Category Archives: geese

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

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

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

New Friends!

I just started a job at a nursery where they have a handful of ponies that were rescued. I know, perfect job, right? Don’t worry, I’ll still be going to Winslow every week. As I adjust from waking up whenever I feel like it to being at work AT 7:30am, I’ve been passed out drooling by 9pm for a little over a week. As I adjust, I’ll be able to write these on time. Until then, double posts it is!

Taking it a step farther, I’m going to rely on my pictures to catch you up:

I love that birds can sleep standing up. I love even more that these geese all hunkered down for a nap together.

I also enjoyed that this emu went back to sleep while I fussed around him getting camera angles. And it never ceases to fascinate me how these giant birds fold into themselves like this. It’s just so bizarre!

Look at this beautiful girl! I took this while Little Miss Peahen was on a date with the albino peacock. They walked around their yard in circles while cooing at each other. Adorable.

My, what great hooves you have, Gully!

Athena keeps topping herself in the great photo department. “Don’t you just LOVE my manicure??”

Aside from the fact that having tons of cats around is awesome to begin with, I love that I meet new ones all the time. This is Me Lord (I know, right? Great name!). He seeks me out every week now and accompanies me on all sorts of visits. Ultimate affectionate spewing from this cat here!

And THIS is Bailey. She lives in the barn and was pretty shy at the beginning. Once she gave me her seal of approval, she revealed how cuddly she is. And what awesome markings! It’s a bit hard to tell from the picture, but her face is split right down the middle of her nose. One side is calico and the other half is solid black, minus the stark white whiskers that spring out of her face.

Oh, how I love this girl.

Speaking of the felines, I discovered this hut for the cats this week. It is located right in the middle of everything! (Insert snarky comment about my awesome powers of observation.)

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And now a couple of introductions:

Here is a gaggle of the geese at the nursery. They are usually in a giant penned in area that I can’t see from inside - disappointing! – but that morning, they were out and about among the flowers. “HONK!”

I’d like for you to meet Bear.

He is one of the ponies at the nursery and we took to each other immediately. On my first visit, all of the ponies came forward to say hello (and “I’d like some food, please.”) which was a wonderful start. For animals who clearly had a rough time before they ended up at the nursery, as evidenced immediately by their lack of body fat and brittle mane hair, it felt great that they all sniffed my hand. Three let me pet their heads, one allowed me to scratch his rear, and one wouldn’t let me make contact at all.

Over the next few posts, I will introduce them fully, but now, a bit more about Bear. This incredibly soft guy (most of the ponies have amazingly soft almost angora-ish hair – I’d go as far as to say fur) stood apart from all of them. Not only did he like being pet, but he allowed me to put my forehead on his. He allowed neck hugs. He even stared into my eyes. Our connection was immediate and every time I’ve visited him since, he’s just as affectionate. Lunar does not stare into my eyes even though I know how much she loves me, so having Bear just gaze and gaze at me is a whole new level of connecting. Instant love.

What had the most impact on me, though, was when I mistakenly moved my arm abruptly, a few visits in, and he literally jumped backwards. I had no idea that he had a history of abuse. While devastated about his past, I was overjoyed that he’d trusted me from the start. With a bit of coaxing, he came back to the fence for more hugs and I have been careful since that moment about keeping my animation in check.

Every day, I spend half of my lunch break with the ponies (and Jeffrey the goat!). I discovered on my second or third visit that they LOVE dandelions, so on most days, I pick a bunch on my way to see them. I think they are all fantastic munchkins and am enjoying learning about each of them, but Bear certainly made a beeline into my heart.

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Filed under athena, cats, emus, geese, goats, gulliver, horses, niko, peacocks, sheep, winslow farm

Oh, the plumage!

After I was done at the barn on Monday, I stopped in to see the turkey. He apparently has lice or another invasive bug and a volunteer had caught it. But I could always see the little buggies crawling all over his head during our visits, so I’m assuming that someone went in for kisses. He had been sprayed down so his colors looked duller than usual. He looked a little sadder too, which made resisting my urge to pick him up and hug him even tougher. But I still pet him and purelled right afterwards like usual. While I sat with him, I could see one of the peacocks from the donkey barn standing outside the little house staring at the birds inside. I think it was a mixture of strutting his stuff to show up the two peacocks and a little “hey, there” to the peahen. I left the birds and wandered outside to the geese.

Ah, the geese. They are, by far, the loudest animals on the farm. They stand around squawking at absolutely everything. Giant arguments full of big bodies and little heads waddling around in fury. Their conversation style is right up my alley so after being shouted at I yell, “HI!” back. They’ll run up to me, expecting me to flee and when I don’t, they veer away really quickly. I decided it was high time we became friends. So, I squatted down and probably because of the new height difference, I was approached and contemplated face to face. Geese have VERY intense stares. One hand motion and a bitey reaction back though and I made the decision to be great friends without petting.

I moved to sit on a short barrel – as squatting is not a long distance activity – and as the goose sat in front of me staring and staring and staring at me, I noticed that off in the distance the peacock had decided it was high time to show off his beauty. I don’t remember ever having seen a peacock with plumage flared in person. I was far away and it still looked big. But what I thought was even better was when he’d turn his body and show his hind-feathers. They’re tan and black and the backside of each looming feather was plain and ordinary. What an exquisite dichotomy!

In every photo of a peacock I’ve ever seen, it shows the larger than life plumage swarming with radiant colors. And all of the sudden, I get a glimpse of the other side and I’m left just as astounded. The idea that this bird swells with pride showing off all this crazy color and instead of giving a 360 view of these punch-you-in-the-face blues and shimmery greens, turn him around and all of the sudden he becomes his ugly duckling ancestor. I’m so fascinated by this! Is the rooster snickering behind his back thinking, “who does this jerk think he is?” Does the peahen go, “He is SO HOT!” only to change her tune when he turns around by mistake? And his backside is large and fluffy! Flip him around and you see a skinny little neck! Of course I know there are biological reasons behind all of this that I haven’t delved into yet, but wow! What a cool discovery!

These pics of the peacock were taken from my far away perch with the goose, but I just had to get some images of it. He’s definitely going to be an interesting subject in the upcoming months.

It’s hard to see that the back of each long feather isn’t colored because of the blues seeping through, but try to imagine it all dark brown from the tan feathers up. He showed his feathers by turning back and forth for about ten minutes and then he folded them in one fell swoop and it was back to business as usual.

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This one was taken from the barrel so he was right at my knees. While squatting, he was even closer to my face. I was tempted so many times to pet him, but the foreboding chomp fest held me back.

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This is a common site at the farm, as of late: flaming piles o’ doody.

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I’m sure that all of these photos of Athena look exactly alike, but this is my favorite yet!

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It’s hard to see his troubled side when looking at his sweet, sweet face.

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Somebody found a snack! And look at those awesome nostrils, flared with the exciting smell of a found treasure.

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Roof Kitty! Surveying the scene. Ready to Pounce. Merowr.

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Filed under athena, cats, geese, horses, humor, lunar, peacocks, photography, sheep, spirit, turkey, winslow farm

First day of spring calls for snow?

Well, it didn’t dampen my spirits at the farm. I went about my duties in the barn and as I was about to leave, I saw that Gulliver was sitting in his pen. While I usually find him lounging in the big barn, I’ve never seen him lie down after a meal. And even though I’d already given him extra hugs time when I picked him up earlier, I decided it was in my best interest to sit down on the dirty floor. Sure, there were Gulliver pellets and dirty hay scattered about but I’m almost positive that I didn’t sit on any… And then I gave him the most giant hugs ever! Full body smooshes! He showed his appreciation by burping the whole time. I’m not sure I can possibly explain how happy this made me. When my legs were sufficiently asleep, I finally dragged myself off the ground. He stayed seated until Niko coughed and he hopped up looking worried. Cute AND caring. What a guy!

On my way to visit the turkey, I stopped off at the water pump to rinse my hands of Gulliver dirt. While rinsing, a pheasant popped up in front of me. This beautifully feathered guy had been restricted to a very large cage because he’d attacked a few people with his sharp talons and pointy beak. He’s been out on good behavior for about a month but I’ve never come into contact with him. It turns out that he likes me. A lot. He’s super friendly and he didn’t once try to maim me with either set of weapons.

And then I was off to the bird house. While the turkey courted me, clucked at me, and received pets, I watched a bored duck wander around the room. Around and around he went until he walked up to a black rooster and bit him on the butt. The rooster reacted by shrieking in surprise. I’m sure my raucous laughter ruffled a few feathers but I couldn’t help it. Hilarious!

This sheep was checking out the scene in the cat house while I was in it.

Followed this guy in slow circles for three minutes to get a picture of his sad wings.

This is Cotton. He says, “hi!!”

This is the friendly pheasant. Look at that plumage!

Love, love, love.

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Filed under cats, geese, goats, gulliver, humor, pheasant, photography, sheep, turkey, 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