case. Maude chortled and licked the little girl, but was not letting her anywhere near the scene of the crime. I didn't want to get too worried, so I waited. I watched for a long while. Every time the little girl tried to nurse she was pushed away and Maude walked off. I sighed.

I took a bottle down to the goat pen, milked Bonita, and got some good milk into the lamb, who drank well from the bottle right off. Tonight, if the ewe lamb still isn't nursing me and a few good friends will pin Maude to the wall and I'll milk out her colostrum at least and get that in the little girl.

I always thought Maude would be a she-wolf kind of mother. The super protective, super sweet, underdog of a mother. But as it turns out Maude is Maude. And so I may have a bottle lamb in the house. And that is good news, even if Maude is a monster. More young blood in this old flock is a blessing. And I am feeling blessed as I smile and shake my head at my mean-spirited sheep, who still managed through her spite to gift me a beautiful Easter present. Praise to all who grant blessings, for that sweet little bastard born of two Nations, a surly mother, and a very, very, VERY happy farmer.

April in Veryork...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Morning Haul

Every morning I milk my goat and collect eggs. This simple work of gathering good food is a pleasant exchange. It happens between the chores of feeding the flock, handing out hay to sheep and horses, and hauling water. On an easy day with fair weather chores take less than an hour to complete and I do them while listening to audiobooks. This means the morning is full of stories, food, and somewhere in the back of my mind I know a pot of Yerba Mate is perking on the stove. When I come inside to strain the milk and do the dairy dishes I have the option of the freshest eggs for breakfast with hot tea spiked with fruit juice.

It is fortification of the happiest sort.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Round Anxieties & Being Ruthless

I have been posting a lot lately about archery and horses, two things I adore. But I think writing about them, along with others subjects such as hawking, hunting, butchering, lambing, and so forth give my readership the impression I am fearless. I am not. I may be one of the most terrified people I know. Fear sits and swirls in me the way oil does in puddles. Anyone who takes the time to notice can tell, can see it there. And just like rainbows of color in poisoned water we can let it slide because it looks pretty. Horses, hawks, bows and hunting stories are very pretty. Stunning, even. But I want you to know that under every photograph, blog post, sentence, and story there is a woman who is very afraid.

I'm afraid of being thrown off my horse and breaking my arm. I'm scared I don't have health insurance, even now with the state programs it costs a 1/3 of my mortgage. I'm scared of being hit by a truck in my horse cart because some teenager was texting her boyfriend. I'm scared of keeping Cold Antler. I'm scared of Jasper when he turns his read end towards me. I'm scared of what my mother thinks. I'm scared of what you think. I'm constantly worried about money. I'm scared of getting close to someone romantically. I'm scared of heights. I'm scared of looks at Stewarts when I walk in without makeup or a shower in kilt and muck boots and what the locals must think I am. I'm scared of being alone, and loneliness. I'm scared of bee stings. I'm scared of noises in the dark. I'm scared of collection calls, nightmares, running out of firewood, and a million other things.

So why does a woman who is often so anxious out there in public wearing kilts? Shooting arrows? Riding horses down Main Street and traveling on highways in horse carts? Why did she quit her job when she was broke to start out with? Why did she buy a farm as a single woman, alone, so far from any relatives? Why did she share that horrible story about the dead sheep? Why is she doing ANY of this?

If you think I am fearless you are mistaken. If you think I am arrogant, you are being fooled by your own assumptions. Here is the only reason I do any of this stuff. My deepest secret, my driving force, my manta, my anthem, my most important lesson I can share: I am okay with being afraid. It is a natural part of life, survival, and humankind. I am absolutely terrified of regret.

Regret is poison. It destroys people faster than any disease of the body. To know something could have been and not having acted on chance, that is my biggest motivation. Every new job I took across the country. Every book proposal that was shot down. Every man I told I loved (and I never said that unless I meant it hard enough to shake the ground), all of it was done because the idea of not acting terrified me. Bones heal, banks foreclose, jeers at gas stations are forgotten... but the idea that I might wake up one day in a life I based around security and comfort wondering about the farm that may have been, the life I might have had? No, no, no, no, no.

If Cold Antler goes down in flames of failure I still know I tried. I got far enough to know the freedom of self employment and to grow good food through hard work. Memories of riding Merlin and hunting in my own forest can never be taken away. No, I do not have regret about this place, or any decisions I have made - including the mistakes. That may be the biggest accomplishment of my life. That I learned that being scared was as normal as rain, common and unpleasant - but necessary. And knowing the wetness of fear, feeling damp all the time in fact - that it never stopped me from reaching for my goals. I'm okay being Jenna the Scared. I'll never be Jenna the Haunted.

In my favorite Novel, The Name of The Wind, some time is spent talking about painful memories. In that story the main character describes how the most horrific moments in his life are not the most painful. How he can still see images and relive events in his past that should be the most painful but he has handled them so many times in his mind that they have lost their sharp edges. Roll fear around in your brain long enough and it rounds itself off. Still scary, but something you can handle without hurting yourself anymore. That is how I treat my fear, the anxiety I live with every day. Round anxieties can't cut you.

