Thursday, May 28, 2015

Who Needs a Trampoline?!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Running Into The Storm

I don’t like running, let’s start with that. It hurts. It’s hard. And it stirs up the same feelings in my physiology as a panic attack. When I run my heart races, I break into a sweat, and the stress wears me down until it stops being about making it the next mile and starts being about making it to that next tree. I don’t like running. It’s awful.

But I like having had run.

And so that is why I was running down my mountain road today. I was making good time and feeling strong, which is easy to do when you are running downhill. I was nearly sprinting and I liked feeling strong. It was early enough in the run to be romantic about running. It was 90 degrees on that road and sweat exploded from pours until I was shining like a Goddess from stories of old. The sky was blue. The wind was mild. The day was hot and the earth was dry. All this and I was an animal moving across the landscape and feeling a wonder.

My wonder ceased when I hit the bottom of the mountain and turned around to run back uphill. It’s not far, perhaps a mile and a quarter of winding road but it is relentless in its growling elevation gain. The joy of the run turned into the slow, dogged, crawl of a gal with a decent ass. I started the real work of the outing now, grunting upwards. With my blinders of determination on I didn’t notice how the sky went gray and then black. I didn’t hear the wind in the canopy of maples above me. I didn’t realize the storm was here until the thunder clapped. Then I looked up.

Without thinking about it I picked up my pace. A mile up the mountain, directly west,  and into the darkest of the clouds was my farm. And on that farm the small chickens being raised to feed friends and family were vulnerable. They would need tarps and wind protection if the weather turned fierce. There was a dog who I loved dearly that was scared of thunder and would be shaking next to his usual safe place, the dog crate, which was being used by a pair of sleeping goat kids with bellies full of milk. He wouldn't understand why the world became scary and I wasn't there. I wanted to hug that black fur and tell him he was okay.

There was a place I was needed and a storm was coming. So I ran faster.

I ran up that mountain. I ran until my chest felt it would explode and my feet slipped in the sneakers from the slick sweat. It was not a sprint, just the fast jog me and my decent ass could manage, but one that caused my sides to ache and frame to rattle. I ran into that wind, into the dark clouds, and uphill to the animals I had pledged my service to. Thunder rolled in louder and crows took off from the trees above me. My heart was swelling with a joy I could not place in the pain and concern the weather was invoking. And then I realized that this was all I ever wanted in my entire life. All I ever wanted was to have a place worth running towards. To feel a love worth making your heart explode.

If I am accused of anything it is being irresponsible. I am told I take on too much, follow my passions over the practical, and have fallen in love with my own mythology. Those accusations are 100% correct. I do take on too much. I do follow passion over the practical. And I am COMPLETELY in love with my own mythology. I wish the same for every single one of you. But those choices, however you may feel about them, have brought me to these 6.5 acres and I am still here. Five years of mistakes and success. Three years of self employment scratched out of a hundred disparate income streams from pork shares to logo designs. It is a Wednesday and I am home to run home to chickens and dogs and for that I am grateful beyond measure. There was a time I watched rainstorms behind office windows designed so that people could not open them from the inside. A better woman would have stayed there. I am not the better woman. I'm the better story and that is all I care about.

The heavy-handed metaphor of running into the storm isn't lost on me. For all the joy and satisfaction this life gives me there is intense anxiety over maintaining it. I never know how the next month's bills will be paid. Sometimes too many bills and repairs tumble together at once and it takes a lot to bounce back. I have had my truck threatened to be repossessed. I get scary yellow envelopes over late mortgage payments all the time. As I write this I am behind but I am not worried. I have the absolute faith of the far-too-stubborn that I will figure it out and the house will remain mine. I made it this far. And while it pains me to sell my only fiddle it would pain me a lot more to go back to a life where windows don't open. I'd rather starve under a bridge than go back there, and that conviction is exactly why I never will. This farm has been my Heaven, my Narnia, my Mordor, and my Hell. But that is a fiction worth making reality. It's something worth understanding and then shrugging off. What matters is that it's mine today. Keeping it mine is the real uphill battle.

All this and I am running. I reach my front lawn and the storm is almost upon the farm. I run to the Freedom Ranger chicks. I cover up their tractors and check on the rest of the animals. They all know the storm is coming. There is electricity in the air and energy in every feather rustle and tail swish. I had another ten minutes (I guessed) before the real storm hit so when all the animals were readied, this animal stripped naked, grabbed a towel, and headed into the forest. As I walked across the lawn I picked up the thick, black, plastic water bag of a solar shower that was laying in the sun all morning. The water was hot inside. I was as excited as a new lover in clean sheets.

I hung the black bag on an apple tree in a clearing behind the barn. I had the privacy of summer, all the trees and rose bushes made a fine screen from the road 100 yards away. I let the warm water rinse the panic off me. I grabbed the small bowl of goats milk soap I kept in a crook of the tree and washed my hair and body. As I washed I felt the wind pick up and droplets of cold rain mix with the sun-warmed water. This combination was pure exhilaration. No one could see me but Merlin, who was already in his pole barn. I laughed out loud there in the forest. Showering outdoors in thunderstorms makes you feel rich.

