Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Herbie (left), Lily (right), and Sheila (gravel) get in some
goodbyetime the day before Herbie and Lily would go to
their new home in New Jersey.

Blog End

In retrospect, it seems I needed to write this blog for two reasons. First, to help work out the transition from Westchester to Dutchess County. Second, to say something a little extra to people that I've met since moving here. Words and images to help introduce myself with. I'm glad I did it. It's made for tons of talk with friends, family, people at work, and people at the farm.

If you liked meeting "Olivia" and the other animals, you weren't alone.

Olivia watching, well, everything.

Now it's a good time to end. I don't write in this Blog as often as I used to. There just isn't the need to. Life in Westchester County is in the rearview mirror with the exception of friends and family, and I've met enough people and have marked enough places to see in the Hudson River Valley to feel settled in what's here and what's ahead.

Having said that, I'm presently putting together a website that will take a few months to complete. Too tough to describe here. Lots of photos, lots of text. Phyllis should be thrilled! (Hi Phyllis!) Should be up before Summer. Of course, I'll e-mail when it's done.

One word (well, sort of) on the "Vegetarian Thing". At this point, with the exception of pizza, chocolate chip cookies, the occasional baked good, and road coffee with milk, I've eliminated all animal products from my diet. Sheila is working on me regarding coffee and baked things. She greatly contributed to this by driving 15 miles in 0 degree weather wearing a t-shirt with no shoes (umm, and wearing jeans) to bring me a jug of coffee I had forgotten at the farm. (It's a long story!)

Thank you to Amelia & Splinter, Anthony, Judy, Kathy, Lucille, Phyllis, Robin, and Wendy for all the veggie food suggestions and kind words. Thank you for the company with this.

And of course Jen and Doug and the dozens and dozens (and dozens) of lunchbreak food introductions. What a terrific ride it's been!

Jen, whatever that Vegan cookie was that you gave me the first time I walked in the door must have been the one with the "better message"!

Okay, this is beginning to sound like the Emmys.

Yours in transition.

Yours in finding water this Summer.

Yours in sheepshit and pitchfork.

"Factory Farming" is dreadful.

Thank you for reading and for the good yacking!

Andy the Steer steering a pitchfork to a better location.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Cora and the Turkeys

The Vegan/Vegetarian Thing

I've wanted to write about this subject for a while. What's kept me from actually doing so is that I've been experiencing many changes diet-wise over the last months while volunteering at the farm. These changes have been coming very quickly. So quickly that the whole picture has been difficult to frame. Right now I'm taking a break from the farm and consequently have some time to step back, put some thoughts together, and finally write this.

Am going to guess that we all know what a Vegetarian is, but maybe the word "Vegan" might be as unfamiliar to you as it was to me when I started volunteering at the farm.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

"Veganism (also known as strict vegetarianism or pure vegetarianism) is a philosophy and lifestyle that avoids using animals and animal products for food, clothing and other purposes. In practice, a vegan (an adherent of veganism) commits to the abstention from consumption or use of animal products, including meat, fish, and poultry, animal gelatin, honey, eggs and dairy products, as well as articles made of silk, fur, wool, bone, leather, feathers, pearls, nacre, coral, sponges and other materials of animal origin. Most vegans also avoid products that have been tested on animals. People become vegans for a variety of reasons, including ethical concerns for animal rights, welfare, and/or concern for the environment. Other reasons are the perceived health benefits and/or spiritual or religious concerns."

This description doesn't mention medical "procedures" (which I need to address later). Additionally, someone who is Vegan might want to add some thoughts to this description but it contains enough information for this writing. I believe that most everyone found at the farm on a regular or frequent basis is Vegan. As far as I know (I do not ask) I'm the sole volunteer who is an Omnivore. But I appear to now be on a ladder regarding that.

Here's a good place to start: I absolutely love sweet Italian sausage with peppers and onions. It's right there for me just down the street from sex, the ocean, and the right chord change. The bread, peppers and onions, fennel seeds, other spices, and the sausage itself mixed and layered with all of the above into something that for that moment is the best thing on the planet.

And it runs deeper than that.

While living in Bedford Hills I developed an almost yearly ritual every June going by myself to the Katonah Fireman's Carnival for the sole purpose of buying a real carnival sausage and pepper wedge. I'd weasel for a parking spot, enter the fair, find the sausage guy, buy two sausage with pepper and onion wedges and a coke big enough to take all the paint off a Chrysler- and then leave. It was all I wanted from the carnival.

It also runs over-the-top.

I even once asked someone at work who I knew was going to the Goshen County Fair to bring me back a sausage with peppers and onions. The following morning she brought it into work and even though it sat in a paper bag all night I ate it on the spot like I might never see another one.

