Saturday, January 30, 2016

Broadripple is Burning

Friday, January 29, 2016

Unimpressed With Winter

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The In-Between

I drove home under a thousand stars. Maybe it's the older glass, or maybe it was just the size of the cab, but the sky looks bigger from the bench seat of an '89 F150.

I was listening to Lord Huron and could not stop smiling. The moon was so large, and as I drove past School House Pond it created the line of reflection usually reserved for postcards and movies. Sometimes this world is so goddamned beautiful. I never grow tired of realizing that.

This is an in-between time for me. I'm in-between books, in-between jean sizes, in-between falling in love, in-between stages of me. So much possibility and potential is ahead. So many stories to learn and tell. I am excited. I was so glad to be on this particular road, on this particular night, with the people and places that have fallen into my luck. I can't shake the feeling of how much better things are going to turn out, how the struggling times are behind me. How change is running right beside this old truck on this perfect night like a dark animal.

I get these hints all the time.

Hints like the way the wind caught under Anna Kendrick's feathers and she maneuvered just right at the last minute to land perfectly on my fist. She looked up after that trick of wind and so did I. Above us were at least 30 crows, circling and silent. They came out of nowhere. We were just a bend in the trail from an open pasture perfect for rabbit hunting. But the crows weren't focused on us. Confused,  I gripped her jesses a little tighter as we rounded to the opening in the trail and there was a huge bald eagle, just above us,. She was being chased by the murder. I had never been more grateful for quiet crows. They were chasing away the eagle that would have chased Anna to death had they not warned us. We skated.

And other hints, too, like the time I rode Merlin up a winding trail and doe spooked us. Instead of running away she ran alongside us and Merlin moved so fast to race her I didn't have time to be scared. My body just knew what to do, trained by hours on the trails. Heels down, head leaning over his strong neck, body tense, ready to fly. The deer skirted away to the right and those five seconds will always be perfect. I am over panicking at what is scary. My body knows what to do now.

It's this place, these animals, this luck. It's the new friends and these cold, holy nights. It's the knowing that so many good things, amazing people, challenges and familiar seasons will be holding my hand in this coming year. I love the uncertainty and get drunk on that hope.

There are seeds and chicks, piglets and lambs, miles to run and trails to explore. There's a better me in every sense and the good friends who raise their glasses beside me as this winter howls down to a dull growl under sheets. There is no other person in this world I would rather be, regardless of how scary that can be at times. But I know now to look up, to lean forward, to keep moving and win those races against wild odds. I can see the signs, beat the edge, and am ready for what is ahead.

 I can take a hint.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Flame Keepers

Some of us grow up loving animals, and as children we dream of being vets, trainers, educators and zookeepers.

Some of us grow into adulthood needing animals, and we pursue a life that lets us share our homes with dogs, cats, parrots, etc and consider pets family.

Some of us realize soon after that, that we weren't looking for paycheck or a pet, but something a little more storied, old, and feral - a connection lost to 99% of the modern world.

And so we became the trail riders, shepherds, teamsters, hunters. We are the mushers, cowboys, farmers, and falconers. We are those drawn to partnerships in work with animals. Hard work.

We are the ones who want to sweat, run, explore, hunt, and work beside dog, horse, and hawk. We get high off the smell of used bridles, x-back harnesses, and leather jesses. We sit in duck blinds at 4 AM. We yell "Away to me" at sunsets as our dogs circle out. We move livestock across mountainsides. We explore forests and fields from saddles. We plow rows, pull sleds, seek game, and see the world through a teamwork most people only know as fairytales.

We were the weird kids who never wanted dolls, just stuffed animals. We are the teenagers who read too many novels - never doubted we too would go on long journeys with familiars by our sides, fighting demons and learning songs.

We are not cat people.

We are not wearing pawprint sweatshirts.

We do not accept that our passions are part of history, fantasy, or unrealistic in the 21st century.

We are flame keepers.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Vlog! Is Farmer a Dirty Word in Your Family?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday's Facehugger

Oh, this? This is just my Facehugger. 
No, you may not take it.Ohana means family...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Do Not Live in New Jersey

That is true, and only matters because this weekend the fine people of The Garden State are preparing for a hell of a snow storm. Here it will just be very, very, cold.

One of the things that makes it warmer is the kind emails I am getting from folks online. A truck driver wanted to remind me about stacking up on spare wood and to bring the dogs inside. I do need the stacking up reminder, but my dogs literally share my bed (they have never spent a night outdoors). It's getting down to 5 degrees tonight and since Anna Kendrick is down to flying weight for hunting, she is here in the living room with two cats, three dogs, and this typing primate. She's asleep on a high perch, one leg tucked up under her chest so it looks like she is balancing on one clawed foot. I'm watching a binge of Mental Floss List videos while I finally wrap up the day's work. I am bushed.

But I just learned where the phrase Paper Towns comes from. Agloe, NY for the win!

I have never worked as hard as I have these past few weeks. It's a mix of the winter farm slog, part time work, freelance, and music lessons. I am making time for my off-farm/on-farm job with Orvis, working on their website promotions and such. But that means I get up, get a fire going, tend to the indoor animals and then the outdoor ones - and then make a lot of coffee and head upstairs to my little office/tack room. There I work 3-5 hours a morning with my remote desktop set up. This was the time I used to work on the blog, videos, logos, writing books, etc. Now it is a flurry of phone calls, emails, meeting set ups, and coding work. After a hectic morning up there I shut down the company laptop to get lunch or run errands. Yesterday I picked up bales of hay and feed. Today I had meetings at the corporate office in Vermont and didn't get home until 6:30PM. Till I geo evening chores in, worked on freelance graphic design projects, and wolfed down a meal of PB&J - I was exhausted. I am grateful for the work, and eager to take on more (since this off-farm gig will be depleting half the hours soon), but this week has an emotional bottleneck I am having trouble getting through.

So big ups to those of you who take a few minutes to send encouragement. It matters. And none of my animals can talk so your tweets, comments, and emails mean a whole lot of good.

So that is my life. It's to-do lists, weather reports, and a frozen farm. But then there is of course this blog, and the vlog channel, and other responsibilities such as teaching TKD again (which I have been on sabbatical from for months due to things being too tight for martial arts travel and classes), other organizations and groups, and the social entropy that is missing out on dinner invitations or dates due to nights too cold to let the house go without a strong fire. It should be no surprise to hear I am fighting a cold right now, either. Running amok doesn't lend itself to the best self care.

I am kind of grateful for a home that needs such tending. As much as I am running around chasing my tail, I am forced to just sit down at night. Which is why I was able to catch up on all the internet talk about New Jersey and this storm, check my local weather, and let out a sigh of relief. There is so much going on a huge storm would be, well, exactly that.

I'll take the reprieve.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Forgot to Latch the Door...

I was upstairs in my office, and I smelled him before I heard the dogs bark. The door was unlocked and could be pushed open. Dash, the buck saw myself and 3 dogs enter and decided to follow us a few moments later. Friday was crated, Gibson was with me in the upstairs office with the door shut, and Annie simply did not care that a full grown goat walked into her house. I headed downstairs for a coffee refill and discovered this.

You know, Tuesday.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Get Your CAF On!

Are you looking for a Graphic Designer, pork, kids, lambs, poultry, or season passes to all the events this year at Cold Antler Farm? Then I am your girl. Trying damn hard to wrangle up a Mortgage Payment ASAP. So if you are looking for art, food, learnin',  music.... this is THE TIME to get on board!

Designer: Logos are reasonably priced, dozens of clients satisfied, and it makes your farm look better while supporting this one. Design work can also be posters, shirt designs, tattoos, house signs, business cards, invitations, gift prints, etc.

Pork! Have a large share available for the spring piglets, your share gets you 50lbs of butchered and packaged pork from a pig you co-own and I raise!

Kids and Lambs: Coming this spring! Adorable animals - get your deposit in for a Cold Antler Dairy kid (La Mancha and Alpine Crosses coming in May) or a purebred Scottish Blackface. There will also be half wool sheep/half meat sheep mxes available for freezer lamb.

Pastured Poultry: Want to pre-order 5, 10, or 15 birds? Chicks arrive in the spring (slaughtered in the summer and late fall). Price includes birds, feed, care, and butchering. You just come pick up the birds!

