Friday, March 31, 2017

Honing In, Haunted Houses, & Friends

Yesterday as I was carrying water to the horse’s trough my head was going through the end-of-day to do lists. I had finished up work with three clients, mailed an illustration to Minnesota, and sent out notices to advertisers and publishers. the usual hustle of chores, work, pitches, and goals that keep this farm running. As I poured the water into the black tub, Merlin came over to see if some how this new water was also possibly grain, and as her dipped his head in for a drink I looked at his feet. He is due for another farrier appointment soon, but the trim would be short. His round dinner plate feet were sturdy and even on the slick hill. The farm was a mix of hardening mud since the temperature had dropped so fast over the last few hours. Snow was on the way.

Gods, I love this horse. His face has gone whiter every year, his mane less shiny, but he’s solid and strong as ever and I can’t wait for those hopeful summer days of riding, archery, running, and swimming in the river. I want this scary time behind me. I want the stronger, leaner, meaner version of me from last summer.

This was a tough week here. I got turned down for a opportunity I had placed all my eggs into. I foolishly assumed it would work out and it didn’t. So what had been all anticipation and eagerness Monday turned into despair and confusion by Weds. I panicked for a good 15 minutes and then stopped and sorted it out. My plan B reflexes are now honed, five years into self employment. I sent out some emails and contacted some people with the right connections. I put myself out there. I know this all sounds vague, but that’s because it’s all the muck of publishing and self promotion and nothing is official yet. Hell, nothing is even unofficial yet. But wheels are turning. Perhaps that bad news was what I needed to jump-start some other projects. That is the way I am going to look at it. If you want to live like this Optimism is the only drug that gets you through times like these.

After chores were done and the farm settled in for the night, I grabbed a green box from the chest in the living room. I called Gibson and we headed out to visit our good friends, Tara and Tyler, over at their amazing mountain homestead in Vermont. If you aren’t familiar with these two world traveling, green constructing, adventuring, entrepreneurs- get into them. They blog out of

Anyway, I was heading there to enjoy their hospitality of a warm house on a hill. Their tiny home has a little wood stove called The Squirrel and Gibson slept on it while we chatted and unpacked the items inside the Green Box. It was comforting to hear their own personal concerns, putting mine in perspective. We bitched about life the way friends do - that venting of anxiety, hopes, the future and reality's harsh truths. We all needed it. And then we got to leave Vermont for a little thanks to the game we were setting up - Betrayal at House on the Hill.

The lights were turned off and just lanterns and candles filled their home. The speaker system was hooked up to scary music and we roleplayed three adventurers - a priest, a fortune teller, and a teenager - exploring a haunted house together.

We got so into it, forgetting all the things that brought us down earlier that day. What a gift. What I love about modern board games like this is how transportive and clever they are. We had so much fun, and to end a week fraught with serious doubts, laughing around dogs and firelight and friends was so needed.

Friends mean so much to me and this farm. The night before I was at Patty and Mark's, watching Firefly on their giant TV feeling like I was in the movies. A few nights earlier my pal Trevor the Carpenter and Miriam, Chris, and Keenan (friends from back when I was more active in Taekwon Do (finances got too tight to keep going, but I really hope to return when things pick up) and we played ticket to Ride and just laughed over beers and stories and competitive railroad tickets. 

I found these people in a small, rural, area and they changed my life and grounded me in a way I feel is rare and lucky. I know a lot of hopeful future farmers out there are nervous about coming to new areas as outsiders, not finding community or a place to belong. But your tribe is out there. Maybe you'll meet as farmers, neighbors, internet gaming buddies, coreligionists, or people you chat up in line at the Agway. But they are out there. I found all of these people by accident, coming into my life through my passions of farming, martial arts, and writing books. I found them being excited about life and their equal verve and joy resounded back.

