Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Just Hatched

Want a Pet Portrait?

If you want to support the endeavors of Cold Antler Farm, one fun way is to commission a sketch, inked drawing, or full color pet portrait! They are all done on 9x12" Bristol and shipping is free. If interested in getting up to three animals on a custom portrait, email me!

Heaven is a Place on Earth

The first thing I thought about this morning was bread. Warm, steaming, richly-flavored sourdough bread. This is my favorite kind of wheat miracle and yet eludes me in how to create it. Hand me a bridle, a hawk, a dog, or a newborn lamb and I know what to do. But when it comes to the detail-oriented nature of baking, math, carpentry, etc - I am floundering.

So I play to my strengths. For example - I am pretty good at raising chickens. (Good enough to publish a book about it) and the small flock I now tend keeps me in eggs for eating, baking (my humble attempts) and barter. Which brings me back to my thoughts about sourdough, because as the sunlight streamed through my bedroom window. I had struck a deal with my neighbor Linda to trade a freshly-baked loaf of her bread for some eggs. Today was the day she would be baking and it was enough to set the tone for the entire day.

"GIBSON," I whisper-yelled as I grabbed the dog sleeping on his back beside me. "GIBSON IT IS SOURDOUGH DAY!!!" Gibson didn't care much but my sudden alertness did cause him to stretch his front paws high into the air towards the ceiling and then roll over, get up, downward dog, and shake. He was off the bed and at the window in moments. Friday was already there. Bread day had started.

I got dressed and grabbed my trusty, tech-ancient iPod Nano. I turned on some music (this morning, Belinda Carlisle, Heaven is a Place on Earth) and headed outside into the sunlight. This was planned alchemy, a spell I cast on myself. The parts of this spell included making sure the downstairs was cleaned up before bed, the dishes done, and my coffee pot locked and loaded so groggy-morning me could just turn on a burner for the promise of caffeine.

I can not stress how much of a mood-lifter it is to have the dishes done and coffee ready the night before. You wake up feeling like you have your shit together. The music in my ears wouldn't allow me not to smile. Friday circled my legs and I sang to her, "Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?!" and we headed outside. It's Bread Day, bitches.

Sunlight, dew-soaked gardens, loping dogs, healthy animals, music in my ears. Living alone on the side of a mountain means you can sing as loud as you want as you go about carrying hay to sheep and a scruffy pony. My thinking brain knows that this is all planned - the chores, the music, the coffee and I don't care. After childhood the work of being content in this world is actual work. It's a choice you make to not seek out anger, fear, and despair (at least not first thing in the morning). If I start my day with some joy it sticks and set the rest of the day in a positive direction. And I don't know anyone who needs to focus on the positive as much as farmers.

The ducks I had searched for late last night with a flashlight (they were under the Silkie Bantam hutch) and were carried into the barn for safety were released as I opened the red door. They came out waddling towards their breakfast. The dogs circled. The dew soaked my ankles. Belinda rocked on. Milking, water-hauling, pig feeding - all got done with a soundtrack. When we came inside there were two fed dogs and a day of work ahead of me creating art, design, homemade soaps and sharing my story. Bread Day is powerful stuff.

Being excited about your life is a choice. I won't travel more than 8 miles from this farm today. My biggest event involves trading eggs for a loaf of bread and a small hay delivery to unload into my barn. There is plenty to worry about and all the anticipatory anxiety I can handle - but a hot cup of coffee, a clean home, happy dogs, warm bread, and good music... These are things I can truly say I am thrilled to experience today. And when dinner comes and I am biting into that warm slice of bread paid for by honest barter - Heaven is the correct word.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Welcome Scratch and Peck!

So happy to announce the new blog sponsor, Scratch and Peck Feeds. This company is bringing you organic, GMO-free, soy-free awesome feed to your flocks. With backyard chickens on the rise and more and more people caring about what we consume - this company is making a difference in quality feed for small producers like me. I am currently testing out some samples - both here at the farm and with some other local flock-keepers - and will let you know what I think of their feed. So far these chicks I picked up Sunday from Common Sense Farm seem to love it! And since these birds are living indoors with me - I can say one big advantage to a non-soy feed is the smell of the poop. It doesn't stink the way soy feed does. I appreciate that, being a few feet from the pictured brooder right now as I type! For more info on these guys or to order their chicken/livestock feed click the link in this post.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pony/Donkey Harness For Sale

Hey there folks, if you are interested in a like-new pony breast-harness (just in need of some dusting) - I have one here cheap. Email me If you have a donkey or 10-13h pony - put it to work! It's a black heather and comes with a padded saddle, crupper for tail, leather tugs, and bridle and lines. You add pony and bit. I can ship it as well. Have pics if interested.

Warm Eggs

I walked back towards the farmhouse from the barn, an empty 5-gallon bucket in my left hand and a full milk pail in my right. Somehow I managed to use my middle finger as a hook for the pail, and in that same palm were three warm eggs. Morning chores were wrapping up and my payment for the work was everything I needed to make a goat cheese omelette. Not bad compensation.

Warm eggs haven’t gotten old yet. I have been raising chickens for a decade and carrying warm eggs back into the house is still one of the most primal, comforting, feelings I have had the joy to experience. It’s the honesty of the exchange. We promise to raise these small dinosaurs, feed them, give them a rooftree and some land to scratch at and in exchange they keep laying these little protein vessels. Such a perfect food and right here in my own backyard. The milk will be turned into soap and cheese. Whey is fed back to the pigs. The chickens, goats, sheep, & pigs’ old bedding and paddock muck gets composted back into rich soil for the kailyard and garden. Everyone and everything has everyone elses' back.

How lucky to feel safe in a place? How lucky to have a small corner of the world that feeds you? If the farm wasn’t here at all there would still be the bubbling stream and fish pond. There would still be game in the forest and foragable mushrooms and plants. This mountain is not some wild corner of Alaska, but still vibrant with howling and growling beasts like lumbering bears and laughing coyotes. There are flashes of red from the sly foxes and stories of the elusive fisher cats that run through the forest like giant ferrets. It is a wild place for sure, but cushioned near a town and domesticated by this small experiment in agriculture.

The farm right now feels better than it has ever been. The endurance test of the past seven years in this place has taught me things I didn’t ask for or expect. I am as grateful for the mistakes as I am the victories. In the past few weeks so much has been planted, chickens moved outside, new chicks inside, more babies on the way, a stubborn horse trained, fences repaired, pens built, and all these things done with pride of home instead the of the panic of survival. That feeling means the world to me. It’s why I am still here and working to keep the lights on and bank wolves at pacing distance.

I think of all this walking inside to strain milk. I didn’t know much about farming when I got my first chickens. Hell, I didn’t know anything. But the girl who started without fear and blind luck is now the woman fighting to keep torches burning. This place changed me, made me, is me. And as much as I have writhed and celebrated - I am still smiling at the feeling of warm eggs in a palm. Who knew they would lead me so far?

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Much Planted!

The gardens here are doing well and in three sections around the homestead. There is the Kailyard in the back forest, near the pigs and behind the barn. That is where cold crops grow in the shade of the tall locust trees. Next to the farmhouse is the kitchen garden. That is where tomatoes, onions, squash, and basil grow. And last, the potato patch. The patch is in old sheep paddock with loose, dark, soil. I hope to plant corn soon, if I can work up the gusto!

