Thursday, May 31, 2018


Max was like any other chick raised at this farm, at least when it comes to humble beginnings. She arrived in the mail in a box from Stromberg's Hatchery. Her breed is Ameracauna, which has fluffy cheek feathers and lays blue eggs. And like every other pullet in the brooding pen she ate her chicken chow, scratched in the dirt, drank from the little water fountain, and fell asleep at night in a feathery pile with all the other hens being raised as this year's new layers. Life was pretty good for Max. A free-range chicken on a small farm - poultry pot at the end of the rainbow.

Max wanted more. At some point when I was moving the pullet tractors to fresh grass she slid out and made a run for it. I wasn't worried. Gibson and Friday are dandy chickenherds and if all else failed she'd be back by her coop mates by nightfall, asleep outside the pen on the ground. This is what 99% of chickens do. They desire to be with other chickens. They are flock animals. Not Max.

Max has taken up residency with the pigs. She walked hundreds of yards with her tiny body and found the sounder. Think of what that means? It would be like you leaving everything you knew to join a herd of elephants - if the elephants were the size of Boeing 737s. But this is what Max wanted. Now she eats alongside pigs, sleeps with them at night, travels on their backs, and has made the pig paddock home. She can leave whenever she wants but chooses pig life. And I gotta say it suits her. She is larger and brighter than the cooped birds in the tractors. She glows golden in the sun. And even if she doesn't realize it - as long as the pigs don't eat her (so far they haven't) she's as safe from non-porcine predators as can be. No fox kit is going to leap electric netting and tussle with 200lbs animals for a 4oz snack.

Max isn't a conventional hen. She's kinda young and reckless. But she's out riding hogs in the forest while the other poults are in cages. I respect the hell out of this chicken. Max, may you prosper and thrive with your pig life!

Photo by Miriam Romais

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Writer Friends!

Summer is here. She really is. The days start bright and heat up into gloriously humid afternoons. Today on my short run I wanted to jump into the creek beside my mountain road, good gods I was so warm. It felt so good and I was so grateful. I will never complain about heat or humidity - not ever after this past winter. I'll take a world that feels like a sauna ANY DAY over -20° nights curled up by the fire with bursting pipes and not enough wool sweaters. Bring it on, Summer. I can't get enough of your business.

And the fireflies are back! At dusk they start to glimmer in the darkest spots in the trees, especially around the brook and well. I watch them and count them: two, five, twenty! The other night I played Blackest Crow for them on the fiddle. I practiced all day to get it right. It meant a lot to me that it was perfect for them.

Today was supposed to be shearing day but so far the sheep shearer has not shown up. I hope she is okay. The sheep are overdue to be shorn, as are the woolies on neighboring farms. It'll get done. Everything always gets done.

Speaking of getting done: I planted squash, tomatoes, and basil this week. In their own beds near the pasture on the other side of the fence. I still have pumpkins to plant, and I am happy to report the replanted Kailyard is doing well. Was just in that bit picking weeds and watering. The pigs watch me with their adopted pullet, Max. I'll share Max's story here soon!

I just had some friends I made online, fellow writers, stop by for the night as a rest during their road trip. Sarah and Emma came to meet me, the farm, the dogs, and Aya and the horses. We stayed up later talking dating, books, feelings and life. It was lovely. And in the morning we had scrambled eggs and toast and then I lead Merlin on a lead rope up the mountain while they took turns riding. To see the Battenkill Valley from horseback is special. It isn't the Wild West. It isn't the rolling moors of Cumbria. It's more like what a Hobbit would call home. Fitting for me.

Please note that I am VERY prolific on Twitter and Instagram. If you want pictures of the animals and the farm, follow me at @coldantlerjenna on Instagram. If you want far too many personal details about dating, pop-culture, and writing - Twitter is it where I am @coldantlerfarm

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

We Made It

It's some time around this exhaling part of wet spring that I nearly forget how to light the wood stove and shovel snow. The manic seasons of upstate New York are on the upswing, and days of sunny 72-degree weather are the normal now. If it isn't sunny and warm it's like today, a sigh of rain turning everything green again. The lawn is coming back, the pasture is rolling greener every day from the mud and hoof prints of winter, and even the stubborn locusts around the barn are starting to leaf. We made it.