People attract people into their lives that compliment their natures. We all have different stories and particulars that set us apart, but at the heart this crew of adopted family is one hell of a song. We encourage, support, and care about each other in all our creative endeavor. It's how this farm has made it this far. It's why I am hopeful it'll make it a little longer.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. It really does help keep the lights on. Gaming photo taken by Tyler Kellen.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

All, Because of the Internet

After morning chores I sat down at my computer to see to some design clients. I had already communicated with two of them before feeding the flock. One is 30 minutes from my front door and the other farming in the UK. The first emailed me from his home before commuting to work, and the second was just considering the notion of a late lunch across the ocean. Both had questions about changes to ongoing logo designs. I addressed them in my dirty Carhartt jeans, makeup-free face, and hair braided and hidden under a knit cap sent from a beloved reader in Pennsylvania. All, because of the internet.

I feel so lucky to be following the homesteading dream at this time in history. We are all lucky! I have an international design and agricultural research station right in my living room. Thanks to the web I am able to make a living from this farm. I can contact publishers about books, magazines about freelance, clients about logos, and customers about lamb, pork, and fleeces. I can talk to blog and book readers, build my readership, and learn more about their stories and farms through social media. I have arranged for chicks to be delivered (ordered online) and just launched an eBook which over 120 people have downloaded from Amazon already to enjoy. Amazing. All of because of the internet.

I’m so very grateful for this double-edged sword. Cold Antler Farm wouldn’t be possible without it. Long before I ever had my first book deal I was writing about my adventures in newbie-homesteading on various blogs. And I sold my first book to Storey after going to their website (from an Idaho farmhouse with dial-up) and reading the requirements for a book proposal. I wrote one up that weekend, had an editor friend at my office proof it, and then mailed it with a designed logo for my book idea on the package. They contacted me about a week later. All, of because of the internet.

As much as us homesteaders like to accept the Luddite ideals and simple living - I can’t say enough good things about the technology I use every day. I like being alive at the privileged and lucky time in history to pick and choose what I want to use, gadget wise. I don't want to use a cell phone, but I have this 7-year-old iMac in my living room and it’s where I can watch movies and TV shows, play games, design logos, and write books. It’s where I sit a few hours a day working. And I love that my twitter is always open to keep up with the news, quips, politics and stories of the people I follow.

Twitter connections have proven to be the most amazing professional leads, in my experience. And because of it I have reached out to people I would never get to talk to without it. The NY Times piece from last month started as a DM on twitter by the writer. I’ve met so many amazing authors there and have been invited out to their homes and events. All, because of the internet.

As much of a pain in the ass as technology can be, it’s worth it to me. To know there are people who care about the farm. To know there are people who know me better than they might know their own cousins? Just because I am able to be honest here about this One Woman Farm? Amazing.

I have made lifelong friendships over this blog. I have championed and shared 6 books. I started out in a rented farmhouse on the other side of this continent, and now I am on my own piece of land I own and am fighting to keep. I don’t know how much time I have left here. Last month was rough and the farm is threatened. But there is still hope. I don’t know if tomorrow I'll sell a book or get a foreclosure notice in the mail. Things are never boring, that's for sure.

I do know that because of this farm I have been able to love every day of my life here, even when scared or anxious. I’ve been able to photograph and document the ups and down of a feral life and even pay off 20% of this little house and land, as a single woman. This farm has given my life meaning, community, and a reason to get up and fight.

Sometimes people tell me that they felt they could also farm or get their own piece of land because they saw me do it. That is the highest compliment I could possibly ever get. To know someone else took a stab at their dream because they cultivated enough courage from this place to see it in themselves? That is more successful to me then keeping an address or a dark horse. And it’s all because of the internet.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. It really does help keep the lights on.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Stay Positive.

Even when the odds (or chickens) are against you...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Summer Is My Fuel

Good news to share all around from this scrappy farm on the mountain! Birchthorn backers got their books this week and the novel launched on Amazon for download. Over 50 copies sold the first day, and if you were one of those people - thank you! So far the feedback from readers has been wonderful and encouraging. I had no idea how to write a novel and it was the hardest writing I have ever done. I am not sure I am cut out for it, since I wrote and rewrote that small story for over 18 months to puzzle together. A lot of struggle for what takes just a few hours to read. But it seems most people enjoyed it, and that was my highest goal. I have a whole new respect for anyone who tackles fiction. This is why George RR Martin takes decades between books! How is he not insane?!