Black Out

Thursday night a storm came through the Battenkill Valley that shook the whole region. The sky was red and the clouds rolled in like angry, dark, sea foam. It reminded me of the first time I looked up at storm clouds and felt fear. I remember playing in my grandmother's side yard as a little girl and looking at a brown and black swirl of clouds and knowing in my gut how serious it was. Growing up in Pennsylvania we didn't see tornadoes or hurricanes often, and that type of sky reminded me more of special effects in Ghostbusters than it did anything I ever saw in real life. That same movie sky hit the farm Thursday evening.

I usually adore storms. I was expecting the usual kind of thunder and rain, but nothing drastic. I had a glass of wine poured and was under the big maple tree, hoping to watch the sky light up and take in the big show. But a few moments into that reverie that sky went from a cautious dark to that same childhood fear swirl; the difference between watching a scary movie and being in one. 

I ran around getting the ducklings in the barn instead of under a locust tree. I carried all the chicks inside the farmhouse to the safety of the brooder instead of their tractors. I placed all the silkie bantams sleeping under their hutch, up and into it. The wind started to roar and the rain started to pelt. I made a quick set of rounds. The pig black pregnant pig was tucked safety in the pigoda.  The runaway pig was in his pen in the barn (that story happened on twitter) the sheep were all in their shed. Merlin was under his pole barn. I was the only idiot still outside in the fray. I came inside to join the dogs. Thunder had just started and Gibson was shaking. I lit some candles, got oil in the lamps, and gave Gib a hug while the storm roared into the farm. Within minutes of the first CRACK the power went out.

I turned on my Kindle Fire, which plays any audio books I have downloaded to it on a small speaker. The speakers aren't anything great, but in a house silent of all electricity - it seems loud as a bullhorn. Wil Wheaton read us Ready Player One and I held the shaking Gibson. We stayed up until the storm passed and went to bed.

In the morning when I woke up Ready Player One was still going strong, but the power wasn't back. I got through chores and then loaded up the truck for town. I wanted to see if the power situation was just my mountain or the rest of the area. In town none of the streetlights were flashing, every home was dark. The local Stewart's (our chain of gas stations/convenience store) was PACKED. I went in to get a cup of coffee and discovered the whole town was dark, ice was sold out, and no idea if it would be hours or days.

I wasn't worried. I had plenty of food, water, and ways to prepare meals for myself and the farm. I had ice in the freezers to act as a giant cooler. The spring that runs off from the well works even if the electric pump into the house doesn't. None of us at Cold Antler were in any trouble a few days without power, especially in summertime. But without the internet this place goes from a shared adventure to very, very, lonely. Not being able to write, tweet, check in on news and friends - I decided to head over to Livingston Brook Farm and check in.

So I headed over there hopped up on cheap coffee. Patty and Mark were up, and had no problem with power but their internet wasn't working. I got a truck load of hay out of her barn and checked one item off my to-do list. I was feeling anxious. Without the internet I also can't earn any money. I make my sales in freelance, writing, design, and illustration all from the web. Things I sell off farm - are also advertised online. I was financially hobbled by the black out. This was the most distressing part of it all. But I got hay, and that was something. To distract myself I ended up weeding the kailyard, kitchen garden, and potato patch at the farm. I started planning out a spot for sweet corn, too.

I ended up returning to her farm later that day. There was nothing else to do at my own farm with the animals and plants' needs met. I couldn't do any design work. I couldn't go for a run since I stepped on a sharp stick in crocs (never again, crocs). So I helped Patty set up electric fencing  for her lambs in her farm's front field and checked email/twitter at her place on my Kindle. Feeling connected to people and the web felt better.

At home I made a campfire and cooked some hotdogs over it. I listened to audiobooks with the dogs out there and let go of the stress I had been carrying for the past few days. Something about the crackling fire, the ease of the collies, the soft tones of Neil, and the familiar myths eased my heart.

The power came on again last night. It feels like a Friday morning, and not a Saturday morning. I lost a day in there. So I am at my desk working, designing, soliciting, tweeting, hoping, and working that farm hustle needed to keep the lights on - literally.


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. It's also much needed between books. Thank you.

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.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Logo Sale!

Logo Sale going on now, either for logos designed this season or bought cheaper now to cash in later when you are ready to start designing. Message me here or send an email to dogsinourparks (at) gmail and get some custom design work for your home farm, business, crafts, bakery, family reunion, or just art for your home. Support a One-Woman farm and help keep this place going strong.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stay Cool

Sweat was dripping off my face and onto my hands as I planted the Cherokee Purples in the kitchen garden. The heat came fast, overnight, and was taking no prisoners. In a few hours a thunderstorm will canter through here, covering the newly planted vegetable starts with a good shower. I hope to be outside for the first clouds and rumbles, in the hammock, under the king maple that has watched over me and my home for seven years now.

The only things left for me to plant are butternut squash and basil. I have my gardening efforts down to the things I eat the most, and nothing else. So my kailyard in the woods is lettuce and spinach, kale and broccoli, rocket and arugula, and other colder shady crops. By the farmhouse are the nightshades like tomatoes and potatoes. And I also plant my standbys I like to grow and store like the butternuts, onions, and garlic in the fall. Besides that the farm isn’t much of a vegetable producer. But even that small amount of options makes endlessly good meals all year long. It is worth the work, especially on hot days like today where the big event is a cold drink swaying above a tingling earth, pre rain.

I think one of the pigs is pregnant, a first for this little farm. Pigs have never been born here, just bought. I am excited and a little nervous. I am still waiting on a ewe to lamb, but all the goat kids have been born and sold. Morning milking is back into my daily chore list and the milk is setting off my own grocery costs and helping feed the summer pigs, too.

Yesterday I tried to take some photos with Aya Cash, my redtail. She’s molting right now and at a heavy off season weight, so she wasn’t interested. That photo above is from a hawk outtake, a nice wing in the ear. I was taking photos with her while I had her out of the mews for her daily weighing and feather check. She seems to be doing really well and I’m proud to carry her into the next hunting season together this fall.

I am a little sore from yesterday, as I have started a weekly workout goal I call Skadi Day. Skadi was a warrior goddess of long ago, a huntress and archer. So on Skadi days I set goals in distance running, working out, archery and riding. After the morning design work is done I get into a long run, do some sit ups and push ups, and then set an arrow number to shoot and end it all with a trail ride with Merlin. This is fitting because after yesterday’s 12k run, 125 push ups, 125 sit ups, 125 arrows, and a farm to manage I was ready to be carried. Merlin is also just getting back into shape and was huffing and puffing as he ran up the mountain. It still feels like home on that back of that horse. He is the best mistake I ever made.

So things are okay. Working like mad to promote design, illustrations, and classes on twitter. I have three people signed up for archery days this summer and hoping to get more people to come to the farm for that or fiddling. The farm isn’t in dire straights, but like most of us out there working for ourselves, I’m always right up against it. It’s a fight worth staying in the ring for. Seven years, and it’s still my home.

Stay cool out there. Be nice to each other. More soon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Batch & Book Combos!

Taking Batch & Book Combo Orders today. Only selling 5 sets, and already sold one on twitter this AM! Set includes 8 full-sized bars and a signed copy of One Woman Farm. Soap is made FOR YOU, your custom choice of scent combinations -which include any combo of the following - unscented (just milk, coconut oil and olive oil), lavender, mint, honey, oatmeal, bourbon, coffee, or pumpkin.

I will make the batch (about 2 pounds of soap total) specifically for you in 8 matching bars of either the dragon style or handmade style. Also, the book will be signed to you or whomever you prefer. If in the US, add $10 shipping. If in CA - $20. You pay via paypal to reserve your batch. Email me if interested!

