Category Archives: farm

Animal Loves

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. – Martin Buber

Animals.

They come in all shapes and sizes.

Tiny lady bugs to towering giraffes.

Smooth skinned snakes to rough hided rhinoceros.

Feathered hummingbirds to furry giant cows.

Kittens with quiet meows to dogs with barks as large as a lion’s roar.

Pocket sized desert mice to dump truck size elephants.

I could go on and on about the many types of animals we see in our world and the list would be extensive.  The variety of animals greatly outnumbers the variety of homo-sapiens on this planet.  We are a small variety, yet vast in number, populating this planet.

Earlier this week, Facebook popped up the photo below.  It’s from ten years ago.  When I tried to convince my giant friend Tater, he too, could be a lap dog. Now the first time I ever met Tater, he came bounding out of an office running to meet me like I was a long lost friend that he couldn’t wait to see.  We had never met before but for whatever reason….he couldn’t wait to see me once he heard my voice.  It was like that ever since our first meeting.  I always called him my boyfriend.

tater on couch

Tater, passed away recently.  When I sent this photo out to a couple of people, including his mom, she wrote back:

Aw!  He loved you so much.

And I loved Tater.

Think about it.

If you have a pet.

How much do you love and care for your pet?

I would bet some days you love your pet more than people.  I would even say you carry on conversations with your pet.  You may even take better care of your pet than yourself.

Our animal loves do not utter one word to us.  They do not carry on intelligent conversations with us, not where we’re able to say, “Oh my cat Monkey’s head hurts today…she told me.”  Nor are we able to say, “Lenny, our puppy, said he doesn’t like the liver treats, but he prefers the chicken ones.”

Yet somehow we communicate with them on another plane entirely.

Yes.  I love you too.

Yes, let’s get dinners.

Let’s go outside.

Do you want to snuggle?

You are such a good girl/boy.

How was your day?

And we talk with them.  Ask them how their day went, what they did and we tell them how our day went.

Animals are truly people in fur, feather, scaley coats.

They give us unconditional love.

Fill us with happiness.

Bring us great joy.

Our days are brighter and provided with purpose.  They’re our companions and confidents.  Even if they can’t utter one logical sentence, we tell them our darkest secrets and biggest fears.  We share with them our most hopeful dreams, filled with unicorn sparkles and make wishes with them as we blow out birthday candles.  When we’ve had crappy days they’re the ones we share our sadness with and pull the sheets up over our heads with while hitting the snooze button.  On weekends if we want to be lazy and eat chips while watching a binge on Netflix, they’re happy to snuggle with us.  We celebrate holidays and muddle through tragedies together.

On Saturdays, I volunteer at a farm animal sanctuary, Unity Farm Sanctuary.  I work with   everyone from miniature horses to alpacas to chickens to cows and goats.  Everyone and I do mean everyone, has their own individual personalities.

Take for example, Audrey and Elliot, the two cows I visit with every week.  Audrey is a brown Jersey and Elliot is a black Holstein mix.  They are both about 800 pounds (still growing) worth of love and they enjoy helping with chores.  They’re really good supervisors.

Elliott and Audrey Helping

These two are like giant puppies.  In fact,  people often call cows….grass puppies.  When I come through the gate, they can’t wait to say hello and get their pats.  Without saying a word, I know these two are happy I’m here.

They follow me around the paddock as I clean up. Getting chin scratches and head pats between scoops of poop removal.

Finally….they say….

I break out the brush and take turns brushing my bovine friends.  Elliot is notorious for grooming me while I brush him.  He loves to lick any part of my body he can reach while I brush.  My back, leg, foot, head….

I brush.  Elliot grooms.

And yes, his breath smells like hay.

Thank you Elliot.

Audrey, is just content to be brushed and enjoy the conversation.

However, if I stop brushing her and go back to brushing Elliot….without fail, she’ll come up and either bop me in the butt with her head, as if to say, “hey lady, you aren’t done with me yet!” or muscle in between Elliot and I to get more brushing.

Audrey is also one to play with the ball….roll it across the paddock and she’ll chase after it.  Do it again, she says.  Looking at you.  Daring you to come and get it just like a big puppy.

Audrey and ball

 

Our animal loves are our everythings.

All without saying a word.

We connect to one another through our hearts.

All without saying a word.

We understand one another.

All without saying a word.

We support one another.

All without saying a word.

We take care of each other.

All without saying a word.

Isn’t it amazing?  Different species.  Caring for each other.

Without saying a word.

Then you look at the homo-sapiens. Who according to the Oxford English Dictionary, currently have over 171K words available to use by today’s guidelines.  These are only the words in active circulation.  Yet, we can’t get along to save ourselves.  We’re too busy finger pointing, arguing, backstabbing, having malicious contempt for each other and one-upping through social media.  It’s ridiculous.

We have the ability to communicate which could lead to many great outcomes, yet we can’t figure out how to do it effectively enough to solve problems, end suffering or love one another.  Why is that?

Perhaps if we follow the lead of our animal friends and learn to acknowledge one another on a different level, we might be able to go past the anger and self-righteous in our world and fill it with understanding and compassion instead.

Elliott Kisses

 

 

You’re Kinda Like Me

The other day on Facebook someone posted a little kid’s response to the question, “What do you want to be doing when you’re 100 years old.”  They responded by that age, they’re going to dislike people, live in a tiny house with their tiny pets.  I thought, good for you.  I’m half way there.

I’m not going to make it to 100.  I already prefer hanging out with animals over people.

If I could move out to the country, to the middle of Nowheresville, I’d go tomorrow.

One exception.  There would have to be a coffee shop.  My husband likes to talk to people.  I’d be okay with miles of fields, trees, starry nights and my farm animals.

This is why I love my time at the farm sanctuary.  There’s very little one-upping, high-stepping, no impressing or brown nosing.  It’s purely a come as you are society.  And although I can say it’s quiet.  It’s not quiet.

Turkeys are gobbling.  Roosters are crowing.  Horses are neighing.  Geese are honking.  Donkey is braying.  Alpacas are singing.  But what’s missing is the roar of the television.   Horns are not blaring.  People aren’t yelling into technology as they communicate with friends.  Ear buds are not leaking out the bass….all about the bass.

The other part about the sanctuary I truly enjoy, which is true of much of the animal kingdom, is how everyone has figured out how to get along.  From the smallest chicken, to the largest pig to the tallest horse and strongest cow.   Homo sapiens could use a lesson from Rafiki, the Mandrill from The Lion King, on how to get along with others.  Think about it for a moment.

Humans are like bruised peaches.  Or overly ripe bananas.  Our porcupine sensitivity extender quills are set to the highest rating and we’re zapping ourselves off the sensitivity charts.    It’s either, “this” or “that.”  There is no compromise and you must pick a side.  No, Marie Antionette, you will not have your cake and eat it too!  I’ll give you the coffee bean but not the grinder to make the coffee, figure it out, which do you want?  Bean?  Then better get some rocks to grind for coffee.  We are all in this together, maybe we should learn to blend, bend and balance.

Revert back to kindergarten and one of the first things we all should have learned: Be Nice.  Be Nice to Everyone.

Walk through a sanctuary yard and you’ll see chickens napping with pigs.  Turkeys hanging out with Guinea Foul.  Llamas standing with goats.  Great Pyrenees dogs with alpacas.  Little kittens hanging out with everyone, well they truly run the place, let’s be honest.

Then when you consider the greater animal kingdom, look at how many species are similar to another.  Certainly they don’t worry about identifying with another creature.  Rafiki could provide the next lesson to humans on this concept if we were to be so lucky.

Do you think the rhino might really be trying to be a unicorn with their cleverly placed horn?  Maybe they were the trial run?  Or the warrior unit of unicorns?

What about the donkey?  She is just a delightful, impish horse.  A cross between a miniature and a Welsh pony.  Don’t you think?  Have you ever met a miniature horse?  They think they’re Clydesdales.  There’s nothing miniature about them.  Small and mighty, I know, I take care of 5 of them at the sanctuary: Cash, Flash, Summer, Goldie and  Gypsy.

Panda bears and raccoons.  Black and white, with those clever bandit masks…hiding their facial features.  Both are round, fuzzy and rolly-polly.  What are they up to really?  Their pockets are no doubt filled with lost treasures.   Speaking of bears, you know there is a contest of biggest and baddest bear between Kodiak and Grizzly…brown, large and in charge.

And what about a leopard, jaguar and cheetah?  Big spotted cats that love living life in the fast lane.   They’re obviously all on the same branch of the family tree.  I hear reunions can be a bit of a challenge.

Or a dolphin and a porpoise….gray, slippery, sparkly looking creatures that live in the water.  They splash past ships and zip around like crazy nutters, flinging their glistening bodies through the air like an arrow shot from the water.

Crocodiles and alligators, the leathery looking, tough skinned, snap you in half faster than a spring loaded booby trap critters.  Similar, yet different species.

One that always confuses people: alpacas and llamas.  One is taller and the other one looks like it would be happy living as a house pet.  Lots of furry fluff to snuggle into, big eyes and a long neck to hug.  Which maybe, they could have been the trial run at creating a giraffe.

Beyond the animal species that look alike there are species and couples that are just better together.  Think about your own household, community and neighborhood.  Cats and dogs build special relationships.  Thank to the internet we have seen a multitude of images of different species snuggling and playing together: birds and cats, dogs and hamsters, goats and sheep, chickens and cats, dogs and sheep, rats and dogs, dogs and horses, cows and people.  Think of the combination and it’s out there.

We could take a page from the animal kingdom and learn to get along.  It doesn’t always have to be this or that.  It’s called having a circle of friends. Take a breath.  Sit down next to the llama and say, “what’s up.”  Learn something new from our neighbor.  It’s okay to find out you and the cheetah down the way have the same spots, it’s called being human.  Share the friendship.  Make the connection.  Say hello.  Be kind.  Open the door.  Put the phone down.  Be a human.

Chatting with a Cow Named Gail

I volunteer at a local farm animal rescue called, Maple Farm.  It’s about an hour away from our place and is located in Mendon, Massachusetts.  When I tell people what I do, half think I’m nuts and half are in awe.

Animals are the most compassionate, forgiving, non-judgmental and loving beings alive.  Yes, they definitely have their good days and bad days but after a week of sitting in an office, nothing makes me happier than hanging out with a bunch of goats, pigs, feathered friends, sheep, cows and llamas.  It’s therapy.

My homies are happy to see me and search me out for pats and snuggles.  We chat about how their week went and what they did while I was away.  A big topic is always the weather, especially now that we’re heading into the cooler temps – those with fur coats are no doubt greatly relieved.  And I’m constantly having to tell them, “No, I don’t have any snacks for you….”  Although they can still clearly smell the apples, berries and melons on my hands I just cut up in the prep room.

A Saturday routine consists of a variety of activities:

  • Cutting up fruits & veggies for 11 goat trays & 2 pig buckets
  • Sweeping out the main barn before the tour begins
  • Giving out pats and snuggles
  • Refreshing water buckets
  • Cleaning out Boo-Boo, the young cow’s stall
  • Rotating the veggie & fruit boxes in the walk in fridge
  • Taking selfies with the goats
  • Composting
  • Breaking down boxes
  • A few more selfies and time out for pats and scratches behind the ears
  • Scooping up the llama poop out in the field
  • Talking with Gwen the turkey, who supervises the water bucket refills
  • Cleaning out Pom-Pom, the duck’s area if there’s time
  • More sweeping before the tour…don’t you guys know I just did this?
  • Cleaning out the duck pools
  • More snuggles and pats

Over time, simply from going to the farm, bonds develop with the animals and no matter how busy the day becomes, there is always time to take a break and sit with your extra special friends.  On my very first day of volunteering (photo above) I met Gail, an elderly cow, who is kept in a barn down the way with her friend Emily… a goat.

I always make sure to stop in and check on my little buddies.  (Little being a relative term, as Gail probably weighs in close to 1,000 pounds.) I check their water.  Fluff their hay.  Take out any “piles” that may need to be removed.  It’s the least I can do for my  friends.  I want to make sure they know, while they aren’t in the main barn, they’re not forgotten.  Every time I go, I spend time talking with each of them.

Emily, the goat, is very shy.  However , on my last two visits she’s come up to sniff my hand all over.  Today was no exception.  Sniff.  Sniff.  Sniff.  Sniff.  We’re definitely making progress. She is so curious.  I just know she wants to be pat, she just doesn’t know how.  We’ll get there.  It may take us a year.  Someday, we shall pat.

Today, Gail was laying down and chewing her cud.  I sat down next to her, with my legs crossed.  (Yes, I sat right down in the hay. Some people would be horrified at this – seriously.  It’s not like I was sitting in a pile of poop, people. )  While I sat next to Gail we chatted about her week and how she had been since I saw her last.  She had a little respiratory infection previously.  All the while I was stroking her neck and cheek.  Without warning, she turned her head and leaned her head right into my chest and put her head on my lap.  Her big brown left eye looking up at me.

WHOA!

I just did 27 summersaults in my heart!

And that quick she picked her head up again.

I think I just got a cow hug!

I commented as calmly as possible to my better half Eric, who was on the other side of the barn door, “GAIL JUST PUT HER HEAD IN MY LAP!”

My chat continued with Gail and we talked about the weather and how it was cooling off and going to be a nice week ahead for her.  Much better than the previous few weeks and  I thought she would find fall a lot nicer.  With that, she again leaned over and put her head back into my lap.

Holy guacamole!  I just got another cow snuggle from Gail!

There are just some things in life that will send you over the moon.  For some, it might be riding in an exotic sports car, or having a fancy piece of jewelry or big house.  Maybe it’s finally owning a particular piece of artwork or learning to play the piano or getting reservations for a highly rated restaurant.  Who knows, it could be wearing a pair of designer shoes, going to a concert or solving a challenging scientific equation.

For me….it was sharing a moment with a 1,000 pound sentient being and having her trust me enough to put her head in my lap.  Not once, but twice.