Monday, November 30, 2015

The Buck Starts Here

This weekend, amidst all the holiday plans, friends, and gatherings that were going on there was a bit of true luck on this farm. His name is Dash.

I have been breeding, milking, and making cheese and soap with my dairy goats these past few years and it is a seasonal operation. The goats are only milked from the birth of their spring kids into the fall, and then they have the winter off to enjoy being fat, pregnant, and content. But that means a buck is key and every year that meant either a drive down to Common Sense Farm to drop off the goats to be bred by one of their bucks or to have a gentleman stay here for a while and serve the ladies. Last year a buck named Icon (or was it Saturn?) came for a few weeks and he did a fine job. But over the summer Common Sense sold that buck and the rest of their herd and now they are goatless until they buy in some new stock. So my buck well had run dry.

I did ask around with friends, locals, and even on Facebook here and there but the leads were either a hassle or meat breeds. Then I got a message from a teenager up north in Warrensburg that had a buck in need of a home. He was a LaMancha and a year old, up to date on all his shots and tags. His name is Dash, pretty fitting in its nearly reindeer sounding way, for the holidays ahead!

I'll try to get a better picture of the gent. Right now he stinks and has peed so much on his face and beard that he is missing a bit of hair. Besides that, he's the picture of smelly buck health. I'm glad he is here and glad that kidding won't start until May!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Little Help From My Friends

I am unsettled to announce that things here are getting seriously rough, as far as keeping the farm goes. Things have always been tight and sketchy, but going into winter firewood costs, dental work, and hay bills have gotten me dangerously behind. I have never been this close to the edge and I'm losing sleep, focus, and finding it harder and harder to keep a calm head. So I am coming to you folks, the readers of this blog, to ask for help in the form of a rogue marketing campaign. I am asking for you to share the links below on your Social Media of choice. It's quick, costs you nothing but time (seconds to a minute), and you never know when that share on your Pinterest Pages, Twitter, or Facebook could be the share that sends some income this way to Cold Antler.

Please help me get the word out about my two biggest sale items in hopes it drives some business this way. Below are the two links of offers I have that I feel are amazing values, help support other farmers besides myself through my favorite charity, and offer the gifts of learning to play an instrument or a professional logo for your farm and/or business. If you use twitter, facebook, instagram, heck even just emailing your cousin in NYC about these two things would be a huge help to this little farm. So, behold these two links:

The Fiddle Package Gift

The Logo Sale (with Heifer International donation)

Thank you in advance for helping get the word out. With hard work, some luck, positive thinking and hard scheduling I feel I can keep this place mine. This place just needs a break, is all, and sometimes you need to ask for help finding it. So please do share those two links and know I am grateful and eager to do the work to keep music playing, art rising, and all the animals and myself fed, strong, and warm.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving From Cold Antler Farm!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Visit the Farm, Leave a Fiddler!

Want to give a very special gift this Holiday Season? How about the gift of music? I am offering a package lesson/farm tour/instrument for the holiday gifting season ahead! This package includes:

1. A brand new fiddle (with case, bow, rosin) 
2. Music book with audio CD and lesson plan
3. A four-hour block of lessons to get started and playing your first song here at the farm.

You pick the date of the lesson anytime I have available in 2016 and I'll put you on the calendar. If you like I can also email you the gift certificate for the event/instrument if you want something to put in a card or wrap! It's a wonderful gift, a trip to a farm, and a special gift that can last a lifetime. Start becoming the musician you always wished to be! Price $250 - Email me to sign up!

New Vlog: Rifle Season is Here!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Sixty degrees may not feel very warm for a house, but after spending two hours outdoors on a windy hillside it felt amazing walking through that front door. I couldn't feel my toes and my fingers were heading towards numb. My father's rifle was slung over my shoulder, and I gladly set it down against the doorframe to the living room. I had not so much as caught a glimpse of a deer, much less had the chance to shoot one, but I remain optimistic. Maybe this will be my year yet.

Today was a day of simple success on this homestead. I woke up in a chilly house (around 48 degrees) and got to the work of my AM triple threat: fire tending, chores, and coffee. That holy trinity of woodstove, a hot mug, and the bundling up in armor and the physical work of moving hay, bales, and buckets in the far-colder outdoor temps makes even a 50-degree home feel warm. Especially by that fire. So I did the chores, fed the crew, and enjoyed that mug of cheap coffee and gas station half and half. It's enough to make me happy. A simple happy. And that instant-nostalgia of a farm enjoying its recently acquired breakfast and all those fat animals made me smile during that second long sip. Coffee tastes so much better when you convince yourself you earned it.

