Farm Life

Peacefully at rest

cowsSaturday was my last day of work and let me tell you, the weather gods were shining on me, FINALLY! It was the first nice day outside that I’d ever experienced working on the farm. Oh the irony! The last few days before that were cold and rainy. One day it was so bad that my clothes were completely soaked. To add insult to injury, after a long day of shoveling in wet gloves, I painfully discovered that I had rubbed all of the skin off my palms and was now left with a combo of abrasions and blisters. Let me tell you, the shower that night was one of the most painful I’ve ever experienced. Soap of any kind, plus warm water and blistered hands = ouchy! Try not to scream and scare the neighbors kind of ouchy.

turkeyTo put that in perspective though, I went to work on Thursday and my supervisor was so relieved/happy to see me, which always feels nice. I guess she’d forgotten when my last day was and to be honest, after each day, I don’t think anyone expects me to return the next morning. However, I’m a tough cookie and I was determined to stay until the bitter end of my two weeks, come rain or come shine. That morning, the roof of my co-worker’s (Russ & Jenn) barn had literally collapsed under the weight of the accumulating snow and ice. They run a successful horse boarding facility that houses 20+ horses, chickens, pigs, etc…(and soon a zebra!) in Saugerties. With the help of friends, farm volunteers and another CAS staff member, they were able to get all the horses and chickens out alive. No creature was harmed, luckily. So, that left me, my supervisor and the new guy to run the farm, which explains her relief when she saw me. Needless to say, we got the job done with style and our hearts went out to Russ and Jenn.

The sick thing about that entire situation was that the insurance company told them not to touch a single thing before the adjuster came to see it. Okay, that’s fine…understandable. Except the adjuster wouldn’t be there for another week! WTF!? Part of the barn was still useable at that point, it was just the 2nd story hay loft that caved in. With some snow clearing, tarps and quick repairs the ground floor could be relatively stable and usable, yet with the forecast calling for freezing rain the next few days and them not being allowed to touch anything, I’m sure the barn suffered far more damage than necessary. It makes me angry to ponder and reminds me of Katrina all over again. soapy stachesThese last few days of being a free agent have been restful. That’s basically all I’ve been doing is sleeping. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I’ve also caught up on laundry, house cleaning, bill paying, food shopping, made an order of soapy staches, and started the next round of cold processed soap making. Yes! My first batch didn’t come out as I had planned but oh well. It’s still really nice stuff: 100% carrot juice; organic coconut milk; olive, organic coconut, castor, rice bran and avocado oils; plus titanium dioxide and activated charcoal to add a decorative element. The decorative element was a complete fail because the soap seized up on me before I could swirl the colors. I’m still soaping at too high of a temperature darn it! Like I keep saying, soap making is both an art and a science. And just when you think you’ve got the science figured out and can move on to the art, you find the entire process completely kicks your ass and you have to go back to the start (that actually rhymed quite nicely and reminds me of the Coldplay song, The Scientist). Thus, most of the bars I ended up rebatching last night with sweet orange & basil essential oils and it ended up a translucent green akin to baby poo. I had wanted to make a sweet orange soap anyways and I would’ve had to rebatch it because that’s the best way to make citrus essential oils last in cold process soap. (For some reason, citrus doesn’t have the staying power that other oils do in CP soap.) So now I have some vibrant, carrot-colored, unscented bars for the folks with sensitive skin and some nice smelling, baby-poo-green bars for those who’d like to expand their sensory experience. Either way, they’re both great soaps, they’re just not sexy to look at. Oh well. I’ll get ’em next time tiger!

cold processed soapTomorrow is my big interview for the Programs Manager position at the farm. I’m crossing my fingers and toes. I really hope I get the job but if I don’t, I have a backup plan that I’m equally satisfied with. It’s the first time I can think of that I’ve crafted such a fantastic win-win scenario.

I’ve made my peace with life and the job situation and after this I’m washing my soapy lil hands of it all. This past year I’ve come to the realization that I’m a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I’ve applied for jobs that I’m perfect for yet people don’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge that they’ve received my resume. I’ve applied for jobs that I’m both overqualified and underqualified for and have only heard the sounds of chirping crickets back. This never-ending job search has diverted my attention away from the things I want to do in life. The things I set out to do when I moved here a few years ago. Instead of being offended or wondering what is wrong with me, I have to realize that many of my brilliant friends–far more wonderful and intelligent than I–are in the same boat. In fact, I’m one of the lucky ones because I’ve managed to expand the range of things I can do far beyond just what I went to school for, such as making soap. My friend Cathy forwarded me this email from a scientist with a PhD who is wondering if he’s the alone in this. Here’s what he had to say:

Last night the PBS NewsHour profiled several Ph.D. instructors who were working as adjunct faculty, receiving no benefits and surviving on teaching whatever isolated courses they could scrounge.  One young Ph.D. graduate, a single mother who genuinely loved her field, was surviving on food stamps and assistance from her family.

I would like to know if there are people here on ECOLOG who are enduring similar circumstances–who followed their dreams, put in the grueling hard work as graduate students, and are now genuinely struggling to survive in their field, or simply survive at all.  I would like to know who here on ECOLOG has been caught up in the corporate-model conversion to adjunct teaching which has become increasingly common throughout the U.S., and whether any of you feel you can continue in your chosen disciplines.

I am interested in neither condemnation nor plastic platitudes from the comfortably established, the self-satisfied and the lordly-wise.  If you feel entitled to lecture from your keyboard on how and where these people went wrong, then don’t.  I’m not looking for that, and they aren’t either.

But if you are like the young Ph.D.s profiled in the news segment–or even someone not so young, and caught up in the same circumstances–please contact me off-list, because I’d really like to hear from you.

This is the grim reality people. Never in a million years would I tell someone to go to college unless they were absolutely guaranteed a good job once they graduated. Nevertheless, I’ve made my peace with the fact that I may have to give up my beloved apartment and leave Connelly. It may or may not be in the cards and right now it’s out of my hands for the most part. If I don’t get the job, I have Yellowstone waiting for me. Andrew is coming back and we are promised double the hours and several backpacking trips! That should make for some damn fine blogging! It’s a win-win.

herford cowPeace out, peeps!

Farm Life, Making Crafty Magic

My cat-like reflexes vs. the sheep from hell.

socks and flip flops
It’s high fashion here all the way.

Greetings from the snowy depths of Connelly, New York! These back-to-back winter storms picked the perfect time to pummel us: my two days off! That suits me just fine since there’s nothing I hate more than driving in bad weather. I did however get the most awesome tires put on my car a few days ago–they cut through snow like a hot knife through butter–but still I’d rather be warm indoors instead of cold and wet working outside. Sadly, work is coming too soon. Weekends are just an awful tease sometimes.

Before I forget, I have an update on the fox that was found slumbering in the barn. A rehabber took it and instead of rabies (people seemingly jump to that conclusion about every sick/injured wild animal) it had a severe case of mange, which was treatable. I’m so relieved there was a happy ending because there was some mention of having the police come out to shoot it. Craziness!

Work was work. I wish I could tell you that my body has grown accustomed to it but that’s not the case at all. I’m still sore: from my fingers to my toes. I have a kick-ass shin splint that makes it so I have to hobble along. I naturally waddle as it is so adding a hobble to my waddle probably looks very special, to say the least. Still, it’s gotten a little easier. My feed runs are going smoother and I’m getting faster which pleases everyone. I’m becoming more comfortable working around horses but that’s probably because I’m now terrified of roosters AND sheep. Good gracious my whole world is turning upside down!

cows, goats and gators
Clockwise starting at the top left: The calves tasting the gator.; Caleb the cow enjoying his hay. I think we’re related because he has the Hazard chin.; The calves just chillin’ out.; Playing got your nose with Mr. Tumnus.

On Monday they sent me in to clean Briggs & Stratton’s stall. These are two of the most fearsome, loathsome sheep you’ll ever want to meet. They are cute on the outside but pure evil on the inside. I always want to think animals and people have good intentions but that’s soooo not the case with these two. They warned me right from my very first day to just stay the heck away from them because they don’t like people. I guess they enjoy luring visitors by looking really cute and friendly and as soon as you reach in to pet them they ram your fingers and hands into the metal gate. Knowing this, I was not thrilled to go in with them. However, they armed me with a large water cooler jug and told me to hit them on the head if they came near me. I thought that was pretty cool, in a sick way. I mean, how often do you get permission to actually hit something on the head by your employer? Never! So I looked at it as a potential stress-reliever/challenge.

Well, my optimism didn’t last long. Ten minutes went by of them leaving me alone and then Stratton cornered me in their stall, head butted the water jug right out of my hand sending it flying into the yard, and all I could do was dodge his full-force ramming. I was terrified. I grabbed him by both of his horns, spun him around and kicked his butt out the door. I was hoping this would deter him but instead this made him even angrier and more persistent. Meanwhile, Briggs was sneaking up behind me in the hopes of ramming me from behind. They were working together with the goal being to pummel me to death. I did what I could to artfully dodge them while I made my way to the gator to radio for backup. While Alex was coming I waited in the gator–which has no doors and the windshield was completely covered in snow–I had no idea where they were as they each circled around me like hungry sharks. Every few seconds one would appear and charge into the gator to ram me and I’d have to quickly jump to the other seat and jump back because the other one would immediately do the same from the other side.

When Alex finally got there all he did was yell at me to do something or I would never get out of there. I had no idea what to do. Eventually, they walked over to him standing at the fence-line with the intentions of luring him into a hand pounding. This gave me a window of opportunity to drive the gator out. Then Alex demonstrated how he deterred them which consisted of seriously pounding on them with the water jug. I guess I just wasn’t aggressive enough, even in the face of being hurt. I truly believe that beating up on anything, especially an animal, is wrong (which it is) so I felt bad for having to hit a sheep–even if my attempts didn’t even phase him. (Please note that sheep–because they ram one another–have extremely thick skulls, so no amount of smacking with a water jug will ever result in seriously harming one.) Still, it just felt like I was perpetuating some sort of vicious cycle.

I’m sure my work would not appreciate me telling you all this but there’s an important lesson here. Animals aren’t stupid. When they start their lives being abused, they learn that humans aren’t to be trusted and they act accordingly. Briggs & Stratton were rescued from a canned hunt operation so there’s a good chance they were mistreated. With that being said, the Catskill Animal Sanctuary is truly a sanctuary for all animals and I admire them for accepting those two demon-seeds for who they are and just letting them live out their days in peace.  Just because they’re not lovable doesn’t mean they’re not deserving.

Now that you know all that, I encourage you to watch this video of Briggs & Stratton and laugh along with me. I like their captions and their cut-aways. As soon as you see the footage cut away, the person behind the camera was probably mauled!

petunia the pitbull, fantasy book, natural art
Clockwise from top left: Petunia sleeping in.; Some of my shells and feathers getting ready to transform into art.; Tome of the Undergates…great read! I can’t suggest it enough!; Some of my photos transfered to canvas, sorting my shell collection and figuring out how I’m going to mix these medias.

Aside from that unpleasantness, all is very well. I’m even managing to get some artsy fartsy work done here on the home front. I have tons of shells, horseshoe crab tails, crab shells, invasive water chestnuts, acorns, nuts and feathers lying around that really need to be put to good use so I’m incorporating them into art pieces. I’ll keep you posted on what I come up with.

water chestnut art piece

Farm Life

I found me a new boyfriend.

cow in loveAll it took was one smooch on his big fleshy nose and Dozer the cow was all mine. For the rest of the day he followed me for as far as his fence could take him. A couple of times he looked so pathetic that I ran over to him and planted a few more kisses on his nose, which he loved. I asked Alex if it was like him to follow everyone from place to place and to stare at you from across the farm, apparently it’s not his norm. Usually he just hangs out next to his hay hut all day. Needless to say, I must have made an impression.

There was a sick fox found at work today. It literally snuck into the barn when we were all at lunch, found a clean stall with a fresh bed of hay and curled up in it. My co-workers found it snoozing. By the time I saw it, they had it in a cage and were calling around to see if they could find a wildlife rehabber to take it. It definitely was sprayed by a skunk, that was pretty obvious, but the rest is just speculation. Everyone jumps to rabies but there could be a whole suite of potential ailments, some curable. All I know is that I felt really bad for the poor thing. It just looked so tired. It wasn’t aggressive or defensive. It just seemed worn out and terrified. All it wanted to do was curl up somewhere warm and be left alone. I can’t blame any creature for wanting that. By the end of the day, an animal control officer came and got it. I’m not sure what the plan was and I didn’t dare inquire for fear my heart may be broken.

handmade scarves
Handmade neck warmers for sale. $10 each + shipping.

And now for something completely different…I promised my mother (Ling Ling) that I’d take photos of the neck warmers/cowls she made and try to sell them in my Etsy shop. There’s nothing in the world that makes her happier than when someone buys one of her creations so I figured I’d make up for being such a bad kid by doing her a solid–just this once. If you read my blog you’ll know that I find photos of myself cringe-worthy but since it’s a challenge to sell a scarves without a pics of someone wearing them, I decided to try my hand at modeling. Well, my good intentions went awry. First of all, I could only show one side of my face because the other side is still healing from the rooster attack. (I’m not good with Photoshop so I had to make do with old school au naturale.) Secondly, I uploaded the photos to Facebook and was instantly reminded of the eclectic group of friends I’ve gathered throughout the years. The comments started out positive but I felt the self-deprecating need to just explain that they could be better had my face not been injured. My friends rarely restrain themselves so what started out as an attempt to sell Ling’s creations turned into a comment session on me being cock slapped in the face. A friend counted eight comments with the word “cock” in them. Oh mother, I meant well. I really did. I love my friends. I really do.

Farm Life

Veganism, not elitism.

Rudy and Helen the cows.
Here’s Rudy and Helen waiting in the cold for me to bring them some delicious hay. Helen is blind but that doesn’t stop her one bit. She eats like it’s going out of style. Her favorite pastime is sneaking up behind me and tossing me like a rodeo clown when I’m cleaning her stall.

Wow, it was a cold, miserable day outside today. Working in a snow storm slows everything down immensely. You basically have to concentrate on just getting the basics done and that’s it. As soon as I had broken and removed all of the ice from the water troughs and small animal dishes, it just froze up again. Russ broke the record a few days ago at having to go around and break all the ice five times in one day. That’s literally non-stop breaking and filling up water troughs for 400+ animals. This is extremely hard work, to say the very least.

All that aside, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet today. One of my co-workers happened to mention that he is no longer going to be doing farm tours because over the years there have been complaints from vegan visitors and also vegan donors. Logic suggests that since it’s a farm animal sanctuary that promotes veganism, tour guides should obviously live a vegan lifestyle. It makes superficial sense…if we’re labeling people and putting the entirety of who they are into one purdy little container.

I should mention that my co-worker has been a dedicated employee for eight years and is by far the best tour guide the farm has. Emily and I enjoyed our tour when we first found the place and he made such a good enough impression on me that I remembered him from almost two years ago. He knows all the animals by name, they know him, he knows how each animal came to be at the farm, he’s outgoing, he’s got a booming voice and he’s great with people. More than anything, he enjoys being a tour guide and he’s proud to be an ambassador for the farm. When people ask him about his eating habits on tours, he does the right thing by telling the truth: he doesn’t eat meat but he eats the eggs from the farm and he has a weakness for cheese. Same as me. Apparently, that’s not good enough for some people though. However, let me tell you that he has dedicated his whole life to helping animals and on a day like today, he’s there putting in long hours, freezing his butt off providing the animals with the best care possible. I doubt I could say the same for any of those people.

Veganism is rooted in compassion and not judgement but some vegans make the mistake of being compassionate towards animals while refusing to extend the same courtesy to people. It’s this kind of person that feels like it’s okay to base job worthiness on someone’s eating habits. Perhaps they feel more enlightened than most but to me, enlightenment is compassion towards oneself and to all other beings and acceptance of oneself and all others. Enlightenment is not something that can ever be reached but it something we should strive to brush up against.

I guess the bottom line is that I’d prefer taking a tour from someone striving to become vegan than someone who is and thinks they’re better than me because of it. Plus, the main goal of the sanctuary is not to cater to vegans but to teach non-vegans how to make healthier, more compassionate lifestyle choices. Wouldn’t it be better to have a tour guide who is working in that direction themselves? Someone more relatable? And let me tell you, if anyone ever made the mistake of looking down at me for being a vegetarian, I’d ask them where they buy their clothes? More than likely, that person is wearing something made in a foreign country by slave labor and added toxic chemicals and pollutants to our environment. Where’s their compassion or enlightenment now? My guess is that it only extends so far. Booyah!

I should note that I, of course, do not feel this way about most vegans. I’m friends with a great many of them and love them dearly. I was a vegan for several years and wish I could get back to that point. That darn cheese is a hard habit to break though. If only they could make a delicious substitute. And the farm is not to blame for removing my co-worker from tours. They’ve been pressured by donors for years and since they’re funded entirely through donations, I don’t think they had much of a choice, sadly. Even my co-worker understands that. So I don’t want this rant to reflect poorly on the farm because they’re all so awesome. It’s just a few squeaky wheels that have to ruin it all.

eggs
Look at the delicious goodness in my fridge. Clutch the pearls! What would people say?!
Farm Life

My life on the farm

Farm chore list.
These are my duties for the day. By “sheaths” she means clean horse penis. Yup, I had to take a photo of that. This is my life and I’m actually enjoying it! What does that say about my mental health? Don’t answer that!

Welcome to the freezing arctic tundra of New York! Good gracious, it’s cold!

It’s been a little while since I checked in but I have a decent excuse…I hope. I’ve actually been itching to write every day for the last few weeks but I wanted to overhaul my blog before I went ahead and posted anything else. I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about switching up the blogs without losing readers so I needed some time to ponder the best course of action. Yesterday, I was able to combine my two blogs and hopefully those that may have been lost in the shuffle will somehow find their way back.

Regardless, I need to catch you up. On Monday, I finished my second full week of work at the animal sanctuary. So far, so good, but man do I hurt. It’s physically painful and there are some moments when I can’t help but wonder if I’m strong enough to efficiently do my job. All of my co-workers say that I’m doing great but I have my doubts. However, the pluses definitely, by far, outweigh the minuses. I work outside (which is usually great except for working in 2 degree temps which I did today), I have no desk or office, I’m never sitting, I can cancel my gym membership, I usually only work with three other people, all of my co-workers are absolutely wonderful, I hang out with animals all day, there’s no drama, the days go by fast, I know what’s expected of me, a professional chef cooks the staff vegan meals on a semi-regular basis, I get cruelty-free eggs and wool, and it’s straightforward, uncomplicated work. It’s everything I’ve always wanted so I can’t complain. Not one bit. In fact, I’ve never felt happier. And yes, in my spare time, I’ve been doing a lot of sewing, quilting, and overall tinkering. I’m so much more productive and imaginative when my livelihood doesn’t depend on what I’m creating. It’s really taken the pressure off and I have a feeling that my crafts will flourish because of it.

Here are some farm photos for you to enjoy:

Mr. Tumnus and the rest of the goats.
The goats specialize in unzipping my coat and eating my clipboard.

Cows and vehicles

cows

Chickens
The roosters orchestrate the perfect single-file assembly line for health checks & glove heists.

farm injuries

And I know you’ve seen the following photo of Lambert laying an egg, but I just wanted to report that Lambert died today. We are all very, very sad, especially his lady-love Hannah. We’re not sure why he died. It was all extremely sudden seeing as though he was a mere, seemingly healthy, 1.5 years old. He’s going to Cornell tomorrow for a necropsy, which will hopefully tell us more. He was a part of the beloved Goon Squad which roams the farm wreaking glorious havoc. He was a wonderful character and will be missed by all. We brought his body back to the farm to let the rest of the Goon Squad and Hannah say goodbye. They each lined up to sniff him and pay their respects. Each one walked away with their heads hanging and wandered off for a little alone time. Hannah didn’t know what to think and seemed reluctant to approach him. To date, she has outlived three partners so she is, sadly, no stranger to loss. RIP Lambert.

sheep

Farm Life

Some animal goofs

I need to start taking more photos of the goofballs that I work with at the farm. All of the animals have so much personality and many are allowed to roam free around the barnyard during the day. This means that they’re constantly underfoot and being naughty, but I enjoy every moment. For the record, let me just say that I’ve forgotten how crazy and awesome goats are! They’re sooooo mischievous. If they weren’t so darn cute they’d be completely loathsome!

sensa the goat
This is Sensa, who, with the rest of The Goon Squad jumps into the back of my truck as soon as I pull up to the barn. They’ll eat everything and anything that isn’t tied down. They’re so naughty…and strong. Once they have their mind and stomaches set on something it’s almost impossible to tear them away from it.
2014-01-11 10.46.49
This is my beloved Stencil, the ringleader of The Goon Squad. He’s looking….looking for trouble! He and Arthur went through my car and proceeded to eat my lunch when my back was turned.
cows
Here are a few of the cows I care for. The one on the far right is Helen. She’s an old lady and blind to boot, however, her taste buds work just fine. She get’s a little overzealous when it comes to food and will knock anyone over who stands in the way of fresh hay. Who could blame her though? Hay is apparently very delicious (not as much as mushy bananas though).
turkeys
Here are some of the turkeys. I’m not sure they’re loving the weather but they hang with us just the same. They’re sweet and friendly and will happily chat with you about any and all things.
2014-01-10 13.23.36
And the sheep laid and egg…or so it seems. I had to get a photo of Lambert and the stray egg. What perfect placement and timing.
tired farm worker
There’s nothing quite like a hay facial! Geeze, just looking at this person makes me tired. This is what I look like at the end of the day…and then I stop at the gas station…and then to the grocery store…yup, I pretty much go out looking like this. And yes, I am very ripe. I’m not sure this look is going to get me a husband (or a date for that matter) anytime soon. Oh well, c’est la vie.