Friday, February 27, 2015

New Vlog! Chickens, Rabbits, & Bees!

Lambing Season in Full Swing

Brick and her lambs came through the -5 degree night just fine! They are both doing well, feeding well, and their mother is patient and protective. My other ewe, an older girl (8 or 9) named Split Ear will be lambing as soon as today. I can already tell it is on her mind by how she is acting. A ewe ready for lambing will start to separate herself from the rest of the flock, pace and circle and paw the ground now and again, or fall into this trance of contractions and spasms as she stands statue still. Split Ear is doing all these things and I am checking on her every hour or so.

Bootstraps & Inspiration!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Brick's Twins!


Last night I was driving home from Glens Falls and life was not good.  It felt like one of my teeth had exploded. I could not believe how intense the pain was, having never experienced this brutal of an abscess before. It was as if a demon had detonated a bomb in my gums at exactly 5:34 PM and there was no stopping the pain. Driving home was excruciating. The motions of the truck slightly bouncing along the road felt like being hit in the face over and over with a baseball bat. I was in tears, uncontrollable tears. Welcome to the beginning of a blog post about my Rock Bottom Night.

Ever since I left the 9-5 world and gave up my dental insurance the Dentist stopped being about maintenance and moved into the slot of Damage Control. I was last at the Dentist in September to repair a filling, and am good about taking care of my choppers whenever something cracks or gets a cavity. I refuse to give up on my teeth, however wonky they may be. I brush and floss and all that, but any sort of extra care is just not an option in my life right now. So this is where we are at: Abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

I was crying because it hurt so damn much, but also because it was the final straw in a very fragile week. I have not been blogging because all of my creative sit-down-and-make-something-in-front-of-a-screen energy has been going towards Birchthorn and Logo Designs. After a day of chores, shoveling, firewood chopping, 4 logo clients, and a thousand words on monsters in 1918 - I am creatively drained. I just want to sit back, watch an episode of Community,  drink some warm tea, and get ready for tomorrow. Maybe invite some friends over for a board game or a movie. You know, relax. But the cold we've been experiencing up here this month has been relentless. And that has been getting to me in body and spirit.

As you know, I heat with wood and so that means keeping a supply of dry firewood and the presence to not stray too far from the homestead. This means (generally) staying close to home and keeping pipes thawed (some exploded anyway and destroyed a carpet) and the home fires burning. Yesterday afternoon was kinda warm so I felt it was okay to attend a class and see some friends up north, and that class is where the tooth demons took over my body.

You can only keep it together so long before something gets irrevocably broken. You get me? If you're still reading this let's update the emotional tally. This is where we are at now: Exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby. Let's hear it for me!

Also, I was driving home in a truck with a late inspection. Not a horrible crime, but another example of adult scolding our society likes to slap us on the wrist with. The truck is safe, but it has a bad 02 sensor and a crack in the windshield. It needs both things repaired before it can pass inspection. No big deal, right? Well, it wasn't until I got pulled over by a cop and given a court summons.  Now the law is onto me and this inspection NEEDS to be done before I have to go to court next week to prove it to the judge I am driving an inspected vehicle. I had been putting off the non-essential repairs to the truck as long as possible since other things needed to be taken care of first (you know, like the mortgage, electricity, etc) and knowing I was probably looking at a root canal was a 2-3 reality punch combo. So this is where we are at now: Driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

Also, I am dealing with some personal stuff I don't feel comfortable writing about here. Nothing serious, so please do not worry. There is no horrid physical diagnosis or death in my family.  But what there is is a lot of the kind of emotional upheavals that happen to all of us living a human life in 2015. Family drama, regrets, fears, anxiety, and personal doubts that I can actually pull this adventure off. It didn't help that I was dealing with PMS either, which doesn't make me angry or snappy but does make me very pensive. So this is where we are at now: Scared about being a 32-year-old single woman farming alone, dealing with PMS, feeling overwhelmed, driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

This, my friends, is my rock bottom. Welcome. I'd offer you a chair but all we got is rocks. We sold the chairs to keep the pigs fed.

Guys, I am a tough woman. I do not usually let myself fall into any selfish despair.  But man oh man, this pain in my face made all those other problems and stresses feel a thousand times worse. Anyone out there reading this who deals with anxiety and panic attacks understands this, and I was headed for a serious bender of pain and panic. I stopped to picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig at some cagey discount booze place and headed inside the farmhouse to begin the process of self-medication. When you are one of the uninsured Americans that twenty bucks worth of booze is a lot cheaper than running to the emergency room for some percocet.

I got home to the cold house, started a fire, and in a haze of pain and googling I started to remedy the situation best this farm girl could. Enter the triple threat of swishing warm salt water around my mouth, spitting it out, then swishing bourbon around my mouth, spitting that out, and then walking around the farmhouse counting to ten and breathing deep before repeating it all over again. I took 800mg of ibuprofen. I used a topical numbing agent. All of this was not helping. My ears were ringing, my face was throbbing, and the only thing that made it somewhat better was the placebo ritual of salt, whiskey, counting, topical numbing, etc. Just doing something felt like I was punching back at the monster. I did this for hours. The dogs slept with their full bellies of kibble and the sheep chewed their cud in the moonlight and I just wished someone would knock me out with a blow to the head so I could fall asleep. If the good people of Kentucky knew how much bourbon I spit out into my sink last night I would be lynched.

Around 10PM I broke down. At this point I was so exhausted from the pain and the constant swishing of spiny agents I couldn't take it anymore. I decided to just feel it. Just let it wash over me. Just deal with the pain and accept it. I sat down in front of a candle to meditate. I started to slowly breathe and be all zen about it.

That didn't work.

I ended up screaming into a pillow so the neighbors didn't call the police. I was coughing and spitting up I was crying so hard. Not knowing what else to do I lit all the candles on the home altar and the statue of Brigit glowed in the tiny midnight farmhouse of this pathetic, writhing, woman. And then I just prayed. I didn't sit there with my hands over my heart like a yoga class just ended, no no no, this was pagan prayer. This was primal. I howled out my prayers of healing and paced like a caged animal. I did that until I collapsed to the floor, too tired and too hurt to do anything else but heave and sweat. And when I stood up, it was gone.

I am not shitting you, the pain had nearly stopped. What was a whale had turned into a slow-moving tuna. I felt my tooth with my tongue and realized I couldn't feel anything up there anymore. Be it divine intervention or just the accumulated effects of constant salt, booze, and numbing agent I was finally able to focus again. I was so grateful I shook. It took moments after that to fall asleep. I did so with a border collie in my arms, breathing slowly alongside me, keeping me warm.


Mornings are always better, aren't they? That was how I usually feel but the pain that I had defeated in honorable combat last night came back again. It crept back into my head like a water snake slides up a stream. It slunk in slow, but steady.  I knew I had to see a dentist ASAP so I called the practice i always go to and the number didn't work? What? I tried again? I knew the house phone was working because my mother called me four times already, worried about me thanks to last night's sordid Facebook post. I tried to call again, no dice. Then I realized that even though Arlington Vermont is just 20 minutes away, it's a different area code and therefore "not local" as far as my landline provider was concerned. So this is how my "brand new day" starts huh? So, with a hearty, "FUCK IT" I told Gibson to get into the illegal truck because we were just going to drive our asses to the dentist, and I needed him for moral support. I wasn't expecting any instant help, but at least I could get an appointment without spending the morning on the phone with Verizon working out a new long distance plan.

