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.