Saturday, April 19, 2014

Maude & Her Lamb

Friday, April 18, 2014

Last Chance to Help & Win a Fiddle
Picking Winner Saturday Night!

So I am happy to annouce that Merlin, my Fell Pony, is nearly paid off. I am just a few payments from legally owning Merlin and am trying to expedite that day with a contest here on the blog. This is a FREE CONTEST. It is an act of appreciation. I will give away a fiddle ,plus a day of fiddle intro lessons on the farm, and a signed copy of all four of my books to the winner of this drawing. It is FREE to enter, all you need to do is comment on this post with a word of encourgement or horse story of your own. But for those *who want* to help in a financial way, you will see a donate button that lets you make a finacial contribution as well. Every dollar donated towards bringing Merlin home for good is an entr, as is every comment. I stress again, every dollar is an entry towards the fiddle and day here at Cold Antler, but if you do not wish to spend a dime you can simply leave a comment to enter.
Why am I hosting a fiddle giveaway? Because the farm needs your support. It really does. It's on shaky ground and right now any comment or dollar is a big help. If you can't or don't want to donate that is fine as well. To ente to win just leave a comment. To enter ten times, you can leave ten comments or donate ten dollars. But for those who have followed Merlin and My story through years of blog posts, books, and pictures on Facebook I urge you to help make him offically mine. I ask because I am so close (three payments from official ownership) and want to remove this monthly bill from my life. And for just leaving a comment or sending a dollar You could end up with a lifelong gift of music. I'll spent a day with you learning what I know of fiddling, and you'll leave with a fine instruement of your own. Fiddle Camp is sold out until next spring so take advantage if this invitation. Maybe a day here in late June, we could be sharing a campfire, clinking mason jars of hard cider to a year seen thus far.

Donate and Comment. I thank you. And I thank you.

no donation or purchase needed to win the fiddle. It is a fundraiser with a prize, not a lottery. Winner does not pay shipping costs.


When I hear the sound of complaining sheep from inside the farmhouse I let out a long sigh. It is not the heckle for grain or the regular, communicative, baas but the sound of unjust escape. It's the jealous sheep sound that roughly translates too tattling, "Hey, hey heeeeeey!!! She is out of the pasture and eating lawn grass and I want out tooooo heeeeyyyy!!!" And so I closed the laptop I was working on and headed outside, expecting to find a lamb in the front yard or some broken part of fencing I would have to stop my design work and repair after wrangling the sinners back to their purgatory.

When I walked outside to the sheep paddock there was no escaping. There was something far more drastic. I let out a loud curse word I rarely say then literally jumped up and down. Maude was standing over her very own lamb. I swear it.

I was absolutely stunned. This was nearly impossible. Maude had NEVER lambed, and I never thought she could. She had been bred nearly every autumn of her ten years and not once had she conceived. This was known, as the day I got her and two other woolies in a barter for fiddle lessons I was told she was not a breeding animal. I didn't care at the time since sheep were pretty much a wool project only, and the deal was too good to pass up. But today a little miracle happened, Maude produced a half Scottish Blackface and half English Border Leicester!

Meet the new girl! Maude's baby! The tiny little magic lamb!

So far Mama isn't thrilled about the blessed event. The complaining voice I left my freelance work for, turns out that was Maude. She was acting as if a mistake had been made and I better take care of it, NOW. The little girl wasn't cleaned half as well as the other mother's cleaned their lambs. So I went out with a towel and checked the little girl over. She seemed healthy. I watched the new mother and her babe and every time the little girl tried to nurse Maude head butted her away. At first I thought my towel job removed her sent, but that wasn't the case. Maude chortled and licked the little girl, but was not letting her anywhere near the scene of the crime. I didn't want to get too worried, so I waited. I watched for a long while. Every time the little girl tried to nurse she was pushed away and Maude walked off. I sighed.

I took a bottle down to the goat pen, milked Bonita, and got some good milk into the lamb, who drank well from the bottle right off. Tonight, if the ewe lamb still isn't nursing me and a few good friends will pin Maude to the wall and I'll milk out her colostrum at least and get that in the little girl.

