Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How To Tell It's Spring

This morning before evening chores I was sipping some coffee and checking in with Gibson. I was coddling the oaf with pillow talk in front of the wood stove, petting him while he ate his breakfast of pain medication and kibble. He slept through the whole night on the floor with me again, without any shaking or panting. Soon as he was done eating I let him into the crate while I turned to head outside to do chores without him. He knew, and seemed to whimper a little but what could I do? Doctor's orders = low activity, medication, and rest. The only way for him to rest when I am not with him in the house is crate confinement.

I told him it would be okay and turned towards the glass doors of the farmhouse. I watched a cloud fly by the large windows. A cloud of wool and horns and hooves and chicken feed thievery. Ah yes, the sights of spring... sheep escapes. I let out a sigh and headed outdoors.

It didn't take long to bribe them with some grain. I missed Gibson's assistance for sure. Gibson is no stellar trial dog but when sheep are on the move he is as useful as shoes. I was able to get them back in the fence, check the wiring, check the charger and all seemed well so I went about chores and then headed inside to work on a logo for a client. An few hours later I decided I needed to move so I suited up for a two-mile jog. So I checked on the sheep and saw them all laying down in their deep bedded hay at the base of their hill, happily behind the three strands of electric wire and decidedly not escapees. The weather was nice, if overcast, and I liked getting all worked up as I puffed up the mountain like the draft pony I am. Only when I returned to my driveway I noticed little sheep turds heading up the road in the opposite direction that I headed on my jog. Oh boy.

I grabbed another bucket and walked up the road. I found them all in my neighbor's driveway: lambs, rams, ewes and yearling. They came bounding down the mountain and walked behind me in a way that made me wish it was in slow motion, Reservoir-Dogs Style. This Time I decided it was time to up the ante with a better charger. I went into town and got a more powerful one at the hardware store and made sure it was working with a fence tester. It was! And I headed inside to get back to office work, delayed but eager to work on the second design job of the day.

It only took a few hours for Brick, my brawest ewe, to realize with her head down and good running start she could bust through the wire and barely feel a shock with her thick coat. So, I gathered them up again, said a prayer for Gibson's speedy recovery, and turned the fence from a three strand into a tighter five-strand affair. My fingers are crossed but until I see them smote by the new banjo-strung fence I am not planning on wandering too far from the property.

So, warm enough weather for sheep to clear fences? Yup. It's spring. I emailed Jim McRae (my Shearer since my first three sheep in Vermont) and asked for an appointment soon as he could fit me in!

P.S. Thank you all for the kind words, messages, emails, vlog and blog comments about Gibson. He is able to walk but he can't run without pain and of course, isn't. He's been spending a lot of time in his crate with the door open while I write or design. He is on these pain meds that I think bother his stomach a little so he sleeps much of the day. By the end of this week I will know if he needs X-rays or blood tests. We (the vet and I) think it is a sprain but if it is related to his anaplasmosis then it may require more bloodwork or meds. I am hoping this is all a matter of time, rest, and healing.

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Vlog: Gibson's Hurt

Antique & Handmade Yard Sale!

I am offering these items up for sale to help with Gibson's bills at the vet. I am not listing prices, just email me if you are interested in making an offer on any of the items. I will accept the highest reasonable offer on each item. If no one does buy them I will post them on Ebay.

The first item is an antique NY State License Plate, celebrating the World's Fair! It is not a reproduction, but the actual plate created in the 1930's. It is a single plate, it doesn't have a partner.

The next item on the Yard Sale is Merlin's Harness Bells! These are brass bells, and have been worn by Merlin for Christmas Parades here in Washington County or attached to his cart and harness while on drives down the road. A beautiful sound, actually used on a draft horse, and would make a beautiful decoration for your own horse or home!

This is a leather hawk hood I made myself! It is calf leather and hand sewn, with goretex cinches on the back. It doesn't come with the plaster stand but would look nice in a display case if the idea of a homesteader's handmade hawk hood is something you would want to display!? It's special, but I would happily mail it your way - I can make more hoods but not more Gibson!

This here bobcat is nicknamed Dead Cat, here at the farm. Gibson considers this critter his arch nemesis. The taxidermy isn't exactly amazing work, but it IS Gibson's least favorite dead animal on the wall. He would be relieved to stop barking at it every day. Make an offer! (Scarf not included).

Arrows Rising Sale:

To also help out with Gibson's bills I will offer these two spots at a huge discount, instead of $350 a person, it will be $200 a person for 2 days of small group instruction and your own longbow. Sign up for 2 people for the price of $375! Since the bows are here and paid for I can eat the cost to make the workshop sale, and it will help this farm very much! Learn a skill, too!

