Monday, February 27, 2006

March of the Emperor Farmworkers

A BRUTALLY COLD day yesterday! For most of the day the temperature couldn't have cracked 20 degrees but the real story was the wind. 20, 30, 40 mph- it was unrelenting! Morgan does not wear gloves. Sunday, he wore gloves.

Our squinty-faced, runny-nosed, stiff-walking, shoulder-hunched players for the day include:

Chris who spent the day in the barn building doors.

Jeff and Anthony who worked on the new fence as well as a million other chores.

Morgan and Kyle who worked around the barn for the morning. In the afternoon they ran the tractor and bulldozer to muck out a portion of the steer's field.

Robin handled the morning routine's cleaning and feeding of the animals.

Jen divided her time mostly between the tool shed and the "white storage tent area" which needed a lot of work while Doug divided his time between the same storage area, the fence, and the barn.

I played "Friday" for the day helping Robin with the animals, Doug with the storage area, Jeff & Anthony with the fence, Jen with more storage area work, and Anthony closing down the chickens for the day.

Lunch: Four different types of vegetarian pizza that Jen picked up from town. I tried three different kinds and it was all good stuff. I shredded some tofu "cheese" on one of my slices. I liked it enough (the look and texture was perfect) that I'd like to try it with a little extra salt next time.

Have to end short here. Got home from work very late today and need to get a few things done and get to bed a little early. Still feeling achey from Sunday and I'm looking forward to finishing my Chaplin DVD accompanied by some bow-ties with Newman's marinara.

While the barn didn't make the headway this weekend that better weather would have allowed, it really is poised to make a large leap forward to being ready to house the new animals.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dingo Warriors of Rockstock

Had an unexpected day off yesterday and spent it at the farm. A cold morning but at some point in the afternoon I was good with just a t-shirt for an hour or so until the clouds came to stay.

Spent the day working with Morgan, and for a bit with Kyle.

List of tasks:
* Fed pigs.
* Fed Dylan and Olivia their feed but forgot their hay! (They didn't starve. They never starve! As true bandits, they always find something to eat!) Dylan's now moved on to milk in his feed only. No more bottle. And wouldn't you guess he doesn't eat from the bowl as much as he "suckles it up" as if it was an udder! Slurp-slurp-draw-slurp-draw-slurp.... So funny!

-----Speaking of Dylan, let's break for a "Calftime Special".-------

Dylan usually takes a nap in the afternoon. His pen is left open when he's out of the barn and in the early afternoon he just drifts back into his pen for a nap. However, yesterday he took his nap with Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis. Not in the same field. Dylan's still too young to enter their field. Ralphie and company were on one side of a wire fence with Dylan on the other side but it was most definitely a "communal liedown". I don't think the three big guys actually sleep during the day. It's tough to tell. I think they just rest. But Dylan sleeps with his head tucked against his side and that's what he was doing. Just the four of them in the sun. A very peaceful scene. Jen said that she's seen them do it before. More and more I see Dylan spending time near Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis and this was another peek into the future when Dylan will join his bigger bros.

--------Okay, back to the day.----------

* Hauled a bunch of pine logs from a large pine tree top which had fallen over recently to the "burn pile".
* Helped dig a 30ft. long, 2 1/2 ft. deep trench for the electrical cable to the new barn. Kyle was on the Dingo using a trencher attachment and Morgan and I manned the rakes and pinch bars. The soil at the farm is very rocky when you get down a few feet and the going wasn't easy. Credit Morgan for coining "Rockstock!". Credit Canada for supplying the glacial surplus. Credit whoever invented the pinch bar.
* Helped Morgan attach a new gate to the new fence.
* Fed Ralphie, Andy, Elvis, and the pigs to end the day.

A woman named "Liz" stopped by during the afternoon to volunteer some time. She's been to the farm before and she gave two of the three chicken coops a thorough going over.

Another woman (I didn't get her name) stopped in briefly to take pictures of the pigs. She's a local artist and needed photos for a project.

If the weather is favorable, the barn should make a giant leap forward this coming weekend.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Barn-Bangers, Bean-Eaters, and Celluloid Heroes

A VERY COLD morning yesterday and a very busy day at the farm. Started the day mucking out two hen houses with Robin. It was the first time that I worked with Robin but we found lots to talk about. She's a junior at Marist and lives in the area of the farm. As mentioned earlier, I'll miss working with Morgan who's leaving to start his own excavation company but I equally look forward to working with Robin. Robin, her boyfriend, and her father have all donated time to the "Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary" so she already knows quite a bit about animals and farmwork.

Jen and Doug spent much of the morning with the surveyor who came over for a meeting. A new access road will have to be built to accomodate expected traffic to the farm once it opens to the public this Summer.

About 11:00 or so the surveyor left and it was time to nail up more barn. Doug, Chris, and I spent the rest of the morning adding siding to the second story of the barn while Jen and Robin were working elsewhere and Dawn ran errands.

Kirstie, Erin, and Doug (another Doug) all arrived about the same time in the morning. Kirstie was pushing the wheelbarrow all over the property but I couldn't tell what she was hauling. Erin and Doug spent a lot of time inside the barn putting up the first pen rails to house the coming animals. I think Jen, Dawn, and Kirstie also helped out with the new rails (spending much of the time on ladders today I missed who was doing exactly what!).

Three and 1/2 more new names. "Erin" and "Doug" have been to the farm before and knew exactly what to do, how to do it, and guided themselves. As cold as it was outside, working inside the barn they didn't have the advantage of the sunlight and were certainly even colder than we were outside the barn. They brought their dog "Pretty" (aka "Ja-boo"). They were very friendly, did a lot of work under very cold conditions, and I'm sure they'll be back in the future.

Time for lunch.

Dawn did the cooking this time. She made a kale, olive oil, and garlic dish as before, but this one had a twist. I can't recall the full name, but there was also some type of chard (which looked a bit like thin rhubarb) added in and the dish was served at room temperature as opposed to being still warm from the pan in past weeks. Of course it was good and I'm adding kale to my recent food additions (mushrooms and avacado) the past few years.

But here's the real story from lunch!

As some of you know, there isn't a bean on this planet that I will eat. String beans, lima beans, chili beans, butter beans, baked beans, cici beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, justdontfrigginmatterwhat beans. Can't get them past my teeth. The only beans I've willingly eaten in my life were some lima beans that my grandmother helped me grow up a fire escape when I was 4-years old. Today, I ate black beans in a sweet, thin black sauce (from the bean?) which I put over some couscous. It was very good! I can't bring myself to add black beans to my "additions list" yet, but the idea that I'm even thinking about it is as newsworthy as it gets when it comes to me and a bean!

Spent the afternoon working with Chris to hammer-up the final boards of the second story wall. The hay loft is already filled to the roofline with hay that arrived this past week. Once the top flooor "hay doors" are on, and one thin sliver of roof is added, the second story will be nearly complete.

Doug spent much of the afternoon working with an electrician who came to install some lightning rods for the steer's electric fence. Also, a man and a woman who may want to put on some type of benefit for the farm arrived after lunch and Jen spent time showing them around.

Have I mentioned in the past how humongously really really big the pigs at the farm are? It looks like they're going to become celluloid heroes. Towards the very end of the day, Doug and I went into the barn to set up to feed the pigs. Inside the barn was a 20-something year old guy, who I'd never seen before, standing over one of the sleeping pigs. With one hand he was (gently) nudging the pig just enough to slightly irritate the pig who would rather be sleeping. In the other hand he was holding a long microphone boom and was recording the four-letter pig words that the pig was grunting at him. Apparently, some studio is making a sci-fi movie about monster pigs and the guy is the "sound guy" for the film, and he needed some hefty angry pig sounds. He seemed to have found his sounds and when Doug and I eventually fed the pigs he also recorded the "jostling for position sounds" that the pigs make with each other at dinner time.

It seems a real possibility that with some good weather and a few extra hands there might be significant progress made on the barn interior next weekend.

When I got home I made significant progress on a Chaplin DVD that I picked up last week. I was never a big fan of the "Tramp" character but I seem to be gravitating to it more the past few years. I wish someone would come out with a good Buster Keaton compilation. I'd like to know more about his obscure stuff.

A warm, sleepy end to a cold, busy day at the farm.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Semi-Permeable Barn

If you live in/around NYC and your computer stayed above the snowline today- "welcome".

Very little snow in Woodstock today (1"-2") but the threat of a big snow, plus heavy snow in other areas, kept many people away from the farm. Still, a decent amount of work was done and combined with what was accomplished yesterday, the barn's exterior is nearly finished. It is not so much as "being built" now as much as it is "being finished". Some final exterior wall work needs to be done, a small part of the roof needs to go up, add doors to taste, build interior stalls, get the water and electricity running and it'll be just about done.

I got to the farm around 10:30 and spent the early part of the day cleaning out 2 of the 3 chicken coops with Jen helping on the first one. From there I helped Doug put up various wall boards for the rest of the day. Chris was working alone on the second level of the barn for much of the day and the floor of the hay loft is now nearly finished.

Morgan was there for a short time running the Dingo before his back started to bother him and he had to go home. I found out that Morgan will be leaving the farm soon to try and start his own excavation company. I'll miss working with him. We've only worked together a dozen times or so since I started at the farm but we've had a good time together mucking-out animals and doing a million other chores.

That's about it work-wise. A short day with few people but productive considering the weather.

A quick animal story from the day.

I always have to visit Olivia and Dylan at least once if they're locked in the barn. Around lunch time I went into Olivia's pen where both her and Dylan were downing some hay. I was petting Dylan when he suddenly became very interested in my left-front belt loop. He started to nibble on it and then began to bite and pull on it. Definitely funny but I wanted to keep my belt loop so I pulled back. And when I pulled back he just kept coming for it and wouldn't let go.

Remember Olivia? She's standing three feet away during all of this and I guess the temptation was too great- so she starts biting and pulling on my front-right belt loop!

Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, left-right, left-right- I couldn't figure out if I felt like a puppet, a yo-yo, or a Chippendale!

I hopped the rail, doled out the head mushes and left.

Speaking of "head mushes", Dylan's horns are now visible without having to push the fur back on his head.

Still speaking of "head mushes" I met a new cat today. "Bella". An absolutely adorable Tortise Shell! I immediately thought that her name was "Bela", of course, and I told everyone about "Boris" and about how Noreen and I almost always had Tortise Shell cats (one was a Calico, but same thing). Sheila DOES have a friend who has a cat named "Bela".

Anyway, this cat has just the sweetest face and disposition. For those of you who've met Boris and remember "Calico" from years ago, think "Boris' face and disposition with Calico's markings". Jen and Doug said the reason that I hadn't seen her before is because she rarely ventures out from the upstairs. She was quite comfortable walking on the kitchen island and at one point was chewing very deliberately on a plastic bag of walnuts!

Lunch: Tofu cream cheese on a poppy seed bagel with a sprinkling of leftover popcorn salt from Jen and Doug's popcorn bowl from the night before! (You can't make this stuff up!) Also had some noodles with peanuts and a few vegetables with a mildly hot sauce.

I told Doug today that I've mentioned to people that this different kind of eating (at least for me) at a farm in Woodstock, NY is as close as I ever may get in my life to eating at "Alice's Restaurant". A wacky thought, I know, but the farm is a place where people are volunteering not to convert a church, as in the film, but to build a farm. There is a couple, Jen and Doug instead of Alice and Ray Brock, who guide the show. And lunch is an important part of every workday where everyone shares lots of talk. There is always an honesty to the food and an energy to the talk that is very appealing.

Okay, now that I've embarrassed everybody, it still comes up "Alice's Restaurant" for me(!).

More barn and less Arlo Guthrie next week.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Post Haste

Before we start, just a quick word to say that next week I want to catch-up on some other things that've been happening over the last few months.

An "achey day" this past Sunday (and since!). But the good kind of achey. Shoulders and arms feeling very heavy owing to lots of digging. Didn't get to go ice-skating at Mohonk this weekend. The weather was supposed to be snowy but in the end it wound up not snowing at all! Will definitely get there within the next 2-3 weeks.

Spent most of Sunday digging fence post holes and setting new fence posts with Jeff, Amelia, Anthony, and Jen. Everyone had a lot of fun joking around to pass the time and stave off the physical weariness of the work. Even though the holes were dug mostly by a mechanical auger attached to the Dingo, there is always some amount of hand digging that must be done. If you've never dug fence post holes, it's brutal on the arms. Finishing the new fences soon is as important as finishing the new barn. With the new goats and sheep that are expected from Pennsylvania, everything has to be in place for their arrival.

Dawn, Doug, Dante, and Jack worked on the barn nailing down the metal roof while Morgan and Kyle spent much of the day on the Dingos (there are now two Dingos) moving earth around, and working with the new fence in a slightly different area. Robin was there for the first half of the day and took care of the three chicken coops.

As always, some new names.

"Amelia" came up from Brooklyn and has been to the farm before. She volunteers at an animal shelter in Brooklyn as well. In addition to working on the fence all day with our little group she also made lunch for everyone.

"Jack" arrived around noon wearing well-worn tan coveralls, carrying a home made tool box, and smoking an ornate pipe which gave him an air of having done this all many times before. He was on the roof of the barn in no time and I don't think I saw him again on the ground until he lit his pipe, picked up his toolbox, and left for the day.

"Kyle" is a friend of Morgan's (I think) and spent the day working with Morgan. I'm not sure if he was a volunteer or not.

A "Dylan story" from the day.

In the morning while I was standing in the area of the new barn, I looked over at the pig field where about a half-dozen pigs were outside rooting around. Amidst all the pigs was Dylan. I don't know where Olivia was but Dylan was determined to find a pig to play with. And so, he'd walk up behind a pig, nudge it in the bottom with his face and try to get something going with the pig. But instead of responding to Dylan, the pig would invariably just schnort and walk away.

Left standing alone, Dylan would then move towards the next pig. So with another push on the bottom of the next nearest pig he'd try again. But that pig would just walk away as well. This went on for a good 3-4 minutes with Dylan face-bumping any pig he could find only to have the pig just walk away leaving Dylan standing there looking like the lost kid with nobody to play with. It was so sad and so adorable at the same time! He just wanted to play but the pigs were too busy attending to pig business.

All ended well though. After Dylan gave up on the pigs he walked over to the fence where Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis were standing and each of them took turns grooming Dylan through the fence. I did not see Dylan return the grooms and I don't think he did. I think it was all for Dylan.

Didn't that end nice?

I got to play show-and-tell a little bit today. Some time after lunch, a women showed up at the farm with two young kids. A boy and a girl. I hadn't seen any of them before. The women was showing the farm to the kids but she was hesitant (as was the little girl) to enter any of the pens. The boy (Jake) looked about 8-years old and I could just tell he wanted to go into the pens and check out the animals. I asked the mother if it would be okay and she and Jake said yes.

We walked into Olivia's pen and got close up with Dylan and Olivia who cornered us both against a pen rail with licks and small head-butts. We then petted some sleeping pigs and rubbed some pig bellies while mom took pictures. Then we crossed the pig field to the fence where Andy and Elvis were hanging out and Jake got his hand slobbered by Andy's tongue. After that, we hopped the fence back to mom and they left. Again, a cool show-and-tell moment.

Lunch: Tofu cream cheese on a bagel, Angel Hair pasta with mushrooms (and I think tofu pieces), and more Kale simmered in a sesame sauce that Jeff brought. Amelia did most of the cooking.

Again, everything was great to eat. The sesame sauce was terrific and I think I'm becoming a Kale freak!

Since some time in high school, I've been content to not eat veal and feel good about my contribution against institutionalized animal cruelty. Now, I think I need to re-evaluate some things and see if I can add anything else to the list. I'm experiencing alternative things to eat these days and I'm going to give some thought to seeing what I can add to my veal stance. Will report soon.

A fun day with cool people, re-energizing animals, and lying flat on the ground with one's face in a hole.