I crouched down to rinse out my hair and watch the dirt roll off my arms and into the soil. I felt beautiful there. These were the arms of a Storm Runner, a Chicken Protector, a Dark Horse Rider, a Dog Prophet, and Determined Direwolf. I love myself enough to make me laugh sometimes and if that sounds vain I suggest you try it too. Love yourself with abandon naked in the woods where only gods, horses and land wights can whisper about your antics. It's important to love your own story and I make no apology for it.

I looked up from my crouch and saw the back of my red barn the way a coyote or deer would, low and in the bushes. The new perspective made the farm look so much more beautiful to me. The kailyard being gently rained on, the barn and the goats inside, the stories it held and the hundreds of people who had travelled from all over the world to look inside it. People who came to see this mythical place where a middleclass woman without a clue made something magical happen. I smiled at the ridiculous thought and felt the poetry of warm water. Once again that feeling of utter wholeness of a goal reached hit me. The beautiful anger of a place worth fighting for filled me. Crouching naked in the rain, warm water down my back, a black horse to my left and a farm before me - built from five years of force and hope...

And it was all I could do to stop my heart from exploding.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eating In: Goat Cheese & Spinach Omelet

What you see here is breakfast, an omelet stuffed with fresh goat cheese and spinach. Besides the butter that greased the pan and some salt and pepper, the whole meal came from this farm. That little iron spork, that was hand made by the Blacksmith that came here last fall for Antlerstock. This here was a meal created on a small piece of land and I wanted to share its small story on this warm morning. We'll start out in the kailyard...

Out here behind the barn at Cold Antler Farm there is enough sunlight to grow hardy greens but also plenty of shade, depending on the time of day. Tall locusts hover here and keep the winter greens of the kailyard from bolting too soon. I grow salad greens, peas, kale, broccoli , spinach and cabbage. They do well back here and when weeding is done there are targets (see them there in the background?) for axe throwing and archery. Never a dull moment - or bodkin point - here.

I plucked out a few favorite leaves from the spinach, which is fresh-planted this year and seems to be coming along swimmingly.

I showed off my little harvest to the goats as I walked past their pen on my way back into the farmhouse. After all it was their milk I strained, added culture too, and strained in cheesecloth to make the fresh chevre that would melt inside the omelet alongside the chopped spinach. I told them how beautiful they were. I meant it.

Down at the goats’ feet were this year’s laying hens. Six new additions of the 15 total being raised up to add to my flock of 12. I have a mix of green, blue, brown and white egg layers but right now all my green and blue eggs are being sat on by broody hens so just the white eggs are available. They still are delicious as can be from backyard birds and so I set three of them, my leaves, and a nice chunk of goat cheese on the plate. This would be breakfast in minutes!

And there it is. Eggs from my hens. Spinach from my garden. Cheese from my goats. And a fork from a blacksmith I bartered for a used longbow. You see months of animal care and the birth of this year's kids. You see hours in the kailyard, and the dirty feet I proudly sport unshod. And you you see the simple good that comes from a meal you know so well. Mornings like this, and meals like these, are what make this place worth all the effort! Time to dig in!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fireflies & Old Guitars

I'm always going to love the anticipation of fireflies and holding old guitars.
Those two things, they're most of me.

One Morning's Milk

What you see here is three half-gallon jars. That's a lot of milk for one morning's chores and two goats! I adore my alpines and am so glad I went with full-sized goats when I got the dairy bug. There is no doubt that Nigerians and Pygmy goats are adorable and cost less to feed and house, but the way I see it - you're already commiting to care for goats so why not get the most return for your time? I'm all about the big girls and their high production of the good stuff! Do any of you have smaller goats? If so, what was your reasoning? I would like to know more about the advantages of smaller breeds.

A gallon and a half is just one part of the day's return. I can't drink that much and only turn a gallon at a time into chevre. So that leaves up to a gallon a day not used. Well, when the piglets come it goes towards their feed and so does the whey from cheese making. Some is frozen for soap making, another profitable item from goats. And lastly, the rest is given to friends and neighbors. My little 2-goat dairy supplies myself, the Wesner's and guests with healthy and fresh raw milk. There's an old saying in Africa that the best place to store extra food is in your friends' stomaches. I feel the same way!

Friday, May 22, 2015


Thrilled to announce that this little girl will be arriving on the east coast in early June. She's a stockdog pup from fine folks out west in Idaho and I was able to do a partial barter for logo design to buy her! (That on top of making small payments over the past few months) I didn't want to announce her until it was a done deal but this little gal is moving in soon and will be such a happy addition to the farm. It's been five years since a puppy was a part of this homestead and it is such a boost of energy, joy, and fun! It's exactly the boost I needed after the last two rough winters and I am beyond excited to raise her. She's named Friday, after a favorite movie of my father's and mine - His Girl Friday. I hope she's just as whip smart, fast-talking, and keeps up with the boys!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Barn, Sweet Barn.

Photo by Miriam Romais

Cold Fronts & A Dead Chick

So a cold front came through this week, and it had me lighting a fire in the woodstove last night - a seasonal record! Frost warnings littered the weather reports and all after the kailyard, kitchen garden, and little chicks had been growing strong for weeks. Last week days hit nearly 90 degrees and people were tubing down the Battenkill. I wore a hoodie all day yesterday and was torn on wether or not to install heat lamps in the chicken tractors.