Back From The Vet

Before the vet's even pulled into the office's parking lot, I was there waiting with Gibson. On the short ride down the mountain to the clinic Gibson would occasionally yelp in pain he couldn't take the road bumps and swaying of the car. I started crying, because I love this dog more than makes sense. You can walk up to me and say horrible things. You can punch me in the face. You can threaten, libel, and kick me when I am down and I will not flinch - but watching Gibson confused and in such pain had me unable to stop the tears. I explained to the tech's what happened and they got us in to a room right away. I carried him out of the car and brought him inside. 59 pounds never felt so light. There was a soft blanket on the ground and Gibson curled onto it, shaking.

After the vet and I talked she did a full physical on him. He growled and bared his teeth until we placed a towel gently over his head with him in my lap. Then he let the Doctor inspect his every joint and muscle. Paws, ACL, all was fine until she got to his hip bones. He winched in pain as she extended his leg and at that point she was fairly certain it was a hip injury and not a tick born or bacteria infection. His panting, lack of appetite, and shaking were from the intense pain. He was given an injection of pain medication then, and also a half liter of fluids injected into the skin behind his neck - in case of any dehydration since he was not touching food or water since the injury.

I left with a dog with a humpback like a bison, a vile of pills, and a dog on the mend. I wrote them the check and even with the surprise visit, fluid injection, pills, and a good hour and a half in the office it was reasonable and that was a relief too. How lucky am I to have such great vets literally just down the road? As for Gibson? He can't do any outdoor work, jump up on beds or couches, or do much more than rest on his medication. It's going to be harder on him than any pain, having to stay at home, but it is for the best. If he doesn't mend in a week or so, that means X-rays, bloodtests, etc. But I am praying for a quick recovery.

P.S. I am going to post some items up here later today for a yardsale, to help cover the vet bill(s). Check back for some antiques and cool items you can grab, and help with mending this cu.

Worried About Gibson

I'm very worried about Gibson. Last night after regular chores, running in the mud, and being a normal farm dog he tried to jump up on the couch and yelped in pain. Then he started shivering all over and panting fast. He can not put any weight on his rear besides standing up and walking on them. So he can't lift himself up to put his paws on your chest or hug. He will not eat. He is only licking ice cubes and won't drink. Last night I slept with him on the floor and he slept without shaking but as soon as morning came and he was up to pee outside, he started shaking all over again and panting. I am taking him to the vet of course, but does anyone know what this is? Or have they experienced it with their dogs?

TL,DR: Shivering, rear leg pain, sudden loss of appetite in dog.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Music to Lamb's Ears!

There is a small Fiddle Camp today, and Victory the lamb is taking lessons with us! He has been enjoying wobbling around fiddle cases and listening to first-time musicians play Ida Red here in the farmhouse. It's been windy and cold and snowing all day (yuck) but inside their is a fire, fluffy babes, new music, and those wonderful squeaks and squawks!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Boghadair at the Window

Photo by Chris C.

Mulder Season

Mud Season is here. The ice on the mountain is finally melting and I can walk around and do the daily chores with my rubber boots touching honest earth. Last night I fell asleep to the sound of rain, with the windows open, next to the wood stove. I can not tell you how excited this made me. I fell asleep with the realization that many women my age fall asleep dreaming of husbands or children. I fell asleep hugging Gibson and could not stop grinning because the X-files is coming back for six episodes. I mean, it's the end of winter, Mulder and Scully will be back to their capers, and rain is falling on black soil - so many promises. Life is great.

Special Offer For 2

So if you read the last post then you know about Arrow's Rising. I have already purchased five longbows for the event, and I have 2 extra longbows here and in stock. I am willing to offer a discount of $100 off the price of this camp if two folks folks sign up together for the 2-day workshop (still comes with longbow) and I will throw in a set of hand and arm protection for each person as well!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Farriers & Saddles

Dave—my farrier and the horseman I respect above all others—came yesterday to check in with Merlin. He trimmed up his hooves in the driveway,  checked over his body condition, and smiled at the growing piles of shed mastodon fur raining around him as he worked. I guess farriers are used to turning into the color of the spring horses they are working on?  It was a fine visit and like every time he comes to Cold Antler, I feel lucky to have met the man. He is the reason I have the confidence to ride a half ton of draft horse into the woods alone. He is the reason I know how to take control of a nervous horse. He's my Equine Sage. I can not say enough good things about the man, or about mentors in general. You want to get into horses? Find someone who does what you want to do with them, shut up, and listen. That's been my plan and it's been a godsend!

I talked to him about his opinion on worming (which I do in the fall and spring) and about how often he takes his favorite mare out for a ride. He's an archer as well, so we talk bows and practice ranges and he gets to brag on his granddaughters. Smiles all around, guys. He was happy to Merlin a little chunky coming out of winter but not hay bloated and languid. He checked him over and told me I had one fine horse. My knees gave out a little. I mean,  a lot of people have nice things to say about the beast but when Dave tells me my horse is dapper, I glow. After the hoof work was done he took Merlin out into the road to show me some new training techniques. He is a magician with this horse, understanding horses in ways that will take me decades in the saddle. When all was done I had a well behaved gentleman at the end of my lead rope. I thanked Dave, wrote out the check, and told him he didn't charge enough. He smiled and thanked me.