Okay, so I had a plan. I would go outside, get all the animals seen to, and once chores were done I would leave my cold house (no fire started yet this Am or coffee drank) and head to the dentist with my co-pilot riding shotgun and reminding me that no matter what, I owned the greatest dog in the world. It mattered, that.

As dog and Shepherdess headed outside to feed the horse and sheep (they are always fed first) I noticed something odd. Only five sheep? Where was Brick, my sturdiest ewe? Looking west, I saw her. Up on the hillside inside the sheep shed walking downhill towards me and bucket of cracked corn I was holding. Behind her trailed two brand new lambs, still wet with birth goo and walking behind their mother. At this point I clenched both fists and just screamed out, "TIMING!" Gibson watched them in awe. The flock had gone from 6 to 8 before dawn. And the pre-menstrual rush of emotions flooded my tired brain and this farmer went on auto-pilot.

I turned off the fence, told Gibson to lie down and wait, and bounded up the hill. There I discovered two beautiful ram lambs, strong and eager, with tiny horns. I checked them both out and saw they had fat bellies and were clearly drinking milk. The sun was out and the temperatures weren't bad at all this morning so far and I knew lambs this strong and from this ewe would be okay to leave for a bit while I headed to the dentist. If this pain got any worse I'd be useless to the farm anyway. I fed the rest of the animals and G and I drove to the dentist.

Soon as I walked into the dentist's office there was a framed photograph of two newborn lambs. The gods laugh. I laughed with them. I mean it, I walked into my Dentist's office (without an appointment) laughing to myself. Now, you need to understand that this is a rural Vermont office. It's just someone's house, all yellows and browns and old wallpaper and lace curtains, turned into an office. No part of it was a stupid, sterile, high performance office with flat screen tv sets on the walls. It is old school and I love it. I explained to the folks at the desk (briefly) about the pain, the night, the lambs, and could they possibly fit me in soon? The first thing the receptionist asked for after my story was photos of the lambs on my cell phone (Which I loved her for and laughed again), and I explained I don't have a cell phone, I gave it up, but I would email her some later. She then told me to come back in an hour and they would do x-rays and help me out. Brigit's Fire, was that ever good news!

At this point I realized I should really carry a watch if I'm not carrying around a smartphone that subs as one. Anyway, I was elated, and so I headed back to the truck and told Gibson we had an hour to kill. So we headed south to Shaftsbury to go to Whitman's feed store, an old stomping ground. I bought some amazingly clean fresh straw, a new heat lamp, lamb and kid paste, a brooder light, and some fresh syringes. At this point I just paid the woman, surrendering to the day. I knew I would have to write checks to the dentist, the pharmacy, and hay barn already so might as well go down towards the red with two comfortable lambs. I was honestly feeling that if everything fell apart in my life at least on this day those two little lambs would be clean, warm, medicated, and nutritionally supplemented. (Note: I usually have this stuff on hand but I wasn't expecting lambs until 2 weeks or so. Guess Brick wasn't waiting for permission. Good for her!)

I got X-rays done and a prescription for antibiotics and pain meds. Serious pain meds. I drove back to Cambridge to return to the farm and get the Rx filled, but something urged me to stop into the Wayside Country Store on the way home. I wanted to check in on Nancy, who just lost a husband of 50 years a few weeks ago. I wanted to see how she was doing?

Soon as she saw me I melted and gave her a hug. Inside the store were three generations of their family including her granddaughter who messaged me last night on Facebook about my tooth. I felt this rush of warmth, this overwhelming sense of okay. How can I believe in pain and stress more than love when I am surrounded by amazing, caring, people? There are new lives to rush home and take care of. There is a dog I love more than anything in this world waiting for me in the truck. There is this grace filled woman, who is listening to my stories about the tooth and the lambs and the dentist and the pain and just hugs me and pulls out family photos of their first milk cow and her kids in the 70s holding it by a halter in the family portrait. And I stand there with this overwhelming sense of love for this messy life I live, and that all of us live. I had a prescription in my pocket. I had warm coffee in my hand. And I had these people I love sharing with me their stories and offering me pain meds and advice and empathy. How could you not love this world every day?

Goddamn it life is so beautiful.

We are not just our bad weeks. You, me, we all contain multitudes. I am the woman crying on the floor in terrifying pain and I am the woman smelling a newborn lamb in her arms and smiling like an idiot. I am the scared woman under a lead vest at the dentist's office and I am also the woman in a small country store moved by an old woman's faded family portrait with a jersey cow. I am the defeated, pathetic, howling monster from last night and I am the hero standing tall on a sturdy plank floor having already spent her morning ignoring pain and feeding pigs, sheep, horse, goats, poultry, rabbits and more. I am shit and I am sunlight. I am a mess and I am perfect. I sipped my coffee (the pain now again subsiding thanks to the Dr visit and more numbing gel) and let out the kind of sigh you hold in for days. I chatted a bit more and then walked around the little store and picked up some provisions I needed. While walking back to the counter to pay I noticed an antique pocket watch with an eagle/hawk design on the front hanging from the junk/costime jewelry display. It was eight dollars. Sold. Problem number 2325325 fixed. Time was once again, on my side.

The sun was out. I was heading home to my adopted town. I knew I still needed to pick up hay and some extension cords for the heat lamp, so I stopped into town. Gibson and I walked into the hardware store and chatted with Bryan. I told him about the new lamb and he congratulated me. He and his family raise chickens, rabbits, and beef and know the work and love that goes into newly born stock. I dropped off the prescription at Rite Aid (praying that it wasn't a jillion dollars) and then headed over to Common Sense Farm because I wanted to just dish with a best friend about this insane past 12 hours.

I walked into the kitchen at the commune and familiar faces invited to me join them for tea or a meal, I politely declined and headed to the second floor in the mansion to Yeshiva's apartment. There I found her and her glowing, pregnant, body. She looked as tired as I was and we hugged and spent time just being two women with a lot on our minds. She talked about her life, I talked about mine, and I felt so much better. I left a check I owed them for hay and loaded up three more bales into the back of my truck from their barn. I threw it into the back of the illegal pickup along with the county-fair-display straw. So much work ahead of me when I got home. I took three deep breathes. The day was just starting.

I bought the extension cords, a 100ft and a 50ft, and headed home. I let out the dog to be a dog and he instantly started herding Quark away from the wood pile by the front door. I told Gibson, "That'll do" and picked up the old rooster in my arms and set him onto the bed of the pickup with some cracked corn. Then I went right to work outside. I rebedded the sheep shed, set up the heat lamp for tonight's colder weather, and set up the extension cords. I made sure everyone outside had hay and water and then headed inside to finally start a fire and get to work on logos and writing. I had a few hours before evening chores started again. I opened the front glass door and what did I discover?! A note from the power company! I had 72 hours before electric was shut off. Great! I came inside with the door-knocker notice sheet and set it on the table. I set the problem meter back to 2325326. I took the pain meds and antibiotic with some water and I won't lie, part of me wished I took it with whiskey.  I didn't. Once that bottle becomes the answer to your problems you have a lot more to battle with than bills and truck inspections. I have enough battles to fight as is.

All right. So that's that. That's my last 24 hours. That's where I have been and what I have been dealing with. I wrote it all out, all of it. I think the pain meds have me a little light headed, but that's not the reason for this long post. The reason for the post is the reason for this entire blog: an raw portrayal of farming alone and trying to live a creative life.

