Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fast As We Can

If you told the 13-year-old me that by age 35 I would not only own two horses, but know how to tack and  ride them ... she would believe you but have 300 questions. She would want to know how it happened, how long it took from the wishing and wanting to holding a lead rope in her hand? She'd want to know how much it hurt - how many falls and scabs paid for that kind of skill set? And most of all, she would want to know their names and colors.

Well, 13-year-old weirdo me: it happened through stubbornness and took a decade of wishing and wanting. It hurts falling off horses, I won't lie to you. It happens less than you fear but more than you want. And the skill set you really want doesn't come from lessons you pay for riding in a circle - it comes from sweat and time on forest trails. It comes from learning to jump streams, recover from leaping deer or flushed grouse, and hundreds of miles spent on the back of a thousand pounds of herbivore. But it is all worth it.

Today my good friend (and amazing horsewoman) Patty Wesner came by to ride Mabel for the first time. Mabel has mild arthritis, and can't be ridden every day. But she can enjoy a few hours on the trail a week and today Patty rode her faster and harder than anyone has in a while. Mabel didn't so much as hiccup at the hour in the woods. She loved it. Patty couldn't stop smiling, herself!

Together we galloped through fields and trails. I was on Merlin, the man of my dreams. Mabel was ahead of us, moving across the landscape as if she already knew them by heart. Patty would give her her head and ask her to run and Mabel was thrilled to do so. Merlin and I weren't far behind. The old man kept up with his new girlfriend quite well. It was a glorious Sunday morning! To feel the wind you ask for on the back of a running horse. The years of work and time to feel happy and comfortable running together through the woods. When I first got Merlin, five years ago, I was scared of him. I didn't understand his body or mine. Now we are a time and the lessons he taught me translate to the paint mare I am falling in love with. Seeing Patty fly on her was a dream.

When we were home and currying our mounts, Patty looked over to me and thanked me for letting me ride my horse. I made a joke but inside I felt like it wasn't real. My horse? Is that tall, gorgeous, animal also mine? Will the director yell cut and the handler take her away, as if this is a movie set and not actually real? It's hard to believe I have made it this far. No one can take away those years of riding and learning and becoming the kind of woman who can race up the mountain with laughter on her tongue and joy in her heart. It's a pride that is worth boasting about. And I am proud of the home I made for Mabel and can give her. She is currently eating some apples off a tree and trotting across the pasture with Merlin by her side. It's a sight I barely believe, but will take in with all I have.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Now on Instagram!

Hey guys! I signed up for Instagram! For those of you who want to follow me there for the pictures of the animals, farm, me, and life here on the mountain you can do so by going to my IG page @coldantlerjenna. Thanks!

Piglets & Ponies

There is new electric pig netting set up and it took less than 2 days for the piglets to test it. Thanks to the Kiva funds I have been able to order a stronger charger and more fencing, so I feel more space and a better shock will keep them minding their own business. It's important to confine them because one night out can destroy your property. Last summer piglets rooted up my entire back lawn in an evening thanks to poor fencing. That stinks for me, but imagine if they got over to the neighbors... But already the netting from Premier One is a huge improvement, so far!

The piglets are for sale, but so far no buyers as they weren't ready to be away from mom until recently. Peak time to sell piglets is spring not high summer. But I have faith I'll get them out to new homes soon. If you're local(ish) and looking for some pork futures, I am happy to oblige. Email me!

In other winter-prep news I have made some calls and emails over firewood and if I get a delivery next week it'll be a record, or at least I think a record, for stocking up on winter heat early. My goal is two cords stacked and ready by mid-September. And the biggest goal of all is getting my truck repaired and inspected before the end of August as well. I am dreading the trip to the transmission shop, not because of the costs (thank you, Kiva!) but the way people who have beloved pets reaching an older age fear going to vet checkups. I love that truck more than any vehicle I have ever owned and want her to last me a long, long time. She's got my heart.

I shouldn't be making up issues in a life with plenty of projects to already tackle, but what can I say? I have a very active brain fueled by anxiety and fear of regret. It got me this far.