Since Merlin was out of his paddock, all trimmed up and brushed out, I got my saddle and tacked him up. I had not ridden him since December and missed it all over. I missed it with my head, heart, and body. We only walked, trotted, and cantered on the paved road outside my house but just learning my seat again, feeling the communication in leg and hand, and hugging his sides felt as wonderful as this spring's rain.

Today I took Merlin out again for a ride and we went a little farther. We full out galloped for a little and I got to feel the way wind feels seven feet in the air again. What a rush. I can't believe I waited until I was 30 to own that feeling.

Anyone else out there getting back into spring riding? Maybe some of you are lucky enough not to live on an ice covered mountain! If so, tell me about your steeds and trails!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

You Don't Deserve a Farm

So you want to have a farm? You know this. You know it as sure as you know you love coffee and petrichor. It's all you think about. It's all you dream about. It's all you can do to at work to keep homesteading sites off your computer screen. You subscribe to magazines that confuse the mailman. You collect hatchery and seed catalogs the way other people collect take-out menus. This is not just a passing fad, fantasy crush, or a daydream. You're into it. This is who you are.

And since we live in such a technological age where everyday people can post their stories, photos, and experiences with the entire world you have proof positive it can happen to people like you. Your bookshelf is overflowing with fish-out-of-water new farmer memoirs. There are blogs and Instagram feeds where favorite first-date sweaters from the city are turning into chore clothes. Maybe if all this evidence wasn't constantly being presented to you, you might be able to shrug off the idea of a farm as eccentric wanderlust. But you can't. Not anymore. The idea of getting backyard chickens, a share of a pig, or starting a veggie garden where the front lawn usually resides is happening everywhere. You want it, too.

And if you are anything like me you can't hide it. You just can't. What you love is what you are and so slowly more plaid shirts and jeans creep into your casual friday wardrobe. Your old Chuck Taylors are growing mold in the closest while Muck Boots become your new weekend kicks. Books on Nigerian Dwarf Goats and applications to the Rabbit Breeders Association of America pile up on your coffee table. Friends are raising eyebrows. Family is concerned. You were always farm-curious but suddenly the pride parade is out in full force.

But you don't have a farm, not yet. You are still getting up at 5:45 to get ready for your day job. You have not sold your house, you have not ended the lease on your apartment, and you have not looked into Farm Insurance. You are still writhing in that wonderful torture that is wanting something close enough to touch but seemingly impossible to have. Probably, because you lack support. Certainly, because you listen to the wrong people.

As someone who has hopped over the fence from wanting to having, I am going to share with you this horrible truth: whatever amount of passion drives you to succeed there will always be people with equal passion hoping that you fail. They will drive into your head at every available moment that you don't deserve a farm.

Do not believe them.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not believe them. I am telling you this from the front lines. I am telling you this from a farm I bought and have managed to keep for five years and counting. I am telling you this as a woman who is fighting every day to be a better person, live an authentic life, and be a self-employed artist on 6.5 acres of hope and force. I am not rich, I am not smart but I am stubborn and I'd rather be that than anything else in this world. Determination buys farms. Banks just hold paper people pretend matters.

So don't believe them! I don't care what your income is today. I don't care how much land you have today. I don't care if you're a 19-year-old in a college dorm in Chicago. Do not believe them. They are Agents of Caution* and Wardens of Complacency. They are jealous of your restart button. They are terrified they can't find theirs. They are barking dogs in the background of a movie about wolves. And know these people are not bad people. Some may love you very much, others may claim to love animals very much and don't want a beginner raising them. They want you to be "realistic" and "honest" about your abilities. They want you to have a business partner, or save 25 grand first, or wait until you retire. the list is longer than winter. Fuck that.

Listen, for many people happiness is another word for peer-approved solvency. They see going after dreams as either irresponsible, selfish, or self-destructive. They are probably right, but so what? SO WHAT! It is YOUR life.

I will share the best advice I ever heard on wanting a life you don't have; If you are okay with ending up living under a bridge instead of giving up on the thing you love, than you should probably be doing that thing.* I am one of the Bridge People. You need to be if you want to live any sort of Creative Life, and in many cases, any sort of Agricultural Life full time. I am 100% certain I would rather end up starving under a bridge than give up this amazing life I have created for myself. Which is why I never will give it up. Which is why I am still here, writing to you on a weekday morning, waiting for the farrier to come and trim my pony's hooves. That sentence was impossible to me a handful of years ago. Now it's Tuesday.

Want to make people despise you? Live like this. Some folks will admire you, others will watch the train teeter as it rattles by towards its final destination to wreck or roundhouse. Others will raise pitchforks and torches, absolutely certain you are cheating at life. Either way, mostly everyone will be uncomfortable around you. This doesn't make you exceptional or better, but it does make you part of a tribe that creators leaders or fools and nothing in-between. Man up and own that. Chief or Idiot, you're one of us.