I assume some of you will read this and think I am an asshole. Others will read it and shake their heads and think. "Man, this girl needs a break". And yet others will read it and see a person in love with her messy, passion-filled, wild life. Well let me tell you something boys and girls, I agree with all of you. However, since I have to spend 100% of my time with myself, I am pretty forgiving. When it comes down to the brass tax I love myself, my farm, my life, and my choices. Every day terrified on this farm is better than the most comfortable day in someone else's office.

Like I said earlier, we contain multitudes. I am the monster and the hero, and the life I choose to focus on is comprised of a million tiny decisions every single day. Last night I chose to sink to rock bottom. This morning I realized that a rock floor is damn sturdy ground for standing up on. And I'll figure it all out. I'm already figuring it out. Even when things get this rough around here I need to stop and realize that this is one beautiful mess I chose and every year it gets less messy. I need to take a moment and accept with absolute joy that I am living an intentional life I am so passionate about. That every morning I wake up and create, and laugh, and fall in love with the world over and over again. I stretch, and sip coffee, and plan workshops and prepare for animal births. I play music, I work in my home office, I visit my friends in this community I love so much and loves me back. As bad as things may get I am well aware these are nothing compared to the problems some of you deal with. That my biggest failures are just fuel towards a better self, and that most of what is wrong just needs steady work and relentless stubbornness. I have those things in spades.

And I need to remember that while times are tough now, they are just a passing afternoon. They are just what life is like "right now". How many times have I been here, in this place of worry and pain and figured it out before? Why should I doubt myself when I have always figured it out?  It is a fact on paper that I bought this farm in 2010 and have paid FOUR YEARS of mortgage payments, even if I am a little behind right now. That means a lot. And this slump can all change in one book deal or a rush on logo sales or workshop attendance. I see that illegal truck outside with a driver's side door that stopped opening and I don't see a burden. I see a vehicle with just 13 more payments left until I own it1 I see a Fell Pony I dreamed of, found, learned to partner with, fell in love with riding, and have paid off in full! I see a hawk I took from the sky and learned to hunt beside. I see an entire farmyard of animals I raised for myself and others. I see myself down to a size 10 instead of the 14 I was in December. I see a strong woman with the power to make art, life, music, stories and food and that would make me a goddess in a better age! So I can choose to spend this day focusing on the fear and problems, or I can spend it focusing on the hope and solutions.

I choose Goddess. Hear me howl.

I also remind myself that outside are two beautiful lambs. They are this farm's future and healthy and braw and gorgeous. More lambs are on the way and as simple as those little beasts are, they are even more drive to figure out the problems and continue this wonderful, glorious, fight for the life I love. I say fight with joy. I am not interested in any sort of pacifism in this short time I have. I am a martial artist, a hunter, an archer, a farmer, and a damned tough fighter. I like my world being one where sweat, blood, and beautiful force and hope combine to give me purpose I see lacking in so many others. Better a passionate asshole trying to keep the lights on than the person I could have been if I didn't try.

Listen, I don't know what you guys think of me and frankly, it is none of my business. I'm writing to you because I can't help but write. I would go insane if I didn't do this every single day in one form or another. You're just a witness to the addiction. But if you made it this far into the blog post then I hope you read this with compassion and it gives you a sense of fire, light, healing and hope. That is what I got out of writing it.

Okay. Time to check on those sheep, get their shed toasty for this cold night ahead, get the fire restarted (it's gone out since I've been writing here this past hour or so) and get back to the good fight.  I wish all of you a day a blessed with challenges, meaning, friendship, joy, pain, love, and warm dogs as I have been blessed with.

Here I go.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Lack of posts this week due to a pile of things that are making life very tough right now around here. Please check back tomorrow to return to regular programming.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Making Friends

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Day in My Life

What happens here at Cold Antler on a regular day? Chores, design, writing, firewood, hay, more chores! This is a short video explaining my daily list and it starts with simple things like feeding each animal and goes into daily goals of design work, income, ideas for new clients, and so on. I make time for music and song as well, and drop in guests or errands to pick up hay or feed also fall in weekly. Everyday is the same and every day is different.

Season Pass & Renewal Sale!

If you already hold a Cold Antler Farm SeasonP Pass (which lets you attend any and all workshops within a year of purchase!) You can renew before friday for another year for just $175 or $250 a couple. Brand new to the blog or vlogs and would like to visit and support the farm? How about considering a Season pass? They are usually $350 but I will sell new season passes for $225 right now if you purchase before Friday. The farm is working towards some goals and this way you can support the farm and meet people, be a part of the story instead of just reading about it, and learn a lot from the experts and events here at CAF! To sign up email me at

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When you see it....

Pulled From the Ribs

Last night some good friends came over to enjoy a meal, a board game, and the fireside this humble farm has to offer. After the simple meal (loaf of homemade bread just pulled from the oven, a roast chicken over potatoes, and a 4-pound slab of roasting beef we cut into steaks for grilling - washed down with some cider) we all sat around the fire in the living room, hot mugs of coffee in our warming hands. It was so cold outside and the winds pulled at the flames inside the stove, but we were full and warm. Josh Ritter was singing Girl in the War in the background, Quark the rooster was already asleep under the bench right beside us, and Gibson was sprawled on the floor with Keenan, the 13-year-old son of my friend Chris, who was worshipping his coffee with gusto and sharing it with his girl, Miriam. This moment was perfect.

Chris closed his eyes and leaned back against the bench he was sharing with the rooster Quark, who cooed a bit but didn't fuss. Miriam was closest to the fire, a fitting nest for a Brazilian dealing with -10 degree temperatures in our northern wilderness. And I was on the floor as well, happy and content and full in many ways. I sat across from this family, sipping my own special kind of rich dessert coffee. (Heavy cream whipped up with a whisk along with sugar and vanilla extract, then the hot strong coffee poured right into that blessed fluff). At one point Chris said, apropos of nothing, that he felt my home was special. That when they come here all stress and worry fades away. I took a sip of my coffee and thanked him, and I wish that thanks could have expressed how wealthy that sentence made me feel. There is no greater compliment to a homesteader than being told her home, and therefore her entire self, is special. I wanted to hug him.

Homesteading calls us in so many ways, and leads us down so many different roads. Some of us are drawn to healthier food sources or a better sense of self reliance. Some of us are called to a live with animals, and nature, and felling trees and building barns. Others just feel that deep call to home - and can't place what exactly makes it correct. We just feel it so deep inside it coats our ribs and pulls our bodies forward towards the wanting. And some of us are here for all those reasons. Some of us have ribs so sore from being pulled for so long, that we consider the ache blessed. It took me years to find my home and it takes ten times the effort of finding to keep it mine. It's a fight that requires the occasional benediction like the one Chris granted me last night. I'm grateful for this place, for certain, but words that like are magic and are needed like rain.

Luceo Non Uro. Spring will find us soon, and not find us wanting.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mo Sweet Cridhe!

I am so grateful that I am a musician, however humble. To have a home that is surrounded by fiddle, guitar, banjo, whistle and drum - that fills me with such joy. I took a good five minutes to just play Rain and Snow, an Appalachian tune of the sordid sort, over and over this morning. I played it slow and I played it fast. I played it droning and I played it clean. Then I set it down to tend the fire and came back to it and played a Celtic tune called the Scartaglen Slide, which is all dance and lightness. Sometimes I just sing, too. Music is always here and it doesn't matter if I am out doing chores and making up tunes while Gibson runs around or home at night but the fire playing music from the Hobbit films on the tin whistle. It is always here and adds an element of wildness, freedom, and beauty along with the animals to a cold piece of land on the side of a mountain. (And part of me secretly believes the more I play the faster summer will come...)

