Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lifetime Passes

I am considering offering a lifetime Pass to Cold Antler Farm workshops/classes/etc as long as I am hosting them (no plans to stop anytime soon!). It would be limited to five people, allow you to come to all and any workshops or events I host every year, including Antlerstock. The only thing the price would not include is items like instruments, bows, etc. If anyone is interested please email me at The price I am thinking is darn low for what I am offering!

For the Dancing & the Dreaming!

The Tin whistles have arrived! Folks are coming next weekend to receive them (new in boxes!) along with songbooks that teach through such a simple system of black and white dots. You can see the notes and such there to The Butcher Boy. You cover the black holes and leave the white ones open. You learn timing by hearing the songs played on recordings or youtube videos. Some of us have songs we love from movies and stories we are dying to play! These whistles are such a wonderful way to bring music into your life. I recently learned this song by ear, it was tricky, but it makes me so happy to play it while watching the snow fall!

Goethe's Last Words

I am falling in love with mornings here, enjoying the fact that this farmhouse faces east and when dawn comes the whole place is filled with golden light. Here is my home, and what you can't smell is the way a fresh pot of coffee adds a warm syrup to this happy scene. What you can't hear is John Denver on the record player, singing of mountain roads in West Virginia. Light doesn't have to come from just the sun, my friends! It can come from the way that first sip of coffee in your favorite mug feels. It can come from the lyrics and music of a favorite song. It can come from the smile of your dog, the purr from your horrible cat, or the glance outside your window to the equine demands for hay and cookies. More light! Oh, how welcome it is!

I spent this morning outdoors and in. It is so cold here that when a friend of mine shared this photo she took of my homestead in June I was speechless. What she showed me was paradise, a deciduous rain forest with fauna and laughter and a woman in short sleeves making her way to a chicken house. Right now it looks like the surface of the moon out there and ice monsters crack open tailbones and your face hurts from the wind. But this! Look at this! More light is always on the way. June will come back and so will the thunderstorms, hammocks, fireflies and green we once all knew. And it's absence is what I need to keep falling in love with it over and over again. I know some of you love living in places that are always warm, but not I. I'll take the tailbone that hurts when I sneeze if it means this picture makes me twitter pated and hot coffee on my lips makes me praise all of creation on a morning below zero.

Every day the sun sticks around a little longer. Every day I am planning gardens, bee hives, chickens, lambs, kids, dairy work, trail rides, dreams, desires and more. This is a wonderful winter day, filled with music and good work, friends coming to visit and warm fires. I so look forward to you June, but I understand you aren't ready. That's okay. I enjoy the delay in pleasure.

More Light!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Makes Sense To Me!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Morning Civility

Morning routines here are important. Coffee is a godsend and firelight is a need more real than daylight. I start the day with the percolator popping and the beginnings of a fire I'll depend on for heat, for humidity, for the warmth that makes a pile of timber and possessions a home. And when fire is bright and a warm mug finds my hands I put on the layers of armor needed to tend to animals in -6 degree weather. It is good work, this. Enough to cause a little sweat and bother. I come inside after and the house that seemed so cold compared to the cocoon of covers is a paradise of warmth and civility compared to the wind and ice outside.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Whistler's Hilltop - 3 Spots Left!

Announcing a workshop on learning the tin whistle and making it a part of your homestead and heart. This is happy little workshop, just a half day and comes with a quality tin whistle and songbook. Learn basic fingering, the scale, octave changes, reading whistle tablature and playing songs by ear. There is NO NEED to know how to play any other instrument or read music, at all! This is a beginner’s workshop for folks who love Celtic music and wish they too could be a little more musical. Come knowing nothing and leave playing tunes you already know by heart!

I'm offering this because of the intense interest you guys have in tin whistles! I have emails on emails from folks who didn't know about these amazing little instruments or want to know where to buy or find them online. I will recommend a little online shop I have bought from for decades: The Whistle Shop. Find inexpensive beginner whistles and beautiful professional ones. If you are new I suggest a high D. It is the most common and some are even under ten dollars.

The workshop is only four hours because that is plenty of time to teach the basics and learn the tricks and such I know. Make it an excuse to get out of your house in this cold winter, meet great people, learn a skill, and meet the author you've been reading along with. I know traveling away from our farms and family is tough in these dark months, and it is hard to get away for a full day so this is a little easier on our days to know we have the morning and evening to drive in light and make chores on both sides of the day. I get it. I live it.

The workshop will also include a farm tour and visit with all the animals. A few words in Gaelic here and there will be shared and expect great people, good company, and a warm wood stove. There won’t be food offered but folks who attend usually brings snacks to share with others. There are also plenty of great places to eat around Cambridge and there will be a small table of farm wares for sale, as I usually put up at workshops.