I always thought Maude would be a she-wolf kind of mother. The super protective, super sweet, underdog of a mother. But as it turns out Maude is Maude. And so I may have a bottle lamb in the house. And that is good news, even if Maude is a monster. More young blood in this old flock is a blessing. And I am feeling blessed as I smile and shake my head at my mean-spirited sheep, who still managed through her spite to gift me a beautiful Easter present. Praise to all who grant blessings, for that sweet little bastard born of two Nations, a surly mother, and a very, very, VERY happy farmer.

April in Veryork...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Morning Haul

Every morning I milk my goat and collect eggs. This simple work of gathering good food is a pleasant exchange. It happens between the chores of feeding the flock, handing out hay to sheep and horses, and hauling water. On an easy day with fair weather chores take less than an hour to complete and I do them while listening to audiobooks. This means the morning is full of stories, food, and somewhere in the back of my mind I know a pot of Yerba Mate is perking on the stove. When I come inside to strain the milk and do the dairy dishes I have the option of the freshest eggs for breakfast with hot tea spiked with fruit juice.

It is fortification of the happiest sort.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Round Anxieties & Being Ruthless

I have been posting a lot lately about archery and horses, two things I adore. But I think writing about them, along with others subjects such as hawking, hunting, butchering, lambing, and so forth give my readership the impression I am fearless. I am not. I may be one of the most terrified people I know. Fear sits and swirls in me the way oil does in puddles. Anyone who takes the time to notice can tell, can see it there. And just like rainbows of color in poisoned water we can let it slide because it looks pretty. Horses, hawks, bows and hunting stories are very pretty. Stunning, even. But I want you to know that under every photograph, blog post, sentence, and story there is a woman who is very afraid.

I'm afraid of being thrown off my horse and breaking my arm. I'm scared I don't have health insurance, even now with the state programs it costs a 1/3 of my mortgage. I'm scared of being hit by a truck in my horse cart because some teenager was texting her boyfriend. I'm scared of keeping Cold Antler. I'm scared of Jasper when he turns his read end towards me. I'm scared of what my mother thinks. I'm scared of what you think. I'm constantly worried about money. I'm scared of getting close to someone romantically. I'm scared of heights. I'm scared of looks at Stewarts when I walk in without makeup or a shower in kilt and muck boots and what the locals must think I am. I'm scared of being alone, and loneliness. I'm scared of bee stings. I'm scared of noises in the dark. I'm scared of collection calls, nightmares, running out of firewood, and a million other things.

So why does a woman who is often so anxious out there in public wearing kilts? Shooting arrows? Riding horses down Main Street and traveling on highways in horse carts? Why did she quit her job when she was broke to start out with? Why did she buy a farm as a single woman, alone, so far from any relatives? Why did she share that horrible story about the dead sheep? Why is she doing ANY of this?

If you think I am fearless you are mistaken. If you think I am arrogant, you are being fooled by your own assumptions. Here is the only reason I do any of this stuff. My deepest secret, my driving force, my manta, my anthem, my most important lesson I can share: I am okay with being afraid. It is a natural part of life, survival, and humankind. I am absolutely terrified of regret.

Regret is poison. It destroys people faster than any disease of the body. To know something could have been and not having acted on chance, that is my biggest motivation. Every new job I took across the country. Every book proposal that was shot down. Every man I told I loved (and I never said that unless I meant it hard enough to shake the ground), all of it was done because the idea of not acting terrified me. Bones heal, banks foreclose, jeers at gas stations are forgotten... but the idea that I might wake up one day in a life I based around security and comfort wondering about the farm that may have been, the life I might have had? No, no, no, no, no.

If Cold Antler goes down in flames of failure I still know I tried. I got far enough to know the freedom of self employment and to grow good food through hard work. Memories of riding Merlin and hunting in my own forest can never be taken away. No, I do not have regret about this place, or any decisions I have made - including the mistakes. That may be the biggest accomplishment of my life. That I learned that being scared was as normal as rain, common and unpleasant - but necessary. And knowing the wetness of fear, feeling damp all the time in fact - that it never stopped me from reaching for my goals. I'm okay being Jenna the Scared. I'll never be Jenna the Haunted.

In my favorite Novel, The Name of The Wind, some time is spent talking about painful memories. In that story the main character describes how the most horrific moments in his life are not the most painful. How he can still see images and relive events in his past that should be the most painful but he has handled them so many times in his mind that they have lost their sharp edges. Roll fear around in your brain long enough and it rounds itself off. Still scary, but something you can handle without hurting yourself anymore. That is how I treat my fear, the anxiety I live with every day. Round anxieties can't cut you.