But regret never loses its edge. It never goes dull. In fact the more you think about it the sharper it gets. I see my fear as a stalking tiger, strong and deadly. But I see regret as a handgun pointed directly at my temple. Both might kill you but the tiger offers you a chance of escape, or perhaps the animal's disinterest in eating you that day. But a gun at your head is never an idle threat. Regret is ruthless.

And I'm writing all this because I know a lot of you can relate. Some of you are in that transition zone between lives, as I was a few years ago. Many of you want to quit your day jobs, buy land, grow food, milk goats, work with draft horses and play fiddles by campfires. And you can. You can do all of these things. Usually it requires sacrifice, lifestyle changes, comfort changes, and that same stubbornness that I have. But it is possible. You don't have to be rich, married, parent-approved, or even a land owner to be a farmer. You do have to be brave. You need to understand that all those things you are scared of are valid and real. You need to understand failure is a possibility. You need to not care what your in-laws think. You need to be okay with giving up things you used to think of as "normal" to make ends meet. You need to be certain.

If you want a life like mine it is waiting for you. But damn, is it ever scary. And being scared is okay. You'd be an idiot to not be at times. But never let discomfort stop you from preventing regret. Fear rounds itself out, it really does. It never leaves but you learn to live with it. But if not living the life you want is something you may regret, really regret, then I urge you to be as ruthless with it as it will be with you. Take the risks. Confront your spouse. Be honest about what you need to feel whole in this short and terrifying life. Because in the end the only difference between the people who wanted farms and the ones who had farms is that dance.

Everyone's story out there is different. We all have our own limitations, reasons, and fears. Some of us can never have our farms or be able to keep the ones we have. Maybe I'll be one of those people? Who the hell can see forever? But I do know that losing a thing is better than never having it in the first place. I'll take my fear with a smile and it will never stop me from getting on a horse, eating my home-butchered chicken dinner, stalking deer, driving carts, or paying my bills. And I'll do these things not because I am stronger than you, but because no part of me will ever be okay with that gun to my head.

So that's my secret. That's Cold Antler. And that's Jenna Marie Woginrich.

I hope it's yours, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Windy Rides

Yesterday the long weekend of Horse Adventuring continued with a seven-mile drive in the wind! The weather was changing and our geldings were out of shape from the long, cold, winter. But we took it slow and walked and trotted our boys over farm, field, road, and highway alike. The wind whipped at their manes and I was grateful for the string that held down my straw hat!

Monday, April 14, 2014

So You're Thinking About Bees? Win a Book!

So you've come to that time in your life when considering ordering a box of a couple thousand angry insects makes sense? Well, congratulations. Honeybees are wonderful, relativity inexpensive to obtain, and don't require a quarter of the attention other livestock demands. Beekeeping is not cattle ranching. Heck, it isn't even chicken keeping. These girls do not need the constant care of other critters nor the space. You can be an urban-residing, world-traveling, beekeeper. You can be a beekeeper at your summer home, or your cabin, and you can be a beekeeper right in your town backyard. You can also keep bees in the city...

And no one knows this better than Meg Paska, who is a dear friend and now a bonefied author! Her new book came out recently called The Rooftop Beekeeper and it is a wonderful introcution for beginners - rural or urban. The book has a comfrotable narrative style, sharing the journey step by step. You learn about Meg, her homesteading adventiures in Brooklyn and beyond, and what kind of chops it takes to keep a hive. You can pick up this book knowing nothing and set it down after a joyful read with enough know how to make a bee keeping workshop worth it's weight in gold for questions alone.

Meg, I loved this book. And it reminded me very much of how you talk and teach. It brought me back to the workshop you did at my farm as well! Thank you again for being here and part of the CAF extended family.

For those of you bee-curious out there, know this: While there is a certain level of study, effort, and skill that goes into tending a hive it isn't the arcane knowledge some folks think it is. Getting started in keeping bees really only asks that you learn enough to cobble together a hive, dump the bees into it, and the usual care of checking in on their progress and vitality. That is, of course, over simplified but stands true. Some people check their hives every week. Others check in twice a year: once when they add honey supers in the spring and again when they harvest the honey. I fall right in-between. I check often in the spring and even help feed the bees in their early stages. But as the garden takes over my summer I let them do their own thing, making sure they have enough vertical space to grow in. I don't hassle them much until Harvest Time. And when I do have golden jars in my larder every minute spent, every sting healed, and every dollar spent was worth it - several times over.

They say no honey will ever taste as good to your lips as what you harvest from your own hive. They are right.

Oh, And Meg has offered to give away a signed copy here on this blog! So leave a comment about bees, your bee dreams, or anything honey related to win! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bookstores on Main Street

Every once in a while this wild life I am living sends me an instantly-nostalgic postcard. A moment I know I will always remember, as if my mind was taking a snapshot and signing and dating the back as it happened. Today as I walked my black horse down Main Street in Cambridge, our reflection cast back from the storefront of Battenkill Books. I looked into the glass and saw a woman on the back of a Fell horse. Saw her in kilt and wool cowboy hat. Saw her in broken, taped, glasses and wide smile trotting behind a best friend on a ton of white Percheron. There was no parade. There was no festival. We were simply out for a ride and using the roads as a system of transport. Like any other citizen traveling that day, us taxpayers wore away the pavement with hoof and sweat instead of tire and gasoline. I rode proud. I rode free.

