Saturday, June 25, 2016

Roommates

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fell

Tonight after chores were done and I wrote that last bit, I gathered up Merlin and took him for a ride up the mountain. I live on the eastern side of this little bump and even in June the sun slides out of view by 6:30pm. So I took Merlin to go find it. I'm glad I did.

Fell ponies fit me. I mean that in many ways. Being 5'2" tall they match my height, but also we share the same build. We're mostly muscle and resentment, stubborn love, luckless slingers. When I am on his back, even when he is acting up or awkward, I feel safe. I feel like I'm at a place I belong. And I need to remember it's a place I found through a lot of time, effort, work and determination. I didn't discover a home in the saddle with Fells, I built it one brick at a time.

80 miles, 8,000 words


These days most of my energy is going into running and writing. Since last Sunday, which is what? twelve days ago? I have ran 80 miles. I think running has become a balm for anxiety, a way to physically beat it out of myself. Today's ten mile run was steady and slow, but mostly comfortable. My body wasn't fighting me this time, asking to stop. I try to run in the morning after chores and then the rest of the afternoon is for other obligations of writing, logos, illustrations and clients. Writing right now is less about this blog (sorry) and more about getting a proper start on a new book. A book deal is crucial, so very much so. Not only for financial security but because it's been too long and I have a lot to share and say. I want to tell an entirely different story about myself. So far an 8,000 word proposal has made its way to my agent's hands and he is shopping it around. If luck is with me more books are in my future. Fingers crossed, ale poured, hopes high.

Right now just making it to that point is my biggest concern. That is why I am running so much. I need to feel that even if there are threats or scary phone calls about my home, that I am working towards a larger goal and removing the stress best I can. That is why that Indiegogo was launched. If I can meet that goal there is no threat of losing my farm. If I don't, real trouble is ahead. In exchange for larger contributions you will be mailed hand-drawn art in the home you are supporting from the author asking for your patronage. If you like me, it's a kindness. If you dislike me, it's a cheap way to keep the person you dislike creating content you can be upset about. Fun!

If you don't want to support it, that's okay too. I appreciate you just being here to read this.

News on the goats, the sheep, the bees, and more tomorrow. I will be taking a little 36hr break from running for my legs to harden up from all the work they have been doing. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Icelandic Horse

Yesterday I sat down and drew this Icelandic horse, with runes beside her. If you would like a portrait of your own horse or to purchase this 9x12" original artwork, you can email me! Happy to create art for the readers of this blog.

Come in, sit down.

Welcome new readers and old friends, I often post this: Come in,  Sit Down, which means introduce yourself here on the blog by your name and location, and maybe share a little more about yourself as far as homesteading dreams or goals are? If you don't feel comfortable giving your name online, you could always just leave your location and perhaps a suggestion for the blog. It's a way for me to see who I am writing to and say hello. It makes the place a little more friendly on this side, as you know so much about me, but I know so little about you. A simple introduction makes it feel like I'm talking with a group rather than writing to the sky. If you never comment this post is an exception worth making. You might even make a friend or two...

It's also a way for you guys out there to connect with other folks with like interests. If you're sitting in your Sausalito apartment dreaming of mini angus bloodlines and rototillers you might just see another name from Sausalito a few comments down dreaming about coop plans and explaining his container gardens.... and before you know if you've made a farming friend. The internet is great—you'll never hear me say otherwise—but it keeps us inside a little too much. It should be a tool to network and learn from, not a replacement for three dimensional conversations and relationships. (I am talking for myself right now as much as anyone) and by saying hello here you might just spark book clubs and dinner potlucks, meetups and work parties, farm visits and advice, or just someone to grab coffee with in the Philadelphia Barnes & Noble and pour over the new issue of Hobby Farms together while chatting about why your husbands think chickens are ridiculous.

So come on inside, pull up a chair, and say hello.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bo, Anne, and Jodi

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Bo Burnham, or how many of you are into Comedy at all? I know this is a farming blog, but this farmer is into it. Thanks to podcasts I know more about the stand up scene in Los Angeles than I do about the beef prices at the livestock auction a half mile down the road. I wanted to be at Cameron and Rhea's wedding. I am more excited for Kumail and Emily's story becoming an Apatow movie than I am about anyone's baby pictures on Facebook. I jog to episodes of Harmontown. I fall asleep listening to Bill Burr on Youtube. And I cried watching Bo Burnham's ending song in Make Happy.

