Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Take a Bow

Sketch in watercolor,pencil and ink of a rooster taking a bow. If you'd like to take it home, email me. If not, enjoy some whimsical poultry art created on the side of a mountain with my morning coffee today!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

An August Day

Yesterday, around 6PM, I found myself sitting on my lawn playing the ukulele for piglets. They weren’t a great audience. Occasionally they would come up and sniff my boots or eat a tuft of grass, but besides that they didn’t have any notes. That was fine by me, because I was too tired for constructive criticism and just wanted to strum. And if I’m honest the “performance” was just the two chords I have memorize and a few more I discovered by bastardizing some previous guitar knowledge. It was a diorama of a Languid Summer Evening.  Cardboard cutouts flapping in the breeze. I loved it. The nylon strings sounded pretty and the percussive snuffling was nice backup. It was a good day and I'm going to tell you all about it.

I woke up around 7AM with a headache and the voices of Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson. I fall asleep listening to podcasts and theirs was last night’s. I also had a headache, which had nothing to do with them but did have something to do with drinking a Moscow Mule (heavy on the Moscow) the night before. I have drank so little over the past few weeks that one decent serving of vodka was enough to wake up feeling it. What can I say? It was Friday night and I own a copper mug. 

Coffee. Coffee is the thing.

When Friday realizes that I have remembered that coffee exists in the world she crawls, army-style, from her spot at the foot of the bed to directly between Gibson and I and licks my face. Gibson is out cold. I don’t know if this is common for Border Collies but Gibson’s sleep schedule is mine, and unless I stop and take a nap during the day he is up and moving when I am up and moving. So after a long day of being a sheep dog and helping run this joint he sleeps like a corpse. He sleeps so hard sometimes I don't even see his breathing and worry he's died in his sleep. Friday is happy to nap any time any place -  so she is fresh as a daisy. (She's also just one year old so this morning thing is still new and exciting to her.) She's eager to run outside to bark at geese and jump in the creek. Gibson is still a log. His back is to us with his head on a pillow. Friday rootched right up between us and puts her head on my chest and looks at me with her coyote yellow eyes to finally get up. I do. Gibson rolls over in a disturbingly human way so he’s on his back laying in the exact same position as a person sprawled on a bed would, yawns, stretches his front paws up in the air and looks at me for decision.

"Coffee. Let’s go."

“Let’s go” is the trigger and before I am dressed they are downstairs waiting at the front door. I let them out and the cats run in from their night of red-painting or whatever it is farm cats do. (Cats and I have a very strict don't ask don't tell policy.) I load up the percolator and feed the kitties their chow and then head out with the dogs. They are right by the front door. Gibson is watching the last place the light’s reflection landed from the glass pane on the dirt. Friday is watching Gibson. If it wasn’t so obsessive compulsive it would be cute. They have paws, so okay, it’s still cute.

Chores are done in our usual fashion. I grab a bucket from the well overflow and carry it to the barn. I rinse and refresh the pig’s water and feed the five piglets in their pen. Wait, there are only three in the enclosure? I turn around to the sound of oinking and two black gilts are parading into the barn, dogs trotting behind them. I watch them sneak back into the pen with their tails wagging, watching me for their breakfast like nothing wrong just happened. They found a way to jump and squeeze in and out of the pen at will, but were close enough not to miss their morning Postmates chick. I make a note to let all the piglets out later to see what they do. If all they want to do is graze and snuffle like chickens I can let them out when I am there to mind the sounder.

Piglets accounted for and eating, I go about the rest of the morning chores. I do the same for the goats (who share the barn) and make sure they have plenty of water. It’s supposed to be a hot one today. Before I get my coffee, everyone else gets theirs. And so I run about tending to the farm. I feed the poultry and collect eggs (6 this morning). I check the goats to see if I should milk them this AM or evening (the are in the process of being dried off from daily milking going into fall). Then I carry some fresh second-cut to the sheep and horse. They are splitting a supplemental bale each morning along with their pasture grazing and minerals. I make sure they all have water as well, and then head inside. I call the dogs and they come running. Somehow Friday’s face is solid brown with mud and Gibson has a tail full of burrs. I laugh as we march inside, thinking of how the realtor was so apologetic that the house had linoleum floors. Darling, Farm life demands a home that can be hosed down.

Coffee is heaven. I drink it and sit in front of the computer in the living room while the dogs chew on their breakfast bowls with a fresh egg cracked into each. That floor spot is my station ever since my laptop died. I check email, update logo sales & deals on fiddle lessons on Facebook. Most mornings are about marketing. My eyebrows raise at a note send via Facebook message and I get excited when a woman and her daughter show interest in a day at the farm for Fiddle 101. We chat and set up an appointment. I see some interest in the sheep I am selling, too. There is a promise of income and I feel victorious for the possible sales and my Russian headache is now gone. Caffeine and hope is an amazing cure-all.

I turn on Chelsea Handler’s talk show on Netflix and enjoy a second cup. I grab a Fiber One bar because I don’t feel like cooking up eggs and don’t want to eat anything substantial. I find the more active I am and the hotter the day is going to be - the less I want to be weighed down with food. The energy bar is more than enough. I feel the sun coming through the big glass doors and look down at my tanned arms flecked with hay chaff and a chicken feathers and I hear my horse blow out a sigh outside. That alchemizes into a gut desire. I want to go riding.

It has been over 2 weeks since Merlin and I tacked up and I miss it. All the marathon training has really taken away from my horse, and I could put off my run and shorten it today for some saddle time. I make a list of clients to work on before I head out and watch the rest of Chelsea while drawing an Akita, updating a sheep for a logo, and tending to a Grizzly bear kissing a dragonfly. I love that I can create designs and images while watching things. Movies and Netflix help make the work fly. Then I post a quick update to this blog because I am excited, damnit. I really want to be out there and I wanted to share that news with whomever online was listening. You're never alone when you have the internet.