For now, I'll share the chorus of Gibson's song I called Cuilen Math. I made it up while outside together and watching him race through snow and field. Nothing is happier to my eyes than a border collie on his own farm without a leash in sight! It's upbeat and I bet you can figure out the melody from the tempo. I can't think of the tune I made it up too but it hardly matters. Music is good in any form!

For I am a Cuilen Math!
I'm Bonnie and I'm Braw
And I'll watch o'er Lamb and Ewe
And tell it to you all!

I'm Fast as I am Fly
I'm Dubh as tha Nocht Sky
And I'm as free as mo sweet cridhe
And don't you dare ask why!

Bluster & Cold

Good morning from the blustery and frigid lands of Veryork! Holy Crow, is it windy out there! I was out this morning doing the regular chores and all the animals were reluctant to come out to eat, that is how windy and bitter it is. Well, all save for Merlin, who could care less about wind and rain. That is fitting for an animal that grew up from colt to stallion in Northern England's wild hills of Cumbria, but not so much for the local dairy goats who had me deliver their breakfast indoors. My two does and their Rent-a-Buck, Saturn, usually are some of the first morning hecklers out come daybreak. They hear the door open or Merlin whinny and they are at their metal gate, nickering for their own breakfast of second-cut hay, minerals, and grain. Not today, not pif the Dagda himself came at them with his club, they were curled up in the barn and I threw their hay into the window and watched them poke their heads out at me before digging in. Breakfast in bed, that.

The pigs as well were happy to sleep in and only woke up from their nesting pile when they heard the breakfast bucket. They came out, swilled up their feed, and then went back to their slumber. As tough as they are they see no sense in standing in the wind like Merlin or the sheep do. Back to bed for them, and smartly so. Days like this make me want to curl up and nap as well.

One good thing about the wind is it is blowing a lot of snow off roofs and driveways. You look outside one moment and there is a clear day and I can see right across to the neighbor's driveway. Turn your head to a book or wood stove and look back out, WHITE OUT of bluster. I can't even imagine what that must look like at the open fields of Livingston Brook Farm or even just down the hillside at Katz's place on the road? Here on the mountain most wind is blocked by the fact I live on the eastern side of a hill that gets most of its fussing weather from the west. Usually, even in the worst of weather it is mild out there compared to more open country. So when I see nothing but swirls and can hear the wind in the wood stove's chimney howl into my living room... I know it is rough out there.

Are you also dealing with this wild weather? If so I hope you are safe, warm, and strong. Or, have the sense of a goat or a pig to nest in until this nasty business is all behind us.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Morning Hug

We're about to roll into another deep cold, highs only reaching into the single digits on some days. But this morning the sun was out and while spending some time with Merlin I couldn't help myself and hugged that big horse. His thick coat was so warm from the sun it was like leaning against a heating blanket draped over a propane tank. As he ate I just let my cheek rest against his shoulder, inhaled that wonderful smell of horse, and scratched his shoulder. I miss the daily rides of summer and our adventures and eagerly await their return. It is cold out there but summer can be found hidden in places, if you get close enough to feel the warmth waiting for you to claim it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Give Me One Day & You'll Play!

I'd like to invite five of you (no more, since it'll be indoors and intimate here in the farmhouse) to join me by the wood stove on a few sheepskins to learn the fiddle. This workshop will be Saturday, May 2nd. This is Beltane Weekend and last year I held Arrow's Rising and it was too chilly for a proper outdoor event. It will be perfect for an intimate indoor one though! So hear this: this will not be a camp, just a long day here at the farm. It'll start at 9AM and go until 5PM - a bit longer than most workshops - but I am certain you will leave knowing how to teach yourselves and be on your way to memorizing your first song! You DO NOT NEED any prior musical experience. You DO NOT NEED to know how to read music. You DO NOT NEED to be right handed. You DO NOT NEED to be a musical prodigy. What you do need is a strong desire to learn to fiddle, 15 minutes a day to practice at home, a love of old time and bluegrass music, and a sense of humor! And I can make you this promise: attend this workshop, and make daily practice a commitment and by Yule you will be able to play carols by heart, easily!

This day camp will include:

1 Student Fiddle with bow, rosin, and case.

You will learn:

The parts of the fiddle
Fiddle folkways
Tuning your fiddle
Fixing and adjusting your bridge
Restringing your fiddle
The D scale
Bowing, shuffling, and droning notes
Reading Tablature
Your first song!

You will need to bring:

Wayne Erbsen's Fiddle Book
A set of spare strings (4/4 size)
an electronic guitar tuner (I suggest snark tuners)
Laughter (in barrel loads, please)!

If you want one of these five spots let me know ASAP. They are first sold, first reserved. The cost for this workshop and basic student fiddle is $225. If you want a higher quality student fiddle, I can have a very nice mid-level instrument waiting for you here for $350 (includes the workshop, of course). Either fiddle will be fine for learning with, just one will grow with you longer. Contact me via email to sign up!

Down By the Sally Gardens

Good morning readers! And it has been a good morning here, even if it did start at 4:48AM with a rooster in my living room. I will admit I wasn't this cheery when he sounded the alarm, but just a few hours later my day is off to a wonderful start. Thanks to that early rising (usually I get up with the sun, regardless of season I am up at dawn and right now that is closer to 7AM), I was up and about with eager energy. Eight hours of sleep reset my tired self. I woke up with good work and a farm I love more than I can even explain demanding my attention and hands. And taking that 9 to 9 Challenge seriously meant I had hours before I had to worry about anything but the fireplace, weather, or the work of the farm. What a blessed surrender, that.

I got chores done and came inside to a fine cup of coffee and then sat down to write more of Birchthorn. I got out a thousand words, sent a Kickstarter update, and then started checking emails and planning my day. I didn't look at the news. I didn't go onto Facebook to read gossip or see what my friends did on their vacation to Bermuda. Instead, sitting in my inbox was a design inquiry, a thank you from the folks who attended the Whistle Workshop this weekend (which was wonderful and we learned most of Sally Gardens!), and a sweet email from a neighbor. I myself started playing Sally Gardens on my tin whistle (this shut the rooster up, who was confused or jealous of my amazing Celtic crows!).

I'm going to head into town in a little bit to get some provisions and enjoy talking with the gang at the hardware store, but thought you guys would like a quick hello and check in. I can't say enough good things about a little self control when it comes to digital choices. And I can't say enough good things about choosing to start a day with music, creativity, work and light instead of lack, anger, sadness, or other nonsense that can wait till after your first cup of coffee. Have any of you kept the Challenge going? How are you doing? It's never to late to start over either. Never, ever ever.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Saturn in the Snow!


Today's storm was a heavy, wet, snow and it feels like the farm is buried three-feet deep out there, even though I know there is just a little over 18 inches. It's tricky though. Since wind and drifts play a part there are spots in the horses pasture with just a foot and trails in the forest that I sunk to my hips while out on snowshoes. The heavy snow means a lot of fence maintenance, since all of the fences here are either electric or low to the ground (think pigs). It all got done but I am feeling it for the first time in my life. Feeling sore and tired in a way that isn't just the after effects of labor, but worn down. Like Bilbo Baggins said: butter spread over too much toast.