Price for the whistle, book, and workshop: $75
Season Pass Members: $25 for whistle and book.
(Celtic Clarke  in high D & MelBay's Deluxe Songbook)
Spots Left: 3 out of 6
Date: Feb 7th 2015
Time: Noon-4PM at CAF

Sign up via email at:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Around The Farmhouse

Some of you seemed interested in seeing inside the farmhouse, so I have some photos of around the two main rooms. But I thought it would be more interesting seeing some of the "antiques' I use everyday. When I was in college I spent nearly every weekend collecting stuff with friends and started making those found objects from the Beforetimes part of my everyday life. So here are some photos and the reasons behind them. To start, here you'll see my little record player on a leather record holder from some church. It says on the record holder "The Audio Bible Society of America" and there's a vintage TV under it, my dad's old reel-to-reel, suitcases and old cameras. There is A LOT of taxidermy around the house as well, all of it collected from dusty antique malls or gifted to me from friends. There's a 36-cup coffee boiler a reader mailed me, books on the occult, a golden-framed Mona Lisa, and random knick knackery.

There is no overhead lighting in the farmhouse unless you are in the kitchen. Oil lanterns like this are hung up instead and there are antlers everywhere. Antlers are important around here.

I don't have any machines you plug in to make coffee or tea. There isn't a microwave either. Well, there is one old one from the 90's I got at a garage sale but it's on its side being used as a saddle stand in my tack room/office upstairs. Anyway, percolators and teapots are the way to go at this farm. This little teal perk was a gift from the Daughton Family and I adore it. For more people I have a Rapidbrew percolator, which has a wooden handle and is pretty awesome.

I don't have a cell phone right now and I am leaving the world of Smart phones. Good riddance. It's too much for me, and I don't like what those little black screens have done to my ability to be content without constant distraction. So right now the only phone I have is this one, a land line. It rings with actual bells inside it and it has a cord. There is no answering machine, which I appreciate very much.

This is my Air Conditioning Unit. I don't mind being hot, or humidity. I adore it. There is no sense in being treated like a morgue slab when I spend all my time sweating outside anyway in the summer, with the Battenkill River to be my cooling off swimming hole if it gets really bad. I can tube, swim, and fly fish right here in Cambridge everyday. No AC is a symbol of my personal liberty.

Heating. Just a wood stove. Temperatures in the morning go from 30-50 degrees indoors to 60-70 degrees when the fire is roaring. This Bunbaker stove also has a bread oven in it and a dragon humidifier on top! The dragon was also a gift! Thanks E!

And this here is a stack of old suitcases. AKA end tables. I use suitcases everywhere to hold things up like computers, lamps, and in this case a kickass old ibook that still works. Inside are books (there are books everywhere here, in every corner). Notice the fashionable plywood floors!

Entertainment System. My Granny's old Singer and the RCA player. Photos you see there are grandparents and relatives on my mother's side including the intrepid Aunt Mimi. Furniture is all second hand here. I refuse to spend a lot of money on the inside of my house, as all the adventure and reasons for being here are outside!

Other things I don't have at home: a working washing machine or dryer, working dishwasher (holds pots and pans for storage), upstairs plumbing, upstairs hear, a bathtub (just a shower), kitchen aid, or a flat screen television. I don't have a working TV or cable. You can not watch flat sports here. I don't have carpets anymore, and the floors are linoleum (easy to clean). In the winter I sleep downstairs where it is warmer, just as people would have when this house was built in the 1860's.

But all those things I don't have or use, they are just choices. I'm not a luddite and I'm not condemning them. It's easy to not have those things when you are one person without kids or a spouse. I'm sure if I wasn't single there would be compromises, but for now this is my life. And my house is much like the lifestyle I chose: a mixture of the old and new. It's a contrary combination I love. Games here come in the form of boards and pieces and people around a table and not located cell phones. Music can come from a fiddle or tin whistle or an old record player instead of a sound system pumping from the walls and woofers. There's a horse harness draped over a spare chair and a V-8 engine truck outside. If you don't like contradictions you're not going to have a good time around here.

To some people homesteading is returning to 1890. To others it is better food and security for their families. To me it is what makes me happy, a niche I found and turned around three times in before falling asleep. I like the quirky home, all the stories and histories and people behind every object, and the lack of plastic or flat sports. This is a peaceful place always ready for a good time. It's mine and my own.

Thanks for taking a look at it.

Last photo taken by Tara Alan.

Music & Snow

If you live in the northeast you are probably doing what I am doing, preparing for this snowstorm. I am supplied with extra feed and enough hay, but there are things I need to do still to ensure the comfort of the animals and myself. So later in the day there will be extra bedding, extra calories, and plenty of water in easy reach of the stock. I also need to make sure tarps are covering wood piles, the roof rake is ready to rock and roll, the shovel is by the front door, and a few days worth of firewood is stacked inside the farmhouse. This morning I need to head to the post office to check on a package and do some errands in town, but besides that I have scheduled the day afterwards for just design and writing projects. Since I live a preparedness lifestyle (well, strive towards living one) there is no need to run to the grocery store or fret about losing power. I expect to lose power and have plenty of oil lamps, lamp oil, candles, and my blackout bag ready to go. The animals (pet and livestock) are in great shape and so for the next few days my full time job will be keeping the house warm, the roofs clear, the animals comfortable, and music flowing.