In other good news: I am just a few sales away from making another mortgage payment this month.  If I can do that before the 28th (bank deadline) the farm is out of hot water going into full blown lambing, kidding, planting and milking! I believe I can pull it off, and that is the only attitude I can have in this situation. My coffee is hot, the sun is shining, and winter is almost behind us. Bodes well for this Reckless Optimist.

Guys, I can not tell you how much I am looking forward to summer. Summer has become my driving force as I try my damnedest to look forward without fear. I think of days waking up to milking and farm chores, then (already dripping sweat) heading to the river to dive into the water as if it is my own private oasis. I bring a book and a fly rod and read and fish and dry off in the sun for an hour. This is my air conditioning. After that, head home by 10AM to sit down to work in front of the screen and take breaks when I need to step outside and scratch Sal's chin or watch the kids use the chicken tractors as trampolines. This is paradise.

My summer days are the perfect mix of sitting down to work on creative projects and feeling that fever-dream energy of endless sunshine. Running 10 miles at a time and training for a marathon. Shooting arrows till my arms burn. Feeling all that summer hibernation weight fall aside and loving the blessed humidity. I will always love humidity. It brings green lush life to this mountain. It brings fireflies. It brings thunderstorms. That amazing sheen of life on a world that had to fight all winter just to keep fires burning... Summer is the pay off.

I am writing you this morning with a smile on my face. The novel is out, and people seem to like it. The farm is at the home stretch of being okay. Winter is almost over. Almost time to run free.

Get Your Copy of Birchthorn Now for $4.99!

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo was taken by Miriam Romais.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Birchthorn Has Arrived!

For those of you who backed the Kickstarter, the eBook has been mailed to you for download! Enjoy! For those who did not and would like to read this historic, paranormal, thriller - the eBook is now available for Kindle download on Amazon for $4.99!

My highest goal for the project was to create an entertaining story including the community of this blog. I hope you are entertained for a few hours!

Monday, March 20, 2017

I Don't Want to Travel

If you want to feel out of place tell your friends you don’t want to travel. The looks you’ll receive in return will run the gamut from shock and disgust to quiet pity. Admitting this is pretty much declaring ignorance and isolationism. It’s tripping down the stairs while crawling back into your doomsday bunker. Good, self-actualized people travel. If they don’t, they want to.

Somehow getting on a plane and going far away became the highest form of purchasable enlightenment. To experience real life is to experience it somewhere else. As a homesteader I chose the opposite. I haven’t left this farm for a single night in over five years, but I think my experiences have been just as life changing as the inkiest passport.  

To love travel is to love the feeling of being uncomfortable in a controlled environment. It’s a very expensive roller coaster ride. You board the plane knowing that some new experiences will slide out of your comfort zone, but they are usually still choices you made. We’ve all seen the Instagram feeds of zip lines, SCUBA trips, long hikes, and drinks on the beach. Whatever the itinerary it’s understood there’s a safe hotel room booked, plenty of cash set aside for meals, and soon they’ll be home again to explain to you how the temperature of beer served in restaurants varies based on region.

I see these pictures and feel nothing. No sense of envy or desire. I always saw travel as something anyone can do with enough money, time, and the will to book a flight. By its nature travel is flirting. There is no commitment to the destination, only pleasure. Guest is a title travelers learn to accept. That word makes me cringe.

If travel is being recreationally uncomfortable in a controlled environment - I chose the opposite. I’ve spent half a decade being cozy in a very volatile environment. I nested hard on a few acres on the side of a mountain. I run a four-season livestock farm alone. 

Imagine taking yourself out of your regular career and sticking yourself on a mountain farm with a flock of sheep. You have lambs to raise, a horse to ride, pigs to butcher, poultry to sell, vegetables to grow,  honey to harvest and your without a spouse, children, or family members. It's just you, baby. You and the network of fellow farmers and friends you managed to cultivate. Now throw in hobbies like falconry, fly fishing, river swimming, archery, home brewing and the fiddle. Welcome to your new vacation! Now don’t leave for 20 seasons and see what kind of person you turned into after all that. Beer temperatures vary based on exhaustion levels.