Season Passes: All events at CAF for a full Calendar Year coming up, new events starting in the spring and include some winter rescheduling! There will be dulcimer and fiddle classes, goat care, soap making from scratch, archery for beginners, backyard chickens and MORE!

Also available - Indie Days! 4 hour one-on-one classes on whatever country skill you are looking to learn. Everything from sheep and knitting to archery to fiddle 101.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vlog Collaboration!

Hey Folks! I am working on a little music video and I want it to feature readers of my books and blogs who have started a farm or homestead in the past 8 years. (Since the blog has started). I want to share the story of as many readers as possible who have taken the leap!

What I need is a 10 second video clip, no talking, of either the farmers or your animals - or both. Action is good (dog running with sheep, horse in field, you on tractors) or still life is fine - what you feel works (house at sunset, kids watching pond of fish) Besides the video clip I just need the names, farm, and date of operation to present.

Ex: Jane and Jon Doe
Merry Acres Farm
Idaho City, Idaho
2010 - Present

Email this to

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Gender is Farmer

It’s almost 5PM and I am salivating at the thought of dinner. It’s my one meal a day and when I think of that defrosted slab of beef my heart races. Most days I wake up, consume enough coffee to fuel light aircraft, and then head outside for chores without breakfast. Food comes a lot later when my task list slows down and I can sit and savor. But today I was running behind schedule a few hours and feeling wolfish. I craved that meat like a lumberjack stuck in a mine for three days that had to dig himself out.

Today it was windy, ten degrees below freezing, and every single animal in my care needed defrosted water and full stomachs. Add to that chore list the tactical offense of living on hillside coated in ice. My only pair of decent gloves were covered in puppy slobber and frozen within minutes. I kept on with the chores with crunchy fingers. I carried hay bales and buckets, broke through ice with staves and boots, and hauled fifty-pound bags of feed to stations all over the farm. Later I came indoors, worked in my office a few hours at a computer, and then got picked up by a neighbor for a ride to the mechanic where my 1989 F150 was waiting. I was more excited to be reunited with her than I was on prom night. Ten days without a vehicle is a bummer out here.

I spent the rest of the day in garages and feed mills. I loaded a couple hundred pounds of feed, more hay bales, and stopped at a local auto parts store for some TLC for my gal. Picture me walking in with knee-high muck boots, torn jeans, a worn sweatshirt covered up by a canvas Carhartt vest and a tired smile. I had on a knit cap with holes in it and my red hair was wild and needed a comb, badly. But my efforts at trying to appear somewhat snazzy were there. Worn down eyeshadow and pink lip balm were fighting the good fight. I told the clerk at NAPA the exact type of coolant, Radiator Stop Leak, and funnel size I needed and left in a hurry. I still had another hour of outdoor chores, writing deadlines, and freelance clients to tend to. I also had firewood to chop, a household to heat, dogs to feed, and that blessed slab of beef dangling before my hopes like a carrot on a stick. Basically, I had this specific life to live and all the crazy tasks that go with it.

While out running these errands, I heard a talk on the radio about gender and politics. About how traditional gender roles play such a part in the conscious (and subconscious) messaging during an election year. I’m sure it does, but I quickly changed the radio over to music. I started singing along to The Struts. That earlier chatter had nothing to do with me. Gender?

Please, my gender is farmer.

When you run a farm adaptation is the name of the game. It doesn’t matter if you’re single like me or manage a household of seven, your gender doesn’t apply. Any farm—especially a diverse livestock operation—requires a flexibility that takes those traditional ideas of masculine and feminine and throws them out on the compost pile. In the last 48 hours I had chopped firewood and tinkered with a furnace. I grabbed escaped goats by the horns and repaired electric fences. I also sang Katy Perry songs in the kitchen while kneading dough for a perfect chicken pot pie and spent an hour reading a romance novel with a cat in my lap. I did dishes and mopped floors and I called the butcher about slaughtering pigs. I planned out an outfit with a skirt, tights, and high heels for a business meeting for my off farm tech job, and I tossed shit-covered boots by the woodstove to defrost.