After that was time for sweeping floors, straightening up, and listening to music. I start my days with music, and try to keep finding new music I love. I have a theory that the unhappiest people in the world stopped caring about sex and music and this let their cores die like old trees. They are still alive on the outside but inside they are just waiting to fall over and rot. A day with both is amazing. A day with just music is fantastic, still. There are no days with just sex unless I go deaf. I'm an animal but I'm not a monster.

After the place passed for civilized (meaning I wouldn't be mortified if someone dropped by for tea), I got to the work of design and writing. I wrapped up two clients today, earned a new one, and therefore I made more money than I spent and that is a reason to celebrate with another cup of coffee (or 5). Animals, art, music, caffeine. How dare I ask for anything more.

Homesteading doesn't come with a trigger warning, but if it did I think it would focus on presence. Those of us who keep fires and livestock, especially those who do so alone, don't travel. The holidays are here again and Thursday will be a feast with friends and music and hunting and booze (in that order). After that the wheel turns darker and colder, and as Yuletide creeps up I'll be comfortable knowing I will be here on the farm with friends, too. There is no traveling. There is no traffic, TSA checkpoints, and not a single trip to a mall (or even get in my truck unless its to visit friends farms) on black friday. I have zero problems with other people celebrating however they want, enjoy all that fuss, but I'll be here with a record player, knitting, and a LOTR movie marathon and spiked eggnog. I do love my whiskey...

I got a short jog in today, just down the mountain and back up. It was two wretched miles of water weight jiggling and PMS. Imagine a plastic bag full of milk being pushed downhill on a skateboard on a gravel road, that was me. But like any physical activity I felt a lot better having plodded through it and throwing in some sit ups and push ups in front of the fire for good measure. It made me feel strong.

Now it is dark out and the moon is full and gorgeous. I am sure from my windows I'll see those harts and hinds out in the glow, safe from my guns in the dark. I'll be here with the dogs and that fire and a warmer house. I've got plans to turn in early tonight with some comedy specials on Netflix. I don't see a reason not to fall asleep laughing. We get to choose every day how we feel, and I choose that.  Especially on days when I run like a bag of milk. A girl's gotta go easy on herself sometimes.

Hope you are all enjoying your holiday week, and that you have time with loved ones, safe travels, and smiling faces. Hug those dogs, tolerate those cats, and ride those horses folks. Winter is on the way!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


I was sitting in the forest before dawn, very cold and very quiet. The sky had veins of pink in the far east long before I heard a single bird break the silence. I thought of what Mark had told me about hunting deer. That the best thing to do is find your spot and fall asleep and when you wake up, they are there. I closed my eyes and tried my best, but I was far too wired. It's hard to get comfy for a tuck in when you have a loaded rifle on your lap.

I spent a few hours out there but didn't so much as see a deer. I heard plenty of gunfire though. If the rest of this mountain is anything to go by and only half the shots I heard actually brought down an animal I'd guess a ton of venison is on the menu tonight. I'll go outside again in the late afternoon and hope for some luck, but without a doe tag I feel like this year is already a bust. You never know, I might get lucky? Lightening strikes every now and again.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jessica Jones

My morning started with two cups of coffee and the pilot of Jessica Jones, post chores. I have been excited about this for weeks. It has lived up to all the hype and twitter is going insane. I fell in love about 15 minutes in. Krysten Ritter has come a long way since Gilmore Girls, baby. The Netflix show is dark, sexy, intriguing and entirely about a 33-year-old badass who enjoys whiskey a little too much. This is a Superhero I can get behind.

Also, no stupid costumes. My biggest beef with the entire Comic Book genre is the costumes. But Jessica is in jeans, leather jackets, flasks and scarves. Perfect. Also, far more relatable. Jeans and leather jackets I have. Capes and spandex? Believe it or not, none.

I will be finished with my first watching of Season 1 in under 48 hours, for sure. I'm not sure my readership would entirely like this show, but some of you would.

What does this have to do with homesteading? Nothing. But it has a lot to do with my life over the next two days. I plan on sitting on the living room floor with the laptop, working on designs, and lapping this show up. Between this and season three of GIRLS, I am getting a lot of female inspiration, and that is something a girl farming alone can use.

Live With a Soundtrack

Good music is 90% of this farm. New music is 99% of what keeps me going, constantly inspired and wanting to live my life with a soundtrack. I have been listening to a few fantastic albums this month and wanted to share songs like Here, by Alessia Cara. Which is a soulful and gorgeous song I wish I had to listen to in college when I hated being at every single stupid party I got talked into going to. That woman can sing.

I am really enjoying Upstate New York's own X Ambassadors, whom you know from recent hits of theirs like Jungle and Renegades - but this song... Wow. So amazingly beautiful and perhaps even more so with none of the effects and just a piano. If you haven't already downloaded VHS or picked up the album, do yourself that little favor.