Both sides sound romantic and unrealistic to most people. Few people can afford the time or money to travel the world or buy Heidi’s Grandfather’s place on the side of a mountain and get rid of their cell phone. The traveler and the homesteader are two sides of the same escape fantasy. Rivendell or the Shire? Do you want to relax around a different culture without responsibility or dig into your own so deep you’re weeding your tomatoes for fun?

I see how people could assume my farm is a cage. Some people bluntly call it that to my face which is a funny thing to hear from people who will get in trouble with another adult if they aren’t sitting in a particular chair on Monday morning.

I don’t want to work a job I tolerate just to afford two weeks of entertained distraction from the previous fifty. If that means choosing this life that feeds me, needs me, and keeps me learning from mistakes and celebrating constant resourcefulness - so be it. My vacations come two hours at a time every day. I can leave my computer to ride my horse up mountain trails outside my front door. I can gear up for a hunt with my hawk. I can choose to take a ten mile run across the landscape I know as well as the sidewalks I strolled to school as a child. I can just nap in a hammock or watch a movie. Not as sexy as a story about band I loved in a Dublin bar, but tangible every day. I chose commitment over flirtation. It suits me.

Travel if you want to. Don't travel if your couch and a Game of Thrones marathon makes you happier. No one is winning if they're chasing someone else's idea of happiness even if they were tricked into thinking it was their own.

The truth is you can't buy enlightenment from a travel agent or garden it from the vegetables in your own backyard. We grow over time. It doesn't matter if you're in an Ashram or Akron - becoming a better person is putting in the work of getting older. For some it's raising babies. For others, it's taking up political causes, art, athletic endeavor or public service. Finding what you want out of life and working to keep it is the trick, without being sold any fantasy as salvation. You can't speed up life lessons by changing your coordinates or refusing to chart them. But you can feel happiness if you learn how to read your own damn compass. Mine points to here.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo was taken by Tara Alan.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chicks Ordered

First chick order of the spring was arranged yesterday. Two dozen egg laying hens are coming in the mail from Stromberg’s Hatchery. They will get here closer to the end of next month. I already have plans set for their brooder I’ll arrange here in the farmhouse. The spot is picked out for the wooden box with the heater, close to the pot of snap peas I planted. That little pot already has inch-tall shoots coming up which is a beautiful thing next to the glass doors holding back a foot of snow. Chicks and snap peas, these are harbingers of summer coming in few months. Dust off the banjo and relearn some favorite waltzes and you have a powerful combination of tools to welcome the Solstice. Winter is almost behind me, and I say good riddance. A box of chicks coming in the mail is no different than starting seeds - it is the intention of keeping on. It's choosing to grow.

Friday, March 17, 2017


This would be a wonderful and important time to support this blog and farm, you just can't know. This month is a scary one and if you enjoy what your read here, consider contributing towards the words. If you can't, no fuss. I will always keep this blog free. But I will ask for contributions towards the words, especially when its most needed to keep the place going. If you already have, thank you.

If you do contribute to the blog, please write a note explaining what you would like to read more about this spring? I will take notes into consideration and write about what people mention the most frequently.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


What a storm. 20"of snow and the farm is literally plowing through it. I hope you are all safe, your animals are comfortable, and we all remember how glorious July is when it hits us in a few months.

Lots of updates and photos over on twitter!

Saturday, March 11, 2017


I am offering a sale on logos, $50 off, all this month. The price drop is to help get this farm solvent and safe going into spring. I am happy to answer any questions and send you all the information if you email me. The logos are flat rate, meaning there is no hourly charge at all. You send me the company or farm's name, details on the style you would like, and I begin a sheet of comps. It is all done online, and so your location doesn't matter - it's a way to support this farm from afar and make your own brand look amazing!