I wear torn flannel shirts and excessive eyeliner, simultaneously. I do physical labor with sharp tools and I knit hand spun wool by the wood stove. I midwife and I slaughter. I use eyelash curlers and whetstones. I read Vogue on the toilet. And I do it all without giving gender a second thought.

It couldn’t possibly matter less. The farm is who makes the demands and whatever skills are needed, I obey them. Sometimes they are what people think of as feminine and gentle, like holding a blanketed newborn lamb in my arms while feeding it a baby bottle and cooing at it like a new mother. Sometimes they are what people think of as masculine and tough, like stalking deer in the forest with my father’s hunting rifle and cursing at being in the wrong wind at the right time. Gender has nothing do with it. At all. It can be a decoration or a statement, but at the end of the day caring about gender on a homestead is just furniture and wallpaper - the frame is what is holding up the house.

And it has always been this way. Sure there were conventions and little roles people would play when company came over or on their trip into town; but those same quiet farm wives were butchering chickens and milking cows by hand beside their husbands at home a few hours earlier. They were driving teams of horses if they were better at straight rows, and their men were weeding the garden if they had better eyes. And those same avatars of traditional masculinity know what it is like to cry wildly beside a dead mare and her stillborn foal, or spend hours mending clothes with needle and thread. A life lived that close to the cycles of a farm has too much going on to worry about what the cover of a magazine should portray. It is entirely about necessity.

If we're talking about sex, I see myself as a straight woman, but only in those rare moments like zooming through profiles on eHarmony or watching Jason Batemen in that Mumford and Sons video. Most of the time I see myself as Jenna: human being with shit to do. This farm calls and I answer and my gender doesn't enhance or hinder it. I'm a horseback riding, wood chopping, truck loving, deer hunting, pie baking, makeup wearing, flannel clad, badass falconer archer with high heels in the closet and goats in need of milking.

Yeah. My gender is farmer.

And special thanks to Cameron Esposito for her "My Gender is Fighter Pilot" joke triggering this post in my brain. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chicken Pie, Farmhouse Style

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Sal is a hero. My oldest sheep and has been with me since my first year at the Vermont Cabin. He's a sweet guy, and always has been. He'll let you lean against him and take a nap when he's chewing cud on a summer afternoon and let you sidle up on a cold morning, too. Whenever I think about throwing in the sheep towel I look at this guy, and the stories, art, books, and energy around him and I think, "You know what, sheep are pretty great."

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Big Day

Spilled Milk

The tow truck arrived around noon and left with my pickup. I am crossing my fingers that the repairs are simple, cheap, and fast. It's a prayer I'm sure many 1989 F150 owners have made before, but a girl can hope luck is on her side, can't she?

Big Red hasn't started since before New Years and I am hoping to both get it fixed and home soon. Not having a truck in winter is tough. Good friends like Patty Wesner make it easier, though. She delivered hay this weekend and let me pay for it through paypal (making the trip into town for an ATM not needed). She came by again yesterday and took me into town. I was able to buy feed, some provisions, and the kind of simple comforts that make life easier when you wake up to a 39-degree house. Half and Half, for example...

I can drink my coffee black and will say thank you if you hand me a cup of such—but in these cold months with rough work outdoors—I want creamy coffee. I want my coffee to become soup, frankly, and that elixir of morning caffeine and heat is rocket fuel for this farm. I had been without it a few days and missed it so. In town I bought a whole quart.

This morning I had been franticly working to catch up on work from feeling ill over the weekend. Emails from several logo clients and my part time job were swallowing my sanity whole. The house felt cold, even after hours of fire from the -4 degree morning. The place was silent. No music was playing. Did I live in a friggin' morgue? I was about to put on a new record but instead went to the kitchen to get more coffee. It would aid in my music selection to have that hot mug in my hand. Strolling into the kitchen, I saw that my cats had jumped on the counter and spilled half and half, the entire quart, all over my counter and the paperwork and files beside it. There was no way to go pick up more. I sure as hell wasn't going to put out a distress call for creamer either. I called the cats many horrible things through gritted teeth as I scrubbed. I meant them.

Part of being a woman is dealing with hormones on the lam once a month, and that was also adding to the day's stress. The ladies out there will understand why I held it together just fine as the tow truck left with my only vehicle and then cried over discovering the milk. Yes, I actually cried over spilled milk.

For, like maybe, one minute.

I snapped out of it, fast. It was ridiculous. I cleaned up the mess and threw the spoiled design sketches in the trash and started pulling it together. Within minutes I took some deep breaths, changed into a heavier sweater, put a record on, gave the cats the finger and enjoyed a cup of black fucking coffee. I felt better pretty soon. These things were not real problems. I have real problems, I know.

My emotions don't get to choose what happens to me. I choose how I happen to my emotions.  I can't relate to people who are constantly reacting instead of acting.  I would have crumpled into a wretched ball of nerves and failure long ago if I let that happen. Sure, I have some fleeting moments like the aforementioned milkisode, but there would be no Cold Antler if I punched under water like that for long.  If you want to run a farm, or just run your own life, you need to be the boss and not a victim of your feelings. That is what children do. That is what a tantrum is. If you haven't figured that out yet, get it together.

If you are the kind of person who lets emotions drive the car while you're in the passenger seat with handcuffs and a blindfold, you need to grab the wheel. That is a recipe for disastrous relationships and unfair burdens on friends and family. People will not put up with it. Those who do, will resent it.

Listen, I'm guilty of feeling sad, angry, depressed, and scared as much as anyone but I refuse to wallow in those feelings or allow them to get in the way of real work or my self respect. If you're sad, upset, angry... it's your own job to change those feelings and become a productive human being again.  Don't know how? Do what I do. Start controlling the situation starting with your own breath. Tell yourself to get it together and take the wheel. Change your actual surroundings with music, comforts, walking your dog, going for a run, dancing in the living room, putting in the Pitch Perfect DVD for the 67th time. Whatever it takes to force a change in mood. If you don't all you do is push that responsibility onto other people or consumptions. Asking human beings or a dozen donuts or a bottle of wine to make it all better, fix things, take the blame, point fingers... Or you can just clean up the milk and get back to work with some good music and Brittany Snow. Works for me!

So I am back to work now. Getting this post out about milk and then heading outside to check on the animals. Water is freezing fast, firewood is burning fast, too. I still have a long day ahead of office work but it will get done. When it is done I will know that instead of feeling defeated by a busted up truck and black coffee, I fought it instead. I did the work despite bullshit and hormones. I sent out the emails, the hours, the projects and the bags of grain. Before dark everything with feathers, hooves, paws and credit scores will be sated. I will pour myself a stiff drink and know I have won.

And I'll watch Pitch Perfect for the 68th Time. I haven't seen it more times than Braveheart, yet, but by summer we'll have a horse race.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Cold Morning

Woke up to a fresh coating of snow this morning, and a black pony running through it looking for his breakfast rations. At 15 degrees, the snow flying off his back, it was a gorgeous sight! For all the discomfort of cold toes and extra layers, the winter chores on the farm are so much lighter than the other three seasons. No one is being milked, giving birth, or demands pasture management every day. All those chickens are in their freezers and if there are any lambs or kids out there they are the size of prunes, warm inside their mama's. There is just the work of hay and deep bedding, keeping water defrosted, chickens fed and pigs content. The bulk of the chores has moved indoors to the hob in the house. Keeping that fire going is the real work now, and it is work worth doing. It's nearly 9 AM and the house is up to sixty degrees, the dogs fed, and I am about to head to my upstairs office. It'll be a busy day of tasks indoors and out. With hot coffee, music, and a good meal it will be a fine one. May the fire keep up with me!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Follow Your Hart

So my Ford is sitting in the drive, unable to start and waiting for a tow. It makes me nervous, but I am trying not to think about it too much. What I am focusing on is the good news that the house is warm, the dogs are fed, the farm is fine and my mug of coffee is hot. If I take too much time to worry about the mortgage payments and truck repairs, things get useless. I become useless. I have figured it out before and I will figure it out again.

It has been almost five years on this farm, a 6th of the time my mortgage contract will exist, and I am still here. The chickens are still crowing and the sheep are still breeding lambs. The horse is still swishing his tail and the bows and quiver are still resting against the corner. My hawk is fed and was flown a few hours yesterday and if the snow holds off I will take her out again today. It will be a nice couple of miles through forest paths and over icy trails. As we made our way I noticed that the usual trails I know so well from countless rides on Merlin were not littered with deer prints. These phantoms made no appearance during hunting season, but here was proof positive the beasts exist. The tracks were all sizes, from large enough to make me think it was a small moose to dainty as a ewe's. In the half-melted snow they looked like hearts. "Follow Your Hart!", I said aloud to Anna, who wasn't listening but I laughed in the woods anyway. We didn't see any small game yesterday, but we saw a lot of sign. Rabbit scat, squirrel nests, burrows and trails. We both got to use our bodies to traverse the landscape - by foot and wing - and that is good enough.

It is all good enough.

I got to learn what being haunted feels like. Anna Kendrick lost the last acorn bell on her anklet somewhere during the hunt and the silvery ringing sound I am so used to, that lets me know exactly where she is at any moment, was missing. It was as jarring an exclusion as if I owned a little shop and the bell that rang when customers walked in was gone. Us humans are so easily trained, aren't we? So Anna didn't have her alert and so as I walked I didn't know where she was unless I turned around and called. Then out of some far tree branch she would swoop and fly so close to my head her talons would graze the knit cap and then land on a branch behind me. I trust this bird so much. She follows me like a puppy and while I could not hear her I would always feel her. I'd walk wonder where she was and some branches would fall on my head and I'd look up and she would be 20 feet above me, looking down. If I stopped to sit on a log, she would land beside me. We sit side by side as long as I like, as long as no fat squirrel runs past her she will perch beside me as if we are Waldorf and Statler. Taking game is wonderful, but sitting in a forest alone with a hawk while the flurries fall around both of you and ravens call out in the distance is just as wonderful. I can't believe I waited until I was thirty to do this. What a fool I was.

I have been thinking a lot about wealth lately. As much as these past few years have been a struggle financially, not once have I felt poor. I have felt scared, stressed, and have had sleepless nights and panic attacks, but that all had to do with numbers - not wealth. If I'm not making sense, let me explain:

In a world of 7 billion people I have landed on six and a half acres on the side of a mountain. As far as the bank and the IRS are concerned, I still own it and probably will continue to own it the rest of today. The larder is stocked inside, with months and months worth of food and outside fresh water literally runs in the form of a bubbling mountain stream. It flows into s pond with fat bass and turtles. It is mine, too. The forest has deer, rabbits, trout, grouse (I know because one flushed when Anna landed on a branch and it gave both of us a near heart attack!). There are farmers all around me, so many. There are people raising dairy and meat, fiber and grains, hay and fish hatcheries. This is one of those weird pockets of the world where returning to early 19th century life would be possible. Where seasons come and go, rain falls hard, summers are hot, winters make you tougher, and I can attest for certain you don't need a thermostat and hot water on demand to make it work. Outside my little home are gardens, are sources of pork, chicken, eggs, goose, wool, fleece, milk, kids, lambs, horsepower and hunting partners. Inside the house are kind dogs that herd sheep, warm beds, and make me feel like a pack mate. I have friends that will be here within minutes of calling them, either to help in a crisis or to enjoy a Game Night or movie for plain ol' company. I have a Kindred that I care deeply for. I have a religious life that makes this crazy world make sense to me and accept it with a smile. I have never been cold too long. I have never been hungry too long. I have a roof, friends, and a body that while imperfect and doughy - can make her world her own. This is home. This is family.

This is wealth.

I know my bank account has double digits in it. I know that soon the foreclosure notices will appear again. I know all too well how hard it is to sell a book after your first five aren't NY Times Bestsellers. I know being 33 and single with a Hobbit house full of beasts isn't considered desirable. I know all the many things stacked against me involving logic, statistics, and plain common sense.

But I'm still here. And I have a good feeling today about selling a logo or a fiddle package, and if I do that might just cover the tow truck and repair fees for Big Red. And that means I'll be able to ride it to Orvis again for meetings and to train for new skills they need me for. And it means a little more independence, which might be the morale boost I need to land an ad sale, a book deal, a lucky break. And I will get that mortgage payment made, the truck repaired, and be onward to the next task - which is deep winter. Winter here is not like many others' - it is something to get through.

And I will. Just watch.