Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Early Morning Hay, Fiddlers, and Wool Shares

Shortly, I'll be on the road to buy some hay. Coffee in my thermos, dog riding shotgun, music and news on the radio. It's Patty and Steele's big day at the County Fair and I hope to go and help her tack, groom, and watch from the railings as she and her horse strut their stuff! Rain is in the forecast, but I think this day goes on rain or shine, so I'll probably be there with camera and a poncho. This is a sadness that can easily be fixed with a Bloomin' Onion. Or so I hear tale...

Fiddle Camp is THIS WEEKEND! Looks sunny and gorgeous all around! Be here by 10AM and be ready for a whole new life of music, tunes, campfire jams and new friends! I'll remind you to bring a camp chair, your lesson book, tuner, and spare strings and get ready for a weekend of music and your new instruments! I have a dozen fiddles here waiting for their new owners and I'll start tuning them up tomorrow and checking out each one individually to make sure all is well and ready for your eager hands! This is one of my favorite weekends of the whole year!

On another important note: farmers make mistakes. I know I sure make mistakes. The wool CSA and Webinars I hosted a few years ago were just such mistakes. I have sent out emails to folks about their wool products last night and this morning, but have only heard back from three so far. If you did not get an email from me because communications changed, please email me for a refund for anything you would like your money back for and it will be paid by December 2014. I am honestly trying to remedy this to the best of my ability. I thank you for your patience and valued the good faith you made those purchases with.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jasper!

Small but Mighty! Jasper, my 11.2 hand POA being ridden by Joanna T. He trail rides, trailers, good with feet and farrier, Amish broke, high spirited, drives, and looks snappy. He's for sale to the right home. Will have his coggins updated before sale as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

BIRCHTHORN IS FUNDED! THANK YOU!

I was in the shower, getting ready for Saratoga's Author Event when my phone rang. I knew what it was about, had to be about! It was patty who just watched the Kickstarter Campaign fly past the goal and wanted to share in the excitement. I was not able to grab the whole but got in touch with her quick, we were both so happy and relieved. We all did it, guys! We made the goal! What this means is I am officially an employed writer again! It means I will have a creative job, a means to get ready for winter, and Cold Antler Farm will be avoiding the wolves at the door! This has been a anxious, nerve wracking and wonderful process. THANK YOU ALL!

There are still four days left in the campaign, so you still have four days to become a part of this story. This is the pre-order process, guys. This is how you get this book. You can choose an ebook, paperback, or special hardcover. There are limited copies left, I think only 167 paperbacks and 51 hardcovers. I don't have plans to yet to make this available outside Kickstarter or bought here at workshops in person. So if you want to hear this story consider just getting an electronic copy. And if you want to be a part of writing it, grab one of those last paperbacks! You can still pledge to be in the story itself, too! There are four spots left!

And anything raised over the goal goes towards making more books, making a BETTER website for the project, and keeping this farm a safe place for the animals and human alike. So be a part of this. Help tell a story. And have a physical book in your family you can always tell your kids and grandchildren YOU helped write! A spooky story, a good thrill, and a fun way to spend this long winter - creating a monster in a farm community of the past.

GET ON THIS HORSE CART WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

98% FUNDED!

The Kickstarter for Birchthorn is down to the less than $250 to reach completion! If that mark is met not only will this community project begin right after the campaign ends, but emails will be sent out to all who donated letting them know how to get involved! Know that there is a limited number of books available and being printed, very limited. The only way to guarantee you get a copy is to pledge for one in the next 5 days. If you pledged for an ebook, you might want to adjust it to the paperback level so you can be a part of the private blog writing the story! But even if you just kick in a dollar or two you are helping make this project go from idea and flirtation to actual reality, and helping this farm in ways you just can't realize. So I urge you to help us push past the finish line!

PLEDGE HERE

Northshire Reading Was a Celebration!