Don't need a logo? Consider buying a logo gift certificate. You pay the sale price and I email a gift vouvher they can send me at anytime in the future for a free logo design! A great gift for friends with farms, to use in the future for yourself when you do need a logo, or as a gift to grads for their resumes and personal stationary/websites going into the professional world. Logos can be tee shirt designs for family reunions, an inside joke or quote you want to frame for a friend, the possibilities for custom design work on endless.Thanks for reading and considering!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Training Horns

Sean Connery, this year’s first (and so far only) lamb is doing so well. His tail is almost cropped. His training horns are very dashing. Today he walked with the flock past the fence into the woods a while to gnaw on bushes and see the view from the mountain. He’s growing up sturdy and Brick is such a great mama.

This shepherd still has four ewes (I hope!) to go. Tonight the lows drop to single digits. The hawk is already inside on her perch. All the animals have been given extra bedding and the heated lambing shed on the hillside is ready for any newcomers. I will be staying up till midnight, checking the flock through the night. Snow is possible, not much, but enough. Enough to cover the ground with a half inch on a 5 degree windy night - lamb killing weather. So wish this farm luck as the season marches on like the drunk lion it is.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing and photos are worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Underhand Pitches

It’s International Women’s Day. A day dedicated to celebrating and appreciating the women in our lives and the women that we are. What an odd thing? I'm not being flip. It is genuinely odd that a gender taught to be quiet, nice, and agreeable would be given a pride day and expected to actually celebrate it. I can't think of anything I have been told (over and over again) is more unattractive as a woman than being proud of yourself. 

We’re taught not to boast. If you live a life you are proud of you’re supposed to sit quietly and wait for praise. It doesn't matter if you're the happy mother of two in a small town or the CEO of a Fortune 500; every black-mold infested corner of society wants women to be humble above all else. Pride isn't something you should claim. How dare you take time to share what you have accomplished. That is the message constantly slung at women through underhand pitches our entire lives. We are supposed to wait to swing.  Chances are lobbed at us with a smile, "Go ahead and hit it sweetheart, you earned it" and only then do we endeavor to accept recognition. Only when it is permitted.

Here’s what I have to say about that. Stop waiting and boast.

I'll start:

It all began with a fiddle. I moved cross country alone ten years ago, from my first job after college in east Tennessee for a job in the Rocky Mountains. I missed Appalachia so much that winter I ordered a cheap fiddle on eBay with no idea how to play it. All I knew was I wanted that place back. Mountain music was teleportation I could afford. So I taught myself. It took a few months and patient dogs, but I learned to play. Now that instrument is an old friend, something I can pick up and play anytime - breathing a heartbeats into this quiet farmhouse. I can play songs that are slow and sad or bright enough to dance to. I started teaching hesitant beginners, making the wildness of the fiddle tame and manageable to others. Over a hundred people have come to this farm to learn to play. I am proud of those songs.

I am a homeowner, at least so far. It's always touch and go being self employed—there have been some serious scares—but for the past six years I have managed to pay off 20% of my mortgage and five of those years, I was self employed. That is no small accomplishment. I did this alone. I did this without a spouse, checks from in-laws, government assistance, or borrowing large sums of money from family or friends. Month by month I figured it out. I am proud I bought this farm as a single woman and am keeping it as one.

Outside my front door is a dark horse behind a sagging fence. He was born in northern England. Through luck and circumstance he was sold to me on a 2-year payment plan which I paid off in full a few years back. Merlin is his name. I have learned to ride because of him. I learned to tack him up and fit the human inventions of bridle and saddle to a half-ton of stubborn sentience. I can leave my property on horseback via saddle or cart. I have an animal I trust and care for that saved me from the worst times in my life. This was unimaginable to the 25-year-old girl looking at glossy photos of Fell Ponies in a bookstore coffee-table book a decade ago. I'm proud of the ownership, skills, trail stories and the animal.

There’s a hawk resting here on a perch above me. I learned how to trap, train, and hunt beside her and others in four years of training as an apprentice falconer. It amazes me that the girl too terrified to look people in the eye at the slightest compliment can now take a beast from the sky and train it to fly to her fist. When I look up I don't see wildlife, I see roommates. I'm proud of the time, the training, the hunts, the game in my freezer, and the hawks that touched my life.

I learned archery by joining a local historical society and joining their longbow team. I learned the skills of hickory and yew, sinew and string. I learned the tools, the care, and even landed a part time job teaching archery a few years ago a local resort. Now the longbow is as much a part of my life as the bow of my fiddle. I teach beginners the stance, the aim, the way anyone of any age can learn to meditate and become strong from this ancient weapon. I'm proud of every shot.

I learned to farm. How to raise sheep from lambs, chicken dinners from eggs, honey from hives, clothing from wool, bacon from piglets and salads from seeds. The knowledge of homesteading came loud and slow. I wrote about it for ten years here, TEN YEARS, with equal parts criticism and praise. I don’t believe either side, but inhale the middle deeply. Farming is the love of my life. It gave me the freedom to pursue the passions that give this shorty life meaning. The collage of skills that come with a homestead are too long to list. A few are brewing ciders from this farm's apples, baking fresh bread from scratch, midwifing a goat, or butchering a rabbit. Farming taught be to be human in an ancient way. To live with seasons and time as stalking monsters and perfect gods. I am proud of every single mistake, more so than the accomplishments.

I learned to stand up and fight, both for my intellect and body. A decade of being told how awful you are by strangers online has created a rhino skin against the anonymous. They mean nothing. I also became a martial artist as an adult, dedicating years to learning to protect myself and teaching other students. I have my named recorded across the world in Seoul as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I am more proud of this than my college education.

This is some of my story. I've done other things, too. I've earned a BFA in design, published five books (soon my sixth - my first novel). I ran a half marathon. I own the title on my pickup truck. I paid off 4 credit cards, re-negotiated my student loans, and trained a border collie to herd sheep beside me. But out of all of this, I'm mostly proud that I’m still here. I'm proud of the dozens of people I have met along the way. Every paragraph above is a set of faces, friendships, mentors, and bar stories. I became me along the way.


How did reading that make you feel? I guarantee if you are a woman and read this you either felt bad about yourself or bad about me. That what we've been taught. I know because I read all that aloud to myself after writing it with enough self hatred to lubricate Scottsdale. Is this empowerment or self indulgence? Am I scaring people away? What if they realize I was scared the whole time? Do they know this is ten years of fear of regret, not Disney Princess adventures? Am I a hero or a child? Am I living the dream or avoiding responsibility? Etc, forever into anxiety and sleeping pills...

Women reading this, I am asking you to worry less about what people think and be proud of what you have accomplished. Stop apologizing for it. Stop being quiet about it. If it means doing so on a random holiday that grants you permission (exactly what I just did) then let this be our collective invitation. Stop waiting for someone to announce you to a stage that doesn’t exist for an audience that isn’t waiting for you. It’s not happening. You need to write the play, build the stage, invite the audience, hand the announcer you hired the card with your name on it - and then take the applause knowing half the audience hates you for doing it in the first place. Welcome to being a woman in 2017.

It’s time to ignore the chastity belt on your self esteem. It's time to create, to sing, to march, to shout, to live a life not hindered by permission - especially your own. Celebrate your stories and the mess that got you there. Be brave about your mistakes and forgiving of the ones you can't wait to make next. All the best stories start out this way. Stop listening to other peoples'. Write your own and brag like hell about it.

I want to hear it. I need to hear it. Millions of women like me are howling for it. The forced humility we have been taught is bullshit. Be proud of the good work you have done and hold your head high. We're all counting on you.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo of me and my hawk was taken by Miriam Romais.

Farm Update

Good morning from Mud City! The farm today is mostly water, and while I wait for new lambs I wanted to share this picture Miriam Romais took of Joseph, Sean Connery, and Chase the rooster. This little guy's a bit soggy right now, eating his breakfast in the rain - but otherwise in good shape.

I am still waiting on more lambs. Usually they are a few days apart, but perhaps Brick was bred an entire cycle ahead of the others? It's possible since Monday was off the farm in all of November serving a neighbor's flock (we switch rams to keep the breeding varied). Lambs could be here in ten minutes, ten days, or next month. It's my job to keep a vigilant eye and hope there is luck coming my way with twins or triplets.

In other news the farm has managed one of the payments needed this month and I have a plan in place to make more. For details on classes, illustrations, logos and workshops, etc please defer to social media. And if you have zero desire for a logo, don't want an illustration, or can travel to the farm for a class and wish to simply contribute here as a way to compensate for the writing you enjoy, I have signed up for That link will replace the troublesome (and depending on your browser, invisible!) paypal donation link on the sidebar. It is encouraging to see a dollar thrown into that pot. It shows there is an audience happy to support a blog like this. Not a bad way to shed some light on a muddy day.

More lamb updates on the way as soon as they arrive!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lambing Season

I got around three hours of sleep last night, maybe 3.5? I was planning on going to bed around midnight and waking up at 3Am and 6AM (my usual lambing check times) but this weekend the chill is too real - 15° today and that's the HIGH! So when I noticed a string of (what I thought) was a mucus plug coming from a hogget ewe - I knew I could not tuck into sleep. I put on coffee and was outside 6 times that night.I cleaned the house up, did dishes,couldn't rest - from what I have read and heard, being on Lambing is a lot like being on meth.

If you follow me on social media, you saw the madness. I was posting all sorts of stuff to keep my brain entertained. Mostly making lists. It was fun, but man, am I feeling the drag of only a few hours of sleep. Tonight will be tougher. lows below zero, four ewes to go, and a house to keep the pipes thawed, fire roaring, hawk safe, and dogs comfy. I managed to get a lot of work done yesterday, art commissions mailed out, logo clients caught up. Today my to-do list is lighter. I am going to try and get a nap where I can so I am ready for the ring tonight. It's Jenna vs Lambing2017.

Why the all-nighters? Because I don't have a lambing barn. I have two sheds. One is large and holds the whole flock (or a bossy horse), and the other is what you see above. A small shed with a heat lamb and hay and when the next new mama is with lamb she'll go in here with a gate. It's a comfy lambing jug for the new ladies or wee lambs. Could I shove all the females in the large shed and lock it with a gate and heat lamp. Sure. But the point of a smaller lambing shed (jug) is to keep the mom and offspring close and alone together - so no other ewe can try and "adopt" the lamb who isn't producing milk yet and the likelihood of the new mothers abandoning the newborn is less. So having them all in the same bulk container doesn't solve the problem of necessary attachment going askew. And if I filled the larger shed with jugs it would mean no shelter for the other sheep who might need a respite from wind, rain, and cold.

So this is what I do. I check every few hours for the duration of lambing season. It's once a year. It's tough but this is the life I chose. I don't have to worry about raising kids or a spouse or getting to the office on Monday AM. I am here. The mandatory presence is okay.

Sean Connery, the new (and so far only) lamb out of Brick is doing well. He's tough, having spent this new cold world beside his woolly parent and enjoying his breakfast on demand.

I hope you are all staying warm and have good support around your lambing/kidding/whatever you raise. I joked on Facebook with a local farmer that we need to start a Farm-Midwifery-Potluck-and-towel wagon. When one farmer is done with their babies coming into spring they volunteer laundry and meals for another farmer in the fray. I think it is a fine idea. Though to be honest, if you showed up with food here I'd say thank you, put it in the fridge, and be happy that was 30 minutes of napping I gained not cooking. then take that nap and forget to eat anyway. Farming!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Lambs, Cold, and Peas

Lambing season came early to the farm this year. Earlier than ever before. It was a surprise to see Brick with her sturdy little ram lamb a few days ago. (Twitter followers named him Sean Connery.) Even with the night temperatures dropping into the single digits last night, this little guy was okay. I know because I was out there at midnight, 3, and 6 checking on him. He was always in a tight round ball beside his mama's wool in the shed. When it is this cold, and you have three new mothers (gods willing) - you get out of bed. A lot.

It’s going to be a long weekend. Maybe the last real cold spell of the winter. I think my firewood will last but I have a guy I can call if it gets low. I’m trying not to spend the extra cash if I can manage to luck out. By Monday temperatures will rise back into the fifties and the wood stove and I can rest a bit. Nights that aren’t so frigid don’t require the constant field checks. But even then, bad things happen.

Last year I was out three times a night and that didn’t help the lamb born after I was back to bed and wouldn’t be discovered until three hours later. She didn’t make it, but her sibling did. Had I slept through the night both would have most likely passed.

I have learned over the past half-decade of breeding sheep here that they are the most delicate of any other livestock (except maybe rabbits). I have never lost a goat or kid. I have never had a pig die unless it was butchering day. Birds seem to feed raccoons or foxes far more than any disease. Merlin hasn’t ever so much as limped (knock on wood). But sheep aren’t those beasts.

Sheep are born to blend, to look strong and part of a flock even when they start to fall ill. I learned to read their faces over the years - look for signs of thinning or checking eyelids for color. You need to feel backs for their weight number and get your hands on them in ways you don’t with pigs or goats. Trust me, a sick goat will let you know she is miserable. A thin pig is a sad thing to see and can’t be confused with a dairy animal’s hip bones. But sheep are masters of “Really, I’m Fine.” And even the little lambs can seem somber and tough when what they need is a headlamp and a bottle.

I am not chancing anything with Split Ear’s lamb. She is a poor milk producer and her lamb will be bottle fed, if she has one. She is acting like it. Spending the day away from the flock up in the shed, rubbing her sides and breathing slow. I am prepared inside for bottle lambs - with diaper pads and bottles and milk replacer for days.

Alas, no lambs inside yet. Right now I have coffee by my side and a day of getting hay in the barn, fires roaring, design clients sated, and hopefully making more sales before quitting time. Wish this farm luck with both lambing, sales, and the coming cold! May you stay warm and prosperous as well! I promise to update soon as any more babies hit the ground.

Oh, and I planted snap peas already. Indoors and out. I am a crazy person.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One Down!

The winds were so intense this morning they literally blew the door off the house. It slammed against the siding, barely held in place by a tired top hinge. It scared Merlin, who whinnied at the noise of it and had the dogs barking their heads off. It was time to wake up, I guess.

First things first. Before door repairs animals all need to be fed and checked on. As I was in-between the food and water portions of AM chores I went inside to warm up a bit. It was at that moment the person from the bank chose to come by and photograph the house. I have a writhing disdain for this person, regardless of who it is. They are the human avatars of my fear of losing the farm. They are sent out by your bank to document your home from the road and make sure you didn't abandon the property or what the condition is. Of course, my house had a door swinging off the hinges when she snapped it. Great.

The door is now repaired. It needed stronger, longer screws and a few moments with my screwdriver. The animals are all prepared for the cold nights coming these next two days. Temperatures are dropping into the single digits. I double checked on the lambing jug set up in the smaller sheep shed. It has clean hay, a heat lamp, and a bucket for water with extra electrolyte powder. Little Sean is in it a lot with Brick. You can see him up in that picture herd learning. He's doing well and has his tail banded and a fluffy mama to sleep beside while the winds blow.

Good news! I was able to mail a mortgage payment yesterday! I am not out of the woods, far from it, but it is a huge step towards resting easy.  The monster is being slain, jab by jab. Spring has enough going on with lambing, kidding, spring butchering and meat pickups, chicks to get in brooders, seeds to plant, and a hawk to get dropping feathers - the last thing I want to worry about is my address. I am sticking to daily income goals and leaving some room for luck - good and bad - in my actual and emotional budget. But this is a huge step towards getting this place to solvent and comfortable, my loftiest goals.

Thank you to everyone who has been so kind with messages, comments, stories and emails this week. Thank you to the snarky people, too - which is really a very small percentage of my readers but they are providing a consistent service to me - someone to prove wrong. Cold Antler has made it six years, and as confusing as that may be to the people hired to keep taking its picture from the road - it still belongs to that weirdo farm woman who rides the dark horse. And it will a while longer if I have anything to do about it!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Good Morning!

Good morning from Cold Antler Farm! This little guy is doing so well. Brick is an amazing mother, she really is. Looks like rain all day, but I will be staying close by the flock to watch over them in case another ewe gets inspiration to lamb as well. With three new mothers I am preparing the lambing jug area as well. Such an exciting time on the farm!