Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Little Remembering

Not very much of a surprise, but part of working at the farm means that I get to play with animals. I can watch them, listen to them, and take in their different personalities. I can feed them, smush them, walk with them, talk with those that wish to yack, or just sit with them against a pen rail and be quiet with them. The other week it occurred to me that I often have to remind myself that all these animals have terrible stories behind them.

The following may make you angry, but in a good way. It is also very much intended to make you smile. All of the following historical information comes from the written animal histories at the farm.

"Hollander" is a chicken who was found tied to a traffic sign in NYC. When I first came to the farm he was so heavy he couldn't walk more than several feet at a time and had to be picked up and moved at coop cleaning time. He now does a "running waddle" with the exuberance of a running toddler impressing a parent. All one has to do to see this is to approach the coop yard at feeding time. With "a leap, a bound, and a waddle" Hollander will come running straight for you.

"Olivia" is a goat who was left behind with two roosters when a family's house burned down. She was sporadically fed by a neighbor who eventually found Olivia a foster home before she came to the sanctuary. "Foster" is a word that Olivia is still familiar with. Olivia and "Dylan" (the farm's resident adolescent calf) are the best of buds. Dylan may now be spending much more time with the steer because he is a little older but Olivia has been Dylan's mentor, friend, and comforter from the beginning. Any success Dylan may have in the future will be in no small way directly attributable to Olivia.

"The Pigs". Many of the pigs came from some kind of truly wonderful and inspiring "Running of the Pigs" contest sponsored by a saloon in Colorado. The "winner" of the contest would be eaten by cheering local drunks. What would happen to the "losers" is anybody's guess. (Please DO NOT excuse the op-ed tone of this. These types of stories have always made my blood boil.) Thankfully, the owner of the saloon was convinced to cancel the event and the pigs were sent to a Colorado sanctuary. Later on, that sanctuary closed and the pigs then travelled across the country to their new home in Woodstock.

To spend any amount of time with the pigs means you will alternately smile, giggle, laugh, and feel all the right warm stuff. Your curiosity will be piqued, your ears will be alert to their repertoire of sounds, you will feel the pull to make some of the same sounds yourself, and you will walk away from them feeling better than when you approached them.

"Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis" are three adult male Holstein Steer. While in itself that might not sound so remarkable, as Jen explained to me, adult male Holsteins are not a common sight. The reason being that male Holsteins are killed for veal while they're still calfs as they aren't milk producers and they aren't beef cows. All three steer were originally found in dark, filthy barns as veal calfs tied to rails that wouldn't let them so much as turn around. As Jen also said, in terms of size "male Holsteins are Monsters!" Ralphie stands just about as tall as me (much taller if he fully picks his head up)and will stand even taller by the time he's fully grown as will the other steer. I drive a Hyundai. Weight-wise, male Holstein's top out just slightly less than that. They are huge animals.

Each of the steer knows exactly how powerful it is. Especially Ralphie. Ralphie knows his physical size and he knows yours as well. He is fully aware that he could cause you great damage. But that doesn't stop Ralphie from touching his nose to yours or letting you rub the vulnerable soft area under his two-foot long throat. And it doesn't stop Andy from licking your arm like a cat (complete with sandpaper tongue) or lowering his forehead close to yours so you can rub heads. Elvis doesn't approach people (at least me) much. As he always defers to Ralphie and Andy who approach first, he's content to just stand or lie off to the side, chew, and contemplate world affairs.

How often during your week do you encounter such power that equates with gentleness in such ways?

Naturally, every animal at the farm has a story. "Resiliency" is a word that I use whenever I describe to someone the animals at the farm. Each animal has experienced it's own horror show in the past and it's their ability to be just what they are despite their experiences that is truly amazing when one thinks about how past experiences changes us as humans. It's this same ability to be just who they are that makes me have to remind myself about the terrible places that they've come from.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Victor/Victoria, Veronica, Vonda, and Vegan Vittles

I knew I was in trouble 10 minutes after arriving at the farm on Sunday. I had under-dressed and also left both pairs of my warm work gloves at home. It wasn't "super cold" outside but it felt that way from lack of clothing. Couple that with not getting enough sleep the past week and a "spike...crash...spike...crash" sugar level, and I was primed to feel miserable for the day. And I succeeded magnificently! At one point Anthony said to me "I think your mood is catching because I feel kinda lousy too".

