Category Archives: athena

Sweet sorrow

I realize that I’ve been pretty silent for a long time now. My job has really taken off and my focus has definitely shifted. That’s not to say that I haven’t been at the farm! Just that the mental energy I’ve put into documenting my adventures has been redirected. In addition, there has been a lot of sadness for me at the farm recently. In a week’s time, two of my very best friends passed away suddenly.

Lunar had a blockage in her stomach that needed emergency surgery. Dan and Connor, two of the incredible teens that devote so much of their time to the sanctuary, spent hours trying to get Lunar onto a trailer to get her to the vet. They struggled with her, attempting to get her up the ramp in any way that they could. And at the moment that they almost had her all the way up, her halter broke and they had no way to hold onto her. They couldn’t go on and she was unable to go to the vet. She was healthy in every other way, but because this was so serious, she ended up having to be put down. I found out about the blockage when I went to volunteer and spent a bit of time with her while others helped out, thinking that she would get better. I found out that she had been put to sleep when I visited on a Friday because I would be missing my Sunday shift. I never really got to say goodbye to her. When Deb and I talked about it, she said that by not being able to get Lunar on the trailer that she knew she wouldn’t survive. They did everything that they could to get her to surgery and Lunar would not go.

While I was there, she mentioned that Athena was not doing very well. Her eyesight had deteriorated a great deal and she was having problems walking. I stayed with Athena for a while in the sheep area just chatting with her. And then she did something very interesting. When I squatted down in front of her, I put my face close to hers and she actually put her nose right up against mine. Her soft, fuzzy nose was pressed up against me. She stared into my eyes and then she walked away.

I went off on my weekend trip. And on the drive home late Monday, I received a text from Connor. He said that he was really sad to tell me that they’d had to put Athena to sleep unexpectedly that day. She hadn’t been able to get up and was suffering. I went to the farm early the next morning and spent time with her resting body in Gully’s pen. I haven’t cried like that in a long time. I held her for a long time and kissed her sweet face and told her I loved her many last times.

In addition to my two friends passing, there were two other sweet creatures that also passed in the same time frame. Crazy Xena, the goat and beautiful Shiloh, the horse, both left us. To say the least, it has been a sad couple of months, peppered with the joy and beauty that surrounds me when I’m there. Gully and I continue to be the best of friends and the alpaca girls actually approach me for food now. I will tell stories about that transformation soon. But all of the animals will be missed.

The first week back without Lunar and Athena, which landed on the same Sunday, was really tough. Everything felt so empty without them.

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I still look longingly into Lunar’s stall and Athena’s empty space at the front of the barn. I am sad that I never got to say goodbye to Lunar and sad that I had to say goodbye to Athena.

Lunar and I always had an easy friendship. My favorite thing that she did was to scratch her head (and often almost knock me over) on my leg. She was a sweet, wonderful friend.

Lunar_Horse_Winslow_Farm_MindingtheMinisBeautiful, beautiful girl. I miss and love you.

My relationship with Athena blossomed from a shy friendship to what I am convinced was love. By the end of her days, she trusted me enough to let me scratch behind her ears and along her soft nose. She even fell asleep a few times while I was petting her. She was a true friend and I will never forget her.

Petting_Athena_Sheep_Winslow_Farm_MindingtheMinisWhen I posted this to Instagram, my caption was “The fact that I can just walk up to Athena and do this is still nothing less that astounding to me.” And it felt that way every single time. She really grew to trust me. And in trusting me, she’d let strangers pet her when I was with her.

Gully_Athena_Winslow_Farm_MindingtheminisAthena and Gully shared a quiet friendship. Now that she’s gone, Gully no longer wants to stay up at the barn (a story for another day). It makes me sad that I’ll never see this sight again, but I’m happy that I did get to see it so many times.

Sweet_Athena_Winslow_Farm_Minding_the_MinisI’ll miss this beautiful smile.

The photos included in this post were all pulled from my Instagram account and can be found in my twitter feed. I take photos every week and post live to Twitter. So, if you’d like to “be there with me,” please follow me at @MindingTheMinis or go straight to the source for photos on Instagram, also MindingTheMinis. Hug your two and four-legged friends tightly. See you next week!

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I haven’t written in two months, so get ready for some photos!

My job is so busy and so wonderful but coming home at night to write has fallen away from me, I’m sad to report. My last post was about sweet Pandy’s passing and I still feel a pang for her each time I visit the farm.

I miss her so.

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It’s all part of the bittersweet moments that make up being part of a rescue or having any animal in your life, really. The probability that you will experience their death is always there. So, take all the moments that you can with them.

Here are some photos of other friends at the farm that I’ve taken while my has sat waiting.