I love the taste of sweet Italian sausage with peppers and onions. And that has enormously contributed to my now being on this Vegan/Vegetarian "ladder".

The thing is, I love the taste of sweet Italian sausage with peppers and onions but that's the beginning, middle, and end of the story. It "tastes good". Period. I eat it for no other reason. And that's that. Now though, it "tastes good" is becoming not a good enough reason to eat one. Since being at the farm and spending time around the animals I'm losing my taste for meat and dairy in general. (Not a bad spot to say that I still do eat meat and dairy. More to follow.) Oddly though, the thought of leaving meat and dairy behind seems to be only partly a conscious decision. Mostly it just seems to be falling away on it's own. I'm just not pursing it in most places in my life. It seems to be a process. I think I like that aspect of it. I pick up a sausage with peppers and onions wedge now and it isn't the same. It doesn't feel right. It's taste now carries bad baggage. I still did eat one this past Summer while at a carnival.

So, do I "WANT" to become a Vegetarian? Yes, I'd like to try. The alternative is losing it's appeal. Eating sausage, other meat, or dairy products hasn't felt like either the moral or logical high ground for a while now. I wish to exit the scene and see what I find. These days I don't ever find myself wishing for a sausage wedge with pepper and onion and I haven't made one at home since some time last Spring.

Here's where I think I am for the immediate future: I need to develop logistical and behavioral answers to being Vegetarian in order to move on this ladder. In terms of logistics that means finding ways to eat a little bit throughout the day without resorting to animal products. It also means developing a network of places that carry a selection of Vegetarian choices where I can just "run in and grab something". "Convenience" is presently a large obstacle for me. If I could wave the proverbial magic wand and have every possible Vegetarian option at my fingertips throughout the day there would be little remaining issue. As mentioned though, behavioral answers are also required here and are addressed below. Here's what I need to answer both logistically and behaviorally:

* Sugar issue: A few years ago I became slightly hypoglycemic and need to eat small amounts of food throughout the day to maintain the right sugar level. Sometimes I need a blast of sugar when physical exertion is involved such as at work or at the farm. If I'm not carrying enough snacks from home, the vending machine always looms at work and the average deli that I stop at stock few Vegetarian answers. I am building a network though deli-wise. The sugar issue will be solved when I work out a way to keep a sufficient variety of snackstuff with me. I do this at work between my locker and my bag, but I need to up the selection. Also, new postal regulations limit the size of a personal bag that an employee can bring to work. I'm going to challenge the postmaster on this after the next few weeks.

* Convenience/Accessibility: As above, see "locker", "bag", and "network". Between commuting to work, being at work itself, driving to and from the farm, and just plain being out of the house, I spend a large amount of time on the road. Convenience and accessibility are crucial issues.

* Time: While I like to cook when I'm with someone else, I have little time for it otherwise. There's too much I'd rather be doing so I put only a small amount of time into preparing food to eat for dinner, or to stock up and polish off over a few days. A little prep or occasional cooking is okay but mostly I just "grab and go". Discovery of different foods that need little or no prep should blunt the time issue. And I need to just flat out make more time. The busy season at work is now over. Will give it a go.

* Financial cost: Companies/stores that sell Vegan soap, shampoo, and other products are at the economic mercy of the number of their consumers. There just aren't enough of these consumers so prices tend to be high for these items. For now, I can't pay several dollars for a bar of soap or $20.00 for a jar of refrigerated sunflower seed butter. I'm sure there are answers to this but I need to discover them.

* "Comfort Food" Factor: We all have our comfort foods and after 46 years of Omnivorism mine are mostly not Vegetarian. Though as with the example of sausage with peppers and onions, I can now see these falling away with time. I haven't eaten veal since I was somewhere in high school. Today, I couldn't tell you what it tastes like. Pizza is probably my single favorite thing to eat and I've already discovered that pizza with soy-based cheese (and an extra dash of salt) is just fine and does not leave me wishing I had mozzarella instead. I wish though that I could find a pizza place along my work commute that regularly carried Vegetarian pizza. It must be there. In the end, I'm not afraid of losing older comfort foods. I've already adapted some and newer ones will take their place. The other week, having driven Sheila to Newark airport for her trip back to Scotland, she flung (20 feet!) me a plastic wrapped Vegan chocolate chip cookie while standing on the international security check-in line. Neither of us were hauled off by INTERPOL and a new food with a cool story was born.

* Craving: Any food that I find myself craving seems to involve one of the following three factors: 1 Sweet. 2 Salt. 3 Spice (but not hot). I already have answers to these when I'm home. Example: Grab a tomato. Add whatever spice(s) I want. Done. I tend to now use more spices on things than ever before. They're cheap, convenient, and they answer the craving so it all works well. I think sweet, salt, and spice cravings are firmly linked with convenience and accessibility as above. Basically, when I get a craving for something I need to have a ready answer for it.