And know people who are either too scared, too threatened, or too confused by your choices will attack you. They may be people who love you, that share your bed, or live block away. They may be neighbors, in-laws, or strangers on the internet. Listen to them but listen through a pane of glass. Don't let the spit from their maw fleck onto your brow. Their may be wisdom there but choosing your dream life isn't about wisdom, it's about courage. The wisdom comes later when you are trying to keep it.

Look at Josh at West Wind Acres going to court tonight to defend his farm from 12 accounts of animal abuse? He chose to leave a job he hated for one that made him and his family free. Someone hated that about him and all it took was a pointed finger to make his life hell. I don't know why they pointed or what happened to cause the pointing—but I am100% sure whoever turned him in for "animal abuse" was not a happy person living their best life.

What kind of person turns in a farmer with obvious support and validation? People who are angry. People who are ignorant. People who are so goddamned terrified of their own life they need constant distraction from it. Feel bad for these people, but do not let them penetrate your hide. Wolves eat dogs.

My support goes out to Joshua tonight. My support goes out to you. I say that here from my little farm soapbox because it's everything I am and will defend it with such vicious love you better be wearing armor if you try to take it from me. What is happening to the Rockwoods could just as easily be happening to me. For that reason it IS happening to me, just as it is happening to everyone out here raising livestock to the best of our abilities while cowards make phone calls in the dark. Support them tonight, support yourselves, and don't ever be ashamed to be one of the Bridge People fighting every day to make your life what you dream. Ever.

It is occasionally going to be very hard.
It is always going to be worth it.

*Dan Harmon's words, quote.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Green Again

So it will be eight degrees tonight, after a week of nearly forty degree temps and melting snow. Spring is slowly approaching but it is taking a break tonight. So the fires are lit and I spent a few moments after chores tonight looking at these photos of the past summer. I know it's trite to say, but can you believe it was once so GREEN?! It lifts me up knowing more days like this are on the way.

The lamb I have been bottle feeding has become a fixture here at the farm, and sleeps next to the bed in a dog crate at night. Friends at Taekwondo named him Victory, and he certainly is. He is happy, healthy, and sold to a friend's farm. He'll go there after he is weaned and by the time all this year's lambs are off to their new farms the world will be green again.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Letting Go

After two seasons and so many lessons, I am proud to announce that Italics will be released soon, maybe as soon as tomorrow. He was my first ever Falconry bird and we spent a good time together over the past two years hiking, hunting, training and flying. Because of him I made so many new friends, learned so much about raptors and rabbits, and have a community close by that cares so much about these animals and the people who tend them. I'll trap a new bird in the fall and start all over, but I am happy to be releasing this healthy, strong, adult bird back into the local breeding population here in New York. He's one of the lucky ones, to make it this far. I am luckier to have shared a bit of the sky with him.

Photo by Miriam Romais

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Vlog! Get Your Goat!

Something Wicked West Wind Comes...

If you are involved in agriculture or local food here in the Upstate Hudson area, than you already know about the story of West Wind Acres. It's a pasture-based meat farm, ran by a gentleman named Joshua Rockwood. This man is currently facing upwards of 12 charges of animal neglect and cruelty for raising animals in New York, in winter, outside. What did he do that was so atrocious? He had unlicensed livestock guardian dogs and the stream his livestock drank out of required the animals to stick their snouts through the snow and a thin layer of ice to drink on the freezing cold day the police showed up. Also, water had been frozen in dog bowls because they visited his farm in the late afternoon, long after morning chores when the water was thawed. That's what they discovered: dogs without tags and the temperature. You can read the entire story on Josh's Blog.

Doesn't sound like a big deal? Well it is. Soon after this visit the police arrived with a warrant and seized his horses and dogs. It didn't matter that he called a local vet to publicly post a letter that all the animals were healthy and fine. It didn't matter that the person who he adopted the dog from also spoke on his behalf. All animals passed their hydration tests. Locals, farmers, and customers are rallying to support him because they actually know him, know the farm, and know the animals. Regardless of all this support - the government came and took away his property because someone felt the need to make this man, and his two son's and wife, life a living hell. Now the man is facing court, charges of abuse, and has had his animals taken away.

How did this happen? Some one called the authorities on him. I do not know who did this, but since his farm is in a more suburban/city area many suspect that a neighbor called Animal Control on him because his animals were "outside" in winter. Police came to his home and were allowed by Joshua to search his farm without a warrant. Why did he let them? Because Josh, like many of us raising animals up here, are students of farms such as Polyface, which welcomes guests to visit and see the farm for themselves. Josh felt he had nothing to hide and was proud of his farm. He should be. He had the bravery to leave his old job in construction and do the hard work of networking, marketing, and starting a CSA to support his family. And he is doing it based on grass-fed, outside, transparent methods - the kind of farming we desperately need in this county. And he is now on figurative thin
ice because of literal thin ice. His reputation, his business, his farm is now part of an animal right's witch hunt. The sad part is the people screaming at him with pitchforks and rope mostly have no idea what goes into farming at all. They are white noise.