Every single morning here starts with songs and caffeine. Everything from Miley Cyrus (who I think is amazing) to showtunes. It cranks me into a higher gear, getting me excited about the day ahead and the life I chose. What are you listening to?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A New Vlog About The Angry Internet

The Amazing, Horrible, Wonderful Internet

Yesterday I spent some time down at Windwomen Farm in Clarksville, helping cover up their green-house style chicken shelters with new plastic. It wasn't the plan for the day, but a short conversation on Facebook later and Gibson and I were in the truck and driving south, past Albany. It was an adventure, and I am so glad I went. Besides a free lesson is covering greenhouses with the right tools, plastic, wiggle wires and frames - I got to spent time with Kathy and her dogs. Every time I am around her and Mary I am reminded how many years we've been in each others' lives. They knew me when I lived in Vermont in the little cabin. They've been readers, supporters, friends, pork share buyers, and more for a long time and I was grateful for the opportunity to come help.

After the work outside was done we sat in the kitchen with her handsome Emit (the most beautiful dog I have ever seen, cover your ears Annie) and she politely told me just how dirty my face was. I went into the bathroom and saw the splotches of mud and dirt and let out a big laugh. If it wasn't for this blog I probably would have never known these gals, (certainly I wouldn't had let out that particular laugh), and their friendship means the world to me. I drove home listening to good music and podcasts voiced by strangers I know better than my first cousins and just felt happy. Happy to be of use, happy for this crazy life, and happy for the internet that brings us all together.

But then I got home and checked out Facebook and was instantly bummed out. I posted my thoughts on the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the comments were the most upsetting thing I've read online in a long time. We all have the right to say and feel however we want about politics and global issues, but this wasn't your standard Left vs Right shit show we all expect. It was people honestly saying things like all Muslims are Satanic, Extremists, and shouldn't be allowed in the country. I think of friends who are Muslim that I love. I got messages from Muslim readers who thanked me for what I wrote. They shared their fear of replying to it, and reluctance to engage with people who are my "friends" online. I don't blame them.

I love what the internet has done for me. It's given me this life. It's how I reach people to share my story and they share theirs with me. But it's the same place angry people pace like caged animals, striking out just to feel something besides their cages. It's a place where hate is real. And the sad thing is we can't do anything about it. So what do I do? I ignore it. I focus on what I can do every day to keep this place mine, pay the bulls, keep my own story going. As payment I get your messages on Youtube and emails, telling me how this little farm has inspired or helped your own. Those messages are the greatest feelings in the world. They are why I'm still here.

So by the end of the night I realized I needed a break from Facebook. I posted a picture of Anna Kendrick and Snoop Dog (my favorite thing ever posted to the internet, EVER) and peaced out. Facebook and I are currently seeing other people. I pop in to check messages but I'm not commenting, reading updates, or posting there for a while. If you want farm updates, visit me over on Twitter. If you need or want to contact me, please do so through email. I'm easily caught through these days.

I'll be spending a lot more time writing here, regardless. And posting videos to the Youtube Channel (Which has nearly 4k subscribers and 75 episodes!). Rainy days like today are mostly all about catching up on words, work, design, and enjoying hot coffee and documentaries while I work on logos and edit. I make lists to catch up. I try to make some paper. Not a bad way to spend a rainy day like this.

Internet, I love you. You're complicated and enable a lot of crazy people to be a pain in a lot of asses, but you make up for it with days spent with good friends, gorgeous dogs, hot coffee, lessons, love and  the community this little website has built. Good and bad, I love it all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Best Gift You Can Give This Holiday Season!

With the holidays approaching I would like to make a special offer for people looking for a unique gift for loved ones. I would like to offer custom logos for small businesses for $200. When you buy one of these designs for family or friends you will be emailed a printable voucher you can slip into a card or wrap as a gift. It shows several farm logo examples and explains how to redeem the creative process for their own logo (my contact information, how the logo creation teamwork works). Design work has become the backbone of this farm this year with book deals and writing income being harder and harder to come by. It keeps this story going here, the lights on, the animals fed, and my spirit strong.

My goal is to sell five of these vouchers this week. This money will go towards two things: the bulk will go towards keeping this farm legally mine and paying the mortgage and feed bills for the animals. But a portion of these sales will be set aside and used to support Heifer International - my favorite charity - giving the gift of food and entrepreneurship to people all over the world who need it most. $25 of each sale will go towards purchasing a goat or sheep for a family across the globe. It seems like the right thing to do - to make part of your gift and this community reach father.