But regret never loses its edge. It never goes dull. In fact the more you think about it the sharper it gets. I see my fear as a stalking tiger, strong and deadly. But I see regret as a handgun pointed directly at my temple. Both might kill you but the tiger offers you a chance of escape, or perhaps the animal's disinterest in eating you that day. But a gun at your head is never an idle threat. Regret is ruthless.

And I'm writing all this because I know a lot of you can relate. Some of you are in that transition zone between lives, as I was a few years ago. Many of you want to quit your day jobs, buy land, grow food, milk goats, work with draft horses and play fiddles by campfires. And you can. You can do all of these things. Usually it requires sacrifice, lifestyle changes, comfort changes, and that same stubbornness that I have. But it is possible. You don't have to be rich, married, parent-approved, or even a land owner to be a farmer. You do have to be brave. You need to understand that all those things you are scared of are valid and real. You need to understand failure is a possibility. You need to not care what your in-laws think. You need to be okay with giving up things you used to think of as "normal" to make ends meet. You need to be certain.

If you want a life like mine it is waiting for you. But damn, is it ever scary. And being scared is okay. You'd be an idiot to not be at times. But never let discomfort stop you from preventing regret. Fear rounds itself out, it really does. It never leaves but you learn to live with it. But if not living the life you want is something you may regret, really regret, then I urge you to be as ruthless with it as it will be with you. Take the risks. Confront your spouse. Be honest about what you need to feel whole in this short and terrifying life. Because in the end the only difference between the people who wanted farms and the ones who had farms is that dance.

Everyone's story out there is different. We all have our own limitations, reasons, and fears. Some of us can never have our farms or be able to keep the ones we have. Maybe I'll be one of those people? Who the hell can see forever? But I do know that losing a thing is better than never having it in the first place. I'll take my fear with a smile and it will never stop me from getting on a horse, eating my home-butchered chicken dinner, stalking deer, driving carts, or paying my bills. And I'll do these things not because I am stronger than you, but because no part of me will ever be okay with that gun to my head.

So that's my secret. That's Cold Antler. And that's Jenna Marie Woginrich.

I hope it's yours, too.

Arrows Rising 2014: Events and Curriculum!

There are just five spots left for this October's Arrow's Rising! I am thrilled that folks are traveling from all over the United States (as far away as California!) to take part in the event. I have been planning much for both the May and October events here at the farm and thought I would share a little more detail for those of you on the fence about taking up traditional archery, and to explain to the people already excited to come just what is in store for them!

Arrows Rising is the name of the entire weekend, but that Saturday morning will start with a story. I will share my own reasons for taking up archery and it has nothing to do with Katniss, Brave, or the Avengers. I read a book one of you fine Antlers suggested to me several years ago and the the culture of archery and bow making was so rich and storied the bow went from being a weapon to a legend. It didn't take long after reading the first three books in the series that I had looked up some online bowyers and archery supply shops and sent from emails to my local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The rest, as they say, is history. A self-made history at that. I've shot on the same traditional team for three years now. I've gone from a girl very low the East Kingdom's rankings with a cheap bow to a Marshal in the Shire of Glenn Linn, and MUCH higher on the list. My love for the sport echoed into a part time job at the British School of Falconry in Manchester. There I taught archery professionally, showing folks who never held a bow before the ways of instinctive shooting, safety, and basic practice field commands.

Very much of those lessons will be repeated for these beginners coming to Arrow's Rising. There will be an in-depth talk about equipment, bows and bow types, strings, bow stringing and measuring your bow for your body and its string. We'll talk arrows as well, and how to outfit yourself once you get home. Basic safety equipment will also be covered, and while I will have spare gear to lend I strongly suggest that people attending Arrow's Rising invest in their own hand and arm protection. A simple armguard costs very little as does a finger tab. But really all you need is a sturdy pair of deerskin work gloves, which you can find at any hardware store. These will protect your hands and be very appreciated by Saturday afternoon!

Saturday after equipment is covered we will head outside for safety demonstrations and field rules. Since Cold Antler is built into a mountain and goes through forest and stream side we will have several areas with targets set up. You'll shoot stationary at close range to start, gaining distance and confidence. Afterwards we'll try a trekking shoot, where we walk over forest and along the stream hitting smaller targets. There may very well be a demonstration of mounted archery with Merlin as well.

The first day will end with us sitting under the king Maple out front and reviewing the history and tradition of archery, share our stories of why we came, and relax and rest our arms! A tour of the farm and animals will then happen for all who wish to meet the crew and a campfire will be held that night for folks who want to return for music and more stories. Bring a folding chair and an instrument!

Sunday will begin with a quick review and some more practice. We'll keep shooting and set up some faux hunting scenarios in the woods, with hidden targets set into the hillside and banks. Whoever does best in the hunt scoring will win a prize, first of the day! And after that we'll break for lunch and return for a small tournament of stationary targets. Highest score will go home with a prize as well!

So that is the plan, the entire weekend come a few weekends from now and again in the fall. I hope to fill up all the spots soon and encourage women, men, teenagers and best friends to sign up together if they want! It's a great bonding experience and a sport many of us can take up at any age. Basketball courts and swimming pools don't really change but the archery field and equipment is made to fit YOU. So do not feel you aren't athletic enough to try. Folks of any size are welcome, I just ask you bring plenty of water, a chair to sit in, and understand we are shooting come rain or shine!

ALSO: I wanted to share that due to someone changing from the spring to fall Arrow's Rising there is a spot open for this coming workshop the first weekend in May! It comes with a longbow — a handcrafted and hand sanded and stained longbow — and I urge one of you to grab the spot! It is not available at the sale price of the Autumn workshop though, it is the full price of $350.

I will still honor the sale price of Arrows Rising until this Friday at Noon. So sign up for the last spots and join your fellow new archers! Let the grey geese fly!

Email me: to sign up!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Windy Rides

Yesterday the long weekend of Horse Adventuring continued with a seven-mile drive in the wind! The weather was changing and our geldings were out of shape from the long, cold, winter. But we took it slow and walked and trotted our boys over farm, field, road, and highway alike. The wind whipped at their manes and I was grateful for the string that held down my straw hat!

Monday, April 14, 2014

So You're Thinking About Bees? Win a Book!

So you've come to that time in your life when considering ordering a box of a couple thousand angry insects makes sense? Well, congratulations. Honeybees are wonderful, relativity inexpensive to obtain, and don't require a quarter of the attention other livestock demands. Beekeeping is not cattle ranching. Heck, it isn't even chicken keeping. These girls do not need the constant care of other critters nor the space. You can be an urban-residing, world-traveling, beekeeper. You can be a beekeeper at your summer home, or your cabin, and you can be a beekeeper right in your town backyard. You can also keep bees in the city...

And no one knows this better than Meg Paska, who is a dear friend and now a bonefied author! Her new book came out recently called The Rooftop Beekeeper and it is a wonderful introcution for beginners - rural or urban. The book has a comfrotable narrative style, sharing the journey step by step. You learn about Meg, her homesteading adventiures in Brooklyn and beyond, and what kind of chops it takes to keep a hive. You can pick up this book knowing nothing and set it down after a joyful read with enough know how to make a bee keeping workshop worth it's weight in gold for questions alone.

Meg, I loved this book. And it reminded me very much of how you talk and teach. It brought me back to the workshop you did at my farm as well! Thank you again for being here and part of the CAF extended family.

For those of you bee-curious out there, know this: While there is a certain level of study, effort, and skill that goes into tending a hive it isn't the arcane knowledge some folks think it is. Getting started in keeping bees really only asks that you learn enough to cobble together a hive, dump the bees into it, and the usual care of checking in on their progress and vitality. That is, of course, over simplified but stands true. Some people check their hives every week. Others check in twice a year: once when they add honey supers in the spring and again when they harvest the honey. I fall right in-between. I check often in the spring and even help feed the bees in their early stages. But as the garden takes over my summer I let them do their own thing, making sure they have enough vertical space to grow in. I don't hassle them much until Harvest Time. And when I do have golden jars in my larder every minute spent, every sting healed, and every dollar spent was worth it - several times over.

They say no honey will ever taste as good to your lips as what you harvest from your own hive. They are right.

Oh, And Meg has offered to give away a signed copy here on this blog! So leave a comment about bees, your bee dreams, or anything honey related to win! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bookstores on Main Street

Every once in a while this wild life I am living sends me an instantly-nostalgic postcard. A moment I know I will always remember, as if my mind was taking a snapshot and signing and dating the back as it happened. Today as I walked my black horse down Main Street in Cambridge, our reflection cast back from the storefront of Battenkill Books. I looked into the glass and saw a woman on the back of a Fell horse. Saw her in kilt and wool cowboy hat. Saw her in broken, taped, glasses and wide smile trotting behind a best friend on a ton of white Percheron. There was no parade. There was no festival. We were simply out for a ride and using the roads as a system of transport. Like any other citizen traveling that day, us taxpayers wore away the pavement with hoof and sweat instead of tire and gasoline. I rode proud. I rode free.

That was one of those moments you never forget.

Today two women and two horses had an adventure. We trailered the horses to Common Sense Farm, just a mile from downtown Cambridge and rode across farm and fell. The plan was just to try some new land, get the horses used to new sights and sounds and start off the riding year right. So we tacked up and headed into the fallow new grass. Our horses stepping into soft ground sometimes six or seven inches deep with mud. We watched herds of deer fly over ancient stone walls from the time our country was still ran by England. We talked, we sang, we joked. And when our county ride was over we trotted right up to the Mansion on the estate and gave children rides on our horses.

Women came out from the farmhouse and offered us iced chai latte and handed it to us in the saddle. I drank the spiced tea and could not stop smiling. I was in my town and on my horse. The reason was simply because we wanted to see our world on horseback. Know what it was like to travel alongside cars, trucks, motorcycles and bikes. We did it because our horses trusted us, and we them. It was over 70 degrees and the sun warmed my bare arms. A few weeks ago I was waking up shivering with snow all over the ground. And here we were kissed by Lugh himself.

We road all through downtown Cambridge. Some folks waved from their porches, others were annoyed we were in the way. But Patty and I didn't care. We walked past Patty and Mark's first home together, a place they rented for six years before buying Livingston Brook Farm. It was where she learned to raise rabbits and start a life over. The import of the place hummed as we walked by, even though it was someone else's home now. A place where a friend began again is a good place indeed. And I thought about how I was in Idaho when she lived there, 3,000 miles away in the Pacific Time zone reading Jon Katz books about a magical place called Washington County, New York. Now it is mine.

We spent two hours in the saddle today. We trotted past police cars, and over farm fields. We waved and talked to strangers, got good and sore, and have plans tomorrow for another ride at Livingston Brook on her lakeside property. It will be nearly 80 degrees and I am humming for it. Humming like excited history. I am thrilled to be excited about a Monday morning, a feeling I didn't get until I was thirty years old. Brigit's Fire,  you just can't know.

But today? Today I will remember my reflection in a small town bookstore's windows. I will remember waving to friends and people I know by name in my town. I will remember a best friend, an amazing horse, a community of beautiful children and sweet tea, and of the memories you make when you live your life on purpose.

When the hours in the saddle were over we drove back to Patty's large estate and let the horses go in a paddock of green grass by a stream. The horses enjoyed their break and fresh sweat and us women got into the hot tub with adult beverages and sore thighs. It was glorious, under the afternoon sun. Mark (Patty's husband) came out to chat with us as we soaked, his eyes watering from the work of making horseradish paste by hand. One of their neighbors had left them some fine roots and he had spent the afternoon making the paste with vinegar and fortitude. As he headed back inside the farmhouse to finish his task I told Patty I had two rounds of goat cheese waiting for her at home. She glowed at this, and for good reason. My Alpine Chèvre was creamy and mild. It was formed in molds and rolled in herbs and it tasted bright and pure as spring herself.

When we headed back inside the farmhouse at sunset I saw a jar of horseradish waiting for me on the counter. Patty drove me home and when we got to Cold Antler I ran inside for her two rounds of chèvre. We swapped goods and I felt the power of community. That happy exchange of shared skills. It is something I feel more and more these days, popping its fine head out around corners and in our bellies. I knew I had still had chores, milking, writing, and work ahead but I also knew that tomorrow would bring another day of riding in the afternoon. I knew we would have another adventure. I knew that in that saddle, side by side, we could talk about anything and our horses would carry us without complaint.

I will remember today as a smiling reflection in a book store's window. But what I will remember is not glass and light. I will remember the importance and blessing of a friend, of horses, of sunlight and heat after a long winter. Oh, and of horseradish from hangover friends at sunset.

Life is good.

P.S. Thank you to all who have send comments, emails, and donations to help pay off Merlin. We are halfway there!

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I suppose it is like riding a bicycle. At least that is what I thought as Merlin exploded into a canter uphill. My ass set firmly into the saddle, my right hand gathered the reins, my left hung free in the air like a wing stretched into the breeze. Some thought of Eustace Conway flickered in my brain, a man who could understand this form of riding. I ride Merlin the way you sit down to a glass of wine with friends. It is alert, coy, casual, yet sharp. I know him well enough now. I can tell what he is thinking, what his body wants. He kens the same from me. And even though we have been separated by an angry winter, months from touching, he knows me. Just a week into riding and we are back again. This is the horse I know the way you know what a nickel feels like in the dark. If I handed you a dozen pennies, dimes, quarters and one nickel you could find it. Maybe not gracefully. Maybe not quickly. But given enough touch and time you would know a nickel in that lot. You could feel it, roll it over your fingers, bet your life that what you held was Jefferson and hope. That familiar feeling is EXACTLY what coming home to riding Merlin has felt like.

I know some of you have horses. I know some of you ride. And I know many of you know the fear and uncertainty of a spring ride. What it feels like to sit a horse you have not known by touch or whisper in months. What a cold winter of distance, time and ice can do to you. I know it to. Ather my first winter off Merlin it was thick as brandy. But it has only taken a week of regular riding to feel comfortable again. So I think of the bikes of my childhood. How I would dust them off in March and ride them again in the longer daylight. Merlin was like that now. Either our relationship or my time as a rider has blossomed into familiarity. I'll take it either way.

Way I mean to share tonight is I was not afraid. And that is not small merit. I was afraid of him last spring. I was afraid of horses all my life. But the force and stubbornness of three years was all it took to jump a horse in April and not cower. That is something of note. I rode Merlin over creek and field, up mountain pass and calm trail. But I rode him in confidence, and in peace. I sang out loud. I sang in english, and gaelic, and I sang him the Reins of Castemere. That last is the song of the Lannisters. The song of the most hated household in American Fiction these days. But Lannister is my house. I adore Jaime and Tyrion. I adore their horrible pasts. If I was in that world of mr Martin's I would want to be a Lannister.For those who know me and know Westeros, that may be a shock. I know I should be a Stark. But I have a very soft spot for horrible men. For better or for worse, a Lannister I would be.

So I sang to my horse in upstate New York.

Love & Wine

Thanks kjc, I love it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Girl & Her Bird

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This Old Life

I sat on the tailgate of my Dodge, one leg hanging off the edge and swinging. In my hands was a bowl of simple dinner: meat, rice, and vegetables. It was an hour to sunset and I was putting off milking Bonita, enjoying the languid feeling you get from eating basic food when you are very hungry and very tired. As I savored a neighbor drove by in his new Subaru, shiny as a new quarter. I didn't stop eating but lifted my fork-wielding hand when he honked hello. If he thought I looked silly—eating like a seven-year-old at the State Fair—I didn't give the tiniest shit. Amicable exhaustion removes most inhibition, I find.

What. A. Day.

Chores started early. Early enough, anyway. I had slept in a bit and wasn't apologizing for it. When I walked outside with Gibson and my milk pail the sun was well up and the horses were heckling from their gate. So be it. I could feel the promise of warmth and that was quite a thing. The winter was so long, so cold, and so threatening to the farm and spirit that this kiss of light was worth stoping and soaking in. I stood there for a bit in the sunlight as if I had some chloroform hiding somewhere secret, maybe in my right knee? I stretched out there, really stretched, turning my head and rounding shoulders. I reached up for the sun in lazy worship, letting a smile slide slowly over my chapped lips. I thought of the last sentences of my favorite short story of all time:

"Of course God is the sun. Everyone in the life before was cranky, I think, because they just wanted to know."

The sun was out and I welcomed him. I did chores, smelling the mix of spring known as woodsmoke and mud. I milked the goat and fed the animals. When finished with that bit of work I came outside the barn with four eggs and 3 quarts of milk in hand. Not a bad salary for a half hour's work.

I set down the milk canister and eggs to feed the turkeys, geese, and chickens. As I did this a rabbit hopped up to inspect the goods. She sniffed at the eggs and stainless steel container before hopping off. I am down to one meat rabbit at the moment, my oldest doe. She is no longer in a hutch and just roams the barn and farmyard. I'm not worried about predators (rabbits are wicked quick in a pinch). She is old for a domestic rabbit but she doesn't need to be faster than a fox. She just needs to be faster than the slowest chicken. Which she is.

Two types of people read that last sentence. One type frowned and the other type smiled. I smiled, too. Farming is a bloodsport. Don't you dare let anyone tell you otherwise.

The rest of my morning was nothing of consequence. I sat at a laptop in my living room and worked a few hours. I wasn't writing but emailing and designing, back in the old email folders I thought I left forever when I resigned my position at Orvis. But I have recently been hired back to work from home, part time. I'm hoping the new gig helps me catch up on the mortgage. I've been treading water, but the level is getting higher and higher. If what follows in this post makes you in any way jealous of the life I live know that my variety of self employment is risky and I do not sleep well at night. But if fear is the tax I need to pay for the certainty that I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's in the wide world, I will pay it. I will wake up every night shaking. I will pace and growl. I will find a way to keep this farm and this life. So I sit and design, correspond to familiar names, plan lunch meetings, and get up every now and again to throw a piece of wood on the stove. It's not cold in the house but I like the company of combustion.

So I worked. At least until I couldn't take it anymore. A few hours of click-clacking on the keyboard and then I closed the laptop and headed outside to my horse. The sun was up now, the wind was up too. I didn't care, it was the in-between wind. The kind that comes in April and August, the inhale and exhales of summer heat. I let it blow without preference and grabbed a lead line and halter and found Merlin. The highlander was caked in dirt and his own clods of shed hair. An hour of grooming later and he seemed slightly less dusty. I did some groundwork with him and then saddled him. Ready to ride I swung a leg up.

Well, I tried at least.

Flexibility is not the issue. I can kick a six-foot tall person in the head while standing next to him, but I was making the common mistake of wearing work pants. Jeans, to be specific. They were a fine make from a fine and common workwear company but they were not designed to throw a leg over a thousand pounds of draft horse. I cursed for not having the sense to wear a kilt. In three years of regular riding and driving I can say with assurance NOTHING is better for the trail saddle than a kilt with a pair of full-seat breeches underneath them. You get all the flexibility and friction of the tights but the protection, pockets, and comfort of a kilt. Do you know how wonderful it is to ride through brush and burdock with a layer of canvas over your rear end and tender thighs? Take my word for it. And if riding in a skirt makes you squirm know there is plenty of room for bandaids, pocket knives, bullets, cell phones, keys, cordage, and a flask. For trail riding like we do kilts are it. Quick and dirty.

Alas, I had no kilt today. I just had my jeans and they did not allow the flexibility I needed. So I walked Merlin to a piece of slanted land (not hard to do on my farm) and with 12 inches between us in topography I hopped on. We trotted down the paved road in front of my farmhouse. After the shock of hearing the construction site nearby (many mini-explosions of nail guns and hammers) I decided to head back to the farm to do more ground work then head for the woods. We might slip on the melting ice and snow or get spooked by deer but, you know, less nail guns.

I will confess a secret here. I am terrified of riding Merlin sometimes. I am especially terrified of riding him after a long winter when he is both disinterested in having to carry a passenger and extra bossy. Merlin has plenty of personality and he shares it by bucking, kicking, crow hopping, and generally refusing to budge when a rider proves she is less stubborn than he is.  So I have learned this pony and his quirks and find them endearing. But the only way out, is through. The only way to get to that Zen-like state of teamwork and comfort is to start by being tense in April. Every spring we are a nervous pairing. Or maybe just I am nervous. Too much time out of the saddle lets me forget the need of it. I imagine this is what people recently single must feel like alone in bed, a little hollow, a little confused. Given enough time they get used to sleeping alone. But given a new lover they are awkward and confused again under the sheets. That is how a winter without riding Merlin feels like to me, a reluctant bed.

I ask Merlin to trot and he does exactly what I didn't realize I was expecting from him. He sets his head low, pops his butt in the air, and kicks with me on his back. The Jenna from a few years ago would at this point fall off, cry, call for help, and write about it at length. But not now. Without expecting the joy of this little hissy fit I felt my body adapt and change with the horse. He kicked and my round ass sank deep into that saddle, feet at home in the stirrups. I smiled like a wolf. I wasn't going anywhere. My center of gravity remained in place as I leaned my chest forward and cursed in Gaelic at him, calling him a beautiful demon and telling him I was home. His ears flicked and both of us were surprised that this first true ride of spring had us both where we ended last Autumn.

I made $18 today.
I rode Merlin well, sitting through a kick.
I am beyond wealthy.
Now I am going to share a song with you.

So we rode. We rode down the pavement and up into the trails of mountain and stream. We got through the woods and up into the high mountain trails. At one point I could feel the sun hitting all of my black wool sweater and all of my black horse at the base of a hillside. I knew there was no way to hold him back. Merlin bunched up his head and shoulders and exploded uphill into a full-out gallop. Not a canter. Not a jog. But the kind of running that turns the earth. He reached farther with each stretch, his stout body proving to the world he too was a crow. He could fly. So he did.

God's Body, he RAN. He ran and together we let go.

I was too excited to be afraid. I leaned forward into his neck, smelling hair, winter's dust,  and horse sweat. It was a heady combination. The run did not last long but when it ended we were on an overlook, high above the ground that is Cold Antler Farm. I turned him around swiftly, 360 degrees to take in the view and looked down on the farmstead that is my home. I trotted him a bit more, heading back home soon enough. I was so pleased to not be afraid of him.

It wasn't even lunch yet. This will be a long post.

I untacked Merlin and thanked him. I let him into the open pasture and let Jasper out to join him. Merlin enjoys room to run but Jasper is a connoisseur of motion. I watched the white and red pony pony sprint with abandon past me and through the gate, leaping around Merlin and flying through the air. If Merlin is a crow Jasper is a wren. I let the boys enjoy the sun and grabbed Gibson for a trip into town.

I headed down to Anne's place. She and her family moved here from Key West and bought an amazing piece of property in town. She had been asking polity for weeks that I walk the grounds with her and help give ideas and warnings about fencing and stock. Having made every mistake you can make with sheep and goats at this point I felt well suited for this task. And together we walked her pastures, orchards and fields. She was ready for sheep that day if she wanted them. She had wonderful fences, a barn, gates, everything. We left with the notion of a possible ram renting for rototiller future barter proposition. Good meeting in my book.

I came home to a full sun-dappled farm. The wind was low now and the horses, sheep, and goats seemed content. I took Italics from his mews and set him out on a perch in his weathering area. While I puttered around the farm and tried to come up with income he could enjoy the sun on his feathers and contemplate molting.

I gave up on the income ideas and went for a two-mile run.

Upon my return I did the evening chores and once everyone had hay, feed, water, and been milked I gathered up my hawk on my fist and walked out to the horse pasture. I could sense the fear in Italics and the disinterest in the horses. Horses do not bother with birds. They just are. But few Red Tails get as close to horses as Italics was and he soon went from stress to calm. I fed him while the horses nibbled the first green shoots from the good earth. Merlin sniffed his chest and not a talon was raised in protest. I also consider this a good meeting in my book.

At some point Italics was back in his mews. The horses back in their paddock. The Jenna back in her farmhouse. But since daylight and time would not stop flirting I grabbed bow and quiver and headed outside. My first three arrows hit the yellow center of the target, the next three hit the red. I beamed. I had sat a kicking horse, walked a farmer's field, worked with an international corporation, and created milk from force and will but these three arrows made my heart sing and twitter. It is a placid sort of violence. A punch in the wind. A rooster's dance. Tiny gods, I love what a bow and arrow do to my mind. I shot until dark. When I came inside I turned on youtube and played some more music. A local band called The Parlor lit up the house with music. Upstaters know what it is to shuck and jive. Enjoy:

This Old Life, Indeed. Thanks for the music, Hasselwander.

And The Lamb's Name Is.....