Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fisher Autopsy

 Saturday one of my friends was out walking int the woods behind my house.Later he called me and said how he found a dead fisher in my woods. So on Monday of the next week the heat went out at school so we got out early. I had some friends over that afternoon and we went out looking for the fisher. We found it half under an old rotten tree. it looked very fresh and nothing had eaten it, so we put in a bag and brought it to the five rivers pathology lab. There we got to watch as the pathologist did an autopsy on it. He said that there were no signs of trauma or disease and that he (it was a male) looked very healthy other than the fact that it was dead. His last meal was a grey squirrel.  We are now waiting for the lab tests.

SONG OF THE FISHER http://soundbible.com/1075-Fisher-Cat.html

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend Chores

I don’t know if any other women out there have this problem. I work all week. On the weekend I do chores like washing dishes, doing laundry, vacuuming, nagging my son to bring in firewood and cleaning the toilet. I get as much done as I can before exhaustion kicks in and I collapse on the couch and read the Game of Thrones series (which I’ve been reading for months, just finished yesterday). My husband does chores outside. In the winter he is often in the barn. Sometimes our male friends stop by the barn. I see cars coming and going. And then I see videos like this on his phone:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Simon Says

I’ll never forget the first time I heard a donkey bray. We were in Jamaica visiting some of the men that come to pick apples on Indian Ladder Farms. When we spent some time with Vinroy Smalling, who lives in the southwestern part of Jamaica  in the parish of St. Elizabeth not far from Black River, we stayed in a home owned by his parents who, at the time were in Philadelphia. The home was located at the top of a small mountain and enjoyed wonderful breezes. One morning I woke to an ungodly sound, a sort of strangled scream that built to a crescendo that I eventually determined was a real-life hee-haw—a donkey bray. When I looked out I found a small, scruffy-brown donkey tied to a bush, right outside the bedroom window. Now I have a donkey of my own. His name is Simon. He is also a small, brown donkey—a miniature Sicilian donkey http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/other/donkey/mini/index.htm to be precise.

Simon was a birthday present given to me by my husband and son. He brays a lot, especially in the early morning, sort of like a rooster, not necessarily at first light but when he decides it is past time for breakfast. At first he was a demure, fuzzy little beast with dainty hooves and huge, brown eyes—skinny, blowing his winter coat, and sorely in need of a worming. As we got to know him better, and he grew healthier and stronger we soon found that he had another side to his personality.

Simon’s job was to be a guardian for my son’s four Nigerian dwarf milking goats, who seemed small and defenseless out in the pasture, especially when the coyotes howled at night.  He was a year old and, as it turns out, intact—as in, not castrated. Never having had a horse-type animal before I was more accustomed to gentler language, such as “neuter” and “wether.” As one by one the goats, all female, began to come into heat, we realized we needed a guardian to protect the goats from their guardian. Simon relentlessly chased the goats, biting them whenever he got close enough. One day we heard a hideous screaming. My husband ran outside to find Simon holding one of the goats in his mouth by the neck and swinging her around, apparently trying to kill her. Simon went to live with the sheep (four wethers being raised for meat). He was indifferent to them and they to him. He pined for the goats, from which he was separated by a fence. Oddly, despite the fact he was trying to kill them, the goats wanted to be with Simon as well. They walked up and down on opposite sides of the fence line with him, and slept beside him,  on the other side of the fence, when he lay down. Periodically we tried to reintroduce him into the goats’ pasture but always with the same results.

That’s when I called the equine vet. I explained the situation. “Castration can only help,” she counseled. So castration it was. Nearly $500 later Simon was minus his testicles. The operation, which was done in the barn with local anesthetic, only quieted him for a day or two. Soon he was back at it. We, who had expected a miracle cure for his personality disorder, were very disappointed. But after talking with others we learned that testosterone takes a really long time to get out of the body and it could take as long as a year for Simon to calm down. Simon was castrated in the fall and I’m happy to say he is calming down. He now resides in the barn with the goats. My husband has created safe havens for them, where they can get in but Simon can’t and this helps.

Monday, February 6, 2012

LIL' Rich Farm

Farm to School

My school district, Voorheesville Central, has recently launched a very successful Farm to School program http://vcsdk12.org/garden/garden_home.htm. The farm to school initiative grew out of the school’s Garden Project which works with the students to maintain a school garden called Blackbird Paradise in the elementary school playground. The program is run by parent volunteers with the help of teachers, administrators and food service staff. The school district’s K – 12 food service manager Tim Mulligan works with the volunteers to source food from local farms to serve in school lunches. The parents and teachers work together to educate the kids about the food they are eating using a fun theme, like Mr. Potato Head, to get kids to eat roasted red potatoes from Schoharie Valley Farms.

Food Waste

Now the school is turning its attention to the other end of the food chain. What to do with the food that doesn’t get eaten and must be thrown away?

It is amazing how much food Americans throw away, especially when you consider how many people in the world are starving. According to the New York Times http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/15/a-war-against-food-waste/ Americans throw away 30 million tons of food a year. That’s 200 pounds per person (children included) annually. Feeding food scraps to pigs is part of a tradition as old as animal husbandry, and is routine around our house, where chickens devour our fruit and veggie scraps and the goats, sheep and donkey feast on apple drops and unsold pumpkins.

School to Farm

Recently Voorheesville elementary school principal Tom Reardon decided sending cafeteria food scraps to the landfill was not acceptable. He called up Rich Gage, Jr. of Little Rich Farm, in Schoharie and asked him if he would be interested in feeding the elementary school’s cafeteria scraps to his pigs. Little Rich said “Bring it on!”  Now Voorheesville is trying out School to Farm.

Little Rich’s Pigs
Last week Dieter and I accompanied our friend Trish, who is a mover and shaker in the Farm to School world, on a trip to the hilltowns to drop off some food for the pigs at Little Rich Farm, about a 15 minute drive (if you don’t get lost in the fog). We found a barn full of happy and healthy pigs very much looking forward to their bananas and half eaten peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. There was a giant boar (the daddy pig), several sows (the mommy pigs) and two litters of young, half-grown pigs. One of the sows is about to give birth and Little Rich says he will call us when the piglets are born so we can come and take pictures of them. Little Rich says the pigs will eat everything they can get so Voorheesville Elementary is going to go to work, separating their food scraps to feed them.

Vegetarian Concerns
I know there are probably some vegetarian parents out there who are cringing at the thought of their vegetarian children saving their leftovers to feed the pork trade. I myself am a great admirer of vegetarians although I am not one myself. The reality is a lot of kids eat bacon. I even know several vegetarian kids that eat bacon. I guarantee you Little Rich’s pigs are living a lot better than the poor pigs we’ve heard about recently in the news at farms such as Seaboard Foods http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/the-troubling-path-from-pig-to-pork-chops/?src=rechp which is for sale in Wal-Mart and other grocery store chains.

By the way, I am creeped out the NYT Green Blog author Andrew Revkin’s suggestion, (see above link)  promoted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), http://www.peta.org/ that we should raise in-vitro meat in laboratories so we don’t have to raise and slaughter animals. Did you know PETA is offering a prize of $1 million to the scientist that can grow chicken-like meat in a laboratory and distribute it to consumers?  Deadline June 30 2012 http://www.physorg.com/news128076961.html. No kidding.

Of course test tube meat has already been created by Lem and Phil, the scientists at Veridian Dynamics on Better Off Ted  http://www.tv.com/shows/better-off-ted/heroes-1261313/ in the form of a hunk of red meat affectionately known by the staff as “Blobby.” When Veridian’s poor product tester was forced to try the meat he said it tasted like “despair.”