I will also throw in a free voucher to attend a workshop of your choice held here at Cold Antler Farm, both for you the purchaser and for the person receiving the logo gift. Which means not only do you get a professional custom design, but help a stranger across the world, and are invited to come see the woman and animals you are supporting here in Jackson.

So in summary: You get a printable voucher for a logo to be designed in 2016 ($300-500 regular price), a workshop pass for you and your gift ($200 value), and part of the money goes towards a family in need that can start raising livestock where farm animals are needed most.

If you are interested in this, please email me at

Friday, November 13, 2015

Monday the Ram of Cold Antler Farm

Red Sky

It's a wet and cold Friday morning. I was outside with the dogs right at dawn and watched the sky turn from yellow to bright red and remembered that saying, "Red sky at night, shepherds' delight. Red sky at morning, shepherds' take warning." I took a long draw off my mug of coffee, and the wind picked up all around me. Blustery, like Winnie-the-Pooh-Blustery. It felt like the scene right before the sky opens up in a Sci-Fi thriller. Between that folklore about sky coloration and the movies in my head I had a whole mythology churning. It had to be a bad day, right? All the signs point to bad. The dogs didn't notice. They just played in the leaves and romped around. Gibson had herded sheep, took a dump, ate a biscuit - life was pretty great. They were like the band playing while the Titanic sunk into shark-infested waters. A duck walked by and Friday chased it. Gibson followed, throwing mud and water everywhere - including my coffee mug.

I took another long draw anyway. I guess no one gives sheepdogs the memo about portentous mornings.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I am gaining on them.

Alcoholism is real. Let's start by saying that. And if you are a two-hundred pound ovine with nothing else to do on a dreary day but get drunk, that is what you do. Ask my ram, Monday, who has thwarted every single fence repair and electronic shock I've thrown at him to break the barrier and lead his flock to the Promise Land; the fermented apples resting in glorious piles at the base of my neighbor's apple trees. I woke up this morning at dawn—and was getting dressed in farm armor to head outside for chores—when I glanced out the window and saw all seven sheep eating on the hillside. Good, I thought.

Good, I had no reason to rush as I set the percolator on the wood stove and got the dogs outside to pee and regarded my morning with the rural civility it deserved. But as soon as I headed inside to pour that first cup of coffee I heard the crash of a giant horned head bursting through woven wire and brush and knew that demon sheep was back to his addiction. I heard the baaas of his girls behind him, and came out just in time to see them romp across the little road to my neighbors yard. Goddammit.

My neighbor was outside with his granddaughter, waiting for the school bus. This whole thing is both embarrassing and ordinary. I wave and send my two sheepdogs after the sheep, about fifty yards away from us. Gibson uses the little road as his path to an outrun. He then does this dog-food commercial leap over a stone wall and slams into the grass below it with decision. God's Body there is nothing better than seeing a beast doing what it was born to do! I can't help but whoop for him, and little Friday trails behind him. He runs towards the sheep, slows down to his crouch and slink, and gets all seven back on the road and home in seconds. I don't know how anyone out there raising sheep isn't doing it with border collies. They have better fences, clearly.

The dogs and I spend the next hour outside in the sick-warm of an unseasonable November. It is mud everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I am carrying out fresh hay, grain, and lugging water buckets and while my body is on the tasks of livestock breakfast my mind is just on hunting. Whitetail season opens again in a few days. I'll be out there trying, but I am being realistic about this season. It's been five years of hunting and not once have I filled my freezer. I want to because sixty to a hundred pounds of venison is a serious haul of grass-fed protein for a winter larder. It's money I don't have to spend at the grocery store. It's going to be a tight winter and anything hunted is an economic and gastoral blessing. I hope I get lucky. I have a muzzle loader tag this year as well, so maybe a late season doe will be a real thing.

I am thinking of deer, but also about taking Anna Kendrick out to chase some squirrels this afternoon. I don't care if she gets one or not, that girl just needs to fly. I am planning on taking a long hike with her on the mountain this afternoon. Her, flying beside me, stealing my hat from my head, playing tag with the glove... it's worth every second spent with her even without a kill. We walk and I think and watch the woods like the pair of predators we are. If the rain isn't coming down in buckets I will take her out. The choice is made right there and then as I move the chicken pens out of the mud and onto solid grass.

