Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hunting Season Starts Monday!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Merlin is Mine!

Today is a celebration! Thanks to the three folks who signed up for the new November Fiddle Day Camp, I was able to mail my last payment for Merlin! He is finally paid off and officially my horse! The check is in the mail and in the next few weeks I'll have his paperwork and registration with the Fell Pony Society. This has been a long time coming. It has been over two years of payments and while I do not think I'll ever go into payments for a horse again, I can say with absolute certainty it was worth every penny. Unlike a truck or car, horses are not deprecating assets, not if you use them, train them, and make them better partners for people. Over these two years I went from a scared girl on the back of a stubborn horse to a true team. Merlin and I ride, drive, jump, trek, picnic, and shoot archery together. I hope to hunt with him and Italics, a true medieval scene for this mountain. If that isn't appreciating I'm not sure what is.

This horse has totally changed me and the direction of my life. I can not imagine a life without a good horse, not anymore. The confidence, enjoyment, recreation, transportation and sense of overall goodness has never been met before. To ride a horse is to feel strong, connected, fast, and more wild, in all the best ways.

This is a big deal and to celebrate we hope to go for a long cart ride this afternoon. I'm much more of a pony rider than pony driver, but something about the changing weather is altering that these days. I love driving my horse cart if there is a reason behind it: an errand or a visit. Just driving around for fun is no where near as fun for me as riding through the forest and fields, but when you have a grocery list, a case of hard cider, or a day with friends planned I love harnessing up and seeing the world go by at the pace of a trot. It's an eight mile round trip to the Stannard Farm Stand (2 miles by 2-lane highway, 4 by quiet country road we prefer). I look forward to it like Halloween. The open road, the sound of harness and hoofbeats, and a sunny day with the hint of fall around the corner. The first fall I am going into prepared, and that is also a reason to celebrate!

P.S. Updates to Clan Blog (tonight) and the Birchthorn Project (early next week!) coming up with the First Installment of the new novel! Get ready for some Spanish Flu in NYC harbor, 1918!

P.P.S. A spot opened and Fiddle Day Camp has room for 2 more people! I got this comment this morning from someone who was just here for the 2-day camp! Email me to sign up!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Learning to Fly

Sunday afternoon, when Fiddle Camp was over and everyone who had attended had said their goodbyes and headed down my winding mountain road – I trotted off on Merlin and headed for our beloved trails. I wanted to ride, badly. It had been a few days and after such a wonderful camp I felt so proud and confident and there was nowhere I wanted to be more. It was a celebration on horseflesh. So on that black Fell I cantered across field and forest. We splashed through the creek and galloped up a ridge side. I was on fire, as happy as a woman can be. My farm is what it is. I am what I am. But to send people off into the world that may create new music made me so ridiculously happy I was drunk on the thrill. I laughed. I sang. I talked to Merlin in my broken Gaelic and told him I’d write a song about him, too. I was in heaven, beyond reason, and that is why I did something very stupid next.

We came to a wide trail with some fallen logs. Merlin and I know these logs. He steps over them without any fuss on a regular trail ride. They are only about a foot off the ground, far from a mighty barrier. So I smiled like a wolf, dug my heals as far down as they would go in the stirrups, lifted up into two-point position and asked him to run. Merlin did as I asked, and did it at a full gallop. He was not in a controlled canter. He was moving fast and free. I gave him his head as we reached the log and he curved his muscular neck and lifted those mighty hind legs as we soared. I swear we could have jumped a coffee table.

Time seemed to slow down, I could not believe how high we had gone. He easily cleared the log by an extra two feet and I was aware of this split second of my life when I was flying through the air above four suspended hooves. It froze, slow as bullet time, and was over and spilling back into reality when Merlin hit the ground running like a buck at gunshot.

My landing was not as graceful as his. My stomach plowed into the saddle horn, my legs lost their grip, but I stayed on. I’m sure I felt more like a sack of potatoes than a rider when we landed but it didn’t seem to bother or slow Merlin down at all, like that jump as a booster back of speed and power. He continued to run and I cheered and whooped like an idiot.

Okay, so doing that one time? That was foolish. Making the sober decision to do it again today, that was courage. I admit I was scared to jump him again. Since Sunday I had watched Youtube videos and read some passages in my riding books about proper jump training and realized how lucky I was. You do not start jumping with three feet of air and a full gallop. You start at a trot with a few inches. And that was the plan today. Merlin and I headed back to that jump and with our scrappy education and stubbornness, tried again.

It took a few tries but at a gentler canter we jumped that log half a dozen times. These jumps were not the mighty leap that ended our airborne virginity, these were controlled, softer, and I felt very safe. He did not soar, he bounded, and I felt what a reasonable bit of air felt like. It wasn’t as dramatic but it was on purpose. And having gone back to face it a second time, knowing how rough it could be if I messed up, made me feel proud again. Merlin and I were learning to fly.

I am 32 years old, single, and built like a hobbit. I am not wealthy, or attractive, or particularly savvy. I have more flaws than virtues and have made many mistakes. But when I am on this horse, above the world, I feel a hope and possibility that I have not felt in years. I don’t feel like the girl I am ashamed of for all she lacks, I feel like the woman I can become. People sit in therapist’s offices their whole lives, drink into oblivion, and hurt people over and over looking for that feeling. I have found it in foolishness and luck, attached to a thousand pounds of equine born on another continent gifted to me through blessings I will never truly understand. If that comes across as arrogant, it is not meant to be. It is meant to be confident, which I know straddles that line. But I am beginning to learn the stupidity of overthinking about what other people assume about my heart, have assumed, or will assume. It is known that people who live with one foot in the past, and another in the future are perfectly position to piss all over the present.

I’m choosing to focus on those moments as they are gathered, be it in foolishness or determination. We are what we believe we are, and I am starting to believe in my ability to fly. For that, I thank the fiddlers. For that, I thank the mistakes. And for that, I thank myself for the permission for take off.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Birchthorn Project Beta is LIVE!

So Proud to announce that the Birchthorn Project has launched! Just a week after funding, backers can go to the private website and join the conversation starting over there! Right now it is just greetings and introductions, but starting later this week a conversation and (optional) research homework assignment will be announced on The Pandemic of 1918 (links for research on flu section of website).

I thank all of you who were involved at any level of pledging! But this site is only for folks who pledged for a physical copy of the book. Get your password to enter the website in your email from Kickstarter (update #12 for Birchthorn). Get excited guys, we're writing a book together!

Fiddle Camp 2014!

It was on the second day of camp, as I was walking around the farmyard instructing, that my flock of sheep trotted by. They had been grazing free on their hill and decided to see what all the music was about. Sal, Maude, and the whole gang hoofed right through the Big Show under the King Maple. They had plans to eat chicken feed in the normal place (Drat! I had thwarted their plans by putting it in the barn instead!) and so all it took to get them back on their hill was a shake of a grain bucket and some encouragement from a border collie with confidence issues. We paraded, the geese honked, roosters crowed, and the goatee bleated. It was a happy scene to be sure, and the fiddle students around us on all sides just kept playing. I know there are a lot of places and ways to pick up the fiddle, but few have this sort of sideshow. I gotta say folks, there is a feral joy in seeing a lamb trot past a woman from Connecticut sawing into "Ida Red" on your front lawn. The farm lives on!

Someday, if I am lucky enough to reach a ripe old age, I hope I look back to weekends like this, shared with so many wonderful folks. Two days of music, fiddles, farm life, and perfect weather here in Jackson. The third annual August Fiddle Camp was possibly the best one yet. Everyone who came left on that second day able to play their first tune, with the tools and practice schedule to learn even more. That is of course the point. No one comes to camp expecting to leave an expert, but they do expect to leave as their own teachers. That is the whole point of the weekend, to introduce this intimidating instrument with a whole pile of beginners just as clueless as everyone else and leave knowing how to teach yourself the rest. People had traveled from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England to spend two days with strangers, sitting on hay bales, meeting the farm animals and learning the way of the ol' Devil stick. I thank you all!

This year's crop of summer fiddlers did amazingly well, and had the advantage of a teacher with three years of teaching these weekends under her belt. Instead of starting with our first notes, we spent the first hour learning to tune, set up, and adjust the bridge on the new fiddles. A tedious beginning but all weekend they knew exactly how to get themselves in tune and handle the new instruments. By warm up on the second day they pulled them from their hay-strewn cases the way a carpenter picks up a hammer, as normal and comfortable like. That made me smile wide enough to cause minor injury.

