Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Hello Dolly!

The first lamb of the season arrived last night and there she is! She's a bottle baby and doing well. She is eating, pooping, walking and communicating just as a bonnie little lass should. as her mother Hannah wants nothing to do with her. That's another story for another post but right now I want to share the sweetness of this black sheep. I named her Bette Midler, just because when I first saw her I said "Hello Dolly!"

She surprised me. I wasn't expecting lambs until next week at the earliest. But when I got out of the truck after having dinner with friend's at their farm I heard the distinct bleating of a baby. I darted my eyes into the dark pasture and saw this tiny gal navigating around Merlin's plate-sized feet! Forever a gentle giant, he side stepped without hurting her and I scooped up the loud and eager lamb and realized she was still damp. Whomever gave birth to her didn't even have the mothering instinct to clean her off. It wasn't freezing out but the temperatures were dropping fast so I wrapped her in a towel, defrosted and warmed up some goat colostrum, and she took to the fireside and bottle right quick.

Lambwatch 2018 has begun!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Still Hawking!

It's been a wonderful falconry season here, and not because of the hunts (which are always great) but because of the people. The new apprentices in the area have been so fun to get to know. When I get a chance to help a new falconer their trapping and training it brings back the first feelings of excitement I had for the sport. It's magic and feathers. But besides the new kids; friends I have had for years in the sport are becoming more like family. I think if you're the kind of person that wants to take on a bird of prey you have a lot of in common with others of like mind!

I am so in love with these animals, this sport, these people. I hope to do it for the rest of my life, and learn to work with other raptors like kestrels, goshawks, merlins, and falcons of other sorts. I am in no rush, and truly love the partnerships I have had with all three of my redtails - but new species and stories are out there. What a magical and heart-beating sport outdoors!

Earlier this week my sponsor Leigh and his other apprentice, Liz, and I all got together for a hunt. Aya Cash did so well, chasing a rabbit at least twice her weight up a hillside. It slipped but hearing all the whoops and cheers from the group was a rush! I also got to watch the excitement of Liz taking her bird Auburn out for the longest session of free flying it ever did. That bird of hers was in the air and trees for a good 40 minutes and Liz came home with her. I could tell she was getting nervous but the relief on her face when the bird flew back to her at the end of the hunt was like watching someone win a medal. What an accomplishment for a 17-year-old! What a day of snow, friends, hawks, rabbits, and hard workouts! And it all ended in a friends' kitchen with cookies and bourbon (for the adults) and cocoa for those who do not imbibe. A fine day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sunshine and Good News!

Hello from the sunshine-filled and ice-melting slush paradise that is Cold Antler Farm! I am so glad to report today is 67-degrees and the horses are rolling and romping in the mud! The ice wall around the electric pig fence melted and let me repair and get it working again. That alone is a reason to celebrate since one smart pig had learned how to escape and it was a matter of time before they all caught on if the shock wasn't back in action. Also, I can walk across the ground without spilling water buckets all over the slick ice. If you have ever spent grueling hours trying to tend to livestock on a luge track, you understand. Crampons don't cut it, not on a slant like this farm. So earth below my boots was a gift from the gods. Whew!

I am just home from a run to the dump and post office. I was sorting recyclables and mailing out books, soap, and artwork. Yesterday I was able to mail a mortgage payment. It was late, but if I am lucky in will cash in time to avoid any fear of foreclosure. I am fighting up against that line, having only been able to afford on mortgage payment a month and I am playing catch up best I can. Even so, every check mailed is a victory. Every month paid for on this farm as a single woman makes me feel like Wonder Woman.

Good news, I just got a part-time gig (8-10 hours a week) working as a small-farm content consultant for a local Marketing Agency! It's not a lot of money, but the same as selling another logo or two a week and that helps. Heck, that could cover feed and hay for the week! So I feel encouraged. Things getting even a little easier around here is a blessing.

So today is good. It's tenuous, as it has been all winter. The important thing is to stay positive and keep working toward summer sunlight that will come - when life isn't all about fires and ice, but instead about rivers and hoof beats on mountain trails. I am hopeful a book deal will come with the new project, as my agent is working hard on it. And while I wait there are lambs coming soon, along with (I hope) kids. I am dubious about the shorty Rocco and his ability to seal the deal with the ladies out there in the goat open but a determined mind can accomplish much, right?

I'm updating all the time from Twitter and Instagram if you want to check in there for an hour by hour play of the farm. Today I hope to get out with the bird and let her feel some sun under her wings if possible. I am taking her to a falconer friend's home to get her beak coped later. That just means trimmed back from overgrowth, some of you with chickens have done the same on birds that overgrow their beaks.

Last, if you are interested in a logo or illustration, NOW would be a great time to get one done! If I can catch up on the mortgage going into spring I can meet it with excitement instead of fear. Happy to earn the money through the talents I have. Email me at dogsinourparks (at) gmail.com for rates and info!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Long Winter, Make Light

This morning, when I walked downstairs into the living room the first thing I did was light the candles that decorate the small altars and various dark corners of my home. They make this place glow. Their flickering cheered me up from the ice, muck, wet hay and gray sky outside my window. After that I turned on the white Christmas lights I haven't taken down yet. I know it's a little late to keep them up, but they frame the entrance between the rooms and make an otherwise dull place at 7AM seem magical. Last I put on music, something soothing. I played this collection of tavern music and let the work of morning on this farm have a soundtrack.

The dark days of winter never bothered me until I reached my mid thirties. And as someone who does not deal with clinical depression, but does run on the general setting of low-grade panic thanks to anxiety - I find light and music is a balm. We can't change the season or the weather. We can't do anything about the darkness of night. But can make small spaces of light and music. We can choose not to feel overwhelmed, even if it is a lie. Even if it is just for a little while.

Every choice you make to create light, is not a choice wasted.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lots of Love!

Happy Valentines Day from Cold Antler Farm! May you find your farms and homes filled with all the love you need! It's important
to reach out to those you care about and to take time to honor and love yourself if you're in the game alone like myself. Today isn't about couples, it's about love. So enjoy a favorite book, hot bath, extra nap, or maybe even a special treat. You deserve it.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Canter to Trot

A heavy snowfall came down on the farm all day yesterday and last night. It gave me a morning of hard work and happy animals. No time in the gym compares with wading through knee-deep snow and raking roofs. No feeling of handing in a manuscript matches returning indoors, knowing your beasts are content. Most mornings this is a solid hour of feeding and care, but a heavy snow is not most mornings. The regular canter slows to a trot - and even a walk - and you give yourself permission to work slower to preserve the energy you need to carry on with the day. It is a small kindness, this permission. It took me years to grant it.

And so it was longer than usual until the animals were all fed this morning, the roofs bare (I still have to get to the barn roof, the house and mews are sound), and the fires lit. I didn't even have the time to make breakfast (I had pancake fantasies) so I'm running on a cube of cheese and coffee. That isn't a complaint. I could live off coffee and cheese forever.

I am digging into the indoor to-do list, which today includes a librarian's logo updates, inking a cat illustration, packing a soap order that is cured, working on recreating the typography on the side of an old farm truck for a modern logo, promoting work on social media, praying for sales, and asking my ancestors for some help.

That last one is special to me. It requires walking outside to the King Maple in front of the farmhouse. There rests a snowy stump with a wooden bowl set on it. Inside my home there's a little holy place with photos of my family, grandparents, aunts, and such and symbols of their heritage and past. There's a candle and a bowl and every day I pour some cream, honey, a cracked egg, wine, or whiskey into it and tell the people pictured, unpictured, and lost to family history that their descendant is here. She's trying to make this land and place something they are proud of. Can you guide me in hard work, wisdom, good deeds and effort on this place? May I be worth being remembered some day as well? And then the next day that bowl of tiny offerings and prayers goes outside to the tree bowl. I hope the land wights, songbirds, and anyone else who needs it takes note and imbibes. It doesn't really matter if they do or not. What matters is having this daily ritual of being grateful and remembering. A tangible act. A connection to blood and stories I never met. A little wine is the least I can do.

Back to farming: I have learned to pace myself on snow days. It is just me here. On days like this chores aren't one block but set in order of import and done in smaller pieces. Coming inside to warm hands and numb toes by the fire and refill the tank with black coffee is my pit stop. It took from 7AM till 9AM to finished all the water carrying, fence digging, hay hauling, feed rationing, and such. Now I am about words and design and I hope that will carry me through till I am creatively drained around mid afternoon. Then the work of evening chores begin and I leave the labor of the mind for the body and carry on tending flock and snout.

I think it is important to give your day meaning. It is important to try to be a little better than you were the day before. It's important to forgive yourself of faults and keep promises, even if late. It is important to be kinder to others - you have no idea how hard the person taking too long in the checkout line ahead of you worked before noon.  It is important to ask for help, even if the ceremony is private and lapped up by a sordid squirrel when you aren't looking....

And it is most important to be grateful, patient, and good to those in your care.

Here's to another snowfall, luck making a late mortgage payment to fend off the wolves at the door, and to luck with book deals, sales, lambs, and soap! And may your farm and family find the luck you asked for, too.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dead Horse Words

I have been working on a piece about a dead horse for days, which I plan on sharing here but it is alarming me how complicated it is. My closest friend here in Washington County lost her 22-year-old Warmblood. He lived a good life as a rescued horse, but his end was sudden. Every time I try to write about the death, it turns into a winding series of essays. There's the experience of a 1200lb animal dying in a winter barn and the logistics of removing it. There's the way it effects an entire farming community connected to it, from the traveling vets to neighbors with tractors and chains. There's friends and local florists, other farms that want to help right away but can't without shirking responsibilities to their own livestock. There's the simple sadness of the horse that was his stablemate, the herd animal surviving without a herd. There's the owner's strife and guilt. There's the weather. It keeps turning into so much more, this one diseased horse.

Out here the connections involved in one loss changes the tectonics of a community. It's amazing and beautiful, but also sad to realize how that is changing. As people become more distant from neighbors - even in places like this that demand codependency - I see how one dead horse could be dealt with via a cell phone and a credit card. That isn't the world I want to live in, which is also interesting to understand. Because it is that same world of technology and digital payments that makes my life here possible. Do you see what I am saying here? One dead horse has had me reeling.

Besides the dead horse I am trying to do what I always am trying to do, keep the farm going. Common Sense Farm delivered firewood on Friday and said I could pay them for the half cord when I had the money. That's an example of the networking between farms I am talking about. A friendship forged over years means a warm house in tight times. And they are the ones who brought me Benjen the Kid (who is still in the house and not an outside animal yet) another gift to this farm. When I drive down to their farm to buy hay or hunt with my hawk I am touched to see their flock of sheep - all from CAF stock. I think of our ram-swapping between farms, the shared meals, the times I ran down here with anti-toxin for kids in emergencies and the times Yesheva has ran here to help me. That's one farm. The farm that loss the gelding has another gorgeous web of stories like that, as do many between our lands.

Part of me feels this is the best time in history to ever begin raising food in rural places as a beginner. The resources and options of the modern age make it almost magical. But we can't lose the community that makes us whole - the backbone of this life.