I didn't use the heat lamps and they were fine. I did find one dead chick this morning out of the 80 or so chicks in the tractors but I am pretty sure it was the one who seemed to have a broken or non-working leg the night before. In the morning he was gone but the other birds (who are almost all feathered out now) were bright and bushy tailed. They had blankets and tarps over the tractors and insulating hay to sleep on. No one was wet or dew-damp and it was so encouraging to know a chilly night wouldn't bring them low.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Arrows Rising 2015: 2 Spots LEFT!

This June 20th & 21st! There are many spots open for this Summer's Arrow's Rising! For those of you on the fence about taking up traditional archery, I hope you consider this weekend-long event held here at Cold Antler Farm in beautiful June. It's two days of everything traditional, and comes with a longbow (25lb draw) hand crafted in the US by a Veteran. You're not only supporting this business, but his, and taking up a sport people of any age, gender, or size can learn to be fantastic at with practice.

Arrows Rising is the name of the entire weekend, but that Saturday morning will start with a story. I will share my own reasons for taking up archery and it has nothing to do with Katniss, Brave, or the Avengers. I read a book one of you fine Antlers suggested to me several years ago and the the culture of archery and bow making was so rich and storied the bow went from being a weapon to a legend. It didn't take long after reading the first three books in the series that I had looked up some online bowyers and archery supply shops and sent from emails to my local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The rest, as they say, is history. A self-made history at that. I've shot on the same traditional team for three years now. I've gone from a girl very low the East Kingdom's rankings with a cheap bow to a Marshal in the Shire of Glenn Linn, and MUCH higher on the rankings list. My love for the sport echoed into a part time job last summer at the British School of Falconry in Manchester, Vermont. There I taught archery professionally, showing folks who never held a bow before the ways of instinctive shooting, safety, and basic practice field commands.

Very much of those lessons will be repeated for these beginners coming to Arrow's Rising. There will be an in-depth talk about equipment, bows and bow types, strings, bow stringing and measuring your bow for your body. We'll talk arrows as well, and how to outfit yourself once you get home. Basic safety equipment will also be covered, and while I will have spare gear to lend I strongly suggest that people attending Arrow's Rising invest in their own hand and arm protection. A simple armguard costs very little as does a finger tab. But really all you need is a sturdy pair of deerskin work gloves, and a long sleeved shirt. These will protect your hands and be very appreciated by Saturday afternoon!

Saturday after equipment is covered we will head outside for safety demonstrations and field rules. Since Cold Antler is built into a mountain and goes through forest and stream side we will have several areas with targets set up. You'll shoot stationary at close range to start, gaining distance and confidence. The first day will end with us sitting under the king Maple out front and reviewing the history and tradition of archery, share our stories of why we came, and relax and rest our arms! A tour of the farm and animals will then happen for all who wish to meet the crew and a campfire will be held that night for folks who want to return for music and more stories. Bring a folding chair and an instrument!

Sunday will begin with a quick review and some more practice. Afterwards we'll try a trekking shoot, where we walk over forest and along the stream hitting smaller targets. You'll learn to shoot through cover, down a ravine, and kneeling as well as the traditional archer's T. There may very well be a demonstration of mounted archery with Merlin!

So that is the plan, the entire weekend come a few weekends from now and again in the fall. I hope to fill up all the spots soon and encourage women, men, teenagers and best friends to sign up together if they want! It's a great bonding experience and a sport many of us can take up at any age. Basketball courts and swimming pools don't really change but the archery field and equipment is made to fit YOU. So do not feel you aren't athletic enough to try. Folks of any size are welcome, I just ask you bring plenty of water, a chair to sit in, and understand we are shooting come rain or shine!

This June 20th & 21st! 
Campfire Sat
No camping on farm
The full price is $350. 
This includes both days and longbow.

Let the grey geese fly!

Email me: to sign up!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tiny Flags

This morning is beautiful. After chores were done and the animals were quietly munching and crunching, when the goats were milked and the day was officially on its way—I stopped to look around. The sun was hitting the green grass. Cersei and Jaime were romping around the yard. The ducks waddled past the geese and the chickens in their tractors ate and jumped and drank and napped. Everything seemed perfect. In the next few hours I knew I would do what made me happiest - I would run, shoot arrows, and ride my horse. When I can spend a day moving across the landscape by my body and by horse, and then quiet the mind into the meditation of practicing archery and focusing on that target... I am happiest. I can't relax without a tired body and head. And I get to run on this mountain road, and ride that beautiful horse, and shoot arrows at a straw target all here in my backyard. This is my everyday vacation. This is my dream come true. This is home.

I know this, and sometimes I forget how long it took. Cold Antler Farm started in 2007 with a rented home in Idaho. I had no land, just a few chickens, some gardens, rabbits and an insatiable desire to farm I called Barnheart. It wasn't a passing fad. It wasn't a pipe dream. It was who I was. And I was going to get there.

When people ask me for advice on what they can do to get to the same place, my answer is usually simple. I respond "Plant something" and I mean it. If you live in a studio apartment and can't tell an angus from an ayrshire - plant something. You don't need to know breeds of cattle or have a garden plot in your city's limited urban garden. You can go to Home Depot, buy compost, a pot, and some seeds and plant something. It doesn't matter if it grows or not, what matters is you actually made the choice to act. I think this is the biggest hangup people have following this dream. They think that the choices all need to be big, romantic, and successful. They don't. You don't need to be 24, flip off your boss, join WWOOF, and travel to Peru to herd Alpacas for your summer. You need to choose to spend $26.78 on dirt, seeds, and pots instead of pizza and beer and try. No excuses. If you don't have a window, buy a grow lightbulb and a desk light. Figure it out because if you give up on growing a sprout in one pot what makes you think you'll last a season on a farm? Be ruthless with your trying.