Okay, weather and under-dressing aside (not easy to do!), this really was a fun kind of day. Jen and Doug spent much of the day inside working on a sanctuary video project but popped out like monitor-faced groundhogs throughout the day to see how things were going. Robin covered the morning chores, Dawn was everywhere, Morgan and Kyle worked on the electicity to the new barn, and Anthony and I tackled, with varying degrees of success, different projects in the pig barn and on some of the fencing as well as closing down the animals for the day.

New names: "Veronica" spent the day working with Robin, and Anthony and I. She's a high school senior from Poughkeepsie and needed some community service credits as part of her graduation requirements so she chose to do her time at the farm (which is a registered non-profit.) She seemed to have had a nice experience and hopefully more word will drift into the high school level so others might follow. I've met many students at the soup kitchen earning the same kind of credits but Woodstock is a bit of a hike from POK so it was nice to see someone venture out of the POK area.

"Vonda" is a friend of Dawn's who spent her time with Dawn for the afternoon doing various projects. I wish I could describe more about what exactly their projects were for the day but the cold jammed much of my peripheral radar.

The new animals:

There are 15 new goats not 16. Olivia is the 16th goat. And the largest goat is named "Victor", not "Victoria" as mentioned last week.

New goats: Victor, Madison, Soze (as in "Keyser Soze" if you've seen the film!), Houdini, Ezell, Lil' Jay, Lil' Cay, Galaxy, Gertie, Gilbert, Jumper, Hayley, Aurin, Erica, and Orion.

The goats appear to be less "herdy" than the other week. Perhaps they're getting used to their new surroundings. They were split into small groups for much of the day. But still, no one goat spends ANY amount of time off by itself.

New sheep: Devlin, Celeste, Patsy, Celia, Ray-Ray, Malice, Masia, and Sparky.

Devlin is the ram that leads all things sheep. The other ram is either Sparky or Ray Ray (I'm assuming. Not sure.) who's horns were removed by a farm, for some unknown reason, that he "lived" on previous to the Pennsylvania sanctuary.

And while we're dropping names, here are the pigs: Julie, Dolly, Sophie, Zack, Wilbur, Oliver & Cromwell, Lodo, Louie, Pig-Pig, and Stubby.

A while back I listed two pigs names as "Snubby" and "Phyllis". You can guess who I mistakenly heard called "Snubby", but if you can figure out who I mistakenly heard called "Phyllis" do tell me because I haven't a clue!

And speaking of Stubby, he's been on medication recently and his pills have to be delivered in a creative way. In the afternoon, Anthony came over to me and said he had to deliver a "Suicide Sandwich"! I had no idea what he meant but he then showed me a peanut butter sandwich stuffed with pills that he was holding. This would be Stubby's meds. The "suicide" part comes in from having to sneak by any of the other pigs who might sense that Anthony is traversing the pig barn holding a peanut butter sandwich. The ensuing stampede might not be surviveable!

I didn't get the names of the three male turkeys. Will do next week. But I did find out about the origins of the "vibrations" that they give off. It seems they use the upper part of their back muscles. When they do this, their feathers do kind of a "hyper shake". Part of the whole male display thing. I didn't notice this last week and I think it was Jen who pointed it out to me on Sunday. It is such a cool sound!

And "Brandy" is indeed the name of the new rooster. This boy has no fear and just eases himself into any situation regardless of decibel level or activity level.

Lunch: Why should this week be any different? Okay, here we go.

I've never eaten a Burrito. I take one look at re-fried beans and it blows the circuits.

"No way"! "I am not eating that"!

But this is the farm so I gave it a try. It very much helped that Anthony told me that re-fried beans are made from black beans which I tried the other week and liked.

Okay, so I made a burrito with re-fried beans, avacado, tofu, and one or two other things that I'm not recalling now. It was ok. And very much in it's way, that's a rave! To go from FU to OK in terms of a burrito is quite the leap! I would definitely try it again. I think it begs for something tomato-y and I'd like to try it with some salsa next time.

A "Separation" story:

As mentioned last week, Dylan is now spending the daytime hours in the steer field with Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis. In the late afternoon, the gate is opened and Dylan is let out of the steer field where he walks to his stall in the barn to eat with Olivia and to spend the night. He returns again in the morning to join the steer.

