Friday, February 27, 2015

New Vlog! Chickens, Rabbits, & Bees!

Lambing Season in Full Swing

Brick and her lambs came through the -5 degree night just fine! They are both doing well, feeding well, and their mother is patient and protective. My other ewe, an older girl (8 or 9) named Split Ear will be lambing as soon as today. I can already tell it is on her mind by how she is acting. A ewe ready for lambing will start to separate herself from the rest of the flock, pace and circle and paw the ground now and again, or fall into this trance of contractions and spasms as she stands statue still. Split Ear is doing all these things and I am checking on her every hour or so.

Bootstraps & Inspiration!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Brick's Twins!




2325326

Last night I was driving home from Glens Falls and life was not good.  It felt like one of my teeth had exploded. I could not believe how intense the pain was, having never experienced this brutal of an abscess before. It was as if a demon had detonated a bomb in my gums at exactly 5:34 PM and there was no stopping the pain. Driving home was excruciating. The motions of the truck slightly bouncing along the road felt like being hit in the face over and over with a baseball bat. I was in tears, uncontrollable tears. Welcome to the beginning of a blog post about my Rock Bottom Night.

Ever since I left the 9-5 world and gave up my dental insurance the Dentist stopped being about maintenance and moved into the slot of Damage Control. I was last at the Dentist in September to repair a filling, and am good about taking care of my choppers whenever something cracks or gets a cavity. I refuse to give up on my teeth, however wonky they may be. I brush and floss and all that, but any sort of extra care is just not an option in my life right now. So this is where we are at: Abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

I was crying because it hurt so damn much, but also because it was the final straw in a very fragile week. I have not been blogging because all of my creative sit-down-and-make-something-in-front-of-a-screen energy has been going towards Birchthorn and Logo Designs. After a day of chores, shoveling, firewood chopping, 4 logo clients, and a thousand words on monsters in 1918 - I am creatively drained. I just want to sit back, watch an episode of Community,  drink some warm tea, and get ready for tomorrow. Maybe invite some friends over for a board game or a movie. You know, relax. But the cold we've been experiencing up here this month has been relentless. And that has been getting to me in body and spirit.

As you know, I heat with wood and so that means keeping a supply of dry firewood and the presence to not stray too far from the homestead. This means (generally) staying close to home and keeping pipes thawed (some exploded anyway and destroyed a carpet) and the home fires burning. Yesterday afternoon was kinda warm so I felt it was okay to attend a class and see some friends up north, and that class is where the tooth demons took over my body.

You can only keep it together so long before something gets irrevocably broken. You get me? If you're still reading this let's update the emotional tally. This is where we are at now: Exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby. Let's hear it for me!

Also, I was driving home in a truck with a late inspection. Not a horrible crime, but another example of adult scolding our society likes to slap us on the wrist with. The truck is safe, but it has a bad 02 sensor and a crack in the windshield. It needs both things repaired before it can pass inspection. No big deal, right? Well, it wasn't until I got pulled over by a cop and given a court summons.  Now the law is onto me and this inspection NEEDS to be done before I have to go to court next week to prove it to the judge I am driving an inspected vehicle. I had been putting off the non-essential repairs to the truck as long as possible since other things needed to be taken care of first (you know, like the mortgage, electricity, etc) and knowing I was probably looking at a root canal was a 2-3 reality punch combo. So this is where we are at now: Driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

Also, I am dealing with some personal stuff I don't feel comfortable writing about here. Nothing serious, so please do not worry. There is no horrid physical diagnosis or death in my family.  But what there is is a lot of the kind of emotional upheavals that happen to all of us living a human life in 2015. Family drama, regrets, fears, anxiety, and personal doubts that I can actually pull this adventure off. It didn't help that I was dealing with PMS either, which doesn't make me angry or snappy but does make me very pensive. So this is where we are at now: Scared about being a 32-year-old single woman farming alone, dealing with PMS, feeling overwhelmed, driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.