I have office-type work to do as well. Nothing glamorous, just a thousand words here and there and some design projects. Meals will be simple and easy. There's a chicken thawing in the fridge for a roasted meal later on and some hard cider too. But while I am designing away or working on a new book proposal,  I'll be listening to records. I just set up a vintage RCA Hi-Fi player I bought for thirty bucks back in college. I didn't realize it still worked! Its been set up on its side by some suitcases for years since a little GE player is usually used instead in the living room. But that one needs a new needle and so it was back to MP3's and pandora on the radio. Not anymore. The band has returned!

I love vinyl. I love the record players. I love that these machines exist and fill my home with this presence that can not be reproduced by modern music. A record player IS. It is so intentional, so beautiful. It requires attention to flip and place the needle. It includes these cases of artwork and posters and poetry. So much of that aspect of music as been lost to the tiny CD jewel case and the iTunes download. Buying a record meant holding a creation in your hands and then being present enough to make the listening to music the event you cared about, and not the background to something deemed more important. Music deserves better than to be be dinner party hired help. It's a living thing that demands your passion, your hands, your heart, and your mind. It's sexy and fun and wonderful and I forgot so much of that while that other needle was broken and I was ignoring the RCA in the corner.

Back to that living room renovation. If you follow me on Facebook you may already know that the dining room was flooded by a burst pipe last weekend. It was a 40-degree day and a radiator pipe near the outside wall of the house defrosted and burst. I never thought about the dangers of those pipes going, and in hindsight those should have been turned off and drained when I stopped using the furnace heat. Well, lesson learned, the hard way. So my "redone" room means just raw plywood floors. But I like it, a lot more than the carpet actually.

Four and a half years of pet hair, farm life, high traffic and boots meant that carpet was going in the trash. It was a heck of a job getting down to the plywood but I was relieved getting the wet, smelly, carpet out and into the dump. And while taking it out I discovered things I had set aside for years, including an old RCA record player that was resting on its side by some suitcases in the corner. I dusted it off, put an Iron and Wine record on it, and plugged it in. Beautiful music came pouring out, drunk and lovely. I spent the rest of that weekend singing along with records from college that meant the world to me then and still do now. When I found Give Up by the Postal Service I remembered what those first heavy bass hums that start the song do to me. It felt like a time machine, a clean slate, and discovered treasure. Now, if I can find my Arcade Fire and Frightened Rabbit Vinyl I'll be dancing through this storm.

So, what are you listening to? What instruments are you playing? Does music just not do it for you compared to literature or spoken word? Are you ready for the storm?!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Best Beginner Books!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Summer Plans

My farm is a sheet of ice and I am 90% sure my tailbone is broken, but I am thinking about summer. I have started planning and punching the numbers on a pastured poultry operation for five people. This spring I'll be working with my pal Darcy to build some of her awesome chicken tractors and getting poultry netting and a solar charger, too. The plan is to raise all of my own birds for the freezer and some of my local friends as well. I'll be raising Freedom Rangers, and the poultry supply catalogs and fence company catalogs have become my coffee table books. It's not the epitome of classy but it makes my butt feel better.

I also have plan to rip out a lot of the woven wire fencing and switch to electric fencing. This will be done in stages, starting with the horse/garden area. I have drawn out my garden plans and it includes an extra tier for the hillside garden closest to the house (in full sun). A winter's worth of Merlin's poop in his favorite spot and his discarded hay will make a perfect layer of compost for next year's tomatoes and potatoes. Just drawing that graph was an exercise in dealing with the present. Yes, it is a pie-in-the-sky perfect garden plan but the act of creating it took my mind out of these single-digit nights and needing to walk around in crampons and into June. I can't wait for it.

I do enjoy the coziness of winter, the hob always warm and burning bright, and the break from all the physical work summer creates. But as we slide into February and the woodpile grows suspiciously lower—I am dreaming about fireflies and soft dirt under my hoe. I crave pea vines and banjo songs in tall grass. I crave thighs with callouses on the inseam from riding a horse for hours a day in a kilt. I crave the cries of need from the farm: goats needing to be milked, chickens needing to be fed, piglets crying to be given all the goat milk and chicken feed... You know what I mean! LIFE!

Summer plans are on my mind. But as a homesteader I am never not excited about the days ahead, and never not cautious about the seasons ahead, too. And what about you guys? Anyone else paging through seed catalogs or dog-earing hatchery glossies? Anyone else trying a new endeavor this year? Spill it. I need your summer plans to warm up this farmhouse!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Kelsie's Whistle

The slush of the day had turned into a jagged ice and I was walking funny. I was walking funny and I was carrying a bucket of water and a bucket of grain, one in each hand. The funny walk had nothing to do with the weight distribution of buckets or even the ice, but because the night before I fell on my ass in the most comically painful way possible.

