Category Archives: piggies

Beautiful Day!

Compared to the ruckus last week, this visit was pretty low key. The pheasant was scarce, although I did notice two teenagers running after him and asked if they knew the bird they were chasing. “Yes, it’s the one from the bird house.” He is the one that I’ve mentioned who looks like a brightly colored parrot with a long pheasant tail. “Um, no. This is the one who lives over on this side in the cage with “attack bird” on it. Stop chasing him.” Suprisingly, I didn’t see him again for the day. Not going to lie in saying that I didn’t mind at all.

This was the first time Athena sat down in my presence. Either she was tired or she’s trusting me more. I choose Door Number Two.

It also gave me a chance to see her pretty eyes from the side.

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A mountain goat!!! (Bah dah bum.)

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While looking for Waterford to see if he wanted some of the hay I’d brought him, I took my first peek at the inside of his little house. Obviously, a photo can’t encompass how cute he is while he snores, so I’ll let your imagination do the work. Picture, if you will, his giant ears happily flapping about, a surprisingly agile snout that’s up and down and side to side and up and down, all the while erupting with snorty goodness. I seriously contemplated lying down for a nap with him, but his chompy tendencies stopped me. Maybe next time…

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Every week, at least one of the alpacas takes a giant dirt bath and I LOVE it!

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Filed under alpacas, athena, goats, humor, pheasant, photography, piggies, sheep, waterford, winslow farm

Another beautiful day on the farm

I have mostly photos to share today. The only big thing that happened off camera was that Lunar was super agitated about food. She even went after Niko! Watching this giant animal chasing a small cat certainly was an experience.

I was greeted this week by Wizard the wonderful pug. He’s not usually outside of Deb’s house when I’m there so it was really nice to spend a few minutes with him. And how adorable is his blue sweater??

While cleaning the back corral, I looked over and saw Waterford basking in the sunlight in his pen. All throughout the winter, once he finished eating, he went right back into his little house. It was nice not only to see him outside but also to see the smile on his sleeping face.

I snuck up on him trying not to wake him but it turns out that I probably could have banged pots by his head and he wouldn’t have stirred.

This is Edwin. He followed me around all afternoon and was so affectionate. He climbed in with the alpacas after me and they were very curious about him. They kept trying to sniff him, but he kept running away. Later, another cat friend named Maddy joined us but even though all Edwin wanted was to be best friends with him, Maddy started stalking him and trying to take swipes.

Edwin appreciating the sunshine.

Who can resist this face?

Have I mentioned Gulliver before? No?

True love.

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Filed under cats, dogs, goats, gulliver, horses, photography, piggies, waterford, 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

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

Farm Adventures

My volunteering slot at the farm is on Monday afternoons and I’ve been asked to take on the responsibilities in one of the barns. I spent last Monday and Tuesday afternoon being trained by a twelve year old one day and a fourteen year old the next. The farm is mostly populated by these dedicated kids who spend an average of three afternoons a week at the sanctuary. I envy the life experience these kids are building surrounded by so many different animals and the responsibilities in caring for them helmed by a truly dedicated and passionate person, Debra White, who owns and operates Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary. I wish I had something like this when I was a kid, who knows where it would have led my passion for animals by this point.

In this particular barn, there are four main animals and a handful of barn cats. The two horses are named Moonie and Lunar; there’s a sheep named Athena and a large goat named Gulliver. Moonie is an elderly male horse who’s blind and Lunar is his sweet companion. I was told by Deb, that he’s a kicker when he’s being moody. Armed with this bit of info, I was a bit nervous when I first met him. Talking in gentle tones with him, I offered him my hand and moved slowly around him. Any time I passed by him, I made sure to vocalize and make gentle contact. He never flinched at my touch, so I was excited. Lunar is an energetic senior horse. At dinnertime, she’s food driven and very sweet even while she nibbles on your hands looking for food. She’s also one of the loudest eaters I’ve ever seen and bangs around her food bucket with gusto. Gulliver is pretty low key and likes his pen which makes him very easy.

And then there’s beautiful Athena with her dark grey body and head that almost looks likes she’s had her hair and makeup done. Athena was found living alone on an interstate median where she’d been for a long time. Attempts were made to catch her which she thwarted. She was finally caught and taken to the MSPCA where she met Gulliver and they were brought to the sanctuary. Athena does not trust humans. This is always hard for me as I’d like to be best friends with every animal. So, while Athena dodged any attempts at getting close, I continued to pursue her with soft speech.

Yesterday was my first solo run. Nervous and excited, I walked into the Barn all set to go and lo and behold, there was 400 pound Waterford the awesome giant pig relaxing in the stall.

(A brief explanation on how the pens are set up since it’s a bit confusing. The horse pen is a large circle. The barn is in the middle of the circle and if you’re looking at it from inside, it has six sections: Gulliver’s stall, a section where the doors to the barn open (this is Athena’s makeshift stall), a section where all the food is kept, behind Gulliver’s stall is the hay pen, then Moonie’s stall which exits out to the back (no doors, just strips of plastic to keep the heat in so that he’s able to go in and out safely), and then Lunar’s stall. Go through Moonie’s area out the back and there’s a special pen for Moonie and Lunar. It’s set up with a rope around it so that Moonie can feel his way. Pretty cool! Waterford’s pen and teeny house is adjacent to the whole area and has a gate so that he can be let into the bigger pen during the day and has access to this part of the barn.)

So, was I surprised to find Waterford in “Athena’s” section of the barn as he’s usually back in his pen when I’ve arrived. I have to say that there certainly is a difference between petting a giant pig over a fence and having him right next to me. Especially when he started bumping into me and chomping on my backside! I went off to find Deb for assistance on getting him in. I walked slowly with him across the pen keeping an eye on him when he got behind me. Deb had also mentioned at some point something to the effect of “he can break all my bones in one fell swoop but he’s a wonderful animal” so I was being careful of the bone-breakage while shooting the breeze. He’s very chatty! After I located her, she needed to free herself up, so I went back to sit with him. I hung out on the top of the fence and he chewed on my foot. He’s super cute and wow is he a big animal with giant teeth!

After he was back in his pen, I worked my way through my chores in the barn. I was still getting the hang of things and since Moonie came in to eat with zero prodding (!!!), I fed him first. I probably should have fed Lunar first since she started galloping around inside the stall right next to Moonie (uh, NOT big enough!) but I managed to get her food to her and Moonie didn’t seem to notice so I’ve learned something for next time. I was still riding on the high that Moonie was completely comfortable with my voice! But even more exciting was Athena. When I went to put her food down, she was comfortable enough to bring her face to the bowl while my hand was still attached. No bob and weave out of the barn. No waiting for me to move. So exciting! Now, maybe if someday I can just pet her…

Since I can’t bring my big camera on my cleaning shift, I used my phone to capture a few images. One of these days, I’ll go in the middle of the day to photograph my lovely friends.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that an emu looks like it’s swallowing a cat while it’s sleeping. Ta da:

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These roosters hang out all over the place. I tried to get closer and he kept scooting further away. Mission!

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I went into the other barn for a bit yesterday where most of the goats live. Wow, do I love the goats. This one was a bit apprehensive of me. I went to pet her and she moved. I finally got a hand on her and started to give her a massage and then stopped. She sidled closer. I continued the massage and stopped again. Sidled closer. And now we’re friends!

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THIS is Waterford!!! Isn’t he spectacular???

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And THIS is Napoleon. In love! I was so excited to meet him and I happened upon him in a pathway. I figured I’d maybe get a pet or two but what happened instead was that right as I went to pet him, he immediately flopped over and demanded belly rubs and made super awesome grunting noises of joy while I did it. I love him!!!

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Filed under cats, emus, goats, horses, photography, piggies, roosters, sheep, winslow farm