I head outside again, this time in proper riding boots instead of farm muckers. No wait, my riding boots are my farm muckers. I really need to buy new boots but have been putting it off. There are cracks and holes in the much-loved Dublins I am wearing, but these boots are true fighters. I have splashed through creeks following my hawks, ridden hundreds of miles, mucked pens, delivered hay, butchered pigs, and a thousand miscellany farm chores in them. They did more than I should dare ask a piece of clothing. So I forgive my choice of shod and head outside in a tank top and favorite jeans. I head to the pasture to get my horse.

I ride Merlin for an hour. We take our usual route through the trails on the mountain over on my neighbor's property. When I bought my land I had no idea I had moved next door to a large animal vet and a retired chief of police. I also didn’t know that I’d be allowed to ride my horse and hunt with my birds on nearly everyone's property. Sometimes this whole mountain feels like my own. I feel amazing as he runs up the mountain. It's just starting to get hot out and his black neck feels warmer than the sunlight. His face and mane have gone a little whiter this year but he’s still fit and lovely. The bugs aren’t so bad either this early in the day. I ride to the outcrop of field that looks over the whole valley, the highest point we can reach. We take in the view, all clear blue sky and summer’s promise. Then I look behind me and see that my neighbor’s parents are at the cabin up high on the hill and I wave to them and they wave back at me. I ride off back to the trail to give them their untarnished view. The tiny imposter in me feels like I shouldn't be on their hillside and I feel a little guilt as we trot away.

We ride and I think about the next bit of the book I am writing. Merlin picks up speed and I get the idea to write about the perfect hollowness I have learned from riding and/or listening to music when hungry. How it pulls my center better. I know that makes no sense right now, but I’ll come back and hash it out on my computer. I make a mental note and keep riding.

We cross through field and wooded paths. We duck under trees and jump fallen logs. Merlin stops to drink from the creek and splash in the water. We hear the cries of a red tail hawk and both of us look up to see a juvenile bald eagle fly above us. There is drama in the skies, but here on land there’s just a horse, a girl, and some cottontails in the brush. No signs of young bears but the plott hound hunters are out and about. I see the trucks with the dogs in box crates in the beds and know they are out baiting bears and training their dogs to tree them. I don’t know enough about bear hunting to have an opinion on it, but I know I don’t want those dogs near my farm again. Last year they tore apart the chicken tractors and tried to eat $600 worth of meat birds for sport. Bear dogs my ass.

I ride home and feel good. So good I throw on running gear and head out for 6.5 miles. I'm fine with admitting right here, right now, that this was a stupid idea.

I love running but the temperature and humidity had risen hard and fast. It's easy to not notice in the shade of mountain trails on a horse. But by the time I was pounding the pavement I had spent a morning doing farm chores, freelance work, and trail riding all on one energy bar and two cups of coffee. I should have at least drank some water before I headed out with my old iPod nano. I didn't. I was on a pony high and feeling summer in my bloodstream. I just wanted more heat.

About an hour into the run I realized my headache was back and I was ready to throw up. This isn't normal. Monday I ran 13 miles without so much as a side stitch, but this morning I was low on energy, sweating bullets, and very dehydrated. I ran home feeling dizzy. When I got there I sat in the shade of the large maple and felt my heart rate slow down as I counted slow breathing. My skin cascaded in goosebumps as I shivered through the cooling down process of body temperature regulation. It's a weird thing, to feel yourself get chills on an 88-degree afternoon with 78% humidity. Too hot, not enough fuel, alcohol the night before and coffee in the morning and zero water. I told you it as a stupid idea.

I recovered fast enough though and drank enough water to smite a small god. I stretched and let the dogs out of the house to run around the yard. I checked all the critter's water supplies and that no more piglets were rampaging. When all was five by five I threw on a swimsuit and headed to the river. Take that, heat stroke.

When I got to the river I saw a lot of cars at the Georgi's Parking lot. Maybe 10? For a public park that is practically empty but being a weekday swimmer I am used to being in the river by myself. What can you expect though on a hot Saturday afternoon? I walk out in my flip flops, swim suit, and running shorts. No towel. I walk past a retired gentleman on a bench overlooking the river. He is sporting a pony tail and playing Champagne Supernova on acoustic guitar, singing his heart out. I love it.

I jump in and my body nearly convulses from the cold. Holy crow! The recent rain and the cooler nigh (it was 56 degrees when I woke up) gave the river a chill and more speed. I am swept down and glide into a breaststroke, dodging rocks and enjoying the ride. Some people just find pools to lollygag in but I love jumping in upstream and swimming with the current. It's the opposite of running - which is all fighting to stay forward. Here I am being carried by ice and power. I enjoy each extreme and can see brown trout five feet below me, swimming in the clear river water as I hover past like some fresh-water sea lion.

Now I am tired. Something about the baptism and restoration of the cold water (which now is just pleasant, not cold at all) makes my body want to curl up on a blanket in a sunny spot and pull off a cat nap. I walk back to my truck and sit, sopping wet on the towel - which is only there to protect my seat cushion from getting river wet. I roll down the windows and blare the Hamilton Soundtrack as I air dry on the 4 mile ride home.

At home I flirt with the idea of a nap but realize only my body is tired, not my brain. I change into a kilt and clean tank top and let my hair air-dry in the sun. I slide on a bracer and archery glove and grab my bow and arrow. I shoot a few dozen arrows into my target near  the barn and am happy with the accuracy after a few days off practice. If the target was a deer it would be dead. I relate most of my successes with whether or not I'd be fed.