That's just how I feel these past few weeks, and it will surely pass. The intense cold and heavy snow is just a bit more of a challenge, but June has to come, doesn't it? All that said, the farm is doing fine. Everyone is in great shape, eating well, hydrated, and tucked in for the night. Well, mostly everyone. The sheep and horses and goats are all set but I still have to run outside with the pigs dinner and shovel the snow off their shelter roof. I am working up the courage right now, with the teapot heating up on the wood stove and a fire roaring close to me.

Quark is still inside because I don't have the heart to send him out into this deep snow knowing he is going to be spending all his time in the honey suckle bush. He is enjoying walking around the farmhouse eating the dogs food when they aren't looking, scaring the cat, and clucking about. I don't trust the dogs to keep it civil if I'm not watching them so he's in the crate when I am outdoors.

Much was done indoors, by the way. I updated the Birchthorn Project and got work done on several client logos.Working on comps for some farms and emailing final files to another. Proud of that design work and having fun working on it, even if it is just a few hours at a time. I like that there isn't much idle time around here these days. Be it indoors or out I am using my body and mind, and still finding time to pick up the guitar, fiddle, or tin whistle just to blow off steam and relax. I may be a little weary but you can't not smile after a hot toddy and a waltz on the banjo. I love a good waltz, do I ever.

Tonight after the Pegs are all settled in and there is nothing to do but come indoors and keep the home fire burning, I'll be watching the movie The Babadook. I chickened out last night but I think tonight is the night for a scary story. I mean, I can't look like a chicken in front of Quark. He may get the wrong idea....

Feeling Better

While most of us can agree we like waking up to the sound of a rooster's crowing, that doesn't usually mean three feet from your pillow. Quark was feeling better this morning because while he was quiet all night in the dog crate by the day bed, I fell asleep close by and woke up at 5:07AM to the loudest noise in the world.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Roosters & Storms

Another big storm is coming and Quark is here in my living room. Who is Quark? He's a rooster. He was looking a little droopy and has grown so tame and mild around me I just couldn't let him take this squall. He refuses to sleep in the coop with the dominant roosters and so that means most nights he sleeps in the sheep shed. But tonight he seemed tired and slow compared to the other birds so I picked him up like a pampered pug (He didn't object) and brought him inside with a mug of warm water and some pedialyte and a little bowl of grain. The dogs are mildly interested but mostly ignoring the bird. He is already asleep on a red tartan dog blanket. My house might seem cold to some, but to this roo it is paradise. He had a big meal, a good drink and is fast asleep.

Today was a good day of storm prep, outdoor chores, and visiting friends. I went over to Patty and Marks for hay and we carried bales up the hill from the barn on sleds and then rode the sleds back down the hill to get more hay. It was a blast! Patty;s big horses ran alongside us and Gibson was right on my tail. A quick, but perfect memory.

Right now the wood stove in the farmhouse is glowing, candles are lit behind the statue of Brigit, and the dogs are asleep on the daybed. I am ready for the storm with plenty of firewood, all the roofs raked, the animals fed, watered, and given extra grain and bedding, and pens and electric fences dug out and tested. As tough as the first storms were I am getting used to the extra effort and dusting off my snowshoes for tomorrows storm. I have lost 8 pounds since January and am enjoying feeling a bit lighter on my feet and think the work out of a snowshoe hike around the farm and up the mountain will be wonderful tomorrow! I will bring my camera for sure!

Stay safe, stay warm, sleep well.

A Little Birchthorn This Morning?

Good morning folks! I must say, this avoiding social media in the late evening and early morning has been a real kick in the creative juices. I do chores, I put on the coffee, I get the fire going and when the dogs have had their breakfast I settle in with a cup and start really digging into my novel. It's called Birchthorn, and a little spooky. Right now I am 30,000 words into it (nearly 100 pages!) and since it was funded by a Kickstarter this August I have posted a few thousand words every week or so up on the project's website. Every time it is posted folks who pledged at the paperback level get a to comment on the story and how to make it better. It's been great!

And now with my mornings back in my undistracted hands I have been writing a lot more. I got 3,000 words in today and will be posting a new chapter on the projects blog for the backers to read and comment on. Expect it up after lunch when I conclude this chapter. But what about the folks who can't read it because they missed the Kickstarter and just want a taste of the story? Well, here you go! I thought you guys would appreciate a little excerpt from the story, which takes place in Cambridge, NY in 1919. All you need to know is the locals have been experiencing very, very, odd and violent activity in their little farm town and all of it seems to have some association with a folk song they learned as children. The song is called the Ballad of Birchthorn, about a monster that is never really described in appearance but is infamous in local legend. Whispers say it has ravaged the area every couple hundred years, before even the Iroquois called the Battenkill Valley Home.

So grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy a slightly creepy glimpse into the goings on of my historical fiction. Oh, and just because it is fun to mention - one of the Kickstarter's perks was that at certain pledge points you could BE in the story. One of the "victim" pledges was an old friend from High school who supported the story at the level to be in it. I still have to kill off two others later in the chapter, which is resolved a few hours after this event.

The section below is not edited. Sorry. I'm a writer not an editor, but bear with me.

P.S. If you were one of the BIG supporters and are going to be a main character in the story with Anna, Roslyn, Lara and Meredith - please email me to discuss your roll!

P.P.S. You missed the Kickstarter and want to read along with it? Well you can, but it's too late to get a copy of the physical book or any of the pledge perks, but you are welcome to purchase access to the site and read the chapters as they are being written, if you'd so desire.


Josh walked to work every morning. It was no hassle, since the walk just involved descending a flight of stairs. He and his family have lived above this bakery for three generations and he could get to his kitchen with his eyes closed. He inherited the business from his father, who ran it with pride and even held the prized position of being the sole bread baker for both the Rice and McClellen families. In this town, those names meant something. So it was with some confidence that Josh opened the door to his bakery and started turning on the work lights and setting the first doughs to rise.

It had snowed gently the night before and the gaslights downtown were still burning, but dimly. He had been raised to love this time of day and see it as something special and secret, not a burden. He felt this time was his, earned through good work and special. He looked out into the train depot. This early in the winter there were often animals using the plowed roads for easy movement from the river to the forest. He was used to seeing small herds of deer silently striding down Main Street and had once even watched a mother bear and her cubs amble right past the Bakery’s windows. Foxes had always made town a home and it was common to see them trot by with a rat or mouse in their proud maw. Less admirable were the raccoons that knocked over the bin behind the bakery looking for any bread the pig farmers didn't pick up for their sounders. But life was everywhere, and this time of morning it seemed to be a club only Mr. Schwartz and the animals shared.

Josh very much enjoyed watching his usually busy town like this, all sleepy and feral. This winter he liked watching the family of deer that had taken to nesting in the lee of the train depot at night. The buildings around it made three solid wind blocks and with the few large shade trees and snow, it was very much a small forest outcrop right here in town. The deer would stir for their day just when he was. They would rise and shake off a back blanket of snow and then get to work pawing for grass or taking a bite of bark off the trees. Then the family would walk away long before sunrise. Before the paper delivery boys had even began.

Josh looked out the window and saw the deer he had grown so familiar with, all laying in the depot with their heads up and alert, watching the Bakery’s windows. He smiled to see them, knowing how they always did this as the first light and noises came from the first human up and about. It was their signal to start foraging and heading out of town. But right now they just remained transfixed on the baker, and watched as he set out a large batch of dough for kneading on the heavy table. He would roll up his sleeves and set into that happy work as soon as he started the fire that would need to be roaring before the first loaves were set into the giant wall oven. It was a routine that had become nearly sacred, and he was as focused on it as the small herd outside was focused on his shop.

Once lit and going strong, the fire in the oven filled his shop with light. He turned back to the bread and prepared for the work. This was done on a large wooden table that faced the windows and let him watch the town wake up as he set into the several dozen loaves he would produce that day. He looked back at the deer, expecting to see them up and about and starting their journey back to wilder places but they remained as he last saw them. He counted five, all without antlers, watching the Bakery as the snow gently fell about them. He thought that was a little odd, but got back to work. He knew he sometimes avoiding rising in the morning if his back hurt or felt under the weather. He mentally shrugged it off and set the first loaves aside to rise, cutting some slits in their crust with a sharp knife.

As he worked, mindlessly attending to the business, he kept looking out the window at the herd. They just stared back. They didn’t flinch. They didn’t shake the snow that was collecting on their heads and noses. They just stared. They reminded him of the photographs he had seen of Mr. Bishops trip to Egypt. In that country there were giant statues of animals laying down with their heads up and watchful. Most had human heads, but they still laid down with such attentions he couldn’t shake the comparison. It made the deer’s lack of movement even more mysterious.

He stared at them. Stared for what felt like a quarter hour. The snow started to fall heavier and swirl around the dark figures watching him. A wicked gust battered the windows and the fire behind him had such a draft it made him spin around to make sure it didn't aggravate the chimney, which was overdue for cleaning. The gust left as quickly as it came and when he turned back to his table and the windows he saw that the deer had seemed to come closer to the shop? Yes. They had. They were all still in the same position, the same formation of distance between each other, but they were definitely closer. At least ten yards closer and the foremost one only a few feet from the town sidewalk. The snow was still on their noses and heads. The swirl was still around them.

Now Joshua was getting worried. The barest hint of daylight was coming on now. The dark town was turning the slightest shades of a gray and blue dawn. The sky was overcast so it was subtle, but the slivers of light let him see the animals closer. He could not see them moving at all. No breath escaped their flared noses. No blinking interrupted their watch. He started to shift his weight and felt the need to be somehow protected, even though a larger part of himself mocked his fearfulness. They were does, docile creatures. Weren’t they? Even so, he looked around the table for a weapon and found the large knife he used to cut the vent slits into the loaves. Feeling foolish but certainly better, he looked back outside to the herd.

They were in the road. Another ten yards closer and laying down as if picked up and placed like wooden toys in a child’ menagerie. He let out a shout, and dropped the knife. The deer stared the same stare. Josh was now scared to look away at all. Without averting his gaze he slowly leaned down to pick up the knife. The deer did not move. He could see their dark eyes now. The closest one’s eyes were staring to collect snow as well. He could not reach the knife without letting his body bend below the line of the table and it would take the does out of his sight for a second. He let out prayer and grabbed it, bending and standing back up as quickly as possible.

The deer were at his window. Five heads within thirty feet of his door and the closest’s nose nearly touching the glass. All that could be seen was the head, they were all still laying down. Joshua backed up slowly, felt his skin break out into a cold sweat, clutched the knife so tight his knuckles turned white. The snow outside was reaching whiteout conditions and a blast of a draft sent the fire in an explosion of heat so intense he felt his back sting through the wool sweater, but he could not stop looking into those unblinking glass eyes. Soon the snow was so heavy he couldn't see any of the deer well but the one closest to the window, the rest just odd shapes, un moving but he could feel their stares as well. In the periphery, even has he locked his eyes, tearing from a fear of blinking, on that closest doe he could see a large black shape move unnaturally fast behind the possessed animals at his doorstep. Through the haze of water and wind in his eyes all he could sense was danger from it, barely noticing the bear-sized shape that didn’t even touch the ground - coming in and out of sight in the place where the deer had original been. The place where Joshua had felt safe.

Unable to take it any longer, his body betrayed him and his eyes forced themselves shut as the storm blasted and rattled around him. He refused to open them, curling onto the floor in terror as he heard scratching on the glass like an animal trying to get in. He screamed. He screamed in ways he didn’t realize a grown man could scream. A pounding on the door made him curl into a ball on the floor, dropping his knife and praying out loud. He thought he was saying the Lords prayer, was certain of this in his heart, but all that his sister could hear upstairs were the words of a song she knew from her childhood. A song about a monster in the forest, and the happy voice of her brother gently singing the lyrics as he went about the morning work of preparing loaves of bread for a wanting town.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Can You Handle the 9 to 9 Challenge?

If you are anything like me, you start your day with a cup of coffee and logging onto the computer. I check blog comments, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and so on. I may hop over to Pinterest or Instagram. I dabble with the news, where something horrible has certainly happened, and I shake my head sadly at the screen and take another swig from my mug. There's nothing else I can do about a downed plane across the globe or a heist that killed thirty tourists two days ago. I don't think much about tho morning clicking about. This routine has just become the norm. Maybe it has for you, too?

I think this is normal, but I'm not sure it's the best thing for us. I'm not opposed to those websites and use many of them. I consider them assets to communication, business, marketing and entertainment. But a few weeks ago I heard two men talking on a podcast I love and their conversation had my mind reeling in the best way possible. (It's free to listen to and all kinds of wonderful, so check it out.) What the podcast's guest talked about was the feeling of lacking so many of us consider normal now. He explained how we are now forced to constantly compare ourselves to others, thanks to social media. You may not even realize you are doing it, or it is happening, but it is.

That struck me. They went on to talk about this in detail. The man explained that while those websites do have lots of inspiration and friendly news, we also can't help but compare our lives to other lives in our news feed. You read about people's accomplishments, purchases, new haircuts, birthday parties, weight loss, awards, date nights, perfect food, babies, new cars, and so on into minutia. No matter how self aware and wholesome you may be, it is in our natures to devour all this information and internalize it. We compare ourselves, find desires we can't have, and vacations we can't take. You'll find something about yourself that is lacking, no matter what. This may motivate you or depress you, but either way you are starting your day with lack.

You. Are. Lacking. Nothing.

You don't need to buy anything, be anyone else, achieve anything wondrous, or take photos of your sushi to feel fulfilled. You don't need to start your day with ads telling you otherwise. You don't need to hear about Becky's toddler's gym pass. You don't need to get scared, angry, confused, or sad. And I really think forcing this level of socialization at the beginning and end of our days makes our lives worse. Let all that stuff come into your brain after you already took time for yourself to set your own mood, goals, gratitude and love for yourself that day. The planes still crashed and Steve still caught that giant bass, but you can wait till you remind yourself you already are perfection before you get into the shower... Start your day as a creator and not a consumer. Start it accepting, if only for a minute or two, that you're okay exactly as you are right now.

So here is what I'm proposing. I'm not saying you should avoid these sites but I am going to put a moratorium on them between the hours of 9PM and 9AM. Those 12 hours are the ends of my day, and since I am up several hours before 9 and go to bed several hours after nine - it means I am not bookending the dawn or dusk of my day with comparisons.

