Category Archives: behavior

The littlest moments that haunt me are the hardest to let go

I went out to my car this morning and as I was brushing off the  snow, I heard a bird call in the sky. Looking up, I saw a lone Canadian goose flying high. With each downbeat of his or her wings, the bird let out a panicked honk. Over and over again, I listened to this bird as it passed by me. An overwhelming sense of anguish stayed with me long after it was even a speck anymore. Unsettling sadness filled me. What happened to its family? Was it injured at some point and they had to go on ahead and now healed, it’s trying to catch up? What other scenario might lead to a goose frantically looking for what it had lost? Calling out in hopes of a response.

The hardest part of moments like this is accepting that I can’t do anything. That I can’t fix it. That I can’t comfort this bird who is in obvious distress. I’ll never know if it worked out. If the lost family was found. And that’s really tough on me. I know I’m not the only one out there whose eyes well up thinking about situations like this. Who cries about a lost little goose trying to find its way. Who feels helpless. I’m not alone in contemplating a story like this long after others have forgotten it. Or in being someone who even notices it in the first place. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier to let go though.

So, I’ll just sit here and try to think happy thoughts about the goose and hope for the best.

Safe travels, little buddy. I hope that you find them.

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Filed under behavior, geese

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!!

Gully More

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.

Treats

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

Less bugs, more love

Monday on the farm was lovely. The temperature was a bit on the colder side but sunny enough that it made up for it and there weren’t any mosquitos. A few weeks ago, during that week of incredibly warm weather, the mosquitos were buzzing around and without bugspray, I ended up staying for a shorter period of time. Similarly, if it’s too cold, I tend to jet pretty quickly, as well.

This week, I lingered. When I arrived, Lunar and Spirit were hanging out with Stormy and Cloud in the upper pen. I really like when they’re up there already because it means that I get to spend a few minutes petting them instead of diving right into the feeding. In between head scratches, Lunar hauled off and chased the pheasant away as I cheered her on. If I were fast enough, I would have caught it on my camera. It’s an awesome sight watching this huge animal stomping after a small bird, who is actively fleeing in terror. I’d feel bad for him, except he continues to stalk and try to attack me. Get him, Lunar!!!

After my snugglefest with Gully…

I passed the girls. Indifferent as always!

Watched these bunnies for a while. Pretty sure it’s a mating dance. So cute.

Then I heard this especially vocal duck. He sat there yelling at another duck across the way. I missed the part where he splashed his little feet in the puddle, but couldn’t resist posting his loud calls. (One of these days, I’m going to remember to film horizontally!)

Aaaaaand then he ran over. Watch carefully as his squat little body makes it all the way around. While the actual reunion was blocked, his journey makes the video worthwhile.

In the meantime, this goose was busy bathing.

I rounded off my visit with some doggy time. I love how focused she gets! “Throw it now, please,” said Pandy.

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Filed under alpacas, behavior, bunnies, dogs, ducks, geese, goats, gulliver, horses, humor, lunar, photography, winslow farm

What’s going on in that little brain, Athena?

Last week, as my ears filled with sounds of happy munching, Athena walked out of the barn and slowly made her way across to the gate until she stopped in front of it. She stood there for a few minutes looking off in the distance at what I was assuming was the sheep house in safe side. I convinced her to come back and eat, but a little while later she did the same thing. I don’t know if it’s because love is in the air, but I’m pretty sure she wanted to spend some time with a specific somebody. Maybe it’s Cotton! They’d be so cute together.

Here’s a brief video of her journey:

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Filed under athena, behavior, sheep, videos, winslow farm

Lesson Learned

On a typical day, one of the kids brings Spirit and Lunar up to the barn and I either help get them into the barn or they bring them all the way to their pens. No matter what though, Gulliver and Athena do not get their food before the horses have arrived. Today, everyone was super busy around the farm and Gulliver and Athena were waiting for me. After a while, I realized that the horses probably weren’t coming any time soon, so I fed my waiting buddies. They were just standing there staring at me, after all.

Once I gave them their grain, I realized that the doors to the barn wouldn’t shut all the way due to frost heaves. I discovered this when the alpaca ladies came around looking to steal Athena’s food. Outwitting them, I put up an impromptu gate made of a rake and a broom that formed an “x” across the remaining opening. They recognized this as a “do not enter” sign and gave up easily.

Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me until too late that I’d left Athena defenseless against Spirit and Lunar, who’d soon be coming. Even more unfortunate, because she was in a hurry, the girl who brought them up let them run through the gate and shut it behind them. This left the task of getting them into the barn a solo project. I’ve mentioned before that both Spirit and Lunar, although they react differently, are food aggressive. I panicked and tried to close the doors more, which only made a tighter hole for them to get into. It was one they could definitely enter but without the room to turn around properly could not as easily exit. I did my best to get them out of the space but when one would vacate, the other would enter. Poor Athena was trapped in a corner with no escape. Rest assured, they didn’t touch her.

My outcome wasn’t as lucky. After I finally got Spirit out of the space, I tried to shoe him on to get him to go around the barn by tapping his butt with my hand. He countered by tapping my ribs with his back leg. Yes, I am totally fine. It was only a warning kick that barely made contact. But it reminded me, immediately, just how small I am compared to him and just how much I take that for granted. I was very lucky that he didn’t kick me for real.

Somehow, without touching either of them, I managed to get first Lunar and, once she was locked up tight, Spirit, to go by Athena through the barn. Neither of them stopped again for her food which felt miraculous.

I don’t know if Gulliver could tell that I was upset, but he was extra cuddly with me tonight. I left the farm happy and ready for next week, a serious lesson under my belt.