I have had animal control called on myself once and it was like a punch in the stomach. I wrote about it my book Barnheart. A neighbor who knew absolutely nothing about livestock watched my animals while I visited my family for Thanksgiving. I came home to a note on my front door stating that my farm was deplorable because November rains had caused her to need to wear muck boots to feed the chickens (dirty) , the geese had just hatched a half dozen goslings (illegal breeding operation), and the three sheep were pooping on the grass several hundred feet above ground water (poisoning local resources). If you knew nothing about me at all and heard that a local farmer was raising animals in a dirty place, running an underground breeding operation and poisoning water you would think I was a monster. The officer came and ended up apologizing me me instead. He said my animals were all in fine condition, there was not a single violation, and if the person complained about me again they would be considered a public nuisance. I'll never forget how he explained to me that in his line of work he sees truly horrible things. He was angry that he had to drive out to my place on a Saturday, waste his time, taxpayer money, and ton resources based on one ignorant person with an agenda.

Listen, farming isn't an act of perfection. Some days are horribly hot and humid, others are bitter cold. Guess what? On those days us farmers are ALSO hot and humid or bitterly cold. We are the ones outside driving tractors to make ice breaks in streams and carrying buckets to animals when pipes freeze. WE are the ones making sure that there isn't a sign of discomfort or pain in the animals we care for. WE are the ones who put ourselves out there online, in blogs, and in farmer's markets to bring a life, story, and product we are passionate about to our communities. And doing that doesn't mean our farms have to look like the adorable little displays at the county fair to be legit or "ethical". Real farms have more going on than just a half dozen show hogs in the barn or a handful of hens in a heated, painted, coop. Real farms care about things like body condition, hydration, infections, and consistent care. Joshua runs a real farm. Don't go to it and expect to see Martha Stewart's barn. Go to it and expect healthy animals, scrappy conditions, and a family starting a business of good food in a culture where reputation and community ends all.

Here is what is going to happen to Joshua and his family. His court date on the 24th will be full of supporters and friends. The charges will be dropped. His business will grow in support and appreciation. I have reached out to him as have so many local farmers in our area. And even though this is a horrible thing to suffer through, the silver lining is that hundreds of locals who care about ethical food and small businesses will now know about another producer in the area. He is getting a lot of attention, and he should. And it is important that those of us out there raising animals rally to support each other in such times. So reach out on Facebook, twitter, and his blog. If you can go to the hearing, go. All of us are in this together. And while I think good farms with transparency will win in the end, for the now, don't let anyone EVER search your property without a warrant. Have a local ag lawyer's number on hand, and keep your chin up.

Keep farming Josh. We've got your back.

For anyone looking for legal aid in similar situations please contact the fine people at the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund and The Calvary Group. Both are stopping the overreach of government and extremists from infringing on Constituntional rights to farm, own animals, and raise good food.

photo of cattle is from Josh's website.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Keep Going

All this cold winter, this photo rested in the space behind my steering wheel. It was a photo my folks took on one of their visits to the farm, and they printed and mailed it to me in a card. It reminded me of summer, but more importantly it reminded me of them.

Winters are not hot cocoa and oversized sweaters for me anymore. There are not ski trips and dogsledding runs like they once held. They are something to get through. Something to congratulate yourself on if you make it. With summer finding his way slowly back to us, I feel like I am on the edge again of making it. I think I will.

Weird Birds

I'd like to share a story about some odd birds. See, here at Cold Antler there are plenty of hens and roosters but that isn't all the avian creatures by a long shot. There are geese and turkeys that call this farm theres, too. Occasionally I'll raise some ducks (especially if I am training a border collie to herd), and all this is fine and normal. I am as used to having poultry around the house as grass on the lawn, but some of these birds are starting to act a little strange. I don't know if it is the warmer weather or the urge to start getting into the family way, but they are starting to get creepy.

For example: This morning I woke up to a turkey (Lucas) staring into the house, right against the glass sliding doors. Not all that strange, since he has always had a habit of being a voyeur like that. What I didn't expect was to shake my head at him, smile, and walk into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee and look out that window to see Cyrus the goose staring in at me. He was at my head level, standing on a pile of slowly melting roof-fallen snow. This one made me jump. You just don't expect to have a goose staring at you. So now, as far as I know, two species are planning their attack on the fort.

I brushed this off and started the coffee. The whole time I was grinding beans and getting the percolator ready the goose just stared in and if I poked my head into the living room, the tom was still there - showing off his feathers like a cheap date. I got the coffee going and called Gibson to come outside with me to feed the horses and sheep (always chore one of the morning) and standing right in front of me was Quark the rooster, just watching the front door, probably wondering why he doesn't get fireside accommodations every night anymore. At this I threw up my hands, you guys know that saying, right? What happens twice will happen a third time, and there he was. Gib slunk int a crouch and herded him off in a fuss of clucking and pride and I walked to the truck to grab some flakes off one of the bales I grabbed from Common Sense Farm yesterday.