That was one of those moments you never forget.

Today two women and two horses had an adventure. We trailered the horses to Common Sense Farm, just a mile from downtown Cambridge and rode across farm and fell. The plan was just to try some new land, get the horses used to new sights and sounds and start off the riding year right. So we tacked up and headed into the fallow new grass. Our horses stepping into soft ground sometimes six or seven inches deep with mud. We watched herds of deer fly over ancient stone walls from the time our country was still ran by England. We talked, we sang, we joked. And when our county ride was over we trotted right up to the Mansion on the estate and gave children rides on our horses.

Women came out from the farmhouse and offered us iced chai latte and handed it to us in the saddle. I drank the spiced tea and could not stop smiling. I was in my town and on my horse. The reason was simply because we wanted to see our world on horseback. Know what it was like to travel alongside cars, trucks, motorcycles and bikes. We did it because our horses trusted us, and we them. It was over 70 degrees and the sun warmed my bare arms. A few weeks ago I was waking up shivering with snow all over the ground. And here we were kissed by Lugh himself.

We road all through downtown Cambridge. Some folks waved from their porches, others were annoyed we were in the way. But Patty and I didn't care. We walked past Patty and Mark's first home together, a place they rented for six years before buying Livingston Brook Farm. It was where she learned to raise rabbits and start a life over. The import of the place hummed as we walked by, even though it was someone else's home now. A place where a friend began again is a good place indeed. And I thought about how I was in Idaho when she lived there, 3,000 miles away in the Pacific Time zone reading Jon Katz books about a magical place called Washington County, New York. Now it is mine.

We spent two hours in the saddle today. We trotted past police cars, and over farm fields. We waved and talked to strangers, got good and sore, and have plans tomorrow for another ride at Livingston Brook on her lakeside property. It will be nearly 80 degrees and I am humming for it. Humming like excited history. I am thrilled to be excited about a Monday morning, a feeling I didn't get until I was thirty years old. Brigit's Fire,  you just can't know.

But today? Today I will remember my reflection in a small town bookstore's windows. I will remember waving to friends and people I know by name in my town. I will remember a best friend, an amazing horse, a community of beautiful children and sweet tea, and of the memories you make when you live your life on purpose.

When the hours in the saddle were over we drove back to Patty's large estate and let the horses go in a paddock of green grass by a stream. The horses enjoyed their break and fresh sweat and us women got into the hot tub with adult beverages and sore thighs. It was glorious, under the afternoon sun. Mark (Patty's husband) came out to chat with us as we soaked, his eyes watering from the work of making horseradish paste by hand. One of their neighbors had left them some fine roots and he had spent the afternoon making the paste with vinegar and fortitude. As he headed back inside the farmhouse to finish his task I told Patty I had two rounds of goat cheese waiting for her at home. She glowed at this, and for good reason. My Alpine Chèvre was creamy and mild. It was formed in molds and rolled in herbs and it tasted bright and pure as spring herself.

When we headed back inside the farmhouse at sunset I saw a jar of horseradish waiting for me on the counter. Patty drove me home and when we got to Cold Antler I ran inside for her two rounds of chèvre. We swapped goods and I felt the power of community. That happy exchange of shared skills. It is something I feel more and more these days, popping its fine head out around corners and in our bellies. I knew I had still had chores, milking, writing, and work ahead but I also knew that tomorrow would bring another day of riding in the afternoon. I knew we would have another adventure. I knew that in that saddle, side by side, we could talk about anything and our horses would carry us without complaint.

I will remember today as a smiling reflection in a book store's window. But what I will remember is not glass and light. I will remember the importance and blessing of a friend, of horses, of sunlight and heat after a long winter. Oh, and of horseradish from hangover friends at sunset.

Life is good.

P.S. Thank you to all who have send comments, emails, and donations to help pay off Merlin. We are halfway there!

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I suppose it is like riding a bicycle. At least that is what I thought as Merlin exploded into a canter uphill. My ass set firmly into the saddle, my right hand gathered the reins, my left hung free in the air like a wing stretched into the breeze. Some thought of Eustace Conway flickered in my brain, a man who could understand this form of riding. I ride Merlin the way you sit down to a glass of wine with friends. It is alert, coy, casual, yet sharp. I know him well enough now. I can tell what he is thinking, what his body wants. He kens the same from me. And even though we have been separated by an angry winter, months from touching, he knows me. Just a week into riding and we are back again. This is the horse I know the way you know what a nickel feels like in the dark. If I handed you a dozen pennies, dimes, quarters and one nickel you could find it. Maybe not gracefully. Maybe not quickly. But given enough touch and time you would know a nickel in that lot. You could feel it, roll it over your fingers, bet your life that what you held was Jefferson and hope. That familiar feeling is EXACTLY what coming home to riding Merlin has felt like.