Friends, imagine a cartoon character slipping on a banana peel. Are you picturing it? Yup, you got it. That was me, all four limbs in the air and I fell smack on my tailbone. It was a bone rattler all right. I had the wind knocked out of me, my sinuses clenched up, and I got instantly nauseated. And that fall wouldn't have been such a big deal if I had not just come home to a burst pipe and a living room soaked through carpet and plank. I had been gone all the 40-degree morning at a local falconry meet and when I walked inside I discovered that the radiators in the baseboards had never been drained of their water after I switched to wood stove only heat and the water inside them expanded and burst while I was away. So as I felt my teeth ringing in my head and the wash of pain go over me I was still thinking of what sloshing around on a carpet felt like.

SO that was the low point of the weekend, and it all ended up being okay. Yes, the floor and carpet are soaked out I had a friend show me how to turn off the water to the pipes while keeping the hot water in the house running. That's the only reason I need the oil furnace, at least until I get a solar hot water system installed some day. So I have a sore butt and a wet floor, not exactly a tragedy. The only reason I am writing about it is because I thought I could share an observation that you guys could relate to:

When you are frustrated, scared, or angry think about Kelsie and her whistle.

Kelsie is a reader of this blog, and she is also a musician. She plays the tin whistle to and a few weeks ago she posted a video of her playing Sally Gardens on my Facebook Page. It was so beautiful. I watched that video ten times just to learn to play it myself. Then I sang that song all week, learning it, letting it sink in, loving it. My week was made so much better because a stranger somewhere in the world decided to sit down and create something and share it with me. It made me so happy, she just couldn't know. Because choosing to spend your free time painting, or singing, or doing any sort of art that you share with others is one of the most ignored but wonderfully selfless acts there is in this world. All she did was post a song, and yet when I was rubbing my black and blue bottom and worried about the floor of my living room... I hummed Sally Gardens and I felt better.

I felt better because in that moment of panic I chose to create instead of fester. I felt better because that song was a gift from Kelsie and because it inspired me to learn it too. And I felt better because even if I am bruised in the snow and worried about a million things there is this little instrument I can play a meditation on in a quiet place and change my entire biochemistry.

You know, I used to get so upset about people who called me horrible things. Now I just wish they played music. It would make them happier, this I am sure of.

So tonight I want Kelsie to know I am grateful for her, and I want the rest of you to know that no matter what bad things may have happened this weekend there are still people in this world playing music for strangers just for the hell of it. You may fall down, or get caught in the rain, or get picked on by a bully or fired from your job....whatever. The point is that somewhere a beautiful human being chose to create music and share it with the world and it made my entire month better.

So thank you, Kelsie. Thank you, readers. And thank you to all the folks on Facebook and Twitter to diagnosed me with a concussion I didn't have and/or offered to help with the pipes and rugs. People just showed up today to help and for that I feel darn wonderful. Soon my house will be dry, my butt will be back to flesh colors, and I'll figure out the next set of bills and goals. That's how I roll.

Anyway, I wanted to share that story. Know I feel wonderful because of a song and a blog reader and a little perspective. All she did was choose to create something beautiful instead of do nothing at all. That's all she did, and here I am weeks later humming sally gardens and playing music alone in a farmhouse to dogs who howl at the ceiling. Not a bad way to sign off for the night.

Time to go to The Barn.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Outside My Window

photo by g.t.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Storing Food for Beginners

Another Logo Up For Grabs!

The Alpaca/Chicken logo found a home with a farm here in the Northeast, but this recent client pass is available. Your farm/egg business/homestead can have a dancing rooster logo with your farm name in the place of this farm's with your own tagline and such. Email me at if you would like it. All logo seconds are half the price of custom logos and come with web and print files emailed to you within 24 hours, since the design is already done!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Adoration & Hand Tools

Shovels and Rope is a duo I have been enamored with since I first heard their song Birmingham a few years ago. Their debut album made me smile, sing, holler and laugh. I just found out there is a documentary all about their story and I can't urge you guys enough to check them out, give them a listen, and enjoy some like minded people fighting to make their dreams happen with wild abandon.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cold Coming On

Well the weekend came and went in a blur, and a lot of colder weather settling into Veryork. Today was a reprieve from the cold, and temperatures even made it above freezing - but it snowed all day. That meant I was staying close to home. I did make a trip over to Livingston Brook Farm after picking up hay and helped Patty with some chores in exchange for using her washer and dryer. I got a load of whites done and we got to catch up. As the clothes washed up we shared tea, watching the snow. It was great spending time with friends in the snow for an hour or two, what a treat!