Dylan has no problem with this arrangement. During the daytime, he stands, walks, nibbles hay, grooms, lies, and generally hangs out with the steer. But when the gate is opened and Dylan leaves for the evening, the steer are genuinely affected by Dylan's leaving. I saw this last week mostly with Ralphie. When I opened the gate and Dylan scooted by me to head towards the barn for the evening, Ralphie just stood there with eyes transfixed on Dylan as Dylan was walking away. Ralphie began making these very low sounds that I can only describe as "soft, but troubled calls". Dylan was leaving and he was sincerely upset by it. He couldn't make sense of it. A group member was leaving. One could see his anxiety in his stance and in his eyes, and hear it in his calls. Both Andy and Elvis were standing and watching Dylan leave as well though only Ralphie called to Dylan. This lasted for a minute or two until Dylan ducked into the barn and was out of sight. The three steer remained watching for a few more moments then slowly returned to what they were doing.

This week, same thing. Only this time it was Andy who did the calling to Dylan instead of Ralphie. But Andy was far more vocal than Ralphie previous. He lowered his head and called to Dylan in long, deep, somewhat loud calls. One after the other they just kept coming. Andy and Dylan spend a lot of time grooming each other from what I've been seeing and he was vocalizing his distress at Dylan leaving the group. Ralphie and Elvis were equally locked onto Dylan with their eyes but did not make sounds.

I try to make these animal stories, and everything else in this blog, "light" but I can't help thinking about veal at these "separation moments". If the three steer are this affected by being separated from their new group member, what must a cow experience (not to mention the calf) when they are permanently separated at birth and the calf is taken away for good. Troubling stuff.

After evening chores I was wiped-out from the day but everyone seemed to be having such a good time talking around the kitchen that I stayed for dinner (kale and sweet chard salad, and a bread dish the name of which escapes me right now) and left about 8:00ish.

It really was a fun kind of day with some new faces and some different types of projects. I only wish I could have enjoyed it more with being so cold, sleepy, and "sugar challenged". I'm going up this afternoon for a few hours to annoy some chickens. And I'm bringing clothes!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Down on the "Olfactory" Farm

I love the smell of farms. Ever since I was a kid, I always roll down the car window all the way if I catch even the slightest scent of a nearby farm while driving. Wouldn't want to miss a thing! One can smell the new sheep at the farm even before turning in the farm driveway. The oil in their winter coats can be inhaled from the road!

Here are the new animals (names to follow next week):

16 goats- Many different shapes, sizes, breeds, and horn sizes. It's probably the same with all groups of goats but there is no such thing as "one goat" with these goats. These guys exist as a "herd". Perhaps several might split-off slightly for a while but they do not travel far from the main group. Whenever someone enters the field the herd is immediately formed, all members stand stone-still, and the inter(non)loper is monitored by 32 inquiring eyes. "Victoria", the largest goat, heads the herd.

There is a "butting order" within the herd. Small "message butts" are constantly being given and received by all to reaffirm the hierarchy. I haven't seen any one goat cozy up to another yet. Perhaps in time. Since their arrival last week I've spent just a small amount of time with the goats because of all the work. Will get in some playtime soon.

8 sheep- I mis-counted last week. There are 8 sheep. The ram is named "Devlin" and he loves to be smushed. He just eats up the attention.

I was surprised to learn that there is a second ram in the group but it does not have horns. One can see that the horns were taken down in the past and I'll have to ask why.

Also, I haven't heard the "Bah" of a sheep in so many years I forgot how much I like the sound! They're so funny. I could watch, listen to, and smell sheep all day!

3 turkeys- All males. The turkeys arrived on Friday or Saturday from another sanctuary as a swap for some of the chickens. Some of the chickens were being too aggressive with others and to break the dynamic an exchange was set up.

These guys are cool! It's all about the strut with these guys. Showing the feathers and throwing the chest out. There isn't a female on the block but in case one shows up they'll have the strut.

We all know the "gobbling" sound that turkeys make but I was never aware of the very, very, low "rumbling" sound that they make. It's b-a-r-e-l-y audible, it sounds much like way-distant thunder, and it actually vibrates the ground! When standing near the turkeys, one, or two, or all three, (it's tough to tell) will produce this rumble sound from somewhere deep down. There is no body movement when the sound is made, at least none that I could detect, which is why it's hard to identify who is creating it. And they do it often! The turkeys are in with the white chicken flock but were let out on their own to stroll the grounds for a while.