Within twenty minutes all the birds stopped being creeps, but I got to say - livestock staring in your windows at dawn is a little weird. Either that or they just know where the food person sleeps and are patiently awaiting service? If it keeps up I am going to prove it with photographic evidence. Anyone else have critters that start your morning that way?!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Logos for the Win!

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you may remember the abscessed tooth I had a few weeks back? Several Dentist and Oral Surgeon visits later - the infection is treated and the pain is gone. I am so relieved to share that, and so grateful for my local dental superheroes. But I don't have health insurance or dental insurance and the last step in this problem is getting the root canal, which will be in two weeks if I can earn up the cash for it. While this couldn't come at a tougher time - my truck needs several hundred dollars in repairs to pass inspection. My goal is to sell enough logos to have a repaired tooth and a repaired truck.

So to help earn that money and get the work done, I am offering a sale on my logos for folks willing to wait until April for me to start them. If you ever wanted professionally designed branding for your cottage industry or small business, consider hiring me. I have done several dozen logos just this year. If you are wondering what a logo costs - this website describes it. But know my prices are in the "offshore" category.

How does it work? You email me with your interest and explain the feel of your brand. What you want a logo to look like? You send samples of logos you appreciate and would like to emulate. Then I put you on the design schedule and you will soon receive a sheet of comps for the first stab at your logo. We work back and forth until you are happy. There is no hourly rate. This is good and bad - good because you will never be charged for extra hours that go into this design if you aren't happy with the first 40 versions. However, it means working on it when I am able to. Which means a logo can take anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks. I have sent first stabs and had clients thrilled. I have also worked back and forth into minutia and still have logos to do from January.

Okay, so email me if you are interested. A logo is not cheap but neither was the 4 years it took to get my BFA in Communication Design, and my resume includes work for several large corporations. So If you are looking for a cool, unique, piece of marketing for your business, a tee shirt design for your family reunion, a club logo for your dog training team, or design to get turned into a sticker for your pickup truck - ask this girl.  Logos also make great gifts! You can give a logo design gift certificate to your sister in Ohio who just started selling her homemade jams. You could gift a logo for your father in law who is getting something printed on the side of his work truck. I am designing tattoos, posters for plant sales, and church picnics. All money goes towards fixing my tooth and getting this farm as solvent as possible going into spring. If you have no interest, perhaps you could share this with someone who might? I would appreciate that very much.


There are spaces left for this Fiddle Camp, coming up March 28th and 29th. If you ever wanted to learn an instrument and have a few days to come and visit the farm, meet the animals, cuddle with gibson and start learning to teach yourself a musical instrument - there is still time to let me know, get a spot, and for me to order your fiddle. The May camp is totally full for the one day event, but this workshop is wide open and I will offer a sale price for anyone who comes with a friend, child, or spouse. And if fiddles don't do it for you there are plenty of workshops on everything from soap making to archery. You can buy season passes as well and come to all workshops all year long for the price of just a few.

And if you have no interest in a logo, a workshop, or anything like that at all - you can always support the farm by choosing to subscribe to it via Paypal. The blog is always free but this kind of online busking lets you choose to automatically pay 5 bucks a month for the content you get here. It is voluntary, so only subscribe if you want to and can afford to do so - but man does it make a difference when readers say you're worth five bucks a month - to the spirit and the work.

Thanks for your time. Really, thank you.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Gibson turned five today, and it has been fives years of amazed gratitude that this dog is a part of my life. I'm not sure if it is because he is the first dog I ever raised from a puppy, or if it's the fact he came into my life during these personal hardships, or if it's because he is the mascot of this whole dream? It is probably all these things.

We are never apart long and when he isn't with me, I do not feel whole.  We wake up together, do farm chores together, and I have never spent more than a handful of hours away from him. He is the single more solid part of my life. If anyone ever did anything to hurt this dog I would be in prison for what happens next.

We are such a pairing that he goes with me everywhere—not just around the farm and town, but everywhere. He sleeps in the lobby of my Tae kwon Do School. He came to court tonight with me over a traffic ticket. He is known at my bank, hardware store, bookstore and pretty much any place that I can bring him into. He is asleep beside me right now as I type. We share a bed, a farm, and many meals - driving in our dented pickup around Veryork. I know this is a tired phrase but this dog is my best friend, my favorite person, my shoulder to cry on, my kitchen dancing partner, my bedtime story and morning light. To some of you that may sound sad. It isn't.

Gibson, I love you.  I love you right now and I have loved you every day of your life.

I know some people don't like dogs, never want to own a dog, or care about them much at all. I feel like I have more in common with Bonobos than those people. I can't think of a sadder way to live in this world than living it so alone. It is a relationship born out of common progress. We are pack animals that hunt by daylight. The oldest partnership our species know. How lucky am I to know this animal? May I be lucky for many, many, more years.

