Tuesday, January 31, 2006


First, I need to dig out of a hole. Not only did "Tike" pronounce his name for me last week when we introduced ourselves, but he also spelled it for me and I still managed to get it wrong! Sunday I learned that it's pronounced "Key*Kay". I'm not going to even attempt a spelling on it for now. I'll get the spelling soon. He wasn't at the farm Sunday but his name came up in conversation and it sounded like "KeyKay" every time I heard it! What the frig was I hearing last week?

Okay, onward.

A very small group of people at the farm Sunday to work on the barn and even though it began raining around 2:00 a lot of work was completed. Doug and Dante played RoofRats for the morning with Pat taking over for Dante in the afternoon. They were hammering-up 2" x 4"s to provide support for the metal roof that will go over them. I was on the ground cutting boards for them with the circular saw. I haven't touched any kind of saw in years but only blew one cut. Morgan, Anthony, Jen, Dawn, and Gretchen spent a lot of time crawling over new walls like human bees with hammers.

So, two new names:

"Gretchen" is on the board of directors of the "Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary". Jen and Doug have a long-standing relationship with them and today Gretchen was helping out with the new barn. It was the Catskill people who originally saved Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis from veal farms. I plan to visit the Catskill Sanctuary soon for a tour.

"Pat" came with his wife and baby (whose names I did not get). It was his/their first time at the farm and he had his own tool belt which gave me the impression that he knows his stuff.

Towards the end of the day Doug, Morgan, Anthony, and I spent about an hour putting up some final walls. 7/8 of the barn walls are now up. Next week, from what I heard, a lot more of the roof will be put on.

The three newly rescued chickens didn't make it. They had to be euthanized. Apparently, the euthanizing drug stays in any animal's body after euthanization so it's important that the body be cremated so that other animals do not eat the animal and die as well. Morgan had set up a metal barrel for cremation.

I know we're talking about three chickens here who probably do not have the same concept of death that we do, but it made for a sad moment. I first saw them in a cage just off the kitchen in Jen and Doug's house. It was supposed to be their first step towards rehabilitation and there was the inherent hope of it all. Next I saw them outside in their fenced in area inside the chicken coop and there was, again, the hope that they might make it. Each one could eat and drink, but only by picking up and moving their necks and heads a little bit. They could barely, if at all, pick up their bodies. They couldn't live, but they found sanctuary to die in a better way.

Okay, to change mood let's check in with Andy for a sec and then rub some pig bellies.

At one point during the morning, work had slowed temporarily and I told whoever was in ear shot that I was going off to play. I walked over to Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis who were in their field and in easy reach next to the fence. Andy was grooming Ralphie's head with big tongue licks and nose schnuzzles. Ralphie would lower his head and Andy would zoom in for a groom. Occasionally, they would put their heads together, tilt their heads back and forth a little bit and click horns slightly. Not forceful enough to be called a "spar", they were communicating with each other something known best to Steer via this horn-rubbing.

Keep that last image in mind for a moment.

What I do with Dylan when I get the chance is to lower my head in front of his with the hope that I might get a quick schnuzzle if he's in the mood- and he always is! So, after Ralphie walked away, I thought I'd try it with Andy since he was in "grooming mode".

And it worked.

But there was more than I expected.

I stuck my head through the fence and touched his nose with mine. All good so far. I then lowered my head in front of his the way I had seen Ralphie lower his head and as I do with Dylan. And I got my schnuzzle on the top of my head as hoped for!

Again, all good so far.

But then I noticed, as I was crouched way down with my face almost pointing straight towards the ground, that Andy's face was

y coming into view in front of me. He had stopped licking my head and was lowering his face in front of mine. He didn't put his face below mine for a "counter schnuzzle", which is what I thought might be coming. He stopped when his face was directly in front of mine. And then he started tilting his head slightly left and right and I knew that what he wanted was to click horns- BUT I DON"T HAVE ANYTHING TO CLICK!

It was so silly but I felt like I had let him down! I would have rubbed my face into his head/neck if he wanted that but I couldn't do the "horn thing"! Also, I was slightly concerned that if his head moved just a little too fast I might lose an eye.

I pulled back in part shock, part awkward laughter, part guilt, and re-grouped. His head went up after that and he just looked at me. I stood up, gave him a mush on the head, and I think he was okay with that.

Pig bellies.

Pigs have big bellies. Big pigs have really big bellies. These pigs have "Hogzilla" bellies. At some point I said to Dawn that I had seen on the website that the pigs are given belly rubs and I asked her if there was some special approach, or to just go for it. She said that there really isn't a special approach but that one female pig doesn't like it, but she forgot which one(!). I figured with odds of 1 in 12 that I'd annoy the wrong pig, I'd probably live to hammer another nail so off I went to the pig barn.

They were all sleeping, as expected. If one does not see the pigs outside eating one can be pretty sure that they're inside sleeping. And grunting. And snoring. And harrumphing.

I pretty much followed a "watch the nipples" kind of strategy as I started in with belly rubs. If I could see too many nipples I stayed clear owing to Dawn's recollection of the unknown female pig. Of the ones that woke up, they seemed to like it. Pigs mouths have that "perma-smile" to them so they always look happy no matter what. Many did not wake up and I just moved from pig to pig like some kind of mad belly rub monster in a room full of monster pig bellies.

And that was about it. An impromptu "belly rub moment" for the day.

I had vegetarian raviolis for lunch. Tofu-based cheese and no sauce. They were delicious and I have to find out if they can be bought or if someone made them.

Stormy seems to feel the new barn is progressing nicely. He returned again and again to perch on the high overhanging roof beams and monitor the action below.

Having been extra busy this past week at work I was in need of a little "sanctuary" myself by Sunday. Another good day of barns and animals.

More barn next Sunday and possible ice-skating Saturday night at Mohonk's outdoor ice pavilion with 26 ft. high fireplace! Should be a cool weekend!


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