Chores get done and the collies and I get dirtier. I say a quiet luck prayer under my breath for a house with linoleum floors. There is no carpeting in the living area anymore and that is a great thing. I see us walk inside with my coated boots of mud and manure and two dogs covered in the same and watch the muddy paws make a trail to the water bowl across plywood and plastic and smile. I think of when my sister came to visit a few weeks back and pulled me aside to say, in that loving-but-concerned sister way, that "I love you, Jenna but your house is gross." That hit me hard because before their visit I spent three days scrubbing and cleaning and buying things like scented candles and Febreeze and I thought the place was ready for a photo shoot. She saw the permanent stains on the plywood from thousands of muddy paws crossing them. She saw the curtain lace needing to be washed and turning from white to cream. She smelled those farm-house notes of wet dog, earth, puppy pee and burnt coffee. Of course it was gross to her. I shrugged. It was a reminder of how feral my life must seem to a mom with a suburban house and floors literally clean enough to eat off of, because she has babies crawling over them. When you got two adults, two incomes, and 100% less farming you can make your house spotless. I'm not saying it's easy, but with diapers catching most of the manure in your life its a hell of a lot easier to keep things tidy. I'm fine with my house being gross to some people. They aren't on Team Farm.

I'm back inside now and Gibson is asleep, exhausted, in the overstuffed chair. The wood stove is lit just to fight back the damp outside. Friday had her puppy breakfast and is in her crate asleep as well. Annie (who sleeps as much as possible at 16) slept through all of this mud and memories and hasn't moved off the comfy daybed since her morning piss. The house smells like wet dog and burnt coffee, and I still smile. I poured myself a giant mug of the nectar and I'm enjoying it with sugar packets I pocketed from the gas station because things are too tight right now to go out and buy a box of Equal. That sentence might sound tragic to people with cleaner floors, but I am happy. I wouldn't trade in this scrappy life for a maid staff, sugar canes, and espresso machine.

I am looking forward to a hot shower and the chicken and potatoes with lupine anticipation. It's not ten-pointer but it'll do. Last night I had two chicken thighs cooked in an asian sauce for dinner. It was amazing. The rest of that bird is in the crock pot, a sort of leftover stew to pick at when I get too wolfish to fuss with recipes. Yesterday morning I had bacon and eggs from this farm's chickens and pigs. When the place that gets you mocked, takes care of you so well, you don't really care about others' opinions. Kind of like when you're old enough to not be embarrassed by your parents anymore - just grateful.

Today is just about indoor work - graphic design clients and writing - and that is good. I'll clean up the place and run a mop and light some candles to fight against the mess. I'll put on a record, something good for a rainy morning like Iron and Wine or Band of Horses. The house will be filled with music and dog sighs. I'll get a hot shower (which I am looking forward to more than most people look forward to getting laid), pour myself some more strong coffee, and put on some clean clothes and lipstick and feel like the huntress with a mortgage I am.

I am okay with all of this being messy. I am okay with a sister grossed out by my floors. I am okay with people I went to college with being wealthy while I am sliding pink packets into my pockets after buying a cup of coffee at a gas station. If the race is about happiness, if that is our actual metric for a good life, I am lapping nearly everyone I know.

And the ones ahead of me?
I am gaining on them.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sunday Hunt

I spent most of my Sunday out with a falconer friend hunting. We took turn letting our birds fly and hunt, my Anna and his bird, Tesla. Both birds did so well, their belled feet ringing in the trees above us. No game was taken but squirrels and rabbits were chased, the sun shown warmly, and all of us (bird and human) got good exercise. A friend from the Brewery came along to take pictures and caught this moment walking back to the truck after a half hour hunt with Anna.

Cold Mornings & Good Dogs

It's around 28 degrees outside and the wood stove is roaring. The house is nearly up to 55 degrees and all the sheepdogs are here, inside, and well rested. They earned it, too. Because Gibson has been working overtime with the flock this week. My seven fat sheep (one ram, four eyes, and two wethers) have been breaking through their electric fencing (thick wool makes the shock almost non-existent) and they have been hitting up the local bar across the street. By "bar" I mean the piles of fermenting apples scattered around the trees at my neighbor's property. They waddle over there, eat their fill, and then waddle back. The neighbors don't care if they are there but I do - so I send Gibson over to gather them and get them back across the road.

Gibson adores this. His outrun is up the road an 1/8th of a mile and then cuts across the driveway, behind the sheep. Then he does that classic slinky walk up the the sheep who all life their heads in awareness of the wolf in the shadows. At this I yell out "Lie down!" hoping just his presence will send them home but of course it doesn't and here is where our down and dirty version of sheep herding departs from the trialers and pros. Gibson just runs in close, circles them, dodges and ducks from ram horns and butting heads and annoys the hell out of them until they head right back home to their own pen where no dogs act so uncivilized like the shifty dogs at the bar. It's quite the sight. Sometimes Friday is with us but she watches the show, doesn't really participate.