A craving that I think (but am not sure) that I've had for a while now is for Iron. I think it may have something to do with my craving for meat such as at lunchtime while at work. I still do not eat enough (practically none) green leafy vegetables. Broccoli is downright evil stuff and possession of Cauliflower should be a felony. Answering the Iron question is just a matter of learning a few things though.

* Rituals: What!? You mean watching a movie without popcorn and extra butter!? Are you effing kidding!? I became a Yankee fan because my cousin Joe made the best buttersloshed popcorn while we watched Mickey Mantle and a rookie banger named Reggie Jackson on WPIX. Incredible, but I'm not missing it. I have upped the salt though. I also have this theory that a fine spray (it would have to be a spray) of olive oil might taste good.

Do I "WANT" to be Vegan? No, right now I can't imagine that happening. While the time may come where I would be Vegan in diet, clothing, household products usage and other lifestyle choices, what would prevent me from fully accepting Veganism would be in terms of medical answers. Faced with illness, pain, or in need surgery, I cannot imagine I would decline a medical resolution to a problem based on the resolution's history of animal testing. If an animal testing-wise choice is available between certain medicines or medical procedures then the answer would be clear. If no choice is available the answer would also be clear. For now, I have no idea how to beat the medical question and I don't know how others have come to terms with it. Medical issues aside, I've seen that one can live well with an infinitely lighter footprint on the backs of farm (and other) animals. I'd like to do that.

At present I probably intake a pound of meat a week. Call it two pounds a week factoring in animal products found in cookies, milk for road coffee, etc. and factoring in holidays. Add to that my use of non-Vegan soap, shampoo, etc. and I think it would be a fair estimate that roughly three goat-sized animals have to die each year in order for me to live as I do now. I don't like that number. I'd like to get that number down to one goat this time next year (an odd way to term it I know, but please go with me here). After next year is too far to call.

With that in mind, I need to step up a rung here.


* Anything pig-related including sausage with peppers and onions- I'm done. I have this feeling big chunks of Portobello mushroom simmered in olive oil with rosemary to replace the sausage would be interesting to try.

* Anything chicken, turkey, or bird-related- nearly done. Today I bought a jar of chicken bouillon cubes which I'll bring to work. I'd like to see if drinking a cup of chicken broth before I leave for the road might help the urge to buy a sandwich at the deli and instead just get the cucumber and tomato salad.

* Lamb. Done.

* Pastrami and corned beef. Done. I probably haven't had either of these in a few years and it would be a good time to drop them.

* Fish of any kind with the exception of clams and mussels. Done. This is partly an ecological decision. Our oceans are dieing as fast as we can kill them. For the time being I will continue to eat clams and mussels and see what happens down the road.

* Honey. I don't eat many things with Honey to begin with but will do so if there is no other alternative but to eat a dairy product baked good. Other than that, I can't see myself eating anything with Honey.

Diet (Miscellaneous and Conclusion)

I believe this removes all meat from my diet with the exception of beef, chicken in bouillon form, clams, mussels, and Honey. My present dairy intake is limited to milk with coffee while on the road when soymilk is not available, and I rarely eat ice cream anymore so that can be easily crossed off. Vegan substitutes for ice cream, mayo, parmesan and mozzarella taste just fine. I've never liked eggs so that's not a give-up. I don't eat any so called "exotic" meat so that's not a give-up either. I still eat chocolate chip cookies. In terms of all of the above, I'll need to stay away from restaurants for a while so if you and I don't meet at a diner to chat please humor me for a bit. There's always Starbucks. I will have to continue to spend money at McDonalds (drive-thru) for the foreseeable future in terms of their salads. I'm not in a position yet to ignore the convenience of their salads as they are located, well, everywhere. I need to consider McDonalds salads as a "bridge" on this "ladder". I'm also presently going to leave the door open to other fast-food places if the item they offer is right. Wendys sells baked potatoes and both McDonalds and Dunkin Doughnuts sell iced coffee in the morning which is when I need it. I can think of no reason to visit a Burger King or a Kentucky Fried Chicken. I'm sure there are things on both sides of the plate that aren't coming to mind with all of this but this should give a good indication where I'm at. If you're interested in talking about anything mentioned or not mentioned here feel free to knock.

Home and Personal Care Products

* The two Mother Earth stores on rte. 9 stock all kinds of things in these two categories. I always look but have yet to buy. Whatever I choose to buy over the coming year will be determined solely by price. I simply cannot afford to spend $3.00-$5.00 on a bar of soap or $20.00 for a jar of refrigerated sunflower seed butter. Today I bought 15 bars of Irish Spring soap for $5.00 total. To buy the equivalent Vegan alternative would cost a minimum of $45.00. I wish I could do that but I cannot. I'll look again in the Mother Earth store and try to choose a single category of these products to pursue.


* Leather belt. Gone. An easy give-up. Not sure why I've only thought of this now and not 8 months ago.

* Leather wallet gone as soon as I find ANYWHERE that sells non-leather wallets! No joke! I've so far been to K-Mart, Target, TJ Maxx, and the Dollar Store without finding a single non-leather wallet!

* Down jacket. Gone.

* Leather farm gloves. Will put one more year at the farm on the pair I have and then be done with them. I don't own any other leather clothing except shoes (see below).

* I don't think I've ever owned anything made from silk and I don't like wool anymore. Anyway, I don't own either now and have no need to change that.

* Unless one resides and makes a non-exploitive living on the Arctic ice pack, wearing Fur is for human oxygen wasters.

* I do not own a case for my cell phone. I renewed last June and to this day I cannot find a non-leather case to go with the phone anywhere at any price. It's scratched up pretty good but that's okay. I've stopped looking for a non-leather case.

* My Ipod will be history in another 6 months and the leather case will go with it.

* I wear leather shoes and boots. I do not see that changing in the near future. Again, this is a ladder.

I'm comfortable with everything above as a meaningful ladder rung.

Some additional thoughts (OMG have you gotten this far?!)

* Extremism: If you know me, you probably know that I'm not given to extremism in any form. I run from it. I don't look at this decision as an extreme one. I'm looking to replace a percentage of things in my life with different things. I haven't changed. You and I haven't changed. There, that sounds okay.

* Anger and Rebellion: The "culture of slaughter" that exists in the food industry today is fucking dreadful and I feel the need to respond to it. Removing myself from participation is feeling right.

* A "Word": At Christmas, my mother, who limits her meat intake to fish and her animal products intake to milk and egg used in a limited number of baked goods, told me something that helps her avoid most animal products. She uses the word "Hysteria" to herself and it enables her to pass on whatever she might be offered in terms of meat, milk, cheese, or eggs. This floored me. I've become aware of the value of the word "Hysteria" from the farm but it hadn't occurred to me to keep the word with me. I immediately started using it and I think it'll be around for a while. As mentioned, if you're someone from the farm reading this you already know the value of this word. However, if you're not from the farm and aren't familiar with the context of the word, and you think you might want to ask me what's so significant about the word "Hysteria", do feel free to ask. I promise a far shorter answer than this blog entry. Or even this paragraph. (Seriously.)

Why am I telling all this to you?

There are several reasons. I feel I owe this blog entry to people at the farm such as Jen, Doug, Robin, Anthony, and now Sheila who each in a very good natured way occasionally ask where and why I stand on a certain diet-related issue. I've been telling them for months that "I'll have to put it in the blog. There's no easy answer to just whip off." So, here it is. Finally!

If you're, well, anyone, consider this entry a part of this blog's running thread on "Transition" since leaving Westchester. The blog will be ending in the next few weeks and something I plan on having a lot of fun with will take it's place in two-three months.

I'm also writing this for myself. I've needed to write this out to help give some structure to what's been going on with this part of my life the past months. Placing it in public view adds a good dimension to it for me. I've never been one to keep a journal but entries such as this, and other blog entries, have been a great help in terms of thought structure.

And if you're still awake, all the better.


Friday, October 27, 2006

First Summer in Poughkeepsie

I can't say this entry will be very entertaining. Just wanted to wrap up my first Summer here in Poughkeepsie and this feels like a good way to do it.


(Looks like one of my photos made the cover of Satya magazine!
Cool! Thanks Satya and Jen!)

This was a terrific Summer! The odd thing is, it was also incredibly busy at work as we've been short-staffed for a while now. I wound up working many six-day weeks but still got time in to take a lot of walks in new places, get to the farm mid-week, get to some concerts and meet a bunch of new people.

Some Summer stuff:

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Saw Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young play at the site of the original Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York. Max Yasgur's family sold part of the land to the state and it's now a performing arts center.

Oh my god what a concert!

They played for 4 hours with one 20-minute break. If you remember it, they probably played it! Plus lots of their solo stuff, Buffalo Springfield stuff, and many songs from Neil Young's new album "Living with War". And yes, Stephen Stills re-proclaimed they were all "scared shitless!" and Graham Nash warned everyone not to eat the brown acid!

Oh my god what a concert!!!

The Smithereens

Saw "The Smithereens" on the "Blues Cruise". For those of you who aren't so local, the "Blues Cruise" is a fairly large tour boat that's normally known as the "Circle Line". It travels daily around Manhattan for a 2-hour tour. At night though, they sometimes have name bands perform.

You can't get much closer to a band than on the Blues Cruise. You are literally "inches and feet" from the band! It was a perfect night weather-wise as well. The band was more loosey-goosey than I've seen them in the past but it was still a good show.

Grey Fox and Falcon Ridge (Bluegrass)

Got to the "Grey Fox" Bluegrass festival in Ancramdale, NY which I had been wanting to get to for a few years. There were some good moments to remember but the "Falcon Ridge" Bluegrass festival in Hillsdale, NY was awesome! I was at Falcon Ridge for only one day (Sunday) and was helping to man a table that the farm had set up for the weekend. But I did manage to walk around and listen and definitely want to go back next year!

If you like Bluegrass, "Grey Fox" is the far bigger show but the spirit at the Falcon Ridge festival is infinitely cooler!

The Ashokan Reservoir

The Ashokan is a monster reservoir that feeds lower reservoirs that eventually feed NYC (I think). The only reservoir in NY State that's bigger is the Pohacton which is 28 miles long (figure from Brewster to the Bronx.) When the Ashokan was built, several towns had to be relocated.

Anyway, it's surrounded by equally monster-sized hills and has a 2-mile long, blacktopped walking path near it's spillway. I walked there numerous times this Summer and recently rollerbladed there with a friend from work.

Catskill Animal Sanctuary

I haven't been to the Catskill Animal Sanctuary since July. It's been a combination of them not needing as much help and me not able to get there as it's been so busy at work. Any extra time I have I give to Woodstock. I'll pick up with Catskill again after the Holidays.

Farm Sanctuary

Spent almost two days at "Farm Sanctuary" near Watkins Glen. "Farm Sanctuary" is the original sanctuary for abused farm animals and is over 100 acres with a large staff. Jen (Director of the "Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary") worked there for a time before starting the Woodstock sanctuary with her husband Doug who also worked there.

I had forgotten how gorgeous the Finger Lakes region is and enjoyed the experience of seeing a third farm's operation.

My Cat "Boris"

My cat "Boris" who lives with Noreen is going blind. The vet doesn't know why he's going blind but Boris is adapting. I saw him the other week at Noreen's. He's basically moving as fast as his whiskers and ears will allow him to. He's navigating very well and one has the sense that he still has partial vision. If you met him you'd probably not notice that he has vision trouble.

The funny thing is, the first thing I noticed about Boris was his eyes. When he showed up at the back door one day I said to Noreen's mother "Did you see the cat outside with the bright eyes?" Sunlight makes his eyes literally explode with light and until we got him into the house and named him, I called him the "Bright Eyes Cat".

I'm sad. But he'll be okay with Noreen and her mother.


"Girl", our house German Shepard had to be put to sleep. She was about 14-years old and couldn't walk anymore. The house still doesn't feel the same without her. "Festivus", our most silly house cat, has bounced back after going through some sad times looking around the house for Girl.


I never got into the water once this Summer! Not once! No ocean, no lake, no pond, no river, no nothing with the exception of washing my face in several Catskill mountain streams, which though nice, was not exactly all I intended on doing in water when the Summer began!

I'm buying a Kayak for next Summer!

4th of July

And speaking of "water", does anybody here drink "Crystal Rock" water? I can't tell you if the water itself comes from crystals, rocks, or Chris Rock's backyard but the distribution plant sits on a high hill that overlooks several towns near Watertown, CT (where the water, oddly enough, does NOT come from). It was a cool vantage point to see different fireworks displays simultaneously. Went with "Runaround Watertown Sue", who no matter where we go, people just start talking to her out of the blue! Maybe it's the nursery school teacher face. Or the ribbed top.

My Birthday

Got treated to ice-skating (in August!) by Sue, her daughter Amy, and a friend of Amy's. I'm a sucker for "things silly" and it was one of the best nights of the Summer! Just skating around, trying not to wipe out from lack of skating muscles, and just being, well, silly. It was the perfect birthday present!

Again, a good Summer!

I'm also looking forward to Winter more than I have in the past. Winter has always been kind of a flat spot on the calendar for me but I'm going to have a lot to fill it up with this year- dance lessons, a photography class, and of course the farm. (And Sheila's coming back from Scotland for a bit!)

Oh yes, and I'm moving again! Ken's selling the house so it's time to go. I've already moved most of what I own to self-storage. The house is already listed and there's a sign on the front lawn but it'll take a while to close even if the house sells immediately. I know I'll stay in this general area. Will update.

Yours in seasonal transition,


Tuesday, July 04, 2006


(Clicking on any image brings up the larger one.)

Olivia came to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary after being left behind with two roosters when a family's house burned down and the family moved away. To talk about how much Olivia means to the people who meet her would take far longer than would be allowed by this single entry. She is loved by all.

Olivia is also a natural character when it comes to the camera and the slant that I've given this group of photos is mostly a humorous one. Besides, Olivia was rather adamant that you should see a goat's impression of a Praying Mantis. The rest just kinda followed.

Big Bad Wolf


A Flounder

A Mantis


A Gentle Eye

The "Evil Eye"

A Little Jewish

(Stand) Like an Egyptian

A "Stanley Kubrick"
(A "Stanley Kubrick" refers to a type of shot that appears in every Stanley Kubrick film. Think Malcolm MacDowall at the milk bar in "A Clockwork Orange" or Jack Nicholson frozen dead in the snow in "The Shining".)


A Bow

Computer Desktop

Some Summer Piggies for Ya!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Let's Go Back a Bit

(Clicking on any photo brings up the larger one.)

In one of the first entries to this blog, I tried to describe the difficulty in attempting to pitchfork heavy, mucky hay into a tractor bucket while surrounded by three moving 1,500 pound steer. To re-mention, though the steer have about 8 available acres on which to sit, stand, lie, or cartwheel, they apparently feel they must become as involved in the muck removing process as they were in the muck depositing process.

Especially if that involvement includes standing square on the muck pile one is presently attempting to pitch.

So, here are some Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary farmer and animal faces to go with the names. These photos are from May 6th and include Robin (front tractor bucket), Anthony (small tractor), and Doug (free safety farmer). And of course, Ralphie (tractor front), Andy and Elvis (tractor rear), and Dylan the calf (grasstrimmer at large).

I wish I had more photos from this scene but these should give an idea how gingerly this particular farm chore needs to be navigated.

Here are some portraits that I'm kind of fond of. Again, clicking on the photo will bring up the larger one:




Some news and more photos soon. (Sorry for the lack of text in this one Phyllis!)

Friday, April 07, 2006

This Blog is Changing

With the weather now slowly getting warmer, it's time to make a change with this blog. For the winter months I've had time to write many entries to this blog but with the warmer weather coming I'm going to be outside far more than writing these entries will allow. So, for the coming months at least, this blog will be "photo-based" rather than "text-based".

Here's the scoop:

I've picked up the camera again and I want to get busy with farm related and non-farm related photography. By incorporating photos into this blog I'll have a partial creative outlet for what I do with the camera and you'll get a chance to visually see the farm, the animals, and some of what I find in the Dutchess/Columbia/Ulster County area.

Of course, there will still be at least a small amount of text and the occasional story.

And speaking of text, here comes the last REALLY long entry for a while! I've gone back through the blog and tried to tie up some loose ends while adding some new stuff.

(You might need coffee for this!)

* Regarding the dairy farmer who never called back about my possibly volunteering at his farm, I am no longer wondering why he never called back. I had told him that I did not wish to have anything to do with veal but I was unaware at the time that as a dairy farmer he is a part of the veal industry. I would never have approached a dairy farm if I had known and so he knew ahead of me that it wouldn't have been a good fit.

* I haven't been to the soup kitchen in a while now. Any free time I have I give to the Woodstock farm and a smaller percentage to the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. If I were to not go AT ALL to the kitchen, it actually wouldn't even matter from a "needs" standpoint. The kitchen has no shortage of help whereas the farms are in constant need of help. Again, I'm sure I'll go back to the kitchen but on a here-and-there basis to keep in touch with the people that work there and with some of the clients. Ken still occasionally volunteers at the kitchen.

* As three housemates, Ken, Anthony, and I have run into some small junk that comes from three people living in close quarters but all gets worked out and I'm still very happy here. I wish this was more of a rural area but as I tell everyone this place is near EVERYTHING so it has terrific advantages. I drove to Great Barrington, MA the other day to see the new Neil Young film and it only took 1 hour which is only 15 minutes longer than it takes to drive to work.

* I am no longer "a little pudgy"! Well, maybe slightly but the coming warm weather and walking during the week will take that away. The farm has definitely kept me from putting on more of a "winter coat" this winter!

* Festivus and Girl are doing good though Girl's been having trouble with her back legs. She's about 14 which is old for a German Shepard.

* I was doing good catching up on the many films that I've missed the past 5 years or so but I've since slacked off due to the farm. Will get on track again!

* If you haven't seen the "Ducks vs. Penguins" animated soccer game yet, here's another chance! It's really cool! You won't be disappointed! Again, you'll need a high speed connection and turn on your speakers!:

* The Woodstock Sanctuary is about 48 acres. Much of it is wooded which is why I underguessed it's size by so much!

* Talked to Sheila in Scotland the other week! She's doing good and may be back soon for another visit!

* Morgan is still at the farm. He'll be leaving at some point to start his own excavation company but it's open-ended right now as to when. Glad he's sticking around!

* Dylan now often follows me by just my calling his name. It is such a thrill to just walk with a calf (with no lead/leash) as one would walk with a dog. I suppose that "calf pecking order rules" dictate that I always lead and so Dylan never walks in front of me. He always walks at least a half a step behind me and off to one side unless he knows I'm carrying food in which case I get bodyblocked from all directions!

* Sheila introduced me to the chickens in a way that I've really taken to. Before the farm I never "got" chickens. I now see the different personalities and am having fun with the few that I key on. There's only one chicken in the "white bird coop" that I can't pick up and that's because I can't catch it!

* The other day I was finishing an apple as I was walking in the "main chicken flock" yard when all of a sudden "Pecan the Hen" LEAPED into the air and took a bite of the apple! She looked pleased with herself!

* "Brandy", the new rooster, is an absolute hit at the farm! Try to pick up an average rooster and they'll struggle with you. Some more than others. They don't really like to be handled. Not only will Brandy let you pick him up but it is impossible to find so much as a single tense muscle on his body while holding him. He is completely at ease with people. I forget who was holding Brandy the day he arrived but while the person was holding Brandy, Dylan was "testing" Brandy's leg and had the leg in his mouth all the way up to the hip! Brandy never squawked a bit and just "went with it" that his leg happened to be in a silly calf's mouth!

* Remember my saying that the roosters can be loud? The other week Jen asked me to put 9 bales of hay in the rooster house. They had apparently run out of hay and the noise in the morning was so loud without the hay that Jen and Doug apparently had trouble sleeping!

* The three Turkey's names are: Alphonso, Boone, and Hershel. One of the Guinea Hens is named Hershel as well.

* I can now pet "Mio" who is the "roaring dog" who greeted me at the door the first few times I visited the farm.

* Umm, I do know how to spell "udder"! I've always made the dummest tipos.

* I've now been to the "Catskill Animal Sanctuary" 4-5 times and have met many new people who, naturally, all share the same interest in animals. Catskill is about a 1/2 hour shorter drive time for me so when I can't make it to Woodstock with enough time to be of value and I want to get dirty I'll go to Catskill. This timing/mileage arrangement will work well when I finish the day early at work and have some extra time.

By the way, it's the "Catskill Animal Sanctuary" not the "Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary" as mentioned previous. And "Bobo" the blind horse is a female and not a male.

* I found the location of the place that makes vegetarian raviolis but haven't stopped yet. I'm sure I will soon.

* I have yet to meet a person at the farm who I believe does not receive some type of sanctuary themselves by being at the farm. It's that kind of place.

* I never did get to Mohonk for ice-skating this season. Next year for sure!!

* A while back I said that I need to re-evaluate some things and see if I can adjust my diet to more of a non-meat and non-dairy one. I just want to mention it here that I haven't forgotten this and will get into it more in an upcoming entry. I still need a little more time.

* Also a while back, I mentioned my "Top Five" songs of all time and that I needed to add Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues" to the list. It seems silly to have a "Top Six" list, so let's take it all the way to 10.

Here are the first 5:
All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix version)
Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkle)
Cowgirl in the Sand (Neil Young)
Fire and Rain (James Taylor)
Reason to Believe (Tim Hardin or Rod Stewart versions)

The following additions have always been there for me (with the exception of "Tom Traubert's Blues" which I've only recently discovered), I just never commited them to a list:

Gimme Shelter (The Rolling Stones)
Heroes (David Bowie long version)
Tom Traubert's Blues (Tom Waits)
The Ecstacy of Gold (Ennio Morricone)
Driver 8 (REM)
Who'll Stop the Rain? (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Do you see what I see? Yeah, that makes 11 songs. Looks like I'm going to have to live with it. I cannot lop a song off this list. Well, if we're friends, that means you probably get a kick out of some of my quirks. So, consider this another quirk at no extra charge. "Top 11 Songs of All Time" it is.

Also, do you see a thread to these songs? Each one can be described as a "haunting" kind of a song. I've known about this thread for a few years. I think I like it.

* Now that they are more familiar with their surroundings, some of the goats now often wander off by themselves in the field. The herd, as a defensive formation, is still very important to all the goats but they've now relaxed in their new home to the point that the herd can disperse.

On a sad note, "Lil' Cay" had to be put to sleep. She developed a kidney problem (probably from a virus) and couldn't make it.

* Since the day I walked onto the farm I've made it a point that any relationship that I might have with an animal would not be "food based". I don't believe there is anything wrong under the right circumstances with feeding an animal to make a connection but I'm looking for a different connection with these animals.

I do have a few exceptions though. Whether at work or at the farm, I always have with me a container of "grapenut/oatmeal/granola" stuff that I eat during the day. I give a little bit of this throughout the day to Brandy and to a small, white chicken that hasn't joined a flock yet and hangs out in the yard. I'm not sure why I do it with them but it works.

For the first few times that I sat with the sheep I gave them peanuts to break the ice. The ice has now been broken and I think they're content even if I show up in their pen just to sit and smush rather than to vend out the peanuts.

Well, that's what I got so far so that's what you got so far. Thank you for reading and for letting me know that you might have liked a certain story or asked something about a particular topic. It's made for a good feeling and I absolutely wish you to know that I have received from you the "extra connectivity" that I needed when I began this blog back in December. So, thank you for that as well.

Back in a few weeks with some photos.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Family Farming

Oh man! A warm, sunny day at the farm! T-shirts, faces a little brighter, animals in every field lying in the sun, and the first smells of new grass!

Today's "photon farmers" include: Jen, Doug, Chris, Louisella, Robin, and Anthony.

Three new names for the day:

"Jim" and "Pierre". Jim worked for the day with Chris on the barn and also brought his really cool dog "Pierre" who spent much of the day hanging out by the trucks.

"Chris". A different Chris and a friend of Louisella's.

The day started with "Goat Checks". Much like "Pig Checks", goat checks require the goat to be secured to a pen rail by a rope around the face while hooves are trimmed, skin in general is inspected, and shots are administered. The goats didn't like the checks any more than the pigs did but they were far easier to catch and to handle. (Each pig weighs up to 1,000 lbs. but the largest goats probably top out at less than 200 lbs.) Louisella and her friend Chris checked goats on one side of the goat pen in the new barn while Robin and Anthony did the same on the other side of the pen. I played "free safety" bouncing back and forth between the two goat checking areas as needed.

During the checks Robin's mother and friend showed up for a visit so there was a neat mom-daughter element to the scene.

As for the rest of the morning, this was a morning of muck! I mucked out a chicken coop, the rooster coop, and the goat pen with Anthony which brought us close to lunchtime.

Lunch: Vegetarian burgers which were really terrific! I purposely didn't ask what they were made of until I was almost finished. I didn't want to have any "pre-conditioned responses" in play in case there was something in mine that I might feel finicky about. When I did ask Doug he said that they were primarily made of oats and rice. I put avacado and ketchup on mine and could have easily have had a second one. Good stuff!

With "inspirational noodging" provided by Anthony I also tried "Veganaise" a Mayonaisse substitute on the side. No, it did not taste like Hellman's Mayonaisse but don't let stop you from trying it if you get the chance! It was VERY good and it did not leave me wishing that I had traditional mayonnaise instead.

With "proper name noodging" also provided by Anthony(!), the bread dish that I tried the other week is called "Seitan". It's pronounced "say*tan" with the accent on the "t". If you sound a little French while pronouncing it, you're saying it right.

After lunch there were some small chores and I loaded up two buckets of compost for my friend Phyllis' garden which brought the day to "evening routine".

Well, I had my first "guests" at the farm. My parents came up about 3:30 just in time for the beginning of evening routine.

After Mio (the resident "Gatekeeper" dog) let both new faces pass, and Stormy (the resident "cool! a new person to land on!" pigeon) flew in for an eventual successful landing on my father's head, we began our walk around the farm. And yes, with Stormy observing from the top of my father's head for a good part of it!

I showed them around, they got to talk to Jen, Doug, and Anthony for a bit, we walked through all the fields with the exception of the steer field, together we fed pellets to the pigs and hay to the steer, rubbed a sleeping Pig-Pig's belly (who s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d o-u-t to accomodate), heard the turkeys vibrate, picked up "Brandy" the rooster, were checked out by "Pecan the Hen" who came to the gate to say hello, and they got to witness 5th gear chicken sprinting (including the always popular and handsome "Hollander") during the white bird's afternoon feeding.

Afterwards, my mother and I hopped a pen rail to sit with the sheep for a while. Of the sheep that came close, they were very active and curious as they thought they would be getting peanuts which is what I give them sometimes when I sit with them. We didn't have any peanuts but a few sheep still stuck around to be smushed. It was very quiet, very nice.

Because of the one hour time change the previous night my timing might be off but I think we left the farm about 5:30 after saying goodbyes. Both parents seemed to have had a lot of fun and I'm sure they'll be back to visit. It's a two hour ride (one way) for them which makes it a bit of a haul.

So, a warm, sunny farm day filled with goat checks, parental visits, more barn work, and enough muck for everyone including the as yet unseen Phyllis' garden.