This, my friends, is my rock bottom. Welcome. I'd offer you a chair but all we got is rocks. We sold the chairs to keep the pigs fed.

Guys, I am a tough woman. I do not usually let myself fall into any selfish despair.  But man oh man, this pain in my face made all those other problems and stresses feel a thousand times worse. Anyone out there reading this who deals with anxiety and panic attacks understands this, and I was headed for a serious bender of pain and panic. I stopped to picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig at some cagey discount booze place and headed inside the farmhouse to begin the process of self-medication. When you are one of the uninsured Americans that twenty bucks worth of booze is a lot cheaper than running to the emergency room for some percocet.

I got home to the cold house, started a fire, and in a haze of pain and googling I started to remedy the situation best this farm girl could. Enter the triple threat of swishing warm salt water around my mouth, spitting it out, then swishing bourbon around my mouth, spitting that out, and then walking around the farmhouse counting to ten and breathing deep before repeating it all over again. I took 800mg of ibuprofen. I used a topical numbing agent. All of this was not helping. My ears were ringing, my face was throbbing, and the only thing that made it somewhat better was the placebo ritual of salt, whiskey, counting, topical numbing, etc. Just doing something felt like I was punching back at the monster. I did this for hours. The dogs slept with their full bellies of kibble and the sheep chewed their cud in the moonlight and I just wished someone would knock me out with a blow to the head so I could fall asleep. If the good people of Kentucky knew how much bourbon I spit out into my sink last night I would be lynched.

Around 10PM I broke down. At this point I was so exhausted from the pain and the constant swishing of spiny agents I couldn't take it anymore. I decided to just feel it. Just let it wash over me. Just deal with the pain and accept it. I sat down in front of a candle to meditate. I started to slowly breathe and be all zen about it.

That didn't work.

I ended up screaming into a pillow so the neighbors didn't call the police. I was coughing and spitting up I was crying so hard. Not knowing what else to do I lit all the candles on the home altar and the statue of Brigit glowed in the tiny midnight farmhouse of this pathetic, writhing, woman. And then I just prayed. I didn't sit there with my hands over my heart like a yoga class just ended, no no no, this was pagan prayer. This was primal. I howled out my prayers of healing and paced like a caged animal. I did that until I collapsed to the floor, too tired and too hurt to do anything else but heave and sweat. And when I stood up, it was gone.

I am not shitting you, the pain had nearly stopped. What was a whale had turned into a slow-moving tuna. I felt my tooth with my tongue and realized I couldn't feel anything up there anymore. Be it divine intervention or just the accumulated effects of constant salt, booze, and numbing agent I was finally able to focus again. I was so grateful I shook. It took moments after that to fall asleep. I did so with a border collie in my arms, breathing slowly alongside me, keeping me warm.

***********

Mornings are always better, aren't they? That was how I usually feel but the pain that I had defeated in honorable combat last night came back again. It crept back into my head like a water snake slides up a stream. It slunk in slow, but steady.  I knew I had to see a dentist ASAP so I called the practice i always go to and the number didn't work? What? I tried again? I knew the house phone was working because my mother called me four times already, worried about me thanks to last night's sordid Facebook post. I tried to call again, no dice. Then I realized that even though Arlington Vermont is just 20 minutes away, it's a different area code and therefore "not local" as far as my landline provider was concerned. So this is how my "brand new day" starts huh? So, with a hearty, "FUCK IT" I told Gibson to get into the illegal truck because we were just going to drive our asses to the dentist, and I needed him for moral support. I wasn't expecting any instant help, but at least I could get an appointment without spending the morning on the phone with Verizon working out a new long distance plan.

Okay, so I had a plan. I would go outside, get all the animals seen to, and once chores were done I would leave my cold house (no fire started yet this Am or coffee drank) and head to the dentist with my co-pilot riding shotgun and reminding me that no matter what, I owned the greatest dog in the world. It mattered, that.

