Sunday, December 25, 2005

The "Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary"

I owe some talk here about the soup kitchen (next time- promise!) but I want to tell you about something new. This past Thursday, I began volunteering at the "Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary".

The Sanctuary is a non-profit, approximately 20-acre spread (I'm bad at acreage estimates) that provides a home and finds placement for abused farm animals.

Here's who I met and some moments from the day:

Jen and Doug: Jen and Doug are the owners of the Sanctuary. I met Doug briefly but got to spend some extra time talking with Jen about what they're trying to accomplish with the Sanctuary. Besides providing a home and finding placement for abused animals, Doug and Jen plan on opening the sanctuary to the public this coming Summer as not merely a "meet the animals" type of facility, but as a place where the public can receive information on the terrible conditions involved in animal farming and the alternatives that are available regarding the human diet and general lifestyle. Community outreach programs are on the near horizon as well.

Sheila: I spent most of my time at the farm working with Sheila who is a friend of Jen and Doug. Sheila's from Scotland but we were able to talk very well with only occasional subtitles. She is a former teacher and is keenly interested in animals. She's been helping out at the farm for a few weeks and will be helping out for a few more. I get the feeling she returns to the farm now and again to help out.

Morgan: Morgan is a local who helps out at the farm. I only had the chance to talk with him for a few moments but I got the sense that one of his main functions is the building of the fence that's presently going up on part of the property.

Dylan, Stormy, and Olivia: An absolute highlight of the day! After Jen passed me to Sheila, Sheila gave me the tour of the farm. Hen houses, barn, etc. The thing is, as we toured the grounds, we picked up animals along the way and our "duo" shortly became a "band"!

The moment we started the tour, Sheila explained that I shouldn't be too shocked if "Stormy", a pigeon, were to at some point come flying out of nowhere and land on my head. Stormy needs to check out new faces. Sure enough, no sooner had she finished her warning, Stormy fluttered in and landed on my head. He/she stayed for the whole tour alternating between shoulder, head, and hand.

Soon after that, we met up with "Olivia". Olivia is a beautiful tan Goat with the kindest eyes that look straight up at you as if she's trying to make some kind of deeper contact with you. She literally "looks into your face".

Well, Olivia decided she had to get in on the action and took a spot at the end of the line behind Sheila and I (still with Stormy on my head/shoulder!) as we continued our walk.

Next, we met "Dylan".

There's something special about Dylan. Dylan is a calf that started out as a veal calf. Sweet, gentle, inquisitive, one can immediately see Dylan has a soul. And when Dylan looks up at you, you get the sense that he's looking for yours.

Okay, a rather anthropomorphic moment, but I was affected.

You can meet Dylan, as well as much of the rest of the cast, here (

Oh yes, after I was given the "once over" by Dylan, Dylan took a spot in line behind Olivia and followed us all as we worked our way to meet up with Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis.

Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis: Three large, castrated (meaning they're now far more docile than otherwise) bulls all previously saved from veal farms. I didn't enter the pen that they were in but Sheila said that one would be safe to do so. They had some hay to polish off so they remained behind as Sheila, Bob (still w/Stormy on his head/shoulder), Olivia, and Dylan trooped off to see the pigs.

Nine Humongous Pigs: I didn't get any names except Juliet, but each one of these pigs is easily the size of Buick! (Well, you get the idea.) They were all sleeping, grunting, snorting, and turning inside their barn but later on I helped feed them bread, melons, and horse pellets. Sheila said the pigs are fed horse pellets because pig pellets are meant to put massive weight on the pig before slaughtering. Since these pigs will not be going to slaughter, there's no need for them to put on extra weight. Apparently horse pellets give them everything they need.

Somewhere between the pigs and one of the hen houses we lost Olivia and Dylan who returned to their initial areas. Stormy remained on my shoulder for a while longer. We must have looked like quite a sight before that though. It was a wonderful moment.

Okay, now to the rest of the gang.

Nine Roosters and about Three-Dozen Chickens: At the end of the day, many of the Hens and all of the Roosters had to be given a medication by mouth via a syringe. Sheila did that while, umm, the new guy held the flashlight. Anyway, you've never heard such a riot of sound until you've grabbed a sleeping Rooster, among eight other sleeping Roosters, in a 10' x 10' building with the door closed! Half of Ulster County must have woken up thinking it was time for breakfast!

"Pecan" the Hen: If you are new to the property, Pecan has to size you up. Incredible! No different than with any dog. When Sheila first walked me to one of the hen houses, sure enough, out of the pack of Hens walked Pecan straight to me. She walked around me just close enough without touching and kind of settled into the ground in front of me. So funny!

Two Guinea Hens: I forgot the name of one Guinea Hen but the one who tends to fly over the fence is named "Orville".

Three Dogs: Of the three dogs, the only one who's name I remember is "Mae". One of the dogs is somewhat new to the farm and is still a bit skittish around the animals. Sheila thinks he'll get the hang of it all soon.

One dog has a "no petting allowed" policy (at least with me as the new guy). As Jen and Doug advise on their website "If a large black dog charges toward you looking like the hound from hell, don't be afraid. Just let him smell you, and don't pet him".

As expected, he came roaring to the door the moment I knocked.

And yes, he did and I didn't. It all worked out.

Moby: Moby is a very large white cat who is also deaf. I only had a moment to meet Moby at the end of the day but it was long enough to get both front paws kneaded into my leg for a brief "hello". Jen said that owing to Moby's deafness, he's highly sensitive to vibrations and I had the feeling that I was being "listened" to through both paws. I'm sure we'll be trudging around the grounds together in no time.

So, amidst the introductions of the day, I helped muck out a hen house, unloaded bags of feed for storage, helped while Sheila wrangled the chickens for meds, helped feed the pigs, and waited for the hay truck that never came. All good stuff. As with my dairy farm pursuit, I've been looking for somewhere to work with animals and to get a little dirty. This was a terrific day.

More to follow soon.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

King Kong

Saw "King Kong" last night at the Roosevelt Theater in Hyde Park. Just an amazing film! (Don't want to say much more at the risk of spoiling!)

Not having been to the Roosevelt, I was surprised how large the screen was! Will have to ask next time I go there, but I think that the screening room it was showing in was the original screening room when it was a single screen theater. Can only assume that not all their screening rooms are so large and are more typical of today's multiple screen theaters.

If you have kids, bring them to see this. Bring them to see it not only because it's a terrific movie, but bring them because years from now they'll remember the experience with mom/dad.

With kids or without, you'll remember this film for a long time.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hi guys!

I've been trying to pull together a second e-mail for everyone but a blog seems like it might be more fun. With a blog, I can write a small amount of stuff when it's fresh and you can have a look, well, whenever. (I promise-- no quizzes!)

Elusive Cows

Well, I'm striking out with the cows so far. Last e-mail, I had found a dairy farm to do some volunteer work on, but I had to pass on that one as they also raised veal. I haven't eaten veal in 25 years, so being around even a partial veal farm was not something I wanted to do.

After that farm, I found another dairy farm owned by a retired orthopedic surgeon. I left my information with him (a week or so before Thanksgiving) but he hasn't responded yet. I'm surprised because he was rather enthusiastic about it. Perhaps soon.

Soup Kitchen

In the mean time, I hooked up with a local "Food Bank" in Poughkeepsie on a volunteer basis and went in for my second shift yesterday (Thursday). What a terrific experience it's been so far! To be doing something useful, for no compensation, I wish I had discovered this years ago! I plan on doing it on a weekly basis for the near future. Will have more on this next time.

(Four's) Company

Well, a few changes here. In addition to Ken, the owner of the house, I now have two additional roommates. "Gary" has taken the spare bedroom and "Anthony" has taken the attic apartment. Anthony works with Ken at the real estate office and Gary is a manager at the Food Bank where I am volunteering. Ken introduced me to Gary a few weeks ago. That's how I caught the idea of volunteering at the Food Bank. Ken volunteers there sometimes too.

Music-wise, everyone has their own niche. Anthony listens to a lot of Motown and Broadway, Gary plays a lot of Shirley Bassey and Fleetwood Mac, Ken listens to tons of country western and sappy 70s love songs, and I usually have on a great radio station out of Woodstock (WDST 100.1 FM) that the word "eclectic" doesn't begin to describe. Everyone has headphones as well so it all goes smoothly.

Everything seems to be working so far (there are three bathrooms!). With the addition of Christmas coming, the expected "honeymoon period" of living together is clicking along. There's now a monster Christmas tree in the hallway, four stockings on the fireplace, and Anthony decorated the entire living room with all kinds of colorful Christmas things.

A Little Pudgy

With three Italians in this house, and one "honorary Italian" by way of South Korea, everyone here likes to eat. Someone is always bringing something in, or making something for everyone! Couple this with less walking now that's it's colder outside, and I'm feeling a bit thick around the middle!

The Tale of Festivus

"Festivus", Ken's cat who I mentioned last e-mail, has such a terrific, easygoing personality. But since my last e-mail I discovered just HOW Ken came to own Festivus.

Several years ago a young girl came to the front door with a small black kitten in her hand. She said to Ken that the kitten was wandering around Ken's front yard and did he know who the owner was. Ken said he'd never seen the kitten before but that he would keep it if she didn't want it herself. The girl said she couldn't keep it so Ken took it.

Cut to two years later.

Over time, and by way of neighborhood chatter, it was discovered that the young girl had stopped at 5 other houses on the block that day with the same "lost kitten" story- but with a different kitten each time!

End result- the girl got rid of her unwanted litter of kittens and it was learned why Festivus spends so much time visiting all the neighbors. She's visiting her brothers and sisters!

New Film

I've been trying to catch-up on the zillions of films that I've missed the last five years or so. I may be the last person to hear of these films, but if not, here's some suggestions (beware of "spoilers" in the links!):

"Garden State"
Just see this film!

"Around the Bend"
A kid, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather come together for a roadtrip, of sorts. This is not just a "buddy movie". It transcends to all audiences. Required viewing for Christopher Walken fans. And Michael Caine is priceless. Very funny. Very touching.

"The Off Season"

The reviewer on hated this film. I liked it. It's an extremely creepy ghost story starring one of my favorite actors Larry Fessenden. I didn't like the ending very much though and felt a bit cheated. See this film only if you want a good "creep out", but are okay without a satisying ending.

"Turtles Can Fly"
The first film made in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Produced in the Kurdish north, the film centers on a kid named "Satellite" who earns the name from his ability to install satellite dishes so the village elders can watch the war. The film features mostly non-actor Kurdish children playing themselves. Heartbreaking, funny, an incredible film.

New Music

Want to expand your Ipod a little? Here's some songs you might want to give a listen to:

Kristen Hersh "Your Dirty Answer"
Required listening if you're a fan of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain". This song has a twist though.

Everclear "Brown-Eyed Girl"
A song so heavily identified with Van Morrison, it's tough to believe that anyone could cover it and actually add something to the song. These guys do in an ingenius kind of way. While respecting the original version, they infuse their own take on the song- and the whole thing works wonderfully! You won't be disappointed!

Michael Stipe (w/Natalie Merchant) "Photograph"
If you're a fan of REM, or Michael Stipe, you might also wind up wondering why this song didn't get more airplay and become a major hit.

Mick Jagger (w/Dave Stewart) "Old Habits Die Hard"
When was the last time Mick Jagger made you feel pain in your heart? In this song, he will. I've made copies of this song for several people so far and each one has had the same reaction. They loved it. It just might be impossible NOT to be affected by this song.

Adam Sandler "Werewolves of London"
Sandler plays it straight while still having fun with the song. The instrumentation is a bit different from the original but it's a ball to listen to! This song is on the Warren Zevon tribute CD "Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon".


Once again, "transition" is very much a part of life these days but I'm feeling more settled-in every month. I've met some people here that I very much enjoy spending time with, I seem to be establishing roots, and I can't wait to spend time on some of the water in the area this coming Summer.

This Blog

By the way, the name of this blog is taken from the Neil Young song "Comes a Time". It's always been a favorite. I hope a bit of the spirit of the song is here as well.

So, this is basically a running journal that you're invited to stop in and read. Starting a new life, in a new area, I suppose I need the extra connectivity right now. And you'll get to read what's been happening if we go a little while without seeing each other or talking on the phone.

Ducks vs. Penguins

Geez I almost forgot! Here's a "Ducks vs. Penguins" soccer game! This will need a high speed connection and turn on your speakers!: