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!