I use (and ONLY use) Wayne Erbsen's method and books for Fiddle Camp. If you are considering taking up the fiddle and can't join us, I strongly urge you to get his materials!  Do not buy any other sort of book or invest in any sort of expensive lessons before trying them out. His little green book and CD is the best teacher out there for people interested in having fun and taking up a musical life. You can find all the information on beginner fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and banjo (in several styles of old time and bluegrass) at nativeground. Wayne isn't even a sponsor of this blog, I just adore his spirit, music, and the lessons from the southern mountains he shares. He explains the difference between a fiddle and a violin in the video, below. It pretty much sums him up.

In two days we covered a lot, and it makes me wonder if I should change the name to Fiddle Boot Camp? It is a constant ten hours of lessons all weekend long. You get pretty tired sitting outside all day, not matter how excited you are to learn, but I think the fuss is worth it. I still hear from folks from previous Camps that still play and have made the violin a part of their life. All of them are middle-aged, having never played an instrument before and some can't read music. Thanks to Wayne's method's that doesn't matter. I will tell you what I told the campers on Saturday: Becoming a violinist takes talent, precision, and very hard work. Becoming a fiddler just takes stubbornness. Keep playing, keep having fun, laugh your way through the beginning squeaks and squawks and you'll be just fine.

I thank everyone who came to this camp, traveled so far, supported this farm, and shared my home and life for a few days. It was an honor and a blast, and I hope you keep playing and never let yourself think you can't be the musician you always dreamed of. I see a lot of jam circles in your future ladies (and Bryan!). And to those who already attended camps, I thank you too.

P.S. I am considering a one-day camp here in October if anyone is interested in a single day of introduction and lessons. It would come with a fiddle, of course, and cost much less than the usual Fiddle Camp. I could get 4 folks here in the farmhouse for a good long day if you want to be playing carols by Yuletide! Email me if you're thinking about it!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Getting Ready for Camp!

It is a bit misty and overcast right now, but that isn't stopping me and my friend Shimshone from getting ready for Fiddle Camp! The lawn is being mowed, hay bales (for our bums as well as feed!) are being stacked in the barn, and I am unboxing, rosining, and tuning every single fiddle waiting here for its new owner. I will be up before dawn tomorrow, getting the chores done early and the farm readied for the long day ahead. Be first light I'll be checking instruments and setting up the music circle under the big King Maple. I am so excited, what a celebration of music and new musicians!

I am not an amazing fiddler, but I am a passionate one. Last night I was playing through Pretty Saro, a song I adore so much, and got lost in it. I make mistakes and here or there a squeak comes through (specially when I haven't played in a while) but I find that perfection was never the point of my playing and certainly not the point of Fiddle Camp. Fiddle camp is about beginnings. It's about understanding the neck and strings, your fingers, the way to bow and play your first song. We learn Appalachian style, by ear, and within a few weeks of playing this way you can teach yourself anything with a good ear and some patience. It's liberating and magical. Once you can pick up a piece of wood, wire, and horsehair and make a song out of thin air you are hooked.

We can still fit one more in if you want to join us, there's a spare fiddle sitting here!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blinders On: Time To Make It Happen

This was originally written and published on November, 6th 2011. A reader shared it on her Facebook Page today and I wanted to share it again, update it a little, and I hope you enjoy it. 

There's a chicken I raised and potatoes I grew on this farm in the crock pot right now, swimming in a stew of cream of broccoli, carrots, and onions. Later today I'll ladle it into a butter pie crust and bake it into a pot pie. It'll be served with bread I am baking today, and green beans I blanched and froze from this past summer. Dessert will be with apple turnovers brushed in butter and sugar. The meal is for Brett and I, after a we spend the afternoon constructing supports for the basement floor. The floor of of this house was always wonky, but recently, due to either the high moisture of the summer followed by the daily heat of the wood stove, age, (or all of this!): the floor has been creaking, dipping, and rising up in new bumps. So Brett's going to inspect and correct it, and for his kindness I'm making him dinner. It's a fair trade, as a home-grown pot pie is out of this world and I don't care who's making it (even if they cheated with some Campbell's in the stew). I am looking forward to the work, the company, and the meal!

I spent the morning enjoying the extra hour of sleep granted by Daylight Savings. But when I woke up the house was a chilly 56 degrees. Talk about motivation to get outside and do your chores! By the time both stoves were cleaned of old ash, re-lit, and roaring I was outside feeding the sheep, chickens, pigs and handing carrots to Jasper. Out there the world was crusted in ice. The thermometer read 22. The sheep had ice on their backs and the chickens were already up on the open areas of pasture first hit by the sun, so they could scratch and explore in the defrosting horse patties. I live on the east side of a the mountain, so I get daylight before my neighbors on the other side. I think it's nice this time of year to see that sunrise sooner, and to watch the grass go from white to dark green as a flock of mini dinosaurs trot past me to eat some horse poo. Nice, indeed.

I am spending the day at home, both taking care of it and being taken care of by it. The work of reinforcing the floor, stacking wood, and animal chores is just as vital an enjoyable as baking fresh breads and pot pies by a warm fire. This farm grew the food and some of the wood, and it deserves some TLC from time to time. When I stand up in the pasture and look over this place I am held in an emotional limbo that leaves me floating somewhere between ebbs of gratitude and incredulousness. I can barely believe it happened, but it did happen, and that's what I want to write about this morning...

I bought a farm. I bought a farm at 28, with no savings, poor credit, and no experience with negotiating beyond livestock tailgate parties. I want you to know that if this is something you want as bad as I did, you can do it too. Do not let ANYONE tell you otherwise. Those naysayers are full of more horse shit then my chickens.

Buying this house was a blur. It was the first (and only) house I looked at. I walked in it, around the property, and felt every kind of heart-gripping compulsion to make it mine. I just wasn't sure how? The realtor, Leon Barkley, was the man who showed me around the place. The first time I met him I was terrified. Not because Leon was in any way scary, but because he represented a possibility I had never let myself believe in before. He, however, sold many homes and knew who was and wasn't going to cut the mustard. He had faith in my story, and felt this old girl was a good match for me. His instincts were right, but it turned out his connections were even better...

I told Leon about my below-average salary, zero savings, and 530 credit score and he didn't even flinch. He explained that traditionally I might be in a fix, but other options existed outside of banks and the FHA. He said I should talk to a mortgage broker he trusted named James Teele. He said James knew the USDA loan program inside and out, and those mortgages didn't have as strict qualifications as some banks, and required no money down. This sounded made up to me, but I called the man he suggested.

James Teele explained that Washington County, all of it, was in an area the US government considered "Rural Development". Unlike Vermont, where I was living at the time, this place had options for a new homeowner without a fat bank account. I was intrigued, and James was kind, honest, and coached me through the process of buying this farm. He was invaluable and without him I would not be here today. That is a summary of my personal story of the winter of 2009/2010. But what you need to understand is that this isn't a case of luck and circumstance. This farm happened because I walked into a house with the belief that no matter what I would make it mine. It wasn't a case of money, or who I knew, it was a case of stubbornness, faith, and belief in myself and in the outcome I had written down on a piece of paper months ago that I carried with me everywhere I went in my back pocket.

I'm going to stand on my soapbox now.

Listen, if you want a farm then you need to stop telling yourself it'll happen later. None of us are getting any younger, and as far as I'm concerned putting it off is the same as giving up. Life is happening now. You need to start making it happen now, because for some of us it isn't a matter of just moving boxes and road trips. Some of us have credit and savings to repair, and it might take a five years. Well guess what folks, five years are coming no matter what, so why not be on your own farm at the end of them? Start the process now. I don't care what your situation is, start now.

Pick up a homes-for-sale flyer at your local diner and send some emails, scan the local papers, walk into local realtor offices and check want ads. Drive around the places you want to live and ask questions, notice For Sale signs, and take notes. Make appointments at your local, and other credit unions. So what if you walk into a bank and are laughed at?! (I was laughed out of three.) So what if you are told no, over and over again? There is no law on the books that says that you, the dreamer, can not pursue the dream of a farm. No police who scan you for credit scores before you take the tour of that farm outside of town. You can and should do this! Call those Realtors, walk into those houses and see them. Touch the banisters and barn walls. Fill your current coffee tables with those library books on goat shed building, chicken care, and gardening. Create the reality you want to live in. Surround yourself with it. Take classes, attend workshops, spend time with like minds at local CSA, craft, and community events. It will be forced to happen to you as long as you believe it can.