Now it's heading towards late afternoon and there is another round of evening chores to head into. I let out the dogs and notice the two cats lounging in the sun like a pair of lions on a hot rock. They have zero interest in doing anything at all. I nap vicariously through them and head back into chores, but this time before I feed the piglets I open their pen. They run out like hooligans and do wonderful piglet things. The dogs, who are not used to herding swine, just watch them like fellow canines they don't want to associate with. This is how my collies feel about Labradors and Terriers - they cut them a wide berth. So the dogs are doing dog things. The pigs are doing pig things. The sun is out. The chores are mostly done. And I decide to go and fetch my ukulele. I sit and strum for them.

My evening winds down. I don't dare drink a Moscow Mule or any sort of booze at all. I do enjoy an easy quick dinner of steamed broccoli and seasoned beef tips. One meal a day, usually in the evening, always plants and animals - is my new normal. I decompress with a movie.  I a working my way through Edgar Wright's list of 1000 favorite films (not in order, but as inspo) and feel the way I did in college being introduced to new experiences and titles. I consider myself a movie buff, but not 1000-favorites-of-a-favorite-director list. I resent Up in the Air not being on it. I get over it, quick. So far this week I've seen Walkabout and Phantoms of Paradise for the first time and fell in love all over again with Love and Death. God, I love movies. And I love them even more tired from a long day with food. I watch the glowing screen like a child, all wonder.

I head to bed when I see Gibson head up first. If a border collie is ready to pack it in, take the hint. We turn on the fan in the window and fall asleep in clean sheets. Tommorrow looks like rain but there is still a hay delivery to get into the barn before the storms, and a couple coming to see sheep they might buy. I'm taking the day off running but not off caffeine. I fall asleep already excited for coffee and another start. When your adventure is your backyard and your neighborhood is your sound stage for the movie of your dreams - you sleep well.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Feel the Wind

It is a beautiful Saturday morning here in Veryork. Absolutely beautiful. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and all the animals have been fed and tended to. I am wrapping up work on two illustrations for clients before I head outside to slip a halter over the handsome head of my horse and start preparing for a trail ride. I have an urge to get lost in the woods. I want to bring along the ukulele and thermos of hot coffee and a book.

Fall isn’t far away. Here that means a pile of heavy responsibilities getting a farm ready for snowfly. It's a list I have faced before, but still can feel daunting as the Dog Days crawl to closure. It’s hot and lovely out there right now. The trees are green and the river is warm. I want to ride, swim, play music, and read stories but I also know that the clock is ticking and daylight is waning. In a few weeks tanktops will turn to hoodies and jeans and the corn stalks will turn brown in the fields.

I emailed a friend about the first cord of winter wood (my heating fuel) being delivered next week. I have a few days to gather the money for it, which I will hopefully do through some more logo and art sales. This morning—before I adjusted a single saddle strap—I worked on the lines and contours of the face of a beloved, late, Akita named Kitara (posted a photo of the sketch on twitter). The reader sent beautiful notes and stunning photos of the dog and while I know she was a dog, I drew her with the spirit of a lion. So I started my day with coffee and sketches. Now it’s time to feel wind.

I hope you all have a lovely, lucky, and well-spent Saturday!

Photo by Miriam Romais

Friday, August 19, 2016

This Little Book

One Woman Farm is a small book. It's small in every way. It doesn't take up much space, take much time to read, nor did it shock the world in sales records - but I love this little book so much. It's got images of my home, animals, life and love drawn throughout. It combines stories, music, art and agriculture to showcase a weird little world. It's all these things but it is also fall captured. It starts in October and ends in October - the holy month on this Homestead. Pick it up if you haven't, or if you order from my local bookstore, Connie will call me and I'll literally drive down there with Gibson and we can both sign it for you and send it to your front door.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Young, Scrappy, and Hungry

True & Lovely

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Team Love & Selling Sheep

I was driving in town and pulled up to our one stoplight. Stopped across me was another classic Ford truck. It was a few years earlier than my own, maybe an 84? And it was a glorious brown that to most people looks like the worst parts of a seventies roller rink, but to those of us who love these trucks reminisces more along the lines of a favorite, well-oiled, baseball mitt. Point being: It was great. It had 100% better typography, an outline of FORD in white on the back bumper and I wanted to trace it with my finger. I loved this man’s truck the way I love my own. The way a dog lover of a certain breed can’t help but admire a healthy animal of the same type when it crosses their path, and nod to the owner in appreciation and fellowship. Which is exactly what happened next.

When we pulled past each other (he was in his twenties, I’m guessing?) we did what everyone does with a beloved, older, truck does around here. We nod, wave, or smile. There’s an unofficial club here in Washington County, and while we don’t have a name or regular meetings - we know our own when we meet. It was another rural person who opted out of the payments, GPS navigation screens, buttons, possibly working AC and heat, and enforced emission laws. We choose to ride in an older truck and keep it going. We have our titles. We have our mechanics numbers memorized and send them thank you cards. We have learned the sounds and sways of our rigs the way cowboys know their horses gaits. We love our trucks. We know our own. I beamed at that man.

Also! I am selling a starter flock! Looking to cut back on the flock going into winter. I have 2 four-year-old wool ewes a Merino/Romney cross and a full blood Romney) and they come with an older wool sheep (Cotswold/Border Leicester cross) whether. A great starter flock, and if you want to wait for them (the ewes) to be bred before you pick them up that is okay too (ram is a Scottish Blackface). Please let me know if you are interested. They can keep your lawn mowed, lamb in the spring, baa at you, give your sheepdog a workout, grow sweaters, etc. Looking for $150 a ewe and $100 for the whether. or $350 for all three. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

First Strums - Picking Up the Uke!

I have been sitting down with my uke a few minutes a day all week, and I do mean minutes. Time isn’t exactly a disposable asset right now and I honestly don't have an hour set aside to take up a new instrument. Good news is that doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest  because in a few days of giving this a go (literally minutes a day) I have learned four actual chords, a finger-plucked melody, and my first song!

When I do sit down with it all I do is check the tuning is correct using my trusty little Snark tuner, and read a few pages of the book/cd combo I am using to learn it. Like all my other experiences with Native Ground (the same people who taught me the fiddle and whose methods I have used to teach hundreds of others here at CAF over the past five years) I am once again treated to a casual and fun way of learning. The book expects the reader to not know the first thing about tuning, reading notes, or even playing a kazoo (Ergo the title, Ignoramus) - so the stakes couldn't be lower folks. If you want to learn an instrument and feel you just can't - I dare you fail at this. You won't.

Wayne Erbsen’s books are made to be digested in small doses, and they down easy. You can read all you need to know to get strumming in fifteen minutes. And not just how to play it, but the history and culture around it. I learned is a Hawaiian creation based on the stringed instruments of Portuguese immigrants, shortly after the American Civil War. So as far as acoustic music, it’s a new kid. I like that.

I’m impressed by this little instrument. It’s a soprano uke, so the smallest of the four sizes available to play (and probably the size you think of when you picture it). Just four nylon strings over a tiny guitar-shaped frame. When I strum them I find myself momentarily transported. I am not the Jimmy Buffet type. I’m much more drawn to rocky coasts and colder climate than the home of this instrument, but it’s 86 degrees outside with 70% humidity and there is something really whimsical playing this tropical instrument with a cold drink in a hammock on a hot day. 

I'll update with videos of my first songs and more details on how I am learning a few minutes a day. If you want to learn along with me,  you can, and help support a company that supports Cold Antler! I got an email from Native Ground letting me know they are selling the exact same package they sent to the farm - Uke, Book, and CD as a set for $59 plus S&H.  (It's the same set you see in this post's picture.) You can call them and have music delivered to your door at (800)752-2656. 

More every week on my summertime adventures with this new little friend. And good luck to those of you willing to strum along with me across the internet!

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.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Another Use for a Pitchfork

My friend Patty taught me this and it is brilliant. She has several stuck in a large beam in her kitchen in her 1700's farmhouse holding wine glasses. I use mine for coffee mugs, tankards and Moscow Mule coppers (more valuable commodities than wine around here). A hole drilled into a beam, supported wall, etc can be a great place for antique or broken pitchfork heads to now be used to hold your dinnerware. Just drill it into a place higher than the foreheads of most people, which around here is anything over 5'2"

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Challenge Accepted

For the past four days I have been posting photos for the "Love Your Spouse Challenge" on social media. I've been posing with Gibson, my 6-year-old Border Collie and co-farmer. At first, it was a joke. All these couples were posting photos of their committed relationships and I wasn't paying much attention to them. I saw them in my feed and thought they were kinda sweet. Then I realized one of the couples on my Facebook feed had been dating, married, and had a baby in less time then I have know my dog. At that point, I decided to commit to the bit and get out the camera. We might not be romantically involved, but me and this dog are 100% a couple.

I picked up Gibson at the Albany Airport in May of 2010. He was flown here from RedTop Kennels in Idaho, a breeder and trainer of sheepdogs I highly respected. His father was an amazing trial dog named Riggs who was tearing up the circuit. His mother, Vangie, was also a hell of a working dog. It took months to make the payments to Patrick at Redtop, which I will forever be grateful for his patience and understanding with. I paid what I could when I could. That winter of 2009/2010 I would find myself in need of a new home, find and buy a farm, and realize a long-time dream and freedom as a farmer - a place of my own. The serendipity of Gibson arriving just a few days later was frosting and fireworks.

Over the years he has been the heartbeat of this farm. He has seen it and me change; through some very dark times and now far better ones. He's never left my side, never ignored my voice, and never left me alone in laughter or tears. He has been there, always. And one of the things that keeps me going is that every single night before bed I promise him that he will never go a day without food in his belly, a roof over his head, or love from my heart. Yes, cheesy. Still 100% of the reason I make myself promote logos, illustrations, subscriptions, and freelance some days. Even if I feel like throwing in the towel I got a dog I love with a sheep problem and I'm not methadoning him off it with agility or flyball.

As a puppy he came with me to work every single day when I still had an office gig. He's been with me on every road trip, sleeping in hotel beds at speaking gigs or author events. He's raced alongside Merlin as I rode him through mountain trails.  He's watched me train hawks in our living room.  He's tolerated torn paws, emergency vet visits, men in our bed, and yowling cats... And he's even learned to mentor that scrappy little pup named after Rosalind Russell.

Lassie, step aside.

It has been six years now. I have never been away from him for more than a handful of hours. He has never slept in another kennel, home, vet's office, or away from me. I would not travel without him, unless circumstances were dire and even then I'd feed 99% of people to the zombies first. If anyone hurt him, I would go to jail for what happened to them next.

I'm not sure that is ideal dog ownership, and maybe all I have truly taught him is severe co-dependence? I don't care. I am just as dependent as he is. That is the truth of our situation. We're a team and I love the hell out of him.

So yes, for the next three days I will continue my love letter in self-portraits of me and this dog. Not because I'm mocking couples out there in committed relationships. And not because I think my dog is a person. He's not. But he is my best friend and I love him unconditionally. He's the single longest relationship I have ever maintained in my adult life. As a single woman perfectly happy with being single who NEVER wants to have kids, a wedding, or more than 2 cats - I'm in this for the long haul, baby. He's all mine.