This weekend my friend David came to learn a little about horses and go for a trail ride. He was a natural. He took to Merlin as if he was born to ride horses and together we groomed, checked feet, fly-treated, tacked, and rode the horses. I rode Mabel (who took the bit so well!) and he took the Old Man. I have always loved riding alone, and still do. But there is a real magic to sharing the trail with a friend. Mabel and Merlin are good in pasture and on the mountain together. And to see the mish mash of tack I bought used or piled together over the years on two horses I own is a magical thing. The girl I was ten years ago would not believe that I rode out from a farm I own on two horses I know how to tack, ride, and share. A magical moment, for certain.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dirty Work & Fighting the Bit!

Yesterday was one for the books. The kind of day you look back on with instant nostalgia. Not because it involved some amazing insight, celebration, or story but because it was full of the good, everyday, work of a farm. I don't think I have ever been so dirt or so pleased in quite some time. It all started in the pig pen.

The two sows and nine piglets outside in the woods behind the barn have been doing well. Happy to report the moms and every one of their babes has made it since their birthday, even the smallest runt. The piglets weren't behaving with the three-strands of electric wire the adults abided so I switched to a roll of electric netting. Once trained to it fairly well I felt confident expanding into the woods surrounding their pen. So yesterday morning in the glorious, pre-storm humidity of a New York July day I went out with hedge trimmers and made a path through the dense brush to make it clear enough to post the netting. If there is too much hitting the woven nylon strands the charge is pretty week. So in advance a few hours of hand-tool brush removal took place. I was soaked through my clothes in moments. Then I fell over in the muck a few times. I got so filthy I honestly can not think of a time I have ever been more riddled with muck, bug bites, nettle stings, sweat, and curse words. But I gotta say - the look on the sounder when I opened the gates and let them explore the wild would make the people at Hallmark ashamed of their lack of expressing good tidings.

That picture above is the first few moments exploring the underbrush and weeds. They were all so excited! Piglets dashed around like bowling balls tumbling down a mountain. The sows ate the weeds with pure joy. I stood there with the fence tester in on hand, wire cutters in the other, dripping with unmentionable filth so pleased. This farm has never been better, the animals never better, me never better. It feels so good even when you can taste pig mud in the corners of your mouth.

I took a long shower. It was glorious.

Post shower I had an appointment with Tabitha Morgan of Long Shadows Farm. She's a horse trainer and the person who originally connected me with the owners of Mabel, the new draft/paint cross mare that lives here. When I was over at Long Shadows this past weekend helping load up hay in their barn (Tabitha and her crew helped Patty and I load hay at Livingston Brook Farm, so the favor deserved a return!) she asked me if I did logos. I did, I replied. A few moments later we struck up a barter deal. I'd design her horse training business logo in exchange for a session with Mabel. Mabel started refusing the bit. She's almost 16 hands tall (15.3) and as a 5'2" woman a horse with a high head that refuses a bit is near impossible to bridle. I had been taking it slow and steady with her - sometimes taking an hour or more to get the bridle on without losing my temper or forcing it in her mouth. But that gets old, fast. I needed a horse trainer.

Tabitha got that mare to pick up the bit out of her hand in 45 minutes! She might be a witch. I'm kidding, she's just a very experienced horse trainer who shared this with me. I was listing all the reasons and concerns I had about Mabel and the bit - everything from wolf teeth to pasture-grazing soreness (she was in a stall/paddock at the boarding situation before) to testing a new owner. Tabitha listened to me and checked her teeth, and after hearing the owner's lament and accessing the dental situation told me that you can spend a lifetime wondering what the problem is with a horse and asking yourself why it is happening - or you can just start fixing it. She's a doer. And I loved that.

I don't know if it's some breach of ethics to share a trainer's methods. So all I'll say is using calm, positive methods that horse went from anxious and unwilling to practically taking the bit out of her hands. then I tried and had success on the first time! In the horse/rider relationship it was a really pleasing and encouraging moment. I feel that I got the upper hand on the barter, but swapping skills out here in the country is a real satisfactory exchange. 