As dog and Shepherdess headed outside to feed the horse and sheep (they are always fed first) I noticed something odd. Only five sheep? Where was Brick, my sturdiest ewe? Looking west, I saw her. Up on the hillside inside the sheep shed walking downhill towards me and bucket of cracked corn I was holding. Behind her trailed two brand new lambs, still wet with birth goo and walking behind their mother. At this point I clenched both fists and just screamed out, "TIMING!" Gibson watched them in awe. The flock had gone from 6 to 8 before dawn. And the pre-menstrual rush of emotions flooded my tired brain and this farmer went on auto-pilot.

I turned off the fence, told Gibson to lie down and wait, and bounded up the hill. There I discovered two beautiful ram lambs, strong and eager, with tiny horns. I checked them both out and saw they had fat bellies and were clearly drinking milk. The sun was out and the temperatures weren't bad at all this morning so far and I knew lambs this strong and from this ewe would be okay to leave for a bit while I headed to the dentist. If this pain got any worse I'd be useless to the farm anyway. I fed the rest of the animals and G and I drove to the dentist.

Soon as I walked into the dentist's office there was a framed photograph of two newborn lambs. The gods laugh. I laughed with them. I mean it, I walked into my Dentist's office (without an appointment) laughing to myself. Now, you need to understand that this is a rural Vermont office. It's just someone's house, all yellows and browns and old wallpaper and lace curtains, turned into an office. No part of it was a stupid, sterile, high performance office with flat screen tv sets on the walls. It is old school and I love it. I explained to the folks at the desk (briefly) about the pain, the night, the lambs, and could they possibly fit me in soon? The first thing the receptionist asked for after my story was photos of the lambs on my cell phone (Which I loved her for and laughed again), and I explained I don't have a cell phone, I gave it up, but I would email her some later. She then told me to come back in an hour and they would do x-rays and help me out. Brigit's Fire, was that ever good news!

At this point I realized I should really carry a watch if I'm not carrying around a smartphone that subs as one. Anyway, I was elated, and so I headed back to the truck and told Gibson we had an hour to kill. So we headed south to Shaftsbury to go to Whitman's feed store, an old stomping ground. I bought some amazingly clean fresh straw, a new heat lamp, lamb and kid paste, a brooder light, and some fresh syringes. At this point I just paid the woman, surrendering to the day. I knew I would have to write checks to the dentist, the pharmacy, and hay barn already so might as well go down towards the red with two comfortable lambs. I was honestly feeling that if everything fell apart in my life at least on this day those two little lambs would be clean, warm, medicated, and nutritionally supplemented. (Note: I usually have this stuff on hand but I wasn't expecting lambs until 2 weeks or so. Guess Brick wasn't waiting for permission. Good for her!)

I got X-rays done and a prescription for antibiotics and pain meds. Serious pain meds. I drove back to Cambridge to return to the farm and get the Rx filled, but something urged me to stop into the Wayside Country Store on the way home. I wanted to check in on Nancy, who just lost a husband of 50 years a few weeks ago. I wanted to see how she was doing?

Soon as she saw me I melted and gave her a hug. Inside the store were three generations of their family including her granddaughter who messaged me last night on Facebook about my tooth. I felt this rush of warmth, this overwhelming sense of okay. How can I believe in pain and stress more than love when I am surrounded by amazing, caring, people? There are new lives to rush home and take care of. There is a dog I love more than anything in this world waiting for me in the truck. There is this grace filled woman, who is listening to my stories about the tooth and the lambs and the dentist and the pain and just hugs me and pulls out family photos of their first milk cow and her kids in the 70s holding it by a halter in the family portrait. And I stand there with this overwhelming sense of love for this messy life I live, and that all of us live. I had a prescription in my pocket. I had warm coffee in my hand. And I had these people I love sharing with me their stories and offering me pain meds and advice and empathy. How could you not love this world every day?

Goddamn it life is so beautiful.