It's about slowly moving priorities and resources. It's about how every week you end up buying one more indoor pot until the superintendent tells you that "You know, if you really like growing stuff you can use the courtyard? or the Roof?" and you start hauling 50lbs backs of topsoil up the elevator with pre-cut 2x4s. It's being consistent, and stubborn, and not letting the 13 jillion mistakes you will make stop you.

It's also about listening to yourself. Not your snarky in-laws, not your disapproving parents, and not your coworkers who crack jokes in the breakroom about you wearing the same shirt twice a week because you didn't have time to do laundry on the weekend because you were too busy building a chicken coop. It's about caring more about what makes you happy than what makes you socially acceptable. That's the real work of changing your life. That's the hard part. Not the hoeing gardens and moving hay bales, that is just body and time, but the work of overcoming the meeker parts of us that hold us back. That's the back breaking.

So you want a farm and have no idea how to get there? Plant something today. Plant it knowing you might very well fail, kill it, and then plant it again. Buy some books on the homesteading aspects you like most and stack them right on your coffee table for the world to see. Subscribe to a backyard chicken mailing list or forum. All of these things are small actions but each of them is another prayer sent out into the world. A tiny flag stuck into the ground saying "This is what I want" and the more flags you shove into the ground the more you realize how serious this is to you. And the more your decisions change towards the life you want. Maybe you'll take your profile off and switch it to Maybe you'll take that job that lets you commute from the country instead of the next floor in the city gig you are in? Maybe you'll just spend the next clothes budget on Carhartts instead of Calvin Klein? It all builds on each other. It is mental composting so you can plant your dream.

If you really want a farm you'll end up there. For better or for worse, you'll be there. If you really have Barnheart and not a passing case of farm lust based on the last documentary you saw, you'll find your way. But know it isn't money, or location, or age that makes it happen. It's those little choices and the strength to shout from the rooftops this is who you are.

And maybe one day you'll wake up on a Tuesday morning wearing the same shirt for the 5th day in the row and smile.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

New Vlog! Easy Goat Cheese How To

Friday, May 15, 2015


Alarm goes off at 3:30AM
Get up
Let out dogs
Check Bonita
Feed cats
Get ready for turkey hunting
Lyle arrives at 4AM
We head to local large farm
Hike in the dark with guns
We split up
I set up decoys and call birds
I hear gobbles in the trees
Turkeys fly to another farm
I watch the sunrise
I read from the Havamal
We leave among misty mountains at 6AM
Come home - 6:30 AM
Pick off ticks
Feed chicks in tractors
refill their fonts
carry water to horse
carry water to sheep
let sheep out of paddock to graze
Feed horse hay
Feed rabbits
Feed dogs
Collect eggs
Water kailyard
Grain and water goats
Milk Ida
Bring in milk to strain 7:30AM
Wash dairy dishes
Eggs and bacon
Check emails
Sell logo
Sell Fiddle Camp Spot
Email my bowyer
Check Bonita
Waste time on Facebook/Twitter
Emails again
Buy flat of veggie starts at Stannard's
Water but not plant them
Nap with Gibson 11AM
Wake up to kids 1PM
Skip Lunch
Bring kids inside
Milk Bonita
Feed bottles to kids
Set them up in dog crate with towels
Feel Anxious
Run three miles
Shoot 50 arrows
Press 50 pushups
Put away archery target
Feed chicks in tractors
Refill their fonts
Carry water to horse
Carry water to sheep
Put sheep back into paddock to grain
Feed rabbits
Get horse out of paddock
Groom Merlin
Pick Feet
Tack horse up
Ride up the mountain
Look for fox I shot the night before
Find no fox
Let Merlin graze on mountain, take in view
Ride home
Untack horse
Curry comb horse
Let Merlin into pasture to graze
Cover chicken tractors in case of rain
Milk Ida and Bonita
Prepare bottles
Feed kids again
Walk dogs
Look for fox
Email final logo files to client
Set milk for morning chevre
Make steak dinner
Drink a hard cider
Update blog

Night Rounds on Farm
Put away laying pullet chicks
Turn on Barn Radio
Watch movie on Amazon Instant Video
Feed kids again before bed in easy chair
Put them in dog crate with diaper sheets
Go upstairs to bed
Sleep like I mean it by 9PM
Up tomorrow at 5 AM

Some Chicks Are Smarter...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New Vlog! Giving Up My Smart Phone

Base Camp on a Cold Night!

An odd little cold snap has come to the Battenkill Valley. This morning it was 31 degrees! No big deal and actually a delight to the goats, horse, and sheep but a fright for the chicken farmer with 3 week old little ones on pasture. These birds are not just for me but for a few friends who live nearby. They have entrusted me to raise up some fine freezer birds for their larder and that extra responsibility has me upping my chicken game to new heights.