Ask questions and never be ashamed to be totally honest. You might see some hackles raise when you tell folks you just got your first job out of college, have little savings, and four credit cards, but they will either say yes or no to you, and soon as they say no, ask why. The information will be invaluable to your process. Maybe that rejection is what you need to start paying off those credit cards and eating plain pasta with red sauce for a month (that was my case), or start that major yard sale and eBay jihad to get the nest egg to build your confidence. A rejection is a gift, it tells you what you need to start doing so the next time your try it can't be because of credit cards, or lack of savings, or loans. Accept these hard lessons and fight to repair them. The work will be hard, require changes in your current standards of living and frugality, but again, in five years wouldn't you rather be lighting a wood stove in New Hampshire than a cigarette outside your break room?

That whole rant's point is to explain this very basic point: start now. Do not put off your plans. Do not expect the world to be the same in ten years. Now is the time to take advantage of all the foreclosures, care taking options, rural rent-to-owns and so forth. If you are sitting on an expensive home you already own in a subdivision, but desperately wish you could be on a farm...well. it might require you purge yourself of that mental disease that is the "addiction of prior investment". Just because you put everything into where you are not doesn't mean you have to stay there, but it will become a prison if you convince yourself you can't leave until the economy gets it back to it's 2007 home value. Walk away and start living.

Some of us simply will not qualify for a traditional 30-year mortgage. And for those that do not, you still shouldn't be vanquished. In this economy, do you have any idea how many second country homes are up for rent or foreclosure? Up for rent-to-buy options or seller note-holding? Thousands. You'll have to scurry a little, dig a little. Maybe ask the person who posted that place with the barn, stables, and brick house on Craigslist if they are the owner, and if they would consider a renting proposal that after a year would allow some conversations about taking over the mortgage? There are choices and chances out there for all of us, but they will only be presented to the people who are willing to chomp bits, paste their ears back against the sides of their heads, and run forward with blinders on. You need to sprint past who you were before, and past the other people letting life happen to them. Your dream is only as far away as you are willing to believe it is.

Find it. Fight for it. Believe in it.

It's waiting for you.

Under 24 Hours to Join Us!

I am so glad that with less than a day of pledging left, Birchthorn is at 125% of its goal! For that I thank you, the farm thanks you, and for the first time in years I can go into winter with a lighter heart! Only 22 hours or so left to be a part of this group project! I thought I would share the plan moving forward for those unsure of what this even is?!

1. Upon funding I will get to work writing a new introduction/exposition to the story, before the first chapter you already read.

2. While that is being written, the new blog will be created to get the community involved who supported this story, starting with a conversation about world building and story-crafting. Your opinions, inspirations, and ideas matter. I'll suggest watching stuff like this video with fiction writers talking about story, crafting, and the work of making a piece of fiction worth reading!

3. Once the new introduction is written and some tweaking done to the first chapter I will post it to the new blog and hope all of you will give your thoughts, story ideas, character suggestions and so forth. We'll build this all together! THIS IS WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT BIRCHTHORN! It is not just a novel you help fund, it is a novel you help WRITE!

4. When a chapter has been out for a full week it will be re-worked, taking the comments into consideration (though as the author I do get the final say on creative decisions) and reposted as a raw part of a story.

5. This will continue on a weekly basis until most of the book is completed. The final chapters will only be read by the hired professional editor and myself, since I want there to be some excitement for those of you when your paperback or hardcover comes in the mail! Are you a professional fiction editor? If so, send me your resume and books under your belt and your rates! I would love to hire someone from this community!

6. Any questions? Let me know! And of course, thank you all for your support and I urge you to get excited about being a part of this mystery! You'll be haunted by Birchthorn all winter if you join in at the $45 pledge or higher!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shake. The. Dust.

2 Ribbons, 20 Bales, 1 Cord

I woke up this morning excited for a hay pickup and a day at the county fair, but found out through a phone call I had the event times confused and while I was on the road north to Hebron to buy hay, Patty and Steele were already trotting around the ring. So I missed them, sadly. But She did place second in Parade Class and third in Lady's Carting! I'm sharing their ribbon photo right here! Congrats to Patty and Steele!

So I missed the fanfare fair  I did get twenty bales of hay put up in the barn and reserved another 10 to go pick up. It is a good feeling, even that small dent towards winter feed. I also got a hold of a local firewood guy and he is delivering a cord next week. Again, not a huge delivery but enough that I can stack it out of the weather and save for the next cord.

Early Morning Hay, Fiddlers, and Wool Shares

Shortly, I'll be on the road to buy some hay. Coffee in my thermos, dog riding shotgun, music and news on the radio. It's Patty and Steele's big day at the County Fair and I hope to go and help her tack, groom, and watch from the railings as she and her horse strut their stuff! Rain is in the forecast, but I think this day goes on rain or shine, so I'll probably be there with camera and a poncho. This is a sadness that can easily be fixed with a Bloomin' Onion. Or so I hear tale...

Fiddle Camp is THIS WEEKEND! Looks sunny and gorgeous all around! Be here by 10AM and be ready for a whole new life of music, tunes, campfire jams and new friends! I'll remind you to bring a camp chair, your lesson book, tuner, and spare strings and get ready for a weekend of music and your new instruments! I have a dozen fiddles here waiting for their new owners and I'll start tuning them up tomorrow and checking out each one individually to make sure all is well and ready for your eager hands! This is one of my favorite weekends of the whole year!

On another important note: farmers make mistakes. I know I sure make mistakes. The wool CSA and Webinars I hosted a few years ago were just such mistakes. I have sent out emails to folks about their wool products last night and this morning, but have only heard back from three so far. If you did not get an email from me because communications changed, please email me for a refund for anything you would like your money back for and it will be paid by December 2014. I am honestly trying to remedy this to the best of my ability. I thank you for your patience and valued the good faith you made those purchases with.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Small but Mighty! Jasper, my 11.2 hand POA being ridden by Joanna T. He trail rides, trailers, good with feet and farrier, Amish broke, high spirited, drives, and looks snappy. He's for sale to the right home. Will have his coggins updated before sale as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I was in the shower, getting ready for Saratoga's Author Event when my phone rang. I knew what it was about, had to be about! It was patty who just watched the Kickstarter Campaign fly past the goal and wanted to share in the excitement. I was not able to grab the whole but got in touch with her quick, we were both so happy and relieved. We all did it, guys! We made the goal! What this means is I am officially an employed writer again! It means I will have a creative job, a means to get ready for winter, and Cold Antler Farm will be avoiding the wolves at the door! This has been a anxious, nerve wracking and wonderful process. THANK YOU ALL!

There are still four days left in the campaign, so you still have four days to become a part of this story. This is the pre-order process, guys. This is how you get this book. You can choose an ebook, paperback, or special hardcover. There are limited copies left, I think only 167 paperbacks and 51 hardcovers. I don't have plans to yet to make this available outside Kickstarter or bought here at workshops in person. So if you want to hear this story consider just getting an electronic copy. And if you want to be a part of writing it, grab one of those last paperbacks! You can still pledge to be in the story itself, too! There are four spots left!

And anything raised over the goal goes towards making more books, making a BETTER website for the project, and keeping this farm a safe place for the animals and human alike. So be a part of this. Help tell a story. And have a physical book in your family you can always tell your kids and grandchildren YOU helped write! A spooky story, a good thrill, and a fun way to spend this long winter - creating a monster in a farm community of the past.


Saturday, August 16, 2014


The Kickstarter for Birchthorn is down to the less than $250 to reach completion! If that mark is met not only will this community project begin right after the campaign ends, but emails will be sent out to all who donated letting them know how to get involved! Know that there is a limited number of books available and being printed, very limited. The only way to guarantee you get a copy is to pledge for one in the next 5 days. If you pledged for an ebook, you might want to adjust it to the paperback level so you can be a part of the private blog writing the story! But even if you just kick in a dollar or two you are helping make this project go from idea and flirtation to actual reality, and helping this farm in ways you just can't realize. So I urge you to help us push past the finish line!


Northshire Reading Was a Celebration!

