Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Katrina- not just a vague memory

Its been 7 years today since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and pretty much obliterated people, animals and property.  I spent 6 months going back and forth doing animal rescue for several organizations and driving back with van fulls of traumatized, homeless, broken dogs and a few very lucky cats.
I met people from all over the world who volunteered their time, energy and bodies to save animals from an ugly death.  Many of those volunteers got injured, bitten or sick doing a difficult task.  I had the honor of working with many of these skilled volunteers over and over again at different staging areas, disasters, trainings and events over the years.

The last week of August is deadly for hurricanes of all sizes and names.

Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Isabel also made landfall during the same week, in different years.   I was deployed to them as well, to rescue pets, livestock and wildlife.
Hurricane Andrew was the catalyst for rescue of animals in disasters. Everything that has happened in the disaster animal rescue field grew out of the Animal MASH unit in Homestead Florida.

Last year Hurricane Irene landed here in Vermont on August 29th as well, and impacted the entire State of Vermont.  It was horrible.   I thought my herd was not going to survive it.
6 people, dozens of cattle, hundreds of chickens and other animals were washed away in the flash floods.  People are still homeless in some affected areas, waiting for FEMA to buy out their destroyed homes and trailers and some farmers will never again be able to grow crops on some of their land as many acres were washed away.        My cows and I were very lucky.

Right now Hurricane Isaac is destroying parts of Louisiana again. As I listen to the news and hear the towns that are under water I recognize the names of the places I spent so much time in after Katrina.  I am still reliving the events, like it was yesterday. 
7 years ago my trapping teams and I were busy capturing the pets that were left behind and the livestock that wandered the muddy byways.  We also created feeding stations at trailer parks for hundreds of cats and dozens of dogs that hung on to life waiting for capture, but not wanting to be captured. Requests from owners who had been evacuated to other states pleaded with teams to try to find their pets. The ones we could capture were transported to large air conditioned tractor trailers and whisked away to safe shelters out of the disaster zone.  It was a never ending battle against the heat, humidity, black mold, sharp debris, snakes, alligators and long hours without food, fluids or much restful sleep and it took its toll on animals and volunteers alike.

After Isaac leaves, a new flood will take its place. The flood of rescuers and volunteers converging on the disaster areas to help again where help is needed.
Please light a candle for everyone affected by the past storms, the present storms and the future storms that bring so much damage, death and pain.  And please consider being a volunteer, to rebuild what has been destroyed.

Here are some Katrina photos from some of my deployments to the Gulf Coast.

Warning; These photos are graphic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Grass Heads

When I move the herd to a new field in the morning, its a stampede to get thru the gate.
They see me drive in and they all head in the direction of the new field that they know they are going to.

Then the moms start yelling for their calves to get up and come to them.

It gets noisey for 15 minutes.

As I drop the zip fence and start reeling it up, the herd runs through.

The calves are by their mothers sides and usually run in first.

As sooon as they get to the new field they start grazing.  The only sound is that of grass being ripped up and the swishing of tails.

With the recent rains the grass is again lush and the clover is coming up again.  The smell of the clovers sweetness permeates the air.

Its a great way to start the day.

How do you start your day?

Friday, August 24, 2012


I have so many eggs I don't know what to do.  6 eggs a day piles up very fast.

I have been giving them to local families that need food and to some lucky visitors.

A friend came and used peppers, chives, beans, carrots, corn and peas from my garden and stirred up the most delicious quiche I have EVER had.

It was florescent when it came out of the oven and made the entire house smell fabulous.

The plan is to make 8 more next weekend and freeze them for winter (which is fast approaching) and keep making them as the eggs keep coming.

There is no doubt, Eggs from free range chickens are far superior to anything in a grocery store.

Plus every carrot, every bean, every pepper had an incredible flavor.

Fresh from the garden makes a difference.

Such flavor!

Foods without bar codes are delicious and nutritious!

Whats your favorite recipe for an abundance of eggs? 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chore Hounds

I did some farm sitting this weekend at a friends farm and had the pleasure of watching Mavis run around with Queenie, the resident Border Collie.  The 2 of them had their paws full, keeping an eye on me and all the livestock on the farm.

They protected me from giant turkeys, prevented hens from escaping the big coop and escorted me to other parts of the farm to check on the other birds and beef herd.

Queenie was really generous in showing me which chores were done first.  She has been a hired hand here at this farm for 5 years and knows the routine well.  I was surprised she accepted Mavis and I so readily.

In between the tasks, the 2 dogs romped and played in the heat of the day.

They drank out of the water buckets I constantly filled for birds and dogs.  Every so often the barn cats would venture from the barns to see what the black and white blurs of activity were.

The collies chased each other around fields and barnyards, around trees and gardens.
They stalked squirrels, chipmunks and birds.

At the end of the day both of them were worn out and happy.

Mavis has a farm friend.  How cool is that?     Happy dogs.

What kind of chore hounds do you have?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Barns of August

Typical hot August day and I am driving around the countryside.

Lots of barns to see.  This particular barn I see every August on the way to a staff meeting.

These are the remains of the historical Taftsville covered bridge. Its fate is yet to be determined.

Video of the bridge as Irene tried to tear it apart.

I love long white dairy barns.

Typical Vermont scenery.

More and more hoop houses and green house dot the landscape next to barns as more farmers grow veggies to meet the local demand.

So many barns, so little time.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Power Steering....

The best shows at the fair are the ones happening behind the livestock barns.

You never know what you will see.

I witnessed this "older brother" giving his siblings a ride behind his steers, as he practiced the parking lot obstacle course before his event.

 I love all the 4H events, but the beef cattle and the oxen teams are my favorites.

I can't get enough of them.

Been to a Fair this year?

What are your favorite events?

Friday, August 17, 2012


Raise the flags!!

My 6 pullets left me 6 eggs!!!

ALL in the nest box.

It was a thrill to finally go out in the morning and find them all in 3 nests.

Happy Happy Happy.

What a gift and what a great breckfast!

Are your chickens making you breckfast?


Tuesday, August 14, 2012


It never ceases to amaze me how many things the cows can do at one time.

Gwen can give her herd mate, Red Sox Faith, a bath while nursing her calf and nibbling on grass at the same time.

My cows may not be perfect show quality, but they ALL have clean ears!

Which animal of yours is the self appointed bathing queen?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fowl Females in My Life

In March I transported 5 of the 7 Silver Appleyard ducklings, that I had picked up from the breeder, to a woman who had a bad snail problem in her garden. Similar to me the snails had decimated her vegetables and all her perennial gardens.  The 7 "poopsters" spent 2 days at my house and I got to pick the ones I wanted.   Well... I thought I did, but the morning I had to separate them I discovered that the 2 smallest ducklings would be crushed by the biggest ones during transport and would always be in competition with them for food.  So I did the "right thing" and instead of keeping 3 of the largest ducklings I kept the smallest 2 ducklings and sent the 5 big ones to Karin.

Last week I got to visit with Karin's Quack Pack.

And let me tell you how absolutely beautiful and friendly these ducks are!
They followed me everywhere and stayed by my side when I sat down.  They nibbled my ankles and "talked" to me the entire time.   They are a riot to watch.   And guess what the genders are?????
FOUR FEMALES and a male named Elvis.   Karin won the lottery!

She calls them her Fab Five.

She will be up to her neck in eggs come September.

At least she won't have to do any match making.......

I am still waiting for a female Appleyard duck, or two, to show up in my coop.

By next spring I will be getting a few more ducklings and probably enlarging the coop.....

These ducks are addictive.

Have you got a few handsome snail-eating ducks in your life?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Mother Lode

I have 6 pullets.

2 have been laying eggs for a month.  Several others have recently started to lay eggs and are learning to use the nest box.  However, I know darn well I should be getting at least 5 eggs a day, and I have not.

Mavis and I have been searching the bushes all around the property and have found nothing. I have worn a path down in my daily egg hunts to no avail.

Then the other evening Mavis was doing a dance on the front lawn, so I followed her......

and just 18 inches from where my path is around the wooded area, I found the Mother Lode of eggs!

17 well hidden, well stacked pullet eggs were sitting in the cool soft earth under the ferns.

I carried them into the kitchen like a groom carries a bride.  I was thrilled because I knew what I was going to do next.

Scrambled eggs with Vermont cheddar cheese.

I cracked 17 hard shells to get 17 bright orange and yellow small pullet eggs onto my favorite skillet.

This was enough to feed 2 hungry farmers and one egg -finding pullet dog.

As the eggs got comfortable on the stove I went out to the garden and picked some nice banana peppers, a few tomatoes, 2 ears of corn and found 4 more eggs in the nest boxes.

I love fresh local food and it don't get any better than this!

The only disturbing element of the entire food adventure was seeing the leaves are changing on some of the trees.....

However, my Mabel gerannium is having the best summer of her life. She has 10-15 blooms at all times.

Probably because I scrape my boots off right next to her on the boot scraper.....

Whats your favorite plant in the garden and in your flower bed ( or pot)?

Are the trees changing color where you are?  ( tell us your state)

Whats the most eggs you ever found in a "hidden" nest?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Seeking a Mate For Life

Do you believe in serendipity? 

Today at the local library I was introduced, by my librarian, to a  9 year old girl who was talking about ducks. She had come to the library with her aunt for story time and crafts.

As we chatted she told me about her many breeds of ducks at her house including 2 ducks that she didn't know what sex they were and could not remember the breed they were.

As she described them I started to get a silly feeling in my stomach.

As soon as I told her the breed of MY ducks she got all excited and said "that's the kind mine are too!!"

Ironically, she and her mom have been confused about what sex they are (sound familiar?) and have been desperately trying to figure it out.  That's why they would not name them until they knew for certain the gender of each.

Even more ironic, her ducks were hatched the same week as mine from the same breeder!

I kept looking at my librarian as she had heard all my stories about my own confusion with my ducks about their sex and about how I was going to find a female or two to perpetuate this rare breed.  My librarian kept smiling and shaking her head, acknowledging the disbelief that now there were two 'duckheads" in the same room.  The parallels in our lives, with ducks, were unbelievable.  This vibrant young girl and I talked about our favorite fowl with glee in our voices and joy in our hearts.   All the other "bookheads" in the library were listening to our very animated conversation.

I showed my new little friend photos of Silver Appleyard ducks on the Internet and had her pick out the ones that most resembled her own ducks.  Using those photos she showed me that her ducks did NOT have curled tail feathers OR a green head, but were dark bodied, not all silver.  My stomach started doing happy flip flops.

In 15 minutes and 10 questions later, it was determined that her 2 ducks were most likely females.

I gave her my business card and wrote a note on the back to her mother, it said;
"I have 2 male Silver Appleyard ducks.  You have 2 females. We should talk. "

I came home with a big smile on my face.

The "Boys' were very busy in the garden eating snails and bugs but came out to greet me.  I told them the news about the possibility of having September brides.

Have you ever seen a duck smile?

I don't know what will happen next with this particular duck match attempt, but another thing that came out of todays wonderful conversation was that the librarian admitted that she wants a few Silver Appleyard ducklings.       That is a great compliment.  She has heard me rave about my 2 ducks, she has seen them on numerous occasions and now she has met a 9 year old girl who is as crazy about her Appleyards as I am.  Its contagious.  Appleyard Duck Fever has hit the village!

Perpetuating a rare breed takes lots of dedicated individuals, some unusual circumstances plus some blind luck.  Hopefully the luck will come into play to get a female Appleyard here before the snow starts drifting in.  Otherwise the boys will remain frustrated hormone machines and the chickens will have to continue to outrun them.

Have you ever had a difficult time trying to find a mate for one of your animals?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chicken Winnebago

Joel Salatin's chicken tractors have caught the country by fire. They are everywhere. Every small farm in this area has one or a few out in their fields or gardens.

Here at the farm our first giant chicken tractor is being built.

It's 12 feet long, 4 feet wide and over 6 feet tall with a nice metal roof.  It has a real door too.

It's got wheels on it to make it easier to move it around.

I will put some roosts in it and use it to move the flock around the garden and the field.

I would also like to raise some turkeys for the local Farmers Market after we "test drive" this model.

Are you using a chicken tractor to raise your laying flock or meat birds?

Do you have a favorite design or size?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The View

Its been hot and muggy.   Every breeze has been appreciated.

As it got a bit cooler after last nights storm, the views of the mountains were beautiful and blue.

The whipporwills are still singing in the evenings and the crickets are in direct competition with them.
I love cool summer nights, spent with gentle friends, good dogs and locally grown foods.

Where have you been catching a breeze lately?

Monday, August 6, 2012


Watched some pony pulling at the Fair.  Always a popular event.
I prefer it to the full size draft pulling experience.

One of the local fire departments had 3 teams in the event.

The teams pull their antique fire apparatus in parades.  And they do logging in the winter.

They did very well here.

 All the teams were well behaved, well groomed and calm.

Every year there are more and more teams as more folks get re-interested in farming with real horse power.

Have you been to any draft pulling this summer?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fair Daze

I have been haunting all the cow barns at all the fairs in the area.

All the participants, both humans and livestock, are exhausted.  All the days are melding together into one big daze.      I have seen many farm families in the barns with bloodshot eyes from the early morning chores at home and then a fast ride to the fair to do chores here too.

Everyone is sleep deprived.  Including the cows.

These three beautiful young Jerseys are getting ready for some serious napping.

In all the barns, many of the cows and dozens of 4H'ers were taking power naps before their next events.

In the crafts barn I found many lovely ideas for flower arrangements.  I plan on copying this idea very soon!

Several more fairs left to visit and hundreds of cows yet to be met.

Seen anything really interesting in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Cow Wash

Its Fair Time!!

I have attended a few of the local fairs and have been watching the 4H livestock shows.

My favorite place to hang out is at the cow wash racks.

So many things to hear and see here.

I firmly believe that championships are won and lost at the wash racks.

The 4H attitude is so evident at this location.   Kids share their favorite shampoo, hoses, helpful hints and sponges.   All the training, time and effort that went into preparing their bovine for the show is proven here, behind the barn at the rack, out of the public eye. 

This is the 2nd last step before entering the show ring.

Next step is drying the calf and final grooming for both cow and 4H'er.

4H shows are wonderful to watch. The judges are considerate and informative and really explain their reasons for placement of the animals.  Some judges actually show the kids how to set up their animals or groom them better.  4H judges are never in a rush and really spend time with each class that they judge.

Take a look at the your local fair's schedule of events and make time to watch a 4H show.

What fairs are going on in your area?  Know any 4H'ers?