These birds are starting to get their adult, insulating, feathers but do not have them yet. They may have been fine on dry hay last night out of the wind but I played it safe. I installed a heat lamp, covered the entire thing in wind-proof tarp, and before I went to bed I covered them up with a heavy quilt. I snapped this picture of the camp right before the quilt went over top the meaties. When I looked out my window at the dark farm I had to giggle at the sight of the glowing green chicken tractor. Do you know those images of fancy mountaineering tents in catalogs in dark wilderness where the only light is the glow of a tent? That is what it looked like outside. So I nicknamed it basecamp with Gibson, who was disappointed he couldn't see the chicks he likes terrorizing as he runs circles around the tractor...

This morning as I removed the gear I was a little worried a few chicks would be dead but they all made it. This little measure of prevention only took moments and I already had the lamp and extension cords. Now I need to build a second tractor, and more as they grow into their adult bird size. Whew!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Come All Year!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Monday The Ram

Monday is the ram here, at least these days. Before him was Atlas and this coming season should be some new blood, named Cloud. I think Common Sense Farm and I will swap and I am a little intimidated! Cloud earns his name. He is a huge mass of white wool and horn. But I think Monday will enjoy heading to a new flock down at the Commune!

Photo by Miriam Romais

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's Okay to Run Away....

As long as you're running towards something better.

How to Make a Cup of Coffee

It’s 7Am and I am sitting down with a hot mug of coffee. It isn’t fancy. It’s the kind that comes in a blue metal can at the grocery store. But it is hot and strong and spiked with creamy goat’s milk. The morning chores are all done. Strained milk is chilling in the freezer while the pails, half-gallon jars, and strainer rest on the drying rack. It feels good to have it all done. Coffee tastes better when things are done.

Milking Ida was just a half hour ago but it seems much longer. There goes that time travel again, my favorite drug. I felt it hunting with a bundle of wool and clay and I feel it sitting on the stanchion and milking a goat while a brooder of chicks across the barn sing their morning demands. I am in kilt, tank top, and sandals. It's been so warm here lately. My hair was back in a bandana and NPR was on the barn radio. A reported talked about police brutality in another state and it might as well be two hundred years away for how far it felt. I change the station to classical music, and not because I have no empathy for the trials but because once I have granted myself awareness of the news my ability to change or help it stops. I do not allow myself to wallow in the pornography so many call 24-hours news these days. It is tragedy wrapped in shiny paper, horror stories selling soda. My life is here and my community is here and this is where I can effect change and offer service. I used to think it was my duty to hear the news and be upset by it. Now I feel it is my duty to live a life that will never make the morning reports to people driving to their air conditioned offices. I went feral.

I listen to the music and milk the goat.

Milk streams into the steel pail and rings. I love that song. Bach plays on the radio and I love it as well. It is only made better by the animals around me. I hear the deep trill of “Grook…groook….groook” and smile. Just above me, outside the barn, is Odin the raven. The large bird has been spending most of his mornings at this farm. He is so large and loud and swoops around the naked locust trees and blooming wild apples as if they are his playground. I keep milking Ida, who is eating her breakfast of grain and allowing me to empty the half gallon of milk she has to offer into the pail.

Ida is the 2-year-old daughter of Bonita, my first milking goat and the still-very-pregnant animal in the pen beside us. She is so fat I could rent her out for toddler dirigible rides if she floated. She watches me milk her daughter and patiently waits for her turn to jump onto the stand and eat her breakfast. She isn’t being milked yet but I want the does down with the routine of morning milking, which is one at a time on the stanchion. Bonita so looks forward to her morning grain and minerals and I so look forward to her kids. Their is nothing cuter than baby goats, nothing at all. And to think I NEED to bring kids into the world so I can enjoy a perfect cup of coffee or the goat cheese omelet with tomato and basil I had for breakfast yesterday morning… It feels like I am cheating at life. Kids, coffee, and the best damn eggs in the world thanks to the flock of hens outside. And here I am, sipping that coffee. It tastes amazing. It is creamy but not heavy. It isn’t sweetened with sugar, just the bitter bite of roasted beans clashing with that perfect milk.

Goat’s milk isn’t like half and half or cream, it’s literally a whole different animal. It is a milk as rich in flavor and as filling as whole cow’s milk but has the consistency of 2% milk. I know some of you put off by the idea, but that’s because you probably are connecting the flavor to store-bought goat’s milk or goat cheese. No. No, no no no no. Fresh, raw, chilled goat’s milk has no taint. There isn’t a tinge of sourness or that “goaty” snap people describe when eating chèvre fro the store. The reason is the lack of heat. Fresh from the goat, their milk is creamy and delicious and tastes exactly like cow’s milk. But unlike cow’s milk - once it is pasteurized it begins to change in ways that effect the flavor. It starts turning to a liquid cheese at 140 degrees and while it won’t hurt you (and some love that flavor) it isn’t what you are used to pouring over your Wheaties. But fresh milk. Raw milk is perfection.

So what went into a cup of coffee on a Monday morning here at Cold Antler? Well, two years ago a goat was born. And that goat grew up, was bred, and gave birth to a darling buck a span of days earlier. That buck was sold and the money paid for a flat of vegetables in the garden. And because of that buckling every day a gallon of milk is on tap thanks to his mother. On this particular morning some of that milk sloshed into a cup of coffee to energize the farmer who had a whole farm to bring into the day before most people have even hit their snooze button a second time.

I know this life isn’t for everyone. I know most people think it is too much work, too financially unpredictable, and too constraining to home and stock. It is true that I never stop maintaining the place for more than a few hours. It is true that money is as unpredictable as summer storms. And it is also true that the three-hour trip to a friend’s house last night was as much “getting out’ as I ever receive. It has been years since I spent the night somewhere besides this farmhouse. Folks who need to hop on plains to feel correct in the world would despise this lot. I know. But for those of us who feel more connected to Bach and milking goats, to those of us who choose time travel as our drug of choice…. to those of us already here.

We are home. And a cup of coffee with a good story is enough.

Photo by Miriam Romais

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Look at this! Thanks to amazing friends who came over for an afternoon at the farm, we created this small, inexpensive chicken tractor for the Freedom Rangers! It's 8x4ft and the little nuggets love it! The farm is raising a lot of chicken this year. I am hoping to raise ALL of my own winter supply and offer birds to friends and neighbors. These little guys are safe, on green grass, under a nice sunny sky and loving it!

This tractor was made with three 2x4's a few pieces of PVC, some screws, and chicken wire. Thanks to zip ties and some scrap lumber the door was made. Chris, Miriam, and Keenan helped (with Chris as project leader) and it took us about two hours form start to chickens inside. I don't have plans to share but the idea is simple enough. We faked it awesome. It's a 4x8 wooden base with PVC pipe hoops covered with some chicken wire. One end is covered with a plastic tarp for weather protection. Right now about thirty nuggets are inside but over the weeks ahead we will build a few more and the plan is to have just a dozen or so birds in each, on pasture, up on the hillside where the sheep and horse have been grazing. Joel's taught us all how herbivores should be followed by flocks of birds (just like in nature) and that is the plan on this farm!

Calling to Roosts

I picked up the small bundle. It was on the grass before me and when I reached out to grab it I couldn't stop smiling. I was outside, at dawn, and that little wrapping of wool was all I carried besides the gun over my shoulder. They were all I needed.

The bundle was made of a green wool blanket I had sewn into a heavy cloak and inside it there was a hand-thrown mug with a broken handle. The broken handle was my handiwork, too. It was all wrapped up with a soft cotton rope. That rope made a fine handle. I held it in my left hand. The shotgun over my right shoulder was borrowed, but beautiful. A Weatherby from the 80's, just as old as I was, and if I was lucky I would shoot it at a turkey this dawn.

Mark Wesner has been teaching me the fine art of spring turkey hunting these past few weeks. He started with showing me calls and scouting farms for future hunts back in April. As the season approached we walked fields and called barred owls in the evening to see where the toms were roosting. Now that the season is here we are meeting before dawn to walk into the woods and edge of fields while the world is still dark. There we can hear the male turkeys gobble from their roosts and hope they fly down and come to our calls. Mark has a gorgeous turkey call a friend made him. He's a master caller and if I close my eyes I see a far hen strutting next to me and not a guy in full camo. That sounds like a joke, but it's really a bit of magic. How can some wood and chalk sound exactly like a bird?

We didn't get to take any shots at birds and the calls were not bringing in the boys. All three hunts this season had the toms leaving my calling and Marks for actual flocks of hens on another property we didn't have permission to hunt. But killing turkeys isn't the reason I get up early and go on these hunts. I get up because of the time travel.

I get to spend a quiet morning walking woodland paths, weapons over my shoulder, excitement in my belly. I get to listen to animals far away wake up and start their days. There are does in far fields, ravens and herons overhead, and foxes and groundhogs ambling about. Being quiet means stillness and nature finds you when you slow down enough around her. Mark taught me the difference between the calls of a wood thrush and a hermit thrush. He showed me the difference in coyote and fox scat. When the hunt is over in a spot he pulls out a large beloved Stanley Thermos and we drink coffee and listen to farmer's cows bellow in far fields while sharing stories of past hunts. It's all timeless, and magical, and wild and real.

Hunting has become my favorite outdoor pastime. When you hunt you are not observing nature, you are a part of it. You are learning but also participating in such a visceral way it excites mybody chemistry while calming me more than any zen retreat ever has. The meditation and energy waltz with you, and the stalking, the calling, the waiting.... it is everything that makes up all the other animal's lives in this world. The hope is for a large tom you can take home and enjoy with friends. A way to nourish yourself and others, both with calories and words, but the real adventure is walking paths with little bundles and loaded shotguns. That is what hunting is to me. It's little moments that don't make it into the campfire stories or third beers.

It is the sunrises. It is the friendships. It is the hope.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

First Cheese of the Season!

Bree is settling in just fine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Fiddle Day Camp
September 12th 2015
9AM - 4PM
4 of 5 spots left!
Email me!

Antlerstock on SALE this week! Email me for special pricing while the farm has the need to do so!

Extending Logo Reduced Prices this week! Prices will go up soon but I would like to grab some clients going into June. Your logo design won't start until June but you'll get a half priced rate for professional work! Email me to sign up!

Swap Day!