Friday's Big Saturday!

Yesterday morning there was a sheep breakout and they headed down the road towards the neighbor’s fields. Gibson saw this from inside the farmhouse and barked a proper warning bark. Then he came running to me whining. Seven years of teaming up with this dog and I instantly knew what had happened. We know our language. I started putting on my boots.

Friday watched from her spot on the easy chair, splayed out for a mid-morning nap while Gibson was at window duty. She seemed interested, but not vocal. She trotted up to see what all the fuss was about as Gibson paced, but she wasn't overly concerned about the breakout. Then I said the magic words, “Let’s go!” they both lit up like salt lamps and raced to the door.

Once the sheep saw the dogs eyeing them up they split into two groups, ewes and lambs. Gibson went after the ewes and had them back in their pen in moments. But the lambs had taken off up a small ravine, and then crossed a neighbor’s utility road on the mountain. Friday raced after them. Raced so fast and so far she was out of sight in a minute, over the crest of the hill.

I was worried since she is about to turn two and save for running behind Gibson when he works, she hasn’t shown much interest in sheep or herding. Border Collies aren’t all insta-herders. Breeding from proven working stock ups your chances, but every dog has its own mind. Some simply prefer chasing sticks or squirrels instead of 200lbs sheep with mounted defense units on their skulls.

So I assumed Friday was up there just chasing sheep. Just running because she’s a dog and loves to run and hey look at them go! By this point Gibson was back beside me, panting and looking up the hill at where Friday and lambs had gone. I told him to stay beside me. Let’s wait a minute?

And then I heard, "baaa bbbaaaaa BAAAAAA!!!!!"

I looked and out of the woods, side by side, were the missing lambs racing towards the pen and the rest of the flock. About 100 yards behind them was Friday, weaving and sliding back down the forested hillside like Artemis in canine form. The lambs sped past me and Gibson rallied, delivering them back to their mates. Now on the solid ground of our road, Friday came loping towards me with the biggest dog smile I had ever seen. She leapt up into my arms and kissed my face. I hugged her the way people hug loved ones back from war. Holy crap I was so proud of that little punk.

My Girl Friday might be a boss bitch after all!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

6 years ago!

I forgot about this video about the first year at Cold Antler Farm in Jackson. It's before archery, falconry, and Merlin were a part of my life and I was just learning what it took to manage a breeding flock of sheep and begin raising pigs. Now this farm produces lamb, pork, fleeces, eggs, honey, veg, and more. I rewatched it, thinking of how much I have changed since signing the mortgage papers and how grateful I am to still be here. If you want to jump back to 2011 - here you are!

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Run, Shoot, Ride

The sun came bursting out today and I spent it like a holiday, doing the three summer things I adore: running, archery, and trail riding. After chores I went for a run up this mountain and got a nice workout in. Later I had a meeting with my falconry sponsor to check in on the molt and my bird. After that I digested a yummy lunch throwing axes and shooting my bow. I followed all that up with a ride on the mountain with Merlin (more pics from that trip on twitter). I've spend the last five days of rain just busting through freelance work and staring at screens - this was a needed day off. I hope you felt some sunshine wherever you are!

Monday, May 8, 2017

I Need to Light a Fire

I stood in the burbling stream, cleaning the caked mud off my leather riding boots with a hard-bristled old horse brush. The stream is near my farm and winds through it to my small pond full of sunfish and bass. As the green of spring writhes back to life, it's harder to see the pond than it was in winter when I ran across this frozen water chasing rabbits with my hawk. Now it is alive again. From where I stood in the clear water and smooth stones I could barely make out the pond. That comforted me. It was a very long winter here.

As the debris fell away I winced looking at the cracks in the leather. Tonight I would oil them down and let them cure-soak by the fire. It’s May here in upstate New York, but snow is in the forecast tonight and temperatures are dropping near freezing. That is why I spent the last hour carrying and chopping firewood to bring indoors. It’s an odd thing to worry about snowfall in May, but at least the quiet night and fire would give me the excuse to oil thirsty boots.

When I lived another life and worked a full-time office job I bought cheaper boots. I thought this made me savvy and stylish, having options and not spending a lot of money on them. When those boots started to fall apart I threw them away. These riding boots aren’t hand-stitched in some Italian cobbler shop, but they are better quality than those in my past. These boots I am now rinsing off are designed for riding horses, farm mud, and forest trails. They cost over $200 and I buy one pair a year. To make them last that long means regular care and feeding, which I had to learn. Now boot oil and salve is a part of my life as much as toothpaste.

Gibson is watching me scrub the boots with his left front paw slightly lifted. Yesterday while herding sheep he injured it in a too-bold move involving an angry ram and heavy hoof. Had it not been so muddy he might have gotten truly hurt, but I saw his paw sink joint-deep in the mud as it happened. He got dirty, but nothing was broken or even scratched. I asked him to see it and he gently offered the paw. I prodded and poked at the limb while he looked at me. No yelps or hollering, just watching me talk. He would be okay. The boot's cracks would fill. I would be warm tonight. The work of choosing to focus on the present, on what I need to make happen to experience it in the future - that is where my mind is now at 34. Distractions of politics and arguments aren't real as ram hooves & frost warnings. If I let my body and mind do what it wanted all the time - which is worry instead of act - nothing would get done. I am so grateful this farm demands work that picks up this burden of anxiety and replaces it with necessity. You can spend the day worried about anticipated threats (real or imagined) or you can chop wood, herd sheep, scrub boots, and hold paws.

Gibson and I head inside for tea. He isn't limping. In thanks I nod to the giant King Maple in the front lawn where I make regular little offerings of flowers, honey, goat milk, and alcohol to the Wights of the farm and in memory of my ancestors. I think of Anna Jumbar, who sailed to America alone at 18 as an immigrant from what was then Czechoslovakia. If she can board a ship to the New World alone I can light a fire and figure out the mortgage. The flowers at the base of the tree are for her.

Yesterday Friday helped with the sheep instead of Gibson and that was… interesting. She doesn’t have his drive or interest in livestock, but can fake it well enough to pass as a working dog. It only takes a slight stare or run at the sheep for a few lopes to get them moving. They know their pen and the routine of dog and shepherd. She succeeded in getting the sheep in their pen and didn’t get stepped on by an angry ovine - so perhaps she isn’t as bad at this as I thought.

The logical side of me says I should take a nap. Smart farmers are napping after lunch. I had been up since dawn. I had seen to farm chores, milking, pet breakfasts, and several design and illustration clients. By 11AM I was preparing wood for the night’s fire and stacking it by the Hob inside, mentally reminding myself to fill the humidifier on top with fresh water. I had the sheep grazing in field and forest back into their pen and filled their barn with fresh hay for bedding in case it was very cold or snowy tonight. Marnie’s lamb is due any day and I wanted the newcomers on clean, warm bedding if the weather got angry. The pigs had also got extra bedding and were still napping off their breakfast of chow soaked in goats milk and whey when I offered it to them.