Manchester last night was so lovely! The author space was packed, chairs filled, and the audience was full of friends and strangers alike, some traveling as far as Wisconsin! I read from Cold Antler Farm, a few passages, and then there was a nice, long, conversational Q&A with supportive and energetic folks of all ages. I saw old friends from my office days I had not seen in ages. I met fans from all over the area, and Nation! And I got to spend a lot of time taking photos, signing books, laughing, and drinking that amazing Mocha Joe's coffee that have on tap over there in the Spiral Press Cafe. It was a lovely part of the CAF tour and books were sold in numbers. I was so glad to be there and look forward to returning with my next book!

A Day in the Country!

I handed Eric the lines and showed him where to stand behind Merlin. My horse was in full harness, his tugs attached by chains to a single tree which was loaded with small logs. Eric is a science teacher  in Greenwich, Connecticut and I don't know if he ever helped harness and drive a draft animal before, but he took those long lines and told Merlin to "Walk on" and I was so proud of this person I didn't know the day before. He was steady and true, Merlin walked straight, and I think I saw the beginnings of a couple's decision to someday own a working horse. I could almost here the spark ignite.

Eric and Christine came for an Indie Day on Thursday, it was mild and partly sunny but the rain did not show up and stop our fun. We spend the morning learning the basics of archery and shot at a target in the high field. We extracted honey from my beehive and poured the liquid gold into jars in my kitchen. Lunch for them was in the little cafe in town and then they returned to meet Merlin and ride, drive, and see the cart hooked up and trotting down the road. After all that we still had time to let the goats run and play in the yard until evening milking. They got to squeeze out some milk, get nickered at and their jeans tugged on, but were all smiles. It all wrapped up with watching Gibson and the sheep in their small hill pasture, Gibson herding and heckling and the sheep munching on fallen apples and grass. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday, if you ask me.

Indie Days are great in general, one-on-one instruction with folks who know me through the blog and want to experience what they read about. It was wonderful meeting Christine and Eric, and when they left with hugs and thank-yous I was the truly grateful one. For their support, of course and their friendliness - but also for their beer. Because Eric is a master home brewer and he left a large bottle of the best stout I have ever drank in my entire life! It was a borderline religious experience. After my first big pull from the pint glass I am sure I swore an oath. Holy Crow, it was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Or, so I thought…

When chores were done and the animals all content I was getting ready to call it a night after that good day's work. But I felt the urge to text friends, Patty and Mark, and ask if I could swing by later that evening? I just wanted to kick back with friends. A few hours later I was in their kitchen, talking over a glass and eating a hamburger with a side of beans from the garden.

After a good meal (there went my juice fast….) we decided to go outside and get her horse, Steele, a ton of Percheron, out of his pasture and saddled up. Patty wanted to see how a new Aussie saddle felt on the lad. While she tacked up I had this wild idea in my head. Patty saddled the horse and liked the new furniture and when she got off I asked if I could try it out as well? Patty cocked her head a little to the side, but said okay. I NEVER ask to ride her horse. She's 5'10 and built like a goddess from another age. I am a hobbit, at best.

The last time I rode Steele was two years ago, inside the arena at Riding Right Farm. I had professional staff, instructors, and was inside an equestrian facility. Steele was in English tack and I was more comfortable in English gear at the time. Also, there was a first aid kit the size of a large backpack on the wall and I had a helmet on my head. I rode him around the arena once, walking and trotting, and was pretty much scared to death. Too big, too much power, too much for a new rider just getting used to a Fell Pony. But Patty was proud and gave me a hug just for trying.

This night, two years later, there was no arena, no helmet, no professional staff. There was a horse on a friends farm in the front lawn. I got a boost and I rode him. I rode him down the lane onto the road. I rode him back at a canter up the driveway. I walked around the lawn. I was not scared! Not at all! Thanks to a few years in the saddle with a stubborn pony under my belt. I loved riding that giant horse and most of all, I felt strong and proud. I feel strong often enough, with feed sacks and piglets in my arms, but rarely do I let myself feel proud like that.

It wasn't perfect riding, as I was choppy and green compared to the song I know so well with Merlin. But I did it, and I knew when I hopped down the woman whose boots hit the ground was not the girl who trotted in a circle indoors two years earlier. Patty took some video, Mark got on next to try out the saddle as well (which we all LOVED!).

Mark trotted and cantered around his property on that magnificent gelding the rain started to spatter and the wind started to pick up. He hopped off and we untacked the big boy as the real threat of rain came down. We got the horses in the barn and the tack put up just in time for a downpour to soak us! I tried to think back to how the day started, with new friends from another world, shooting arrows into the big burlap and hay target, and a few hours later I had drank the world's best beer, ridden a dinosaur, and got a free shower from Nature herself. Dare I ask for more? We went inside, arms around each other and our little victories. A fine day, indeed.

We were laughing in our cups when we all got a text at the same time. Checking our phones, we saw our friend Joanna (Jasper's Joanna) needed help and now, she was panicked! She had 20+ turkeys escape from their electric netting in the storm we just laughed thought and they were all over her yard in the dark. This was not a tragedy but her husband was away at work, she was exhausted from the long day, and you all know how it is when the last straw breaks in half. She just needed some friends. Since she literally live two houses down from Patty and Mark we hopped in the back of Patty's truck and rode to the rescue.

It did not take long to wrangle the turkeys. We set out a fan of arms and hollers and soon they were all back in their fence and the charger turned back on. Joanna was relieved and we all headed back to Mark and Patty's to sit and talk, laugh and smile. It felt good to help a friend. It felt better to just be in a place where help is a panicked text away, loaded in the car or ready to charge into scene on the back of a white horse, literally.

A day in the country. A fine day.
And I slept the way heavy rocks sleep when they are very tired and the moss doesn't itch.

P.S. The Birchthorn Kickstarter has only 5 Days Left! Please take a minute to pledge and be a part of a story. A story that supports this farm, that lets you take part in the creation, and will employ me into early winter! We are 77% towards the goal and this project will not happen unless it is 100% funded! So do not wait, check out the new reward posted (a LIFETIME ticket to CAF events and workshops!) and keep telling friends and family about this project! I thank you!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Living Iron Forge & Meg Paska at Antlerstock 2014!

I am so pleased to announce that joining the presenters and activities at Antlerstock this year is Author, speaker, farmer and beekeeper Meg Paska and the owner and artist, blacksmith, and ironworker Greg Clasby! Meg will be talking about bees and getting started with a backyard honey harvest. Greg will be there to share his art and creations. So if you are passionate about honey or homemade weaponry, I gotta say darling, there is seomthing here for you this year at Anterstock! By the way, only a few slots left, so grab them if you want them by emailing me.

Down to the Wire from Daniel McCord on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Are 70% There!

As of tonight this Kickstarter Campaign has reached 70% funding with a week left to go! I'm feeling more confident than the start, but that 30% still means there is a chance we won't pull this off and make Birchthorn happen. Remember, unless I hit the goal within the next 7 days zero pledges are collected and the project fails. So I thank all of you who are still thinking of pledging just for considering it, and I really thank those of you who already have! Every pledge, even at the $1 level, helps make this project a reality and I am so looking forward to it! I have never published a novel and this one about magic, history, farming and friendship will be an adventure on many levels. It's a new kind of excitement and I like it!

What is this Birchthorn thing?!

Low Rent Honey Filtration

All right, so I'm not especially proud of it but this contraption did the job! I went out on this drizzling afternoon and pulled four heavy frames from the honey super. I extracted the way a gal with one hive does, quick and dirty like. The plastic frames were scraped clean of all comb and honey and dumped into a stainless steel brew kettle. Then I poured the clumpy mess of honey and comb into a kitchen colander (standard issue) and using a kettle handle and an inverted hammer I was able to strain out the raw honey into a pyrex bowl my mom found for me at a yard sale. 20 pounds of honey were extracted this way in under an hour! I used special muth jars, mason jars, an old whisky bottle (which I saved for this very reason) and couldn't be happier. I didn't even get stung (at least not during the harvesting. I did get stung when I thought busting the lid off in a tank top was a good idea without my smoker, but just once).

Honeybees are wonderful. They are such easy livestock to keep and give back so much. I'll harvest the other six frames later this week but right now I am just feeling so darn satisfied about the honey surplus in this house! I think honey is a great gift as well, and will tie some baling twine around a few of my jars with a honey stick on them as housewarming presents. But most will stay right here, used for homebrewing and everyday use in tea, baking, glazing meats and spread over homemade breads. There is a saying that the first harvest of the season is the best tasting honey you'll ever have and I believe it! Mine is light and mountain-based, created from wildflowers, goldenrod, clover and tree blossoms. I savor it. And while it's origin is as scrappy as the rest of this farm it was harvested at zero expense in the form of fancy extractors or even much time. This morning all I had was half a squirt bottle of honey from the farm stand. Now I have enough to shower in it! Tonight I feel rich!