The Poultry Swap was this weekend here in Veryork! I was able to sell Ida's kid and make enough money to cover my seller's fee and come home with a big tray of kale six-packs. I didn't make much cash but I did save myself from a long haul of bottle feeding another baby and came home with a LOT of vegetable futures for the kailyard. As far as new animal purchases - just this one Bourbon Red Tom Turkey. He must have been raised somewhere with serious fencing because his tail is a mess and his breast is raw to the skin. He was cheap (I guess his appearance was why) but besides these cosmetic flaws he is a healthy and gorgeous bird! He and Lucas are already old drinking buddies (they drink side by side in the creek) and the little red hen that Lucas bred has her eggs in an incubator. I am hoping the Bourbon Red/Bronze eggs hatch and I can raise a few folks' Thanksgiving Dinners but this is her first clutch and I am not sure how successful Lucas's attempts were? I guess we'll find out!

The Giant Chin rabbit I had bred did not kindle. I'm not sure why? She was bred again yesterday and I hope that by the end of this month there are rabbit kits in her hutch. If not she will most likely go into the freezer and I'll try another doe. Since she has been bred by two other bucks and she hasn't kindled I am assuming it is her issue and not theirs. So that will be the choice to make after the end of this month. She's a pretty and tough little rabbit so I hope she pulls off a humble litter.

Still waiting on Bonita to kid...

Fiddles and Goats!

This past weekend was Fiddle Day Camp, and I am so pleased with how it went! There were five of us there (One had to change plans. We missed you Tori!) and all of them amazing women on their way to falling in love with the fiddle. Two of the three came all the way from California (Bay Area) to see the farm and get their hands on a fiddle of their own. The others were the 14-year-old daughter of friends from Massachusetts and a woman from nearby Vermont. It was a sunny, seventy-odd degree day here at the farm so we spent the entire day outside under the big King Maple, sitting on hay bales, and learning strings, scales, and songs.

Fiddle Camp is special. It really is. I can't say enough about the way a person looks opening up the black case I hand them for the first time. They hum with nerves and quiet thrills. Some of them are skeptical they will actually leave knowing what to do with the mythical being inside the case - but most are just there to experience the fun of trying at the farm they read about for so long.

They open those cases and pick up the fiddles and hold them so awkwardly. They can't help it and I can't help smiling because I know by the lunch break they will know it as well as a friendly dog. Still strange, but pleasant and comfortable.

The first thing we do is learn to set up, tune, and understand the parts of the fiddle. We go over installing the bridges and how to use tuning pegs and fine tuners. I used to skip this part about fiddles my first few camps - thinking folks just want to start playing - but I have learned knowing how the thing is put together and how to repair it is very empowering. So that's what we do, and then bows are rosined for the first time as I explain how to make their first music. They start with a single A note on one string on their new fiddle. The camp goes on from there.

After folks can bow out one solid note we add fingering.. When all three finger positions are memorized we start our first scale. Usually this is a time that we break for an hour lunch and folks need that break. Holding a new instrument up,  pressing soft fingers on wire strings, remembering positions and tuning... this is a little more juggling than the mind can take for more than a few hours and the break is refreshing. After a picnic lunch outside or a trip to the Roundhouse Cafe in town folks return knowing how to tune, rosin, and get ready to practice scales and notes on what just a few hours ago was a strange beast in a little black cage. It reminds me of learning to ride Merlin, or figuring out a garden's needs for that first exciting harvest. The scary part isn't the work or the practicing. The scary part is choosing to ride or plant in the first place. Once you are at camp and holding that bow - it's too late to do anything but learn!

At this camp it means listening and playing while a bottle-fed ram lamb nibbles on your tee shirt or a just-born goatling wobbles by on his new long legs. It's whimsical in a way that I hope is disarming. I want folks to not take this instrument too seriously, and to understand it is not the monster they may assume. Fiddles are simple and easy. They are beautiful even if they only hold a few tunes. Wayne Erbsen compares them to gardens. He explains that you can have a complicated and elaborate garden with hundreds of flowers and vegetables - and it is beautiful. You can also have a small window box with just a few planted daisies  - are they not also beautiful? That's how instruments work around here. Even if all you know on the violin is how to tune it and saw out five songs you learned by heart - that's a gorgeous window box.

Since the camp takes place here at the homestead folks get to step away and practice their scales and song next to Merlin's gate - or while chickens strut around. People kept poking into the barn in hopes Bonita would kid (She still hasn't) and picking up a Freedom Ranger chick from the brooder. Being at the farm with an instrument that plays songs tied to our history of pioneers, mountain steads, and the American story is just damn wonderful. So far several dozen people have come to this camp and left with instruments and the ability to learn them. I am proud of that as much as an carton of eggs or share of pork. Music feeds us just as well.

The Campers here learned to not just play scales but play their first tune. We learned Ida Red, and we learned to shuffle, drone, and slide as well. It's a lot to take in, sure, but everyone was playing the song by the end of the day and that is why I am so proud of the people who came. Everyone left knowing how to teach themselves every song in the book and hopefully had the passion of a new hobby to fuel them into another song or two this week! I thank you all for coming: Amelia, Paula, Katie and Sue! Don't stop practicing!