Jodi, a 50-year-old reader from California messaged me on Facebook. She was a wilderness firefighter for years and is now in a wheelchair, but she follows along with my books and blog. We haven't talked before, but she came out of the blue to talk to me today and I am so glad she did. She said she saw the fundraiser with the postcards and wanted to contribute, but would rather get a signed book from me? We got to chatting and she bought a paperback copy of Made From Scratch (all I have here are a few copies of that and Chick Days) and after she sent along the paypal and her address, the last thing she said to me was this:

"All will be okay trust me!"

Oh, Jodi. I so needed to hear that. You have no idea.

Today started off poorly. Before coffee, before morning stretching or chores; I read random internet comments about me on another person's Facebook page. I am a professional writer. I literally make a living feeling things and then writing about those feelings for anyone who wishes to read them. Why would anyone expect someone like that to brush off unkindness? Because I'm supposed to be used to it? I'm not used to it.

So these comments about my worth, that is how I started my day. They cast a shadow on everything else. Instead of feeling like I could take on the world I started the day feeling scolded. Which lead to a panic that stole my appetite, energy, and joy. I could barely finish my three mile jog - exhausted and worried that time away from the computer would miss an email for work or fiddle lessons. My stomach churned and my mind reeled. I was so angry at myself. Not the good kind of angry that inspires change and manic writing sessions - the sad, defeated, imploding kind of anger.

I was angry because I did it to myself. Those comments are people's thoughts who I have never met. Their thoughts about me are none of my business and I was a fool to read them. The stakes couldn't be lower, as they have zero interest in supporting me, my work, or my farm. To them I am a character on a reality show they enjoy watching fall apart. Unfortunately, Chase Bank doesn't accept payment in I-Told-You-So's.

So I ran my crappy, short, run and came home feeling awful. Since Sunday I have ran 26 miles, and only three of them happened today. I should have hit thirty. I'm training for a half marathon at some point in the fall. I don't know if it'll be an actual event with numbers pinned to my shirt and medals or just a fine day that I run 13 miles on my own here in the Shire. Comfort with the distance is the goal. To feel totally okay running that far, in one shot. Maybe that woman won't have her day ruined by flinching at strangers comments? Eh, worth a shot.

I am scared these days. Really scared.

My neighbor Anne stopped by. She just wanted to check in on me. She drove from town and just talked to me, which is something so rare these days. She didn't want anything but to listen, and she she did. She offered support and just let me know she was there and I wasn't alone. She used to read this blog from a home in Key West. Now she has five acres here in Cambridge. 

I need to laugh so I listen to the comedians, all of whom I relate to more than any neighboring farmer. Around here farmers are trying to sell food. I am too, but no where near as hard as I am trying to sell myself. I want to make a living writing about what I love so I can live the life I love. I happen to love a life of homesteading. But if I was into building car engines or collecting stamps you'd be reading about that instead. I love the telling. I need you to read it.

I need to focus on the Bos, Annes, and Jodies. I need to realize there is more compassion and cheering for this farm and this insane person than there is vitriol. And I need to love myself enough to not go fishing for drama because I am scared that somewhere far away an asshole is complaining about a stranger.

It is interesting and exciting, to wake up with such a singularity of purpose. Every morning is a mission to get solvent. I want to catch up, stop the fear, and sleep a full night. Some women out there want to get married. Some women want kids. Some women want to win the Superbowl. Me? I just want to know the home I made for myself is safe. That is what I want. That is part of what is driving this new book I am working on so intensely. But with every morning of gusto and writing, design and illustration, there is this constant fear of judgement that slithers into my evenings.

All will be okay, trust me.
But I'm not sure I can handle this right now. 

Kailyard

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Art for The Farm

I had this idea yesterday, and today I woke up and sat down to ask you about it. The two fires I wrote about last night? They need to be put out. The one I can work on through writing, words, editing, and self promotion. The other one - it is causing nothing but sleepless nights, anxiety, and fear. Months of pushing to catch up have not hit the mark, so I am offering artwork via the post to anyone who wants to take part in this fundraiser. All funds go towards keeping the farm. To learn more about it, Click Here!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Two Fires

I got the mail today and there was a package from a reader. It was so kind. Inside was a Notre Dame tee shirt (my family’s football team, and mine forever) and a sweet card. A little note of encouragement. I don’t know if you guys understand how much that means to me, how much it means to all of us. We have this ability as people to give gifts, and I don’t mean tangible gifts like tee shirts or money, but gifts of kindness, joy, love, appreciation. It is a currency we all have, and our checkbooks have no limit. We can buy coffee for the stranger behind us in the Veteran cap. We can tell the lady at the library how beautiful her earrings are. We can put out our fists in solidarity when we drive past a runner trying to make it up a hill. We can tell someone their dog is beautiful. We can send a card in the mail for no reason at all. We have the power to make other human beings feel good. We can write unlimited checks for other peoples’ smiles.