Every day I wake up to sunlight that feels so young and excited about the world outside my window. I can hear Augustus the red rooster and the sounds of rustling new maple leaves. Those are my alarms. Once the house starts to stir the animals who all encircle the home itself in pasture and field - notice, and the neighs of horses and squawks of goslings pick up percussion to the woodwinds of weather and light. I try to remember the deep freeze of Winter's Bottom and it feels like a dark fairy tale from another world. If I retold it under the stars down at the train station brewery I am certain there would be a plodding mastodon in the tale as I carried in the last of the dry wood.

Life makes plenty of time to worry for you. But you have to decide when to stop everything and sink into the joy of warmth, sunshine, a gosling, a lamb, and the promise of thunderstorms and fireflies. I do believe I'll make time today to gather my fly fishing tackle. I can not wait to head into the river. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Mucking the barn by hand is never fun, but it is necessary and (bonus!) it's also a hell of a work out. It's does get complicated to partake in that workout a when three geese tending a nest have taken up residence in the corner of the barn. And in the exact spot where the barn's back door for easy-muck removal is located. So right now the chore is being held off in favor of mucking elsewhere. And for good reason because the geese are actually hatching some of their eggs! This morning I woke up to this little whipperhonker!

In some lighter news I am only one payment behind on the farm, as far as the mortgage goes and the lights are bright and shiny. I'm trying like mad to promote classes, logos, and illustrations on Twitter where I can reach the most people. If I can keep hitting my income goals there's a shot of not only being in the land of happy sighs of a solid roof-tree, but also some better night's sleeping.

I gotta say how helpful it is to run. I am running around 20-30 miles a week right now and it's become the best way to tire out anxiety and focus. While running I think of ideas, solve problems, and burn off the fears that might linger from a bad dream or email. As the days grow longer, hotter, and more humid (I ADORE humidity!) I hope my runs to do. If I can swing it I'll enter the Manchester Vermont Half Marathon again. It's for Make a Wish and while I don't run fast I did complete it back in 2016 and it felt amazing to accomplish it. And a goal keeps me running towards something. Always towards. What's the saying?

Don't look back. You're not going that way.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Parting Glass

I leaned back against the three sinks, tired and light. I couldn’t stop smiling. From my vantage point behind the bar, towel over my shoulder, eyes and feet tired; I listened to the man with the guitar across the room. The man playing was named Gurt Morlix and it was the last song of the night, The Parting Glass. I was behind the bar because I was unofficially on staff of the brewery that night, helping wash dishes and clear patron’s glasses before and during the concert. As a regular at the brewery, who usually shows up with a border collie and felt hat, I was here tonight to work. Friends that bartend knew they would be busy and the usual help would be watching the concert or otherwise occupied, so I was there to be useful.

I loved it. I loved it so much. I loved being beside a friend. I loved washing the glasses. I loved hearing the stories and songs. I loved being under the high ceilings and chandeliers of the freight depot - a historic building in this farm town that once took locals to New York City every day back when the McClellan Family owned my entire mountain as a sheep pasture. But tonight I was here listening to a man who traveled and sang with Warren Zevon. It was time to listen.

I wish I could keep that moment forever. The lack of moonlight and the way the small parlor guitar and that man’s voice filled every space it could find. If honey was alive and kind, it was how he sounded - creeping into the grain exposed by wind and time. And I had this place behind the show - not able to afford a reserved table but free to help wash pints and clean up the tables outside. I have never felt luckier.

I stay on this farm because it’s what I know how to do and it makes me feel safe. I wake up every day with work I can not ignore, regardless of weather, health, or heart. I don’t know of any remedy for low-grade anxiety or depression that is stronger than this. To wake up and be needed - not loved, not known, not understood - but viscerally needed by over 50 animals means no sleeping in. It means needing to set aside fears and foes and get dressed and make sure everyone eats breakfast and is okay. It means caring about something above all else and then being able to consume it. Farming is the existential ouroboros of the mildly insane. Giddyup.

But it matters. It has made me transcend self. I’ve helped deliver lambs crying and heartbroken. I’ve helped with hog butchering in heat waves. I’ve planted and weeded and laughed. I walked through snow drifts with black dogs and raced up hillsides on the back of a black horse. I’m different person than the girl who didn’t know how to harness a horse or train a hawk. My lines are harder. My voice is softer. I’m more forgiving of mistakes. I’m less forgiving of unkindness.

I’m here still because of song and luck. I rode Merlin at a gallop yesterday morning with the bartender from the concert. We served and washed a bar together and then we were riding as fast as hooves would carry us a few days later. This is how you make friends - moments that stamp wax crests on envelopes - and when we were done with ale and bridles we sat in my sparse front lawn with a thick red wine and toasted new friendships and bad luck.

I’m still here because I get these songs and stories. I’m still here because I know my neighbors and their dogs. I’m still here because when you find a place so perfect and bold that you can pant as you turn around three times before you lie down that it just makes sense…

Home is learning who you are. Here I am.

Good News!

This morning while Mabel was walking down the hill for her breakfast I was watching her back feet. When I bought the mare I was told she had issues with arthritis and was getting injections and special supplements to deal with it. I was also warned that I may not ever ride her much over a light trot, depending on her condition. That was almost a year ago and Sunday morning she was racing beside Merlin at a full gallop. She stopped limping three days after she lived here. She has been off special supplements for months. This isn't because I'm a horse health magical healer, but because (I think) that she went from stall life with some turnout in a paddock to living on a 3-acre hilly field. Now she has full mobility and runs with Merlin all the time in the pasture, but Sunday morning she was ridden for the first time at length out on the trail and I wanted to make sure there was no hitch in her giddy up. Happy to report she is sound as music!

After feeding the horses I walked up to the sheep and goats sharing a pen on the hill. The reason for this cohabitation? The goat's pen has been demolished and is right now a giant pile of manure that needs to be moved via tractor I'm hiring before it is rebuilt. So for now the does and Rocco the buck are with the sheep in their large hillside pen. Everyone seems to be getting along, but what I didn't expect to see was the new addition! Jessa the ewe had a ram lamb! Look at that little muppet!

These are two great pieces of news: a sound mare and new lamb. This weekend has been up and down with troubles* and triumphs, but for now let's enjoy a happy horse and baby. And another cup of coffee for the farmer with three eggs in her pocket.

* Troubles meaning that a bobcat (the farm machinery not the animal) got stuck in the goat pen and had to be pulled out with a truck. The kailyard I planted also go destroyed by the skidding/stuck/struggling bobcat. Also, a twisted ankle. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


I am spending more and more time outside. With the sun shining bright outside and temperatures in the mid seventies it feels wonderful being out in the dirt! Today I got cauliflower and snap peas planted and borrowed a friend's power washer to clean off the house siding. These are small things, but acts of home care and longevity I feel good about. Happy to report the place looks a little spiffier than it did just a few days ago.

Also wanted to add that if any of you have considered purchasing a logo design or pet illustration, this is a great time to do it. The amount of resources that went into getting the power back on was a huge hit to the budget so I am trying not to fall more behind and get things straightened out soon as possible. Happy to offer deals, discounts on classes or lessons, extra sketches. Whatever I can offer from this farming skill set is on the table.  I offer one-on-one fiddle and archery workshops, too. You can sign up by yourself or with a friend/spouse/child for discounts.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Walkmans in Church

"Do you have a cassette player? Besides the one in your truck?" was the message waiting in my email when I came inside the farmhouse yesterday evening. I had to stop and think for a minute. I was flustered from carrying buckets of water up the hill to the lambs. My mind was still outside in that ritual world of evening chores. I turned around because I had a Sony Walkman right behind me on the coffee table. Inside it was the same NEWSIES soundtrack I listened to in High School. The cassette had been moved ceremoniously from every car I had owned - one glove compartment to the next for nearly two decades. It was more of a luck piece than anything else at this point, but recently I had dug it up to sing Santa Fe to the goats during morning grain. I replied to my friend Patty that I did have one and I could bring it over next time I was at her farm.

This morning broke with sun so saffron my bedroom seemed to have a retro filter on it. I stretched and hugged my dogs, beside me in our double bed and eager to start the day. Gibson was at the window in no time, checking on the hen and rooster strutting by the front door. Friday stretched with me and took up the space he left her, absolute luxury.

The morning chores were better than usual. The sun was warm but the air mild—around 45 degrees—and in a long-sleeved cotton shirt I felt perfectly guarded from the slight chill. With a podcast in my ears I went about the same old story of hay, grain, water, and checking on the animals. Chicks needed their water fonts cleaned and tractors moved. The pigs needed their water trough dumped and scrubbed before refilling. The horses needed fly spray and I took note that they are due for spring worming. I emailed the shearer again, eager to have the sheep shorn. The work that was once thrilling but is now a warm ember inside me. I can't imagine not being needed this way first thing in the morning by something I need just as much. You can get drunk on it if you don't temper it with coffee.

A lot of coffee.

The rest of the morning was spent indoors. The usual to-do list of promoting the skills I have to offer, preparing books for the mail, packaging soaps, and getting artwork completed and in mailers for customers. I made one sale (two short of the day's goal) but knew I had plenty of time to get where I needed to be by dark. One sale is still money coming into the farm. That's something, a step up hill.

I changed into running clothes and got a quick four miles in. The run helped. The music carried me across the now-lush landscape of Washington County. I'm still getting used to all the green. Every year it's a shock how alive the place becomes after such a long winter. That was a gratitude I didn't have to fight to absorb.

After the run I enjoyed a hot shower and got dressed for town. My usual stops of the hardware store, the post office, and gas station were done in quick order. Friday was with me. She hung her head out the window and with her eyes closed took in the day the way I did on my run.

Did I ever tell you that when I stop what I'm doing, any time of day, and howl she howls with me? It might be my favorite thing about the little monster.

Next was the farm work I was most looking forward to that day: the kailyard. I had bought twenty dollars worth of starts (48 plants) with money made from selling goatsmilk soap. Today I'd use the goat compost (a year old) and hand tools to work in the earth and create rows for planting the greens. This was done in the mid afternoon and I felt that sun go from warm to hot as I worked with pitchfork and hoe. The dogs were with me, running around and digging in the garden beside me. They are whimsical and erratic landscapers going through their hole period. It wasn't much help but they stayed out of the way of the sharp points of tools and that was enough for me. I got to wear shorts and a tank top too grubby for civilization and get a bit of a tan.

This was a full day for me. Work indoors, in town, and on farm. I wanted a quick ride with Merlin before the work of evening chores and the soapmaking I had yet to do. So I grabbed my pony's halter and lead rope and collected him from the pasture. If there is one reason above the rest that I am still on this farm - it is this. To walk outside the place I work and use the skills of tacking up and be on the back of a galloping animal fifteen minutes later. To do all that as comfortably as if I had just started my truck- this is wealth beyond measure to me. Struggling here is a song. Sometimes it's lovely and sometimes it's playing jazz in the dark... Like last week.

As we rode I listened to the new song Hunger by Florence and the Machine. Merlin ran and the song crested and I felt like the day was just getting started. Sometimes I can't help but laugh when he really gets going. Not because it's funny, but because this is my Tuesday afternoon. It took so long to get here - and keeping it is a thousand times harder - but no one could take that moment from me. I asked him to go faster and he did and that is mine forever.

The day ended over at Patty's farm. She invited me over to visit for drinks and catching up. Before I headed out the door I remembered the Walkman. It turned out that her husband Mark had found old tapes of his brother's piano playing. The master pianist passed away a long time ago and this would be the first time Mark had heard those songs since his brother was alive. Patty used a Bluetooth speaker by jacking into the old tech with the headphone port.

It felt so personal and beautiful that I slipped away, wanting to let this moment be theirs. As the first soft chords played by a ghost I walked into their old threshing barn. I could hear the music from across the pasture, filling the old space like a whisper in a church. It wasn't my music to hear but I stole some for a moment. Good god, what a day this was.

It was a week ago that the power was shut off and I was alone in the dark. I got through that and now the next thing is on the list becomes the new fight - another mortgage payment, another bill, another day of constantly trying to harness a life of fast horses on Tuesday afternoons.

Maybe some day this will get easier? I'm not sure if I'm built for easy. But I am here for ghosts in old barns, red shoulders, and the straining of my eyes at a dark copse of trees for the first fireflies. They'll come back soon. But I want to see them the way I want to be held at night - not because I need to be, but because my tiny world is better for it.

I'm going to keep writing about these fears and this trying. Please keep reading.

Plants In!

The sun is shining and the kailyard planting has begun! I got 48 starts in the ground. They are planted, watered, fenced and blessed with my own sweat. The starts are from Stannard Farm, paid for by selling the soaps I make myself from the goats watching me hoe and pile. I set those babies into cake-like black soil thanks to the mucking of last summer's goat bedding. What a lovely dance - goat manure and milk being the reason I get an amazing salad or spinach quiche in a few weeks!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Mother's Day is Coming!

If you are looking for a pet portrait, a logo, graphic design work (not web design), or would like to gift any of these to Mom for Mother's Day, I am running a sale now on all of them! I can't get you a drawing in time for the weekend, but you can get a pdf to print out that your mom or friend can redeem for a custom drawing of their favorite pet or animal! Just email me at

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Kailyard and Considerations

The work of this week on the farm will be all about plants. Some of it truly enjoyable: like planting the first starts and seeds in the kailyard. And some of it backbreaking: removing old straw bedding from the barn with a pitchfork. As a one-woman operation I have learned to stop seeing these chores as all or nothing. I don't have to spend 5 hours forking muck and old bedding. I don't have to spend an entire raining Saturday moving compost and hoeing earth. I can get the same results in a week by doing an hour's worth of the task a day, which leaves time for my part time job and the freelance I do here at the farm. Today in the rain I'll muck for an hour. I'll get some starts from the farm stand down the road to plant tomorrow.

This morning is the Poultry Swap, which I am not attending. I don't feel well, but also don't think I can handle the temptation of the new animals/ideas I might get. Right now what I need to do is stabilize and possibly downsize. I am considering selling some animals and scaling down the farm or phasing out of certain endeavors. Things are in survival mode right now, trying to keep the simple joys going that kept me here without the added stress. I know a horse, hawk, and dog will always be with me if I can help it. They are the reason I feel alive on soft dirt.

Lots of decisions to make this spring. And lots of good work to do while I come to them.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Next Adventures

It's raining after two lovely warm days. If it wasn't I'd be out finishing what I started yesterday in the kailyard. I raked and cultivated with a wheel hoe, preparing the earth to be composted and turned again before I create rows and start planting. That felt as good as I remembered, being sweaty out in the garden. The pigs watched me as I plowed through, and I could see the laying hen chicks biting and the few blades of grass that have arrived on the mountain so far. They were all experiencing the outdoors for the first time in a small tractor I use for "hardening off" young poultry. The lambs on the hill were bleating for more grain, the horses tails swishing in the sun, and the goats were having a head-butting competition that Ida was winning. It was a good day. The last few have been really good.

When I started this blog it was a fever dream. All of the writing was based on passion; this love affair with farming and the dream to pursue it full time. Over the years that, amazingly, has happened and what was once an outlet for energy has become a lovely habit. Writing is something I don't think I'll ever stop doing, and as long as people want to read this blog I'll keep at it.

Now, at 35, ten years after those first blog posts I wake up to the daily reality of keeping that dream fed. I'm happy for it, and proud of the determination and discipline it's forged inside me. Every weekday is a list of clients, meetings, deadlines, illustrations, design, and income goals. It is rare that everything on those to-do lists (a notebook I call The Boss) isn't handled and checked off. Every day I am accountable to that book and the work inside it. And every day I need to use social media to promote the skills I have to offer in hopes some of you take me up on it.

Things have changed in how I live and work on this farm. I realized that I wanted this place to be where I grow food for myself and for neighbors and friends. That keeps my customers close and their numbers small. I don't think I ever want to be responsible for feeding a village, or making the farm my entire focus. I adore the time I spend drawing animals as well as caring for them. The design work I spent 4 years getting a BFA in paid off, and also helps keeps those lights on (most of the time). This winter I started taking on part time work with a local marketing firm to supplement the farm/freelance income. Some weeks they have 2 hours of work for me, sometimes they have 10, but everything helps. Still, it's never going to be easy. Days like Monday remind me of that.

But even if things won't ever be easy, I can get better at them. That's the next adventure.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


The farm's power is back on! The electric company left here a bit ago, and everything from the hot water to twinkle lights in the living room are back in order. It's also the first sunny day in a long stretch and it feels like the whole dang county is as relieved as I am to have the light back.

I am catching up on the lost day of work at home - both freelance design and artwork - but am happy to report that an entire day of going to and from the laundromat (which has free wifi) has rendered every towel, sheet, and bathmat in this house washed. On a rainy Monday in Veryork that little car wash/laundromat in town was a lifesaver. A place to go to email clients, report that the farm was down, and contact friends and neighbors for things like hay delivery, bakery pick ups, and such.

I'll write more about the whole day - from backup chargers in the truck to doing business from a landline and $29 Amazon Fire Tablet (both were lifesavers) later on. But right now I want to thank all the kind emails, tweets, and support sent out when I was in a real panic. It feels very alone here at 10PM in the dark. Having people online check in made me feel safe.

The power has never been turned off here before and won't again. It was a disaster - phone calls, paperwork, banking over the phone (thank goodness for landlines that do not need power to work) everything was slowed down or halted. Anyway - more soon and more farm updates as the week and warm weather progresses! Lots of spring cleaning indoors and out to come. Lots!