Both of my dogs are "soft" meaning they don't get aggressive with the sheep at all, sometimes to their detriment. Gibson won't grip (bite) a sheep to get a point across and he will back down from a bossy sheep - but backing down isn't the same as giving in. He'll just stop bothering the bullies and start working with more responsive/nervous sheep getting them to move and once the majority takes off even the ballsy sheep want to be with their flock and follow suit. He never fails, just works the angles. A dog's gotta do what a dog's gotta do.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Join Us For Rabbits and Wool Workshops!

Meat Rabbit 101
Nov. 14th 2015
3 Spots Left
10AM - 4PM

Taught here at Cold Antler as well as the lovely Livingston Brook Farm. This is a beginner's guide to what goes into raising safe and happy meat right at home in the form of meat rabbits! It's a whole day to learn all there is to know about raising, breeding, housing and butchering (and cooking) rabbit from your own backyard. Price is $100, or use your season pass! Season passes are still on sale, by the way and include big events like Antlerstock 2015! Consider one!

Winter Finding Wool Day
Dec 5th 2015
6 Spots Left
10AM - 4PM

This is a workshop dedicated to the basics of working wool. The class starts with a sheep in the field, learning the basics of wool breeds vs meat sheep (both are here on the farm) and what goes into raising a homestead flock for wool. We will sheer a little wool off a sheep bring it inside to process and talk all things fiber! Learn how to wash and prepare wool for spinning by hand using traditional tools like carders and a drop spindle. Try a spinning wheel out and see how it feels to move the roving through your hands and turn it into the beginnings of a hat or sweater. There will also be knitting lessons if you have never learned, and everyone who attends gets a set of needles as a thank you to take home with some hand spun CAF wool from a sheep you just pat on the head hours before!

To sign up EMAIL ME at

Hey, Quick Question?

Do you feel the words you read and the videos you watch here are worth at least five dollars a month? If you don't, then please skip to the last paragraph in this post. If you do think the content here is worth it, how about the Voluntary Blog Subscription?!

What does that mean? Think of how Public Radio works. You pay nothing to turn on your local NPR station, but some folks support their local radio stations just because they want to contribute to the content creators and programs they enjoy. Same goes for CAF. The blog will always be free but by choosing to become a supporter you are helping keep one dream alive for a person who shares it with you.

Artists need patrons, that is how it has always been. The people who write, photograph, paint, dance and act for you require your support to keep doing it. Which is why you buy books, frame prints, buy tickets to the ballet and such. But us bloggers don't have a ticket price for the big show and the words aren't on a bookstore shelf to buy - they are offered here for free. The only way I get directly paid by my audience is if the readers volunteer to pay what they think it's worth. So please consider it if you are able and contributions are in your budget. If they aren't, I totally get that and the blog remains free and always will.

If you already support this blog and my crazy life through subscriptions, I thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

...So you're one of those Last-Paragraph people, huh? You don't think this here blog is worth half a sawbuck a month? Do you find that a grown woman asking for compensation for her work is the equivalent of begging? Are you disgusted? Shaking your head? Angry!? Well, congratulations! Those are human emotions brought on by the compulsory, manic, and personal creations of another human being that you sought out! That's art!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

New Vlog: How I Make a Living as a Homesteader

This is a question I am asked a lot over on Youtube, since a lot of the viewers know nothing about me outside the vlogs. You guys following along for years on the blog have seen me scrap together a living through books, workshops, ideas, classes, sales, deals, and such for a while but the guys over there were wondering. So here is the reality of my life: I left one job that took up all my time, daylight, and freedom for fifty smaller jobs to make up for that income. Things have sure changed around here since 2015 but I am proud to still be here living the life I love.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How Cold Antler Got Its Name!

A Cinderella Story

Anna Kendrick was born in Portland, Maine in 1985. She was raised in a middle class family, her mother an accountant and her father a substitute teacher. She went to public school, ate mac and cheese and instant oatmeal, and lived a life just like the rest of us growing up in the nineties in Northeastern Suburbia. But there was something different about her, something wild, she actually believed that a girl growing up in Maine could make a living as an actress.

That was a crazy thing to believe.

Bewildered but supportive, her parents let her believe it. They took her to regional theaters as a six year old and she got to act in local plays, like Annie. She didn’t play the lead. She had a side role playing an orphan but the acting bug stuck.

She must have been adamant because she started auditioning in New York City a few years later. Her parents would take their little girl on the long trips from Maine into the city and let her audition for commercials and plays. It was hit or miss. She wasn’t deterred.

Kendrick’s parents both worked full time, and the family realized they couldn’t sit on a sixteen-hour round-trip bus ride every time there was a ten minute audition on a weekday afternoon; so her older brother (14) and her (12) rode the bus into the city on their own - trying out for the scraps of their dreams. As insane as that sounds, that’s what was necessary for a preteen from Maine to have a shot at being an actress. And it was worth it because at age twelve she landed a gig playing in High Society on Broadway. She did damn well—was nominated for a Tony—the third-youngest nominee in history.