We are not just our bad weeks. You, me, we all contain multitudes. I am the woman crying on the floor in terrifying pain and I am the woman smelling a newborn lamb in her arms and smiling like an idiot. I am the scared woman under a lead vest at the dentist's office and I am also the woman in a small country store moved by an old woman's faded family portrait with a jersey cow. I am the defeated, pathetic, howling monster from last night and I am the hero standing tall on a sturdy plank floor having already spent her morning ignoring pain and feeding pigs, sheep, horse, goats, poultry, rabbits and more. I am shit and I am sunlight. I am a mess and I am perfect. I sipped my coffee (the pain now again subsiding thanks to the Dr visit and more numbing gel) and let out the kind of sigh you hold in for days. I chatted a bit more and then walked around the little store and picked up some provisions I needed. While walking back to the counter to pay I noticed an antique pocket watch with an eagle/hawk design on the front hanging from the junk/costime jewelry display. It was eight dollars. Sold. Problem number 2325325 fixed. Time was once again, on my side.

The sun was out. I was heading home to my adopted town. I knew I still needed to pick up hay and some extension cords for the heat lamp, so I stopped into town. Gibson and I walked into the hardware store and chatted with Bryan. I told him about the new lamb and he congratulated me. He and his family raise chickens, rabbits, and beef and know the work and love that goes into newly born stock. I dropped off the prescription at Rite Aid (praying that it wasn't a jillion dollars) and then headed over to Common Sense Farm because I wanted to just dish with a best friend about this insane past 12 hours.

I walked into the kitchen at the commune and familiar faces invited to me join them for tea or a meal, I politely declined and headed to the second floor in the mansion to Yeshiva's apartment. There I found her and her glowing, pregnant, body. She looked as tired as I was and we hugged and spent time just being two women with a lot on our minds. She talked about her life, I talked about mine, and I felt so much better. I left a check I owed them for hay and loaded up three more bales into the back of my truck from their barn. I threw it into the back of the illegal pickup along with the county-fair-display straw. So much work ahead of me when I got home. I took three deep breathes. The day was just starting.

I bought the extension cords, a 100ft and a 50ft, and headed home. I let out the dog to be a dog and he instantly started herding Quark away from the wood pile by the front door. I told Gibson, "That'll do" and picked up the old rooster in my arms and set him onto the bed of the pickup with some cracked corn. Then I went right to work outside. I rebedded the sheep shed, set up the heat lamp for tonight's colder weather, and set up the extension cords. I made sure everyone outside had hay and water and then headed inside to finally start a fire and get to work on logos and writing. I had a few hours before evening chores started again. I opened the front glass door and what did I discover?! A note from the power company! I had 72 hours before electric was shut off. Great! I came inside with the door-knocker notice sheet and set it on the table. I set the problem meter back to 2325326. I took the pain meds and antibiotic with some water and I won't lie, part of me wished I took it with whiskey.  I didn't. Once that bottle becomes the answer to your problems you have a lot more to battle with than bills and truck inspections. I have enough battles to fight as is.

All right. So that's that. That's my last 24 hours. That's where I have been and what I have been dealing with. I wrote it all out, all of it. I think the pain meds have me a little light headed, but that's not the reason for this long post. The reason for the post is the reason for this entire blog: an raw portrayal of farming alone and trying to live a creative life.

I assume some of you will read this and think I am an asshole. Others will read it and shake their heads and think. "Man, this girl needs a break". And yet others will read it and see a person in love with her messy, passion-filled, wild life. Well let me tell you something boys and girls, I agree with all of you. However, since I have to spend 100% of my time with myself, I am pretty forgiving. When it comes down to the brass tax I love myself, my farm, my life, and my choices. Every day terrified on this farm is better than the most comfortable day in someone else's office.