I know some of you have horses. I know some of you ride. And I know many of you know the fear and uncertainty of a spring ride. What it feels like to sit a horse you have not known by touch or whisper in months. What a cold winter of distance, time and ice can do to you. I know it to. Ather my first winter off Merlin it was thick as brandy. But it has only taken a week of regular riding to feel comfortable again. So I think of the bikes of my childhood. How I would dust them off in March and ride them again in the longer daylight. Merlin was like that now. Either our relationship or my time as a rider has blossomed into familiarity. I'll take it either way.

Way I mean to share tonight is I was not afraid. And that is not small merit. I was afraid of him last spring. I was afraid of horses all my life. But the force and stubbornness of three years was all it took to jump a horse in April and not cower. That is something of note. I rode Merlin over creek and field, up mountain pass and calm trail. But I rode him in confidence, and in peace. I sang out loud. I sang in english, and gaelic, and I sang him the Reins of Castemere. That last is the song of the Lannisters. The song of the most hated household in American Fiction these days. But Lannister is my house. I adore Jaime and Tyrion. I adore their horrible pasts. If I was in that world of mr Martin's I would want to be a Lannister.For those who know me and know Westeros, that may be a shock. I know I should be a Stark. But I have a very soft spot for horrible men. For better or for worse, a Lannister I would be.

So I sang to my horse in upstate New York.

Love & Wine

Thanks kjc, I love it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Girl & Her Bird

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This Old Life

I sat on the tailgate of my Dodge, one leg hanging off the edge and swinging. In my hands was a bowl of simple dinner: meat, rice, and vegetables. It was an hour to sunset and I was putting off milking Bonita, enjoying the languid feeling you get from eating basic food when you are very hungry and very tired. As I savored a neighbor drove by in his new Subaru, shiny as a new quarter. I didn't stop eating but lifted my fork-wielding hand when he honked hello. If he thought I looked silly—eating like a seven-year-old at the State Fair—I didn't give the tiniest shit. Amicable exhaustion removes most inhibition, I find.

What. A. Day.

Chores started early. Early enough, anyway. I had slept in a bit and wasn't apologizing for it. When I walked outside with Gibson and my milk pail the sun was well up and the horses were heckling from their gate. So be it. I could feel the promise of warmth and that was quite a thing. The winter was so long, so cold, and so threatening to the farm and spirit that this kiss of light was worth stoping and soaking in. I stood there for a bit in the sunlight as if I had some chloroform hiding somewhere secret, maybe in my right knee? I stretched out there, really stretched, turning my head and rounding shoulders. I reached up for the sun in lazy worship, letting a smile slide slowly over my chapped lips. I thought of the last sentences of my favorite short story of all time:

"Of course God is the sun. Everyone in the life before was cranky, I think, because they just wanted to know."

The sun was out and I welcomed him. I did chores, smelling the mix of spring known as woodsmoke and mud. I milked the goat and fed the animals. When finished with that bit of work I came outside the barn with four eggs and 3 quarts of milk in hand. Not a bad salary for a half hour's work.

I set down the milk canister and eggs to feed the turkeys, geese, and chickens. As I did this a rabbit hopped up to inspect the goods. She sniffed at the eggs and stainless steel container before hopping off. I am down to one meat rabbit at the moment, my oldest doe. She is no longer in a hutch and just roams the barn and farmyard. I'm not worried about predators (rabbits are wicked quick in a pinch). She is old for a domestic rabbit but she doesn't need to be faster than a fox. She just needs to be faster than the slowest chicken. Which she is.

Two types of people read that last sentence. One type frowned and the other type smiled. I smiled, too. Farming is a bloodsport. Don't you dare let anyone tell you otherwise.

The rest of my morning was nothing of consequence. I sat at a laptop in my living room and worked a few hours. I wasn't writing but emailing and designing, back in the old email folders I thought I left forever when I resigned my position at Orvis. But I have recently been hired back to work from home, part time. I'm hoping the new gig helps me catch up on the mortgage. I've been treading water, but the level is getting higher and higher. If what follows in this post makes you in any way jealous of the life I live know that my variety of self employment is risky and I do not sleep well at night. But if fear is the tax I need to pay for the certainty that I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's in the wide world, I will pay it. I will wake up every night shaking. I will pace and growl. I will find a way to keep this farm and this life. So I sit and design, correspond to familiar names, plan lunch meetings, and get up every now and again to throw a piece of wood on the stove. It's not cold in the house but I like the company of combustion.

So I worked. At least until I couldn't take it anymore. A few hours of click-clacking on the keyboard and then I closed the laptop and headed outside to my horse. The sun was up now, the wind was up too. I didn't care, it was the in-between wind. The kind that comes in April and August, the inhale and exhales of summer heat. I let it blow without preference and grabbed a lead line and halter and found Merlin. The highlander was caked in dirt and his own clods of shed hair. An hour of grooming later and he seemed slightly less dusty. I did some groundwork with him and then saddled him. Ready to ride I swung a leg up.

Well, I tried at least.