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Filed under alpacas, athena, behavior, goats, gulliver, horses, lunar, sheep, winslow farm

Athena Beans!

Today I had a Wheaton College student training with me in the barn. We got to talking about Athena  and I mentioned that I gave up on trying to pet her a long time ago. I went into Gully’s pen a bit later for our weekly smoosh fest and she stayed outside with Athena. I watched as she reached down and petted her on the head. ???

I waited until she left and went out to Athena. There was a lot of ego riding on this for me. If she moved away, I’d be crushed. Tentatively, I reached my hand out and patted her on the head. No movement. Astonished, I buried my hand in her vast depths of fluff. She is SO soft!! I started petting her nose and went as far as scratching behinds her ears. Not a single motion to get up and leave passed through her. I have attained petting status!!!

Now that my original Winslow goal has been accomplished, I can’t wait to focus on her more. I’m also excited to discover what my new goal will be. Petting the alpacas, maybe?

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Filed under athena, behavior, sheep, winslow farm

Best Buddies?

Today when I went in for my weekly lovefest, I found Niko in Gulliver’s pen. I pet her for a while as Gully finished eating and then he turned around to face us. Niko was on my lap and Gully reached down and took a bite of her hair. As she cried out in pain, I said, “No, Gulliver! We don’t chew on our friends!”

For a while we sat there and I doled out the pets to both of them. I took a few flash photos and Gully protested by jumping off of the landing and stood outside the pen staring at me. Was I ever happy when he came back over (with significant pleading on my part, of course) and leaned his head back in the mix.

Oh, Mondays, how I love you.

Flash!

“No, thank you.”

PS ~ Sometimes Gully makes purring noises. I know, right?

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Filed under behavior, cats, goats, gulliver, humor, photography, winslow farm

Tiny Aerialists

While going about my business this week, I flicked what I thought was one of the giant flesh-eating horse flies off of my head. Instead, I watched as a dragonfly did a swan dive off of me and landed on its back in the dirt. With any non-threatening bug or beetle, my reaction would be, “oh no! I’ve got to help!”, but with a dragonfly, that feeling goes so much deeper.

My kinship with dragonflies go back many many years. Instead of writing it out here, I am sharing a blog post from my other blog. I’m mainly doing this because there are photos and even a video on the post and they add to the story. Please take a moment to read the post here.

After that encounter, I started to interact more with dragonflies. I’ve noticed how willing they are to hang around and it thrills me to pieces. So potentially killing one that sought me out crushed me. I gingerly picked it up and, wanting to make sure it was ok, placed it on my shirt.

It stayed there for about half an hour while I carefully scooped the corral and got dinner ready for my other lovely friends. When I finally had a moment to focus, I turned my full attention on it. I did my sing-song request that I do to my cats when I want to hold them and I swear (and yes, I’m sure it was something completely unrelated but I’m the one living on this cloud), it lifted its two front legs and pushed them in and out way that was similar to a “pick me up” gesture. I put out a finger and the dragonfly climbed on. We stayed that way for a few minutes until it was ready to go. From there it flew up to the top of the barn door where I could keep an eye out. Eventually, while lost in my duties, it flew away.

I wish I had the words to encompass how the experience made me feel or to truly explain why I feel like I am so connected to these tiny creatures. Since moving to Mass, I’ve noticed more dragonflies and have had many small interactions with them, but having that dragonfly hold onto me like that was out of this world.

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Filed under behavior, dragonflies, nature, winslow farm

A month and a half was practically forever!

It takes me longer than most to adjust to new schedules and somehow the blog slipped away. And once a few weeks passed, it started feeling overwhelming. Rest assured though, I still went to Winslow every week. Goal going forward with a new job: No neglecting Minding the Minis!

Yes, you read “new job” right. It turns out that the nursery business, in addition to being seasonal, is greatly affected by the weather and current economy. So, even though I would have been laid off  for a few months each year (had NO idea), having a bad summer means letting go of extra hands like me. While I’m sad to leave the animals behind, my job was so focused elsewhere that I only had a few moments with them each day. Now I can visit the nursery just to feed them. Score!

Being at Winslow, as always, has been an oasis from the rest of the world for me. Lots of little moments have been lost in my writing absence but I will have lots of pictures to share…once I sift through the virtual pile.

In the meantime, here’s an anecdote from last week. I’ve talked about Waterford, the 450 pound pig, many times. Over the past month, I’ve started getting him into his pen by myself. For some reason, he’s been following me easily in without the aid of food. I sing-song to him and he gets up and trots after me, or in a few rare cases, he’s just seen me and off he went. Whenever I regale Deb with these small adventures, she’s always surprised at him and then follows up with warnings.

Feeling cocky, I went for another notch on my success belt on Monday and he completely ignored me. After singing his name, he followed me to the pen and then realized I had no food. He braked that big giant body, turned around and walked away. Hmmm. After a brief barn visit, I emerged with a scoop of hay pellets and he followed me once more. He went in but didn’t leave enough room for me to easily put the grain into his bucket.

So I nudged him.

He nudged back.

He does this very quickly, accompanies it with a snarl, a bite and jams his tusk in really hard.

While thinking, “oh. Ow!“, I quickly threw the food in and closed the gate. I can officially report that when he gets pissed, he means business and he acts on it fast. Much faster than his laissez faire attitude lets on. And he delivered the blow to my knee cap. While it broke skin, it didn’t bleed, but it was in ridiculous pain that night.

When I told Deb about it our adventure, her response was, “No one ever believes me.” Oh, I definitely believed her but really needed to experience it for myself in order to not want to experience it again.

I still love his big floppy ears though!

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Filed under behavior, piggies, waterford, winslow farm