Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Windy Rides

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bookstores on Main Street

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

That was one of those moments you never forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is good.

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014


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

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

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

So I sang to my horse in upstate New York.

Love & Wine

Thanks kjc, I love it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Help & Win a Fiddle!

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

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

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

A Girl & Her Bird

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This Old Life

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

What. A. Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I tried at least.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picking a Name Today!

I'll pick a name today for this litte girl, so get in any last minute inspirations! I'll update later today with a video of her and her chosen name from the list in the comments of this post. Add some more!

Here is the contest: This little gal needs a name! Let's make it a contest again, too! Suggest as many names as you like, leaving one per comment (each comment is a contest entry) and my favorite will be picked. The winner will receive their choice of either a signed copy of any of my books or a free workshop here at the farm! Enter away!

If you don't have any name ideas but still want to win a free book or workshop pass, then how about spreading the word about this little farm's newest book, properaly named: Cold Antler Farm from Roost Books!

Cold Antler Farm by Jenna Woginrich from Roost Books on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Turkey Love

In the morning my hands smell like mint and are so smooth they feel as if they belong to a version of me from long ago. No longer the cracked and hardened hands of a woman who works outdoors every day of her life, but the silky hands of the girl lounging on a lifeguard roost, watching children in the community pool at age 16. So what is this elixir of youth? This magical hand cream? It's Dynamint Udder Balm.

Yes, nipple cream. I have been using it after every milking of Bonita. The minty lotion is a nice end to the ritual and a nice treat for me as well. My hands feel wonderful and so far there isn't a single chaff or sign of wear on the gal's teats. Score one for the farm. Hands and goat nipples are soft as lifeguards in the nineties. Glory be.

In just as scandalous news: the new turkey hens have ventured from the barn and have been getting a lot of advances from the gentlemen. Lucas, my big Bronze, was putting on the ritz for the new girls. The hens didn't seem interested but you can't deny the man's style. I will leave you tonight with this image of love. Or, something like it.

Besides all this sordid news on the farm I have some good news for you readers! I have been offered a few very cool giveaways from a few of the blog sponsors. Expect to see chickens, garden supplies, cheese making kits, and more up for the taking here in the next few weeks of April! So check back and check back often to make sure you do not miss out. Someone has to win, so it might as well be you!

Workshops for New ChickenFolk!

Well, it's that time of year again! I am announcing the spring chicken and backyard livestock workshops. I hope to see some new faces at these! I will be hosting two different workshops about chickens. One is all about raising laying hens for those curious about what it all entails. The other is about raising meat birds and includes a demonstration of home slaughter and butchering. A general backyard livestock workshop for folks considering the homesteading lifestyle and want to have a primer with a non-stop Q&A session all day will follow. Below are the names and dates of all the events!

Breakfast in the Backyard
May 17th 2014

This is an introduction to keeping laying hens! There will be chicks present, human and fowl kind alike. It's a full day from 10AM till 4PM at the farm, enjoying cuddly little ones (the fowl kind) and learning everything you need to know to get started with this gateway drug livestock. This is crash course in how to raise backyard chickens for beginners, answering questions and sharing experiences. This is a great opportunity for people who just need that friendly push to take the plunge into the poultry world. No experience with chickens needed to attend, and I am confident anyone leaving CAF that day will go home with confidence that they can raise their peeps to laying hens come fall.

The workshop will start at 10AM and start with group intros and talk on how I came into birds and how they changed me into the homesteader I am today There will be a tour of the coop and farm and more discussions on housing, healthcare, and a Q&A period as well. I would also like to host a group discussion about the importance of self-reliance and the first steps of adding animal husbandry to our modern backyards: both for food security and local production. It will be a day of like minds, baby chickens, farm animals, and probably a fiddle tune or two.

BBQ in the Backyard
May 18th 2014

I will also do a workshop on small-scale meat bird production. This all day events (also 10-4) will include a talk and instruction in home processing of poultry for the larger with a live demonstration. You’ll go home knowing exactly which boning knife to buy at the kitchen store and my secret leg loop trick for hanging fowl by their feet without a fuss. All the basics of raising backyard meat will be covered, but the bulk of the day will be on how to safely and humanely turn animals into food. (Trust me, I am an expert on the SAFE part after a mistake with a gall bladder and food poisoning). This will take place on the farm, too.

All workshops are limited to ten people, and slots are filled when the workshop is paid for to secure your space. If you want to come to both workshops, that is fine too. There is a discount for couples who attend both and singles who attend both - with added discounts if you are already a Clan Cold Antler member. For details on such savings email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cruel Staff

I will never be a cat person. Their nature is too aloof, too indulgent, too cruel, and too selfish for my taste. But I do respect these little beasts. It takes an aloof, indulgent, cruel and selfish animal to do the work they do around here - which is to kill as many mice and barn rats as possible. Before I had cats I had mice in the house and rats in the barn. Now I rarely have either. A lot less voles, sparrows, and baby squirrels too! So I appreciate cats and take care of my boys, Boghadair and Yeti, but they remain employees. I think they are content with the arrangement.

2. Hens. 3 Days. 1088 Emails.

The weekend was a blur. A good blur, though. I spent it with friends and laughter, a workshop with eager people, and even got my taxes done on Sunday. But the entire time I was teaching, farming, traveling and enjoying good company I was without email or ease of blogging. Today a Verizon truck came and replaced a broken DSL phone line that was windworn outside the farm house and now I am back. I do apologize, as I have over a thousand emails to catch up on and a few stories to share as well.

I'll start with the tale of the Two Troubled Turkeys! That photo is me, grinning up at the camera because I'm excited to have some new additions to Cold Antler. My bachelor toms (Lucas and Bob Fedell) back at the farm were about to meet their hot dates. I had worked out a barter with Common Sense Farm for two hens and today was the day to pick them up. I was told where to find the hens and that I could scoop them up any time and just take them home. So today I did that with the help of my friend Patty. We grabbed the hens, set them in the backseat of the truck, and I brought them home to my barn where I set them up in a stall with some food and water while they got acclimated to their new mountainside residence.

Then I got a call from Othniel, who had heard that I got the turkeys. Turns out, I had the WRONG turkeys. I had grabbed the two Sweetgrass hens instead of the Narragansett. Being unfamiliar with the breeds (I have Bourbon Reds and Bronze) I knew they were white and black, grayish, females and grabbed the smaller ones in the pen. But the sweetgrass were part of Common Senses breeding group and their eggs being collected for this years hatchery. Had my ladies the time to "court" with Lucas or Bob it would mess up an entire operation for a while. Good news was neither Bob or Lucas found their way into the girls' pen and a quick capture, drive, and switch was done to get the other two hens. Whew.

So now Cold Antler has a small starter flock of breeding turkeys. I am hoping these year-old hens are willing to take on the job of raising up some little ones. It may take a whole year, time to adjust and become a solid group, but that is okay. I think the hens will do a far better job than I would brooding turkeys and keeping an eye on them on this free range farm. I have learned that the best predator deterrent is letter the Fox take the less crafty animals and the natural selection of clever birds be the breeding stock. This is why there are no buff orpingtons or Wyandotte clutches born here. Just the near-wildness of the Antlerborns that have junglefowl blood and mothers that raise eggs in barn rafter nests and perch in trees. Those are from a cross of an old fighting cock variety called the Pumpkin Hulsey and Swedish Flower Hens and Araucanas. The combination makes a fine bird for this scrappy farm.

So the hens are here and the boys are fanning and gobbling outside the barn, excited as teenagers in blue suits waiting to pick up their prom dates. The little lambs are romping and playing (still choosing a name for the ewe lamb!). I am getting ready for Arrows Rising and working a part time job for my old employer, telecommuting from the farm. The snow is melting and the sun comes out from time to time and it almost makes this horrible and wicked month worth it when it does.

Oh! And my Lannisters are back. I missed them.

In other news: This past winter my size 14 pants slid off without undoing the button and zipper. Now my size 12s wont stay on without a belt! Losing weight through old fashioned diet and exercise. Running, martial arts, farming, and saying no to junk foods of all sorts. After trying gluten free diets, paleo, and everything else under the sun I have learned that my body doesn't need rules. It needs love. It needs someone who cares enough to listen to what it craves, enjoy that good food, and not eat in excess. It needs a lot of physical sweat and effort, too. So I now enjoy homemade breads, local greens, vegetables and fruits, meat, rich goat cheeses, and whole milk but I do not eat much of these things, and have pretty much stopped eating dinner. A good breakfast and lunch is all I want and long runs and a glass of cider with friends in the weekend evenings. I feel much better all around. No goal weight or "special jeans" in a drawer waiting for my smaller rump to fill them. Just living better and letting that take me where it does. I look forward to it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stand By!

Friends! I am sorry for my lack of posting recently! My Internet service has been down and I am waiting its restoration. I am updating from my phone right now (satellites seem to be more dependable than phone lines these days...). Besides network issues I hosted a weekend guest, caught a nasty cold, and held a great workshop Saturday with new faces and grand energy! So things are good and I hope to be updating again by tonight. Stay tuned!