After the run of show she went back to being a kid. She returned home to Maine, back in public school. Kids made fun of her. She joined the Drama Club but the woman who ran it wouldn’t even give her a role in their school plays (talk about rejection…). She had unrequited crushes on boys (more rejection). She ate lunch in the auditorium. She was short, slightly built, and self conscious about being 15 and still having the body of a ten-year-old boy. She wanted out. She wanted more.

She graduated early and moved to New York City, alone, at age 17. She worked and landed some pretty impressive roles in the theater world, including performing at Lincoln Center, but there was a lot of struggle as well. Even when you’re “making it” being a working actress in isn’t always a glamorous life, especially when you're new in town. 

After a short, broke, time in NYC she moved to Los Angeles for a television pilot (which went nowhere) and she stayed on the West Coast. Now 3,000 miles away from family and friends she started landing roles in films that made a name for her. You probably don’t remember them, even if you saw them. Movies like CAMP and Rocket Science, indie films that let her shine and were adored at Film Festivals but the general public rarely saw. She kept auditioning anyway.

Her salary covered the rent and that was about it. She lost her cable due to not paying bills, had the lights shut off, eventually  she had to walk into glum, grey, offices with cashiers checks to keep the lights on. Once she lived off a gift of Cadbury Cream Eggs shipped in the mail from her dad when she couldn’t afford food. But she kept going regardless of all the signs it wasn't working out. Because the small girl eating lunch in the auditorium who couldn’t land a role in her high school's musical wanted to be an actress, dammit.

Eventually she passed the endurance test. Directors and film buffs started raising eyebrows when they saw her name. Eventually she landed small roles in huge movies like the Twilight Franchise. Then she got her breakout role playing the tightly-wound college-grad opposite George Clooney in Up in the Air. Remember that movie? Yup, that was her, and she was nominated for an Academy Award at 23. That was 2009.

Since then Anna has blown up, at least to those of us paying attention. She’s starred alongside Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. She’s been working her ass off, up to eight movies a year. She’s made this amazing thing happen she was never even supposed to allow herself to want in the first place. If you’ve been to the movies, clicked around Netflix, or turned on your car radio you have probably watched her act and heard her sing without realizing it. She’s under a lot of people’s radar, which is astounding since she has a Tony nomination, an Oscar nomination, and a Platinum Record on her wall thanks to a happy accident with a plastic cup and a camp song from the 1930s. She’s sang for the president, speaks publicly for gay rights, and she was just honored with Variety’s Power of Women award. She’s probably at work right now.

So why does a homesteader feeding pigs in upstate New York in a torn sweater from Goodwill care about an actress in Hollywood? Because if you read my stuff you probably are drawn to living your own dreams - one of self reliance and nature, one many people consider just as much a fantasy as being a movie star. It allows for freedoms even actors can’t have. Homesteading means being your own boss, making your own hours, the constant satisfaction of relentless resourcefulness combined with the rewards of a tired body doing work outdoors. It is as crazy a dream as a little girl from Maine riding the bus without her parents wanting to be on Broadway.

How many hundreds of thousands of people out there want things and can't (or won't) do the work to get them? How many farmers give up? How many people never gather the courage to quit jobs they hate? How many aspiring actresses bowed out, gave up, or left the cutthroat world of auditioning because it tore them apart? They listened to all the negativity around them and crumbled. They believed they did not deserve it. They didn’t feel they were talented enough, beautiful enough, curvy enough, thin enough, tall enough?

How many people give up on their farm dreams because they didn’t feel they were wealthy enough, smart enough, brave enough, ruthless enough, sacrificing enough? Be it farming or acting - all of us are swimming in the company of failures. We are warned to not even try. Why put yourself through that? Fairy tales are not real.

But if you are one of the few naive idiots out there who have convinced yourself you can have that dream - you are drawn to others who share the disease. Anna's story is a Cinderella story lived out by a woman who actually got to play Cinderella. This world is insanely magical for some people and I am comforted by that. I depend on magic. A lot.

I am protective of this stranger. I selfishly keep up with her online because she inspires me. We lead totally different lives and will never cross each other’s path but her being part of this world balms me to no end. I know all of these things about her, facts collected from countless interviews and articles, because I read about her when I am scared or doubtful about my own ridiculous dreams. It's an escape from fretting about the mortgage or the price of sheep grain, to listen to her struggles and overcoming the odds.