And will celebrate with my chicken dinner of roasted bird over kale and potatoes, a cold beer, and my 12,023 viewing of Braveheart.

Learn to Play the Fiddle! August 23rd 24th

Have you ever wanted to learn to play an instrument but were certain you didn't have the ear? The ability? The talent? Not here you don't! Cold Antler's Fiddle Camp has a last minute opening for the weekend of the 23rd and 24th. The camp is two days, outdoors, sitting in the shade or in a large barn (if it's raining) and learning the basics of teaching yourself to fiddle. I use Wayne Erbsen's methods and the weekend if casual, fun, and easy. I have never had a person take this camp and not leave able to play a tune. Here's a video of Riley from Ontario playing with a guitar accompaniment the second day of Fiddle Camp. He never played the violin before this weekend and on day two he was droning, shuffling, and playing alongside another musician!

Some folks had to change their schedules but I have an extra Fiddle right here, brand new, in the box, waiting for you to come and learn how to care and feed for it and take it home. Practice fifteen minutes a day and you'll have a pocketful of songs by Halloween. And if you have attended a camp in the past, please do comment here and share your own story of the weekend!

Email Me to sign up!

P.S. If you are signed up for this year's camp make sure you get a hold of your own copy of Wayne's Book, an electronic guitar tuner, and a spare set of strings for your fiddle. Email me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Become Farmers

"Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers." That was the title of an op-ed piece in the NY Times circling around my Facebook feed this week. You may have read it yourself, but if not here's the gist:  there is no money in farming with integrity as a small business model. It’s a nearly-impossible way to make a living. Those organic veggies at your local farmers' market, the CSA share you may or may not have invested in, the truck hauls to busy city centers to deliver box club splits…. It’s a dog-eat-dog shit show. A constant competition between “hobby" farms (some are a recreation of the wealthy for land tax breaks in the same farmer's market as  commercial growers) and nonprofit farms who have boards of directors to hand out new tractors instead of resorting to begging a bank for a loan. It was a good article and as a good point was made. Farming as your sole source of income is no way to get rich and getting harder all the time, even among this recent food movement. And that was why the title was what it was, to grab your attention and point out how hard the much-applauded small farm business is. Don’t let your children grow up to be farmers was a warning, and an earnest one.

The article ends with issues farmers need to fight for, like loan forgiveness for college grads (I personally would love this one) who pursue agriculture and better wages for every part of the food-growing system. Like I said, it was a powerful article and well written and I agree with him on all points but one:

Let your children grow up to be farmers.

Let your children grow up to become farmers. Let them know what it is like to be free from fluorescent lights and laser-pointer meetings. Let them challenge themselves to be forever resourceful and endlessly clever. Let them whistle and sing loud as they like without getting called into an office for "disturbing the workforce." Let them commute down a winding path with birdsong instead of a freeway's constant growl. Let them be bold. Let them be romantic. Let them grow up not having to ask another adult for permission to go to the dentist at 2PM on a Thursday. Let them get dirty. Let them kill animals. Let them cry at the beauty of fallow earth they just signed the deed for. Let them bring animals into this world, and realize they don’t care about placenta on their shirt because they no longer care about shirts. Let them wake up during a snowstorm and fight drifts at the barn door instead of traffic. Let them learn what real work is. Let them find happiness in the understanding that success and wealth are not the same thing. Let them skip the fancy wedding. Let them forget four years of unused college. Let them go. Let them go home.

Farming never has been, and never will be, an easy life but for many it is an easy choice. For me it was the only choice. Perhaps that is what it takes? Being a farmer means wanting to do it more than anything else. It means giving up things other people take for granted as givens, like travel and the latest fashion, new cars and 401k plans. It means making choices your peers won’t understand, your family will disapprove of, and other farmers will scoff at. It means making a decision and owning it, really owning it the way few people get to own anything in their lives anymore. Let your children grow up to know this responsibility. Let them literally put food on the table, lift up their bootstraps, and learn how much effort a life worth living entails.

I have been living on this farm full-time for nearly two years, and it has never been without worry. But that heavy blanket of anxiety is full of many, tiny, holes that let in brilliant beams of light, as many as there are stars! And those pieces of light I have reached have changed me so much. They are mountaintop rides on a draft horse, meals I knew as chicks and seeds, and finding a spiritual home in the everyday work and rythyms of my life. The version of me who was too scared to farm would certainly be more solvent, but she wouldn’t be happy. She wouldn’t know how to hunt deer, ride a horse, plant a garden, or butcher a chicken. It is only in the last few decades of abnormal history that these skills were considered recreational or outdated. And perhaps that NY Times writer will find himself in a much better place financially when local food goes from being a novelty of the so-inclined to the staples his community depends on when gas prices, natural disasters, political climates or any other disruption in the cattle cars of modern civilization start to hiccup.

And that may be the best reason to let you children grow up to become farmers: they can feed themselves. They can achieve the most basic of human needs in a society clueless about how to take care of themselves without a car and a supermarket. Becoming a farmer isn’t in financial fashion right now, that is sadly true, but it will be again. As long as people need to eat there will be a business in doing so and it’s up to each farmer to find his or her niche, celebrate it, unapologetically accept good money for it, and keep doing it far past the point of reason. Any son or daughter of mine that dared to be so bold would not be discouraged from facing the world with such fierceness for simplicity. Antlers on fire can set a lot more holes in a dark blanket.

Let your children grow up to become farmers. There is a surplus of mediocrity in this nation and a deficit of bravery. Let your children grow up to be farmers. Let them be brave.

Photo by Miriam Romais

Quick Announcement!

I wanted to share that there are now openings for Arrows Rising (Columbus Day Weekend- October) and Fiddle Camp (Aug 23rd-24th) due to attendee cancelations and schedule changes, so if you wanted to learn to saw into a fiddle or shoot arrows in a beginner friendly environment, this is your chance!

Get Your FARM! Raise that CHICKEN!
DATE CHANGE August 30th-31st!

Cold Antler Confidential: Session 3!

Cold Antler Confidential is a workshop for anyone dreaming of a farm of their own, but isn't there yet. It's a day dedicated to serious discussions on making this happen and building a plan to do so. It's a ruthless workshop, a place for dreamers who are ready to become doers. We'll start out with introductions and our stories but quickly dive into a step-by-step list for making it happen. You won't leave the workshop with a farm, but you will leave knowing how to make it possible and surrounded by support, success stories, and the honest truths about what this life is like - good and horrible.

The Confidential part is this: sometimes our farm dreams are secrets, or the intensity of them. Too many of us are told how ridiculous it is to want to "Go Back to the Land" or get chickens in our suburban backyards. We're told it's nice to think about farms for a retirement goal, but to actually pull up stakes, buy land, and start ordering from seed catalogs in bulk is considered reckless by some and idealist tripe by others. This is a workshop were you can rest-assured everyone shares your disease. Everyone there will have barn heart and will want to laugh, vent, share stories, and more. I know i'll want to do the same. Come and ask me anything, about the public life and the blog verses the hard realities of living alone on the farm. This will be a place all of us can get out some of the frustrations we've come across. There are things I just don't feel comfortable writing about on the blog. Some things are just easier to talk about in your living room, you know? It'll be that kind of session!

And we'll figure out plans of actions for us. What are your current limitations (remember, current is just that, CURRENT) and what can you do now? We'll discuss grants, crowd funding, bartering, blogs and special programs for new farmers or rural development. It was just such a program that got me on my land and knowing what to ask for and how to find it could have you planting your own kale patch next fall.

I'll try to have local farmers and neighbors join us, explaining how they got started and what caused the mental shift to make it happen. It'll be a flurry of conversations, inspirations, stories and plans. Some of you may have all you need to start a market garden now. Some of you have more than enough space to start breeding meat rabbits and poultry. Some of you may have cottage business talents, waiting to pop out. The truth about making a living out here is diversity, frugality, and flexibility. So you can leave with a list of ideas, resources, and steps you will start taking that very day to get towards your goal.