Like I said earlier, we contain multitudes. I am the monster and the hero, and the life I choose to focus on is comprised of a million tiny decisions every single day. Last night I chose to sink to rock bottom. This morning I realized that a rock floor is damn sturdy ground for standing up on. And I'll figure it all out. I'm already figuring it out. Even when things get this rough around here I need to stop and realize that this is one beautiful mess I chose and every year it gets less messy. I need to take a moment and accept with absolute joy that I am living an intentional life I am so passionate about. That every morning I wake up and create, and laugh, and fall in love with the world over and over again. I stretch, and sip coffee, and plan workshops and prepare for animal births. I play music, I work in my home office, I visit my friends in this community I love so much and loves me back. As bad as things may get I am well aware these are nothing compared to the problems some of you deal with. That my biggest failures are just fuel towards a better self, and that most of what is wrong just needs steady work and relentless stubbornness. I have those things in spades.

And I need to remember that while times are tough now, they are just a passing afternoon. They are just what life is like "right now". How many times have I been here, in this place of worry and pain and figured it out before? Why should I doubt myself when I have always figured it out?  It is a fact on paper that I bought this farm in 2010 and have paid FOUR YEARS of mortgage payments, even if I am a little behind right now. That means a lot. And this slump can all change in one book deal or a rush on logo sales or workshop attendance. I see that illegal truck outside with a driver's side door that stopped opening and I don't see a burden. I see a vehicle with just 13 more payments left until I own it1 I see a Fell Pony I dreamed of, found, learned to partner with, fell in love with riding, and have paid off in full! I see a hawk I took from the sky and learned to hunt beside. I see an entire farmyard of animals I raised for myself and others. I see myself down to a size 10 instead of the 14 I was in December. I see a strong woman with the power to make art, life, music, stories and food and that would make me a goddess in a better age! So I can choose to spend this day focusing on the fear and problems, or I can spend it focusing on the hope and solutions.

I choose Goddess. Hear me howl.

I also remind myself that outside are two beautiful lambs. They are this farm's future and healthy and braw and gorgeous. More lambs are on the way and as simple as those little beasts are, they are even more drive to figure out the problems and continue this wonderful, glorious, fight for the life I love. I say fight with joy. I am not interested in any sort of pacifism in this short time I have. I am a martial artist, a hunter, an archer, a farmer, and a damned tough fighter. I like my world being one where sweat, blood, and beautiful force and hope combine to give me purpose I see lacking in so many others. Better a passionate asshole trying to keep the lights on than the person I could have been if I didn't try.

Listen, I don't know what you guys think of me and frankly, it is none of my business. I'm writing to you because I can't help but write. I would go insane if I didn't do this every single day in one form or another. You're just a witness to the addiction. But if you made it this far into the blog post then I hope you read this with compassion and it gives you a sense of fire, light, healing and hope. That is what I got out of writing it.

Okay. Time to check on those sheep, get their shed toasty for this cold night ahead, get the fire restarted (it's gone out since I've been writing here this past hour or so) and get back to the good fight.  I wish all of you a day a blessed with challenges, meaning, friendship, joy, pain, love, and warm dogs as I have been blessed with.

Here I go.

LUCEO NON URO.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update

Lack of posts this week due to a pile of things that are making life very tough right now around here. Please check back tomorrow to return to regular programming.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Making Friends

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Day in My Life



What happens here at Cold Antler on a regular day? Chores, design, writing, firewood, hay, more chores! This is a short video explaining my daily list and it starts with simple things like feeding each animal and goes into daily goals of design work, income, ideas for new clients, and so on. I make time for music and song as well, and drop in guests or errands to pick up hay or feed also fall in weekly. Everyday is the same and every day is different.

Season Pass & Renewal Sale!

If you already hold a Cold Antler Farm SeasonP Pass (which lets you attend any and all workshops within a year of purchase!) You can renew before friday for another year for just $175 or $250 a couple. Brand new to the blog or vlogs and would like to visit and support the farm? How about considering a Season pass? They are usually $350 but I will sell new season passes for $225 right now if you purchase before Friday. The farm is working towards some goals and this way you can support the farm and meet people, be a part of the story instead of just reading about it, and learn a lot from the experts and events here at CAF! To sign up email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When you see it....