Just another day on the farm. One that started with dirty work and ended with equine witchery. I'm glad I was there for both!

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth more, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Logo Sale!

Logo Sale going on now, either for logos designed this season or bought cheaper now to cash in later when you are ready to start designing. Message me here or send an email to dogsinourparks (at) gmail and get some custom design work for your home farm, business, crafts, bakery, family reunion, or just art for your home. Support a One-Woman farm and help keep this place going strong! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Great news, guys! The Kiva loan has been funded! I'll get the truck to the mechanic to investigate/repair the failing transmission, get fencing and repairs to the farm, and other winter-prep and supply needs. It is an exhale of relief and I thank all of you who loaned Cold Antler for this endeavor! The funds arrive in a few days and I'll be posting about the truck, fencing, and more as it all happens. Again, thank you for your support of Cold Antler and I hope you are beating the heat wherever you are!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Winter is Coming and I'll Be Ready!

A few days ago I kicked off a Kiva Loan campaign. With the farm's mortgage finally caught up and income from writing, design, and illustration going towards keeping it that way - this loan is a way to repair, upgrade, and prep the farm going into winter without a fear of falling behind again. It's part of my three-part plan to stay financially healthy and eventually - profitable.

Part one was fueled by that scary letter in June - to earn enough in logos, illustrations, classes and reader subscriptions to bring the farm current. That amazing month got me out of the woods. Now I want to race ahead of the trees going into winter - without the costs of truck repairs, winter fuel, roof work, and plumbing updates letting things fall behind again. I'm not going back to being afraid for the roof over my head.

Kiva is the only way I can get a small loan without interest. I was approved for up to $10,000 dollars but couldn't budget their repayment plan so I am doing a little more than half that. So far it is just shy of 40% funded, and I hope to hit the 50% mark soon. The money from this loan goes towards fence replacement (switching from woven wire to electric), new electric solar fence chargers, roof repairs (worse parts of the kitchen roof before winter), and a new transmission for the truck I bought with my first Kiva Loan. You can view that fully repaid loan here. 

Right now my mechanic advises I don't drive it more than 20 miles from the farm and always pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes, cash, and water bottle with me...I want a safe and sturdy vehicle going into winter and I don't want to get a new truck either. I'd rather repair the one I have, own, and can afford the low insurance rate on.

So if you were a part of that first loan, you can go into your Kiva Wallet and reloan the cash I repaid if you like. If you have never been a part of Kiva - check it out! It's a way for you, fellow farmers, and small businesses around the world to gain working capital without high interest. It also is fueled by people who want to support the farm, folks that know you. It's a nice personal touch to lending.

~View the Campaign Here~


Last night I was checking on the flock with Friday. It was past dusk and the world was almost dark. I was up near the sheep pen looking for the new lambs, who now are out of their introductory pen and have full-range of the farm. I couldn't find them. I knew they had no left but they weren't with the eight established sheep. That motley crew was in their pole barn for the night. I could see Monday the ram, Brick, the yearlings, the new Scottish Blackface ram lamb, Joseph and Sal. Everyone seemed okay but Sal didn't. He didn't seem to be in pain, just slowed down and in the corner of the pole barn. He lay his head down on the hay and rested with his eyes shut. At age 13 he is the oldest sheep I have. He, Maude, and Joseph came here in my station wagon from Vermont when I moved here seven years ago. He was 4 when I bought him in Vermont. He was breathing steady and no other sheep were bothering him. I let him be. I had a feeling that was the last time I'd see Sal. I went back to looking for the lambs. I found them, finally. They were far in the back pasture having made a summer night's nest among the fireflies near a fence surrounded by maple trees.

This morning Sal was gone. He was a very good sheep. I used a garden cart to move him away from the animals and into the woods where he will be buried. As I pulled the cart this morning I passed the lambs at their firefly nest. They watched quietly. I was quiet, too.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Batch & Book Combos! Available again!

Taking Batch and Book Combo Orders. Only selling 5 more sets this weekend. Set includes 8 full-sized bars and a signed copy of One Woman Farm. Soap is made FOR YOU, your custom choice of scent combinations -which include any combo of the following - unscented (just milk, coconut oil and olive oil), lavender, mint, honey, oatmeal, or pumpkin.

I will make the batch (about 2 pounds of soap total) specifically for you in 8 matching bars of either the dragon style or handmade mold style. Also, the book will be signed to you or whomever you prefer. If in the US, add $10 shipping. If in CA - $20. You pay via paypal to reserve your batch. Email me if interested!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Morning Chores

Morning chores start at the Space Coop. The new Eglu Cube has been nothing but a joy to own and use. I lift the handle that opens to raccoon-proof door and the five Silkie Bantams come down their ladder to the open door of the farm. This is the first chore of the day, letting the Floof Empire out of their spaceship and into the world of rain, moss, grass, grubs, and chicken feed they don't know I named Cold Antler Farm. I take a sip of the coffee in my hand and enjoy their fluffy-butt waddle to discovery as they head down the slope to the stream.

The rest of the poultry on the farm is in other disparate coops and tractors. The majority of the egg layers sleep in the barn on the wall of the goat pen. The meat birds are in two separate chicken tractors - one in the kailyard and the other in the woods between the kailyard and the pig paddock.  Because of the simplicity of filling chicken feeders and waterers - the birds get taken care of first. It's a job I can do with coffee in one hand and dogs playing tag beside me. It is amazing how much quieter a farm becomes when fifty-plus birds get their breakfast.

Next is the work of hay and water, which is fed to the livestock year round in varying volumes. The horses get some flakes to share, but most of their diet is out on pasture. Same goes for the summer sheep and lambs. The goats eat mostly hay and grain and before they are milked (last chore of the morning) they get some hay and their water refilled. The pigs need new bedding nearly every day (depending on the amount of rain) and drink like fishes when they are lactating. So now the real sweat of the morning has taken its first real calories off my frame. I don't have hoses to the stations so I carry 2 5-gallon buckets from paddock to paddock and they refill from the well-runoff hose. The good news is my farm is small and all of these water stations are fairly close to home. The highest and farthest is in the sheep's pen.

Feeding pigs is next. They get a mix of kitchen scraps, day-old whey or milk, fallen apples, grain, and garden scraps. It's done after the work of bedding and water. One of the real joys of the day is watching them all dine like the lovely savages they are.

Once every sheep, lamb, pig, piglet, chicken, chick, goat, horse, and hawk has had their food/water needs met I go back inside. This is when cats and dogs get fed and coffee gets refilled. I can clean up and prep the work of milking and cheese or soap making (depends on the day) and make my to-do list of logo designs, illustrations, writing tasks, etc. It's a nice ten-minute break from the physical work outside.

Next up on the AM chore list is milking. I head out to the barn with a pail and clean hands. I have some supplies like warm soapy water in a bottle and a cloth. This is for cleaning off udders before milking. The act of cleaning also helps to let down the milk and encourage the does to give it their all on the stanchion. While milking the goats get their grain. Their minerals are free-choice right now in a pail. I milk and listen to podcasts or audio books. It's a focused few minutes I look forward to.

Since I am in the barn I collect eggs, usually just one or two at this time of the day. Most of the hens laying now do so closer to noon. I get the rest at evening chores after dinner. 

The milk comes inside and is filtered and either set in the refrigerator in half-gallon mason jars or set on the stove to become cheese. I use packets of culture I buy online and the work of filtering, cheese-making, soap prep, and dairy dishes is second nature now. Today I am not making soap so chevre is setting on the stove and a half gallon is in the fridge.

Last I check on the gardens. A little weeding, some meal planning, and a mental inventory of what is growing and when it will be ready to harvest is ticked off in my brain. Today I have tomatoes, lettuce and kale greens, defrosted some bacon, and have bread dough rising. I'll make a BLT sometime in the mid-afternoon and that will be my first non-coffee meal of the day. Most likely my only meal of the day. I like eating one real meal a day and a little snack when the sun goes down. It works for me.

Lastly, the horses get their daily joint supplement powder with a little grain to make it appealing. It helps Mabel's arthritis and Merlin's older frame. By this time I am leaning back against the fence tired and happy. The farm is quiet. Everyone is eating, drinking, or napping off the morning's work of eating or drinking. The occasional hen squawks or rooster crows. A sheep might call out to a lamb or a dog will bark at a passing jogger - but mostly quiet. It's taken over an hour and now my day can truly begin.

Farming isn't for everyone, but for those motivated by bacon, checked off to-do lists, and possible pony rides - it's for some. 

P.S. Thank you to the 44 lenders who have been a part of the farm's Kiva Campaign! In 2 days we are at 30% and gaining ground! If you were a part of the truck loan through Kiva, you can log into your account and re-lend that money repaid to you to CAF again - or support another farmer!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Pleasant Stranger

Mabel has been here at Cold Antler for a little over a week, but it's still a quiet shock to see her up in the pasture. Her bold chestnut and white coat seems to glow among the greens and browns of the field and trees.  Seeing her and Merlin side by side is a happy sight. For so many years Merlin was the sole pony on this farm. He is always close to Mabel now. She's definitely the one in charge and he's fine with that. Now in his twenties and six inches shorter at the withers  - the pasture looks like a Hobbit and a Cowgirl sharing a conversation or a breakfast of first cut hay.

I've ridden her four times since her drop off day, worked with her on the ground, and have an appointment with horse trainer and farrier, Dave, to meet her next week. I trust Dave's opinion so much on horses, and he may be the second most educational individual in my equine education. (The first being Merlin.) His expertise will be a combination of his many skills with horses - from feet condition to the swirls on her forehead. His particular combination of science, lore, experience, and horse sense will be well worth his $40 fee to trim her bare feet. My friend Patty told me that if I listened closely, I would never leave a hoof-trimming appointment with Dave without learning at least three new things. She was right.

So far Mabel has been a pleasant stranger. She's working out and I'm glad. Myself and friends have ridden her, and while she is more horse than Merlin (in size and attitude) she isn't interested in hurting anyone. She's a chestnut mare, through and through. If you want her to do something for you, well, you better be worth the trouble. She's already outsmarted, tested, and worked around my requests several times. But I know enough now to understand the difference between malice and stubbornness. There isn't a malevolent bone in Mabel's body. She just doesn't suffer fools, the nervous, or the easy-quitters. I like that in a woman!

In other news: I have been approved by the wonderful people at Kiva for my second loan through their micro-lending platform! This was the service I used to get the funds to purchase the 1989 F150 two years ago. That loan was paid off this summer and I applied for another last week. Details are here if you are interested in lending or sharing it on social media. Unlike crowdfunding, micro loans are repaid to you in full. You can put the money back in your bank or loan it to another farm. I have loaned the same $50 about 4 or 5 times now! Regardless, Thank you for looking!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

River Days Are Here

Morning started earlier than usual. I was up and outside around 5:30AM, an hour ahead of schedule. I wanted to sleep in but the day was already warm enough at dawn to make sleep less about comfort and more about sweaty sheets. So the dogs and I headed outside. The coffee perked up on the stove top went right over ice. This woman was in a tank top and hauling buckets before 6.

Every day I make a list of things that need to be done. Depending on the day that list changes specifics, but in general it is a check-off of all the farm animals' AM needs in food and water, 3-5 design and illustration clients, a writing goal, and income goal. Making the list is my first task of the day after making my bed. It tells me what to get done no matter what, what to hope for, and where I am at. I wish I had this system four years ago. I learn everything the hard way.

Anyway, when I have taken care of the animals and at least 3 clients - I take a break to go run, fish, ride, or just head outside to walk around the farm. It's an hour to unwind and break up the day. Today I headed to the Battenkill river near my farm. I wanted to fish.

The clear water was finally comfortable. For weeks it has been too cold and the summer to mild. Here in Veryork we've had record rainfall and a very extended spring. Days in the eighties were sparse and true dog days were scattered and rare. So my body and mind didn't crave the river. Today it did. Today it felt like an old friend.

I cast out my trusty Orvis rod and watched fish rise in the distance. People in canoes floated past. The occasional dog or grandmother watching grandchildren swam by. It was lovely all around. I didn't care if a single trout took my fly, I was just happy to feel cold rushing water on tired legs that had been up and working the past five or six hours. Breaks feel better when earned, all around.

River days are here, or at least river breaks. It's a few miles by truck to the Georgi (4 miles by road) so to drive there, swim, read a chapter of a book, and drive back is a nice lunch break. Today was all about the coming thunderstorms. It's a lucky feeling and a fine reward.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Soaked and Sorted!

It's a wet and soggy morning here at Cold Antler, and I am glad. I'm sitting here at my computer in the living room, with a black Hogwarts tee shirt from the 1900's stuck to my back. My sopping hair held out of my eyes with a bandana. I was out sorting sheep with Gibson in a steady rain. Last night was the first night the newly-introduced lambs were with the rest of the flock instead of living separate in two pens. The rain meant most of the flock would be in their pole barn and I was worried in the mean world of sheep politics they wouldn't be allowed in with the rest of the flock. So I jumped out of a very comfy bed with dog wearing underwear beside me (Friday is in heat, she wears doggy diapers at night to protect the sheets) and ran up the hill in the rain. As expected the three new lambs were standing in the rain outside the pen, not yet welcome to the folds of the flock. They didn't seem to care. The rain was gentle and their coats thick and they were eating some first cut hay by the water tub. I opened the door to let them all out to graze and sat and shepherded them in the rain with Gibson. We took in the shower (a nice summer morning) and the flock grazed, all 11 of them.

Mabel and Merlin came over to check on their breakfasts. I give the horses a flake of hay because while they have the whole pasture it keeps their diet consistent and Mabel is new to pasture. She's been in stalls and paddocks for a long time and still considers hay "real" food. So do I. But we had sheep to sort first so the two horses swished tails and enjoyed the flyless summer rain while me and a wet dog watched the sheep.

The good news was no one was being violent to the new kids. They were being ignored. That's better than Monday deciding to push them around. The horses also didn't mind them. After a bit I herded the original 8 into their pen and shut the gate. I brought them hay instead of summer grass allotment and let the majority of the fields use this rain day to grow. The little lambs stayed out with the gate to their pen open in case they wanted shelter without a ram body guard.

Sheep. Such drama. Once you really know a flock you can cater to them in such ways. At least you can with such small numbers as mine. By winter only seven sheep will remain (6 if old Sal doesn't make it this winter) and that is a better number for limited pasture like mine. But I am proud of this year's management. Instead of brown from overgrazing and moss, there is grass everywhere. The horses and sheep are well. Even soaking wet on a hillside it feels good.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Soaps for Sale & Made to Order

I have this little set of mini skulls and hearts for sale for $25 (includes S&H) for sale today! It includes three skills and three anatomical hearts and they are shipped in a little egg carton and are great for everyday use, decoration, or gifting!

I you are interested in some other soaps I have a few available to mail of assorted types. I also make soap to order and offer signed book/custom batches made to your specifications. It's a way to support this internet word farm and get a beautiful set of soaps handmade with goats you know from the blog and books! All come from Bonita and Ida's milk! Email me if interested!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Okja: Thoughts From a Pig Farmer

I settled down to watch Okja after morning chores. Unlike (what I assume) is the majority of the audience watching this movie, I raise pigs for pork. Right before refreshing my coffee and settling into a worn easy chair - I had just fed breakfast to eleven pigs in their forest paddock behind my home.

I loved this movie. It was so well directed, shot, and acted. It walked the tightrope of magical realism and stark morality play with graceful, beastly plods. I felt a range of very human emotions told through the story of an CG animal. Okja, the film’s namesake, was a the Pete’s-Dragonesque giant pig. I laughed and cried. I can’t recommend it enough.

This film touched every age and relationship I’ve had with animals. I was the little girl with an imaginary friend. I was the animal activist in my twenties. And now I’m a pig farmer, raising animals alone on the side of a mountain. Every version of my story was portrayed in this perfect movie and I would like to explain why those roles have changed.

In college I became a vegetarian and remained one for nearly a decade. My reasons were strikingly similar to the tone of the ALF characters in the film; compassion over greed. I saw the grainy slaughterhouse videos. I read the statistics about the environment. I could not understand how everyone was just okay with it all? My diet turned into edible activism and I went from believer to fundamentalist. When people challenged my views I felt satisfied with the certainly that I maintained the moral high ground...

Read the rest of this article at Huffington Post.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Beautiful Beast

Friday just turned two years old. She's grown into such a beautiful beast. She's so unlike Gibson, who is all work and loyalty. Friday is something else; a firecracker and chaos. But don't think it means barnyard anarchy. No. Friday is patient, clever, and attentive. When things get serious she is tuned into me like a private channel on the radio. She knows when things are problematic and kicks into working gear in a heavily serious way, but only when needed. Like a whimsical Batman she waits for her signal in the sky to become a hero. Here she stands proud and strong, even at her slight 38lbs. A wrist all bandaged from a cut dew claw pad, but unphased. I like this little pup from Idaho. She turned out to be a ringer in a pinch.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Lambs and First Trails!

A trio of beautiful Romney/Dorset lambs were brought to the farm today by the lovely Nathan. Here he is with one of the ram lambs he delivered this morning between the storms. They are up on the hill in their own small pen and shelter while they get used to their new home. I'm really happy with them, and ever more happy I was able to work out a partial barter for a logo design for his farm just south of Cold Antler. I never knew in art school just how handy being a graphic designer would be on a homestead. Life's kinda neat when you can plait together skills and dreams to keep a place inhaling and exhaling.

In other good news, I had my first trail ride alone with Mabel this morning. She did so well. Or rather, she did so well on the trail but was a little bossy on the ground before. I took her out for half an hour of the Natural Horsemanship training I learned from Dave, my farrier. We worked with a stick and flag and long line. After she was doing what she was asked on the ground, lining up with me on stops, and no longer crowding me I felt better about putting on the saddle. She balked a little at the bit, but it didn't take long to be tacked up and ready for an adventure.

I was a little nervous. I had never ridden this horse on trails alone before, and the one time I did ride her was in an arena with other horses and places she knew. Taking a mare just introduced to a whole new farm, pasture, companion, and life the day after she arrived was a lot to take in. But I knew this mare was trailered and ridden on trails all over New York and was used to new places and new work. The real nerves weren't hers, they were mine. So I took the plunge, found an egg crate to stand on as a mounting block, and got onto Mabel and asked her to head up the mountain. She obliged.

A new horse means a very attentive ride and being prepared for anything. We don't know each other. I smiled when she gave me small challenges along the way, like wanting to stop and eat or go left when I wanted to go right. When she realized I wasn't going to be pushed around it went from a game of mental tag into a nice morning walk in the woods.

We reached the mountain top view and I took it in. It looked a little different from a higher saddle. Not better, just different. I pet her neck and told her to enjoy a few bites of grass. She did and I watched the western storm clouds come closer. The sun was still out but knew it was being chased.

I rode her home. I'm so glad to report she is settling in well. The new lambs are as well. Big storms are hitting the farm all day, but as of right now the AM chores are long behind me and the saddle and tack are back inside hanging on the walls. New goat cheese is curing on the stovetop and I just had a fine lunch of warm sourdough bread from my neighbor's oven - a barter for a dozen eggs.

Things are really good right now, guys. And I am spending the rest of the day making soap to order (Thank you, Bonita and Ida and readers who email to buy soap and books!) and working on illustrations and logo designs. I have a list of 4 clients (a light workload but it is a Saturday and Holiday weekend!) and after all that I hope to enjoy this Fourth of July with my good friend Sara, visiting from Ontario. We are going to visit Hildene this week, thanks to tickets scored by Mark (Patty's Husband) who was the main architect on some of the remodeling and work on that museum. How cool is that? A new trail horse and a trip to Robert Todd Lincoln's home in Manchester to take in the beauty of Vermont, history, and a good friend to laugh with along the way.

Enjoy your weekend, and make time for good things you enjoy!