They aren't angels. They're far better.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The BabySitter

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Goats & Soap Workshops!

For the past few years this farm has hosted an event called Goats & Soap. It is a two-part workshop that starts here at the farm making milk-based soap from scratch and meeting the goats that make it happen. We go through the safety, tools, ingredients and process of making a lye and milk soap and we get to meet my little mother/daughter herd. After lunch we venture to my goat mentor’s farm, Common Sense Farm, three miles south of my place right in Cambridge NY. Yesheva, is there as the goddess of all things Caprine and she knows goats folks. She goes through everything from what to look for in breeding stock, to feed and housing, to bucks and mating season. She is patient and calm and wonderful as an asset. She even has goats for sale sometimes from her herd.

This year I am offering that workshop again, after the kids are due in May. But I will also be offering a version that is JUST soapmaking and stays here on the farm for a lower price. If you are interested in either then here are the dates and times! Sign up over email at jenna@itsafarwalk.com

Soapmaking 101
July 18 2015
Jackson, NY

Goats & Soap
July 19 2015
10AM - 5PM
Jackson NY

P.S. I have updated all the workshops in the link on the right, and if you are around this weekend... I have one spot, one whistle, and ONE songbook extra for any last minute musicians out there? Want to learn the tin whistle with friends this Saturday, 12-4pm at the farm! I have three folks coming and can fit one more person in. Details in this link!

Vlog Update: Adult Diapers & Lambs!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Quiet Chicken, She's onto us...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Puzzle

This morning I walked up the hill to check on the lambs I was worried about, the ones out of Split Ear. I had a warm bottle of milk replacer and a tube of lamb paste in my pocket. As soon as I made my way up the hill I heard the cry of a baby looking for his mother and I felt a wash of relief. That sound sent a smile over my face faster than any cup of hot coffee could. These two little lambs seemed weaker than they should have been, born smaller than Brick's lambs and had a mother with a bum teat. So yesterday they each got extra lamb paste and I started some bottle feeding to supplement mama's milk. They had a heat lamp and I was checking on them every few hours.

When I made my way up to the sheep shed I saw one lamb laying down in the snow, head up, enjoying the sunshine. So that was the little squeaker I heard? I did not see the other. So I went inside to the shed. What I discovered was a very sad sight. One of Split Ear's lambs did not make it through the night. There the three-day old lamb lay, quiet and stiff. Split Ear was behind me walked up to the dead babe. She pawed and pawed at the lamb to wake it up. It was heartbreaking.

I scooped up the remaining lamb and it felt so different than the last time I held him, as if he was full of air and bones. I brought it to my lap and sat under the heat lamp and started offering him the bottle. He took to it, and he took it well.  Soon he lost that light feeling and was standing and alert but shivering even under the lamp on a fairly mild morning. I made the decision to bring him inside and walked down the hill with a dead lamb under one arm and a live one in the other, Split Ear following me till I stepped over the fence. It was a very small funeral parade.

The lamb was fed replacer and warmed by the fire. He is perking up and walking around the living room as I type, sucking on my flannel coat and dog bothering. I hope he makes it. He seems to have a lot of fight in him, something I respect in all animals.  I will be feeding him regularly and hoping to keep him outside with the rest of the flock if he does. At this point I don't know if he will or not. I accept either outcome, but will keep working for a healthy ram lamb.

And since I am writing about this, I'd like to address something. Every time an animal dies here I write about it. And every time I do that critics think I'm a failure and irresponsible. I also get an opposite response. I'll get emails from people offering money for vet care and telling me I should save the animal no matter what, and anything else is heartless and horrible. But for me to call an emergency vet to come to this farm would cost more than I could ever sell the lamb for, nearly double. And I am not calling in a vet for an 8-year-old ewe with half-dry udder either. Not because I am cold or cheap, but because I am being realistic. If she was a prize winning, 3 year old, I would. If she was Brick, I would. But not for this sheep. I know that sounds harsh, but that is the reality of farming vs keeping pets you eat. I would rather keep living the life of my dreams than appease angry people on the internet. I am still here with my own life to lead after they close their browser windows and go to the grocery store to buy more bacon.

I don't see myself or Cold Antler Farm as a failure, ever. I do not see this old farmhouse I bought in my late twenties and fight to keep as a failure. I don't see four years of paid mortgage bills, 2 of which I have been self-employed at my dream job, as a failure. Nor do I see the two gorgeous lambs out of Brick, one already sold and a flock of 6 healthy sheep as a failure. I don't see my dream horse, paid off in full, standing there on the hillside as a failure. I don't see the mother/daughter team of Alpine goats with kids on the way as a failure. Nor do I see years of kidding healthy little goatlings as a failure. I don't see the four fat pigs, soon to be butchered for friends and neighbors, as a failure. I don't see my beautiful sheepdog, or my 15 year old Husky, as a failure. I don't see my two original goslings, Cyrus and Saro as a failure, out there with their daughter Ryan splashing in the creek. It is so easy to look at one horrible thing and not realize what a small piece of the whole it is.

Not to say there have not been failures here, oh, there have been plenty! If you consider losing an animal a failure, that is. I see it as a learning experience that builds every season, helping make me a better farmer and stronger woman. But regardless of these mistakes I know that ten years from now I will still have sheep, and those lambs will still occasionally die, too. That's part of this.

This post is not about a dead lamb, or angry people, or the bottle baby here at my side. This post is me talking to all of you out there with a farm and animals, or the dream for a farm and animals. The bigger picture is what needs to always be in the front of your mind. It is not irresponsible to lose one lamb, but spending all of my attention, resources, and money on him while the other animals are waiting to be cared for is. This ability to see a farm as a puzzle and not the puzzle pieces. You do your best to keep the pieces crisp and clean and organized but in the end it is the bigger picture that matters. You can still see the final image if pieces are missing, you just need to accept that it isn't perfect. That is what this post is about.

Friends, I am writing all this next to the fireplace on my laptop. The little ram lamb is here warming by the fire, now sleeping. Soon as the sun warms up a bit more he will go outside to be with his mother and I will feed him throughout the day. He may spend the night inside, I'm not sure yet. What I am sure of is  that four years ago I probably would have lost both lambs. I didn't know what a weak newborn vs a hearty one looked like. I didn't have the experience of bottle feeding and paste in stock on the farm shelves. I wasn't the woman I am now. I was still putting the puzzle together.

I'll end this post by sharing this. I got an email from another farmer this winter who said "I can't believe you are brave enough to raise sheep and write about it. I can't think of another farm animal that is harder to help." She is right, but these are the livestock that got me into larger animal farming and they are the ones that have taught me more than all the other animals combined. I raise them because they force me to be better. They are fidelity and courage on four hooves and the animal I am most terrified and proud of. Even if they are the missing pieces sometimes.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Warmer Days & One Teat

This week is the first in months to be so warm, sunny, and melty! Outside while doing chores and going about the morning and evening rounds I can not help but feel the change all around me. There is more energy, more light, and more...more! Meaning that there are more animals born and on the way (chicks in the mail, kids in late April, etc) and I am feeling that flux in energy that gets you up a little earlier and excited about once unbelievable things - like thawed dirt and chicks in the palm. This week the vlogs will filmed outside for the first time in a long while and if I can figure out how to unthaw/dig out the horse gate I might even saddle up Merlin for a trot down the road. He'll be stubborn and jumpy like he is every spring but just the thought of being back in the saddle gets my endorphins waltzing. I hope all is well wherever you are in the world!

One more thing to note, perhaps some of you have advice to share? I pasted this up on Facebook this morning but in case you missed it: The newly born twins out of Split Ear are 2 days old now, I have watched them nurse, but they don't seem to be doing it well? Compared to the other twins born this year they seem a little slow on the uptake. I want to scoop them up, give them milk replacer, nutrition paste, even bring them inside but I feel this might be a little bit of an overreaction? Would you offer them a bottle a day and keep them with their mom or let them figure out how to get better at the milk machine? They just don't seem to have the round bellies they should...
Edit to this: The lambs are nursing, active, and crying out for momma when she isn't there. The mom is producing milk but only one udder seems to be working, the other might be plugged? I would rather bottle feed them a few times a day than have the vet come and clear the udder, but might have to if she develops any sort of infection. This is her 6th or 7th year lambing so I am not worked so much about her constitution as I am about the lambs getting all they need from one teat.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sold One Ram Lamb!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lambs and Fiddles

Well good news to share, and that is that there are two new ram lambs here at Cold Antler Farm! So out of two ewes, there is an increase of four sheep nearly doubling the herd size in a few days! I would have loved to have added a ewe to the flock but the boys will serve the farm either as butchered meat in the fall or sold to anyone looking for some grazers for their property. I am willing to sell them off to the Best offer I can get. If you are interested, please let me know via email Jenna@itsafarwalk.com.

In other news! This spring's Fiddle Camp is at the end of March. There are plenty of spots open and the camp may be as small as three people. If you have no idea what I am talking about, here is the gist: You arrive here Saturday the 28th knowing nothing about music. You come knowing absolutely nothing, to be clear. By the end of the first day you can tune the fiddle and play your first scale. By the end of Sunday you can play your first tunes. Oh, the class COMES WITH A STUDENT FIDDLE. If you are interested in the two days of lessons here at the farmhouse, please email me as well. I would love to host you and still have time to get your fiddles ordered for the 28th and 29th of the month.

Also: In the next five days I need to make a mortgage payment and I am saving up for a root canal. So, if you are interested in supporting the farm please know that Season Passes are still on sale! Come to ANY workshop for an entire year, for $250 a person or $400 a couple. This sale is to help raise funds for the mortgage and the root canal! So you are literally saving face!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lambing Season Vlog!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Gibson's Flock