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Athena was shorn along with the rest of the sheep at the beginning of May. Her face wasn’t entirely done so as she’s gotten more comfortable with me touching her (I’ve gotten to where I can pet her without needing to give her treats! Full body pets!), I’ve pulled off what I could. I happen to really like the look though, so mostly I just go for the pieces that are really loose.

And if you don’t like it, this is what Athena thinks of you!

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The alpacas were shorn in the middle of June. This was actually a somewhat scary situation because there aren’t a lot of people willing to shear alpacas. It’s a dangerous undertaking for both the animals and the people involved, so unless the animals belong to the shearer, many won’t undertake the risk. Deb sent out pleas nationwide and finally someone came forward to do it. (Thank you!) Alpacas need to be shorn each summer so that they don’t overheat, which they can do very easily and it can be fatal. So, while they remained furry, we kept a special eye on them for signs of distress. I was thrilled to arrive a few weeks ago and see them sans fur!

First up, Pisca and Karolina. I especially love the patch of white that runs down Karolina’s back legs.

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Ms. Noelle!

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A cat nap is pretty glorious…

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…any way you look at it!

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Niko is going to have eye surgery soon and I am very happy about that. I haven’t posted about her in a long time, but she’s one of the cats who lives in Mooney’s barn (the name of the barn where Spirit, Lunar, Athena and Gully live) and she’s as sweet as ever, even when in terrible pain.

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Willow and Spirit becoming friends!

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There is a new structure near the big barn that was built for the goats. They’re kind of terrified of it though so it’s rare to actually see a goat on it. One afternoon, while feeding treats to Mervin at the end of my visit, I decided that he and I should go on an adventure.

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Here he is checking out the structure. “I don’t think so…”

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His opinion stayed on the “no, thank you” track until I pulled the treats back out.  And climb it we did! He discovered that there was tasty hay on the top, too. He even climbed around on the lower levels and followed me back up for a second trip.

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My plan, when it’s not a million degrees out, is to do this with a bunch of goats.

Last week, my friends came to the farm so I spent time all over the farm with them. I haven’t seen my turkey love in forever! He was just as affectionate as always and I plan to get into the bird house again soon.

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Noelle, mid-bite!

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I haven’t seen the donkeys in forever. Jezebel is such a beauty and has the sweetest disposition. And she’s soooo soft.

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They got to meet Gully and that’s always the greatest experience ever. (For me. He’s actually pretty standoffish with strangers.) Oh, Gully, my Gull. I love you endlessly.

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And since it’s July, there are tons and tons of dragonflies around, so I’ll end this catch-up post with another one of my favorite creatures on this earth.

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Have a happy week!

Follow me on Twitter (@mindingtheminis) or Instagram (mindingtheminis) if you want to see live tweets from the farm on Sunday afternoons!

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Filed under alpacas, athena, cats, dragonflies, goats, gulliver, horses, niko, pandy, piggies, sheep, turkey, willow, winslow farm

Athena, the shy sheep, continues to melt my heart, piece by piece.

My relationship with Athena has continued developing each week. Where there were baby steps for months on end, it seems to be progressing in leaps and bounds now. When passing through the gate into the corral, she used to bolt by me and now she walks right up to me instead. She even followed me out of the barn and over to the alpacas’ pen when I went to feed them! Like Gully did the other week, she’s started opening the grain room door with her nose to gain access to me (and my treats, of course!). All of these changes feel wonderful but I had an even more spectacular time with her this last visit.

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For the most part, I interact with her now by squatting down. The more time I spend face-to-face with her, the more responsive she is and the more confident she acts towards me. From this position, I gave her treats and kept moving my hand closer to my face with each one. She sniffed around looking for more and ended up touching her nose to my nose and didn’t back off. I had tears a few weeks ago when she nuzzled my hand and they were doubled when she pressed her fuzzy face to mine. Out of this world!

Confidence brimming over, I decided to push the limits again. This time I held the treat in one hand and while she ate it, I petted her with the other hand. The first few times, she backed off hastily. But almost as quickly, she started accepting my advances. Every time she let me pet her, I said, “good girl!” After a few minutes, I was able to pet her without giving her a treat. The pets grew from very brief to much longer ones as the time passed. She even leaned into the ear scratches like she does when she’s lying down! As our bond grows stronger, I am looking forward to even more from her.

To think, a few months ago, I couldn’t get this close without her running off and now look!

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Excuse the blurriness and as I show off how bold she’s gotten!

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Precious, precious girl. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “A face only everyone could love!”

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I hope everyone has a wonderful week and that the weather is beautiful for all of you! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@mindingtheminis) for live tweets from the farm on Sunday afternoons!

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Rainy days are short ones but they’re still sweet

The last two visits to the farm have been wet and grey, so my camera stayed warm and cozy at the house while I ventured out into the elements. On days like this, I’m mostly head down getting it all done. I still take time to have snuggles with Gully, I just spend a lot less time on the farm.

This last week, I went through my treats dance with Athena and squatted in front of her as she sniffed around. To my surprise, she actually nuzzled her nose into my hand looking for treats. For multiple seconds. Pushing her fuzzy nose around and around. It caught me so off guard that I sat there tearing up with joy. I stared into her face as she continued on, oblivious of how much the moment meant to me. This one definitely goes down in the records.

Here are some snapshots from my phone of the two weeks. There are so few because of the crazy weather. I can’t WAIT for Spring!!

Wet ponies wait for me to start preparing their dinner.

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I definitely wore the wrong boots this last week!

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Little fat psycho Delilah angling for cuddles. (I – and my shins! –  have learned my lesson in not reaching down to pet her even if she’s being super cute. And by shins I mean that if I step wrong, she’ll grab me. And by grab me, I mean, “OW!”)

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“Are you sure you won’t give me anymore treats??”

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And once again, beautiful Athena finishes off the post! I still can’t get over how much progress I’ve made with her.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@mindingtheminis) if you want live tweets and photos from the farm on Sunday afternoons.

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Buckets of snow were dumped on the farm and I spent time with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

There was a huge snow storm here in Mass a couple of weekends back. I arrived at the farm early to talk to Deb and found it filled with volunteers shoveling paths through the thick white blanket that enshrouded the property. By that time, the snow had stopped falling but multiple feet had gathered and they’d just gotten power back. Since the shovels were all taken, I explored for a while. With it being the middle of winter, I kind of have tunnel vision when I’m there these days. I haven’t been to the main barn in over a month! It was nice to catch up with Liam, Jackson and the rest of the goats.

Here’s shy Liam smiling for the camera.

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Gully was still in the barn and had taken up residence in a feeding trough! (Seriously, who could not be in love with this guy??)

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Levi was still in the barn too and decided that he’d had enough of this “on the ground” sort of stuff so he ventured into the rafters. (Look at his cute little coat!)

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These guys were busy chowing down on the snow.

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Rude!

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And Cloud decided that it was high time he rolled around in the snow! I was the only surprised one, apparently. Everyone else was business as usual.

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And then it was time to head to my barn.

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No words, just beauty. (above and below)

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Not to be outdone, Athena wanted to show off her pretty eyes (and to be the final image of the post!).

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Filed under athena, goats, gulliver, horses, lunar, photography, roosters, spirit, winslow farm

A little help goes a long way, especially when discussing the merits of being a wheelbarrow

This weekend, I had a helper who was visiting the farm. His dad was building a new structure for the pig, Willow, who’s going to be coming next week. YAY!!! (Brief side note: a few weeks ago I was told about this incoming girl and the young volunteer said that her name was Mia but we would have to become used to the name Willow. I’d be lying if I said that Willow isn’t my favorite movie of all time. So, for me, that won’t be a problem. When I asked him if he’d heard of the movie, he said no. Sigh.) Back to this last visit, the boy was bored  and ended up in my coral so I let him help out a bit, doing things like sweeping Athena’s area of the barn. I said that I had to scoop the poop and he asked if he could help. “Why, yes! Yes, you can!” He’s 10 and this is what he had to say about the life of a wheelbarrow. “I feel bad for wheelbarrows.” “How come?” “Well, it’s just that – I know they aren’t alive – they get stuck with carrying around all this heavy poop.” I absolutely loved his interjection and that comment made my day.

You know what else made my day? My friends.

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Here’s Athena ignoring me…

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But then she showed me her beautiful face. I told my little buddy all of their stories and he was fascinated that Athena was able to survive on the median of a highway for two years. “What did she eat?” “Whatever she could find, I guess.” He was very impressed when she walked up to me in search of treats.

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I told him all about how Lunar and Spirit (who didn’t want his photo taken this week) are food aggressive and that the noises that Spirit made while eating were to let Lunar know that it’s his food and she’d better stay away. Fortunately for everyone, they were both in their pens.

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A rare shot of the three of them like this. Usually, Lunar’s already eating when Gully and Athena are let into the coral, but everyone was already together when I arrived. I’ve become much more confident about getting the horses into their pens but usually it’s just the two horses to contend with. Tensions are a bit higher when the littler folk is around and could be trampled, but Spirit behaved very nicely for me and Lunar was fine with entering the pen without her food.

These roosters have taken to huddling up together on the fence at the end of the night once it calms down. During this visit, they decided that they were going to sit right in front of the stairs I use to get out. So, I decided that a good deal of petting was in order. They decided that it wasn’t worth moving further down the fence so they just squawked a bunch in protest. I ended up exiting a different way. They are super soft!

Roosters

Whenever I leave now, I visit the cat house on the way out. I’ve been doing this for the past several months to visit Howie, who was Levi’s original friend when he came to the farm. He’s an old man, so I always stop in to give him a few treats and some pats on the head. I found Apricot in the house, as well, basking in the glow of the wood stove.

Apricot

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Filed under athena, goats, gulliver, lunar, roosters, spirit, winslow farm

Muddy boots, horsey pals and treats galore! Winslow’s got it all!

This week was muddy and grey at the farm, so I left my camera at home. I always have my iPhone on me, so I’m sharing my visit through that lens.

Boots

Beautiful Lunar! Not a huge fan of sitting still for the camera, though.

Lunar

As I mentioned recently, Athena has become super treat motivated. She’s so focused on them that every time I left the food area with grain or hay, she stopped eating and walked up to me sniffing whatever was in my hands. Once she figured out that they weren’t tastier snacks, she backed off. She was super excited when I finally gave her some.

Also I’ve been petting her more and more while she’s sitting down. This isn’t news but something interesting happened this last time. While massaging her back, I played around with pressure and every once in a while, she sucked in a short breath and looked really alert. I talked to her soothingly, backed off and she relaxed again. I did it a couple of times to see if it would happen again and it did. She seemed to tense up in an way that I can only think of as biologically associated with her prey/predator instinct. Fascinating. She’s becoming more comfortable with me petting her head and back, but scratching her ears is still what she likes the most.

Here she is sniffing me out for treats. Loving this girl so much!

Athena

Gully has a much more subtle way of asking for treats.

Gully

I couldn’t decide which photo was cuter, so I’m posting both of them. Ahh, I love this goat so much!!

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Can’t wait to see all of them next week!

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Filed under athena, behavior, gulliver, lunar, winslow farm

Summer to Winter

Somehow I moved right past fall and into winter without writing a real post. For the most part, it’s the sounds that change the most for me. While summer is filled with the buzzing of bugs and heavy air, fall creeps in silently leaving behind the noisy insects (I do miss the dragonflies, of course) and I’m able to focus on the quiet munching sounds that my friends in the barn make. I could sit in that barn listening forever.

Very little changes with the animals themselves. They go about their business and days must feel pretty similar to them. I tend to my chores and relish the time that I spend with them. I spend a great deal of time cuddling with Gully, who’s back to his affectionate self, his super huggy, head butting, best goat friend of mine self.

One thing that’s new and really exciting for me is that my relationship with Athena has really developed. I’ve looked back in posts and realized that the recent stories about her are stuck in my brain and not on the blog yet. Where to begin? Well, first off, after Athena finishes eating, she sits on the ground. I started to use this time as an opportunity to give her head rubs which she immediately HATED but was unable to jump up and run away from me and then a second later LOVED because they feel awesome. Who doesn’t love head scratches? Not Athena! So, every time I’d do this, it would terrify her at first until she remembered that she likes the feeling and she’d close her eyes and lean into them. So that’s pretty huge news on the Athena front and I could stop right there and be perfectly happy, but it gets even better! Treats have become a new line of communication for us, allowing her to interact with me on her own terms. I’ve always given them to her but used to just break them up and add them to her bowl. One time, I put one in front of her nose and she sniffed cautiously and took a bite. Interesting. We continued that dance for a while until recently when she became bold about asking for them. She’d lift her head with sniffs to see if I had one in my hand and if I did, she’d make it clear that she’d like one. Today, however, she walked right up to me, almost cornering me against the barn door and ate the treat with such oomph that my finger actually touched her teeth. Twice! Unbelievable! Perhaps soon she’ll let me pet her while she’s standing up…

Yesterday was the first real snowfall of winter here and the snow had finished its journey to the ground by the time I woke up this morning but everything was still covered in fluffy powder. Best of both worlds when tromping out to the farm. I brought my camera along since it’s been dark by the time I’ve gotten there for the last month and here are some of the images that I captured.

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One of the many entrances to the enchanting world.

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Part of the snowy landscape.

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One of the rabbit houses, glowing with lights.

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Beautiful Athena basking in the sun.

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Spirit begged for the treats in my pocket and started to eat snow off of the gate to distract me from his real motive.

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After I wouldn’t give into his request though, he stole some from the back of the tractor!

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The mallards have been much calmer, as of late, but still pretty awesome.

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Little Miss Zoey, who has gotten super fat lately, squishing herself under the fence to see me.

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Levi acts like a dog so he gets to wear a doggie coat!

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And last, but certainly not least, these two guys are perched on the fence like this every time I leave now. They wait until all of the animals have gone into their barns and cozy places and they get hunker down.

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Filed under athena, behavior, bunnies, cats, dogs, ducks, geese, gulliver, horses, lunar, photography, roosters, sheep, spirit, winslow farm

Whimsical Winslow – Summer’s Here!

What 90 degree weather?

Athena Beans! And she’s letting me pet her back and her fuzzy head. She’s SO soft!!!

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Athena Says, “Hi!”

Or something…

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Filed under athena, photography, sheep, winslow farm