I should take a nap, but all I am thinking about is the archery target in front of the barn and the axe throwing target behind it. Every day I want to shoot and throw now. The feeling of sore arms and a stronger back are intoxicating. I have never been a weight lifter, and know nothing about gym equipment, but I know I like feeling strong. I like knowing my eyes, mind, and body can hit a mark and I feel powerful getting a large axe to soar through the air. I beam as it sails head over handle in several rotations,and then THWACK into the locust target! If running is meditation and discipline, it’s these martial skills that are repetition and power. Combined with the work of farming (carrying water buckets and hay bales, hoeing gardens, milking goats, and riding horses) I have developed a very odd sort of body. I’m short, stout, but dense. For years this body made me feel shame for not being thin and boyish like the women on magazines. Now I feel so at home in muscle, curve, and my wolfish femme physique. The boots I now have drying by the front door prefer they belonged to the first woman, though.

It’ll be cold tonight and if I want to be warm I need to light a fire. That simplest of acts is the end of a long line of choices I made. Whenever something I write about seems foreign to you, or idealistic, or something out of a side quest in a video game - remember it’s just choices.

When I was 25 I chose to leave the city and take a job in Idaho. That one choice lead to a rented homestead. At that farm I worked all day 9-5 but had evenings and weekends to keep chickens, rabbits, gardens, and bees. Loving that meant when I lost that job to the 2008 Great Recession my next job would also be rural. And so on. And now those thousand large and small choices mean I am at the end of a long winter tired of making fires to stay warm.

I am grateful it is HOW I stay warm. I like that a living fire roars inside my house, as dangerous as a caged lion. I like that I can sleep beside it on a bed of sheep skins. I like that I can do this while watching Netflix on my tablet. I like the contrarian, ridiculous, old-fashioned, technological life I lead. I like my choices.

I hope you like your choices out there. The good news is, you can always make different ones if you don’t. Sharing my life online for a decade has shown me the best and worst of the internet. A post as bland as this, about scrubbing boots and preparing for a cold night, will insight sighs of envy and contentment from some and emails of rage or pity from others.

What I have learned is the reactions people have to my life have nothing to do with my choices at all. It has to do with the emotions and filters in the readers. It has to do with who has or has not taken mood stabilizing medications. Who is scared they don’t have time to change. Who is inspired. Who is lonely. Who is smug. Who is cheer leading. Who is there. Really all I care about is getting a reaction at all. I want to know I am heard, because when you live alone on the side of a mountain with the urge to write after cleaning muddy boots - all that matters is the listening. My fear isn't threats or bullies online, it's that they stop reading.

I'm personally dealing with a lot of doubt right now as an author. I don't know if writing is something I should keep doing, or pursuing. When I get really worried I don't write here for days. With me, writing has to come from the compulsion to need to be heard, but also that I have something worth saying. I get the tangible, daily, sense of creation and reward from the work of this farm - but the entire point of Cold Antler Farm is to share it. I can't tell if I am on the edge of lighting a bonfire with my writing career or smoldering to ash.

Good Gods, I am going to go outside and shoot my bow. This whole post started with the importance of the present and the avoidance of falling into the pits of anticipatory anxiety. Here I am scared, typing in a house without a fire, worried about the Butcher's bill.

What I do know is the fire is mine to light or put out. This isn't 1985, it's 2017. There are options for publishing outside traditional houses and audiences changing as much as the trends and tastes of our culture. I want someone to hand me a torch and pay me to write a book. Maybe I need to light a fire of my own.

Luceo Non Uro

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. It's also much needed between books. Thank you.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Come to Cold Antler & Leave a Fiddler or Archer!

Come to this farm this summer (or fall) for a special trip to see this place and leave with a new skill and the tools to practice it at home. I offer half and full day workshops in either fiddle or archery for beginners. The requirements are easy - come willing to learn with the ability to hold a fiddle or draw a bow, and we take it from there. You don't need to have any athletic or musical experience. These two passions of mine can be taught to anyone with the will to learn, a sense of humour, and the stubbornnes to practice at home. I provide the instruments (class comes with your own longbow or student fiddle!) and you leave learning how to play your first song or safely shoot your first bow.

These classes also make great gifts! Want to give your spouse the ability to play a song or shoot a bullseye? You can buy them from me and get a printable pdf emailed you can set into a card or wrap as a gift. The card lets the gift receiver set up their own date and time for the class at their choice. Classes here include:

Fiddle Indie Day: A student fiddle, spare strings, bow, and case. Class covers care and feeding, tuning, your first scale, your first song, and practicing at home. Play among sheep, goats, chickens and horses on the side of a mountain. Half or full day options - full day includes more practice time, a second song and scale as well.

Archery Indie Day: A palm wood long bow and string. Class covers care and feeding, safety, equipment and range rules, instinctive archery shooting and aim, target practice, and beginner tips and lessons in bow and arrow fitting.  Half or full day options - full day includes more practice time and a woodland field course shooting through cover, down cliffs, and at animal targets on trail.

You can also sign up for both in the same day, which means a morning of music followed by an hour lunch break and then an afternoon of archery. Prices vary by amount of students and times. Base price for a half day with fiddle/bow is $250. Email me to sign up at dogsinourparks(at)gmail.com

P.S. I also have done custom classes in Chicken 101, Goats & Soapmaking, Mountain Dulcimer, Beginner Horsemanship & Driving, Rabbits, etc. Ask for a custom class if interested!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Shearing Day

Shearing Day was last Saturday, and after nearly a decade of keeping sheep I can say Cold Antler finally has this down. The whole process went smoothly, with mostly just myself and Tom the Shearer available. Together we penned, gated, and pulled out the sheep one at a time for the sole shearer. The eight adult sheep that were in need of haircuts were all done within the hour and as the fleeces piled up I hung them on the fence. That photo of Monday the ram is his beside what was the fleece he was carrying. Streaking is now permitted on this farm.

There is nothing new to say about shearing as an annual chore, only that I am grateful to live in a time and place where traveling sheep shearers still exist. The travel fee is $25 to come to your farm. Every sheep sheared after that is $8, done professionally with the least amount of discomfort to the sheep. I have tried to do this myself and it took over an hour to do one sheep with hand shears. The set of electric shears I had were second-hand and burnt out ten minutes into the job. I have learned the $8 a sheep and gas money for a professional is money well spent.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Forensic Friends!

I do most of my writing here, where content has room to breathe and stretch. But over on twitter I have been posting several times a day with updates about all the animals, horse training, gardens, and work as it happens. If you want to see what is happening in real time - follow me there @coldantlerfarm. I am no longer on Facebook.

Today I just wanted to share with you the friendship I made with Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist and author. We have very different lives, but love reading about each other's stories and experiences. When she saw I made soap on the farm she asked me if I could make skull soap? I wasn't sure, but said if she sent a mold I would try and mail her the soap! The deal was struck and she sent along this gem of a small mold. I gotta say, it looks really, really, good!

So this sheep farmer in NY will be mailing skull soaps to a doctor across the nation performing autopsies with the same pruning shears I use on my apple trees. It's a wild world, people.

Blood & Blossoms

This morning I woke up an hour earlier than usual. It wasn't even 7AM when the chores were done, the baby goat bottle fed, the kailyard seen to, and the dairy goats nibbling their hay, post milking. Perhaps a new spring record for me. It's a small victory to have the sheep grazing in the field and little chicks quiet with their feed before I even started sipping coffee. Take your smiles where you can get them. Gods know, they aren't being handed out.

I'm getting back my summer energy levels and it feels good. Last night around 6PM I headed out for a short 4-mile run and instead of feeling a chore it was delightful. Getting to the point where running is more pleasure than pain takes a while. It's a boon for the heart and body. And this morning, as the farm was sated and my body a little tired and ethereal (pre-caffeine) I took a moment to remember it is May Day.

