On the Cold Antler Farm, Jenna Woginrich writes about her adventures following her crazy dream life as a self-employed writer, homesteader, archer, falconer, equestrian, martial artist, hunter, spinner, brewer, geek, and real-life Game of Thrones Extra.
Good morning from a crisp and sunny Cold Antler Farm! I am finishing up morning chores and checking in between tasks to write (and warm up my hands). I had a lead on some lambs, bottle babies I'd have to feed, but the seller found someone else to buy them while my truck was being repaired and I couldn't get to them in time. Maybe that's for the best, as right now all income needs to focus on the mortgage after I earn back these recent repair bills, but the price was so good it makes me wince I missed them. But the good news (and in this life you must focus on the good news) is that lambs are popping up for sale everywhere. Few people are able to deal with bottle lambs and the time they take so I will try and jump on some more as they become available and I'm able to scoop them up.
I was able to worm Merlin this weekend but the Mare is trickery. She sees that apple paste tube an acre away and scrams. The trick: I buy 2 jelly donuts. I give her one and let her enjoy every perfect bite. Then I make sure the second has been filling-scraped-clean and instead piped full of apple paste. She eats it up like candy. Donuts have gotten me far with Mabel. Merlin, on the other hand, doesn't care for donuts. He's more of a fruit guy.
Things are shaky but optimistic. I have until the end of the month to cover the farm and keep her safe, and I feel like it's possible to achieve the sales to do it. What else can I think? It is frustrating to be right back where I was this time last month, dealing with truck repairs, and behind on everything. But if there's any comfort in that it's that I got through February and was able to retain my home, health insurance, heat my home and keep all the animals healthy and content. And I also need to remind myself that this May will be nine years on this farm. That's going to mean well over A HUNDRED mortgage payments made. I managed that so far by myself, mostly self-employed, and following this dirty dream. When I wake up nervous I need to look at the statistics and remind myself who I am dealing with. I wouldn't bet against me. Not yet.
If you are interested: meat shares and handmade farm soaps are still available. Private beginner lessons in fiddle and archery are available. Logos and illustrations are available. Just send an email!
Happy Birthday Gibson, who turns 9 today. We have never spent a night apart. We have never spent more than 7 hours apart, actually. We never will. He is my best friend, soft and gentle herder, farm hand, blanket, story, and song. I love you.
It was 65 degrees here yesterday! What a gift that was! I saw turkey vultures for the first time soaring (the REAL bird sign of spring) and local sap is running like mad. I got the horses their spring worming paste and a new block of minerals to replace the crumbles of their old one. Merlin is shedding hair like nuts. Mabel is slowly getting her old coat back as well.
Mighty proud that the sump pump had issues and water was filling the basement by the bucket full after a morning thunderstorm here, and I was able to repair the hose and reroute the water as if I was making toast. This house isn't anything fancy but it is solid, and I have learned how to mend it when it needs band aids. At least so far.
Yesterday afternoon I even got my truck back from the mechanic. They added another relay and road tested it several times. It seems to be okay now and once I got it back I took her right to the laundromat/car wash in town. I had been waiting 2 weeks to finally get this laundry done and while the clothes were agitating I hosed off her dust and vacuumed the cab and today I'll clean the windows and dash. She's back and she's all I got. As much trouble as she has been this winter I can be grateful that this is a truck I own in full. I am paying for maintenance and what I spent this month on her repairs is what I used to spend in one month to pay the loan and high insurance on my old truck, which I didn't own. So the bright side is as rough as it has been, at least it is my own truck in that driveway and as far as I know she's okay to drive to the post office later to mail out some soaps.
I got a lead on some bottle lambs, and spoke to a farmer about piglets. It seems like getting a hold of stock for the summer won't be an issue. I may be trying some new breeds out to see how they do and using the pasture in new ways. The geese started laying eggs and I am collecting them to barter with a friend for rabbits. I want to breed rabbits again, and have a new set up I can put together for them soon as it has a new floor installed. I also want to plant a lot of sweet corn and move the horses off the front pasture by the house. There will be a lot of repairs and work to do to see this all through, but I can't wait to be outside with a list of outside chores instead of just indoor chores. And with clean socks and a clean truck... I feel a spring in my step.
Right now I am working on selling the last of the meat shares so I can buy this stock and start bottle feeding lambs! And I need to earn back the money I spent on the truck while still juggling the same monthly bills and this new habit of having health insurance. I am working on it. I have my income goal set for the day, my list of work to do, my silly hope, and 2 very good dogs. With all this and hot coffee, what can't I accomplish?!
Just spent $370 on truck repairs and it literally died five times on the way home from the mechanic. This is the only vehicle I can afford right now and it needs to go back to the shop tomorrow. I'm going to let myself have a good long cry about this and take a walk.
past springs had kids in the living room, but lambs will be here soon!
Morning from a farm that feels a lot more like spring than it has in quite some time! The chicks in the brooder are getting feathery, the peas I planted are sprouting, and I have been spending more time outside walking...sometimes even in sunlight!
You just don't realize how much you need time in the sun until you force yourself to meet him every day. After a winter of so much dark and cold and time indoors—to walk and actually feel sun-warmed skin and start to work up a sweat—to need to squint from the brightness of glare off snow... what a wonderful gift of realizing how much I missed all of that.
I walked nine miles yesterday, my most yet. Since the truck has been in the shop for a few days (needed a whole new fuel pump and filter) I walked all the way to Shushan to visit Yushack's store and get some supplies. It sure changes your grocery shopping when you know you have to carry all your groceries four miles home. But I did bring back what I needed and then took the dogs for a walk up the mountain quick. I'm sort of a walkaholic now, if you can forgive that hacky phrase.
Walking on trails and roads has been changing how my body deals with hunger, anxiety, and food. I move so much now I am basically a machine in motion, and food becomes more fuel than anything else. This is how I always dreamed of living. Like a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail - tired and always hungry and sleeping without stress. I've been slimming down and eating without any restrictions and I've not felt this good in a while. I'm sure a month without any alcohol is also a big part of that, but all of it is helping me feel better. Being sober, lots of water and exercise, and not counting calories or feeling guilty about eating half a small pizza after walking nine miles... and still losing lbs... I have to admit I'm a happier woman than I was mid winter. And stress is a lot less.
Well, it would be a lie if I said I was without stress. I am still trying to stay ahead of any bank threats and keep the farm moving till I manage to land some sort of real luck - like a multi-article freelance contract, book deal, or family of 5 that wants private archery lessons for a whole weekend. But I will get there at some point. In the meantime I just racked up a $370 truck repair bill and that doesn't include the tow truck, but at least with all this walking I am too tired to not sleep through the night.
In the meantime, this little farm is working on catching up on soap and illustration work, logos and freelance writing, selling CSA shares, pitching article ideas to editors, considering rabbits and bees again, planning the kaleyard and possible sweet corn on the hill and new pasture ideas... A lot. But I do well with a lot on my plate. I always have.
Yesterday was a sunny and bright day here in the W.C. I got outside for over 6 miles of walking with my hounds by my side and after a morning of cleaning up around the farmhouse I loaded the back of my trusty pickup with bags of trash and sorted recycling fore the dump and a basket of laundry for the laundromat. Most Saturdays I make time for this exact combo of home chores. I don't have a lot of clothes I wear so a weekly washing is important, and no one wants bags of trash in their mudroom enticing possums and other bitty mammals, now do they? So with cheery spirits I pulled out of my driveway - full of hopes of discarded garbage and clean sheets and....
The truck died 200 feet from my house.
I attempted to troubleshoot and restart the truck, I even got it to back up 5 feet, but then it was done. One of the gifts of having an old truck like this is learning a lot about them. I already knew it wasn't fuel, the fuses, or the battery. I did know that the fuel filter was overdue for being changed as was the regular oil change. There was some problem with the truck getting what it needed to start, starved of gas, and so it acted as if it was out of gas on a nearly full tank.
My friend Dave, the same hero from before, was over shortly after I emailed him because he is a saint and he helped me get the truck back in my driveway and out of the road by towing it up the hill and showing me how to steer without power steering, which should be included in every "arm day" for every gym person. Then he gave me a ride into town to get all the feed I'd need for the pigs and a gallon of milk (for myself) and here I am stuck at the farm while I wait for the tow truck in the morning. I just hope it's an inexpensive fix. Right now I only have a couple hundred bucks to my name while I save up for another month of bills and the mortgage and I'm worried that won't even be enough to get Taylor running again.
But right now, in the middle of a snowy Sunday morning, I know this. I know that myself and the animals have all the food and comforts we need. The house is warm and I have bread rising to bake later. I just fed the dogs a breakfast of eggs and kibble and the cats are running about like they always do pre-nap. It is snowing outside, but it's a late winter snow that wants to be rain, and the forecast is for kinder weather ahead. This truck issue can't be dealt with until tomorrow so instead I will try and sell meat shares and soaps and start saving for repairs and bills. That is what I can do today. That is what I will do.
Still have one lamb share and two half pig shares for sale! Get yourself some New York State small farm meat from Cold Antler. These shares are for piglets and lambs coming this spring, raised here, and price INCLUDES butchering, smoking, and packaging! VERY COMPETITIVE RATES!
And if you want to make a HUGE difference to this farm and community, but are too far away to pick up a share, you can purchase a share to be raised here and donated to my local food bank to feed people in need! Just send an email to inquire!
Yesterday afternoon I found myself driving the truck on some farm roads outside of town. I was trying to find the location of a farmer, Dave Brushett. Dave mentioned he had some nice square bales for sale and I was buying. My usual hay banks were getting politely conservative about their quantity with winter still hitting hard in March. So with directions described in an email from Dave pulled up on my e-reader, I headed out to the new roads after lunch. I should mention it was a cold day. The high was forecast to be around 16° and Dave's farm was a hundred acres on the top of a sweeping hill. I'm so used to my tiny farm being tucked halfway up a mountain, protected from high winds and the worst of March weather. This was a wilder place, even just a few miles away. I felt the wind hit the side of my truck as I made the third turn off a small country highway and saw the landmark described in the email: a big red barn and a regal white house. His place was the cabin a road behind it. Almost there.
And then my truck sputtered, coughed, and died.
It just died. As if some magical being watching had a remote control and simply turned it off. It felt like it had run out of fuel but I knew there was some gas in, I had slid a few dollars worth in the night before? What gives? unable to get it to start I grabbed my gloves and decided to walk the mile or so in the wind to the cabin on the hillside.
One of the disadvantages of not having a cell phone is not being able to save yourself this kind of hike, but I was prepared. I had three layers, the outermost being a wool sweater my friend Tyler handed down to me and a scarf my mom bought in Paris. Over that I had on a big hooded Carhartt canvas vest, insulated and tough. My fleece had snug on my head and boots laced: I was a bundled-up hobbit on the hillside with my eyes on the prize. No matter what I needed to get some hay and myself back to the farm and that truck running again. My plan was to get to Dave's, ask to call my mechanic (number is memorized, of course), and if needed - maybe a ride home?
Dave was already in his truck planning to look for me, since I was over half an hour late. I waved from his driveway and quickly explained the state of the truck. The first thing Dave did was offer me his lunch, which I declined having just eaten at home. When I declined he asked if I wanted to take it with me? Insanely kind, but if there was one thing I have covered it's calories at my farm.
Dave, a father and grandfather, burst into Dad Mode. We drove back to the truck and he said it was most likely about fuel. That if I was running on a low tank eventually condensation and water build up and freeze and block fuel lines. He was right. Because we drove back to the farm and within moments he was adding gas from a fuel container and stabilizer. That was enough to get the girl started and up the hill to his farm. There we loaded up the truck with the bales I came to buy and he showed me his sow and her new piglets. They were the brightest thing in the barn.
So many farmers around here are farrowing, kidding, lambing, and calving. This is my first winter in almost a decade not joining them. I don't regret selling the breeding sheep to Lee at Moxie Ridge or the goats to the homesteaders last fall. But I do miss them and the work. I already talked to my friend Dona of Northern Spy Farm about helping with kidding this spring. She agreed, and I'll be so thrilled to have those babies in my arms again. It's just not spring without them.
Dave followed me all the way to the gas station and back home to Cold Antler, making sure there was no more issues with the truck. I learned to never have the tank below half-capacity in very cold weather and he got to not only make some cash and help keep a farm gong - he also kept this farm going. They say not all heroes wear capes. Well, that is very true. Hell, some heroes farm pigs.
The truck is working and hay is here. It's a dark-green second cut and enough to last my two horses a while. I'm damn lucky to have these kinds of neighbors and friends. And lucky to have broken down a short walk in the wind from help. Also, lucky as all get out to have the truck working without a trip the the mechanic! That Ford is the arteries of this farm - pumping in feed and fuel and getting me around town to places like the post office and my tiny social life.
That's the biggest news I have for today: a small adventure and a kind farming friend. But hopefully soon I'll have lambs and piglets here of my own bought in to raise all summer and get this place back into full production. There will be green hillsides before we know it. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
The check cleared and the sun is shining! This farm moves forward with another month of chance and hope! Right now as I write to you there's a fire roaring and the house is heating up after a night of good sleep. I didn't wake up worried. And the trick seems to be making myself physically exhausted, as I mentioned before. Yesterday I walked each dog down the mountain road and home, a 2-mile trip each time and one half being a climb in elevation. My body isn't used to moving across the landscape so much. It has been months since I really hiked or ran beyond a few miles a week. The last 2 days I've gone 9 miles all together. My shins hurt from the run, my thighs hurt from the walking uphill. My body is slowly getting back into a state of locomotion and actually feeling tired—the NEED to sleep because the body demands the rest—seems to be the only thing that helps the anxiety since I have stopped drinking. I'll be a month without a sip of alcohol soon. Not sure how long I'll stay off the hooch but right now I am liking these good sleeps, bright mornings, and clear-headedness.
Anyway, back to this morning. I woke up in a chilly house (50°) but the sounds of baby chicks in the brooder and knowledge that I did the ultimate act of preconceived kindness for myself (prepared the coffee maker the night before) felt like waking up in a hotel. Okay, that's a stretch. Felt like waking up in a very posh glamping platform tent. And camping is the right metaphor because this past summer I bought a Kelty sleeping bag on clearance from REI, for backpacking. Turns out it is way too heavy and impossible to compress for any reasonable backpacker but it is WARM. On nights like last night I used to load up the daybed with blankets and wool fleece and now I have this bag that cleans up and heats up in moments. Around 4AM Friday realizes the warmest spot is in that bag and she paws at me until I let her in. The bag is roomy enough that we fit in there together, snug and snoring, head on the same pillow and creating enough heat to melt ice on the roof. Good lord I love my dog.
And after I roll out of that sleeping bag I have to shuffle over and make a fire, heat up coffee, and get ready for some physical activity outdoors. There are people who have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail whose winter mornings are more civilized. Hoo! Do I love it though! I love the way the coffee and fire warm me up. I love starting a list of work and goals. I love solving problems, searching for spring lambs, watering seedlings, feeding chicks, collecting eggs, scratching pigs, and inhaling that amazingly warm summer scent of sunshine on the back of a black horse...
This place is wild and safe for a little. I am working to keep it that way. May the sun shine and spring find us all sooner than we could possibly fathom. And till then, more coffee.
Hey there readers! I am offering a soap Sale! Get6 random bars (plus the $14 flat rate USPS box shipping) for $45 and will throw in a signed book with one random order picked out of a hat! Help out this farm, get clean, order soap! To do so just email me at email@example.com and put soap in the subject line. I would love to share some of the products this farm makes to start getting ready for another month as we all march towards spring!