Names for the day: Jen, Doug, Morgan, Kyle, Chris, Wendy, and Derek.

New names for the day: "Ashley" and "Dan" are on the board of directors of the farm and live in NYC. Ashley and Jen did some animal feeding, chicken yard tending, and also spent time with Derek who was recording a Vegan radio feature on the farm.

Chris was there for a while but not to work. He had brought some of his family to the farm to show them around and was playing tour guide. It was the first time I had ever seen him without a winter hat on and I didn't recognize him!

As with Chris, Wendy stopped by for just a short while but I lost track of her as she was near the house area and I was soon to be standing in a trench.

Not so much work done on the barn itself on Sunday. Sunday was a day for hauling hay, working in trenches, watching Morgan and Kyle on the heavy machinery, laying water lines, and doing the occasional animal chores. As with last week, there were lots of little chores done pertaining to the barn but work on the barn itself is in a holding pattern while the focus is on the trenches.

Dylan and Olivia go a visitin'!

I actually saw this this past Wednesday when I went to the farm for a part of the afternoon. Dylan is now spending the daytime hours IN THE STEER FIELD with Ralphie, Andy, and Elvis. I thought he wasn't big enough yet but apparently he is. As Morgan said, and I very much agree, Ralphie likes Dylan and that's a very important factor. On both Wednesday and Sunday I'd take extra looks over at the steer field to see how they were doing and all is going well. I saw Andy grooming Dylan once until Ralphie pulled in for a groom and Andy needed to re-direct his attention to Ralphie. At a different time I saw Dylan grooming Andy. Once, at feeding time on Sunday, I saw Ralphie push Dylan along as he was too near the hay that Ralphie wanted to eat. But it was a gentle nudge.

The pecking order of the steer field is that both Ralphie and Andy are dominant to Elvis and Ralphie is boss of all. Though "3rd among 3" in the steer field, Elvis is not mis-treated in any way by the others. The pecking order seems to be most visible when food is involved and Elvis gets moved aside by both Ralphie and Andy. But there's always another batch of food to jump to so Elvis never goes without. When anyone feeds hay to the 3 steer it's distributed in 3 or 4 somewhat distant piles so that Ralphie can't claim it all and Elvis always has a pile to jump to as Ralphie moves from pile to pile taking what looks best to him. The reason that I'm mentioning the pecking order is because Dylan, from what I've seen so far, isn't even a member of the pecking order yet. He's no threat to any of the steer so it appears that they have no need to assert themselves with Dylan at this point. All three steer actually are treating him as a kid brother which is exactly what he is. At some point though he'll be slotted into the order. And as with Elvis, if he winds up on the bottom of the order he'll still get enough to eat.

Olivia, on the other hand, is having a tough go of it. She's spending her days in with the other goats in the goat field. The other goats are an established herd with an established hierarchy within the herd, plus they're new to the farm so they're still wary of their new digs. There isn't room for Olivia in the herd yet and she spends the day by herself standing away from the herd, and away from Dylan, so it's a bit sad to see. I'm sure it's just a matter of time until she works her way into the herd. All present members of the herd had to join at some point themselves and Olivia's exclusion from the group at this point is just a part of the process. They'll all figure it out.

At night though, Dylan and Olivia still sleep together in the pig barn. As always, they're still "best buds" and it will be interesting to see if/how their relationship changes as they join their respective groups. All goats, sheep, and steer will sleep in the new barn once it's finished so Dylan and Olivia will still have contact.

Lunch: Two different slices of vegetarian pizza that I asked Jen to choose for me. She brought me one slice with tomatos and one with spinach. I think because she saw me start eating the tomato slice first she mentioned that she also wanted to hear that I also finished the spinach slice! I did and would definitely do again! It only had a little spinach on it so all went well. Both Jen and Doug are working me over with new veggie horizons and it's cute to see them try! (Damn amazing that it's working too!)

So, a Sunday filled with new animals, new animal configurations, new faces, new water lines, and a new pizza topping.

And that's the news.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Heart of Gold" Tent Fold

Looks like Neil Young's new film "Heart of Gold" only played the Tinker Street Cinema in Woodstock for four (4!!!!) days. "Capote" was there forever but Neil Young (in Woodstock!) only plays for 4 days?

Yesterday (Thursday) was it's last day. Will need to go to Waterbury now to see it. It's being shown on very few screens across the country.

Alas, I'll see it yet.
10:00 a.m. and it's 50 degrees outside!

Checklist for the day:

* Wash car.
* Cut hair.
* Kohl's for jeans.
* Dentist for an awol filling.
* Linguini and white clam sauce for dinner.
* Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" in Woodstock.

"Girl" (our house German Shepard) is lying outside on the front porch instead of in the hallway.

Spring soon!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Go(a)t Sheep?

Well, they're here! 16 new goats, 6-7 new sheep, and one scene stealing rooster! I wasn't aware that the new animals were coming this past Saturday and it was a major surprise to see them out in the field as I approached the farm Sunday morning. The barn is finished enough so that the new tenants have their own separate areas inside the barn where they'll be warm and dry until the barn is completely finished.

These guys are great!

They're all in "new environment mode" so they're all a bit wary and trying to figure it all out, but at the same time the goats are choosing their favorite humans to rub up against and all is clicking along. Their collars do a light jingle when they move so between their little goat calls and the jingles there's always a pleasant sound to the movement of the goats. The sheep were more timid about the newness and spent the day in the field away from the activity. There's one ram and 5-6 ewes. So far at least, the ewes all follow the ram wherever it goes. The last ewe in line behind the ram has a slight "hitch" in one of it's back legs and when you see them all walking it's a really cute sight!

Our human cast for the day: Jen, Doug, Dawn, Robin, Morgan, Kyle, and Anthony.

"Jason", the owner of the animal sanctuary in Pennsylvania where the animals came from, was there when I arrived. One could see the separation anxiety that he was feeling by his widened eyes, animated body language, and rapid-fire speech as he poured out all sorts of animal information to Jen as she punched it into the computer. Jason and his wife have to give up the sanctuary in PA but I'm sure he knows that the animals have a good new home with many eager attenders.

So, here's a quick goat story:

The goats had followed Doug, Morgan, and I from the barn to one of the gates located slightly across the field. At the gate the goats milled around, we dealt with the gate, and then it was time to walk back to the barn.

After walking some ways I was curious to see what might happen if I started running, so I did. Sure enough, all the goats ran with me! They stayed behind me in a fanned-out formation and I felt like a cross between a football kicker at kickoff and "Tuco" from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" running through the graves! But instead of running and whirling around to check names on graves, I was running and whirling around to watch the goats running after me! Our run only lasted about 15 seconds but was really neat!

"What's the name on the grave? Does it have a name? Does it have a number?" (Umm, pardon. That only made sense if you've seen the film!)

New rooster.

I think the new rooster's name is "Brandy". (With all the excitement I'm not 100% sure.) He's large, deep black with a red comb. Jason was saying he was the hit of their farm and so far he's a hit with this one. Everyone picked him up at least once during the day and he never balked or squawked with anyone. Not common for a rooster. After lunch, as I was walking to the barn from the house, I was approaching the empty trench which will house the water lines and I noticed several black feathers sticking out of the trench. And sure enough, someone was having a stroll inside the trench.

Lunch: Jen made minstrone soup that might have had some things in it that I wouldn't have eaten individually but in the soup it was all very good and I could have eaten far more if there weren't others to feed.

Side note- Though being Italian on both sides, I've always refused minestrone soup whenever it was offered. I really don't think I have ever eaten minestrone soup. "Nope. Too many vegetables. Pass the mashed potatos please." At the farm though, I eat it and all's well. I'm sure much of it has to do with the whole spirit of the farm and "newness" in general for me. Not to over-yack it, but I'm glad that I'm liking so many new things food-wise at the farm.

Speaking of soup, with the soup was served a "souped-up kale dish". Kale, sweet chard, spinach, and chic peas from the pan with oil and garlic. Spinach is another veggie that I wrestle with but can take in very low doses. I had to give the chic peas a taste first to see how I'd do with them and I indeed survived. I remembered eating them somewhere in the past and also remembered that they don't have an overpowering taste one way or the other. At the end of lunch though, I noticed that there were about a dozen chic peas left on their own on my plate. By habit I probably had been eating "around" them! Being slightly shocked to see them sitting there all by their lonesome, I couldn't bring myself to finish them! I just looked at them and whimped out! Next time though I'll give it a shot!

Task list for the day:

* Helped Robin with morning feeding and cleaning routine.
* Helped Dawn with a barn door.
* "Pig field detail".
* Added wire fencing to some penrails inside the barn.
* Trucked some posts from one area to another.
* Evening routine with Anthony.

For all of us, this was a day of lots of little chores. Dawn spent a lot of time on the barn doors. Morgan, Kyle, and Anthony worked around the barn as well, but everyone also did lots of little things outside of barn work. Moving stuff, small fixes, etc.

Aside from the new animals, a definite highlight from the day involved Doug, Dylan, Olivia, nine pigs, three steer, and a bag of carrots.

I spent much of the morning in the pig field with the wheelbarrow, rake, and pitchfork picking up all that, umm, remains from pig meals. The pigs were all outside lying in the sun and Dylan and Olivia were in the pig field as well. After a bit Doug showed up holding a bag of carrots and asked if I wanted to play hero for a while.

Oh yes indeed!

I grabbed the bag from Doug and spent the next two to three minutes handing out carrots to all comers. And everyone most definitely came! Running from pig to pig (while running away from the pigs that were running after me!) I popped carrots into everybody's mouth while keeping an eye out for the less forceful pigs making sure everybody received the same amount.

I did make a mistake by giving one of the first carrots to Dylan who then proceeded to not only chase me for the entire feeding, but to also throw bodyblocks in front of me trying to corral me and the carrots! I'd run a few steps and "Zzzzoom!" he'd be in front me slowing me down using his head and his bottom! End result, Dylan probably did get a few more extra carrots by being a "bandit noodge"!

Olivia got her share too.

The three steer were standing at the fence wondering what all the fuss was about and Doug reminded me not to forget them. Ralphie always goes first when it comes to food but he wasn't very interested in the carrots. Andy and Elvis got theirs though Ralphie did try half-heartedly to prevent them from eating the carrots. He knew he didn't want the carrots but he wasn't sure if the others should have them either. Though as a benevolent king, they got them.

I had brought about two-dozen eggs to the farm that I picked up from the "Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary" on Friday and fed them to the pigs later in the day. It's a very unusual sound to hear the pigs mouths break the shell then slurp up the insides while still crackling the shell.

Speaking of the Catskill farm Animal Sanctuary, I had some time last Friday, not enough to be able to travel to Woodstock, so I called the Catskill people and offered a few hours for evening routine. They're just north of Kingston and near the river so it was a very windy day as well as a cold one. I spent about 3 1/2 hours working with Lorraine, Betsy, and Alex mucking out the horses, cows, ducks, geese, and chickens. Helped feed the cows and horses as well.

Some new animals:

"Rosie" is a cow that suffers from something called "Bulldog Syndrome". Her face is "Pugged" or "Bulldogged" meaning it's pushed in as opposed to having a gradual slope. Part of the syndrome includes "flattened teeth" that make it impossible for her to eat hay. Her teeth do not have the necessary edges to grind hay so she has to be fed a special diet of water-mushed pellets/feed.

"Policeman" and "Bell" are two enormous pigs!

"Claude" is no slouch of a pig himself and bangs on his door so as not to be forgotten at dinner time!

"Noel" is a goat that was rescued from some NYC horror scene. Nobody knew that she was pregnant until a lamb was discovered one morning and now the two share a quiet stall with plastic sheeting put up on the open wall of the pen so they can have some extra solitude. Noel's been through much so she isn't comfortable yet with people but the lamb is and will greet you at the door.

"Zoey" is a pot-bellied pig that will walk up to you, no matter who you are, and just stand there. Why? Because it's your turn to mush his/her head!

"Rambo" is a ram with a large set of horns that oversees all barn activity. Rambo stands and watches. That's his job. He then walks a little. He then stands and watches some more. Rambo wastes no extra movement be it walking or standing. You can see Rambo's energy in his eyes. If you can see Rambo, you can be sure that Rambo sees you.

There is also a male horse that is blind. Perhaps because I was so fascinated with this horse I cannot remember it's name. It's eyes had to be removed recently to prevent infection and it has prosthetic eyes implanted. The prosthetics are not for appearance. They are there only to help with facial musculature. It's eyelids are sewn closed.

As would be expected, smell is important to this horse and he'll leave his snout to be petted for a long time without pulling away. He's taking you in as you are taking him in. His stall is the same size as the other horse stalls but he seems to favor one particular corner of the stall. (The right rear.) One would guess it's his "safest" corner. I forgot to ask if he ever gets the chance to come out of the stall. It's at least possible that he might not be able to but I will ask next time I'm there.

Lunch: 8 Chips Ahoy cookies! My sugar level was crazy that afternoon and I'm glad they were there!

I have the day off today and am going to scramble up to Woodstock for a few hours.

More next week on the new barn and the new animals.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

More Guitar

Just have to add something about the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" video. In case you haven't gotten to it yet, it may just be me, but the look on Elton John's face at the end of the song (it's a very quick shot) is priceless! His face just exudes "Whoa, that was something really special!"

Friday, March 03, 2006

Down "Off" the Farm

I've been writing so much about the farm since Christmas it seems like a good time to talk about some other things. There is no order to this.

This Blog

As one sees in other blogs, a small community develops around the blog and a lot of chat goes back and forth between the blog contributors. Not so with this blog. This blog is set up as a journal where only one person can add to the blog. I chose to build it this way so as not to drain conversation (via blog chat) that you and I would otherwise have when we speak. This route seems to be working well and I'm glad I chose it.

So, how am I doing?

These are very good days. Things are moving very fast right now. I like where I am, I like the new people I'm meeting, I've found a place to be integral with animals, and I'm looking forward to a very long Spring, Summer, and Fall. I've put down several solid roots in the area between the people I've met, my housemates, the soup kitchen, and the farm and I look forward to adding more soon. The camera and tripod are out and I'm looking forward to hitting the road this Spring. I have an idea for a camera journey which should take me to some unusual places in the area this year. I also want to look into other volunteer opportunities and I've been threatening to take East-Coast Swing lessons for so long now I really just might do it! (Thanks to Sue and Judy!)


You know the 70's "Classic Rock" that many of us grew up with? Funny thing, I think I've heard enough. At least for now. Whenever I come across a "Classic Rock" station on the radio I just skip over it. "The Who", "Stones", "Tull", etc. Perhaps it makes sense. After nearly 30 years of listening to the same songs, played by mostly the same radio stations with the same song lists, they were bound to lose some magic. Perhaps I need to just put them away for a while and let them come back on their own.

Another plug for WDST 100.1 FM out of Woodstock. They play tons of terrific new stuff. Even when they play the classic stuff, they tend not to play the same old 4 or 5 smashiest hits. You might be surprised that the Eagles did do at least a few more songs besides "Hotel California" and "Life in the Fast Lane"! DST streams off the web so anyone can get it.

Of course there are faves that I still listen to. Neil Young has always been my single most important artist but he never received the airplay that others have so he's not overexposed for me.

Also, I've been getting into "cover versions" over the last year and since many of these covers are relatively recent, they're still fresh.


Something struck me the other day while working at the farm and listening to Coldplay (an appropriate band considering last Sunday's weather!) on the truck radio. Is it me or is every Coldplay song perfectly synched to cloud movement? No matter the cloud speed. Even if the cloud(s) are at a near standstill, it still works beautifully.

Give it a shot! Throw on any Coldplay song and look up at the sky (umm, provided there are some clouds when you do). I think you'll find the same thing.

Five songs you might want to fling into your Ipod:

* Elton John & Allesandro Safina "Your Song" (2002)
We all know "Your Song" by Elton John. This is a 2002 reworking of the song with full orchestration and with Elton John supplying new vocals backed by opera singer Allesandro Safina singing new background lyrics to the song in Italian. A chorus of children (but possibly women, I can't tell) is also featured. The chorus is heard briefly but it will stop you cold. If you're a fan of the original song, this is an enormously powerful version that you'll want to know about.

As with any other song mentioned here, if you can't find it and would like to hear it, just let me know!

* Van Morrison w/ The Chieftains "Star of the County Down"
Van has his Irish up for this song. If you're a guy who remembers a girl that you once saw getting on a bus or crossing a street many years ago, just for a brief moment, and you never spoke to her, and you never saw her before or after that moment, and you still remember her to this day, she just might be in this song.