Manchester last night was so lovely! The author space was packed, chairs filled, and the audience was full of friends and strangers alike, some traveling as far as Wisconsin! I read from Cold Antler Farm, a few passages, and then there was a nice, long, conversational Q&A with supportive and energetic folks of all ages. I saw old friends from my office days I had not seen in ages. I met fans from all over the area, and Nation! And I got to spend a lot of time taking photos, signing books, laughing, and drinking that amazing Mocha Joe's coffee that have on tap over there in the Spiral Press Cafe. It was a lovely part of the CAF tour and books were sold in numbers. I was so glad to be there and look forward to returning with my next book!

A Day in the Country!

I handed Eric the lines and showed him where to stand behind Merlin. My horse was in full harness, his tugs attached by chains to a single tree which was loaded with small logs. Eric is a science teacher  in Greenwich, Connecticut and I don't know if he ever helped harness and drive a draft animal before, but he took those long lines and told Merlin to "Walk on" and I was so proud of this person I didn't know the day before. He was steady and true, Merlin walked straight, and I think I saw the beginnings of a couple's decision to someday own a working horse. I could almost here the spark ignite.

Eric and Christine came for an Indie Day on Thursday, it was mild and partly sunny but the rain did not show up and stop our fun. We spend the morning learning the basics of archery and shot at a target in the high field. We extracted honey from my beehive and poured the liquid gold into jars in my kitchen. Lunch for them was in the little cafe in town and then they returned to meet Merlin and ride, drive, and see the cart hooked up and trotting down the road. After all that we still had time to let the goats run and play in the yard until evening milking. They got to squeeze out some milk, get nickered at and their jeans tugged on, but were all smiles. It all wrapped up with watching Gibson and the sheep in their small hill pasture, Gibson herding and heckling and the sheep munching on fallen apples and grass. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday, if you ask me.

Indie Days are great in general, one-on-one instruction with folks who know me through the blog and want to experience what they read about. It was wonderful meeting Christine and Eric, and when they left with hugs and thank-yous I was the truly grateful one. For their support, of course and their friendliness - but also for their beer. Because Eric is a master home brewer and he left a large bottle of the best stout I have ever drank in my entire life! It was a borderline religious experience. After my first big pull from the pint glass I am sure I swore an oath. Holy Crow, it was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Or, so I thought…

When chores were done and the animals all content I was getting ready to call it a night after that good day's work. But I felt the urge to text friends, Patty and Mark, and ask if I could swing by later that evening? I just wanted to kick back with friends. A few hours later I was in their kitchen, talking over a glass and eating a hamburger with a side of beans from the garden.

After a good meal (there went my juice fast….) we decided to go outside and get her horse, Steele, a ton of Percheron, out of his pasture and saddled up. Patty wanted to see how a new Aussie saddle felt on the lad. While she tacked up I had this wild idea in my head. Patty saddled the horse and liked the new furniture and when she got off I asked if I could try it out as well? Patty cocked her head a little to the side, but said okay. I NEVER ask to ride her horse. She's 5'10 and built like a goddess from another age. I am a hobbit, at best.

The last time I rode Steele was two years ago, inside the arena at Riding Right Farm. I had professional staff, instructors, and was inside an equestrian facility. Steele was in English tack and I was more comfortable in English gear at the time. Also, there was a first aid kit the size of a large backpack on the wall and I had a helmet on my head. I rode him around the arena once, walking and trotting, and was pretty much scared to death. Too big, too much power, too much for a new rider just getting used to a Fell Pony. But Patty was proud and gave me a hug just for trying.

This night, two years later, there was no arena, no helmet, no professional staff. There was a horse on a friends farm in the front lawn. I got a boost and I rode him. I rode him down the lane onto the road. I rode him back at a canter up the driveway. I walked around the lawn. I was not scared! Not at all! Thanks to a few years in the saddle with a stubborn pony under my belt. I loved riding that giant horse and most of all, I felt strong and proud. I feel strong often enough, with feed sacks and piglets in my arms, but rarely do I let myself feel proud like that.

It wasn't perfect riding, as I was choppy and green compared to the song I know so well with Merlin. But I did it, and I knew when I hopped down the woman whose boots hit the ground was not the girl who trotted in a circle indoors two years earlier. Patty took some video, Mark got on next to try out the saddle as well (which we all LOVED!).