Pulled From the Ribs

Last night some good friends came over to enjoy a meal, a board game, and the fireside this humble farm has to offer. After the simple meal (loaf of homemade bread just pulled from the oven, a roast chicken over potatoes, and a 4-pound slab of roasting beef we cut into steaks for grilling - washed down with some cider) we all sat around the fire in the living room, hot mugs of coffee in our warming hands. It was so cold outside and the winds pulled at the flames inside the stove, but we were full and warm. Josh Ritter was singing Girl in the War in the background, Quark the rooster was already asleep under the bench right beside us, and Gibson was sprawled on the floor with Keenan, the 13-year-old son of my friend Chris, who was worshipping his coffee with gusto and sharing it with his girl, Miriam. This moment was perfect.

Chris closed his eyes and leaned back against the bench he was sharing with the rooster Quark, who cooed a bit but didn't fuss. Miriam was closest to the fire, a fitting nest for a Brazilian dealing with -10 degree temperatures in our northern wilderness. And I was on the floor as well, happy and content and full in many ways. I sat across from this family, sipping my own special kind of rich dessert coffee. (Heavy cream whipped up with a whisk along with sugar and vanilla extract, then the hot strong coffee poured right into that blessed fluff). At one point Chris said, apropos of nothing, that he felt my home was special. That when they come here all stress and worry fades away. I took a sip of my coffee and thanked him, and I wish that thanks could have expressed how wealthy that sentence made me feel. There is no greater compliment to a homesteader than being told her home, and therefore her entire self, is special. I wanted to hug him.

Homesteading calls us in so many ways, and leads us down so many different roads. Some of us are drawn to healthier food sources or a better sense of self reliance. Some of us are called to a live with animals, and nature, and felling trees and building barns. Others just feel that deep call to home - and can't place what exactly makes it correct. We just feel it so deep inside it coats our ribs and pulls our bodies forward towards the wanting. And some of us are here for all those reasons. Some of us have ribs so sore from being pulled for so long, that we consider the ache blessed. It took me years to find my home and it takes ten times the effort of finding to keep it mine. It's a fight that requires the occasional benediction like the one Chris granted me last night. I'm grateful for this place, for certain, but words that like are magic and are needed like rain.

Luceo Non Uro. Spring will find us soon, and not find us wanting.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mo Sweet Cridhe!

I am so grateful that I am a musician, however humble. To have a home that is surrounded by fiddle, guitar, banjo, whistle and drum - that fills me with such joy. I took a good five minutes to just play Rain and Snow, an Appalachian tune of the sordid sort, over and over this morning. I played it slow and I played it fast. I played it droning and I played it clean. Then I set it down to tend the fire and came back to it and played a Celtic tune called the Scartaglen Slide, which is all dance and lightness. Sometimes I just sing, too. Music is always here and it doesn't matter if I am out doing chores and making up tunes while Gibson runs around or home at night but the fire playing music from the Hobbit films on the tin whistle. It is always here and adds an element of wildness, freedom, and beauty along with the animals to a cold piece of land on the side of a mountain. (And part of me secretly believes the more I play the faster summer will come...)

For now, I'll share the chorus of Gibson's song I called Cuilen Math. I made it up while outside together and watching him race through snow and field. Nothing is happier to my eyes than a border collie on his own farm without a leash in sight! It's upbeat and I bet you can figure out the melody from the tempo. I can't think of the tune I made it up too but it hardly matters. Music is good in any form!

For I am a Cuilen Math!
I'm Bonnie and I'm Braw
And I'll watch o'er Lamb and Ewe
And tell it to you all!

I'm Fast as I am Fly
I'm Dubh as tha Nocht Sky
And I'm as free as mo sweet cridhe
And don't you dare ask why!