* Paul Simon and Bob Dylan "Sound of Silence"
An absolute "gift" to hear these two do this song together. Is "Sound of Silence" the best song that Dylan never wrote?

* Tom Waits "Tom Traubert’s Blues"
This song carries a sadness that's tough to peg but easy to identify with. (Did that make any sense at all?)

It's the type of song where anyone can lay their own "bad stuff" on and make it personal. It's also one of the most beautiful songs that I've ever heard. I've always found a beauty in sadness. This song plays to that I think. It's beauty lies in it's sadness to me.

Whenever asked what my favorite songs of all time are, I've always given the same 5 songs:
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 order may change, but the same five songs have been there for many years. I need to add "Tom Traubert’s Blues" to this list. It's that strong for me. You might like it as well.

Not a very pretty round number is it?! "6 favorite songs"? I'll have to now call it a favorite "half-dozen", or take the list all the way to 10!

* Johnny Cash w/ Joe Strummer "Redemption Song"
I was never a huge Johnny Cash fan until a year or so ago when I discovered some of his newer covers of U2, Tom Petty, Nine Inch Nails, and others that he did shortly before he died. If you like the Marley original, I think you'll be impressed with this version. It has enormous heart and Strummer of "The Clash", not someone who might quickly jump to mind to pair with Johnny Cash, contributes simple, stripped down, no frills vocals that have a magic when added to Cash's.

As before, if you'd like to hear any of these songs just let me know.

Arm. No Hammer.

My right rotator cuff seems to have bit the dirt. I could always peg a softball or a snowball. Last Winter I could throw a snowball as easily as ever. This year, forget it. The arm's gone. If throwing snowballs is any indication, I don't think I could throw a softball at 20% of what I used to. (Sigh.)

The Food Bank

I haven't been to the "Food Bank" in several weeks. I'm going to go back but I'm going to give it a few weeks more. What has happened at the Food Bank, probably owing to the recent Christmas season, is that it's swamped with volunteer "groups". Three or four times in a row I'd show up at about 8:30 or 9:00 and by 10:00 a group (a Bard basketball team, a Marist lacrosse team, a church group, a high school group, etc.) would come in to volunteer. One really can't just send them away so they wind up doing the volunteering for the day and those of us who are there volunteering previous are left with nothing to do, so the day ends for us. I get the feeling that as Winter wears off there'll be less groups coming in so it'll be worth going back. In the mean time, my walking partner Debbie pointed me in the direction of some kitchens that MIGHT serve dinner to the same clients. I say "MIGHT" because nobody knows for sure if any organization serves dinner in the area. Neither Debbie, who works in a related field, any of the staff at the kitchen, nor anyone at the Social Services office downtown know if there is a "dinner program" in the area. I'm hesitant to ask one of the clients where they might go for dinner. It feels like an insulting question though I'm beginning to feel like I might be wrong with this thought. Anyway, the Social Services people gave me a list of local churches that I need to follow up on. There may be an answer there. If not, I'm sure work will be needed at the Food Bank soon.

Food for the Gluzzies

Here's some web videos you might want to look at:

* Harpo Marx speaking (this one's audio only):

* If you're a fan of Monty Python, here's a clip of mainly John Cleese and Eric Idle at Graham Chapman's memorial service (can you say "fuck"?):

* Barking cat (really funny!):

* "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" video w/George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Phil Collins, and Jeff Lynn. Possibly from a "Prince's Trust" concert(?). The song is given a choppier, harder edge than usual and it works wonderfully! A funny side note, Ringo Starr and Jeff Lynn are still wearing their backstage passes on stage.

The "Catskill" Farm Animal Sanctuary

I visited the "Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary" a few weeks ago and was given a tour by "Julie" who helps run the office. It's a 100+ acre farm that also has horses, rabbits, geese, rams, and pot-bellied pigs. Julie was really nice about taking the time to show me around and I'm sure I'll visit there again soon to volunteer for some shifts after the barn has been completed in Woodstock and the new animals are settled in.

Shower to Shower

It was never a prediction of mine that at this point in my life I would be living with a housemate (Ken) who sings "Moon River" in the shower! It's pretty funny!

Rap Wrap

Well, that's what I got for now. As before, I just wanted to yack about some "other than farm" things.

More farm next time. With better weather the new barn would be finished by now, but it's getting there and will be finished soon. New animals on the way.