Sunday, May 31, 2009

Disaster Training~ PODS

Point of Distribution = PODs
Yesterday, in 4 very different locations in the state, a full POD mock drill was done. Volunteers from across the region converged upon the designated location to unload a massive tractor trailer truck and set up a distribution plan for loading the vehicles of "victims" of the disaster scenario with cases of food, water, ice and emergency supplies. Some volunteers were "actors" who were given detailed descriptions of the rolls they were to play.
Typical of any disaster, people create problems and usually do not listen to directions. We had to confront problems and work them out in "real time." Lines of traffic were at a crawl being loaded and off loaded. It was easy to see that there were more evaluators on site than there were volunteers to do the actual work. There were only 7 people to load cars, and 30 evaluators evaluating our every move. Video cameras, still cameras, forms, documents, green vests, red vests, orange vests--every person at the drill had an important function. Forklifts, chains, ham radio operators, ambulances--all were needed for the 4 hour intensive drill.
Initially there was alot of confusion setting up the location and we only had 90 minutes to do it. None of us had worked together before and within a short amount of time we established leadership rolls and a somewhat bumpy rhythm to our task. After a short break and a quick explanation from the FEMA reps, we tried a different method and quickly streamlined the whole process in about 4 minutes. A hotwash round circle discussion of the items that we did well, the things that went poorly and suggestions for improvemement were voiced by every volunteer at the location. The areas that needed imporvement were quickly identified by every team member. This is why disaster drills are so important. To practice, improve and find the best and most efficient and effective ways to do the PODS with the least amount of injuries and chaos.
I was at one of the largest PODS in New Orleans in 2005 & 2006, so I know how big these things can get. Consider volunteering for your local disaster team. Your community needs you.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Water Sports

I am always amazed how some wildlife will come right up to you when you least expect it. I was looking for trout the other day in the rain, when a brown salamander walked right by me and slithered into the shimmering crystal clear pond. A few moments later this endangered red eared cooter walked right up to me and then paddled and walked the rest of the way to the pond. He really covered some ground in a short amount of time. Last week I got bitten by a similar, but larger, turtle that had bitten a fishing hook. As I dislodged the hook from his mouth he chomped down on my finger and then hissed at me. I now have the distinct outline of a turtle mouth on my index finger. Its all red and infected too. I have seen 3 turtles on land in as many days. Must be breeding season or something. Thankfully, they are in a safe, secluded area void of vehicles and turtle eaters.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I got the news yesterday that my cows & I had been certified. What an honor.
Hopefully, I will be a role model and mentor for other farmers who want to certify their herds and flocks. It is a very thorough process and all aspects of the farm & management are scrutinized.

The ‘World Society for the Protection of Animals’ has endorsed the AWA standard as “the most stringent” of any third-party certifier.

For more information about livestock standards, go

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Twin Salads

I walked out to the big field the twins were in yesterday morning and spent time patting them and sitting with them. They are both focused on grazing the plentiful green grass and following the bees that fly by. Like true twin sisters, they are always together. They groom each other, butt heads with each other and nap side by side. They have hundreds of acres to explore, yet they remain close to each other at all times. Occasionally their mom, Wilma, ambles over to give them both a bath. The three of them spent a good amount of time licking each other and head butting during this maternal bath giving. Wilma was able to give both girls a good cleaning and a good nutritious lunch at the same time. I am amazed how the twins have grown and are the same size as their peers. It took a small army of people to bottle feed them every day, 7 days a week, until their moms milk finally dropped. Now they are out in the "big" world enjoying the lush spring grass, the crystal clear water and the fresh air of Vermont. PLUS they have their customized creep feeder and all the milk they could ever want. Lucky girls.

Poultry Testing

The Vermont Department Of Agriculture attended the chicken swap and did pullorum/typhoid blood tests on all poultry over the age of 5 months. A tiny bit of blood was drawn and then dipped in the agent. If it did NOT turn a different color then that fowl was Pullorum/Typhoid free. A mouth swab was taken on those same birds to do an avian influenza test. All birds that were tested recieved a blue leg band. This is a simple, fast & easy way to guarantee the health of poultry in Vermont. The Dept of Ag will make house calls, at your request, to test your flock--free.
A priceless service.

Chicken Swap~!

As the sweet smell of millions of apple blossoms filled the air, thousands of poultry of every shape, size and color filled the apple orchards parking lot. Hundreds of excited people came to sell, buy, photograph and watch as birds exchanged owners and more unusual items arrived for sale. Ducks, geese, hens, chicks, guinea fowl, roosters, quail, doves, finches, turkeys and many more types of fowl arrived and left every moment. A flock of Canada Geese flew overhead and did a returning loop after they heard the calls of dozens of their geese relatives. The day was colorful, educational and exciting. More and more people are raising their own food and poultry is one of the most important items for meat as well as eggs. Dozens of hatching eggs were also available for sale. The prices were excellant and those special cartons of eggs left quickly to new owners and would be in incubators before nightfall. The Department of Agriculture was doing blood tests and mouth swabs on all birds over 5 months of age inorder to keep all the Vermont flocks healthy and disease free.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The chicks finally came in today. The parking lot at the grain store was full of trucks and very happy people. I could hear the sounds of thousands of chicks peeping as I got out of my truck. 10 Barred Rock chicks were coming with me. They look great walking around a historical farmhouse and will help keep bugs off the tomatoes and ticks off the cats. I also loaded up 4 fluffy Buff Orphington chicks as well. They are winter hardy, gentle birds who act like Golden Retrievers. I rushed home and placed the 14 micro babies in the brooder that I set up for them with fresh water, starter crumbles and a light for warmth. I dipped their beaks in the water and the crumbles to get them started. They were all very thirsty after their long air flight to the grain store from the mid west. I still have some rare and heritage breed chicks I will be picking up in the near future. Most are winter hardy, heavy foragers, and lay unusual colored eggs.
These chicks will also be used to train animal disaster responders on how to handle, capture, shelter and feed them while in their care.
There are so many species that are affected in disasters, its critical that responders cross train on as many different species as possible. These lucky chicks have a clean coop, spring water, fresh air and lots of acerage in which to have bug adventures when they grow up. I can hardly wait for the rest of the chicks to hatch that I ordered. Chickens are like potatoe chips--you just can't have one, or a few. Its a bit addictive. Now to think of some really good names for each of them......

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Twins Graduate

Its been 5 long weeks of bottle feeding & burping these two very bouncy babies. They have learned the routine of coming up to the gate of the field when they are called, run to the back door of the feeding area and suck their 2-3 quarts at each feeding, to the end. This week they refused their bottles. They didn't need or want them anymore. I felt a little sad and a little joyous at the same time. Like the mom who takes their child to kindergarten class for the first time, it was a mixed blessing. These twin babes are growing and eating more and more grass and hay. Their mom is eating new grass and producing more milk, evidently more milk than last week and enough to fill the twins up. The task of going to fetch 2 gallons of hot water every morning to mix their milk bottles would be over. I would actually have time to do other things~!! I would no longer be on "Twin Time! " With all those wonderful thoughts in my mind, I knew it was time to build a creep feeder that ONLY the twins could have access to and not the other cows in their field.
With a ten foot board, a saw and 4 nails I put an extruder board on the front of a horse stall at calf level. I filled their red water bucket up and hung it with adjustable chains so I can adjust the height of the water as they grow. I put some high quality hay in the corner and a scoop of grain in their feed bowl. Then I called them up out of their field and they came right into the stall and started exploring their new exclusive "room" and eating the grain and slurping the water out of their bucket. For 30 minutes they ate and walked around their roomy digs. Whisper went right to the grain and started nibbling and Widget started eating the hay. Their mom came with them and layed down in front of the stall to supervise her two precious daughters.
My days of caring for these special girls are not over, we have just graduated to another level of care. With this custom creep feeder they will always have access to grain, water and hay. Just a little extra food and shelter to help them grow as well as the other calves in their group. And NO, I am not putting satellite TV in their stall~!

May's Romantic Perrenial

Monday, May 11, 2009

Welcome to Beaver Basin

Near my new favorite fishing area is a secluded spot, hidden from view that is guarded by a very special beaver. He is not afraid of humans and stays close to the rare visitor who hikes into his area. I got the most amazing photos of this extra large and elder male beaver. His vast deposits of chewed branches and limbs are everywhere the eye looks. Very visable until the trees leaf out and hide his winter and spring snacks. There is an abundance of wildlife around and in his special water area. To my surprise, there is an eagle nest with an eagle sitting on an egg. Another adult eagle has been hunting in the area every afternoon. There may be two pairs in that immediate area as it got very busy with eagles flying around one late afternoon and I lost count of all the "white heads" I saw.
This rare daytime beaver marks his territory carefully and consistantly with huge scent mounds, 3 feet high and higher in some areas as a warning to other beavers that this is his HIS domain. His pristine pond is hidden and only the very motivated would ever find it. His secret is safe with me.

Animal Welfare Approved

My farm had a very important visitor on Saturday. As it rained, a silver car pulled up to the barn door and a woman began to put on her decon outfit, her boots and gathered an armful of paperwork. Dr Wendy from the Animal Welfare Approved certification program had arrived to inspect the farm, animals, water, food, shelter, fencing and management. There are only 2 other farms with the certification in this state. I hope to be the next. This certification is different from the Certified Humane program. That program only certifies the "end " product of animals, such as meat, milk or eggs. I do not have an end product as I sell my cows live to the next person and it is that next person who will have an end product. Animal Welfare Approved is linked to the Grassfed Farmers Association and they have a more realistic approach to their certification standards. They understand that there are many seedstock and stocker producers who do not slaughter their animals. Instead we sell them as weanlings or yearlings. Dr Wendy was at the farm for 3 hours. Every field was visited, all water sources were discussed, all aspects of management, disaster plans, breeding plans, documentation, etc was evaluated. It may be weeks before I find out if I have been approved or not. No matter what the outcome, I am very impressed with how quickly, efficiently, thoroughly and effective this process has been. For more information on the requirements & standards;

Mother's Day Surprise

A 94lb surprise early on Mothers Day morning geeted me at the barn door. She was running and jumping up and down the entire barn. A beautiful light red heifer. Healthy and happy. While admiring this good looking pair, another cow went into labor and delivered a 102 pound bouncing baby boy. The weather was perfect to deliver calves in: cold & breezy. No humidity and no bugs. Cows are one of the hardest working Moms on the face of the earth. Now that these cows have calved, they will be moved to a field of new green grass with the rest of the cows and calves. A winter of quality hay, spring fed water and careful attention has contributed to the health of these moms and their calves. There are several more cows waiting to calve. For me, calving is the BEST time of year~!!

A Calf New Born
Its nice to go into the field, and find a calf new born,
They come along at any time, day or night or early morn,
Pains of birth alert the cow, find a nice quiet spot to lay,
Pushing hard till it appears, it's over in a day.

Within an hour it's licked and polished, up and had some milk,
Then off to find a place to hide, its coat as smooth as silk,
A bog of nettles, stalky grass, or just some rushes in a tuft
Keep its head down have a sleep, predators its out bluffed.

With plenty milk and summer sun, it plays and grows as well,
Mother gets fed up with it, but knows it's hers by smell,
At summer's end it's parted from, its mother needs a rest,
Life of growing, getting fat, for meat, correct you've guessed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Disaster School

 Almost an entire year of planning, to the day. The weekend was successful. An Immersion Disaster Training right here in my own neighborhood. Field training, demos, unusual hands on DECON practice, disaster vehicles, incredible raffle items, early morning coffee and sleep deprivation. Hardly any time to think. We slept where we had classes, We brought our own food and water. We bonded. Just like a real disaster. The instructors kept us on course, challeneged our minds and coached us over the difficult parts. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard, was so exhausted and so proud of everything I learned. All to help the animals and the people affected by disasters. Read more: