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

A questionable horizon

goat with chickens
This is my buddy Stencil, the ringleader of the mischievous Goon Squad. He might be my favorite animal on the farm. He’s my constant companion throughout the day. These broiler chickens are also wonderful to have around. Seeing them run when they hear food hit their dish might be the best thing ever.

This is going to be a short and sweet post because I need to jump into bed, watch Sherlock and give my body a much-needed rest. I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling. My job should be getting easier but it’s only becoming more painful. My body is just not tolerating the work and yet the rest of me absolutely loves it. Ahh…the irony of it all. Usually I have the exact opposite problem. A big part of my job is being able to lift heavy bails of hay, jumping in and out of truck beds, shoveling wet bedding and wrestling large animals for health checks. To make matters worse, they just received a load of hay bails that are so heavy that it took two of us to load them onto the truck this morning. They’re each about 75 pounds and they make me want to wet my pants every time I lift one. And don’t think for a second that I’m alone in this sentiment. My big, strong, male co-workers all agree: they’re pants-wetting heavy, no doubt about it.

It looks like I may face a tough decision ahead. I love this job, it’s everything I’ve wanted, but I’m in such physical pain that it keeps me up at night. Even my trusty Aleve isn’t cutting it. Morning yoga and hot packs at night are helping so that’s a start. And my friend Carrie gave me this homemade coconut and peppermint oil concoction that I’ve been using as a muscle rub. It feels amazing and has helped to aleviate the some of the soreness. Whatever she puts in that stuff is pure magic.

I guess overall, I’m just having a hard time accepting the fact that I might not be living in a “normal” 37-year-old’s body. Perhaps years of grueling field work and improperly healed injuries are catching up with me. My co-workers and supervisors are so understanding (which makes it all that more crappy if I decide to leave). They keep telling me that this kind of work is not for everyone and only I can say for sure if it’s too much.  However, I’m not willing to throw in the towel just yet. I’ve still got some fight left in me and maybe I’m just experiencing some prolonged growing pains. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself… until the muscle rub wears off and my body snaps in half.

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.

Uncategorized

Some inspiration: from death-beds to goats in wells.

It’s a mere 9:39 am and already several great articles have reached my desk. Yup, and “my desk” is actually code for my bed because the first thing I do when I wake up is check my email, which contains my favorite blog updates, and then it’s on to a quick Facebook and Instagram check. All of this happens whilst still tucked in. I blame this laziness completely on Petunia because she encourages me to stay in bed for as long as my bladder can possibly stand. If she had her way, she’d stay under the covers all day and never go potty or even eat. Most days I have to force her to get up. Last week I performed an experiment by seeing how long it takes for her to get up on her own. Well, I didn’t see her until 2 pm! I’m not sure how she does it, especially her bladder! Needless to say, that experiment only lasted a day because her natural inclination for laziness trumping necessary bodily functions made me worry. She needs me, what can I say.

Whoa, that was quite an unplanned tangent, sorry about that. My original desire in writing this was to tell you of the post I read on the blog Inspiration and Chai called “Regrets of the Dying.” It’s written by a former palliative care worker who assisted people during the dying process. She took note of the regrets people expressed on their death beds and shared them in this post. I strongly suggest reading it but if you’re too busy (or lazy like Petunia), I’ll give you the cliff notes version. Here are people’s death-bed regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Now ever single word in this post is pure gold and the author does a great job at offering sage wisdom on how to go about changing these regrets; however, one part especially resonated with me:

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

This definitely reminds me of what I was trying to convey in my “Being Genuine in all Endeavors” post. Being genuine is about honesty and telling the hardest truth first, no matter the consequences. The truth can be extremely painful or in the very least uncomfortable, but you must stay the course and not be tempted by easier, more convenient and less confrontational paths. I do believe that the truth–though it may cause emotional upheaval in the interim–sets you free in the end.

These death-bed regrets aren’t novel by any means. I think if we actually took the time to make a list of our own regrets, they’d be differently worded variations of the same exact sentiment. The problem is that we never actually take the time, do we? Now a new year is quickly approaching and I’m definitely not one to embrace the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. I mean, why wait until January 1st to do something positive for yourself, your family, your friends and perhaps all of the lives you have yet to touch? Why not start thinking about those regrets right now and putting together a gradual plan of attack? Seems like a grand idea to me.

If you need a little more motivation, my girl Kris Carr posted this today. It’s a story about a goat that was stuck in a well. Because it was a safety hazard, a man began to fill in the well, not realizing the goat had fallen in. Instead of giving up, the goat stomped down each shovel full of dirt that came down at him until he was able to walk right out. Let me tell you, that is fodder for the best children’s story since the Little Engine That Could.  Heck, this story trumps the little engine because it’s probably true. Goats are rather miraculous creatures and I’ve heard of them accomplishing far more impressive feats. (I’ve even met one that enjoyed drinking antifreeze and experienced no ill effects; they’re nature’s vacuum cleaners.)

2012-12-09 20.06.45Now if I don’t post again until after the holidays, let me just say that I wish you and yours the best. Remember that the most valuable gift that you can give yourself and others is your undivided time and attention…we have so little of it these days. If you have some family dinners that you’re not looking forward to, you might just want to check out my post on getting through such events unscathed. More than anything though, please think about those regrets you may have and make a plan for gradual, positive changes. This is something you don’t want to wait on because tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. I know it’s not the most joyful of subjects but it’s by far the most important.