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

A Productive Wait

horses
Yup, horses can lie down and not be sick. I’m not sure where that rumor originated from.
turkeys
Our wild/domestic turkeys enjoying the poo pile.
swimming ducks
Pip and Pepita enjoying some swimming pool time. They enthusiastically jump right in as soon as it’s freshened up.
horses
Two of the farm’s many beautiful horses. I’m so glad I got this opportunity to work with horses and become more comfortable around them. They terrified me before this.

Yesterday, I finished my last full week of work as the Assistant Animal Caregiver at the sanctuary. The first few days had me second guessing myself but after the third day I couldn’t sleep at night because the body aches were so bad. Once again, thank you Aleve. I know for certain that I’m making the best possible decision for myself, although I’ll miss the staff and animals terribly. I had my second interview for the Programs Manager position set for today but it was rescheduled for next Thursday due to 6+ inches of snow in the forecast. Will it ever end? This winter has been absolutely staggering. Between below freezing temps and being buried in snow, I can just about say that I am–stick a fork in me–D.O.N.E. I’m exhausted in every way. It would do me good to once again state how much I enjoy Connelly and how humbling it is to be here in the midst of all this snow-covered chaos. Last night, some angel came and plowed everyone’s driveway, just for the heck of it. This place is getting to me. I’m beginning to think that generosity like that isn’t in short supply after all. Darn it, is this place making me a better person!? I must…maintain…my…cynicism…

So while I wait until my future figures itself out, I’ll be making soap. Yesterday, my oils arrived after being lost in the vortex for nearly a month. I’ve been studying up on how to make my soaps more eye-catching while keeping them as natural as possible and I’m chomping at the bit to put what I’ve learned into practice. Ugh, so many great ideas to execute. It really is an art and a science. I almost wish I’d bought more silicone molds so I can make a trillion varieties at once, but I’ll have to once again practice patience.

Some musings of interest:

♥ It’s a go for The Treehouse! Hip-hop, hooray, ho! I’m so ecstatically overjoyed for Kathy. They’re moving in March so I’ve got to start making goodies to fill that place up!

♥ A long-lost friend from high school sought my input on opening up a natural grocery store & cafe in the Ocean City, MD area–not too far from where my brother lives. As fate would have it, she wanted to open up something exactly like what I’d always envisioned a Sweet Pea’s Groceries brick and mortar store to be. So I encouraged the heck out of her plan AND I’m thrilled to report that she just signed a lease for a storefront right on the main drag in OC! I’m so proud of you Shenandoah! I can’t wait to see it!

♥ This is just a little inner musing that I thought I’d share in the hopes of getting your insight. I love blogs, etsy stores and instagram posts that feature items made from ethically sourced animal parts such as bones, feathers, skulls, pelts, etc… I just love all of that stuff and I collect anything like that on my hiking adventures. However, as time goes by I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with it but for reasons I couldn’t quite elucidate. Last night, as I was salivating over such creations, I began reading the comments on such blogs and posts and I couldn’t help but get the feeling that people are treating this as a trend. Would most of these people purchasing a necklace made from a coyote bone even know what a coyote was? Would they be able to identify one in a line-up of animals? When they buy those earrings made of bison teeth, do they know anything about the history of bison? What about the necklace made from turtle toes. Do they realize that we’re losing them? Do they even really care? I think such creations provide teachable moments and can potentially inspire a deep appreciation of our natural world, however, I’m worried that most people just see them as trendy trinkets. Something to ponder…

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.

Farm Life, Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Tips for Surviving Turkey Lurkey Day

Happy turkey lurkey day! Today, I’m missing my family. For several years, my mother, brother, and I spent our Thanksgivings feeding pumpkin pies to rescued turkeys and enjoying a vegan potluck at Farm Sanctuary. These days, things aren’t as simple and it’s harder to get together but there’s always next year, right? …Maybe? However, all is certainly not lost! Tuna and I will be sharing an entire sheet pizza and watching the complete season 3 of Haven. It’s my absolute fave and I never get to watch it.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have a very small family and we’re all basically the best of friends. However, I know many of you have to deal with the exact opposite: a large family with some unpleasant characters. Because of this, you may be absolutely dreading your meal today and the holiday get-togethers to come. Well, that’s just plain sad. Let me offer you a few words of advice to get you through unscathed.

Sweet Pea Turkey Lurkey
Two friends critiquing my hair-do.

1. Be a realist: You’re relatives are never going to change so don’t go into this hoping that your words or actions will somehow turn them into someone who all of a sudden isn’t a jerk face. Like it or not, you’re going to have to meet them where they’re at and completely accept them for the jerk faces they are. In short, don’t expect a holiday miracle.

2.  Manage your expectations: A holiday get-together is no time to push for some kind of Oprah moment. Don’t go there hoping to confront your relative and then expect it to end in a group hug at the dinner table. There’s a time and place for confrontations and this isn’t one of them. Seriously, don’t invest your energy in trying to make that elusive holiday miracle happen. You have a better chance of being disowned.

3. Always take the high road: If you are unfortunate enough to have that passive aggressive relative who loves to pepper every conversation with remarks about your shortcomings, it’s perfectly okay to tell the person that their comment was hurtful and rude and just leave it at that. Since you just verbally checked their behavior in front of others, they will no doubt feel embarrassed and will strive to sink you down to their level by goading you into saying more or getting angry. Do not fall for this trick. Gracefully make the verbal check and swiftly move the conversation on before they have a chance to say anything else. Congratulations, you’ve maintained your dignity, stuck up for yourself, and just joined the ranks of Gandhi and King on the high road. You may have to do this several times but eventually that person will realize that if they want to make rude remarks, they will be embarrassed.

4. Avoid conflict: This goes without saying but please avoid all topics that could even remotely lead to an argument. If you are by nature a pot-stirrer, you’re probably thinking about your freedom of speech and how you should be allowed to bring up any subject you darn well please and how everyone is dying to hear your views on Obamacare and the state of the world today. However, please remember that the holidays are not all about you. Let me issue this challenge: avoid anything even remotely having to do with politics, depressing news, the state of the world, gossip, personal judgements, or anything resembling a criticism. This obviously includes the topics of conversation but also consider your TV channel/movie selection and the newspapers or magazines you may have lying around. These are all fodder for a potential conversation gone wrong. If you’re a pot-stirrer, a critical thinker, or are not one to easily reign in your opinion, let’s try either just being quiet and thoughtful (if this requires biting your tongue and sitting on your hands than please do so), asking others about how they’re doing, and/or focusing on something positive happening in your life or the world today. Yup, completely flip the switch for the greater good and comfort level of those around you. Be vigilant of the notion that the holidays are a festive occasion where we come together to feel better, not to walk away feeling worse.

Ling Ling Turkey Lurkey
Ling Ling and a feathered friend, both looking dapper.