On the apple trees where thousands of white blossoms coming out. What a beautiful promise of good things to come. I made sure to snap a picture. Starting my day having done good by my farm and taking a moment to revel in its beauty - that never is bad for the spirit. My agricultural to-do list on this day is the usual shepherding and checking on Marnie for her lambs (the only other sheep here who is pregnant, bad luck, so I need to buy in more for fleece and meat) - is to plant potatoes. The kailyard got in kale, broc, cauliflower and spinach. Peas are climbing up a container on the porch. But now is a time to plant spuds. A little chore like this every day adds up.

Happy May, everyone.

It's a world of difference from Friday. Friday morning there were no blossoms, just buds, and I walked out to the pigs’ pen feeling that hollowness of Harvest Day. I am used to seeing these beasts die but not comfortable with it. I pray I am never comfortable with it. Out of the five pigs that wintered here two were large enough to be slaughtered for the co-owners and I. The other three have a bit to go, but will be harvested as well. Soon the abattoir truck would arrive and men who know me from years of traveling-butcher work here will share pleasantries and catch up on stories before the bloody work starts. And then two cracks of a .22 will ring on the mountain, throats will be slit, blood will cover the hay below the large bodies, and the work of skinning, gutting, and halving will begin.


But at that morning visit the pigs were just happy to see their breakfast and I checked their bodies, ears, eyes and condition like I had every morning. Like I have for years of raising pork here. I felt that hollow feeling inside me. To the uninitiated, it might seem like guilt. It isn't. There isn't a drop of regret or doubt in the taking of lives raised on this mountain for food. It is the hallow, really. Not the emptiness of loss but the reverence of sacrifice. These are lives being taken in gratitude. These are lives being taken to feed myself, my friends, and to keep the farm moving forward. Hallow is the correct term. It still isn't comfortable.

That was just a few days ago, and now ravens gruk and swirl among the locust tree branches enjoying the discarded pieces, pelts, tails, and bones dumped far into the woods. I hear the coyotes and fishers at night. I know raccoons are running back across the creek with full bellies. I don't know if they understand the gift of the pigs like I do, but they aren't passing up the meal.

The days go on. The blossoms arrived. Summer is coming. May this day bring only luck.


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. It's also much needed between books. Very much. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stories Coming Atcha!

It's been quite the week! Since I last posted a new kid has been born, pigs have been slaughtered, sheep have been shorn, Merlin started cart training all over,  and I have hit the road again, running to get back into half marathon shape. My body is tired, my skin is redder, and the farm is cantering into summer.

I'll be sharing detailed stories of pigs, shearing, and cart training this week. I'll also be talking about my hate bakes - which is what I call the act of baking from scratch in this farmhouse, that I constantly fail at because of my inability to follow directions and my absolute disdain for details. All of you out there who enjoy baking will get a laugh out of it, I am sure. So more shortly, but right now this woman needs some coffee.


Monday, April 24, 2017

New Kid

Last night a nice couple came to take away the kids to their new home. The two goatlings were picked up and placed in the arms of a grandmother in the back seat of the two-door pickup truck. The older woman had raised goats in the past and when handed the little babes she glowed like a new mother. She knew how to hold a goat and I was happy to see them sold to a farming family that had generations of goat experience on hand. And so last night was the first night in a while without goat kids running around the farm house. It was so oddly quiet and calm.

And then Bonita gave birth to this big boy, just moments ago. Here we are again!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Marnie's Knocked Up

Marnie was not happy. The ewe was feisty, just flipped on her rump, and one of her horns was stuck in my bra. This was a very compromising situation for both of us but I wanted to see her nipples. The shearer would be here in a few days and I wanted to know who was and was not pregnant. She had a milk-filled udder and I beamed as a horn sliced into my skin. Within moments I had a new scratch and she was trotting back out to the field to join her flock mates. I shrugged, the trade of a little skin for that information was fair. More lambs were on the way.

The Sunday had been long. Starting at sunrise with milking and chores and plowing onward with extracting honey, feeding bottle kids, farm repairs and a short run. The sunshine was a drug. It had been so dark for so long and now there is grass and it feels like another world.

I had a lovely time with some readers yesterday who came for Chicken 101, a signed copy of Chick Days, and a tour of the farm. As muddy and brown as the mountain is right now, inside the farmhouse was delightful. The kids were bottle fed by the guests. They held chicks in their hand from the warm brooder as we went over feeding and housing and transitions from new homes to new coops. It was a lovely day. But today there was no company - just pregnant livestock and the thrusts of spring.

The hammock is hanging from the King Maple. I was out there with a cider as today wound down, listening to an audiobook when some friends drove past. Trevor and Alex were hiking mount Equinox in Vermont and when the saw me in out there they pulled in to say hello. I was glad to see them and little Malcolm (that’s what the little goat buck was named) ran up to them. We chatted as Merlin chomped hay behind them, the geese honked, and the farm started to turn green as we spoke. v Things feel better.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kids For Sale!

Goat Kids for sale! The kids here are healthy and hardy little dairy kids. They are Alpine(50%), and Nubian/Boer. I have one female and one male right now. All are $100 picked up now as bottle babies, or $150 if purchased post-weaning when they are on grain/hay. Please email me if you are interested. More kids expected soon!

Please share this on social media if you are in the Northeast area!


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You Gotta Have a System

The service at this bar is terrible...
I am getting back into the swing of morning chores. Today the whole drill took an hour, which is a hell of an improvement since the day after the kids were born. It took twice that after the hangover that is winter chores. How is it every single year it takes adjusting into spring? If you're interested in what a morning is like on this One Woman Farm right now, here's the AM rundown.

I wake up in a pile of collies and the occasional cat. Remember that scene in The Lion King where Simba jumps around the pile of lions to wake up his dad? It's like that, only Friday plays the role of Simba by pouncing around me, Gibson, and whatever feline was stupid enough to sleep with us instead of the guest bedroom. Growls and yowling ensue. We go downstairs and I let the dogs outside and let them relieve themselves while the cats bitch for kibble. I feed those two and set up a percolator on the stove. I feed the cats first both for reasons of low self esteem and volume control. The coffee pot is set on stove top and burner turned on. Primary mammals of House Woginrich all have their most-pressing needs met.

Next the birds in the living room brooder need clean bedding. Got to do this every AM unless I want the house to smell like a barn. (I use hay instead of wood chips - less dust and easier to access here.) The chicks get fresh water and chick feed. They are easy clean up and see to. The brooder has a divider so the new babies from the heroic postal worker (see last story post) are under a heat lamp and the older Silkie Bantams are off-lamp and enjoying some new treats now like freeze-dried mealworms! The ducks are outside, kinda. They are on the porch just outside the French Doors and have hay bedding to refresh too. They also get clean water and feed. This is the fastest way to take care of 40 animals* before coffee.

I join the dogs outside and feed the sheep and horse first. The sheep are mostly in a large pen now to give the grass a chance to grow. They get a bales of second cut  which are waiting in the back of the truck instead of the barn (time saver from the night before).  I make a note to call Othniel from Common Sense Farm about another hay delivery. He was supposed to come yesterday but it's spring at his farm too and he just had a new baby girl! Mazel Tov!

Merlin comes running from the far field at the site of me carrying hay up to the sheep. Gods, that is a beautiful sight. He has the entire 3-acre field to run around on. I was looking at him this morning in the rainy mud and fog. His strong outline on the shockingly green hillside. He was born in the wilds of Cumbria on rolling hills. Now he has found a home with his own space that must feel something like it. I know a lot of horses who spend their days in stalls and tiny turn-out paddocks. Merlin can run full speed across his own mini-moor. It makes me happy.