Bluster & Cold

Good morning from the blustery and frigid lands of Veryork! Holy Crow, is it windy out there! I was out this morning doing the regular chores and all the animals were reluctant to come out to eat, that is how windy and bitter it is. Well, all save for Merlin, who could care less about wind and rain. That is fitting for an animal that grew up from colt to stallion in Northern England's wild hills of Cumbria, but not so much for the local dairy goats who had me deliver their breakfast indoors. My two does and their Rent-a-Buck, Saturn, usually are some of the first morning hecklers out come daybreak. They hear the door open or Merlin whinny and they are at their metal gate, nickering for their own breakfast of second-cut hay, minerals, and grain. Not today, not pif the Dagda himself came at them with his club, they were curled up in the barn and I threw their hay into the window and watched them poke their heads out at me before digging in. Breakfast in bed, that.

The pigs as well were happy to sleep in and only woke up from their nesting pile when they heard the breakfast bucket. They came out, swilled up their feed, and then went back to their slumber. As tough as they are they see no sense in standing in the wind like Merlin or the sheep do. Back to bed for them, and smartly so. Days like this make me want to curl up and nap as well.

One good thing about the wind is it is blowing a lot of snow off roofs and driveways. You look outside one moment and there is a clear day and I can see right across to the neighbor's driveway. Turn your head to a book or wood stove and look back out, WHITE OUT of bluster. I can't even imagine what that must look like at the open fields of Livingston Brook Farm or even just down the hillside at Katz's place on the road? Here on the mountain most wind is blocked by the fact I live on the eastern side of a hill that gets most of its fussing weather from the west. Usually, even in the worst of weather it is mild out there compared to more open country. So when I see nothing but swirls and can hear the wind in the wood stove's chimney howl into my living room... I know it is rough out there.

Are you also dealing with this wild weather? If so I hope you are safe, warm, and strong. Or, have the sense of a goat or a pig to nest in until this nasty business is all behind us.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Morning Hug

We're about to roll into another deep cold, highs only reaching into the single digits on some days. But this morning the sun was out and while spending some time with Merlin I couldn't help myself and hugged that big horse. His thick coat was so warm from the sun it was like leaning against a heating blanket draped over a propane tank. As he ate I just let my cheek rest against his shoulder, inhaled that wonderful smell of horse, and scratched his shoulder. I miss the daily rides of summer and our adventures and eagerly await their return. It is cold out there but summer can be found hidden in places, if you get close enough to feel the warmth waiting for you to claim it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Give Me One Day & You'll Play!

I'd like to invite five of you (no more, since it'll be indoors and intimate here in the farmhouse) to join me by the wood stove on a few sheepskins to learn the fiddle. This workshop will be Saturday, May 2nd. This is Beltane Weekend and last year I held Arrow's Rising and it was too chilly for a proper outdoor event. It will be perfect for an intimate indoor one though! So hear this: this will not be a camp, just a long day here at the farm. It'll start at 9AM and go until 5PM - a bit longer than most workshops - but I am certain you will leave knowing how to teach yourselves and be on your way to memorizing your first song! You DO NOT NEED any prior musical experience. You DO NOT NEED to know how to read music. You DO NOT NEED to be right handed. You DO NOT NEED to be a musical prodigy. What you do need is a strong desire to learn to fiddle, 15 minutes a day to practice at home, a love of old time and bluegrass music, and a sense of humor! And I can make you this promise: attend this workshop, and make daily practice a commitment and by Yule you will be able to play carols by heart, easily!

This day camp will include:

1 Student Fiddle with bow, rosin, and case.

You will learn:

The parts of the fiddle
Fiddle folkways
Tuning your fiddle
Fixing and adjusting your bridge
Restringing your fiddle
The D scale
Bowing, shuffling, and droning notes
Reading Tablature
Your first song!

You will need to bring:

Wayne Erbsen's Fiddle Book
A set of spare strings (4/4 size)
an electronic guitar tuner (I suggest snark tuners)
Laughter (in barrel loads, please)!

If you want one of these five spots let me know ASAP. They are first sold, first reserved. The cost for this workshop and basic student fiddle is $225. If you want a higher quality student fiddle, I can have a very nice mid-level instrument waiting for you here for $350 (includes the workshop, of course). Either fiddle will be fine for learning with, just one will grow with you longer. Contact me via email to sign up!