I know some of you will balk at this. You may love starting your day with the news (I'm not talking about weather, but news) or checking in with your tweets and wall. You don't feel that it effects you in any negative way. Great! Good for you! I still urge you to try this for three days, because even if you have nothing but fellow church members and family on Facebook the world of Social Media (and new media) is littered with ads, fluff stories, and the kind of stuff that crawls into your brain stem and can still poison you. Don't start your day with poison.

You have the entire day to read about horrors and tragedy. You can swing over to your favorite gossip site and diss celebrities and criticize novels after lunch. Can't wait to slam that new TV show in an Amazon review... how about you just shelf that till 9:01AM? Your morning is better than that, so is your evening. Make the commitment to create, love, thank, and praise in this time instead. You might discover you no longer have the desire to hurt when you take the time to heal instead.

So what to do with your free time? Now it's just you and the flaccid iPad at breakfast? How about watching, reading, or creating ANYTHING that puts you in a mood of happiness and gratitude. It doesn't have to be something new-agey and fluffy. I am talking basic. Avoid the news or that local columnist you can't stand and instead play your favorite bands' Tiny Desk Concert and dance in the kitchen. Put on a favorite movie that makes you laugh, and watch some of it while you sip your tea. Not into music or movies? Make that time a time for quiet and meditation. Read a favorite chapter from a novel you know by heart. Read a poem, pray to your God, or pet your dog and take a morning walk instead. Sit and count your breath and see if you can make yourself smile for one full minute. Get out a journal and write all the things you are so grateful to have in your life. Take that piece of paper and slip it into your pocket and carry it with you all day. Read anything that inspires you and makes you feel like anything is possible. Laugh at cat videos. Watch the birds at the feeder. It doesn't matter. Just don't start your day feeling lack. Start it loving.

It matters that the first thing you absorb in your day is something positive and empowering.  I know that social media can have things like that but it also has all the other  junk as well. You don't need to start your day going to a job you wish you could quit and first reading someone's update about how they just got a promotion and are moving to Bali to become a celebrity scuba instructor. Hell, you don't need to even hear about Linda's new Toyota Corolla. Why? That can all wait for after 9AM. You can start your day feeling that comparison and lack, a subtle self-flagellation, or choose to hold off until you took time to be quiet, grateful, smile and happy.

So that is my challenge. Can you give up social media, hard-hitting news, and any other sort of Lack Fishing at the beginning and end of your day? Can you start your day instead with a moment of thankfulness and joy and end your night without laying in bed wondering how you too can afford to take the family to DisneyWorld like the Stevensons? Just don't. End your day with laughter and love. Watch a comedy, have sex, prepare a meal, play a board game, high five fiends watching the game together with wings and beer... do anything but get sucked into that well of lack that is constant comparison.

What do you say? Can you try it for just three days?

I am going to try. I am going to start my days with music, creative writing, animals, design, and laughter. I will end my nights with friendship, comedy, and warmth. I have twelve hours between to read sad news stories, check all those social sites, and get distracted by Reddit AMAs. But I am taking back the hours from 9 to 9 and using those to make my own life one of bliss. And I bet if you make it three days you can make it a week. And if you can make it a week you may find yourself in a better place all together. How could you not be if every morning starts with a thankful heart and a reason to dance and every evening ends laughing?

So, Will you join me for the 9 to 9 Challenge?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

This Place is Growing Up!

When you start raising animals you usually start small. You add some laying hens to your backyard garden, perhaps a hive of bees. You learn about how easy and economical meat rabbits are and soon a few hutches show up in your backyard. Slowly you build not just a menu, but a little side income here and there. You may make money, trade your produce and eggs for things you need, or start a honey stand at the farmer's market. Then you are hooked. I know this, and have the original diagnose of the disease.

For most of us we start out with these animals as original, bought-in, stock. We buy a trio of rabbits from a local breeder, we order a package of bees from an apiary, we buy chicks from a hatchery or feed store. This is how we all get started, and how you should! But now a few years (nearly 5!) into building Cold Antler Farm here in Jackson I have realized very few stock is bought in anymore. The systems are now set to produce and for the most part have been very successful! I wanted to fill you in on what to expect this spring here at Cold Antler Farm.

Dairy & Soap
What started with a used goat bought from a local farm has turned into the farm's greatest livestock success story (well, second-greatest to Merlin!). Bonita was bought as a 5 year old doe, in milk, and the very first morning she arrived she was producing. I started making soap and cheese that year and the following year she produced her first kids, a set of twins in which I kept one to raise myself. Now that same goat is outside the farmhouse wither her (now grown and gorgeous!) daughter Ida Red. They are shacking up with a buck named Saturn and should be due to kid in May. The kids will be sold to whomever wants purebred French Alpines (email me if interested) and there could be up to four kids here for the Soap/Goat workshops! This will be Ida's first year kidding and Bonita's (third?!) year kidding here. I am darn proud of those kids, both their beauty and the fact that they are all in good homes or were raised for healthy meat for friends families. And this year with double the production I hope to have milk for barter and make A LOT more soap since this is a fun and easy project that sells great at workshops and events, making them not just a grocer but income earners for this farm.

Lamb & Wool
The flock that once numbered over a dozen is now a humble six. I have Sal the old whether (wool), two breeding Scottish Blackface ewes (Brick and Splitear), Last year's ewe lamb Devi, Joseph the black sheep (wool), and Monday the ram. Monday was born and raised here and is a GORGEOUS ram now with a thick build and a double curl to his horn. The sheep should lamb in March and I so look forward to Brick's babies! She is named that because she is built like a Brick Shithouse and her ram lamb (remember Wallace?!) from last year was so amazing. He was so braw and bold and it was a shame to see him sold to another farm. But this year if she produces a ewe that nice, oh man... There will be Scotties here for years to come!

Meat has been the main focus of sheep here now, and this past summer I had the first ever farm-raised sheep butchered for the freezer. He was small, but tasty. If I do get more ram lambs this year I will castrate them and raise them for food if none is interested in buying a ram for their own farm. I no longer produce wool unless I produce it all at the farm, by hand. I may again in the future but right now the skill I want to hone is taking the raw product and making clothing with it, right here, using the tools of hand-cards, wheel, and knitting needles. This year I plan to take Joseph's brown wool from sheep, to washed, to carded, to spun and then knit all by hand. I'll share the process too!

If you have been reading this blog then you know all about my home-brewed birds I named Antlerborns. These are an Auracana, Swedish Flower Hen, Pumpkin Hulsey crossbreed that is the toughest, smartest, more predator proof bird I ever had. They are vicious mothers and super protective of their young chicks. They roost 20-30 ft in the air - be it a barn roost or trees. I took  headcount yesterday and realized that 50% of my laying flock is now this homemade breed that I adore so much. They're even laying now in Winter's Bottom! I look forward to seeing plenty of their chicks this spring!

Three local families went in on a small poultry project this year. I am raising broilers on pasture with electric netting and/or portable tractors that are self contained. I have the land, love chicken, and so look forward to raising these birds (Freedom Rangers) right here and having Ben Shaw process them for the three pickup dates. These birds will be bought-in from the hatchery, but the layers seem to be something I will not have to order for a while. (Fingers crossed for Fisher Cats and other demons).

I started raising pigs a few years ago, with just one in the barn. Now I raise 8-10 a year and have a professional butcher come to the farm and dispatch and prepare the meat for me and the folks who co-own the pigs. While I do not breed pigs, I AM considering it for a future project when I get the old collapsed barn I inherited with this property cleaned out and made into a proper large pen. I would love to raise pigs and that is a goal for certain! Right now there are four out in the woods in a  paddock/shelter area near the horse pole barn.  I was out in the snow this morning (before coffee!) digging out their fence and bringing in fresh bedding and feed. They are a jolly lot. They aren't due to be butchered for another 6-8 weeks though, and probably will be done 2 at a time.

There are a breeding pair of heritage birds, a Bronze Tom and a Bourbon Red hen. I am really hoping that this is the year they set up to breed and brood their own clutch. I am a little wary of this, but if it happens I will let the mama do all the work. It will mean having a totally predator safe coop for them at night and that means repairs in the floor of the old chicken coop no one uses anymore since the geese sleep in the barn, the turkeys roost on the barn roof, and the Antlerborns all roost up in the rafters of the barn or trees.

Got a pregnant rabbit outside the farmhouse right now! She's from Livingston Brook Farm and is a Giant Chin who was bred with a Flemish Giant.  Hoping to raise a brand new crop of meat rabbits this spring! Though, being her first litter it may not take or she may not have the mothering thing down pat. But she is one handsome rabbit for sure.

Last year was a BUMPER CROP and honey was available for trade and barter at my farm. I have to get a new package of bees this year, and will order it from Better Bee for the spring. I hope to expand to two hives soon! And onward from there!

Oh yes, there will be kale. There will be kale and an expanded vegetable garden and potato patch. Gardening is not my passion but I sure do crave it soon as March comes around the corner and gets day up into the high 50s. This year the focus is on hearty, storage, winterizing food. It'll be a working garden with kale, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, squash, garlic, kale, salad greens, more potatoes, pumpkins and MORE KALE.

Let us not forget the Fell! Merlin is here and such a wonderful gelding. He is right now the only equine here but I am on the lookout for another small draft or spunky pony to be a second saddle and driving horse. No leads yet but there will be more horseflesh here or certain. I had to sell the meadow brook on Christmas Eve but I will find another small cart for Merlin and we'll hit the road again for sure, but in the meantime it is riding that I love most and miss it dearly. This mountain is too darn icy and steep for safe winter riding, and the safe trails I could go on are being used by local snowmobilers. I can't complain, since it is private property I am allowed to ride on all the other seasons!

Wow. I just stopped to look over that list. That is a lot for a little piece of land to produce, and not just for myself either like it used to be. Now neighbors and friends can split shares of pigs, chickens, or trade for eggs and soap. There are lambs and kids for sale, honey in jars, and a freezer with meat and vegetables. There is fiber and firewood, stories and songs, and workshops with friends new and old. It's a damn wealthy little plot of backwoods, innit?

Time to celebrate all that with another cup of coffee.
(Don't tell the pigs, though)

Snow Keeps on Coming!

The snowfall this morning was around four inches, and that meant heading outside before coffee to take care of the fences and critters. Merlin seems to prefer this spot close to the house and has refused to go into his pole barn shelter. I guess I can't blame him, I mean, with a winter coat that thick the weather can't be that much of a bother. I like his moxie.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Community. The Whole Story.

So a reader emailed me today to tell me that she is no longer going to read or support Cold Antler. She felt I was expecting too much support from outside sources and wasn't a "homesteader" anymore, based on my lack of winter preparedness. I would like to address this here and now.

While it is none of my business if you do or do not read this blog, it is my business to explain why you don't hear about what I do for others. The reason: privacy and humility. I will never write about the things I do for others who do not want their lives public on the internet. Nor will I share the things I didn't write about because I was too tired from a day of moving 300 bales of hay, butchering someone else's chicken dinner, or was worried talking about helping others was bragging. I was told by a good friend in college "It's not charity if you tell everyone you did it so you can feel better about yourself, that's masturbation." I agree.

To write about the help I get, like in the last 2 vlogs, takes humility and a lack of fear of peer opinion. To write about helping others in a modern world means needing permission, and taking the risk of looking like an arrogant piece of crap.

The email seemed to think that my farm was constantly accepting charity from friends. The reason I have friends who are so kind is because I always do my level best to be as good a friend in return. These people do not have blogs (well, two of them do) and do not write about me buying a personal possession of theirs so they can purchase 20 bales of hay. They do not write about me watching their farms during a funeral, helping clean and cook, herding their turkeys, delivering shots or medicine to stock, sharing supplies and knowledge, or a whole afternoon of physical effort like putting up bales or butchering chickens. You might hear about it from me if I have been granted permission from the parties involved or if you are in our friend loop on Facebook, but besides that all you ever see publicly is my gratitude.

As for winter preparedness - I have never been as prepared for winter as I am now. I have 3 cords of wood outside (damp but there!). I have several "hay banks" where hay is stored for me since I don't have storage. While there are days I need to go an pick up more, it is there and my animals have NEVER missed a single meal. Ever. I did not ask for the gift of the firewood in the last videos posted, it was gifted by friends who had no fireplace or wood stove and wanted to visit/deliver it. Why? Because we are friends who share meals, games, and stories together.

I am a public person who shares a very, very, small part of this story. Unless you are a part of my life you do not know 80% of what happens here in the community, among friends, and on this farm. I am also a person who feels people should be thanked when they help me and the farm. But the reason I have this support to begin with is because of the cycle of support this community has built. I am a part of that community. Damned proud to be. And what I ask for as a blogger is some fair understanding that you only see the vulnerable writer who writes/vlogs only at her most emotional times in her life, good or bad, and not the entire picture of everyday life.

That said. Big plans for this summer. BIG PLANS. Poultry and pigs, workshops and books being published, stories and songs, camps and archery. There is a large story here and I will do my best to tell the whole of it better. Perhaps that email is my own fault, for only showing that side of it during this emotional time in my life? For that is something I remedy now.

photo by Tara Alan of

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vlog Update!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Forgotten Holidays

This storm hit hard. Snow started last night and just stopped an hour ago. I have not been this tired in a long time, not like this. A full day of shifts involving the cycle of shoveling paths to the animals, feeding, shoveling out pens and raking roofs, clearing electric fencing from snow cover, and carrying around extra bedding and feed. I didn't get a single piece of creative writing or design minute in. Today was just about the storm. I am glad they are so rare.

It's a holiday for this little farm, and I feel a tad disappointed I didn't have time to appreciate it properly. It's Imbolc, Brigit's Day. Brigit is and always has been my patron. Well, since I was 17 at least. She's always watching over this hearth, this farm, this heart. And today is hers, at least to some of us. It's also day celebrating this middle point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. It's a day to sit down, take stock in the growing daylight, and focus on healing and home. I didn't have time for naval gazing or reading from old books, but I suppose I did spend the entire day in service to this farm, my home. I am proud of this tired body and the animals outside, who are all braw beasts.

I am heading to bed early, but wanted to check in and let you guys know all is fine, the storm has passed, and I am already tucked under the covers before 9PM. It was a good day. I can thank Brigit for that.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Vlog!

We Won An Award!

The readers of the amazing online homesteading magazine: From Scratch, have chosen Cold Antler Farm as a favorite homesteading blog! There will be a feature about me in the next issue along with the other nine winners. What an honor and if you voted for me, thank you! I don't think I ever posted on the blog about this contest so that fact I was even nominated was a big, wonderful, surprise!

In other news: Big Storm on the way and my friends and neighbors are amazing. All about it later tonight via vlog by fireside.