Challenge, accepted.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Life Hacks For Busy Farm Women

1. Jeans aren't dirty but not at all fresh? Put them in the freezer for 15 minutes. It does wonders - stops smells.

2. Dry Shampoo. Oh my god, Dry Shampoo. Removes grease, adds volume, takes moments. Baby Powder is a "homemade" (read: cheaper) version.

3. Lip balm comes in shades now. You can add some color and still not technically be wearing makeup.

4. Dog or horse hair all over your clothes? Keep a roll of duct tape in the car if you need to travel into civilization to peel it off. Or just do what I do and accept animal hair as a food group. Save money on Fiber One Bars!

5. Dry your hair with a tee shirt instead of a towel and it won't get insanely frizzy in humidity. Really.

6. If you actually have time to do laundry, lemon juice on pit stains or any sweat stains eliminates them if rubbed on them before you throw it in the wash.

7. Conditioner makes a killer shaving cream for your legs and armpits in a pinch.

8. If you get a lot of crap on something, gum, placenta, anything gross and chunky on your clothes put it in the freezer and peel it off once frozen. Freezers are great, guys.

9. Your colored lip balm, chap stick, lipstick is frozen in your truck or jacket pocket? Stick it in your bra to defrost in moments. Also, those heated hand warmers you see for pockets, those can go all over your bra in hunting season.

10. 90% of to-go coffee lids also fit wide mouth mason jars. You're welcome.

Al Fresco

While out this morning doing chores, I noticed this little guy out and about. He was standing in the barn door, watching the Freedom Rangers and Bresse chicks scratch about for grain. I ran back inside for my camera and was able to catch this moment of my bacon and eggs truly al fresco. Out in the open air, indeed.

That little white-nosed barrow is one of five piglets here, a barter with Joshua at West Wind Acres in exchange for archery lessons for his wife and child. I love to trade whenever I can, as sharing skills for goods is always a better option when it comes to community. The piglets are doing great, but still on the little side. So they are growing, they are in a pen in the barn until they upgrade to the woodland pen.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tweet Away with Me

Many of you follow or friend me on Facebook, but I am moving more and more away from that platform and spending most of my passing thoughts over on Twitter. Feel free to follow me there @coldantlerfarm. I post lots of photos, blog posts, sales, random thoughts, and retweets from the people I adore.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Fearful Beekeeper

I’m going to say this right up top: it’s okay to be a beekeeper and be scared of bees. You’d be a fool not to be a little nervous out there. You are literally stealing the food stores from a couple thousand kamikaze career women survivalists. They are willing to die to keep their little compound intact and even if they are only the size of a nickel, they friggin' hurt when they give you the 'ol right there Fred.

So yeah, being a fearful beekeeper is okay. I think that is something rarely talked about, and the reason some people don't have a hive. I want to point out that being fearful of bees isn't a reason to not keep them. Unless you are allergic or have a severe phobia - your hesitation about keeping bees might be exactly what means you'll be a mindful and respectful beekeeper. I am always scared suiting up for the hive. But you know what? Honey is worth it. Real, sun-warmed, raw honey collected from your own hive is worth the occasional sting and trepidation-filled morning pre-extraction. It really, really, is.

This spring I got over 16 stings installing my wintered-over nucleus colony from Betterbee. It was my own fault. 100% foolishness. I treated that nuc installation like it was a package of bees and not a fully-formed community with brood and honey to protect. So I just threw on my bee jacket and gloves and without a smoker opened the box of five frames. I set them into the hive with the same ease and gusto like they were books on a shelf. You know, like an idiot would. The first stings happened around my thighs and kept happening - but I had to complete the installation, there was no turning back on a new community in a strange place. And let me tell you guys, 16 stings hurts. My body inflamed and heated around those bumps and once they calmed down they itched like the dickens. It sucked. Yet I still keep bees and always will.

I have been keeping bees for almost a decade. I started in Idaho and have had hives in Vermont and New York. This year has been the most successful colony by far and their production is insane compared to the previous years of three-pound packages of bees. The nucleus colony cost double, but a few friends pitched in so we could all share in the harvest together. Buying the established colony of New York State bees that survived the winter was the smartest choice we made. They have filled two deeps and a shallow since May, and the reason I harvested five frames was to encourage them to refill their replacements instead of swarming off. I'll collect five more next week. The honey will be used to brew mead and go into winter storage for the owners of the hive. Our winter teas, breads, and meals will have summer in a jar. That's worth at few stings.

Over this summer I got to watch my friend Trevor (a Betterbee employee) work with my hive and I took note of how he acted, moved, even breathed around the hive. I watched him use the smoker, remove frames, and keep calm amongst the buzzing all around him. Part of me felt envious of his demeanor, but I had to remember - that yes, that’s Trevor keeping bees. But that is also Trevor drinking with friends, fly fishing in the Battenkill, or watching a movie - he is a calm and considering person no matter what he is doing. I, however, am a fever dream of a person compared to him. Thinking too fast, talking too fast, constant motion, and sidetracked with questions. I keep bees like Jenna. He keeps bees like Trevor. If I wanted to be better beekeeper I needed to be a little more Trevor.

So when I went to the hive a few days ago I did just that. I dressed right. I had on the white loose pants, high boots, goatskin gloves tight enough to use my hands, jacket and veil. I had the smoker ready to go with cool smoke that would last more than five minutes. I had taken time to make slow long exhalations, slowing my heart rate. I will always be nervous around bees. Always. But I can hide it for ten minutes. I tried to channel Trevor. It worked.