Everyone's story will be totally different, everyone will have different limitations I'm sure. Some won't be able to move. Others will be picking up local real estate flyers. I hear about local places all the time, through chatter and messages. The realtor who sold me this farm recently emailed me about a homestead for sale up the road, just in case anyone is asking. People ask all the time.

This will be an outdoor/indoor workshop here in the farmhouse. It'll be from 10AM Saturday to 4PM that night with an hour break for lunch. Bring notebooks, pens, and stories.

SO! If you share my dream. If you are scared to "come out of the tool shed" to your family about wanting a rural life. If you have been reading enough memoirs and want to create your own story, come to Cold Antler Confidential! It's a day about doing.

Cold Antler Confidential
August 30 2014
Jackson, NY
Cost: $100

Small Freezer Meat Farming

So you've been raising vegetables, a few laying hens, and ordered those honeybees. You have a worm bin and learned to cook from scratch, can jam, and can

Small Freezer Meat Farming is a workshop dedicated to backyard meat production on a small scale. How to get started, what works best for your space, and a detailed talk about living with animals in a new way. A way that means care, attention, and stewardship but ends with a that small space above the refrigerator stocked with something from the backyard besides frozen peas and tomato sauce.

Many of us drawn to homesteading like animals very much, adore our cats and dogs, and love our pet hens but still enjoy meat. Some are ready to take that next step in home meat production but are hesitant. Understandably so! Taking lives, especially lives you lovingly raised, out of the world and onto your plate is a mental and physical hurdle. It isn't normal in the modern world anymore, but perhaps something about that distance from your food bothers you? Maybe you want to raise meat but are scared. Perhaps you are a vegetarian who wants to consider organic and homegrown meat but want to think it through a bit more.

SFMF is a workshop to talk about all of this. It will begin with a conversation and also go into details about raising chickens, rabbits, and small livestock like sheep and goats for meat. There will be a butchering demonstration of a chicken and rabbit (from living animal to freezer) and a talk about the role of animals today and tomorrow: with a conversation about some serious concerns I have about healthy food and resources in the days ahead.

This is a new workshop at Cold Antler, but an important one. It lasts a full Saturday and will conclude at 4PM officially, but folks are welcome to stay at the farm that night for a private party with a campfire, conversation, grilled eats, music (bring your instruments), and home brew.

August 31 2014
Jackson, NY
Cost: $100

Why Don't You Consider a Season Pass?!

If these workshops, or ANY of the events coming up sound interesting to you I urge you to take the plunge and come to the farm. I also offer Season passes with include every event I host (minus the cost of instruments or bows and such like). Season Passes cost $350 and you can use that for an entire year. If you bought one now you could get a spot at Arrows Rising in the fall, next spring's fiddle camp plus any other workshop (from bees to butchering) for the cost of one large event. I urge you to take the five Season Passes I have to offer now. It is a huge gift to this farm and the animals here and a great way to network, make friends, and see the place your read about.

Buy a Season Pass before the weekend and I will also include a FREE Indie Half Day at the farm to focus on any subject in more detail on a One on One basis.

Sign up via email!

60% Funded! 9 Days Left!

The Birchthorn Project has hit the 60% mark, trotting towards the ever-important goal to start this writing contract with you fine people and create my first work of published fiction! I am so excited about it, and now it seems less like a dream and more of a possibility. Kickstarter is all or nothing, folks. If I am one cent short of the goal I don't see any of the money and the project doesn't happen, no pledges are collected, and it fails. If I meet or exceed the goal I can have the money in hand in 2 weeks from the last day of the project and start writing on the new blog with that audience of fellow creators! This project is more important than many of you may realize, very very important. Just donating one dollar through it shows you as an individual who supports the farm and kickstarter, and that matters. I hope you all can pledge, share this story, tell your friends, or whatever you can manage to help me make this goal in the next nine days!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Visual Postcard


I am so thrilled for little Jasper, my first ever equine and superstar of the day! Today he went for his first-ever trail ride while at this farm. I know what you are thinking? Why? Why only ride the horse now, three years after buying him? Well, because Jasper is a breed of horse called Pony of the Americas (POA), and while sturdy and great for trail, barrel race, or show ring - smaller versions of this breed aren't made for most adults. He is only 11.2 hands at the shoulders (44 inches high or so) and to be blunt - I belong on a draft horse, not a small POA. And it was Merlin, the Fell Pony, British powerhouse of draft power that taught me to ride. And over the years that big lug became the star of our little two-horse play and Jasper became the pasture buddy, the help. Well, not anymore! Now he is a bonefide trail horse!

He was ridden by my friend Joanna, a grower at Slack Hollow Farm. who is built much slighter than I, and her 110lbs was a perfect fit for the gelding. She was game to give him a try, so we made plans and today we headed out together — Merlin and Me, Jasper and Joanna.

We started Jasper with some groundwork and Natural Horsemanship and then worked on the front lawn. Joanna was a natural with him, even with the clunky second-hand tack (notice the huge Merlin-sized saddle pad!), but we found gear that fit his back and head well, and when Joanna was ready I tacked up Merlin and we headed down the road and across the street to the trails my amazing neighbor lets us use.

We rode for over three miles through the forest, fields, wildflowers, streams, and mountaintop. Jasper was calm and gentle, and Joanna (a novice rider who has only taken lessons a few months and been lead on trail rides) was content on the back of the little grey devil. We never moved faster than a trot, but speed wasn't the point. The point was to enjoy horses, sunshine, conversation, and the time we have. I am just so proud of them both, and thrilled for more rides together!

I think Joanna and I will make it a regular habit, and I think Joanna might be in love, too. Her previous experiences with horses has been touch and go, and she has some healthy fear about being out in the wilderness (note the bike helmet!) But Jasper was a great fit for her and she was beaming the whole time.  And I felt a bit of the glow Patty must have felt when helping me get started trail riding with Merlin. In her honor, soon as we got home, I said what Patty always said to me when we dismounted and were back at the farm with our feet safe on the ground. "We both stayed on! Another successful Ride!"

Be proud of that little pony, man was Jasper great. And he was great on his first ride in years! With a novice rider! I'm just pleased as can be and feel like cracking open a cider in his honor. The little pony that might, just became the little engine that could!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Orchards and Axes

Today was a fantastic workshop here at the farm, presented by Professor Brett McLeod. Brett is a forester, a lumberjack, a homesteader, and soon to be author. His class held here today covered the basics of orcharding on small properties. Me and the farm's six guests learned so much! And boy, do I ever mean that. Brett was here to teach this class because while I can make a mean apple pie and know a granny smith from a Gala - that is pretty much the extent of my apple-based knowledge. Yes sir, when it comes to apples I am a great goat milker.

So Brett was hired for this class and he did so much more than just talk about saws and loppers. He went through each tool, one at a time, and then showed us how and when to use it. Much of this talk centered around chainsaw 101 and as someone who does not own any rotating teeth machines, I'll admit I was daunted but the way he described the tool was just that: a tool. When you know how to used it safely it is safe and a grand asset to any homestead. He explained what sizes and bar lengths matched each of us based on body types and purpose of the saws. He covered care and feeding, fuel and storage, safety and technique.  I'm a little less afraid of them now!

And from there we started learning how, why, and when to prune bearing trees. He explained that August is not the time for pruning fruit trees, it should be done in late winter when the tree is dormant, but we did get to try out his techniques on a spruce tree withering in the shade of the King Maple. Small, folding hand saws and anvil shears were used, tools I never owned or used before. We walked up the hill by the sheep and looked at apple trees that had died and why, and then cut them down with chainsaws. Before lunch we were all spitting out arborist lingo, knew our chainsaw fits, pruned, and felled two dead trees. The dead trees knocked a lot of apples out of the crowns of the neighboring apples and we collected them in the basket shown. The sheep wanted them but I stole them for pies for the falconry picnic next weekend. Rule 182892 of farming: Baas do not trump pie. 

After lunch we continued our backyard forestry education with felling a large ash tree on the property and working as a community to haul off the branches into the woods (some rabbits will be very happy) and using the saws to cut them into firewood rounds. I see a lot of axe time in my future tomorrow, but the wood (read: heat) supply is ramping up slowly and to know wood that made me sweat in August, gathered with friends, will be keeping me warm in March is heartwarming to me. Friends keep you warm.

