Friday, April 07, 2006

This Blog is Changing

With the weather now slowly getting warmer, it's time to make a change with this blog. For the winter months I've had time to write many entries to this blog but with the warmer weather coming I'm going to be outside far more than writing these entries will allow. So, for the coming months at least, this blog will be "photo-based" rather than "text-based".

Here's the scoop:

I've picked up the camera again and I want to get busy with farm related and non-farm related photography. By incorporating photos into this blog I'll have a partial creative outlet for what I do with the camera and you'll get a chance to visually see the farm, the animals, and some of what I find in the Dutchess/Columbia/Ulster County area.

Of course, there will still be at least a small amount of text and the occasional story.

And speaking of text, here comes the last REALLY long entry for a while! I've gone back through the blog and tried to tie up some loose ends while adding some new stuff.

(You might need coffee for this!)

* Regarding the dairy farmer who never called back about my possibly volunteering at his farm, I am no longer wondering why he never called back. I had told him that I did not wish to have anything to do with veal but I was unaware at the time that as a dairy farmer he is a part of the veal industry. I would never have approached a dairy farm if I had known and so he knew ahead of me that it wouldn't have been a good fit.

* I haven't been to the soup kitchen in a while now. Any free time I have I give to the Woodstock farm and a smaller percentage to the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. If I were to not go AT ALL to the kitchen, it actually wouldn't even matter from a "needs" standpoint. The kitchen has no shortage of help whereas the farms are in constant need of help. Again, I'm sure I'll go back to the kitchen but on a here-and-there basis to keep in touch with the people that work there and with some of the clients. Ken still occasionally volunteers at the kitchen.

* As three housemates, Ken, Anthony, and I have run into some small junk that comes from three people living in close quarters but all gets worked out and I'm still very happy here. I wish this was more of a rural area but as I tell everyone this place is near EVERYTHING so it has terrific advantages. I drove to Great Barrington, MA the other day to see the new Neil Young film and it only took 1 hour which is only 15 minutes longer than it takes to drive to work.

* I am no longer "a little pudgy"! Well, maybe slightly but the coming warm weather and walking during the week will take that away. The farm has definitely kept me from putting on more of a "winter coat" this winter!

* Festivus and Girl are doing good though Girl's been having trouble with her back legs. She's about 14 which is old for a German Shepard.

* I was doing good catching up on the many films that I've missed the past 5 years or so but I've since slacked off due to the farm. Will get on track again!

* If you haven't seen the "Ducks vs. Penguins" animated soccer game yet, here's another chance! It's really cool! You won't be disappointed! Again, you'll need a high speed connection and turn on your speakers!:

* The Woodstock Sanctuary is about 48 acres. Much of it is wooded which is why I underguessed it's size by so much!

* Talked to Sheila in Scotland the other week! She's doing good and may be back soon for another visit!

* Morgan is still at the farm. He'll be leaving at some point to start his own excavation company but it's open-ended right now as to when. Glad he's sticking around!

* Dylan now often follows me by just my calling his name. It is such a thrill to just walk with a calf (with no lead/leash) as one would walk with a dog. I suppose that "calf pecking order rules" dictate that I always lead and so Dylan never walks in front of me. He always walks at least a half a step behind me and off to one side unless he knows I'm carrying food in which case I get bodyblocked from all directions!

* Sheila introduced me to the chickens in a way that I've really taken to. Before the farm I never "got" chickens. I now see the different personalities and am having fun with the few that I key on. There's only one chicken in the "white bird coop" that I can't pick up and that's because I can't catch it!

* The other day I was finishing an apple as I was walking in the "main chicken flock" yard when all of a sudden "Pecan the Hen" LEAPED into the air and took a bite of the apple! She looked pleased with herself!

* "Brandy", the new rooster, is an absolute hit at the farm! Try to pick up an average rooster and they'll struggle with you. Some more than others. They don't really like to be handled. Not only will Brandy let you pick him up but it is impossible to find so much as a single tense muscle on his body while holding him. He is completely at ease with people. I forget who was holding Brandy the day he arrived but while the person was holding Brandy, Dylan was "testing" Brandy's leg and had the leg in his mouth all the way up to the hip! Brandy never squawked a bit and just "went with it" that his leg happened to be in a silly calf's mouth!