I approached the hive with the five replacement frames in a plastic food-grade five-gallon bucket. I smoked gently and set the smoker on the ground, like he did. Then I used the hive tool to loosen the lid and slowly set it on the ground beside the deeps.  I used some more smoke and then went into the calm and even-paced work of removing and replacing frames. Not once did I get stung. Every minute I worked the hive I reminded myself that I was not yet bothered, was not being threatening, and even if I did get a hundred stings I was not allergic to bees. Like anything in homesteading, you need to always understand that doing the uncomfortable in the present has rich rewards in the future. It isn't fun for me to work the hive, weed gardens, trim hooves, muck stalls... but doing so means a future of  mead, vegetables, healthy goats, and happy piglets. You do the work, period. It means cultivating pride and luck along the way.

I am proud to say I got the honey out and removed the bees from the frames with one of Lucas’s big primary feathers gently brushing them back into the hive. Almost fifteen pounds so far, and with more ahead before I start prepping the colony for winter. Now I am enjoying the little thrill of looking up small batch mead recipes and swapping tips with other brewers and bee keepers. I provided some beautiful food to the people who trusted me to be a little more Trevor and a little less Jenna. And I get to look forward to amazing drinks and stories come snowfly, when hot summer days around the hive are something we are all shifting in our seats a little, missing around the woodstoves and wool sweaters.

Keeping bees is worth it. It's okay to be afraid. Just be a little brave and enjoy the well earned and sweet reward for your hard work.

Sketch Sale!

Running a sale on all sketches, get a custom sketch mailed to you of your pet or favorite animal for just $38 (includes shipping!) Great gift and will email image for your approval before it is mailed. Support a small farm and get something cool! Goal is to sell as many as I can draw tonight! Are you in?!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sweet Music, Little Songs

A package came in the mail last week and I was delighted at what was inside! The folks at Native Ground sent along this book and instrument. I'm a dabbler and lover of acoustic strings, but I have never even held a ukulele before. I'm not worried though, because it was Wayne Erbsen's books that taught me the fiddle and clawhammer banjo and they were fun, easy, and the farthest thing from intimidating. I'm excited to learn this little guy with his method as well!

I’ll be learning the strings, strums, and stories about this simple but lovely beast and hopefully inspire some of you to take up an instrument you love along the way. Music should be a part of any life that wants to make it. It isn't hard, expensive, nor does it require hours and hours a day of practice. The fiddle, guitar, banjo, and uke just take a little love and care every day. The time you spend watching commercials is enough time to learn tunes on any of those guys if you so wished.

I am looking forward to learning. I love the toughness and portability of the uke. It literally fits in Merlin's saddle bag, and the price point for even the nicest ukulele is meager compared to fiddles and banjos. (I think this book and instrument together is around fifty dollars.) This adventure in a new instrument should be a relaxing and joy-filled way to spend some downtime on the farm.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Stand Up and the Farmer (A Love Letter)

Dear Comedians,

I'm a small farmer and I love stand-up comedy. I don't get out to shows, and for that, I apologize. It's not for a lack of enthusiasm, it's just hard to make a night of it. The closest cities to me are hours away and I have animals on milking schedules, a 5:45AM alarm, and my only employees are a pair of border collies - so the opportunity to get out for a night in the city is about as likely as you doing a show at my local Grange Hall. But I have some things I want to tell to you.

I live alone on the side of a mountain. I manage six acres of sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, beehives and vegetables. I have a draft horse instead of tractor and my internet connection is a weak high-five above dial-up. I make some of my living from my farm, and some from my writing - neither of which is very lucrative but I feel like a success having figured out how live the life I want. I am waking up tomorrow doing what I love and being my own boss, which I think you can relate to. I also know the import and pressure of having to sell yourself constantly. Everyday is a hustle, and we both know if we slow down there's a cubicle waiting and clammy palms to shake our hands.

And that's why I connect more to you feral people behind microphones than other professions, including those in agriculture. In Stand-Ups I see my Tribe; people a little broken and a lot stubborn. Fiercely independent and determined to live the life they dreamed of despite the likelihood of success. You have no idea how much those of us out here on tractors respect that. We are that.

Stand up right now is incredibly personal, at least from the folks I listen to. I know about your spouse's coma, how you lost your virginity, your coming-out stories, your horrible dates and shattering divorces. I know your blunders and victories, your pets' names and your crash diets, and through it all I cheer for you weirdos like other people cheer for sports teams when I hear about your movie or TV deals. Your success is proof positive that we can want a ridiculous life that fulfills us without hurting others. That is not a small thing in this turbulent world.

These days laughter is needed more than ever. With the news constantly smiting us with the latest mass murders, police brutality charges, an atrocious presidential candidate, or worse -- I depend on an alternative. Thank you for providing it, generally for free or at little cost. I am constantly encouraged by the voices of people who observe and mock an insane world to help keep the rest of us sane. We depend on each other to be sated more than you realize.

When I put in earbuds to spend a few hours fixing a fence line to a comedy podcast - it is your lives I am sharing. Hearing hardworking people who made it following an equally unreasonable dream as my own is part of getting through another hard day. And the ease I am granted hearing the sound of a voice that I know is doing what it loves is a quiet thrill. Thank you.

Guys, I've heard all the self-effacing bits about the need for validation, attention, and the selfish desire to fill a hole inside your hearts. But you managed to find a way to do those things by making other people happy. And we live in a time where some people who want validation and attention are reloading cartridges in movie theaters or night clubs.

We are strangers. We will never cross paths because we lead drastically different lives, but we're still in the service industry. People need to laugh and they need to eat. We're both doing what we love and fervently hoping we get to do it a little longer.

Stay hungry,

Jenna
Cold Antler Farm
Jackson, NY

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Okay, time to put a latch on the screen door...


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Farm Cats

Bree and Bo are the farm cats here, and they live the life most cats dream of. The house and farm is theirs to roam. They spend most of the summer outdoors, and hunt most of their meals. Having these guys on patrol has kept this farmhouse rodent free for the past two years. Bree seems to focus on the kinds of things I don't want around - mice, rats, moles, voles. But Bo is a monster and seems to prefer birds, rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels these days. I remain a fervent dog person, but appreciate the fine work these two do and as much as I try to come across as someone who isn't into cats - I spent a good hour last night making sure they were both inside and safe before the storm came.

Monday, August 1, 2016

And Now a Word From Our Sponsors

I will be checking in from time to time to talk about some of the supporters of this farm. I’m sure you have noticed the ads that run along the right side of this blog? Well those people are part of what makes this farm tick. Selling ads is one of the many ways I make a living here at Cold Antler, and I want to make sure these fine people get the attention they deserve!

There are two I’d like to talk about tonight, and I encourage you to click on their blogs and websites and learn more about them. If you perhaps need what they are selling in the future, send a sale their way - as it only helps this farm in the long run if sponsors get some love.

A Life in the Wild

This is a blog, and it is a dandy. It’s the home online of Robin Follette of Maine. She’s a 50-something woman in the north woods. Her homestead is her full time gig, but unlike a lot of bloggers there is a real outdoorsy flare to her work. She focuses plenty of her animals and gardens, but also a lot of living with nature as a hunter and angler. It’s a website that is often updated, and her presence on twitter and social media is also very active and helpful. I followed her adventures in bear hunting (and what she ate from those hunts!) totally immersed. I see updates on garlic pesto in my twitter feed and wish I was eating pasta like a normal person. She’s been a reader and a friend online for a long time and I am grateful for her support as a sponsor as well. Check out A Life in the Wild, you won’t be disappointed. Follow her on twitter and feel free to ask her questions, she knows so much about living alongside animals and hunting!

Niffer's

Niffer's is a little herbal apothecary in the heart of Tennessee (My favorite state!). Founded in 2013 Niffer's All Natural Products has been developing and offering natural skin care and home cleaning products made from 100% natural materials. I was personally mailed some of their bug repellent, which I was honestly skeptical about. I mean, I have been using some heavy duty stuff from the drug store while fly fishing and I wasn't sure a tin of natural bug go would work - not with the way deer flies and mosquitoes have been on the river this summer. But I promised to try it out.

Guys, that little green tin worked. In all fairness, I needed to reapply it a few times (3 times in 2 hours) but I was applying things like essential oils, beeswax, and vitamin e and not literal poisons like I had in the past. It smelled like mint and citronella, but not overpowering like those candles you used to have in metal buckets as a kid on picnic tables. This was pleasant while being nostalgic. And it actually worked really well as long as I had it on hand in case I got wet or overly sweaty.

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.
Also an option, email for rates!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Everywhere

If you visit this house, expect to see books. They are everywhere. I have more books than I know what to do with, and sadly, very few bookshelves. It's the one thing I won't get ride of. I just took five garbage bags of clothes to the donation center, but the idea of getting rid of a book is sacrilege.

So I hold on. Books are all over the house, in little sessions and clubs. They don't hang out with just other books either. They are stationed with DVDs and trinkets, novels beside comics, and cookbooks beside antiques. They are in the kitchen, windowsills, cupboards and cabinets. They are in the bathroom, fridge (yes, fridge), bedroom, and closets. They are in my truck, my barn, and on top of the dog crate. I get them as gifts, pick them  up at yard sales and library events, bookstores and online. I love them.  And as much as I love the digital world and the convenience of ereaders and a library in my pocket - I still get a little rush every time a hardcover is in my hands.

I recently got the 4th Installment of the Kunstler World Made by Hand series and I take it to the Battenkill river to read before I swim. I get to read a piece of fiction, and read a scene out of it that takes place in that very same river, and then jump into the water and cool off. It feels magical. And I leave it on the bank as I take off for a half mile or so down the river. If someone steals it, I don't care very much. I hope they enjoy it and I am only out fifteen dollars. I am not losing my digital library downloaded over years or credit card security like a swiped kindle. Each book is it's own little portkey to its own world. If you believe in books, you believe in magic.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Take Friday Home!


This original, signed, illustration of Friday is for sale. Email or comment to make an offer and I'll send her home with a sketch of your own pet!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cold Antler Won!

The results are now public about the Beekman1802 Mortgage Lifter Reader's Choice Award! You can go to their Facebook Page and see the live stream video where they announce the details, but know that Cold Antler was the number 1 voted farm! Thank you to all who voted for me and helped keep CAF at the top of the list for weeks and weeks! When the voting finally ended I was contacted by Josh and we spoke on the phone. It turned out that one of my readers was neck and neck with me for first place, God's Whisper Farm. Realizing how close the votes were, I chose to split the prize money and offer half to Andi and her land! So instead of one reader's choice award winners, there are two farms getting a little lift!

Monday, July 25, 2016

I've Heard of Eggcrate Mattress Pads....

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Get a Logo!

If you are looking for a logo, tee shirt design, print for your home or a unique gift to give a friend - I am offering logos on sale. Email me at dogsinourparks@gmail.com about prices and dates for openings in the design schedule. I would be honored to do work for you readers, friends, and farmers out there looking to spruce up your own marketing and support another farmer in the process.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Out of The Woods



{{Hit play to read this post with a soundtrack}}

The last time a thunderstorm barreled through this farm it hit around 3Am. A loud boom cracked into the sky and it jolted me out of bed. Within twenty seconds of it slicing the silence, Gibson had run up the stairs from his post in front of the door and slammed into me, his 55lb body as close to me as possible. He shook madly, his tongue out in a panicked pant. He's always been nervous about loud sky noises, gun shots, fireworks, anything unexplained and possibly dangerous. I reached my around under his front paws and held him close until his breathing went from rapid to calm. I sang to him, a whisper without a hint of threat, like Ryan does.