Tonight lows are in the lower single digits and tomorrow the HIGH is 8 degrees. Looks like a morning of chores in stages instead of one long morning outing. This is always the best way to deal with extreme cold. Instead of rushing to get the animals seen to in the bitter cold, spend more in segments. For example: tomorrow the sheep will get their hay and instead of just moving on to feed Merlin I'll turn off their electric fence, hop over it, dig our their mineral block from the snow (if they haven't already), turn over their water and jump up and down on the rubber container to get out the igloo bricks, then get them fresh water from the well and a rubber ball to place in it. This was a reader tip (Thank you!) and as the wind moves the ball about it will help stop ice from forming. I'm giving that one a try! All that will take about 15-20 minutes and once they are set I'll go inside, defrost my hands, put on some coffee and head out again once I thawed. That takes about five minutes. Then it's back outside and onto horse chores: same deal. Hay, minerals, ice, water. Then back inside and warmed up before heading back for goats, and so on.

How do you guys deal with extreme chores and morning cold? Do you change your schedule to go out later in the AM because you feed later at night? Do you have an army of defrosting devices and tricks? Do you snuggle up by the stove and send your spouse, because you take turns during the week doing morning chores on and off? Inquiring minds want to know!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Make it Yours!

I design farm logos, have for a couple of years now. I made this design yesterday and while it wasn't what the client was looking for, I think it's a gem. If I have any logos that I think would be great for a small farm, but the client rejects them, I decided I would offer them here. If you buy a logo second, you get a professional logo at half the price of a custom design. Your farm name goes in it, of course, but the logo pretty much comes as is. This one is great for a small farm with alpaca/hens/llama/poultry. It's clean, simple, looks good on business cards or posters. When you buy a logo from me you get the final print and web files emailed to you. If anyone is interested in this logo it goes to ONE person/farm (that is how branding works) a- whoever takes it first. Email me at or contact me through twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Barn

I know I have written about this place before, but I wanted to share the story again. Over the years it has changed and while I don't visit it every night - it's still such an important evening ritual to me. I go to this place when I am scared or anxious, confused or frustrated, or when I need familiar ground to end the day on and make sense of this weird and wonderful life. I am talking about The Barn. Not the old building behind my house. I mean the story I tell myself in bed before falling asleep.

I have problems with anxiety, have had them for most of my life. It means I have a lot of trouble sleeping more than five hours a night and never more than 3 at a time. Waking up at 3Am, with a brain on fire with worry is something that used to happen to me all the time. I needed a way to get back to sleep, fast, and without using the crutch of cold medicines with knockout powers. I did that for a while and I woke up too late in the morning and felt groggy till lunch. It wasn't good. So I created The Barn out of dire need to trick my brain into resting for a while.

I'll write it like a narrative, but know this is just something I play in my head. I don't write it out or say it aloud like a prayer. This all happens quietly. It's a movie I see in my mind as I curl up with Gibson under the wool and fleeces.I will tell it to you the way I tell it to myself. I use this when I need to fall asleep and forget the worries I can't do anything about until morning. Feel free to go to this place as well when you need to. Maybe this will help someone else? Or maybe it'll inspire you to create your own bedtime meditation?

The Barn 
A Nighttime Meditation

I am walking on a narrow dirt road in the rain. I am leading a black pony and at our flanks trots a black sheepdog. It's a moonless night and the forest I am traveling through is thick on all sides. It is hard to see the clouds above my head because of the thickness of red and orange canopy above my party of three. It's October, the wind is harsh, rain pelts my face and before me on the muddy road swirling brown leaves pelt us fast and hard as wet scraps of leather. I am in a long wool cloak, a linen shirt, leather riding breeches, and a thick brown belt. If it all sounds somewhat medieval, you're close. The time and place is something like lowland Scotland in the late 1600's. But I am heading north, to the Highlands, to safety.

I have been traveling all day. I had to get away from the dangers of the place I was before. The morning started misty and damp thirty miles south of here, but as the day went on the rain grew harder and the road grew wearier. I stopped riding ten miles ago and instead let the horse walk without my weight. Even the sheepdog seemed tired, which was saying something for the young border collie. We had no midday meal, just a few bites of venison jerky I split with the dog and river water to wash it down. Only the pony's stomach seemed quiet since he had been picking leaves and grass to eat while we made our way north. Us carnivores envied him.

I had not walked this far after riding that long since....well,  not in a long time. My legs ached and my face stun. Being cold, wet, and tired is a trifecta of awful and all I could think about was the tavern up ahead, just a mile to go. As I crested a small round knoll I could see the fireplaces in houses light up distant windows. The pony's ears perked at this and the dog let out a sigh. We had finally reached our destination.

When I finally made my way to the Tavern,— friendly place with a cheery fiddler and bodhran player on a small stage, good lighting, and blissfully dry and warm—I made my way to the Innkeeper and asked about livery and board. The black dog was with me, and walked right into the place like he always did. The black dog is always by my side. Always. And no one made a complaint because you could barely smell him through the scent of wet lanolin on my back. Wet dog has nothing on wet sheep.

I ask the friendly, bearded, red-headed Innkeeper if I can have a room and a meal, and a place to stable and grain the horse? He explains that he has plenty of food but this wedding party has filled up every room and if I want a place to stay the only dry place left is the old barn which serves as the finest livery stable for miles around. He explains that for a little silver I can take a tankard of ale and a bowl of their savory stew, and for a little more silver he'll let me sleep in the loft above the stables. Usually farm boys and stock drivers use that loft to sleep in the summer when they are moving animals to the village for auction and market, but it's all mine tonight if I will have it. I am given instructions on where to put up my horse and I thank him. I tell him when the pony is settled in the dog and I will return for that stew. He eyes the dog for the first time. He tells me if he bites anyone the rates double.

From outside in the rain the barn looks like any other barn. It's old wooden sides have turned gray from the years of sun and wind. But even with that weathering it seems sturdy and the soft light coming from inside it is so welcoming. I the notice something odd, a small chimney of stone coming right out of the center of the roof? Hmm.

When I walk inside I am shocked at how clean and well the animals look. The warm light comes from a few lanterns hanging along the stalls and I notice that all four walls have been used for livery. The center has a large pile of good hay and some barrels of feed. Whoever designed this place planned to get chores done fast, by feeding  every animal with only needing to take a few steps around the center of the  room. Genius! Above this first floor is a loft, which also surrounds the barn, build right over the stables. It has a railing and I can see the loose hay and extra grain bins stored. At the edge of the loft above me I can see a small potbelly stove on a late piece of slate. It must be for the fine horses brought to rest while the party inside carried on. I guess this was the best livery for miles?!

The stalls have several horses from the wedding party, but there are a few empty ones as well. I take the pony into one of the stalls and take off his saddle, bridle, pad, and saddle bags. I pull out his currycomb and rub him down while he enjoys a bucket of oats and pail of clean water - compliments of the house. Once he is rubbed down and the tack is drying on the racks outside the stall I grab the oiled leather bags and throw them over my shoulder. Inside is my purse and some other essentials for the road. The dog and I head back inside the tavern.

Inside I sit down at the bar and order two bowls, one for me and one for the dog. We split a warm load of bread as well. After seconds, both our stomachs are tight as drums and we are both ready to sleep where we sit. Seeing my tiredness, the Innkeeper explains that for a little more copper I can have a few quilts out of the linens chest upstairs and take them with me? I smile wide at this, because my wet cloak would be warm, but miserable.

With a full stomach, a slight buzz, and an arm filled with two down-filled quilts I head back to the barn with my good dog. My pony nickers at me as I return, but only in hello. He seems so content in his stall, so grateful to be finally able to rest. I nod to him and take the stairs up to the loft.

Up in the loft there are areas of loose hay, as I described, but there are wooden barrels as well making small alcoves and areas of privacy. I find a nook surrounded by double-stacked barrels and some clean hay. After stomping around to make sure there were no mice, I grabbed a few burlap sacks hanging from a nail on the wall and made a simple mattress. I laid the burlap over the loose, gentle, hay and then placed a quilt on top of it. I layer the second quilt over that and started to get out of my wet clothes. I hang the cloak, breeches, shirt and belt from some cotton rope hanging across the stove. I assume, set up by past travelers needing a place to dry or air out their daily garb. I slip on a comfortable oversized chemise top and slide into baggy linen pants. They are amazingly dry, thanks to the oiled bag and only smell slightly of wet horse. I don't care. I am no longer walking. I am no longer hungry. I am in a safe place, far from my worries, and all I need to do for the rest of this night is sleep.

I walk down the stairs with one of the wall lanterns and blow out the other lights along the wall, as I was asked to do by the Innkeeper. I shut the door and lay the heavy wooden plank into the iron stirrups that create a lock nothing short of a battering ram could break down. This is the only entrance  to the barn and I feel even safer knowing it is protected by an ash trunk. I

When I get back upstairs my once-wet dog is dry and curled up on the bed I made. I smile at him, feeling guilty about asking him to move over to let me curl up too. I throw a few pieces of wood into the stove and notice that my cloak is steaming a little, drying fast and for that I am grateful. I am so grateful for all of this that my core temperature ticks up a few degrees.

I take off the linen pants and chemise so there is just the heat of my skin to ignite those quilts and crawl inside them. I do not understand how people sleep with clothing on? Don't they feel bound? Don't they feel COLD? Nothing is as warm as  body heat trapped under down. The dog knows the routine and comes under the covers at my invitation, quietly thrilled for the warm human beside him. He is asleep instantly and his slow breath is as much a rhythm as the bodhran was in the tavern. I can hear the music still, and can tell it is a slow waltz. I listen and close my eyes, so amazingly content and so ungodly tired from the long day.