Down By the Sally Gardens

Good morning readers! And it has been a good morning here, even if it did start at 4:48AM with a rooster in my living room. I will admit I wasn't this cheery when he sounded the alarm, but just a few hours later my day is off to a wonderful start. Thanks to that early rising (usually I get up with the sun, regardless of season I am up at dawn and right now that is closer to 7AM), I was up and about with eager energy. Eight hours of sleep reset my tired self. I woke up with good work and a farm I love more than I can even explain demanding my attention and hands. And taking that 9 to 9 Challenge seriously meant I had hours before I had to worry about anything but the fireplace, weather, or the work of the farm. What a blessed surrender, that.

I got chores done and came inside to a fine cup of coffee and then sat down to write more of Birchthorn. I got out a thousand words, sent a Kickstarter update, and then started checking emails and planning my day. I didn't look at the news. I didn't go onto Facebook to read gossip or see what my friends did on their vacation to Bermuda. Instead, sitting in my inbox was a design inquiry, a thank you from the folks who attended the Whistle Workshop this weekend (which was wonderful and we learned most of Sally Gardens!), and a sweet email from a neighbor. I myself started playing Sally Gardens on my tin whistle (this shut the rooster up, who was confused or jealous of my amazing Celtic crows!).

I'm going to head into town in a little bit to get some provisions and enjoy talking with the gang at the hardware store, but thought you guys would like a quick hello and check in. I can't say enough good things about a little self control when it comes to digital choices. And I can't say enough good things about choosing to start a day with music, creativity, work and light instead of lack, anger, sadness, or other nonsense that can wait till after your first cup of coffee. Have any of you kept the Challenge going? How are you doing? It's never to late to start over either. Never, ever ever.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Saturn in the Snow!

Babadook

Today's storm was a heavy, wet, snow and it feels like the farm is buried three-feet deep out there, even though I know there is just a little over 18 inches. It's tricky though. Since wind and drifts play a part there are spots in the horses pasture with just a foot and trails in the forest that I sunk to my hips while out on snowshoes. The heavy snow means a lot of fence maintenance, since all of the fences here are either electric or low to the ground (think pigs). It all got done but I am feeling it for the first time in my life. Feeling sore and tired in a way that isn't just the after effects of labor, but worn down. Like Bilbo Baggins said: butter spread over too much toast.

That's just how I feel these past few weeks, and it will surely pass. The intense cold and heavy snow is just a bit more of a challenge, but June has to come, doesn't it? All that said, the farm is doing fine. Everyone is in great shape, eating well, hydrated, and tucked in for the night. Well, mostly everyone. The sheep and horses and goats are all set but I still have to run outside with the pigs dinner and shovel the snow off their shelter roof. I am working up the courage right now, with the teapot heating up on the wood stove and a fire roaring close to me.

Quark is still inside because I don't have the heart to send him out into this deep snow knowing he is going to be spending all his time in the honey suckle bush. He is enjoying walking around the farmhouse eating the dogs food when they aren't looking, scaring the cat, and clucking about. I don't trust the dogs to keep it civil if I'm not watching them so he's in the crate when I am outdoors.

Much was done indoors, by the way. I updated the Birchthorn Project and got work done on several client logos.Working on comps for some farms and emailing final files to another. Proud of that design work and having fun working on it, even if it is just a few hours at a time. I like that there isn't much idle time around here these days. Be it indoors or out I am using my body and mind, and still finding time to pick up the guitar, fiddle, or tin whistle just to blow off steam and relax. I may be a little weary but you can't not smile after a hot toddy and a waltz on the banjo. I love a good waltz, do I ever.

Tonight after the Pegs are all settled in and there is nothing to do but come indoors and keep the home fire burning, I'll be watching the movie The Babadook. I chickened out last night but I think tonight is the night for a scary story. I mean, I can't look like a chicken in front of Quark. He may get the wrong idea....