Encouragement sure is needed around here. I am writing a new book, and it is the most excited I have been about writing in a while. In the past every project was bought before it was written, meaning every book you have seen with my name on it was a contracted deal. They paid me half up front to agree to write it and I got the second half when the manuscript was edited and approved for publishing. So I was writing because I was legally obligated too, and that (for me at least) does two things: sets a fire under my arse and turns passion into obligation. I still write, but it is coming from a place of duty some days and not the quiet thrill of needing to write.

This book I need to write. I have to make myself stop writing it at night.

Now, my excitement certainly doesn’t mean a publisher will match it. Right now the book isn’t sold and this is actually a total rewrite of something I already had about twenty thousand words in. But I am excited. And getting little messages with tee shirts and kind letters, it makes me feel like that is one book already sold. Someone out there will pay me American Tender to write down my feelings about a farm and a stubborn horse. I have the evidence in my hand, a note and a shirt.

My life right now is a combination of trying to figure out how to keep this farm and how to create this story I am burning to tell. It is a dangerous alchemy. Half of my fire is fear of losing the roof over my head. The other half is passion to talk about the darkest parts of myself publicly, and how this farm and a dark horse helped me through them. The last five years have been more life-changing than the rest combined. I am a very different woman than the girl that started this blog, who walked out of the corporate world and started this experiment. I refuse to give up, if it doesn’t kill me first.

That is where I am. Fighting fear and writing words. I am proud to say the farm has never been better, animal wise. The flock is bonnie and braw, the goats happy and producing so much milk! The piglets will arrive soon (a trade from a local farmer for archery lessons for his wife and daughter!) and the hive, gardens, rabbits, horse, dogs, and cats are all hail. There is green grass, new friends, hard work, personal goals, and good food ahead. There is regular music lessons and a fiddle that stopped collecting dust. There is joy, and sometimes other people give it to me for no reason other than they can.

The fireflies are out. Summer is here. The farm is magical. Gods willing, I get to stay a little longer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Win a Brand New Strumstick!

I have been playing the Strumstick since I first encountered one, back in college. That was over a decade ago and these little instruments have followed me through five states and my entire homesteading adventure. McNally has supported CAF since this blog started and I am proud to say how much they mean to me and this farm.

The first time I pucked one I loved the ease, I loved the sound, and I loved that the whole thing was flawless for beginners. Set up like a dulcimer the strings are tuned to match each other and make simple chords. It is made for fireside, hammocks, sunsets and I am giving away one of their beautiful instruments in the key of G (with a soft case)!

Strumsticks are as simple as the dulcimer, but with the feeling and twang of a banjo. It is set up so that the entire instrument is in tune with itself, making wrong notes impossible. My Strumstick is always in my pickup truck, at the ready for lunchbreaks at the office, campfires, or any place that needs a little music. My favorite tune to play on it is Wild Mountain Thyme.



To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment in this post sharing what instrument moves you, and you wish you could play. Or, tell the story of how you started playing the instrument you now consider a loyal friend. Inspire those who are toying with the idea of a mandolin or banjo to grab those beauties and start pickin!

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with these guys, check out the site and their videos, because their instrument is the perfect way for the non-musical homesteading-lovin' persons to pluck out some simple mountain tunes without any experience with stringed instruments.

Everyone can only enter once via comment, but if you are willing to share the link to this blog on Facebook, then you may enter a second time posting, "SHARED!" and you'll be in the running again, doubling your chances for one of these amazing little beasties. Winner will be picked Saturday night!

Bresse

The Bresse chicks have grown into their quirky selves and spending their days outside the tractor now, learning to chicken. The breed is supposedly the best tasting chicken, ever. In France they are started on pasture and their last month they are fed only milk and ground corn, which is supposed to effect the meat flavor and tenderness. I am not sure if that's true but it is lovely seeing these birds grow and thrive.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Still

A friend left my home after a visit with a box. Inside it was a bottle of fresh goats milk, some garlic chèvre ready to spread, a bag of salad greens, and a half dozen eggs. I thought nothing of it at the time, mostly because there is such an excess of those things here that I am just glad when someone else can enjoy them. Milk is for drinking, gardens are for eating, eggs collect in the fridge like fungus taking over shelves and crispers if not taken away. Anyway, he left and he left with food and I was reminded again that my home is a place you can get things.