I am safe. I am needed by this dog, and he ate another day because of me. My horse is fed and resting. My bed is so warm. So, so warm. My body hurts but it hurts in the best ways possible, the pain that comes from finally laying down after miles, hours, storms and angry roads. I can hear the rain on the slate roof, steady but not as threatening as before. I feel so rich, being so content with that storm so far away. The only light is the warm glow of the potbelly stove and the occasional flash of light from outside that streams through the cracks in the second-story's thick plank walls. There are two lanterns hanging from a large maple tree, swaying in the wind. As they move the beams of light dance across my Hay Queen's chamber. It is this dance of light, coming through the plank wall and the sound of rain that puts my tired body finally into her deep, deserved, sleep.  I have made the hard journey and still have so far too go, but the animals and I will make it. And the saddle bags do not have to be packed  until morning after a fine breakfast.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow there might even be sunlight.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cold Night, Warm Camp.

The forecast claims -12 degrees tonight and I am not messing around. It isn't possible to heat a two-story old farmhouse well when it is that cold outside. So what do I do? I hang heavy blankets over the doorways that lead upstairs. I have a small heater in the bathroom with the door shut, and all the pipes are dripping to keep water moving. And tonight I have made a little bed right in front of the fire. It's wool and sheepskin and a warm dog. I'm happy to sleep right by the hob, and among the defrosting bottles and drying boots and gloves. Looking forward to a night so warm, with a good book, a soft bed, and maybe even some scotch in mug with hot water and honey. Oh man, just writing that makes me feel rich.

Stay warm out there, friends.

Win a Celtic Clarke Tin Whistle!

When it's this cold you need to make things a little brighter. I don't know any instrument as bright as a little tin whistle. This is my favorite of the common tin/Irish whistles you see online and in music stores. It's the Celtic Clarke, and the tone is so smooth and haunting. I headed outside with the macbook and filmed this rendition of an upbeat Skye Boat Song (Scottish folk song) with Merlin licking his mineral bar as the wind blew. Special thanks to my tripod/beehive for filming. I played it through those few times and did add a slight echo and some wind reduction, but that is what a tin whistle sounds like, through and through.

Want one of your own? Leave a comment in this post as an entry. I'll pick a winner Friday Night and post it in this very post. So comment, share, and enter this free little giveaway to add some music to your winter as well!

. Sunflower Farm and Petit Creek Lavender

Email me so I can have it shipped to you!

A Letter To Ungrateful Sheep

Dear Flockers,

Hope you are doing well in this frigid weather? It looks like you are, since when I walked outside at dawn to greet you I noticed you were all happily chewing cud out on a patch of hay you've turned into your outdoor bedroom. It was nice to see you, content and woolly, doing what sheep do-but I feel as though you have failed to recognize what the human being is going through while you just chew and stare at me.

You see that rubber tub of water over there? Uh huh, that one. The one that is filled with LIQUID and not solid ice? Yes. The one you seem to ignore all day and let freeze. The one I scramble up the icy hill with crampons on my boots and flip over to de-ice? Yes, that same rubber tub you see me jump on top of to make those igloo bricks for the foundation of the zero igloos I will be constructing? Yes! That is the one! Do you see me when crab-walk down the icy hill and carry buckets of well water up to you in case you deign to take a sip in the next forty minutes or so? THAT is a lot of work and I just don't think you appreciate it. I really don't. You just watch me do this while chewing your breakfast greens and meditating on the intergalactic swirlings of the heavens inside the single snowflake on the end of your amazingly not-frost-bitten noses. Could you at least pretend to show some appreciation? Clap? Smile? a Nod?!

And that hay, by the by, that hay was hauled here in that semi-legal dented monster I am still paying off in the driveway. Yes. I carried those bales to you after loading them in the truck from a farm miles away, from a stash of hay I helped load into said barn months ago... for this very moment. And yet you stare, watching your new water freeze, closing your eyes to contemplate the comforts of 5 inches of wool on your stomaches.

Oh, sheep. You watch me scuttle and struggle. You snicker at my bundled up naked body. You and your clique of a herd all invested in your polyamorous baby-making. You know what? I think you may be snobs. Seriously. Like those rich people at the ski slope drinking slippery cocktails in their Smartwool long underwear while the staff walks by with a push broom with duct tape on their box-store parkas. Yes. I am saying it now. Sheep are elitist, alpine sport-loving, boozers, with their noses in the air.

Or maybe...
Or maybe I just need to invest in a good hose and a frost-free hydrant?

Nah, sheep are assholes.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Being Okay With It

A few days back I posted a vlog asking for topic suggestions. An email came to me that really touched me, because her story was the same as mine. It came from a woman who wanted to start a grass-based animal farm. She understands that making a living with sustainable agriculture in her regions means raising animals. It means exchanging money for animals, their offspring, and their meat. She confessed to recently converting from being vegan, and while she does feel that animals on soil can heal the land and belong in hr diet, she is having problems in her heart. That is because this not just a business issue for her, but a moral one.

She was in no way admonishing me, she was honestly interested in how to "be okay" with making a living selling the offspring and flesh of other sentient beings. This was my response to her.

Make things

Write, paint, draw, build, sew, saw, hammer and knit. Mold clay, chisel wood, craft beers and tell stories. Grow flowers and vegetables, raise animals, read and retell, surround yourself with music - all the better if you can make your own.

Making things makes us better people, a better community, and a better world.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Attention: Wool CSA Members

I have posted this before, but will do so again and regularly. If you desire a refund for the share you purchased, please email me at to work out a repayment. If you have not received this payment, please contact me again as I have lost the records of wool shares and the emails associated with it due to a crashed computer. I would like to make this right, but I can't do so if I don't know who does or does not want a refund. Some folks have been repaid, others have refused a repayment, some feel that risk is a part of CSAs and others don't. Please check in with me no matter what your stance is, soon as you can. Check in if you have received repayment, don't want it, or want it. This would be a big help finally putting this to rest.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

One of Country Woman's Amazing Women!

Country Woman Magazine named me as one of their "45 AMAZING WOMEN" and I am honored and thrilled to be listed among the ranks of such wonderful ladies! Heather Hansen, a reader, sent me a photo of the spread and piece, a whole half page! It's a win for this farm, and the photo of my first summer with Jasper made me kinda teary. I miss that little horse, very much so. But either way, I wanted to share the piece here and I encourage you to pick up an issue to read about other farmers, authors, and bloggers you may enjoy!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Vlog Updated: Ponies & Barncats

New Workshops! WIN A BANJO!

Here is a list of upcoming events and workshops at the farm! Some of they are this year's dates of annual events and some are brand new workshops. All day-long workshops are $100 and paid for via paypal to reserve the spot. Weekend events start at $200 and things like fiddles, bows, or other sundries cost extra. For example Fiddle Camp and Arrow's Rising are $350 a person. All workshops are non-refundable, but if you can't make it you can come to any other workshop at any other time of the same value or use that money towards a larger event like Fiddle Camp or Arrow's Rising.

1. Spring Fiddle Camp! March 28th-29th 2015
March 28th and 29th, a Saturday and Sunday, will be the date of the next two-day Fiddle Camp. This is a workshop for people who love the sounds and songs of the country fiddle and feel they could never learn. It is for people who have never held a fiddle, can't read music, and feel they are too hopeless to even try. Nothing could be further from the truth! In three years of hosting this workshop I have taught many people (left and right handed, to boot!) to begin playing tunes for themselves at home. You will not leave sounding like Charlie Daniels, but you will leave knowing your first scale, your first song, and all the tools you need to teach yourself at home without expensive lessons. If any of you out there did attend a camp in the past, please share your experiences here for those who aren't sure they are suited for it!

2. May Fiddle Day Camp, May 2nd 2015
Same as the weekend long event but just one day, less curriculum covered, but the basics are all there.  Great option for folks who can't make a weekend out of it but want to learn!

4. Backyard Livestock May 23rd 2015
More details soon, come for a day dedicated to the animals, systems, and bounty they provide on a small scale. See what a small space such as this has achieved with pigs, sheep, goats, geese, turkey, chickens, horses and more. This will give beginners and city folk a detailed idea of everyday effort, expenses, and chores as well as time commitments and started small: chickens and rabbits. Specific attention will be spent on animals YOU Attendees would like to talk about so let me know in advance what to prepare!

5. Arrow's Rising 2015 June 20th-21st 2015
Ever wanted to learn archery? Hold your own longbow? Shoot in the forest at targets below you and through brush in the woods? Arrow's Rising is a weekend for folks of all shapes, ages, and sizes who want to learn traditional archery and go home with not only a new skill, but their very own handmade longbow made by a U.S. Veteran and craftsman! There will NOT be a fall version of this, so this will be the only archery workshop in 2015.

6. Clawhammer & Frails! June 27th 2015
More details soon, but this is a beginner's day event for Old Time Banjo! Learn the basics of the strum pattern, your first song, and the company of other beginners. It is a BYOB (Bring your own Banjo) event but if you are clueless about what to buy I can offer suggestions and advice. And if you are one of the first five people to sign up you will be entered in a drawing of those five to WIN A BANJO, so you don't even need to buy one or borrow one for the event! The banjo will be this one!

7. Indie Days!
It’s the chance to come to the farm and hang out for a whole day to talk, learn, ask questions, or just see what life on a farm with this many animals is like? It’s just you and me. Or you, me, and your best friend or spouse or teenage daughter or son. Point is it’s a tiny group and just for you. You can schedule it in advance or make it an Indie Weekend.

AND GUYS! If you want to come to at least one camp, consider buying a Season Pass. They are on sale now for $300 and that money goes straight to supporting this farm and keeping it going. The sale is only good until Friday, but it gets you every single workshop here, held within a year of purchase, INCLUDING camps and weekend events (but doesn't cover bows or instruments). So instead of coming to just one event like Arrow's Rising 2015 for $400,  reserve your spot now with your season pass, pay for the bow later (up to three months before event) and enjoy all these workshops and more a they appear between November 2014-2015!

To sign up for any of these: