Category Archives: ducks

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 ~ Duck! Duck! ~

I met with a very friendly duck this week…

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Filed under ducks, videos

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

Lunar’s Day

I had my first scare at the farm today. A few minutes into meal time, Lunar started coughing. Big chokey coughs. I’ve seen my share of cats and dogs eat too quickly and bring it back up (unfortunately, I’ve also seen many of them eat it back up as well), so I waited her out. I figured that since she’s a big animal, the process might take longer. After about five minutes, I went to tell Deb. She told me that it’s called “choke” and although scary to watch, there’s nothing to be done about it. ["Choke" is typically caused by horses eating too quickly which causes partially chewed food to clump together and stick to the esophagus. And then the horse coughs excessively to try and dislodge it.]

I went back and (this is going to get gross for some for a bit here, apologies), she’d started vomiting out her nose. I let this go on for a bit longer and went in search of Deb again, who said that it’s part of it and it’ll pass. So I went back to poor Lunar who was standing stock still with her head close to the ground gagging; liquid dripping from her nose.

Nobody likes to throw up. And usually, it happens and it’s done and the sweat starts to recede and the chills fade. But here she was doing it every minute or so. I felt awful for her. I tried to get her to drink a bit of water but she’d just stand there. And then a bit later she’d either nose-vomit or gag through a hacking cough again. Her head, usually held up high and proud, remained level with her body in a defeated stance.

I know that when I don’t feel well, a soothing hand on my back helps. Since her back was covered by a coat, I started long strokes down her neck. She responded by moving to face me and head-butting me for more. I focused on her neck and her forehead, the spot right under the tuft of hair in the front. I’d pet and scratch away. And she’d let me know that she wanted me to continue by pushing her head into me. I grabbed some tissues and cleaned her nose periodically. I stood by her as she worked through the spells, petting her as much as I could. And it was arctic out today, like way closer to zero than 32-two pairs of pants and five layers-frigid. The tips of my fingers were frozen and as I stood there, I had a moment of “I have to get inside” and then I looked at Lunar, all sad and yucky feeling, and I stopped feeling the cold. We stood together for at least a half hour, alternating between her fits and my caresses. And while I know feeling good was a far off place for her at the moment, I am confident that I got her that much closer to better by offering a loving hand and soothing words.

I learned a few things tonight.

One) Horses shed a lot. My black coat is white.

Two) Horses can’t vomit so when something needs to come back up, it exits through the nose, which, really, is just the worst way possible for something to make its way out again.

Three) Big giant animals appreciate comforting just as much as we do when they’re sick.

“Choke” is a serious condition and can end a horse’s life. One at Winslow had to be put down after she got a potato lodged in her throat. Deb believes that the reason Lunar was given to her was because of the condition, which the owners clearly did not inform her of when they brought her. It gives me comfort that she’s somewhere where it will be handled with care when it happens and not looked at as a defect or a hassle or a reason to give up on her. She’s safe from that now.

Highlights From Today:

Walking behind Gulliver, whose jacket had come undone, and watching him awkwardly try to kick the strap loose or back up his leg while it stayed firm. Thinking that it would be an easy fix and then watching Deb chase him around his pen trying to put it back on. Hilarious.

Pandy and Wizard were waiting with bubbling anticipation for Mom (Deb) to come back but both still gave me super excited greetings when I climbed over the fence instead. Looking back at Wizard’s black pug silhouette on the white snow as he sat watching her was also noteworthy.

Watching a black duck take a ferocious bath in a huge (FREEZING!) water bucket.

Spirit decided that instead of going into his pen, even though Lunar had just gone into hers, he would stand right behind me and bury his head in my hat.

Putting a bunch of hay on Delilah to cover her completely. I wasn’t sure that she was actually still under there when I took the picture, as it was a good amount of time later, until I opened a can of cat food and she rushed out, looking part scarecrow.

Watching the alpacas play the most delightful game of tag. Here are some grainy pics to show off just how lovely and interesting looking they are.

And of course, I wish that Lunar did not have to have the day she did or that she ever has to suffer through it again, but I am glad that I was there to comfort her and that she wanted me to. Here is her beautiful sad face.

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Filed under behavior, cats, dogs, ducks, goats, horses, lunar, photography, sheep, winslow farm

What birds? All I see are pine cones! PINE CONES!

Deb asked me to give Pandy a bit of exercise on Monday as she’d been cooped up in the house all day. Pandy is the one who’s smart enough to use pine cones as throw toys. I’m still impressed that she’s able to find the same one over and over again with all the others scattered about but I know, I know, dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Semantics.

It continues to amaze me that different species coexist so well at the farm. My cats, who have been domesticated since their start, get into fights every once in a while and I’ve seen what happens to mice when they make the mistake of entering our house. There are cats all over the farm, many of whom are feral, and yet I watch them saunter by a group of geese with barely a glance, let alone a hungry one. While Pandy and I played fetch, no less than three different kinds of birds (a lone goose, possibly a duck now that I think about it, the cranky swan and numerous roosters and hens) were all nearby. Plus, one of the many cats was hanging about demanding pets from me. No hackles were raised between the beautiful orange tabby and Pandy. And even though Pandy barreled past the birds a bunch of times in pursuit of the pine cone, never did any of the birds fly or run off. Pandy was completely oblivious to them. If anything, they were just in her way. And when she went clipping by, all they did was give her looks and continue about their business. Entertainment on all sorts of levels!

Here is lovely Pandy waiting for the pinecone:
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Little Miss Gentle retrieving the pine cone:
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It was hard to take pictures and throw the pine cone at the same time so this is the best shot I got showing the bird/dog perspective. But Pandy was much closer to all of the birds at different points.
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This picture was my favorite shot of the day. So ominous! And yet, no threat here. I love it!
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And just because this was so weird and funny, here’s a brief video of the swan walking back to his house. (And that’s happy little Cubbie coming to check out the scene. He’s super cute!)

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Filed under cats, dogs, ducks, pandy, photography, swan, videos, winslow farm

Nonsensically, With Purpose

Last week, I went to the farm amidst a snowy sort of wonderland. Every time I get out of my car there, a calm washes over me. There are so many different species of creatures who live there and each animal has a different personality. I think that some would argue that the 5 white sheep who look exactly the same are basically that but I see their little idiosyncrasies. There are cranky ones like the loudly honking geese who rush at you until you (I) say something like “HI GEESE!!!” and then they veer off in the other direction honking “just kidding!” the whole way back. I love those geese. There are animals who can’t wait to greet me like Lunar and Napoleon; ones who are a bit apprehensive (I’m thinking mostly of the beautiful swan that you’ll see a picture of a bit later. He likes to shake his tail feathers if I get to close but I get closer each time!) and others that nod from afar (many of the sheep are like this until you have food in your hand. And then, watch out!). When I walk around greeting the happy folks at the farm, my excitement builds until it’s spilling over. It’s an interesting (and very real) challenge for me to contain my enthusiasm when I’m around the more apprehensive, standoffish or shy ones. My frenzied energy bubbles out of my mouth, my pitch climbs higher up the scale (an almost impossible feat), my volume gets louder and I start to flail around a bit. It’s hard to stop myself when all I want to do is give them giant hugs and squeal on the top of my lungs. Learning to control this is an important lesson that I am currently mastering.

The subject of how one talks to animals reminds me of a lesson I learned many years ago. Back in another life, I became certified as a preschool teacher. Because my bachelor’s degree was not in early education, I needed to take a few classes directly relating to the subject and although I don’t remember much of those hours, one concept has stood out over time. The word “motherese”, according to dictionary.com, means “the simplified and repetitive type of speech, with exaggerated intonation and rhythm, often used by adults when speaking to babies”. Essentially, it’s when you see an infant, your pitch goes up and you talk like a baby. According to the psychology behind it, it’s an instinctual reaction that mothers have to their babies. Among other benefits, it actually helps the baby learn language because the baby pays attention to the tone and therefore starts picking up words. It should be no stretch of the imagination then that animals respond to this voice. In fact, many animals nurture their young in a similar way. Cats are a one example of animals who use motherese n their young. And just to throw something weird out there to mull over, one of my cats, Tabitha, has become more vocal over the years and it’s in response to the way that I talk to her. When she “talks” back to me, she often matches my pitch and intensity like she’s mimicking my words. This was not something that she did as a kitten or a young cat.

So, while many people might come out with this voice sporadically, it’s probably pretty obvious that I have a tough time speaking in a normal voice when I see any animal, be it a mouse or an elephant. I can often be found loudly sing-songing to a random dog on the street while its owner looks on in disbelief. Don’t worry, it never stops me. And I say all sorts of weird things to animals that often make no sense. What fascinates me is how they gravitate toward my voice. If it’s a boisterous animal who has few inhibitions, this is no surprise. What excites me is when someone like Athena, the beautiful sheep I’ve been talking about, goes from a ready-to-bolt position to cocking her head and staying close by. In the past couple of weeks, she’s gone from skirting away from me to allowing me to put a food bowl down without running away to sniffing my hand multiple times. And the entire time I’m around her, I’m essentially chirping words of encouragement and letting whatever comes out flow free. like to think I’m comforting her and her behavior toward me seems to prove it. She stays close by and eats her food without looking scared. If I walk around to do my chores and cross her path, she’ll spook but as I continue to talk to her, she returns quickly to her activity. My hope is that our relationship will progress to the point that she will allow me to pet her but if that goal is never reached, I still know that we’re friends and I am happy with that.

Here are some photos that I love (I wasn’t using a flash so there are a couple of fuzzy spots):
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The swan shaking his tail feathers.

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Hanging out!

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I wish I had these prints in my back yard!

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Lunar on the left and Moonie on the right

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Beautiful, beautiful Athena

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Squee! Napoleon!!

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The Cat House (notice the goat?!)

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This is Lunar stealing hay that she discovered. Later she snuck into the pen when I left the door open. :)

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WATERFORD!!!

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Gulliver, in possibly the greatest photo ever!

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Moonie, all bundled up, eating from his special bucket. I lead his face to it and resist overwhelming him with hugs (especially at dinner time!).

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What the barn looks like at night without flash. So wonderful.

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Not sure it gets happier than this!

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Filed under behavior, dogs, ducks, geese, goats, horses, photography, piggies, sheep, swan, winslow farm