Next up are goats, birds, and pigs. The pigs are fed and checked in on. Their water and bedding replaced. They are on their way to freezer camp soon, in pairs, by appointment. The two biggest go first next weekend.

My entire flock of chickens are free ranging. They have feeding stations though, and I make sure all the birds have access to a mix of bird chow and scratch grains. No one comes running to it since they are all around the stream eating the small worms brought up from the rain last night. Who wants cereal when theirs sausages? The geese also don't care. They are eating grass by the kitchen garden and Saro is still resting on a large nest of eggs. Fingers crossed.

Aya Cash is in her mews, head tucked back asleep. She was fed yesterday evening and won't need dinner till later. I just make sure she's okay.

Bonita was still pregnant and showing no signs of labor so there was nothing to do with her but get her some hay for breakfast. Ida was ready for milking. Here is where we need to give it up for Ida. She doesn’t even need a stanchion or to be tied up. Right in her pen I set a pail below her, squatted on my haunches, and milked her out in 4 minutes. If I was using the milk for myself or cheese or anything humans would consume it would be a far more intense ordeal of stanchion, udder washing, massage, milking, and then back into the pen. Right now I am quickly getting her bag empty for some quickly-strained kid milk and some soap practice batches. Made the first trial batch yesterday and am happy with them! Now 85+ animals** are cared for before coffee. I really want that coffee.

The years of Goatery involved in that last sentence are astounding. I swear this is why People homestead. The satisfaction I got from that quick chore was on par with the half marathon I ran in September. Why? Because Ida was born here. I bred this goat, raised this goat, trained this goat to be milked calmly, got this goat a buck to breed her, and now she has given me both kids to sell and/or raise and milk in the pail. It took a while to learn to milk well (a season if I am honest), but now this small chore makes me feel like a low-rent superhero.

Only after everyone outside is sated, watered, milked, and settled in does the farm go from rowdy to silent. Everyone is eating now. I can hear the songbirds. A raven from this farm's mated pair flies across the sky above me. Everything is gray and wet I wish it was bright and sunny. I grab my camera from inside and take pictures of the spring flowers. Friday pees on them while I try this. The flowers are still pretty among all this mud.

Chores are mostly done. I go inside the farm house and it smells like sacred coffee. It is amazing.

Before I make my cup I pour the fresh milk into bottles and feed the kids, who are now wide awake. They eat and  jump around the farmhouse. After their bellies are full I put them outside with Gibson to babysit while I take out their pee pads and replace them with fresh dry ones. I woke up an hour earlier. I can feel myself wanting to crawl back into bed. This means finally making a large mug of coffee, which I do with the gratitude of the ages. It tastes amazing and I sip it slowly.

Soon the kids are back inside and ready for another nap. These early goatling days are just bursts of play, milk, and then another stretch of sleep. The dogs get their breakfast now. They eat bowls of kibble and I refresh my cup. I give myself some time for news, politics, pop culture and videos of last night's Late Night talk shows. I check on my horcruxes. I write this blog post. In a short while a long stretch of design work will follow. I make notes of mechanic & farrier appointments, clients to catch up with, that hay delivery to remind about, and general life notes. I write my to-do list and income goals down on paper, my boss. The day is just starting and I have maintained a kingdom before caffeine. It feels lucky and right.

Thanks for coming along on morning chores with me!

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Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. 

 *30 chicks, 5 ducklings, 2 dogs, 2 cats, one primate. Goat kids are still sleeping in dog crate.

** 9 sheep, 5 pigs, 2 adult goats, 30+ mixed poultry, and a hawk.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book, Soap, and Art!

Farm Combo for auction! Signed copy of CAF, original drawing of Gibson (which he signed, too) & goats milk soap! Bidding starts at $30! You just leave your bid in the comments and highest bid between here and twitter wins. If you don't want to bid publicly, email me. Shipping is $6

The Heroic Postal Worker

I am not sure if there is much wisdom in leaving a house with two dogs, two cats, thirty chickens, and two goats in your living room, but I had laundry to do.

One of the skills you hone as a feral mountain woman is how to manage April. It's a month of extreme ramping-up on a homestead. Unlike growers who deal with the madness of June here in the Northeast - April is the monster month for small livestock farms. This barnyard was fallow for months. Now it is bursting with new lives, sunshine, and possibilities. It's as exciting as it is exhausting. It's also dirty work and I had some laundry to do. If I put it off any longer I'd stop passing for a human woman.

So I left the house with all that going on inside and I wasn't worried. The chicks were in a brooder with a secure wire cage top. The goats had just filled their bellies with milk and had spent and hour running around - and were now asleep in a dog crate on pee pads. The cats were asleep in an upstairs bedroom, having no interest in watching chick TV with dogs hogging the remote. And Gibson and Friday are adults. I trust them home alone together. I loaded the pickup with a basket of laundry and some Tide, started up, and headed down the mountain.

As I was heading south a small black hatchback came up the road. Seeing other cars on this road is rare to begin with so that raised some eyebrows. And since everyone who lives up here knows the vehicles of the neighbors - this wasn't one of us. The guy inside was making a face usually reserved for telling people there’s a shark in the water. He locked eyes with me and I recognized him, but not sure of from where? He waved at me and stopped in the road. I backed up my truck to meet his window.

“I thought it was you!” He exclaimed. “So glad I caught you, been calling all day, I have your chickens.”

This was a surprise since I had called the P.O. yesterday to check on their delivery and they said no chicks had arrived yet. Confused, I went back into my emails and dug up the note from the hatchery. It said the birds would be delivered on the 18th, and arrive 24-48 hrs later. Okay, so the 19th was the soonest they could arrive and since it was the 18th I had one less thing to worry about today. Yeah! Clean Laundry! Human Woman!

Only it wasn’t the 18th. It was the 19th. I had the date wrong. Let’s hear it for me.

He wasn't able to call me (since clearly it was the 18th), I had unplugged my landline so I could write without interruptions. I also despise talking on the phone to anyone. I'm not alone there, I'm sure. So the calls didn't get through. My landline is rarely plugged in.

But it worked out. Timing is everything, and we caught each other and the birds were just fine. If you never ordered poultry in the mail - know they come in an impossibly little box. This isn’t cruel,—as the birds themselves are so small three chicks can fit in the palm of my hand—but shocking when you know the space 25 adult hens take up. It's a time-travel clown car, chicken post boxes.

They also aren’t starving or suffering in the post, since they JUST came out of their eggs with a full yolk sack. You can read more about the safety of shipping chicks here, if you are interested.

I thanked the postal worker profusely, who had decided to deliver them himself after his shift instead of letting them spend another night in the travel box. (Talk about a good guy.) I turned the truck around and put the new plucky birds in the brooder with the Silkies (who seemed pissed about their spacious digs becoming a nursery) and made sure everyone had food and water and a warm place to tuck in.

Then I did head off to my friend’s home to enjoy some human company and do some laundry. Because managing April is a task I get better at every year, and it deserves clean sheets.

(I will be baking a pie for this post office.)

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. No chicks were hurt in the typing of this blog post. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Full House

It’s been a long morning. I was up at 6:30, but that isn’t early enough. I was still washing dairy pails and trying to train the kids to take the bottle (one has it down!) two hours later. The farm is now bursting with new life and animals. Chores that took twenty minutes a few weeks ago now take hours. There's so much more to do and while that is exciting — it is humbling realizing how beat I felt by 10AM.