The rest of the world was black and white
But we were in screaming color
And I remember thinking

Are we out of the woods, yet?

Lightening lit up the room followed by louder and closer thunder. Friday sprawled lazily at the foot of the bed, entirely apathetic. She was on her back with all four paws in the air like a cartoon in a hammock. She has zero fear of thunder, ram horns, or giant pick up trucks but if your 32year old wobbles towards her she hides under a bush. She's terrified of children. Having never even seen one up close until she was around 6 months old, I think they confuse her. But since there were no toddlers, she was content. Gibson fell asleep half an hour later when the storm had exhaled into distant rumbles. He didn't leave my side the rest of the night. I kept singing.

The night we couldn't quite forget
When we decided to move the furniture so we could dance
Baby, like we stood a chance


We all have our storms and toddlers.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded they will pass.

Today was good. I spoke with the bank and arranged enough payments to get this farm out of any imminent threat of foreclosure. I can not tell you how amazing that felt. I let out a sigh I was holding in for what felt like years. Every day, for the past few weeks, I was fearing the mailbox. When the white truck puttered up the mountain I knew that it could be the day I found out I was out of time. But thanks to the Going Postal campaign the farm is safe, and tomorrow the first ten pieces of art get mailed out to people all over America and Canada. Thank you.

I hope to be entirely caught up on the mortgage by August. And then ahead of it.

I feel really good, guys. I really do. This dedication to marathon training has changed me. My body, my head, my heart is different. I stopped drinking a few weeks ago, not forever, but giving my liver a break before it slides out in protest. I have never slept better, fit better into my clothing, or cared more about my well being. Taking care of myself this way is changing things. It's changing the entire farm. I'm not going back to donuts and pasta. I'm currently hurt, dealing with a heal injury, so I didn't run today but I tried. It hurt in the first few strides so I went home and did a couple hundred pushups and sit ups, yoga, and stretches. A previous version of me would have poured a bourbon and picked up a pint of ice cream. Now I just want to feel better. The fifteen minutes of bliss eating some vanilla ice cream isn't worth the two hours of feeling bloated and guilty about it. I don't associate ice cream with those fifteen minutes anymore. I associate it with those two hours. Pass me the watermelon, baby. I am never going back to feeling that way again.

Remember when we couldn't take the heat
I walked out, I said, I'm setting you free
But the monsters turned out to be just trees
When the sun came up You were looking at me


Thunderstorms and miles. River swims and horseback riding up mountain trails. Holding loved ones close and making payments. This story keeps going. Nearly ten years of blog posts now, and as I grow into the woman I am learning to love more and more - it's harder to take certain things seriously. It's harder to be scared. It's easier to feel strong. It's necessary to be grateful.

I am still in love with all of this. You just can't know.

Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?


In the clear yet, 

good.

My Girl Friday

Last night I was standing in a dark road outside my house. It was around 11PM and without street lights, everything was black. My flashlight battery was dying, and all I had was some flickering light and the occasional burst of a firefly by the stream. In the distance I could hear the sound of a ewe somewhere in the woods, outside the fence and away from the rest of the flock. The ewe was panicked and I wasn't sure where she was. Gibson and Friday were beside me, waiting for my decision. Or rather, Gibson was waiting for my decision - Friday was beside us in the ditch with the stream trying to eat a firefly every time it lit up. She played while he nearly shook with anticipation. I told him to get the sheep and his black form teleported head into the darkness.

Friday saw Gibson leave and perked up, no longer interested in luminescent snacks. She dropped her tail and slunk into that Border Collie crouch. She doesn't really know what to do with sheep yet but she knows the import, and wanted to know where the Hell Gibson had ran off to. I watched her best I could in the flicker of the small torch.

A few moments later the ewe and her lambs came scampering down the road, Gibson behind them. Friday flanked them and helped keep them from taking off to the left or right. I smiled to see it. She is just a year old and mostly wants to be a pup, but she's learning the ropes as a farm dog by and by. Gibson and I had months of classes with respected sheepdog trainers, but Friday came into my life when all was a whirlwind and money was tight as could be. There were no three-hour round trips to farms for classes, at least not yet. That doesn't mean her instincts are shining through. I'm proud of the dog she is becoming.

I named her after my favorite movie, His Girl Friday, which stars the amazing Rosalind Russell as Hildy. Rosalind is a force to be reckoned with in all of her films, but something about her rapid-fire banter, the timeless comedy, and her spark stuck with me. I never get tired of that film. And as I watch my girl grow up I am seeing how much she has turned into quick the firecracker herself. She's a lot klutzier than Gibson, and alot more foolish - but she's got a bravery he's never had. Friday will run right up to a 200lb ram and bark in his face. If he lowers his head at her, she dodges and ducks. In the same scenario Gibson would back up and try to circle farther out. Gibson has the literal balls in this couple, but she's got all the brass when it comes to putting her paw down. Which is some what comical at her 38lb size.

But small girls can be mighty.

Photo by Miriam Romais (I cropped it)

Postcards Coming Your Way!

If you were one of the postcard supporters at the first level of pledges for Going Postal, your postcard is in the mail soon! Those that donated at the custom level, you have been contacted via email asking for details of what animal you would like drawn and sent to you in a protected mailer!

I am so grateful for the support on this art project. There is still time to support the farm through this and get either a random piece of artwork (like these shown here) mailed to your door with a thank you from me - or a custom piece of your choosing. Click the link above and know all funds from this Artwork for the Farm Project go towards the future of Cold Antler. I hope you enjoy the postcards and keep an eye on your mailboxes!