Category Archives: spirit

I’ll gladly give up an hour of sleep if it means spending more time with my buddies

What a joy it was this week to be there as late as 6:15 and it was still light out! I love spring so much. No more snow storms, please! I’ve already broken the top off of two plastic shovels at home since I haven’t gotten it into my head that you can’t step on the top of them.

I spent most of the time enjoying the great weather and hanging out with the animals. Dan, an amazing kid who’s essentially Deb’s number two, witnessed Athena rush me for treats. “Wow, she really comes right up to you,” he commented. I was proud of both Athena and myself at that moment.

Here are my favorite photographs of the day:

The always elegant Spirit

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Delilah looking super innocent perched on a fence post.

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And this snorty snout belongs to Miss Willow!

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I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Don’t forget to follow on me on Twitter (twitter.com/mindingtheminis) if you’d like to experience Winslow with me on Sunday afternoons.

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Filed under cats, horses, piggies, spirit, willow, winslow farm

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

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

Rain, rain, rain.

The last two weeks have been all about rain. I’ve spent much of the time dashing around from barn to barn, waiting for the drops to stop and hiding out in the big barn. Since there’s not much to say about the rain, here are a few pics.

Sudden downpour…

that lasts forever…

All the animals are driven inside. Most are far enough away from the rain. Not Miss Athena, though.

Little Bailey, sopping wet.

Captain Oblivious chomps away at his hay.

And just as quickly, the storm is gone.

Back to the grind.

Buddies!

Kitty in a box!

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Filed under athena, cats, goats, gulliver, horses, sheep, spirit, 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

It’s the little things

Just before I was about to leave on Monday, Deb asked me if I wanted to brush Lunar. Um, Yes? So I spent an extra half hour following the contours of her sinewy body. My favorite part (twice!) was when she propped her head and all its weight on top of mine while I brushed her neck. I found out after that the brush I was using was  intended for manes and tails but I can officially report that she loved it as an overall massage.

I knew not to groom Spirit since Deb didn’t mention him, but I did get in some quality petting time with him. Since I don’t do it very often, I forget that he is really soft. Much softer than Lunar. But Lunar got jealous that I was paying attention to Spirit and so she set him off in a barrage of teeth baring and frustration. Since I knew biting was next, I went into cease and desist mode. Oh well. It was nice while it lasted.

When I’d arrived at the farm, I saw that the pheasant was inside his cage. “Uh-oh”, I thought. I asked him if he’d attacked someone. He responded by pacing back and forth while making cooing sounds and louder insistent ones simultaneously (a distractingly cool combination). He was not happy to be back in the cage. It turned out though that he was just put in it for the day due to a giant easter egg hunt that had happened earlier. Not only that, but his cage door was unlatched. “He’ll figure it out,” was Deb’s quote. But when I passed him on my way to the car, he was still fretting away. I even showed him that the door was open but he was too busy stressing out. Seriously, on a scale from one to get-me-out-of-here, he was at least on “I-said-RIGHT-NOW!” Here’s to hoping that he freed himself.

A still of the little guy fervently wishing he’d be released from his prison. (Note how the latch is open…)

Speaking of grooming, Lunar appears to have done a bit on her own.

While working in the barn, I noticed that the alpaca ladies had come out of their corral to sit and stare at us, only to evacuate when I left. Sigh.

And I just can’t get over how adorable Athena is. She’s such a squish munchkin!

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Filed under alpacas, athena, horses, lunar, pheasant, sheep, spirit, winslow farm

The Coop

Yesterday, the barn was flooded, so Deb took over caring for them. I spent a bit of time with Lunar before I headed over to the big barn. I’d be heading from there to “the safe side” (I still have no idea what exactly that means, but I’ll get to who lives there in a second).

I spent a few minutes with Gulliver since he was in the big barn. Because of the flooding, he would have a sleepover there as well! I can only imagine how excited his goat buddies would be about that! Usually when I look for him to bring him up to the barn, I find him sitting on a ledge in the back. He was there on Monday as usual so I took another few minutes to hang out face to face. His reaction of “oh no” was emphasized by shoving his head against the wall. Never one to give up easily, I petted him and spoke softly to him for a while. Eventually, his head came back forward. I went for his ears though (I love, love, LOVE ears!) and he, like most of the animals, rejected that notion. This time he shoved his head into the corner, but I petted him some more and he came around again soon. One of the great kids who works there (one of my original trainers, in fact) came in and said, “I’ve never seen him being so affectionate.” Sweet!!

I went over to “the safe side” and met another young trainer. This section is where Athena hangs out with the sheep and roosters during the day. What I didn’t realize is that a small “building” that I walk by each time actually houses a bunch of different birds. I walked in and was immediately overwhelmed with excitement which I had to stamp down quickly because birds are really sensitive creatures. And if you’ve read my posts on Clementine and Noella, you already know how much birds fascinate me. If you haven’t, please let me elaborate: I LOVE BIRDS!!!!

In this dwelling live a whole mess of roosters/hens, ducks, the peacocks (who apparently live there and not with the donkeys), a peahen (so cute!), a golden pheasant (who looks like a parrot and a regular pheasant), a few doves (who peck if you try to pet them, I was told), a silky white bantam (really fluffy white rooster), and then there is the turkey.

He stayed far away as I walked around examining the room and birds alike. And then I realized that somewhere along the way, I seemed to have picked up a shadow. Sure, it was about four feet away and round and white but a distinct one nonetheless. I tested my theory by continuing to do rounds and wherever I stopped, he stopped, several feet away, looking at me out of the corner of his eyes. Instantly and completely in love with him I fell. And the best part? He let me pet him. The first time, he lurched a few steps away. I waited. He moved back. And the petting resumed.

Lots of photos from this week’s visit!

A little blurry, but she’s a beauty no matter what.

Spirit in the ice.

I used the “twilight portrait” setting on Gulliver to see what it would look like. Not what I expected but still pretty cool. Also, please imagine him putting his completely flat face against the wall…

Commence “birds”!

This is a blurry photo of the silky shite bantam. He couldn’t stop pecking for a clear shot.

 

The albino peacock with one of the other peacocks and a couple of roosters behind him. With all the mud on the floor, I am amazed that he’s so clean!

 

Outside, a gathering. A gaggle, if you will.

 

And last, but not least at all, my new turkey friend.

 

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

Hoping for the Best

It seems that I may have been fabricating a friendship between Lunar and Spirit when in actuality Spirit is pretty mean to Lunar. Since I hadn’t witnessed it firsthand, I was naively attributing kinship when I’d watch them walking around the corral together. But because of his food aggression issues, he lashes out at her.

I finally witnessed his attitude on Monday after Deb put him inside the back corral to separate the two horses. She wanted them apart earlier than usual to avoid conflict. Apparently, he’s getting worse. At this point, they were separated by the thick wood that divides the front area where Athena stays at night and the back of the barn. There is a door in the low wall that allows people and animals to pass through. Unfortunately though, horses have long necks that can reach far over this wall. As I went about my preparations, Spirit became more anxious about getting food. Whenever Lunar got too close, he’d lunge at her and bite her, sometime successful, sometimes not. My experience with correcting animals comes from doing it to dogs, using the guttural growl to dominate them. I’m not sure what the proper correction is for a horse, but this strategy worked on him.

I put him in his pen with no problem and fed him first. Then I made a mistake. Instead of bringing Lunar around the barn, I just opened the door in the low wall to let her through. From that entrance, I can access each of the pens through side doors. Putting Lunar in her pen is an easy task unless an angry horse thinks his food – that’s behind a thick barrier – needs protecting. Spirit started kicking at her through his walls and tried to bite her, neighing loudly. Lunar panicked and began to fling herself around. The space, though bigger than either of their pens, is still awkwardly small when an animal as large is in a frenzy. She was facing away from me, i.e. easier to kick me with if so inclined. Getting past my nerves, I calmly turned her around while Spirit continued to act out and successfully got Lunar into her pen.

I feel terrible that someone in Spirit’s past turned him like this, and that even though his new(ish) surroundings are idyllic, he can’t let this angst go. Someone used food as a way to control him or punish him (possibly withholding it in response to behavior or simply not feeding him with regularity or some other messed up reason) and his brain is forever connected to that insecurity. As long as there is food in his life, which obviously is going to be forever, he’s going to respond with difficulty. And I also feel sorry for Lunar. After being with a moody but calm blind horse, I can only imagine the feelings of confusion that Spirit stirs in her.

Here are some cheery pics from the day.

May I introduce the Welcome Wagon from the big barn that often greets me?

Claudius AND a rabbit buddy! I get really excited when I see a rabbit. This one’s even got a carrot!

In the Cat House…

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Filed under behavior, bunnies, cats, horses, lunar, photography, spirit, swan, winslow farm

It keeps getting better!

Being away from the farm for a week was treacherous, so my excitement had doubled – impossible, I know! – by the time I got there on Monday. I visited some bunnies and the swan and made my way to the corral. Waterford was hanging out so I waited around for Deb and watched as he chowed down on a tree stump. He was excited to see me and between bites we had a great chat with lots of snorts and head scratches.

Niko spotted me from the barn and made her way across the snow. Eager for hugs, she hopped onto my shoulder perch and purred like a crazy person. Pandy appeared out of nowhere, running and wagging her tail. We played a great game of pine cone. One of the roosters even walked right up to me and hung out!

But after my time spent caring for a sick Lunar two weeks ago, I’d have to say that the most exciting part was when she spotted me from the barn and came over and planted her head over the fence. She nuzzled against me and stayed close by. I took the opportunity to hug her as often as possible. We’ve definitely bonded and it feels pretty amazing.

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Here are the best shots from the afternoon. One of these days, I’m going to get there early with the Nikon, which will spare us all from the slightly fuzzy shots that my Cybershot produces when I don’t use a flash.  Animals + Flash = Not so much. Also if you’d like to see a picture enlarged, just click on it (and then click back, it doesn’t open a new window).

And we’re back…

Niko’s face! See how she squints? She’s undergone multiple eye surgeries and continues to be a super, super friendly cat. She’s the cutest!!

By the time I pulled out my camera, Lunar had scared off Waterford. Which struck me as odd since he is super crazy – in the way I like best, of course, but still, I figured he’d nod at her and keep going. Nope. So instead, I took a shot of the poor tree stump that he went to town on. The trail of red pulp goes far and wide outside the borders of this picture and he certainly was the happiest piggy ever while annihilating the wood.

This is the now-friendly rooster with whom every encounter thus far has consisted of me waving and saying hello and him completely ignoring me. Unless I walked by him on a path. In those cases, he’d jet the other way.

The friendship grows. They’re still learning about each other and that always has its ups and downs, but they seem fond of each other; a great start.

Look at her beautiful smile!!! Still no progress with petting Lovely Athena, but I’ll never give up.

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I’ve mentioned my fascination with the alpacas before and it continues to grow. While getting the barn prepared for dinner, I looked out the door and all three beauties were silently standing there, peering around. Just as quietly, they walked off. They are such gentle hushed animals. Aside from hearing their hooves while leaping about, I’ve heard very little from them. And when they do softly utter a call, it is a surreal alien cry. My mouth actually gaped open when I overheard one of them talking to a sibling. They’re like cartoon characters! Fluffy bodies with HUGE eyes, great, great ears, and spectacular sound effects.  I cannot get enough of them!!!

I left everyone in the barn contentedly munching away and headed over to visit the sweet herd in their corral. This was the first time I’d entered the gate. A brand new barn was built in honor of their arrival and it’s really nice inside: sawdust on the floor, mangers to the side and it smells awesome! Fresh wood scent is always a treat. They have room to play inside the fence and their house looks out on the pond behind the farm. It’s beyond idyllic.

They were huddled outside, eying me, but not in a panicked way and I did not attempt to pet them. Like many of the residents at Winslow, these three had a traumatic past and I want them to be comfortable with me before I try to make contact. It’s something I do with every animal I meet and time lines on this vary.  After spending some time with them, I don’t doubt that they like me as their body language was friendly. Not fleeing was also a good sign, and they had the room to do so. I attempted a few steps closer and they moved a few steps away. So they’re not ready. It’s this same instinct – not to rush up, not to speak loudly, not to reach out, not to repeat attempts in the same visit – that guides me with Athena. If she didn’t trust me at all, she’d never enter the barn or sniff my hand with her nose touching me. But she also senses when I’m reaching out to pet her and moves away from my hand. I will gently continue trying each week and wait for her to respond. The same goes for any timid animal. In their own time, perhaps the alpacas will come around like Delilah did. Or perhaps I will just love them from afar. Either way works for me.

I hope you enjoy their precious faces as much as I do.

Look at those eyes! And those EARS! Even the sawdust look is complementary.

I absolutely think alpacas are one of the coolest breeds of anything I’ve ever seen, including all the amazing species found on nature shows and up close during my personal adventures.

Group shot! Smiling for the camera!

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Filed under alpacas, athena, behavior, cats, dogs, horses, lunar, niko, photography, piggies, roosters, sheep, spirit, swan, waterford, winslow farm