Farm City meets The Omnivore's Dilemma in Cold Antler Farm, a collection of essays on raising food on a small homestead , while honoring the natural cycle of the "lost" holidays of the agricultural calendar.
Author Jenna Woginrich is mistress of her one-woman farm and is well known for her essays on the mud and mess, the beautiful and tragic, the grime and passion that accompany homesteading. In Cold Antler Farm, her fifth book, she draws our attention to the flow and cycle not of the calendar year, but of the ancient agricultural year: holidays, celebrations, seasonal touchstones, and astronomical events that mark sacred turning points in the seasons.
Amidst the "lost" holidays of the equinoxes, May Day, Hallowmas, and Yule, we learn the life stories of her beloved animals and crops--chicken, pig, lamb, apples, basil, tomatoes. May apple blossoms are sweet fruit for rambunctious sheep in June. And come September, the harvest draws together neighbors for cider making under the waning summer sun. The living beings she is tending fuel one another--and the community--day to day, season by season.
By examining what eating seasonally really means, the "ancient" reclaimed calendar becomes a source of wisdom. How do we set down roots and break new ground in spring? How to best nourish body and soul in the heat of deep summer? And what can we learn by simply paying more attention to weather patterns than to our social network feeds? Cold Antler Farm encourages us to eat and live well with respect to for the natural rhythm of the seasons. In turn we learn what it means to be truly connected, not super-networked.
Excerpt from the introduction:
To become a farmer is to accept the worst sides of chance and laugh at them, and to understand there is no difference between pleasure and pain. Feeling either is proof you are still waltzing among the living.
I love equally the early mornings that get me outdoors before the sun crests the tree line and the early nights tucked in under heavy blankets with my kind dogs. I am too tired and too grateful for their heat to kick them out of the covers. I rejoice in holding baby chicks in my dirty hands and feeling their rapid-fire heartbeats under their baby down. I rejoice in the black soil of spring, the sweat and humidity of summer, and even the downpours that wash away three months of work.
We all thrive together here at my homestead. Cold Antler Farm has always been a one-woman operation--me--but that hasn't slowed down its growth. It has grown from tending just a handful of chickens and a few rabbits into a full-time job. I raise dairy goats and turn their milk into cheese and soap. I raise rabbits, pigs, and chickens for their meat. I keep hens for eggs. There are expansive vegetable gardens and beehives, too. I use horses as working animals to cart, haul, and plow. There are no tractors on this mountain farm, just a strong brick house of a Scottish pony and my stubbornness. The farm runs entirely on animal power, and usually I am the animal powering it.
(I'm not against tractors, I simply can't afford one. Even if I could I am certain it would topple over and crush me on my steep hillsides.)
This is what takes up my daylight, and keeps me up in the darkness. It's a lot of things to me, but mostly love. I'm in a monogamous relationship with six-and-a-half acres cut into a mountain.
Excerpted from Cold Antler Farm by Jenna Woginrich. Copyright © 2014 by Jenna Woginrich. Excerpted by permission of Roost Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
"Verdict: Homesteading advice, some recipes, and a good dose of humility make this a most enjoyable read for anyone who is interested in living a life that’s more in tune with natural rhythms."—Library Journal
“Few writers can put into words the epiphanies that break upon a mind and spirit communing with a piece of earth. Home, barn, and garden converge in the quietness of agrarian labor to provide transcendent thoughts about living, loving, and learning. Jenna is a master.”—Joel Salatin, farmer, Polyface Farm, and author
“In this graceful and touching book, Jenna Woginrich reminds us of humanity’s deep connection to season and cycle. This is a book full of humility, inspiration, and the richness of experience inherent to living in harmony with natural forces far beyond our control.”—Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved
“Jenna Woginrich’s life and writing are both marked with a ferocity and passion that are inspiring, disturbing, and mesmerizing all at the same time. This is a powerful memoir of a brave and determined young woman's love affair with a gritty six-acre farm that is every inch her own and her struggles to keep it going.”—Jon Katz, author of The Second-Chance Dog: A Love Story
“In Cold Antler Farm, Jenna Woginrich lovingly grabs you by the hand and takes you along for the ride of her life. As the caretaker of a menagerie of lively animals and an antique home riddled with personality, she is the sage observer of seasonal rhythms and the compassionate soul studying, questioning, and learning from it all. This book will ultimately leave you torn: you'll be just as anxious to turn the page and learn what comes next while simultaneously wanting to close the book, put it down, and walk away, so as to draw out the eventual conclusion. It's that good.”—Ashley English