* Remember my saying that the roosters can be loud? The other week Jen asked me to put 9 bales of hay in the rooster house. They had apparently run out of hay and the noise in the morning was so loud without the hay that Jen and Doug apparently had trouble sleeping!

* The three Turkey's names are: Alphonso, Boone, and Hershel. One of the Guinea Hens is named Hershel as well.

* I can now pet "Mio" who is the "roaring dog" who greeted me at the door the first few times I visited the farm.

* Umm, I do know how to spell "udder"! I've always made the dummest tipos.

* I've now been to the "Catskill Animal Sanctuary" 4-5 times and have met many new people who, naturally, all share the same interest in animals. Catskill is about a 1/2 hour shorter drive time for me so when I can't make it to Woodstock with enough time to be of value and I want to get dirty I'll go to Catskill. This timing/mileage arrangement will work well when I finish the day early at work and have some extra time.

By the way, it's the "Catskill Animal Sanctuary" not the "Catskill Farm Animal Sanctuary" as mentioned previous. And "Bobo" the blind horse is a female and not a male.

* I found the location of the place that makes vegetarian raviolis but haven't stopped yet. I'm sure I will soon.

* I have yet to meet a person at the farm who I believe does not receive some type of sanctuary themselves by being at the farm. It's that kind of place.

* I never did get to Mohonk for ice-skating this season. Next year for sure!!

* A while back I said that I need to re-evaluate some things and see if I can adjust my diet to more of a non-meat and non-dairy one. I just want to mention it here that I haven't forgotten this and will get into it more in an upcoming entry. I still need a little more time.

* Also a while back, I mentioned my "Top Five" songs of all time and that I needed to add Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues" to the list. It seems silly to have a "Top Six" list, so let's take it all the way to 10.

Here are the first 5:
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 following additions have always been there for me (with the exception of "Tom Traubert's Blues" which I've only recently discovered), I just never commited them to a list:

Gimme Shelter (The Rolling Stones)
Heroes (David Bowie long version)
Tom Traubert's Blues (Tom Waits)
The Ecstacy of Gold (Ennio Morricone)
Driver 8 (REM)
Who'll Stop the Rain? (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Do you see what I see? Yeah, that makes 11 songs. Looks like I'm going to have to live with it. I cannot lop a song off this list. Well, if we're friends, that means you probably get a kick out of some of my quirks. So, consider this another quirk at no extra charge. "Top 11 Songs of All Time" it is.

Also, do you see a thread to these songs? Each one can be described as a "haunting" kind of a song. I've known about this thread for a few years. I think I like it.

* Now that they are more familiar with their surroundings, some of the goats now often wander off by themselves in the field. The herd, as a defensive formation, is still very important to all the goats but they've now relaxed in their new home to the point that the herd can disperse.

On a sad note, "Lil' Cay" had to be put to sleep. She developed a kidney problem (probably from a virus) and couldn't make it.

* Since the day I walked onto the farm I've made it a point that any relationship that I might have with an animal would not be "food based". I don't believe there is anything wrong under the right circumstances with feeding an animal to make a connection but I'm looking for a different connection with these animals.

I do have a few exceptions though. Whether at work or at the farm, I always have with me a container of "grapenut/oatmeal/granola" stuff that I eat during the day. I give a little bit of this throughout the day to Brandy and to a small, white chicken that hasn't joined a flock yet and hangs out in the yard. I'm not sure why I do it with them but it works.

For the first few times that I sat with the sheep I gave them peanuts to break the ice. The ice has now been broken and I think they're content even if I show up in their pen just to sit and smush rather than to vend out the peanuts.

Well, that's what I got so far so that's what you got so far. Thank you for reading and for letting me know that you might have liked a certain story or asked something about a particular topic. It's made for a good feeling and I absolutely wish you to know that I have received from you the "extra connectivity" that I needed when I began this blog back in December. So, thank you for that as well.

Back in a few weeks with some photos.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Family Farming

Oh man! A warm, sunny day at the farm! T-shirts, faces a little brighter, animals in every field lying in the sun, and the first smells of new grass!

Today's "photon farmers" include: Jen, Doug, Chris, Louisella, Robin, and Anthony.

Three new names for the day:

"Jim" and "Pierre". Jim worked for the day with Chris on the barn and also brought his really cool dog "Pierre" who spent much of the day hanging out by the trucks.

"Chris". A different Chris and a friend of Louisella's.

The day started with "Goat Checks". Much like "Pig Checks", goat checks require the goat to be secured to a pen rail by a rope around the face while hooves are trimmed, skin in general is inspected, and shots are administered. The goats didn't like the checks any more than the pigs did but they were far easier to catch and to handle. (Each pig weighs up to 1,000 lbs. but the largest goats probably top out at less than 200 lbs.) Louisella and her friend Chris checked goats on one side of the goat pen in the new barn while Robin and Anthony did the same on the other side of the pen. I played "free safety" bouncing back and forth between the two goat checking areas as needed.

During the checks Robin's mother and friend showed up for a visit so there was a neat mom-daughter element to the scene.

As for the rest of the morning, this was a morning of muck! I mucked out a chicken coop, the rooster coop, and the goat pen with Anthony which brought us close to lunchtime.

Lunch: Vegetarian burgers which were really terrific! I purposely didn't ask what they were made of until I was almost finished. I didn't want to have any "pre-conditioned responses" in play in case there was something in mine that I might feel finicky about. When I did ask Doug he said that they were primarily made of oats and rice. I put avacado and ketchup on mine and could have easily have had a second one. Good stuff!

With "inspirational noodging" provided by Anthony I also tried "Veganaise" a Mayonaisse substitute on the side. No, it did not taste like Hellman's Mayonaisse but don't let stop you from trying it if you get the chance! It was VERY good and it did not leave me wishing that I had traditional mayonnaise instead.

With "proper name noodging" also provided by Anthony(!), the bread dish that I tried the other week is called "Seitan". It's pronounced "say*tan" with the accent on the "t". If you sound a little French while pronouncing it, you're saying it right.

After lunch there were some small chores and I loaded up two buckets of compost for my friend Phyllis' garden which brought the day to "evening routine".

Well, I had my first "guests" at the farm. My parents came up about 3:30 just in time for the beginning of evening routine.

After Mio (the resident "Gatekeeper" dog) let both new faces pass, and Stormy (the resident "cool! a new person to land on!" pigeon) flew in for an eventual successful landing on my father's head, we began our walk around the farm. And yes, with Stormy observing from the top of my father's head for a good part of it!

I showed them around, they got to talk to Jen, Doug, and Anthony for a bit, we walked through all the fields with the exception of the steer field, together we fed pellets to the pigs and hay to the steer, rubbed a sleeping Pig-Pig's belly (who s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d o-u-t to accomodate), heard the turkeys vibrate, picked up "Brandy" the rooster, were checked out by "Pecan the Hen" who came to the gate to say hello, and they got to witness 5th gear chicken sprinting (including the always popular and handsome "Hollander") during the white bird's afternoon feeding.

Afterwards, my mother and I hopped a pen rail to sit with the sheep for a while. Of the sheep that came close, they were very active and curious as they thought they would be getting peanuts which is what I give them sometimes when I sit with them. We didn't have any peanuts but a few sheep still stuck around to be smushed. It was very quiet, very nice.

Because of the one hour time change the previous night my timing might be off but I think we left the farm about 5:30 after saying goodbyes. Both parents seemed to have had a lot of fun and I'm sure they'll be back to visit. It's a two hour ride (one way) for them which makes it a bit of a haul.

So, a warm, sunny farm day filled with goat checks, parental visits, more barn work, and enough muck for everyone including the as yet unseen Phyllis' garden.