I like the Day Camp Model. It seems easier for folks to digest and attend. I will host another small, five-person, Day Camp in the fall when the leaves are gold and red and folks will want to spend a long Saturday coming here to the farm. I am thinking September 12th. If you are interested in one of the four available spaces: email me at

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Goat Update! Ida's First Kid

I am so happy to announce that Ida kidded yesterday afternoon in a flurry of farm activity! She gave birth right after I caught and penned Brick's two lambs. I carried the large boys one at a time into the pen in the barn because Ejay was coming over with his new Border Collie puppy, Swanson, to take them back to their farm. I was proud to offer them to him, too. Brick's ram lambs are always the brawest boys in the whole place. And it was just after lamb wrangling and right before Ejay arrived that this little guy came into the world! Meet Ida's Buckling! He's not named yet, but he was born on Beltane so a proper Celtic name suited for Spring would do. He's for sale if anyone is looking for a mighty fine Alpine buck.

The birth went well enough for a first timer like Ida. She wasn't prepared and I was a little concerned at times. Most does eject a water sack before the kid is born, but Ida's burst. She pushed out the front hooves and nose (Brigit was I ever grateful for a normal presentation!) and I saw the little nostrils flaring and mouth open. This is not good. It means that the kid needs to come out soon since being sucked back into his mother would mean suffocation if she took her time. So I grabbed the front hooves and gently pulled. Ida wailed. Then she pushed the head through as I continued my gentle pulling and the kid popped out like dog food sliding from a can. Made the same noise too. But the buckling was breathing, healthy, all four limbs and big goofy ears.

Ida passed her afterbirth and then enjoyed a dinner of grains while I milked her for the first time. I grabbed some baling twine and tied her collar to the pen's wooden board fence and hoped she would let me milk out a pint or so of colostrum. Yesheva (my goat mentor) says that first milking should be humble, not a lot and not fast. A kid would not empty her mother's udder on first meal so why should I? Good advice and Ida munched on her grain and let me milk out that special colostrum for her baby boy, who was already inside the house on a blanket by the heater.

Later that night was Ida's first time on the stanchion. She stepped up using the cinderblock stair I set beside it dove right into her evening grain and let me milk her halfway empty. She was amazing. Bonita isn't this good! I wasn't used to her tiny teats and it took me longer to do the job because of it, but she took it like a champ and the stainless steel pail rang as it filled with the good stuff. This morning she had her first real milking and performed just as well. She let me rub some Dynamint on her udder afterward I brought the still-colustrum-thick milk into the house for straining. Milk chores are back on the docket, kids are in the house, Bonita is almost ready to pop...

Spring has truly arrived with the first of May at Cold Antler Farm!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Barn Dispatch! Goat Watch 2015

I am writing you from the barn, perched with my laptop on my goats’ stanchion and watching two goat hoohaas with fervent anticipation. I am spending a lot of time in this little red barn (about the size of a standard two-car garage), because it is gloriously ready for a season of good work. A few weeks ago this barn was nothing more than a roof over the head of two goats and the rest of the space needed serious work. Well, that serious work was finished over the pat few days and now the little barn hosts two very pregnant goats, a new milking station, a mucked out pigpen-turned-bottle lamb jug and a wire cage of feathering out laying hens. There is also a packed giant brooder with eighty meat bird chicks that just arrived in the post yesterday.

The barn has a new goat gate (for easy access to the girls milking station across the barn) and new windows and overhead lighting. It’s the same old barn but it’s clean and alive with new life. My old crank radio I bought when I lived in Idaho is in here, and right now NPR voices are talking to the goats and hopefully dissuading predators from the tasty little meat bird chicks. I have lined the entire brooder with hardware cloth so it’ll take some cyborg weasels or rats to get to the little ones. I learned that trick from the gals at WindWomen Farm. Thanks Kathy and Mary. The flock is well!

It’s 10AM but it feels more like 4PM. I’ve been up since 3:30 and most of that time was spent walking through farm field and forest trails, calling turkeys and hoping for a successful opening day of gobbler season. I was with Mark Wesner, my turkey hunting mentor. Every time I go hunting I am once again reminded of the awe of the act. You sit so still and you wait with such intense energy that the idea of actually shooting a bird seems too much to comprehend. I am a junky for the thrill of the hunt, and a celebrant of the animal’s sacrifice for my farm’s table. I didn’t get a bird today but if I had it would be cleaned and prepared for my friends coming over for Game Night tonight. I would have been so proud to offer that meal, and the story that went with it. Food with a story is always the best there is.

I am feeling a little tired. This morning I met dawn with my back leaning against an old pine tree, hand holding a mug of warm coffee, watching the sun rise but now that I am home and on Goat Watch 2015 - I may need to take a nap if I plan to stay up throughout the evening checking on Ida and Bonita. I am not worried about Bonita at all - she’s an ol’ pro at kidding. But I am a little nervous about Ida’s first time and so the barn is stocked with towels and the nursery is ready inside the farmhouse. Bottles are set for the kids, the milk pail has been washed and sanitized with star san, and I am already drooling over cheese recipes. Stirring a pot of curds over the stove while goat kids play tag with your border collie is worth every minute of the work.

Okay, Bonita just started laying down again and seems to be breathing heavy. Maybe this alarm isn’t false?! Keep checking back on the blog all weekend for what I hope is lots of cute kid photos and good wishes for this Holiday weekend!

P.S. Fiddle Day Camp is tomorrow. Ida was born at a Fiddle Camp two years ago and perhaps she’ll kid on the same day herself. Wouldn’t that be something?! I need some musical name suggestions folks!