Saturday, May 30, 2020

Few Pork Shares Left for Winter!

I have 2 shares of pork left for winter! If you are interested please send an email to me soon as possible to reserve them. Sales are really needed and I would love to start planning towards the fall months. Full details available via email for prices and how it all works when you co-own an animal on a CSA model like this for freezer meat. And if you want to support the farm and can't pick up a meat share there are meat donation options, too.

Friday, May 29, 2020

So Many Gardens!

The last few days have been a delightful preview of summer. The days reaching the mid eighties and the humidity I so miss all the drab winter returned. Moss covering rocks in the brook glistened in the mountain sunlight. The local bird population erupting with the color of oriels and buntings and warblers. And of course, everything is so amazingly green. The kind of green that shouts JULY not May and that had me mowing the lawn for the first time this season!

All the animals are well and the gentle progress of the spring moves into summer grazing. I am rotating pastures regularly for the sheep and Cade the goat. I am weeding and planting like mad, which is part of the influence of my girlfriend who has promised to assist me in weeding (which she will certainly regret). I put in a patch of Holden pumpkins yesterday with a broken hoe and had to electrify the kailyard because of a family of groundhogs. Cucumber beetles are overtaking my zucchini and butt nuts and that won't do. So measures of all sorts of warfare are happening in the gardens and that is a happy complaint because I daydreamed of these issues in the dead of winter the way we think about being grounded in our childhood bedrooms. Sure, it sucks but what a time of wonder in our lives.

I am still trying to move pork. I am pretty sure there won't be any government assistance coming in the mail this June and that is what covered last month's mortgage. A loan covered the back months before that. So I have to start earning to keep ahead of trouble and soon. I'm promoting the soaps, meats, and logos online and hoping to hear back from some people who sent me queries but most people back away when they realize the cost of a quarter pig or owning a professional logo, but not all. Enough are supporting this farm so far to cover the farrier and hay and feed and butcher bills that ended May and if I remain diligent and a little lucky I will make it into June and past it.

I am really excited about this summer. Just the heat and days of it. I know there will be a lot of work outside with the herb garden, dipper garden, kailyard, pumpkin patch, and the kitchen gardens and potato patch (and possibly sweet corn too?!) but that is still happy work and even better meals ahead.

All the lambs have dropped their tails. A friend gifted me four pounds of espresso. Another friend is helping me repaint my bathroom in the ongoing attempt to make this bachelor pad more suitable for a woman (which has taught me how dusty the tops of picture frames above my 5'2" reach can get in a decade.) But the point is things are slowly repairing, decluttering, improving, growing, hoping and changing. My little hobbit body is getting more time out hiking and running and that feels lovely, too. Right now just 5 and 10ks but a start into my summer of running - which feels great, is free, and rewards me with stronger lungs and legs and a killer farmer tan!

So here's to all that. I am trying. I am still here. I am hopeful.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Oink to the Future!

As the month comes to a close I am in the process of figuring out what is ahead. Right now all the money I have in my bank account has to go towards bills and fees not related to the house or household at all. Things like hay delivery, a farrier visit, feed, butchering, etc. Planning the June mortgage without any sort of luck like that stimulus check that was delivered earlier this month means a brand new act of faith. But the difference between now and every month in the past few years is I'm no longer fighting to just avoid threats of foreclosure and staying just ahead of the banks. I'm trying to stay solvent, on top of things, figuring out the best ways to be frugal and sane and save amongst a pandemic where people are not thinking about archery lessons or pet portraits. They are thinking about meat but my shares for what is available right now are sold out. So I am going to start selling shares for the winter/fall soon as I figure out some pig futures.

I think pork makes sense for this small farm. I eat it. Neighbors eat it. And with meat shortages a coming thing and customers willing to co-own the animals and receive a 1/4 or half share of the meat helps stay small and solid. If you're at all local and interested in a future meat share let me know. These sales help pay for piglets, feed, and the farm itself to move safely forward while securing good food raised on a small scale without antibiotics. Consider supporting if you can! If you are not local and want to support by buying a share for a local family let me know!

In non-pig related news - I got to get outside yesterday for a small adventure! I was driven north into Vermont by some local quarantined buds for a hike up into the White Rocks National Forest! We hiked 6.5 miles along the Appalachian Trail in Vermont until we took a side trail towards a beautiful view looking over rolling mountains as far as I could see. My hiking boots finally died, the leather ripping from the sole, but I'll get a new pair soon and they are fixable right now with gorilla glue. But just to be outside seeing trillium and trout Lillies and watching waterfalls and feeling the harsh trails and soft spots make my whole body expand and work felt amazing. And there is no place in the world that makes a snickers bar taste better than the top of a mountain.

This is what I am talking about. I want to move forward with things like this. Time hiking and backpacking in this region of the world not far from the farm, not spending money on tickets or planes or admission but just a little gas money and shoe leather. My goal in life is simple: live the creative and independent life I adore on a small farm. Keep writing. Keep exploring. And find joy in things like long hikes and mornings on the trail and then returning home to a farm that needs my care and love. Today I'll be watering the gardens (four different ones this year!) and if I can find the charger for the electric weed whacker - do that. Lots of cleaning indoors - spring cleaning. And if I am lucky sell some pork. Then the farm moves forward into June. Hopefully safe. Hopefully healthy. An hopefully all the things I need to keep the dream alive.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Pack Goat!

Training a goat to join me in the mountains is a long-time goal of mine. My entire love affair with homesteading was and remains based on the working partnership with animals. I like a horse in harness, a hawk in jesses, a dog in a sheep pasture herding, and a goat in a backpack. And since the great outdoors is more and more the place I want to be when time is free - here comes the sound of little hoofs on the trail!

As my years of farming accumulated the more I ached for time in the wild. I love my farm. I love the animals and the seasons and the work, but there is something so appealing and lovely about hiking and backpacking. I love traveling across the landscape on foot. I love getting hot and sweaty and feeling it fade away by a campfire where I need a cozy sweater and cuddling close to friends or loved ones for s'mores and stories. I mean, who wouldn't want to throw a goat into that mix?!

So Cade (Named after Cade's Cove in the Smoky Mountains) is my farm-to-forrest ambassador. He's a Nubian wether. So far this training has involved having him join me for walks and learn to follow since he was brand new to this farm. As he grew older and learned he could forage as he hiked, I learned he couldn't be trusted to keep up with a hiking pace. It wasn't that he wanted to be separated from us, there's just so much to eat! So that's when the books and vids and community online really helped out.

When I take Cade out for a short training hike now he wears an adjusted dog pack. Adjusted in the way that a strap of webbing runs around his bum like a horse or pony harness would. This was a game changer for us on hikes! No goat wants to be dragged around by a collar or halter. They will happily trot along side you though if you give them a small tap on the bum to remind them this train has left the station. The britches strap tugs at the goat's rump gently along with the harness on the chest which basically tells the goat every part of this body is to move forward and instead of fighting it - he trots right on ahead. Every trail together gets easier. Every walk less about snacking on brush and more about moving up the mountain.

His saddle bags now only contain tee shirts to fill them and a small 1/2 liter water pouch on each side to balance a little tiny bit of weight. His growing body shouldn't be packing any real sort of load at all right now, but getting used to the equipment and the suggestion of weight on his back in small doses is part of the process, or so the books all say. I am excited to start really seeing the mountains with him later this summer. Taking him on hikes locally! But right now we are a pair of students and really enjoying the goat packing world online.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pasture Healing

Every few days the pasture here needs to be rotated and reworked. There isn't a lot of land at Cold Antler and my entire pasture area for 2 horses, 3 ewes, and a pack goat is around 3 acres. To make the most of it electric netting is set up and moved about every few days. This allows places that are grazed to be rested while the fences move to a new area. In the past I had just fenced a large area and without fail it was aggressively overgrazed until clay paths were started in the soil from hooves and no amount of rain wouldn't slide down the hill. This has been corrected over the years and things have been reworked. The amount of sheep grazing for example, the places they can graze, and the management to keep track of it all on paper at times. All of it worth it. The hillside is entirely green here again. The animals that came this spring are all thriving (though the sheep did have a bit of diarrhea that cleared up quickly). And as over-tread areas heal (like areas that were horse pasture moved back for the sheep), things seem to be healing all around. Which is comforting as hell. To see this place better than it's been in years, the mortgage up to date, the animals well, the sun shining... It's so good. I am trying like crazy to keep that feeling going and I know it is going to be tough. Soon as things seem to be okay around here all sales fall aside. Which of course means there's no income to keep things okay! So if you are interested in seeing this place solvent, send an email and get yourself some pork or handmade soap or a logo for your own farm! All of it helps keep this place going on, and going strong. And I promise if I ever sell this book and have any sort of financial security I will be thrilled not to hustle my wares every post. Right now, I need to get through these next big bills.

Going to share what is up with the gardens in the next post, and what is being built for little projects like the dipper gourd garden (gourden!) and training Cade the pack goat! Also, without a hawk here currently I am working on preparing the mews and weathering yard for a new bird in the fall and hopefully saving up slowly to repair the broken cement porch next to the house with an actual deck (Which is only costing me the wood, friends are building it with me!). All in all - lots of small projects and goals if they are all possible. I certainly won't be building a deck if the truck still needs new tires or I'm behind on the mortgage. I haven't even bough new hiking boots yet I need because I can't swing it right now with the bank account where it is. But talking about money and what can be done without it is part of what this blog is. For example: yesterday I expanded the pig's pasture using just the materials found around the farm - removing old pasture fencing and straightening out old woven wire replaced by the netting in the field and rewiring the electric with discarded (but saved) old wiring. Which was a big all-morning project done for free. And done with the help of friends who helped me move old junk out of the way that had piled behind the barn.

Basically, this place is cautiously optimistic and hoping it stays safe. No new livestock or projects planned, just the garden and the pigs, small super-value flock and the gifted baby goat. And going forward may the hillsides and lawns continue to heal and the gardens thrive. Keeping my head high and the water troughs filled to the brim as summer slides into home.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Hello From A Little Slice of Jackson

Apologies for the time that has passed without an update! The reasons are pretty good for why though, I have been working dawn to dusk on the betterment of the farm and falling for someone. It's a pretty wonderful place to be in and I don't know if I have ever been this happy. Right now my life is mostly chores, improving and repairing the farm, and staying ahead of any financial trouble with the same zeal I've had over the years when I was in it. Not that things are cheery and great. I have no idea how I am going to make the June mortgage in a few weeks but just the fact I am not trying to still make April payment is enough to make every t-post pounded into the ground feel better. What I don't want to do is get ahead of myself, or take on too much just because I have the energy to do so. So right now my life is gardening, horse training and riding with Mabel and Merlin, and working on expanding and rotating sheep and hog pasture and foraging spaces.

The days are growing longer and warmer. I am starting to run a lot more and it feels so good to be moving like that again. Soon days will be lost in the forest hiking or on 8-10 mile long runs listening to reputation for the 1901290302 time and loving it even more. I'm so looking forward to the heat that pushes me towards the river. I am incredibly excited to share the river with this girl I adore and spend lazy afternoons casting for trout or swimming while she reads on the banks or dives in with me.

I am hoping to post more these next few weeks and share what is going on here with some videos and pictures. Proud of the work going into this place and into training Cade the pack goat! He is really coming along! Also trying to grow some new things here like a very extensive herb garden and some dipper gourds for crafts like bird houses and spoons! Mostly, I want to bask in this summer and enjoy every minute of not feeding a wood stove or and try to make this place continue to work. It's been ten years here in Jackson and the place will be so gorgeous by June I can't wait.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

May Snowfall!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Get Yourself a Girl That Can Castrate a Goat

I think that title says it all. My girlfriend and I spent today working as a team to pen the small flock of sheep here and tend to the regular spring management of lambs brought in from another farm. The lambs were brought without much medical information from the farm I acquired them from, so I decided to do it all this morning. Every lamb got wormed, their tails docked (banded), and a CDT shot. My girl would gather and hold the stock and I would go about with injections and the elastrator. I noticed all three sheep had a bit of loose stool and I gather that comes from the influx of greener grass (and any parasites that may come with them) as well as the grain I've slowly been adding to their hay and pasture diet. To be safe some electrolyte solution was added to their water and the whole work of penning, injections, docking, inspecting, worming, etc only took about half an hour. However, both of us left the sheep shed with far dirtier boots and pants then we entered with.

Today was also the day Cade the goat got castrated. After talking it over with different dairy farmers and a vet (and watching some instruction videos online like this one) it seemed pretty straight forward to do at home with the same tools I already owned for tail docking.  I was so loathing this chore but the entire procedure took a half minute and Cade didn't even so much as bleat once. She held him as instructed, safely inverted with head and horns out of the site and in one quick motion the work was done.  He got a nice bottle of milk afterwards, a treat since he is almost weaned, and then trotted right back into the pasture right as rained. Compared to the banding Cade was much more concerned when he was included in the lamb pen for tail docking. He let out a string of Nubian wailing that only people familiar with the breed can understand.

So far the trio of sheep and the goat have been getting along swimmingly, having been raised together. They are mowing pasture down fast as it can grow so the netting is moved every few days.  Much more work than leaving sheep in a woven wire fence, for sure, but better all around and with zero escapes!

Having help made everything so much easier. Everything went (fairly) smoothly and when things didn't she was there to laugh with. I've had friends and farmers help me with chores in the past but there's something different and more comforting about it being your person, and sharing in the work of this place and all the sheep poop that may include. What I'm saying is this was a regular day of very normal farm work made better with a second pair of hands I am always reaching to hold during movie nights — and the betterment of the farm is just so much sweeter in the end.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020


I am so so soooo happy to announce the MAY MORTGAGE IS PAID! Thanks to the stimulus check I am already set for the month of May! At least when it comes to this farm's mortgage payment! But that leaves my bank account in double digits so I am running a promotion here only for blog readers, not on social media accounts. I will do a full color pet portrait for you or as a gift to someone you want to give the gift of a custom-drawn and painted pet portrait for $50. This includes free shipping! Please email me at and I will explain details. My goal is to sell 5 of them today which I know is a lot and a lot of money to come in at once, but I need to keep trying and this is the most return on time of everything I do. If you order them they will be completed and mailed by June.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Old Red Door

Good morning from Cold Antler Farm and this first dispatch from the month of May! It is amazing what a weekend of sunshine can do to a woman. Two days of small improvements to this farm — and I'll tell you this for free — they add up. Every day something new happens here that seems like such a small betterment. Like for example, yesterday I touched up the paint on my red front door. It took maybe fifteen minutes between chores and moving firewood outside? And this morning while sipping coffee in the sunshine I noticed there wasn't any wood showing through and it was solid red. Still chipped and warped a little, but if you drove past your brain wouldn't read "look at that chipped old door" it would think, "red door". I'm fine with simple adjective/noun combinations replacing more colorful adjectives about my property. The old homestead is looking sharper.

This farm hasn't felt this good in years. It hasn't been looking this good in years either. There's a new shine on it and it pours out over days of light like the last two. All those days in March moving topsoil and shoveling it onto bald patches of high-traffic clay is now spouting grass again. Old pieces of broken things like fallen trees have been cut away with friends' chainsaws and tossed aside for firewood. Gates and old woven wire fencing stuck in mud have been worked free and set aside. New, sharp fencing is set up for the new flock of ewes with some loaned electric netting and the hill that was once worn away to mud is fresh with grass and pasture seed. Going into my tenth summer and this farm is starting to feel more like the place I moved into today than it did five years ago. It's amazing what a little morale boost can do to you.

My goal right now, above all else, is to make the May mortgage payment before May 15th. If I do that I get no new late fees. I am on track. I am at a place this farm hasn't been in a long time which is safe and sound and making it month-to-month instead of making it month-to-two-months-earlier. The great news about this is if all goes as the government plans (we all take a minute to laugh to ourselves) that stimulus check for the pandemic should arrive before that date. And that will cover the May mortgage! That is amazing news, but as we all know the money sent to pay for your house (and home insurance and taxes in my case) doesn't cover hay deliveries, oil for hot water, chicken feed, groceries, electricity, internet and landline, truck repairs or insurance, farrier or butcher, etc etc. A farm is the kind of business you feed resources into like a coal maw on a steam engine. Yes every shovel moves you forward towards your destination but damn if that fire isn't constantly needing to be fed.

So there's no resting on laurels here. That magical check leaves me with a basically empty bank account after so I am hustling my wares on social media. I have the same daily income goal. I have the same hope to earn from my words and work what I always hope to. And every day I make my list and write out the day's goals and chores and hope to end the day looking at a checked-off list. if you're reading this, know I got to check off "blog post" on this Monday morning. Like paint on an old red door, it's not much but it's something.