Mark trotted and cantered around his property on that magnificent gelding the rain started to spatter and the wind started to pick up. He hopped off and we untacked the big boy as the real threat of rain came down. We got the horses in the barn and the tack put up just in time for a downpour to soak us! I tried to think back to how the day started, with new friends from another world, shooting arrows into the big burlap and hay target, and a few hours later I had drank the world's best beer, ridden a dinosaur, and got a free shower from Nature herself. Dare I ask for more? We went inside, arms around each other and our little victories. A fine day, indeed.

We were laughing in our cups when we all got a text at the same time. Checking our phones, we saw our friend Joanna (Jasper's Joanna) needed help and now, she was panicked! She had 20+ turkeys escape from their electric netting in the storm we just laughed thought and they were all over her yard in the dark. This was not a tragedy but her husband was away at work, she was exhausted from the long day, and you all know how it is when the last straw breaks in half. She just needed some friends. Since she literally live two houses down from Patty and Mark we hopped in the back of Patty's truck and rode to the rescue.

It did not take long to wrangle the turkeys. We set out a fan of arms and hollers and soon they were all back in their fence and the charger turned back on. Joanna was relieved and we all headed back to Mark and Patty's to sit and talk, laugh and smile. It felt good to help a friend. It felt better to just be in a place where help is a panicked text away, loaded in the car or ready to charge into scene on the back of a white horse, literally.

A day in the country. A fine day.
And I slept the way heavy rocks sleep when they are very tired and the moss doesn't itch.


P.S. The Birchthorn Kickstarter has only 5 Days Left! Please take a minute to pledge and be a part of a story. A story that supports this farm, that lets you take part in the creation, and will employ me into early winter! We are 77% towards the goal and this project will not happen unless it is 100% funded! So do not wait, check out the new reward posted (a LIFETIME ticket to CAF events and workshops!) and keep telling friends and family about this project! I thank you!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Living Iron Forge & Meg Paska at Antlerstock 2014!

I am so pleased to announce that joining the presenters and activities at Antlerstock this year is Author, speaker, farmer and beekeeper Meg Paska and the owner and artist, blacksmith, and ironworker Greg Clasby! Meg will be talking about bees and getting started with a backyard honey harvest. Greg will be there to share his art and creations. So if you are passionate about honey or homemade weaponry, I gotta say darling, there is seomthing here for you this year at Anterstock! By the way, only a few slots left, so grab them if you want them by emailing me.



Down to the Wire from Daniel McCord on Vimeo.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Are 70% There!

As of tonight this Kickstarter Campaign has reached 70% funding with a week left to go! I'm feeling more confident than the start, but that 30% still means there is a chance we won't pull this off and make Birchthorn happen. Remember, unless I hit the goal within the next 7 days zero pledges are collected and the project fails. So I thank all of you who are still thinking of pledging just for considering it, and I really thank those of you who already have! Every pledge, even at the $1 level, helps make this project a reality and I am so looking forward to it! I have never published a novel and this one about magic, history, farming and friendship will be an adventure on many levels. It's a new kind of excitement and I like it!

What is this Birchthorn thing?!

Low Rent Honey Filtration

All right, so I'm not especially proud of it but this contraption did the job! I went out on this drizzling afternoon and pulled four heavy frames from the honey super. I extracted the way a gal with one hive does, quick and dirty like. The plastic frames were scraped clean of all comb and honey and dumped into a stainless steel brew kettle. Then I poured the clumpy mess of honey and comb into a kitchen colander (standard issue) and using a kettle handle and an inverted hammer I was able to strain out the raw honey into a pyrex bowl my mom found for me at a yard sale. 20 pounds of honey were extracted this way in under an hour! I used special muth jars, mason jars, an old whisky bottle (which I saved for this very reason) and couldn't be happier. I didn't even get stung (at least not during the harvesting. I did get stung when I thought busting the lid off in a tank top was a good idea without my smoker, but just once).

Honeybees are wonderful. They are such easy livestock to keep and give back so much. I'll harvest the other six frames later this week but right now I am just feeling so darn satisfied about the honey surplus in this house! I think honey is a great gift as well, and will tie some baling twine around a few of my jars with a honey stick on them as housewarming presents. But most will stay right here, used for homebrewing and everyday use in tea, baking, glazing meats and spread over homemade breads. There is a saying that the first harvest of the season is the best tasting honey you'll ever have and I believe it! Mine is light and mountain-based, created from wildflowers, goldenrod, clover and tree blossoms. I savor it. And while it's origin is as scrappy as the rest of this farm it was harvested at zero expense in the form of fancy extractors or even much time. This morning all I had was half a squirt bottle of honey from the farm stand. Now I have enough to shower in it! Tonight I feel rich!

And will celebrate with my chicken dinner of roasted bird over kale and potatoes, a cold beer, and my 12,023 viewing of Braveheart.

Learn to Play the Fiddle! August 23rd 24th



Have you ever wanted to learn to play an instrument but were certain you didn't have the ear? The ability? The talent? Not here you don't! Cold Antler's Fiddle Camp has a last minute opening for the weekend of the 23rd and 24th. The camp is two days, outdoors, sitting in the shade or in a large barn (if it's raining) and learning the basics of teaching yourself to fiddle. I use Wayne Erbsen's methods and the weekend if casual, fun, and easy. I have never had a person take this camp and not leave able to play a tune. Here's a video of Riley from Ontario playing with a guitar accompaniment the second day of Fiddle Camp. He never played the violin before this weekend and on day two he was droning, shuffling, and playing alongside another musician!

Some folks had to change their schedules but I have an extra Fiddle right here, brand new, in the box, waiting for you to come and learn how to care and feed for it and take it home. Practice fifteen minutes a day and you'll have a pocketful of songs by Halloween. And if you have attended a camp in the past, please do comment here and share your own story of the weekend!

Email Me to sign up!

P.S. If you are signed up for this year's camp make sure you get a hold of your own copy of Wayne's Book, an electronic guitar tuner, and a spare set of strings for your fiddle. Email me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Become Farmers

"Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers." That was the title of an op-ed piece in the NY Times circling around my Facebook feed this week. You may have read it yourself, but if not here's the gist:  there is no money in farming with integrity as a small business model. It’s a nearly-impossible way to make a living. Those organic veggies at your local farmers' market, the CSA share you may or may not have invested in, the truck hauls to busy city centers to deliver box club splits…. It’s a dog-eat-dog shit show. A constant competition between “hobby" farms (some are a recreation of the wealthy for land tax breaks in the same farmer's market as  commercial growers) and nonprofit farms who have boards of directors to hand out new tractors instead of resorting to begging a bank for a loan. It was a good article and as a good point was made. Farming as your sole source of income is no way to get rich and getting harder all the time, even among this recent food movement. And that was why the title was what it was, to grab your attention and point out how hard the much-applauded small farm business is. Don’t let your children grow up to be farmers was a warning, and an earnest one.

The article ends with issues farmers need to fight for, like loan forgiveness for college grads (I personally would love this one) who pursue agriculture and better wages for every part of the food-growing system. Like I said, it was a powerful article and well written and I agree with him on all points but one:

Let your children grow up to be farmers.

Let your children grow up to become farmers. Let them know what it is like to be free from fluorescent lights and laser-pointer meetings. Let them challenge themselves to be forever resourceful and endlessly clever. Let them whistle and sing loud as they like without getting called into an office for "disturbing the workforce." Let them commute down a winding path with birdsong instead of a freeway's constant growl. Let them be bold. Let them be romantic. Let them grow up not having to ask another adult for permission to go to the dentist at 2PM on a Thursday. Let them get dirty. Let them kill animals. Let them cry at the beauty of fallow earth they just signed the deed for. Let them bring animals into this world, and realize they don’t care about placenta on their shirt because they no longer care about shirts. Let them wake up during a snowstorm and fight drifts at the barn door instead of traffic. Let them learn what real work is. Let them find happiness in the understanding that success and wealth are not the same thing. Let them skip the fancy wedding. Let them forget four years of unused college. Let them go. Let them go home.

Farming never has been, and never will be, an easy life but for many it is an easy choice. For me it was the only choice. Perhaps that is what it takes? Being a farmer means wanting to do it more than anything else. It means giving up things other people take for granted as givens, like travel and the latest fashion, new cars and 401k plans. It means making choices your peers won’t understand, your family will disapprove of, and other farmers will scoff at. It means making a decision and owning it, really owning it the way few people get to own anything in their lives anymore. Let your children grow up to know this responsibility. Let them literally put food on the table, lift up their bootstraps, and learn how much effort a life worth living entails.

I have been living on this farm full-time for nearly two years, and it has never been without worry. But that heavy blanket of anxiety is full of many, tiny, holes that let in brilliant beams of light, as many as there are stars! And those pieces of light I have reached have changed me so much. They are mountaintop rides on a draft horse, meals I knew as chicks and seeds, and finding a spiritual home in the everyday work and rythyms of my life. The version of me who was too scared to farm would certainly be more solvent, but she wouldn’t be happy. She wouldn’t know how to hunt deer, ride a horse, plant a garden, or butcher a chicken. It is only in the last few decades of abnormal history that these skills were considered recreational or outdated. And perhaps that NY Times writer will find himself in a much better place financially when local food goes from being a novelty of the so-inclined to the staples his community depends on when gas prices, natural disasters, political climates or any other disruption in the cattle cars of modern civilization start to hiccup.

And that may be the best reason to let you children grow up to become farmers: they can feed themselves. They can achieve the most basic of human needs in a society clueless about how to take care of themselves without a car and a supermarket. Becoming a farmer isn’t in financial fashion right now, that is sadly true, but it will be again. As long as people need to eat there will be a business in doing so and it’s up to each farmer to find his or her niche, celebrate it, unapologetically accept good money for it, and keep doing it far past the point of reason. Any son or daughter of mine that dared to be so bold would not be discouraged from facing the world with such fierceness for simplicity. Antlers on fire can set a lot more holes in a dark blanket.

Let your children grow up to become farmers. There is a surplus of mediocrity in this nation and a deficit of bravery. Let your children grow up to be farmers. Let them be brave.

Photo by Miriam Romais

Quick Announcement!

I wanted to share that there are now openings for Arrows Rising (Columbus Day Weekend- October) and Fiddle Camp (Aug 23rd-24th) due to attendee cancelations and schedule changes, so if you wanted to learn to saw into a fiddle or shoot arrows in a beginner friendly environment, this is your chance!

Get Your FARM! Raise that CHICKEN!
DATE CHANGE August 30th-31st!

Cold Antler Confidential: Session 3!

Cold Antler Confidential is a workshop for anyone dreaming of a farm of their own, but isn't there yet. It's a day dedicated to serious discussions on making this happen and building a plan to do so. It's a ruthless workshop, a place for dreamers who are ready to become doers. We'll start out with introductions and our stories but quickly dive into a step-by-step list for making it happen. You won't leave the workshop with a farm, but you will leave knowing how to make it possible and surrounded by support, success stories, and the honest truths about what this life is like - good and horrible.

The Confidential part is this: sometimes our farm dreams are secrets, or the intensity of them. Too many of us are told how ridiculous it is to want to "Go Back to the Land" or get chickens in our suburban backyards. We're told it's nice to think about farms for a retirement goal, but to actually pull up stakes, buy land, and start ordering from seed catalogs in bulk is considered reckless by some and idealist tripe by others. This is a workshop were you can rest-assured everyone shares your disease. Everyone there will have barn heart and will want to laugh, vent, share stories, and more. I know i'll want to do the same. Come and ask me anything, about the public life and the blog verses the hard realities of living alone on the farm. This will be a place all of us can get out some of the frustrations we've come across. There are things I just don't feel comfortable writing about on the blog. Some things are just easier to talk about in your living room, you know? It'll be that kind of session!

And we'll figure out plans of actions for us. What are your current limitations (remember, current is just that, CURRENT) and what can you do now? We'll discuss grants, crowd funding, bartering, blogs and special programs for new farmers or rural development. It was just such a program that got me on my land and knowing what to ask for and how to find it could have you planting your own kale patch next fall.

I'll try to have local farmers and neighbors join us, explaining how they got started and what caused the mental shift to make it happen. It'll be a flurry of conversations, inspirations, stories and plans. Some of you may have all you need to start a market garden now. Some of you have more than enough space to start breeding meat rabbits and poultry. Some of you may have cottage business talents, waiting to pop out. The truth about making a living out here is diversity, frugality, and flexibility. So you can leave with a list of ideas, resources, and steps you will start taking that very day to get towards your goal.

Everyone's story will be totally different, everyone will have different limitations I'm sure. Some won't be able to move. Others will be picking up local real estate flyers. I hear about local places all the time, through chatter and messages. The realtor who sold me this farm recently emailed me about a homestead for sale up the road, just in case anyone is asking. People ask all the time.

This will be an outdoor/indoor workshop here in the farmhouse. It'll be from 10AM Saturday to 4PM that night with an hour break for lunch. Bring notebooks, pens, and stories.

SO! If you share my dream. If you are scared to "come out of the tool shed" to your family about wanting a rural life. If you have been reading enough memoirs and want to create your own story, come to Cold Antler Confidential! It's a day about doing.

Cold Antler Confidential
August 30 2014
10AM-4PM
Jackson, NY
Cost: $100


Small Freezer Meat Farming

So you've been raising vegetables, a few laying hens, and ordered those honeybees. You have a worm bin and learned to cook from scratch, can jam, and can

Small Freezer Meat Farming is a workshop dedicated to backyard meat production on a small scale. How to get started, what works best for your space, and a detailed talk about living with animals in a new way. A way that means care, attention, and stewardship but ends with a that small space above the refrigerator stocked with something from the backyard besides frozen peas and tomato sauce.

Many of us drawn to homesteading like animals very much, adore our cats and dogs, and love our pet hens but still enjoy meat. Some are ready to take that next step in home meat production but are hesitant. Understandably so! Taking lives, especially lives you lovingly raised, out of the world and onto your plate is a mental and physical hurdle. It isn't normal in the modern world anymore, but perhaps something about that distance from your food bothers you? Maybe you want to raise meat but are scared. Perhaps you are a vegetarian who wants to consider organic and homegrown meat but want to think it through a bit more.

SFMF is a workshop to talk about all of this. It will begin with a conversation and also go into details about raising chickens, rabbits, and small livestock like sheep and goats for meat. There will be a butchering demonstration of a chicken and rabbit (from living animal to freezer) and a talk about the role of animals today and tomorrow: with a conversation about some serious concerns I have about healthy food and resources in the days ahead.

This is a new workshop at Cold Antler, but an important one. It lasts a full Saturday and will conclude at 4PM officially, but folks are welcome to stay at the farm that night for a private party with a campfire, conversation, grilled eats, music (bring your instruments), and home brew.

SFMF
August 31 2014
10AM-4PM
Jackson, NY
Cost: $100


Why Don't You Consider a Season Pass?!

If these workshops, or ANY of the events coming up sound interesting to you I urge you to take the plunge and come to the farm. I also offer Season passes with include every event I host (minus the cost of instruments or bows and such like). Season Passes cost $350 and you can use that for an entire year. If you bought one now you could get a spot at Arrows Rising in the fall, next spring's fiddle camp plus any other workshop (from bees to butchering) for the cost of one large event. I urge you to take the five Season Passes I have to offer now. It is a huge gift to this farm and the animals here and a great way to network, make friends, and see the place your read about.

Buy a Season Pass before the weekend and I will also include a FREE Indie Half Day at the farm to focus on any subject in more detail on a One on One basis.

Sign up via email! Jenna@itsafarwalk.com

60% Funded! 9 Days Left!

The Birchthorn Project has hit the 60% mark, trotting towards the ever-important goal to start this writing contract with you fine people and create my first work of published fiction! I am so excited about it, and now it seems less like a dream and more of a possibility. Kickstarter is all or nothing, folks. If I am one cent short of the goal I don't see any of the money and the project doesn't happen, no pledges are collected, and it fails. If I meet or exceed the goal I can have the money in hand in 2 weeks from the last day of the project and start writing on the new blog with that audience of fellow creators! This project is more important than many of you may realize, very very important. Just donating one dollar through it shows you as an individual who supports the farm and kickstarter, and that matters. I hope you all can pledge, share this story, tell your friends, or whatever you can manage to help me make this goal in the next nine days!

PLEDGE HERE!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Visual Postcard

JASPER NAILED IT!

I am so thrilled for little Jasper, my first ever equine and superstar of the day! Today he went for his first-ever trail ride while at this farm. I know what you are thinking? Why? Why only ride the horse now, three years after buying him? Well, because Jasper is a breed of horse called Pony of the Americas (POA), and while sturdy and great for trail, barrel race, or show ring - smaller versions of this breed aren't made for most adults. He is only 11.2 hands at the shoulders (44 inches high or so) and to be blunt - I belong on a draft horse, not a small POA. And it was Merlin, the Fell Pony, British powerhouse of draft power that taught me to ride. And over the years that big lug became the star of our little two-horse play and Jasper became the pasture buddy, the help. Well, not anymore! Now he is a bonefide trail horse!

He was ridden by my friend Joanna, a grower at Slack Hollow Farm. who is built much slighter than I, and her 110lbs was a perfect fit for the gelding. She was game to give him a try, so we made plans and today we headed out together — Merlin and Me, Jasper and Joanna.

We started Jasper with some groundwork and Natural Horsemanship and then worked on the front lawn. Joanna was a natural with him, even with the clunky second-hand tack (notice the huge Merlin-sized saddle pad!), but we found gear that fit his back and head well, and when Joanna was ready I tacked up Merlin and we headed down the road and across the street to the trails my amazing neighbor lets us use.

We rode for over three miles through the forest, fields, wildflowers, streams, and mountaintop. Jasper was calm and gentle, and Joanna (a novice rider who has only taken lessons a few months and been lead on trail rides) was content on the back of the little grey devil. We never moved faster than a trot, but speed wasn't the point. The point was to enjoy horses, sunshine, conversation, and the time we have. I am just so proud of them both, and thrilled for more rides together!

I think Joanna and I will make it a regular habit, and I think Joanna might be in love, too. Her previous experiences with horses has been touch and go, and she has some healthy fear about being out in the wilderness (note the bike helmet!) But Jasper was a great fit for her and she was beaming the whole time.  And I felt a bit of the glow Patty must have felt when helping me get started trail riding with Merlin. In her honor, soon as we got home, I said what Patty always said to me when we dismounted and were back at the farm with our feet safe on the ground. "We both stayed on! Another successful Ride!"

Be proud of that little pony, man was Jasper great. And he was great on his first ride in years! With a novice rider! I'm just pleased as can be and feel like cracking open a cider in his honor. The little pony that might, just became the little engine that could!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Orchards and Axes

Today was a fantastic workshop here at the farm, presented by Professor Brett McLeod. Brett is a forester, a lumberjack, a homesteader, and soon to be author. His class held here today covered the basics of orcharding on small properties. Me and the farm's six guests learned so much! And boy, do I ever mean that. Brett was here to teach this class because while I can make a mean apple pie and know a granny smith from a Gala - that is pretty much the extent of my apple-based knowledge. Yes sir, when it comes to apples I am a great goat milker.

So Brett was hired for this class and he did so much more than just talk about saws and loppers. He went through each tool, one at a time, and then showed us how and when to use it. Much of this talk centered around chainsaw 101 and as someone who does not own any rotating teeth machines, I'll admit I was daunted but the way he described the tool was just that: a tool. When you know how to used it safely it is safe and a grand asset to any homestead. He explained what sizes and bar lengths matched each of us based on body types and purpose of the saws. He covered care and feeding, fuel and storage, safety and technique.  I'm a little less afraid of them now!

And from there we started learning how, why, and when to prune bearing trees. He explained that August is not the time for pruning fruit trees, it should be done in late winter when the tree is dormant, but we did get to try out his techniques on a spruce tree withering in the shade of the King Maple. Small, folding hand saws and anvil shears were used, tools I never owned or used before. We walked up the hill by the sheep and looked at apple trees that had died and why, and then cut them down with chainsaws. Before lunch we were all spitting out arborist lingo, knew our chainsaw fits, pruned, and felled two dead trees. The dead trees knocked a lot of apples out of the crowns of the neighboring apples and we collected them in the basket shown. The sheep wanted them but I stole them for pies for the falconry picnic next weekend. Rule 182892 of farming: Baas do not trump pie. 

After lunch we continued our backyard forestry education with felling a large ash tree on the property and working as a community to haul off the branches into the woods (some rabbits will be very happy) and using the saws to cut them into firewood rounds. I see a lot of axe time in my future tomorrow, but the wood (read: heat) supply is ramping up slowly and to know wood that made me sweat in August, gathered with friends, will be keeping me warm in March is heartwarming to me. Friends keep you warm.

The workshop wrapped up with a talk about buying trees from nurseries, when and how. We talked about the proper way to plant a tree and how far to space them. The differences between dwarfs, semi-dwarfs and standard and what suits what land. And then settled into a discussion about making hard cider from fresh pressed apples, the way I have since 2009 or so, since first moving to Veryork from Idaho. We all wished we were sipping that fine, sweet, stuff by the end of the hot and worthwhile day. Alas, we just had lemonade. Still, so worth it.

Thank you all who came out, especially Mr. McLeod. And if you are interested in learning more about felling trees and chainsaws, come to Antlerstock where Brett will be back to teach his witchcraft again. There are two spots left for regular sales, but read below for a heck of a deal

The Kickstarter Campaign for Birchthorn has hit the halfway mark! 50% Funding! I have ten days to get the rest of the pledges and hope those of you on the fence will pop over the the site and show your support of Cold Antler with a community-written novel! And even if you're not into paranormal horror or storycrafting, you can pledge at the NEW $100 or $250 dollar amount and get free workshop, camp, or Antlerstock tickets. I think two of the three of the Antlerstock ticket sets are still available, making a $400 weekend only $250, plus all the cool perks, books, blog, and like that. So support the kickstarter, support this farm, and help keep me and the animals* safe, warm, and writing* this winter.

*Yes, Maude can write... Hatemail.

Friday, August 8, 2014

30% FUNDED!



Few folks realize that Birchthorn is NOT just a book. You are not paying for just a book! Folks who join the pledge get invited to a blog where they read the story as it is written, a chapter at a time. Then there will be discussions, advice, theories, and reader input on what may happen next! It is a book written by a community; a mystery I get to choreograph but not create alone!

You are pledging for the experience to help create a story that could sit on your bookshelf in a year, something you not only helped creat but could actually be a character in. I am so excited to write this but still need to gather another 72% of the pledges so I ask that you share this with everyone you know if you haven't already!

In two days the kickstarter for Birchthorn has 44 Backers already! I can't thank you enough! Here's what your pledge means might happen if I reach my goal!

1. I'll be a writer with a mission, a deadline, a project again! Or as otherwise called: employed! Thank you for the purpose you give, the sense of duty to create a story, and your anticipation for the suspense!

2. The money earned will pay for the publishing and distribution of this Kickstarter only book. You will not see birchthorn in bookstores any time soon! This is how you get a hard copy in your hands, the very first edition! And you are a part of it!

3. The small advance included will help this farm in ways you can not imagine and take a weight off my shoulders of some heaviness. This book deal will literally save my farm, keeping it out of threat of foreclosure.

4. Even a dollar pledge is a sign of kindness and faith, and I hope all who can and want to donate do, and soon! It is over in 13 days!

P.S. YOU DONT NEED TO HAVE THE PLEDGE MONEY NOW TO PLEDGE! Pledges are not billed until and unless I reach my goal in 13 days! so even if you pledge tonight you will not be billed until you give your consent after the project has reached the goal!

P.P.S. I'm going to be promoting the heck out of this until the two weeks are over! Buckle up!


PLEDGE HERE!