The workshop wrapped up with a talk about buying trees from nurseries, when and how. We talked about the proper way to plant a tree and how far to space them. The differences between dwarfs, semi-dwarfs and standard and what suits what land. And then settled into a discussion about making hard cider from fresh pressed apples, the way I have since 2009 or so, since first moving to Veryork from Idaho. We all wished we were sipping that fine, sweet, stuff by the end of the hot and worthwhile day. Alas, we just had lemonade. Still, so worth it.

Thank you all who came out, especially Mr. McLeod. And if you are interested in learning more about felling trees and chainsaws, come to Antlerstock where Brett will be back to teach his witchcraft again. There are two spots left for regular sales, but read below for a heck of a deal

The Kickstarter Campaign for Birchthorn has hit the halfway mark! 50% Funding! I have ten days to get the rest of the pledges and hope those of you on the fence will pop over the the site and show your support of Cold Antler with a community-written novel! And even if you're not into paranormal horror or storycrafting, you can pledge at the NEW $100 or $250 dollar amount and get free workshop, camp, or Antlerstock tickets. I think two of the three of the Antlerstock ticket sets are still available, making a $400 weekend only $250, plus all the cool perks, books, blog, and like that. So support the kickstarter, support this farm, and help keep me and the animals* safe, warm, and writing* this winter.

*Yes, Maude can write... Hatemail.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Few folks realize that Birchthorn is NOT just a book. You are not paying for just a book! Folks who join the pledge get invited to a blog where they read the story as it is written, a chapter at a time. Then there will be discussions, advice, theories, and reader input on what may happen next! It is a book written by a community; a mystery I get to choreograph but not create alone!

You are pledging for the experience to help create a story that could sit on your bookshelf in a year, something you not only helped creat but could actually be a character in. I am so excited to write this but still need to gather another 72% of the pledges so I ask that you share this with everyone you know if you haven't already!

In two days the kickstarter for Birchthorn has 44 Backers already! I can't thank you enough! Here's what your pledge means might happen if I reach my goal!

1. I'll be a writer with a mission, a deadline, a project again! Or as otherwise called: employed! Thank you for the purpose you give, the sense of duty to create a story, and your anticipation for the suspense!

2. The money earned will pay for the publishing and distribution of this Kickstarter only book. You will not see birchthorn in bookstores any time soon! This is how you get a hard copy in your hands, the very first edition! And you are a part of it!

3. The small advance included will help this farm in ways you can not imagine and take a weight off my shoulders of some heaviness. This book deal will literally save my farm, keeping it out of threat of foreclosure.

4. Even a dollar pledge is a sign of kindness and faith, and I hope all who can and want to donate do, and soon! It is over in 13 days!

P.S. YOU DONT NEED TO HAVE THE PLEDGE MONEY NOW TO PLEDGE! Pledges are not billed until and unless I reach my goal in 13 days! so even if you pledge tonight you will not be billed until you give your consent after the project has reached the goal!

P.P.S. I'm going to be promoting the heck out of this until the two weeks are over! Buckle up!


Four Ducks!

Four ducklings were picked up today from Common Sense Farm! So far the turkeys are doubtful they're any good.

Piglet Bribery & Possible Ringworm!

Few sights are as pleasing to the eye as a black piglet trotting over a green lawn. Not only is the contrast of the intense summer grasses and black-as-coal coat pleasing, but the way the light dapples through the King Maple in the front lawn. This pig is moving. Her feet are tiny stilettos, her head held high, and that sassy way of moving across the landscape that I will never, ever, master no matter how hard I try. Yes indeed, a piglet on the move on a summer day is a dandy thing to behold. And look! Right behind her is her three friends! Oh how nice to see the piglets romp and play in between the peony bushes, splash in the artisan well, and snort and honk their afternoon away.

Yup. It's a picture.

And they should all be inside their pen…

I used to worry about pigs escaping, and I try not to make a habit of it, but generally all they want is a romp about town. And by town I mean the barnyard. This made for their second escape attempt in a week, each time digging out a new escape hatch below the electric wiring. The first time I just yelled their dinner call "HHHEEEEeeeeeeyyyyy peeeeeggggs!" and they ran right back into their pen, waiting by their feed bowl. All I had to do was deliver the goods (and I made sure it was really good, corn soaked in goats milk with left over garden veggies and stale bread) and they were fine, having had quite enough of the adventurous life. They plopped in their bed of hay and called it a day.

But this time, they looked like the world was too big for a quick run home and when I yelled "PEGS!" they ran in the direction of their dinner, but only for a second. They quickly realized the chicken feeder, the eggs in the coop, and the gardens were just as (if not more) delicious than milk soaked corn and bread. So now I had four piglets to wrangle that did not want to be fed the usual menu. Time to resort to drastic measures.

I went into the house, into the fridge, and got out a half gallon of pure goats milk and placed it in a small bucket. I walked out to the pigs and right past them, like they were so many chickens, and didn't even say pegs once. I just whistled and walked by, and that caught their attention. The milk sloshed in the bucket and they knew it. Little rumps lined up behind me and I walked up to their pen, and before pouring it into their feeder pan I turned around and gave the bucket to the closest gilt.

She looked at me.
And then the bucket.
Then back to me…

She dove in head first sucking up milk like it was the last meal she'd ever eat! The other pigs squeaked and pumped their little legs to us and I was barely able to pour it into their bowl before two dove right after it! I will not share that I was half celebrating, and I was not paying attention to the placement of the electric wire and tripped face first into the pig pen. It was not pretty. While pigs are pretty clean animals, they always pick an area as the assigned "bathroom" and that is exactly where I fell. Not on the dry straw. Not on the firm dirt…. in the Watering Closet.

But I had two pigs! And I still had to get the other two in. That meant a muck-stained swamp woman was left to bribe the remaining escapees, grab a stray foot, and lift them into the pen. It got done, and it was "memorable" but I spent the rest of that incident reinforcing the fence, getting them fresh bedding, and filling up their feeder and waterer to the brim…. No reason to escape tonight with this kind of turnaround service.

I took a very long shower after that. Very long. And I used the soap made from the same milk that just saved the day. I swear, these goats have paid for themselves seven times over just in personal favors. And that was how that adventure ended. With a lavender soap bath, lots of scrubbing, and four pigs back in their quarters - I'm sure plotting their next escape. But I got to admit, they sure did look good out there on the lawn. I'd say that diva show was even worth the big dive.

Things are never boring around here!

Breakfast of Champions (20% Funded!)

Kale, bacon, on some pan-fried crusty bread! A fine way to start the morning and a celebration for the first day of my Kickstarter for Cold Antler! 20% of funding has been reached, and gods willing, I'll gather some more support today. If you aren't sure what Kickstarter is, I'll explain how it works. A creator lists a project and the funds needed to make it happen. You make a pledge, and if the creator reachers her goal then you are billed for what you pledge. Easy, right? Understand I don't get a red cent unless I hit the goal and that is why I will be promoting the crud out of it any way I can, and I urge you to pledge if you are able! You'll get a book, a limited edition paperback or hardcover (depending), or even join in on the story. Most of all you'll get a blog written by a woman with a lighter heart. So happy pledging and you have my sincere thanks!

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I am thrilled to announce that the Birchthorn Kickstarter campaign has launched! Birchthorn is a story I started writing in the winter months here at Cold Antler Farm, a paranormal mystery about my town in the early 1900's, just after the Spanish Flu hit the country and did its worst. The main character is Anna, a widower and sole proprietor of a farm set into a mountainside a few miles outside town. There she raises sheep and gets by, but one night while driving her wagon home from a friend's farm reality skids to the left and Anna is left questioning her sanity while trying to discover just what exactly is terrorizing this small town. A monster? Mass hysteria? Native lore? An ancient magic? We'll find out together, because at this point I only have an inkling of what Birchthorn truly is...

This is my first stab at self publishing and the Kickstarter vehicle is how I hope to fund it. Basically, the people who join the project are the folks hiring me to write the book. But this isn't just paying a set price for an ebook, paperback, or hardcover - it is becoming part of the story! As this book is being written the first 80% will be available on a blog for the folks who contribute, to read and comment, suggest and guess. You'll see the story in its rawest form, the creation process, and be able to weigh in. And Since only the beginning of this story has been written, I have left pledge points open for you to become a part of it, too. Become a victim of Birchthorn or even a supporting main character!

I don't know if any other author has tried this type of funded writing project, one that doesn't just promise an ebook but lets you help be a part of the story, too. And when you pledge to be a part of this, you are also helping this farm out immensely, going into winter and keeping wolves from the door. I have started this story several times and not finished it. I didn't finish it because there was no deadline, no contract, no pressing need. I understand that isn't a very noble reason not to write a novel but with everything else going on here at this little farm, it was always pushed aside for projects with deadlines and editors. WEll, now Birchthorn will have a big contract, all of you, and I CAN'T set it aside once it basically becomes a book deal between us. And there are several perks for all levels.

So What can you do? You can pledge, of course! But also, please share this with your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest Friends! Email it to folks you know who like reading mysteries, or like the idea of being able to follow along on the road to creation. It only has 14 days to be funded, so I ask you to do this quickly and know each sent email, each share on Facebook, and each pledge is a shining light for this small farm. So I thank you, and I am excited to write and publish Birchthorn, and I hope you are too!

Get to the Campaign here!

Update from 1:30PM

The kKickstarter for Birchthorn has Ten Backers already! Ten folks who all opted to be a part of this story and support the farm! I can't thank you enough! Here's what your pledge means might happen if I reach my goal!

1. I'll be a writer with a mission, a deadline, and a project again! Or as otherwise called: employed! Thank you for the purpose you give, the sense of duty to create a story, and your anticipation for the suspense!

2. The money earned will pay for the publishing and distribution of this Kickstarter-only book. You will not see Birchthorn in bookstores any time soon! This is how you get a hard copy in your hands, the very first edition! And you are a part of it! An ebook might become public later on but right now there are not plans to make this available any other way but through Kickstarter!

3. The small advance included will help this farm in ways you can not imagine and take a weight off my shoulders of some heaviness. I have written about the state of CAF in more detail at the Clan Blog, but to sumarize without drama: this book deal will literally save my farm, keeping it out of threat of foreclosure.

4. Even a single dollar pledge is a sign of kindness and faith, and I hope all who can and want to donate do, and soon! It is over in 2 weeks! And if I don't reach the goal, even just a few dollars below it, I do not get any of the money at all and none of the people who pledged are billed. So know the importance of this, and the need, and be a part of this if you can!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wood Shed Started

Today good friends came to the farm,and good friends were needed. I was in a slump over the loss of Brianna, frustrated and depressed. You can get lost in that mess if you don’t start climbing out, and when Miriam and Keenan arrived here in the early afternoon I considered it a thrown rope.

They were all smiles and willing work and it lifted my spirits considerably. I’m not sure they noticed the elevation though, since when they arrived I was in the process of clearing out the woodshed of all the summer stuff (lawn equipment, random tools, scrap lumber, tarps, mower, etc) and throwing it on the lawn. It's hard to recognize appreciation when the appreciator is chucking 2x4s...There was a humble pile of wood cut and ready to stack, and we were going to start building up the fuel for winter, together.

So, we did that. We stacked and split. We carried and sorted. It was a sweaty and daunting business, mostly because after all that fuss I would say I have enough firewood put up for a mild October, but starting is the hard part and that is now done. I need to buy in at least another two cords, maybe three. My goal for August is to buy and stack one cord of wood. It’s one of my August goals at least. And tonight as the sun sets I know I at least have a start on winter comfort in a dry and safe place.

I’m grateful for the friends, the work, and the winter ahead. It’s a good goal to work towards. It’s part of the climb.


Gibson found Brianna dead in the pasture yesterday evening. I don't know what killed her.

It was the hardest livestock loss I've had on this farm.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

No Sneezeguard at This Salad Bar....

I'll Be Reading From Cold Antler Farm In Manchester, Vermont August 15th!

Cold Antler Farm by Jenna Woginrich from Roost Books on Vimeo.
Come out at 7pm to Northshire Books in Manchester for a reading and talk about homesteading, plus a fun question and answer session. It'll be at 7Pm in one of the coolest Indie Bookstores around. Fore details, directions, and more information go to Northshire's website.

"Verdict: Homesteading advice, some recipes, and a good dose of humility make this a most enjoyable read for anyone who is interested in living a life that’s more in tune with natural rhythms."—Library Journal

“Few writers can put into words the epiphanies that break upon a mind and spirit communing with a piece of earth. Home, barn, and garden converge in the quietness of agrarian labor to provide transcendent thoughts about living, loving, and learning. Jenna is a master.”—Joel Salatin, farmer, Polyface Farm, and author

“In this graceful and touching book, Jenna Woginrich reminds us of humanity’s deep connection to season and cycle. This is a book full of humility, inspiration, and the richness of experience inherent to living in harmony with natural forces far beyond our control.”—Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved

“Jenna Woginrich’s life and writing are both marked with a ferocity and passion that are inspiring, disturbing, and mesmerizing all at the same time. This is a powerful memoir of a brave and determined young woman's love affair with a gritty six-acre farm that is every inch her own and her struggles to keep it going.”—Jon Katz, author of The Second-Chance Dog: A Love Story

“In Cold Antler Farm, Jenna Woginrich lovingly grabs you by the hand and takes you along for the ride of her life. As the caretaker of a menagerie of lively animals and an antique home riddled with personality, she is the sage observer of seasonal rhythms and the compassionate soul studying, questioning, and learning from it all. This book will ultimately leave you torn: you'll be just as anxious to turn the page and learn what comes next while simultaneously wanting to close the book, put it down, and walk away, so as to draw out the eventual conclusion. It's that good.”—Ashley English

Chicken Dinners & Hopeless Wanderers

So much has been going on here, and the high points of the summer seem to be stacking on top of each other in such quick succession. I hosted a wonderful dinner with close friends, Kathy and Mary, Sunday night. They drove up north from Windwomen Farm, south of Albany and we shared a good meal of farm-raised chicken over kale and potatoes, all raised here at Cold Antler. The bird was basted with a wonderful blend of butter and mead, brewed by my friend Geoff, then rubbed down with herbs. I also baked a celebratory loaf of fresh bread, as little nod to the holiday that had just passed. Lughnasadh was on the 2nd and the old holiday is known for it's blessing of wheat, first fruits, and the beginning of autumn. I made the bread with whipped eggs from my hens honey from my county and braided it into a circular knot. It was a riot of texture and flavor, also well-basted with butter and sugar. The combination was delightful and we sat under the king maple in my front lawn. We talked of our farms and the food we were raising, our plans, our dreams. We told stories and laughed. I wanted to share all the recipes (meaning narratives, as I don't measure anything) and take copious pictures but instead of making a documentary I just enjoyed the evening. We all went out for ice cream afterwards and I had a splendid time. The kind of time summers are made from.

Another high point: last night my friend Tara texted to let me know she got a hold of the premiere of the new show, Outlander, based on the novel series we both are reading and adore. She came over and we watched the show at my place. It was a wonderful, sexy, adaptation of the books and I was more than a little excited to finally meet Jamie and Claire in the flesh. I posted about my excitement for the show on Facebook and people were so unaccustomed to my girlytalk several folks earnestly asked if I had been hacked by a spammer. The hacking was done entirely by my intense love for James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Guilty.

Since Tyler is traveling on business Tara spent the night at the farm and in the morning we saddled up Merlin and Jasper for a trail ride together. I learned after about five minutes that Jasper needed some more trail experience (read: manners) before a guest could sit on his back and pony along for a ride. So Jasper went back into the pasture and I gave Tara the saddle and reins. I walked Merlin on a lead rope and gave her a horseback trail ride on my mountain trails. We covered pasture and streams, fields and wildflowers, and when we reached the steeper mountain road that lead up to a big field we talked about her building projects and learning to ride. As we made it to the top, I turned to look behind us at the scene we had slowly earned. The whole of Washington County was nothing but mists and mountains forever. I told Tara to turn around and she did, and thus declared an oath I will not repeat. I smiled at her startled joy. View of mountains and mist at sunrise are amazing for sure, but seen from the saddle they become more. It is hard to explain, impossible not to understand when your the one holding the reins.

We came inside to a quick one-skillet breakfast of chopped garlic, onions, and potatoes and eggs. We shared it and watched some videos while unwinding from the morning walk. She showed me the video for Hopeless Wanderer and I instantly forgot everything I felt for Jamie Fraser when I saw Jason Bateman in suspenders with scruff and a banjo. Also, hilarious. So enjoy this, Antlers. And if you're a witty guy with an acousticl instrument, you should probably email me so I can take you out to dinner. Bonus points for facial hair and skill with testy ponies.