My life is different and I like it. I like that my home is lived in and comfortable, with little plastic and little modernity. I like that there’s no dishwasher, microwave, cell phones, flat screen TV, tractors, air conditioning, or drip coffee makers. Instead there’s a sink, a stove, a rotary phone, a computer, a draft horse, window fans, and percolators. And that isn’t some quasi-luddite (can you be a quasi-luddite?!) stance of superiority. It’s just what I like. It’s how I prefer to be in the world. I have plenty of shortcuts and modern conveniences in my life I never want to go without. Things like my old iPod, my pickup truck, my internet, and services like traveling butchers with power winches on their trucks. I like modern medicine and I like modern booze (same thing) and I like learning about pop culture at the same time I am learning about falconry. The point of all this is: be yourself. What a cliche, right? But it’s a mantra that terrifies us all. What if “myself” isn’t what people want, or like, or approve?

Well, then you end up on a farm in upstate NY. You could do worse.

So my home is this weird place and you can get things here. You can place orders here. Friends and neighbors can get in on some bacon, chicken, eggs, lamb, milk, cheese, wool and honey here. They can join me fly fishing or horseback riding or go hawking or shoot arrows with me. We can hunt, we can watch Pitch Perfect, we can get dressed up in heels and eye shadow and go to Saratoga for Karaoke. I subscribe to Black Belt Magazine, Countryside, and Vogue. Allow yourself to contain multitudes.

Most women, hell most people, spend most of their life apologizing. We’re so used to being scolded and accepting that behavior from other adults as okay. We don’t speak up when someone tells us they were ahead of us in line when we weren’t. We don’t accept compliments without explaining why we don’t deserve them. We let people assign us rolls. We let people happen to us. Not around here. I don’t let Candy Crush happen to me, much less people.

I spent the past ten years learning to homestead. Now this farm is thriving. This morning at 7Am I met the slaughter team and helped take care of some large pigs. By 9AM all the chores were done, water hauled, hay moved, goats milked, dogs fed, and I was in the Battenkill River fly fishing with a friend. It costs nothing to fly fish, which is good these days when money has never been tighter at the same time I never felt wealthier. This June marks 4 years of self employment.

I know what I am doing and that is not something I am ready to apologize for, not anymore. I know that horse, those sheep, my dogs, the goats, the bees, the rabbits, the chickens, and the pigs. I know my fiddle. I know how to make bread and cheese and a killer deep dish pizza. I have plenty to build on and there is always room for improvement, but I am no longer a beginner at these things. As of tonight the lights are still on and the wolves are pacing far away enough from the door I can exhale between the sharp inhalations. I made it four years on my own in this house and I figured it out enough to remain. Tonight that is all I need to know to fall asleep a little less afraid.

I am still here. Wish me luck.

Also, you can get things here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Learn The Fiddle At Cold Antler!

Ever waned to learn to play the fiddle? Think you have no musical talent? Can't read music? Intimidated by that instrument and its history of music, lore, and story? Well, I have taught over a hundred people this instrument right here at Cold Antler Farm. Come see the place you've read about in books and blogs and leave a musician. It's easy.

How does it work? You buy a fiddle package and a set a date for a 4-hour intro lesson. You learn parts of the fiddle, tuning, your finger positions, your first scale, and first song. Most of all you learn what it takes to go home and tune, teach, and play yourself BY EAR. I teach in the southern mountain tradition of folk songs, but the information can translate easily to bluegrass, Celtic, french Canadian, etc styles of playing.

Right now I am offering a sale on lesson packages. This package INCLUDES THE FIDDLE! So you literally need to come with nothing. You leave with your fiddle in case, knowing how to play a tune.


Interested in setting up a Fiddle Day?

4 Hour Half Day (8-12AM or noon-4PM)
1 person: $250
2 people: $400
each additional person: $120 each.

Full Day (hour lunch break) 8-4PM
Includes all 4 hour skills plus shuffling and droning
1 person: $350
2 people: $600
each additional person: $120 each.

Weekend Long Fiddle Camp
(local campground stay, not on farm)
8Am Sat - 3PM Sunday
Includes all of day class plus shuffling, droning, second song, new scale, etc.
1 person: $550
2 people: $800
each additional person: $120 each.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Back In The River

This morning, and most mornings these days, I am in the Battenkill River. I am there close to 6AM - before most of the morning chores and the day's work. I am hoping to catch a trout with the small set of skills I have acquired over the years as a fly-fisher. It is a large hope.