Flexibility is not the issue. I can kick a six-foot tall person in the head while standing next to him, but I was making the common mistake of wearing work pants. Jeans, to be specific. They were a fine make from a fine and common workwear company but they were not designed to throw a leg over a thousand pounds of draft horse. I cursed for not having the sense to wear a kilt. In three years of regular riding and driving I can say with assurance NOTHING is better for the trail saddle than a kilt with a pair of full-seat breeches underneath them. You get all the flexibility and friction of the tights but the protection, pockets, and comfort of a kilt. Do you know how wonderful it is to ride through brush and burdock with a layer of canvas over your rear end and tender thighs? Take my word for it. And if riding in a skirt makes you squirm know there is plenty of room for bandaids, pocket knives, bullets, cell phones, keys, cordage, and a flask. For trail riding like we do kilts are it. Quick and dirty.

Alas, I had no kilt today. I just had my jeans and they did not allow the flexibility I needed. So I walked Merlin to a piece of slanted land (not hard to do on my farm) and with 12 inches between us in topography I hopped on. We trotted down the paved road in front of my farmhouse. After the shock of hearing the construction site nearby (many mini-explosions of nail guns and hammers) I decided to head back to the farm to do more ground work then head for the woods. We might slip on the melting ice and snow or get spooked by deer but, you know, less nail guns.

I will confess a secret here. I am terrified of riding Merlin sometimes. I am especially terrified of riding him after a long winter when he is both disinterested in having to carry a passenger and extra bossy. Merlin has plenty of personality and he shares it by bucking, kicking, crow hopping, and generally refusing to budge when a rider proves she is less stubborn than he is.  So I have learned this pony and his quirks and find them endearing. But the only way out, is through. The only way to get to that Zen-like state of teamwork and comfort is to start by being tense in April. Every spring we are a nervous pairing. Or maybe just I am nervous. Too much time out of the saddle lets me forget the need of it. I imagine this is what people recently single must feel like alone in bed, a little hollow, a little confused. Given enough time they get used to sleeping alone. But given a new lover they are awkward and confused again under the sheets. That is how a winter without riding Merlin feels like to me, a reluctant bed.

I ask Merlin to trot and he does exactly what I didn't realize I was expecting from him. He sets his head low, pops his butt in the air, and kicks with me on his back. The Jenna from a few years ago would at this point fall off, cry, call for help, and write about it at length. But not now. Without expecting the joy of this little hissy fit I felt my body adapt and change with the horse. He kicked and my round ass sank deep into that saddle, feet at home in the stirrups. I smiled like a wolf. I wasn't going anywhere. My center of gravity remained in place as I leaned my chest forward and cursed in Gaelic at him, calling him a beautiful demon and telling him I was home. His ears flicked and both of us were surprised that this first true ride of spring had us both where we ended last Autumn.

I made $18 today.
I rode Merlin well, sitting through a kick.
I am beyond wealthy.
Now I am going to share a song with you.

So we rode. We rode down the pavement and up into the trails of mountain and stream. We got through the woods and up into the high mountain trails. At one point I could feel the sun hitting all of my black wool sweater and all of my black horse at the base of a hillside. I knew there was no way to hold him back. Merlin bunched up his head and shoulders and exploded uphill into a full-out gallop. Not a canter. Not a jog. But the kind of running that turns the earth. He reached farther with each stretch, his stout body proving to the world he too was a crow. He could fly. So he did.

God's Body, he RAN. He ran and together we let go.

I was too excited to be afraid. I leaned forward into his neck, smelling hair, winter's dust,  and horse sweat. It was a heady combination. The run did not last long but when it ended we were on an overlook, high above the ground that is Cold Antler Farm. I turned him around swiftly, 360 degrees to take in the view and looked down on the farmstead that is my home. I trotted him a bit more, heading back home soon enough. I was so pleased to not be afraid of him.

It wasn't even lunch yet. This will be a long post.

I untacked Merlin and thanked him. I let him into the open pasture and let Jasper out to join him. Merlin enjoys room to run but Jasper is a connoisseur of motion. I watched the white and red pony pony sprint with abandon past me and through the gate, leaping around Merlin and flying through the air. If Merlin is a crow Jasper is a wren. I let the boys enjoy the sun and grabbed Gibson for a trip into town.

I headed down to Anne's place. She and her family moved here from Key West and bought an amazing piece of property in town. She had been asking polity for weeks that I walk the grounds with her and help give ideas and warnings about fencing and stock. Having made every mistake you can make with sheep and goats at this point I felt well suited for this task. And together we walked her pastures, orchards and fields. She was ready for sheep that day if she wanted them. She had wonderful fences, a barn, gates, everything. We left with the notion of a possible ram renting for rototiller future barter proposition. Good meeting in my book.

I came home to a full sun-dappled farm. The wind was low now and the horses, sheep, and goats seemed content. I took Italics from his mews and set him out on a perch in his weathering area. While I puttered around the farm and tried to come up with income he could enjoy the sun on his feathers and contemplate molting.

I gave up on the income ideas and went for a two-mile run.

Upon my return I did the evening chores and once everyone had hay, feed, water, and been milked I gathered up my hawk on my fist and walked out to the horse pasture. I could sense the fear in Italics and the disinterest in the horses. Horses do not bother with birds. They just are. But few Red Tails get as close to horses as Italics was and he soon went from stress to calm. I fed him while the horses nibbled the first green shoots from the good earth. Merlin sniffed his chest and not a talon was raised in protest. I also consider this a good meeting in my book.

At some point Italics was back in his mews. The horses back in their paddock. The Jenna back in her farmhouse. But since daylight and time would not stop flirting I grabbed bow and quiver and headed outside. My first three arrows hit the yellow center of the target, the next three hit the red. I beamed. I had sat a kicking horse, walked a farmer's field, worked with an international corporation, and created milk from force and will but these three arrows made my heart sing and twitter. It is a placid sort of violence. A punch in the wind. A rooster's dance. Tiny gods, I love what a bow and arrow do to my mind. I shot until dark. When I came inside I turned on youtube and played some more music. A local band called The Parlor lit up the house with music. Upstaters know what it is to shuck and jive. Enjoy:

This Old Life, Indeed. Thanks for the music, Hasselwander.

And The Lamb's Name Is.....

Picking a Name Today!

I'll pick a name today for this litte girl, so get in any last minute inspirations! I'll update later today with a video of her and her chosen name from the list in the comments of this post. Add some more!

Here is the contest: This little gal needs a name! Let's make it a contest again, too! Suggest as many names as you like, leaving one per comment (each comment is a contest entry) and my favorite will be picked. The winner will receive their choice of either a signed copy of any of my books or a free workshop here at the farm! Enter away!

If you don't have any name ideas but still want to win a free book or workshop pass, then how about spreading the word about this little farm's newest book, properaly named: Cold Antler Farm from Roost Books!

Cold Antler Farm by Jenna Woginrich from Roost Books on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Turkey Love

In the morning my hands smell like mint and are so smooth they feel as if they belong to a version of me from long ago. No longer the cracked and hardened hands of a woman who works outdoors every day of her life, but the silky hands of the girl lounging on a lifeguard roost, watching children in the community pool at age 16. So what is this elixir of youth? This magical hand cream? It's Dynamint Udder Balm.

Yes, nipple cream. I have been using it after every milking of Bonita. The minty lotion is a nice end to the ritual and a nice treat for me as well. My hands feel wonderful and so far there isn't a single chaff or sign of wear on the gal's teats. Score one for the farm. Hands and goat nipples are soft as lifeguards in the nineties. Glory be.

In just as scandalous news: the new turkey hens have ventured from the barn and have been getting a lot of advances from the gentlemen. Lucas, my big Bronze, was putting on the ritz for the new girls. The hens didn't seem interested but you can't deny the man's style. I will leave you tonight with this image of love. Or, something like it.

Besides all this sordid news on the farm I have some good news for you readers! I have been offered a few very cool giveaways from a few of the blog sponsors. Expect to see chickens, garden supplies, cheese making kits, and more up for the taking here in the next few weeks of April! So check back and check back often to make sure you do not miss out. Someone has to win, so it might as well be you!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cruel Staff

I will never be a cat person. Their nature is too aloof, too indulgent, too cruel, and too selfish for my taste. But I do respect these little beasts. It takes an aloof, indulgent, cruel and selfish animal to do the work they do around here - which is to kill as many mice and barn rats as possible. Before I had cats I had mice in the house and rats in the barn. Now I rarely have either. A lot less voles, sparrows, and baby squirrels too! So I appreciate cats and take care of my boys, Boghadair and Yeti, but they remain employees. I think they are content with the arrangement.

2. Hens. 3 Days. 1088 Emails.

The weekend was a blur. A good blur, though. I spent it with friends and laughter, a workshop with eager people, and even got my taxes done on Sunday. But the entire time I was teaching, farming, traveling and enjoying good company I was without email or ease of blogging. Today a Verizon truck came and replaced a broken DSL phone line that was windworn outside the farm house and now I am back. I do apologize, as I have over a thousand emails to catch up on and a few stories to share as well.

I'll start with the tale of the Two Troubled Turkeys! That photo is me, grinning up at the camera because I'm excited to have some new additions to Cold Antler. My bachelor toms (Lucas and Bob Fedell) back at the farm were about to meet their hot dates. I had worked out a barter with Common Sense Farm for two hens and today was the day to pick them up. I was told where to find the hens and that I could scoop them up any time and just take them home. So today I did that with the help of my friend Patty. We grabbed the hens, set them in the backseat of the truck, and I brought them home to my barn where I set them up in a stall with some food and water while they got acclimated to their new mountainside residence.

Then I got a call from Othniel, who had heard that I got the turkeys. Turns out, I had the WRONG turkeys. I had grabbed the two Sweetgrass hens instead of the Narragansett. Being unfamiliar with the breeds (I have Bourbon Reds and Bronze) I knew they were white and black, grayish, females and grabbed the smaller ones in the pen. But the sweetgrass were part of Common Senses breeding group and their eggs being collected for this years hatchery. Had my ladies the time to "court" with Lucas or Bob it would mess up an entire operation for a while. Good news was neither Bob or Lucas found their way into the girls' pen and a quick capture, drive, and switch was done to get the other two hens. Whew.

So now Cold Antler has a small starter flock of breeding turkeys. I am hoping these year-old hens are willing to take on the job of raising up some little ones. It may take a whole year, time to adjust and become a solid group, but that is okay. I think the hens will do a far better job than I would brooding turkeys and keeping an eye on them on this free range farm. I have learned that the best predator deterrent is letter the Fox take the less crafty animals and the natural selection of clever birds be the breeding stock. This is why there are no buff orpingtons or Wyandotte clutches born here. Just the near-wildness of the Antlerborns that have junglefowl blood and mothers that raise eggs in barn rafter nests and perch in trees. Those are from a cross of an old fighting cock variety called the Pumpkin Hulsey and Swedish Flower Hens and Araucanas. The combination makes a fine bird for this scrappy farm.

So the hens are here and the boys are fanning and gobbling outside the barn, excited as teenagers in blue suits waiting to pick up their prom dates. The little lambs are romping and playing (still choosing a name for the ewe lamb!). I am getting ready for Arrows Rising and working a part time job for my old employer, telecommuting from the farm. The snow is melting and the sun comes out from time to time and it almost makes this horrible and wicked month worth it when it does.

Oh! And my Lannisters are back. I missed them.

In other news: This past winter my size 14 pants slid off without undoing the button and zipper. Now my size 12s wont stay on without a belt! Losing weight through old fashioned diet and exercise. Running, martial arts, farming, and saying no to junk foods of all sorts. After trying gluten free diets, paleo, and everything else under the sun I have learned that my body doesn't need rules. It needs love. It needs someone who cares enough to listen to what it craves, enjoy that good food, and not eat in excess. It needs a lot of physical sweat and effort, too. So I now enjoy homemade breads, local greens, vegetables and fruits, meat, rich goat cheeses, and whole milk but I do not eat much of these things, and have pretty much stopped eating dinner. A good breakfast and lunch is all I want and long runs and a glass of cider with friends in the weekend evenings. I feel much better all around. No goal weight or "special jeans" in a drawer waiting for my smaller rump to fill them. Just living better and letting that take me where it does. I look forward to it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stand By!

Friends! I am sorry for my lack of posting recently! My Internet service has been down and I am waiting its restoration. I am updating from my phone right now (satellites seem to be more dependable than phone lines these days...). Besides network issues I hosted a weekend guest, caught a nasty cold, and held a great workshop Saturday with new faces and grand energy! So things are good and I hope to be updating again by tonight. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Two Goat Dairy & Work

I was carrying a red bucket full of fresh well water to the goats. They had both been grained, Bonita milked, and the stainless steel milk 2 liter milk canister was shining in the morning light at their gate. Sunlight streamed down on the faded red paint of the barn and I kept careful footing on the ice as I delivered them their morning drink after they just provided mine. I smiled. A two-gallon red bucket and a 2-liter milk canister screamed "small holding". I do not work with volume here, just need and a little excess. Every day Bonita gives me 1.5 gallons of fresh milk and her daughter will start being trained to be milked this year. It's a Two-goat dairy, but it certainly is a dairy.

Dairy: a building, room, or establishment for the storage, processing, and distribution of milk and milk products.

I certainly qualify. My little house on the mountain certainly stores and processes milk and milk products. From this house comes cream, cheese, soaps, and the fine milk itself. Friends go home with gifts from the udder and I am proud to have learned the simple skills of milking, goat tending, cheese making, and basic management of the small operation.

I was feeling a quiet pride in this as I brought the goats their water. I set the red bucket inside their paddock and Bonita drank her fill and when she looked up, licking her lips, she nickered and I tugged her beard lovingly. I put my forehead to hers and scratched under her chin. This made her close her eyes and curl her upper lip in pleasure. A small reward for enough milk to sate seven people, but humbly accepted.

When the goats were set for the morning I headed back to the artesian well where my bucket station resides. The horses need four buckets a day, the sheep need 2. My animals are all within thirty yards of the bucket station and I don't mind hauling water. If there is one thing I can do well: it is pushups. I know that hoses are easier but I really have grown to love the grunt work. This place is small and chores done three times over only takes an hour. To spend some of that time huffing and puffing is okay with me. And as soon as this post is put on the blog, Gibson and I will jump into the truck and head north to Nelson Greene's for some of his hay to refill my barn with. That loaded, unloading and stacking of a dozen bales across the farmyard will be huffing and puffing work too, but it all pays off in a slow and steady heart rate and some of the most powerful female punches in my dojang. Work is good.

I think the trick of loving work is choosing it. If I had been raised on a farm I may not feel the way I do about buckets, hand milking, and dodgy ice walking. But since this place is my paradise I find nothing but joy in red buckets of well water offered to goats. I often wonder why I never felt this in the corporate world? I had chosen my degree, chosen my jobs. Perhaps such observations only have to do with physical labor? No one every made me do anything far as career choices went but there was something broken in that system to me. I didn't do work, not really. What I did did not involve "work" at all in the traditional sense. It was siting in a chair, tedium to me. And while I did enjoy designing for the creative aspect I wished very much someone would ask me to help clean windows or mow the lawn outside. To me work is a song of the body. And the most direct method of payment is the work that returns food. I love this blessed exchange.

Today I walked into my house with three quarts of milk, three eggs, and a very recent history of happy animals behind me. It isn't a big payment but it is also horrible, horrible, April. You can't expect much from such a beast. But by may there will be salad greens fresh for the picking, peas on the vines ready to eat, more eggs, potatoes in the ground, and a few chickens or new meat rabbits in the freezer. Turkey season will come and go, hopefully with one of those added to the larder! Plenty is on the way for those who seek it out. And plenty is here, too. My animals know it. Everyone outside had their needs met in return for my day ahead. I have a plan of work indoors and out, with breaks including my bow and quiver and a black horse in need of some refreshed ground manners. Merlin is an angel in August and a demon in April. I look forward to that work too, of horse and human sweat, of hair and hooves. All the things that need doing here will get done. They won't always look pretty and they won't always be perfect but they will do.

People sometimes accuse me of being overly romantic about this place. To that I always say, how else should someone act that is in love?

Practice. Every. Day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bring Someone - It's Worth it!

I was thinking about this all day. What could I do to sell those remaining spots for the fall session of Arrows Rising? I decided on this. If any of you have a friend, a parent, a teenager, a spouse or signifigant other and want to sign up for the spots remaining for Arrow's Rising I will make you a heck of a deal. I would offer you and your partner in crime $100 off each if you sign up at the same time.

Email me at and see what I have in store. Both of you that sign up will still get a handcrafted bow, but instead of learning on your own you'll be learning alongside someone you care about and have a shooting partner when you head back home from the Foliage-rich weekend of arrows, farms, and autumnal bliss.

Since posting about it this morning 3 people have sent emails interested and there are only 8 spots left so please email and sign up soon! You'll be learning a skill, supporting a farm, and keeping this blog and dream alive while heading home with your own bow riding shotgun. Well, you know what I mean!

Red or Better

I have been shooting every day since Spring has felt like more of a possibility than a story. I head outside in the midafternoon, in the lulls between writing and chores, and walk into the sunlight with a quiver and bow. "Red or better!" is the mantra I am repeating over and over in my mind. Those are the words of Joseph the Bold, the best archer I know up here in the Northeast. He says nothing else will do at twenty yards with a longbow and that is my goal. That means hitting either the yellow center of the target or the red circle right around it. So Red or Better means every shot at 20 yards is worth 5 or 4 points. That sure adds up quick on the tournament field, but also means a good clean kill.

I am rambling. I'm just excited about the many days ahead this summer with warm skin, tight bowstrings, and archery practice with my team and friends. Those long Sunday afternoons coming up with targets set into the horizon at twenty, thirty, and forty yards. Getting calluses on my string fingers, feeling my arms go from flabby pink to tawny muscle. The outdoor work of farm and the outdoor sport of archery are a beauitful combination and it all wraps up in Holy OCtober with the promise of the hunt. What is a more beautiful combination than the venison steak steaming and popping over a salad of greens your hands grew beside potatoes you pulled from the blessed earth? Mmmmmmm.

The bowyer in Pennsylvania who is handcrafting the bows for Arrows Rising this May has been in conversation with me over email. Together we have figured out the draw weights, sizes, and wood stain that would best fit the bows for the people taking that course. There are a lot of places to get a bow and some arrows these days but I am honored to have this Veteran and small business owner creating the weapons by hand for the people taking part in the two day workshop. Folks aren't getting a piece of plastic with some elastic string. They are getting the real deal, a piece of artwork far as I am concerned. I was shooting one of the bowyer's bows this morning behind the farmhouse and was happy with it a good year into hard use. It's the bow you see in this picture with Merlin. It's been on trailrides, backyard courses, and target practice a long while now and is still going strong.

I'm so exctied for Arrows Rising, since so many of the people attending have never shot an arrow before. What is different about folks coming to this workshop as compared to the horse, goat, or farming classes is that archery doesn't require land or any large investment. It requires a bow, an arrow, and a place to shoot it safetly. For some of us that means our rural backyards. To others it means local archery ranges (you have several near you, seriously). Only the Fiddle Camp workshop here can match it for instant gratification. You come to the workshop knowing nothing and leave knowing how to string, nock, aim, and shoot. You leave with a piece of art in your hand and a skill you can ONLY get better at. Age, location, gender... all those things do not matter. Archery isn't like those sports. It is you, your clear mind, meditation, precision, and bulls-eyes or deer thighs. Either makes this farm girl smile.

P.S. If you are coming to Arrow's Rising in May, please email me to confirm. You should bring along a pair of leather work gloves to protect your hands from strings and arrows, and have a form-fitting long sleave shirt to wear. We will be shooting rain or shine so dress appropriately! And always wear footwear that makes sense on a farm - rubber boots are best.

P.P.S. If you want to come to Arrow's Rising in October on Columbus Day Weekend there are still 8 spots left! Email me at to sign up!

It's Starting to Really Feel Like Spring!