She’s my morale boost, my Patron of Unreasonable Happiness. Proof positive a woman can want more than she is supposed to, doesn’t have to be married with kids at thirty, and can literally turn herself from soot into Cinderella. She chose to try for a life few would ever even let themselves dream of, much less work towards with dogged determination. So have I.

I need to believe Fairy Tales come true.

That is why I named that little, feisty, hawk of mine after her. It seemed fitting because the likelihood that a middle class girl from Maine would grow up to star opposite George Clooney is about as crazy as a girl from Pennsylvania growing up to publish books about her imported British pony and hunt with her hawk on a Tuesday morning. We're supposed to be in an office somewhere, right? These are fantasy lives. They aren’t supposed to be real.

I don’t keep up with other farm and lifestyle bloggers, but I do keep up with a lot of actors, comedians, and musicians because while our worlds are different I can relate to a complicated, creative, energetic person trying to figure out how to sell their story and make a living. I know that life far better than a person just down the road with the same farm animals and zip code.

I’ll take Anna’s potty mouth tweeting about MasterChef any day over a mommy blogger sharing her canning recipes. That is not a slight on mommy bloggers, just a distance I can’t grasp. I can relate to cursing at television shows after a long day of pouring your heart out for strangers, showing sides of ourselves we are supposed to keep quiet. We are both sharing the messes and doubt, confused and befuddled by our luck and force.  I can’t relate to setting up photo shoot of your perfect reclaimed barn-board kitchen table and gently sharing recipes, meditation tips, and yoga poses while your kids are at the Waldorf School and your husband builds a bookshelf in the background...

So I root for Anna. I watch her movies. She is an Ally in the Unreasonable. I see that in a lot of actors, but not as much as her.  Maybe because we’re close in age and share a similar background, probably because I discovered her story and took the time to learn about her when I was so worried my own dreams were falling apart. A happy accident I am grateful for.

I know some of you readers are still furrowing your brows. I am, after all, probably the farthest thing removed from a petite actress in California. I’m built like a Tolkien dwarf and can’t sing a lick.  I do all these things that make me seem like a Viking Reconstructionist and yet it is still this 5’2” actress in Hollywood that I look up to from the back of a draft horse for inspiration.

We could not be more different in what we wanted from the world, but we could not be more alike in relentless wanting of something magical. We both fought for it, suffered through the hard times, and kept going. I am still here on this farm and I can hardly believe that. Anna has six movies coming out soon. Look at us go.

Strangers can help you be a better person. Lives touch lives every day. I wish her nothing but a future of happiness and success and when she does win that inevitable Oscar there will no louder cheer in all of New York than the one coming out of this farm. Us unreasonable women need to look after each other, and I need to know that luck and hard work can make the impossible real in this messy and awkward world.

Some fairy tales are real. Seek them out, pay attention, and keep going.

Photo of chair from Anna Kendrick's Instagram Page, video by ABC

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rainy Day Reads!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Wild Hunt

It was mid morning and the frost was all gone. I was in a familiar forest, walking and talking with my friend David. He had been asking to come along hawking for some time now, and there we were. Anna Kendrick was on my left fist, a hiking stick in my right hand. She watching the ground, the trees, and the sky as we made our way along the stream-side trail. In my gauntleted fingers her jesses were wrapped gently in place, but if she felt like taking off just opening my hand was all she needed to be free.

We walked until we came to a place where lake, forest, and field met. The trees were free of underbrush. Just a carpet of yellow leaves between the trees, all a comfortable distance apart which made the place a Nemeton for a few quick inhalations. The tired light of October shone through what was left of the leaves on the maples above, creating a dappled motion that made the ground like water. Then I breathed in deep and felt her adjust her body weight and grip my hand a little tighter. She bobbed her head, hunched over, watched the world in a way I never could even begin to imagine. I know this; she sees things in a way that is easy for fools to call ruthless.

In our wild cathedral we could hear the chattering bark of squirrels. Anna flew off my hand and eventually found herself perched above me, her attention cleft between hunting and me. As I walked with David she followed above, the little brass bell on her anklet jingling. Sometime she would follow by perching above us, and sometimes she would come right to my outstretched fist. If she did there would be a little piece of heart there for her. She would gobble it up and take off again. Her cream chest plumage and auburn wings seemed golden in that light. Every single time she leaves me I know it may be the last time I ever see her again. When she flies back to me—weaving through trees and ducking under pine boughs—I felt myself forget to breathe. '

The sunlight through her wings.
The hope we go home with death in our pocket.
The last sunlight of the year that isn't covered in ice.
She isn't ruthless at all. She is honest.

Some children grow up hearing stories of wolves and fear them as monsters. Other children grow up wishing for a pack of their own. Out in this tired light, with these partners, I would howl if it didn't scare the game.