It's quiet and lovely. The Battenkill is perfect in its lack of activity. There are no kayaks, canoes, or tubers yet. There are just us anglers and very few of us on weekday mornings. The river is so clean that I can see the trout twenty yards away and cast right to them. Sometimes they swim right up to my fly, sniff at it, and take off. Sometimes they bite and I try to hook them and fail. Sometimes I just want an excuse to stand in the river at dawn and not look crazy.

I just spend an hour or so, and rarely catch a fish. Today I got a few bites and learned what flies to use in that place and time. Yesterday I caught some brown trout, two small ones, and released them back into the water. It was a thrill worth the wait and the work.

P.S. I am selling my fiddle and some antiques on Facebook, if you are interested in some unique items or instruments, please let me know via email or FB. Thanks!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Goat Life Hack #494

Everything is a hammock is you want it bad enough.

Hersteading: Art and Friendship

I met Miriam at the Tae Kwon Do school we both attended. She and I knew each other from those classes, and we chatted from time to time, but it was when she found out I had a farm she emailed me asking if she could take photos? I agreed and a friendship started between us and her family.

That was 2013. Over the years she has taken over 5,000 photos of Cold Antler Farm in every season. She has been here for horse cart rides with Merlin to the Stannard Farm Stand and has walked beside me on hawking adventures with Italics. She has been to the butchering of chickens and pigs, the shearing of sheep, and the weeding of gardens. She met me not too long after I had left the corporate life for the farm life and only knows me as the scrappy woman trying to keep her Creative life pumping blood to all the corners of hope and force it needs. She's been a true friend, an amazing artist, and a photo journalist of one eccentric life on the side of a mountain. She is about to share it all with the world.

Miriam has a show called Hersteading, and it opens to the public in a few weeks! There she will have her favorite and most-powerful images of this One-Woman-Farm up for display. On the 18th I will be there as well, to do an author talk about my experience on the farm as a Jill of All Trades and have books available to purchase and sign. Please join us for this celebration of art, friendship, and farming! All events are FREE to attend, no purchase of books or art necessary.

Hersteading.

a photo project about Cold Antler Farm by Miriam Romais
On view at Saratoga Arts, June 11 – July 31, 2016
July 9, 6-8pm
Opening Reception for 10×10 and Hersteading exhibitions

July 18, 6-8pm
Artist Talk • Book Signing • Reception
Artist talk and slide presentation with Romais and homesteader and author Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm.  Exhibition catalogues will be available for purchase and signing, as well as Jenna’s books thanks to Northshire Books. The Reception (7-8pm) features a delicious tasting from Bon Bon Brazil, with Druthers providing beer and yummies.

The Theatre Gallery at Saratoga Arts 
320 Broadway • Saratoga Springs NY
www.saratoga-arts.org

Hours: Mon-Fri, 9-5pm + Sundays in July, 11-5pm, with extended hours on performance nights (check events calendar for evening hours)

Shearing Day!

I came down the stairs around 5:30 This morning and as I turned the corner into the first room the smell of sheep hit me, hard. I didn't have any ovine house-crashers in the house, but I did have a mountain of freshly-shorn fleece in the corner. Threats of rain right after sheering had me bring the wool inside to protect it. I had yet to bag it up for the mill. So after last night's humidity, walking towards the coffee pot was a lot like walking through sheep soup, but you know, everywhere.

It is moments like this I am really grateful my roommates are sheepdogs. Not a lot of humans would put up with a house smelling like that. Gibson was padding right beside me, and while I usually cringe at wordplay, I looked him right in the eye and said, "I have to warn you, baby, it smells like warm ewe." The border collie didn't care. Gibson would do whip-its of that stench if he could.

This past Thursday, three good friends were able to sneak away from their work in order to help me with my own. Miriam, Cathy, and Trevor got here in the afternoon heat to assist shearer Jim McCrea with the flock. There were seven chubby sheep to shear, four of them were British Longwools with staples decent enough to spin. The other three were the Scottish Blackface, a meat breed known for wool that makes fine rugs, tartans, and general weaving. But the good stuff is the stuff off the backs of Sal, Joseph, and the two new ewes purchased from Patty last fall. They are all Romney(ish). One ewe is a purebred Romney and the others are half Cotswold, Border Leicester, and Merino. Those four fleeces are the ones worth spinning.

So when the shearer arrived in the late afternoon, we got to business. A makeshift pen was made to hold the flock. All fourteen sheep headed into it for grain, save Brick, who understood a trap when she saw one. Miriam let Gibson outside and it took me and him not time at all to get the renegade into the pen. She slid through and Trevor shut the gate behind her. Jim the Shearer clapped for Gibson. I was insanely proud of that small gesture.

It didn't take long for the seven adult sheep to be shorn. I had a small table with beer growlers from the Argyle Brewing Company and mason jars to pour it into for the helpers. I set out a container of garlic chevre and crackers if anyone felt peckish. Miriam and Cathy also brought snacks to share, so this shearing day had some Craft Services. Cathy's handmade salsa, I am still thinking about it.

The three males and four females went fast, under the expert work of Jim and his apprentice. Miriam was able to snap some photos for her project of the farm (more on that later!) and Trevor managed some impromptu, accidental, mutton bustin'. But the work got done, the new fencing was set up to organize the field into managed grazing sectors,  and the fleeces were safely stores inside from the threat of rain. 

After shearing was done I was feeling great. A slight buzz from the combination of heat, work, and beer had me feeling wonderful so after I paid the shearer ($8.50 a sheep plus travel costs) and said thank yous and goodbyes to my friends, I headed out for a four mile run. When I came home from that I was a happy, tired, mess and had a shower with mint soap. In a perfect world I would be under the King Maple, swinging from the hammock chair, watching the first drops of rain fall while I sipped some iced tea and swayed.

The rain never did come and the gardens wailed. I still swayed. I'll take an imperfect day on this farm any day. Especially, these days.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fire Sale!

Hey Folks, These are services, items, and farm goods I have for sale! I have 2 days to make this happen, so that I can mail in a mortgage payment before June 1. If you or someone you know might want or need what is offered below, please consider buying, suggesting, or sharing this stuff with others!

One 1/4 Share of (2016/2017 fall/winter) Pork remains!

Logos! Logos are on sale for designs starting in late June. You wait longer, but pay less!

Illustrations, from postcard sets to full color commissions, on sale!

Goat Kids for Sale! La Manch/Alpine Buck Kids - $50 each!

Fiddle or Archery Package Days: Learn to shoot or play the fiddle, spend 4 hours on the farm and learn the beginnings of a new skill! Comes with fiddle or bow! Stay all day and learn both (great family activity!)

Do you have a blog, small business, or product you want to Promote on Cold Antler Farm for a whole year? I have ad spaces to fill and readers get a much lower rate than businesses! So message me and get your words and work out there!

Raw Wool! Bags of Romney and Romney/Merino Crosses.

Pastured Chickens - pre order birds for later this summer, raised outside and processes locally.

Support a Creative life: consider subscribing to Cold Antler Farm by contributing monthly for as low as $5 towards the blog! This is like an NPR support option, volunteering to contribute to the blog, which is free to read.


Email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com to order or talk about anything above!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Shearing Day, Join Me!

Shearing Day is coming up, May 26th! The shearer Jim McRae will be here in the mid afternoon and if you are local and have some free time, considering coming to be a part of it! What is there to do? Well, two or three people work with the actual shearer to hand over sheep as they are shorn. Others can help skirt the wool and prepare it for the mill. Some others can just laugh at the rest of us as sheep slip through our hands or go from woolly to naked, and enjoy potluck foods, iced coffee, or BBQ if I get it all together in time. Some folks from Kiva will also be stopping by as part of their Ag Tour upstate. So there's a chance there will be sheepdogs, sheep, shearing, wool skirting, beer, bbq, and New York City Kiva reps all at the same time. It's a fun afternoon and the most important day on a small fiber operation's calendar! So email me if you want to join in?

Friday, May 20, 2016

A String of Three

So Monday night I spilled a 1/3 of a cup of seltzer water on my laptop. It shut down and it didn't start back up. It was a real bummer and what followed was driving down to Albany with a friend to pass off the dead macbook to a repair guy. He still has it, and on it are all my design and illustration programs, photos, and recent work files. I am writing you from the 2010 desktop in my living room I mostly just use for watching movies and TV shows through streaming services. It doesn't have any design programs on it. If he gets it to restart it's a $300 fee. Yikes.

So clients are waiting. I am waiting. Bills are waiting. Stress is high. Nothing new around here, to have that panting lurch of being in a tight spot. I'll figure it out.

But wait, it gets better! On that same trip to Albany a filling cracked in half. Boy Howdy, did that hurt. I was sitting by a fountain outside a Ten Thousand Villages store and eating a piece of beef jerky (Like the lady) and BAM! I contacted my dentist.  It will be repaired in June, but till then I am on a pretty lame soft-foods diet.

They say bad things come in threes. It's true. Tonight, my truck stopped working. It won't start. It has to do with the starter and I don't think it is an expensive repair, but it means limited mobility. If it doesn't start tomorrow the guys at Bains will come with a tow truck and see to her, but who knows what that will cost. I hope not a lot.

So tonight I am going to eat some yogurt at home and work on illustrations like a champ. Those pencil and water color commissions are few and far between, but they do add some income and they don't need to be scanned. I can take a snapshot and work at my desk while binge watching You're The Worst for the third time. Which is a show I adore, so so so much.

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Vlog: 5 Myths About Backyard Livestock

Bee Art!

I illustrated this last night, while thinking of all this bee business. It was really the only thing to do while I was waiting for company to come and the power was off. A blackout came, thanks to high winds and rural power lines by big trees. So I turned on my crank radio, sat by the comfy wood stove, and painted by the last of the daylight. This bee was the sketch/watercolor result. It is on 9x12" bristol board. If you want him - feel free to email me and I'll mail him to you for some agreeable rate.

A Monster With Two Heads

It's almost 10AM and I just finished the morning chores. I know, that's late. But last night I hosted a Game Night with some new and old friends (we played a farm favorite, Lords of Waterdeep) and guests were still tallying up points at 10PM. It wasn't till around midnight till I fell asleep, so I didn't get out and about until 8AM. Slow start for this time of year and this particular life.

Getting started means letting the dogs out to romp and pee, letting the kids out to do the same (by the by, the kids are now named Jack White and Jack Black. I call them the Jacks) and going about the morning chores of feeding pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits,  geese,  turkeys, chickens and one loud horse. By the time the coffee was drank and the last of the stainless steel milking pails were set aside to dry, it was 9:30. Now the kids are asleep in a borrowed plastic dog crate on clean bedding. The dogs are asleep after full bellies of kibble. The cats are asleep from their dawn rounds of critter killing and delivering their murder victims to the front door looking worse than an avian Elizabeth Short.

Some of this homesteading stuff I have down. I feel really confident about my gardens, my goats, and now my sheep. I feel savvy around my horse (not all horses, mind you, but mine). I know dogs better than any other living species, including humans. And so far the cats haven't mutated to their desired dream size to kill me in my sleep.

Other things I don't have down, and the lessons come hard. Bees are one of those lessons. I am writing you with over 16,  itching, hurting, stings on my thighs, hands, and butt.

This past Saturday I installed the nuc of bees I had pre-ordered with some friends. A few of us went in on the hive, planning to share the honey for mead in the coming years. It was exciting getting up and driving to Betterbee to grab the hive, just after dawn. I had music blaring, and was listening to Coleman Hell with the windows down. I felt good. I had chores done, coffee injected, and was greeting the sunrise with aviator sunglasses and the mild high you get from going out to get new livestock. I consider bees tiny livestock.

Now, If you don't get there early you could be in line for hours. So many people come to pick up honeybees at that location, and I am grateful it is literally the next town over. So I was loaded up and on the way home by 7AM. Music playing, friends chatted with, life was good.

A nuc is different than a package of bees. A package is a box of several thousand bees with some feeding syrup and a queen in a small, sealed, box. They are not a true colony yet, and there is no honey or brood to protect. You buy these and literally dump them into their hive and that's that. I have done it a dozen times between my own hives and friends - and so I was feeling overly confident about this nuc sitting in the back of my red pickup. I would do the same, right? No problem. Open it, put the five frames into the hive, and that would be that. But it wasn't.

A Nucleus Hive is a mini-bee hive. You are paying more for it because it is already established and producing a village work force. So these are bees that have been separated from an existing hive complete with brood, honey, and a laying queen. This means you are not dumping desperate refugees into a Habitat for Beemanity Hive. You are committing a the insect equation of human trafficking. This village was kidnapped, separated from family, shoved in a windowless-white-van of a box and now is seeing sunlight for the first time at a brand new location. They are pissed. They have something to protect. One does not simply "dump them into" a hive.

Well, and idiot does. Enter me.

I had on my bee jacket, veil, and gloves. But I also had on skinny jeans and no smoker. This meant that my lower body had tight clothes with little protection. I had no smoke to confuse the bees. I just opened the box and started moving frames. The first few stings came fast. Then I realized I couldn't stop, I HAD to finish moving the hive. Frame by frame I lifted them out of the van and into the their new digs - the whole time being stung. Had I suited up, smoked, and done things right I would have been fine. But I assumed it would be like every other time I installed bees. It wasn't. Thank the Gods I am not allergic.

The next few nights were cold, I noticed dead bees around the hive but the bulk of them seemed fine. I fed them some simple syrup to help get them through, and I sincerely hope they make it. My luck wasn't good here with weather either. It's not going to be the sunny, bright, week last week was. It was snowing here this morning. Little taunting flakes all over the black backs of my dogs and gathering around the hive. It has since stopped but it made me wince. They might have gotten me good, but I don't want them to freeze.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Photo-Tommed

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bruise

I don't remember getting hurt. I just remember that after the horse ran away everything that followed was a calm and certain reaction. When the saddle was put away, Merlin brushed and fed, and put out in the pasture - I remember rubbing my left elbow with my right hand and wondering what happened? He must have been bumped into me when he side-jumped in fear from the saddle bags he saw on the ground. I thought I moved out of the way fast enough? Apparently not. When a thousand pound of agita wants to teleport and your elbow is in the way - it gets hit. Now, just a few days later, it is hard to move my left arm and there is a hot bruise that I am pretty sure will cover most of the real estate beside my elbow and upper arm. Nothing is broken, but it really smarts.

Merlin was tried loosely to his hitching post outside. I had secured his saddle and breast collar, and slung the same saddle bags we have used for years over his rear end. His bridle wasn't on yet, just his halter. We were on our way to the neighbors to deliver eggs and goat cheese, a home warming gift. I realized his saddle bags needed some straps of leather to secure them to the saddle so I stepped inside to get them. I found a long piece of leather a minute later. I cut it in half for each side of the horse. Three minutes later I was outside again. Merlin was gone.

Well, shit.

When things go down my usual anxiety-ridden, over-thinking, brain changes. It turns over like my F150's engine, growling quick. Damnit, the only time I'm not worried is when something bad happens. I stay up worried about money, love and death in a safe little bed, but when things go down I shift gears and focus. I like it when all you can do is react and solve a problem; when anxiety is useless. I think the apocalypse would be the only scenario I could actually relax in.

I called out Merlin's name. Nothing. I checked his pasture, the yard, the neighbor's yard. No sign of the horse. All that was left were the saddle bags, a trampled mess on the ground. Clearly they had slid off and that spooked him enough to bolt. I was just so grateful he wasn't in his bridle. If his bit or reins got caught in something it could mean real panic and even injury. I grabbed some grain in a bucket and set out for the same trail we have ridden hundreds of times. If he was scared maybe the repeated trail ride would be his go-to route. About a 1/4 mile from the farm, I found him eating grass behind some rose bushes.

I grabbed his halter and walked him back to the farm. I set him back on his hitching post and showed him the saddle bags. He didn't seem to mind them. So I put them on and secured them with the straps I had found. He seemed fine with it. So I took the lead rope off the post and was going to walk him around a bit to see how he did with the attacking saddle bags, and he lost it. Soon as he noticed the weight on his but he started spinning in circles. I calmed him by standing in front of him, palm on the length of his nose, breathing deep. He slowed. I took off the saddle bags and threw them over my shoulder. "Come on, you big baby. We'll walk together and I'll carry the goods."

And so we did. We walked as a team, me singing to him quietly. I watched his ears flicker and listen, felt his body calm and breathing return to normal. The neighbors weren't home, so I set the carton and jar on the porch and we walked home.

The plan was to ride, not to catch and walk a horse like a dog. So we returned to the driveway and I set the bags on the grass. I found my stick and flag, used for ground work. I wanted to see if he was with me or still anxious. I should have put the saddle bags inside, because soon as the flag moved him in their direction he did that insanely fast side-step that took out my elbow, I guess. It was the only time we made physical contact of any import.

I put the bags inside. We tried again. And we ended the day with a short trail ride just to the place he ran to and back home. Stick to the plan, ride the horse. If he realized that running away, acting up, freaking out, and being scared ended with that saddle never being used it would leave a wrinkle in his brain I didn't want. And if I was too scared to get on a horse, then I would stop riding them. Neither would do. Maybe you would have done differently. You weren't there.

And so after that short ride we came home, he was seen to, and I rubbed that elbow. Now I am worried I'll die in my sleep from internal bleeding. First woman to die from a bruise caused by accidental equine shoving. Where's my apocalypse?