Nothing whips you into homestead shape like April. Brooders, duckling pens, seedlings, kids, feeding schedules, lambing, kidding. I called the post office around 8AM and found out the chicks have not arrived yet, but I was fully prepared to settle in 25 chickens in my living room among nickering goat kids learning how to use their fancy new legs. Life is messy right now. And loud. But as the morning is winding down and I’ve scratched a few items off my to-do list, I feel a bit of breathing room. I'm checking in with you.

The kids are a cross of purebred Alpine does and a Nubian/Boer cross buck. They are big and hearty. They are also for sale, since I don't think I will be keeping a kid going into fall. At least now these two kids. The doe is the one with the erect ears and she is $100, the buckling is $75.

I am expecting Bonita to kid soon. Between office work and chores I poke my head into her pen and can already see she is nesting and preparing for the delivery shortly. In a few days this house will be quite the menagerie.

I have a couple coming for some chicken 101 classes this weekend and besides the chicks indoors and signed books waiting for them - they are going to be slammed with cute overload. Goat kids are adorable, just little deer-like pixie beasts that flop around the house. It's a real happy check I can cash in, every single time I hold them. I hope the sun is shining and they see how amazing a backyard flock can be!


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Photo of the very frazzled me taken by Patty Wesner.

Logo and Illustration Sale!

Hey there readers, this farm has got to make some income and fast, so if you are in the need of a logo or want to commission a pet illustration, this is a great time to support the farm and I'm offering sale rates to encourage you! My illustration style is very much like American Animation, which adds some whimsy and fun to the artwork.

Logos and illustrations are on sale and a fun way to give a very special gift. Logos are great for small businesses (the goat logo you see here is custom art by me and on a food truck in California!), events like family reunions, and graduates looking for a special touch to a resume. Rates are flat. I do the work between farm responsibilties (between chores)

Custom pet illustrations are drawn, colored, and mailed to your home and suitable for framing. Gift cards for logos or illustrations can be bought at a lesser expense now and used when you are ready in the future. If you are interested please send me an email.

Payments are made via Paypal and super easy to use!

Also, I have some really adorable goat kids you can buy....

Monday, April 17, 2017

TWINS!

Ida gave birth to two gorgeous twins! A doe and buck, and both are healthy and BIG!

The Big F

Woke up early this morning to get a jump-start on work here at the home office. Proud to say that by 8AM I had finished all the farm chores, got work done with three design clients, and just came in from checking on my dirigibles in the goat pen. The Silkie chicks in the farmhouse are feathering out and growing bolder. The Khaki Campbell ducklings are outside in a little pen. A new shipment from Stromberg’s Poultry shows up early this week with a pile of heavy layers. I am planning on keeping a dozen or so and raising the rest to sell as started pullets for backyard chicken keepers in the area. I find that a lot of people are willing to pay $15-$30 for a healthy and laying young bird instead of the hassle of keeping a brooder and time that goes into raising them the first five months. If I play my cards right that will cover the last bits of the Kiva Loan for the pickup I bought a while back.

All is well here. Well, mostly so. The usual low-grade panic settings are purring along. I have ran out of creamer and am drinking my breakfast black, but besides that I can’t complain. Complaints are rolling in about leaving Facebook, though, but only from my mom.

Guys, I deactivated my Facebook account for my own mental health. It was too much. Too many people to keep track of, too many groups, clubs, conversations, and updates. I was spending too much time on social media and was starting to get creeped out by the weird messages from guys, people monitoring when I was online, and the politics of strangers. It got to the point where every single time I signed on to Facebook I was gritting my teeth hoping to just check my messages and sign off fast as possible. Also, Facebook was a place that made me feel bad by the constant comparisons I was forcing into my head. I would wake up perfectly happy and content with my lot in life and then fifteen minutes of scrolling through people's life advertisements and I was questioning my choices. Enough.

I am a little nervous about the audience there not coming here to check in on the blog, but not enough to sign back up. Nothing gets me more defiant than someone threatening me, and Facebook felt like a threat these past few years. This abusive partner explaining that if I leave I'll end up up alone and broke in the street without the constant updates of random pregnancies, dead dog announcements, and vacation photos. I'm active as hell on Twitter though, and urge you to follow me there for many daily updates, farm photos, etc. I'm @coldantlerfarm

So I'm off the addiction that is The big F. I’ll build up my readership on other platforms, get more work published in larger media formats, revamp this site instead of neglecting it for the dopamine rush of Facebook, a keep going. I am nothing if not a master of keeping on. 

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Good Things

I snuck this photo of Gibson, watching the goat's pen in the barn. He is looking in the direction of the sounds of grunts and nickering from Bonita and Ida on the other side of the wall. We spent an hour there this morning. I sat on a bale of hay in the warm light of spring. Gibson lay at my feet, his tail wagging softly. I brought my banjo, a gift mailed to me years ago by a sweet reader. She saw I had to sell my old banjo when things got tight, and wanted to replace it. There was a catch, though. She made me promise to never sell it. We both kept our word. It's one of my most treasured things. It's older than the dog in the photo, I believe.

In that sunny barn I played waltzes and old-timey tunes. They were not perfect but the more I practiced the easier they came. The goats couldn't stop watching me when I started to strum but about ten minutes later they made nests in their straw-lined pen and chewed cud. Any moment a kid might be born to the sounds of songs as old as this farm.

As I was playing. As my dog lay beside me. As the goats chewed. As the sun warmed my back. As the music swirled from the barn - as all this happened an Ameraucana hen was laying an egg in a nesting box a few feet away. I could hear the grunts of the pigs in the distance. The sheep on the hill baaed. Merlin snorted. My small world felt safe and perfect.

I have set up my entire life to facilitate moments like this - and I am telling you even with all those ten-thousand decisions - perfect moments are rare. All the more reason to love them, pray they come again, share them here.

I hope your Sundays are full of good things.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors.

Learn The Fiddle (and take one home) for $200

Have you always wanted to play the fiddle or shoot a bow?  I am offering one-on-one classes here at the farm. These are half or full-day events meant for complete beginners in archery or fiddling. You can come not knowing how to read music or nock an arrow, (in fact I prefer it) and leave with a your new instrument or bow in hand. The point is to come with an open mind and a sense of humor. I have yet to have a fiddle or archery student not leave this farm being schooled enough to play a tune or hit a target. This is a chance to learn a skill, support the farm like me, and come see the beautiful mess that is CAF. Right now, you can sign up for a half day with fiddle or bow for $200.

Both day's cost includes the tools needed -  fiddle (plus case, bow, supplies) or longbow (for your right or left hand, string, 3 arrows). If you buy a workshop as a gift in the next few days I'll overnight you a hand-painted postcard to give to the receiver. Classes are set up by you so a day in the spring, summer, or fall you wish to learn and travel here is up to you. Can be set up after the holidays!

If interested email me!

Bitches & Honey

Life aint nothing but bitches and honey
Woke up early and excited to run to the barn and check on the girls. The sun was out, the weather was warmer than it’s been in weeks, and yesterday I managed a 10k without blisters causing me to limp around the farm for a few days. (Which is what happened earlier in the week when I ran five miles last weekend without the right socks. Guys, I was feeling good and I didn’t even have coffee yet. Magic happens.

Still no kids, but possibility is thick in the air. The does are at the point where they are rubbing and biting their bellies, grunting, leaking viscous fluids and have udders tight as drums. In my years of goat breeding experience with Alpines, I have learned this means kidding can happen in fifteen minutes or two weeks.

I have some good news to share! This month I have been working my tail off acquiring design clients and a few illustration ones. Thanks to that and some budgeting I have been able to catch up on some bills this April. That is a BIG deal and a sigh of relief. I am now just one payment behind on the farm, and when I can manage that I will officially turn into Wonder Woman and ascend to a higher astral plane. Well, probably not, but I won’t have as much trouble sleeping at night. It all feels close enough to touch.

March and April were emotionally exhausting here. The combination of the end of a long dark winter, bad news, and the very shaking state of the farm caused enough anxiety to make cocaine look adorable by comparison. (I’ve never done cocaine, but from what I hear it’s expensive self-absorbed anxiety on-demand.) I was fraught. I am still focused and promoting logo sales, fiddle lessons, archery classes, and illustrations like mad on Social Media. Also - I am deleting my Facebook account as soon as I gather the courage to do so, so please do follow me on twitter @coldantlerfarm if you want 5-20 updates, quips, farm pics, and such a day. There’s a lot more about the farm there. Like this pic I posted of Friday with a small frame from the hive. The bees didn’t survive the winter, but they will be replaced and honey harvested for mead!

If you need to contact me outside facebook please use twitter or just email me. Easy!


Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It really helps. You have no idea how much it helps.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Waiting on Kids

Right now I am keeping a close eye on my does. This back of Bonita shows you how ready to pop they are. I am hoping for 2 sets of twins. I just got back inside from my night rounds of the field/barn/mews and both ladies in the goat pen were laying down on their straw chewing cud, absolutely not giving birth. Today was sunny and kind, weatherwise, and I was in that barn between freelance work and breaks to ride and run. Still no kids, but it should be soon.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Thank You

Readers,

Every once in a while I will suggest you consider subscribing to this blog. It's entirely free to read the posts here, see the pictures, and share the adventure. It always will be. But all authors, artists, musicians, and creators depend on the people who appreciate their work to be patrons on some level.

If you own my books, thank you. If you share my blog posts, thank you. If you have come to a workshop or event here, thank you. And if you simply want to kick in $5 a month towards feed and hay - I thank you. It's a small way to both encourage me and help keep the lights on.

Like NPR stations, I'll be here to tune into whether you wish to subscribe and be a patron or not. But I do ask if you enjoy what you read here and do not already subscribe - to consider it. Or if you stopped subscribing for whatever reason, you sign back up. This is a time that the farm needs support from those who wish to see it remain the home of Cold Antler.  Please only do so if you feel the writing has value (as entertainment, inspiration, etc) and you can manage it.

Thank you,
-j


Spring's Inside

Outside this farmhouse it has been gray and muddy and unpleasant as can be. April's always unpleasant. It's a month of messy transition and as far away from October as possible. I always feel a little lost in April. I decided to bring spring indoors. Why wait?

There is a happy little brooder with chicks and ducklings. Khaki Campbells and Silkie Bantams. A few weeks ago I planted some snap pea seeds in a large container near the glass windows.I cleaned up, restrung, and tuned my banjo and I have learned it is nearly impossible to feel down when you can hear the chirping of babe fowl beside bright banjo rills. There's new life, seedlings, music and a house no longer in need of constant fires to keep it warm. Hunting season is over for my hawk and she is enjoying this pre-molt feast in her off season. There's a rumor next week will bring sunshine and days in the 70s. If that is so I will celebrate with some longer runs out in this beloved county of farms and fields. Everything is coming back to life.

Still waiting on the rest of the lambs in the flock. But while I wait for them, looks like Bonita and Ida are ready to start having kids in the next few weeks, perhaps even sooner. I don't want to anticipate it too soon, but I am washing to milking pails and getting baby bottles prepped. Kids will be such a fun thing to have in the house and if they arrive before the big Poultry Swap in May - will be easy to sell. I am toying with the idea of keeping one male to castrate as a pack animal trained for hiking. Just toying. But the combination of mountain breeds and sturdiness of Boer, Nubian and Alpine will create a very handsome beast indeed.

Also, just a note. If you want to see daily updates, three times as many photos, and lots of other stuff about my interests and personality - follow me on Twitter. I hope to phase off of Facebook soon. I'm @coldantlerfarm there.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Getting It

Goals aren’t stories. This is tricky because we so want them to be. Books, movies, marathons - we’ve been trained to see all of our achievements as ending points. Doesn’t matter if it’s your everyday life or a TV show you’re watching to distract yourself from it; we see a goal met and want that to be the stopping point. Kill the bad guy. Kiss the crush. Happily Ever After or a morality play - we don’t care. We just want to know how it ends. We worship ends.

If you’ve been reading my story for a long time, you’re rare. Most people stopped once I bought this property. Makes sense. Act 1: Girl falls in love with farming. Act 2: Rented Farm is threatened! Act 3: Girl figures out how to buy her own farm. The happy ending.

But it wasn’t the end. That one goal was met before I even knew myself. The following seven years on this land and what has happened within them have changed me more than everything and everyone who happened before it.

The Getting It isn’t us. It isn’t our story. Think of something you worked your ass off to accomplish? Congratulations on getting it. You graduated from that school. You landed that job. You married that person. You earned that tax bracket. You named that baby. You signed that deed. Then what? Did credits roll the theater lights come on? Of course they did because even when a part of your story is neatly tied up and notarized, life goes on. It's called Tuesday.

Goals are called milestones for a reason - they're just marking points. I don't care how large or small your dreams are - they're chapters at best. Your story is never what you did, it's what you're doing next. It is always what's ahead. Sometimes it's tangible things like plane tickets and sometimes it's a sum of intentions. A goal can be a passport. It can also be forgiveness.

Take everything you ever did that you are proud of and write it down in order as it happened. All those goals - intended or imposed - can probably be contained in one word. That's what I think the point of this messy life is, to learn your book's title as a trait noun. What do all those little movies and chapter titles add up to for you? When you close the book what one word could tell it all? Victim? Leader? Outcast? Cynic? Charmer? You only get one word for a book title and you don't even get to pick it. Other people do. It's how you're going to be remembered.

But if tonight was it? If this was when your book closed - what would your title be? If you're honest with yourself, really honest, it means you have the ability to still change it.

Over the years I have watched my own title change from Dreamer to Fool and now it is deeply embossed as Fighter. There is pride in that but mostly fear. The pride is in resourcefulness. It's in the quiet thrill of still being here on this farm living a creative life. But the majority of it is fear. Fighting is fucking scary. It's knowing you are going to get hit over and over again and at any moment I could tap out. I don't know how much more of this Endurance Test I can take.

The main sense of comfort I get is from realizing anyone who has ever made it in any of the arts did so by not stopping. Few people get lucky. "Overnight sensations" have been auditioning for ten years or have enough rejection letters from publishers to insulate their bathrooms. And my bar for success isn't anywhere near that lofty. I just want to get to a place in my professional life as a farming writer that going to bed means excitement about tomorrow instead of the gut punch fear of losing it. Solvent would be a dream book title.

All I know is tonight I want to keep Fighter and there's some serious comfort in that. It means that even alone and late into the evening, I'm not folding.  It means success, however defined, is more believable than failure. That's the only reason to fight, isn't it?

If every goal I make from now on is riddled with claw marks, so be it.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution.