Field Trip to an Animal Sanctuary (and saving chicks)

We loaded up the cat kennel in the Fiat (our urban farm vehicle) and headed hours north.  Through our old county, our old town, past our old farmhouse, and down the Kiowa-Bennett road.  The prairie is breathtaking even in winter.  Golden strands peek through layers of snow as the sun glistens across the vast expanse of country.  The western sky a watery blue stretching far and wide.  Singing to country music on the radio and a good feeling in our hearts, we drove towards Danzig’s Roost, a rooster and animal Sanctuary in Bennett, Colorado.

 

Sometimes the carefully protected public get glimpses inside factory farms.  What we consider family, humane, free range, and all the other marketing words that help sell meat is all a façade of chicken houses crammed with suffering birds and sometimes people are able to get a peek at those and the whole operation is exposed.  The huge chick rescue in northern Colorado this month made the news and raised thousands for resourceful sanctuaries.  But then so often apathy returns and people continue their habits.  Sad that animals are suffering, but unwilling to omit them from their plate.

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We were on our way to take home some of those rescued birds.  Chickens are snuggly, sweet, and have all different personalities.  One of the chicks we brought home is tiny, fluffy, and sings day and night like she is singing her songs of thanks to the heavens.  She doesn’t like to be put down.  As it happens, we went to get between four and six birds and ended up with seven, soft, white babies.  They are in the guest room.  They have every disease you can think of from parasites, E coli, to upper respiratory infections.  That is what is in meat.  I am treating them with my herbs.  So far they are thriving.  These lucky few were saved and will live their life here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm dust bathing, getting treats, and sitting in the sun or on our laps.

We are only allowed poultry in Pueblo but one day we will have land where we can take in more animals, save more lives, do what we can.  But every life counts.

Jewel Straightedge runs the sanctuary that we picked the chicks up from.  She has, what looks to be, hundreds of roosters that she has rescued.  Two calves with big, heartbreaking eyes are from the dairy down the road.  The little girl fights to live.  Darling sheep and goats and geese that clearly know the friend that rescued them all add to the raucous singing of the farm.  Turkeys strut about.  The wind picks up and turns cold and we hasten our tour.

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Jewel and her team rescued over six hundred chicks from the thousands and thousands that were being inhumanely killed and dying without food and water.  With the swift turn in weather, we help her chase hundreds of chicks trying to get them back into their warm enclosure.  It is every bit as hilarious as it sounds.  We are happy as we head back towards home.

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(Note: the chickens we rescued ended up dying anyway because they are meat chickens. We still had a bit to learn about that breed! This experience reinforced in us the desire to buy from friends who have small farms or raise our own.)

Before You Get a Great Pyrenees (or any dog)

He just settled back down to sleep.  7:20, the school bus comes.  He jumps up, the futon shaking, and barks loudly at the small, hooded figures with backpacks, their parents shadily waiting in their cars, probably planning on breaking into our house.  They all disburse, the bus drives away, and Gandalf sleepily settles back down on his bright pink futon and begins to snore.

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We did our research on the Great Pyrenees.  I like to thoroughly read everything possible.  They can be pretty vicious.  Like, you may want to put signs up warning people.  If they aren’t socialized, they can be impossible to have around people and animals.  We laughed as we watched a video before getting Gandalf about how this gentle giant breed will guard you against predators, strangers, lawn chairs, birds, the wind….yea, we didn’t really get it.  They bark.  “Good!” I said, I want a guard dog.  They shed.  “Ha!  I have had nine cats at one point, he can’t shed more than them!”  Ha ha…yea, he can.  We will train him!  You don’t train this breed.  They do what they want.  Dogs are how you raise them, right?  But there are definite breed traits that one must know before committing to the lifetime of a dog.  You cannot train hundreds of thousands of years out of any particular breed.

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There are growing populations of Great Pyrenees in shelters.  These adorable fluff balls of polar bear proportions are just about too much cuteness not to fall in love with.  They grow quickly.  Comparing Gandalf to dogs at the dog park, he is probably over 180 pounds.  He’s still growing.  We have socialized him.  I have a lot of clients, students, and friends over and he has been fawned over and given treats for over a year now.  But he is very sensitive and even a benign person with too much energy makes him very wary and, let’s be honest, scary.  I keep him in the back yard if people are coming over.  At the dog park, he is fine.  Off duty, he plays and has a great time, turning into a puppy again.  At home, he is on guard.

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When people say they bark, it is not like a heeler or lab.  His bark is deep and bellowing and can be heard blocks away.  Intended to keep predators from flocks of sheep, the bark of a Great Pyrenees is meant to frighten away any dangers before confrontation.  In the city that means that anyone walking a quarter a mile away gets barked at.  He barks nearly all the time.  Loudly.  All.  The.  Time.  Now, that may sound great if you are concerned about security, but your neighbors may not think that is a great way to wake up Sunday morning.  His bark doesn’t change much.  Could be a burglar, could be a neighborhood cat.

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He sheds.  No, no…he sheds!  The interior of my car was black when I bought it.  I will bring dog hair with me on my clothes, find it in my coffee at the coffee shop, the couch is plastered in it, the floors have tumbleweeds of dog fur flying about every time the furnace kicks in.

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He did snap at a child that he didn’t know who took food from him.  That is any dog.  With Maryjane, he is the gentlest, sweetest, most attentive companion and I do not worry about her playing outside by herself with him by her side.  Even at the dog park, children will hang off of him.  He does live up to his Gentle Giant status.

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When we take walks, he pulls Doug.  If we are walking with someone who has their dog off leash, he pulls.  I was nervous the other day to take him by myself around the lake.  He has a different mindset with just me.  If Doug is not there, he feels his entire job is to watch after me.  The leash stayed slack, he kept looking up to me.  My beautiful, great leader.  He has a beautiful spirit.  He is playful, and adorable, and a great companion.  I love my loud, shedding polar bear.

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He loves the ladies at the bank!

He matches his breed.  There are so many huskies, heelers, and other beautiful dogs in shelters because they are amazingly cute puppies but someone didn’t take the time to understand their innate breed traits.  Gandalf is a lot to handle, but I don’t regret adopting him.  He is part of our family.  He spends most of his day outdoors by choice, but right now he is happily snoring on the couch.

The Motley Crew of Pumpkin Hollow

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I need this sign!

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Gandalf is over a hundred pounds now at seven months old.  He is adorable.  His crazy brother, Merlin is eight months old and thinks he is a jaguar.  Or a dog.  That boy is a little special.  Each morning my husband emails me from work and asks, “How are you and zoo?”

DSC_6169My three old kitties, that we had hand raised almost thirteen years ago, came home after being at the shop for over two years.  Let’s just say they don’t love Merlin.  Gandalf is loud and furry and naughty too.  I didn’t get chicks this year.  I think eight cats, a giant polar bear, and seven chickens will do me just fine for now.  But I tell you what, this zoo makes me laugh. Every. Single. Day.  It’s a motley crew over here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm!

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Brigid and Joyous Imbolc

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And she awakens at the dawn of Imbolc and wanders the country side warming the earth as she goes, for the maiden has been reborn and with her the internal fire of life.  She is Brigid, the Celtic goddess who was so beloved among the people that the Catholic Church made her a saint in order to lead the people into Christianity.  But long before that she was there.  Her cross was the symbol of the directions and the sun wheel.

We place water out to greet her.

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The agricultural calendar is also called the Wheel of the Year and roughly every six weeks there is a holiday, a celebration, an event that corresponds with the natural intricacies of life and nature.  Imbolc is the whisperings of spring.  The first lambs are born.  The days warm slight.  Farmers prepare for spring planting.

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Brigid is the goddess of children and fertility.  The protector of midwives.  The promise of new life.

She is the goddess of creativity.  This time of year is when our hearts awaken and we desire to create something new, or something beautiful, or perhaps just an old fashioned valentine.  She is the maiden in the sacred trinity or maiden-mother-crone.  She is youth and vitality.

She is the goddess of healing waters known as the Lady of the Sacred Flame.  Next time you visit a hot springs think of Brigid and thank her for the healing virtues and warmth of the water.

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She is the goddess of our precious animals and of crops.  Farmers thank her for her blessing.  A bowl of honey or a bit of milk to offer her was left out the eve of Imbolc.  She is the patroness of wealth upon the land and the life she brings to crops and animals and the fire she brings to our souls after a dreary January brings gratitude and hope.

The waters we leave out for her to bless are used in sacred medicines and for healing.  Look for baby animals in your travels being born.  Smile at a child.  Get out a seed catalogue.  Make a beautiful wreath for your door.  Warm yourself in a bath.  Wash away the winter doldrums for spring is on its path.

Today light a red candle and ask for compassion for all things, including yourself.  Feel the life flame within yourself come alive.

Trusting Intuition and Plant Medicines

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My kitten was very sick.  Five months ago I picked Merlin and his brother up at the feed mill where they had been found the eve before.  They were not even a day old yet and their mother was gone.  Merlin survived on dropper-fulls of milk delivered every two hours.  He spent his first six weeks, first in my bra, then in my apron top.  He went everywhere with us because of his feedings.  He is a feisty, furry, sweet little boy and I naturally have a very strong attachment to him.

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Last week I noticed that when he ran (which he seems to always be doing) streams of diarrhea were following him.  It wouldn’t stop.  He also has chronic allergies.  I had cancelled his appointment to get neutered at the “in-and-out-neuter clinic because they wouldn’t listen to me that they would have to be alert to his breathing.

I haven’t been to a vet in over a decade.  Same with the doctor.  I make my own medicines with 100% success and my full faith is in these plants.  If they don’t need to be spayed/neutered or humanely euthanized at the end of life, I don’t take them.  I know as well as I know my name what herbs do what.  I had been faithfully giving Merlin the antibiotic and the super immunity allergy medicine and these keep his sniffles in check.  He had two days worth of tummy trouble medicine that I make specifically for cats (chamomile, mint, mullein, lemon balm).  But fear makes us doubt.  It makes us panic.  And I made an appointment with the vet.

Doug recalled his trip with Merlin and as I read the line by line charges I realized the vet is no different than it was twenty years ago when I was a vet tech.  God love them but most vets (and doctors) are trained on a script, a pharmaceutical drug, and a bill.  She did a fecal sample.  I knew he didn’t have parasites because he had already taken my anti-parasite.  He didn’t but she de-wormed him anyway.  With a chemical.  That made him so bad that night that diarrhea was flying everywhere in large puddles as he screamed and literally climbed the walls.  Then they sold him some “special” food (I cannot believe after all this time they are still pushing that Science Diet stuff as healthy).  Tried to push vaccinations on him (even though he was clearly not feeling well).  Over a hundred dollars later we had a diagnoses.  Diarrhea.

I was furious that my Merlin was worse.  I was furious that I had not trusted my instincts, my intuition, my plants.  The next day, his third day of tummy medicine that I make, he was a hundred percent well.  One more dose and we would have had it.

How many times did I panic when the kids were little (before I was an herbalist) and rush Andy to the emergency room for pink eye (in 2 hours it is better with my recipe), or Shyanne with a headache (feverfew and willow), or Emily with seborrhea dermatitis (she was allergic to her earrings)?

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In our household and with thousands of clients over the years and students’ medicines made and the people they help and so forth, I have seen plants heal everything.  I beseech you to learn herbal medicines for your homestead.  I have saved my own flock of chickens, helped relieve pain in goats, de-wormed sheep, healed cats, saved dogs, and kept our family healthy and well.  The plants were made for this!

They are burying one of my son’s friends this week.  Oxycodone.

I have classes, I have an online store and shop, others across the world have the same.  Seek out wisdom in library books, with teachers, or if you have no desire to turn your basement into a full apothecary, find a real herbalist.  Not a health food store.  A working, breathing, passionate herbalist.

http://whitewolfherbs.com

Maybe 2018 is the year we all go back to the plants.

(By the way, Merlin is doing great!)

 

 

A Girl and her Farmdog

 

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“It’s easier,” we assured ourselves, committed not to get another dog.  Cats are really a lot easier.  We can run off to Taos and leave them some big bowls of food and water and they don’t mind a bit.  Cats don’t typically eat the couch or leave horse-like piles in the backyard.  “No, we don’t need a dog,” we said again.

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I suppose it began with a one page article in Sunset Magazine some months ago where a blond photographer and her wolf hybrid traveled the country together capturing the perfect shot.  I miss my wolf.  And a dog to travel around with me would be so fun.  I haven’t really opened my heart to a dog since Navajo.

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image_1511665275681Then there was the adorable lab at one of the fairs we did.  Then the movie, A Dog’s Purpose.  Kinda knew that would do me in.  Then I cried when my granddog went home after two weeks at my house.  My other granddog is my logo for my company and he is just too fluffy and cute for words.  I wanted a big floofy dog.

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And into our lives entered a ginormous ball of fur.  Gandalf talks like a husky, is huge and fluffy like a wolf, protective already, and at three months old is already forty pounds.  I am in love.  So is Doug.  The cats…well, not so much.  The kitten loves him though!

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If you are considering a farm dog or a city dog, it may be the perfect holiday gift for yourself and for the little soul that you bring home.  If you have extra love to give, there is a pup out there who would be so grateful.

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The New Farmdog

20170924_071821On Mabon, the eve of equinox, I smudged the house with oils and Doug carved on a candle a few things we wanted to manifest.  “Dog” was one of them.

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The next morning my friend, Alli, sent me a picture by text message of a litter of puppies.  Her husband was fixing equipment on a ranch and the pure-bred puppies were only fifty-dollars.  He could bring one home for me.  I looked up at the sky and said, “Dang, that was fast!”

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He ended up bringing one home for Alli and for one of their other friends as well.  Eight week old Heelers are pretty dang cute.

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We named him Arthur to match Merlin, our ten week old kitten.  Those two are running around this place like little bats out of hell until they fall into one of their many naps.  It’s pretty cute around here.

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Well, here he is folks, meet Arthur.

Compassion For Even the Smallest

 

tinyTiny Timothina had a bad day.  When we returned from our show last night we thought she was dead.  The other chicks were running over her.  Her wing and one leg were stretched out.  “Mama, I think we lost the runt,” Doug said sadly.  We saw her move though and there was life and hope.

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She was smaller than the other chicks and just wasn’t thriving.  We put her in her own small box with mini bowls of food and water and turned the light on her.  The next morning she was still alive though still laying on her side.  I put her in my shirt and rocked her as I had my coffee and checked emails.

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When we came home from our show tonight she was laying in her water dish and not well.  I held her again until she died.

That happens, it is hit or miss with chicks.  They are hatched then shipped all over the nation within twenty-four hours and sometimes for no reason we find that the chick (or grown chicken) has died of Sudden Chickie Death Syndrome (we made that up, don’t google it).

Each and every animal that comes through our farms is precious to us.  A live spirit.  A soul that came from the same universal energy source we did.  Their life is important.  Many an experienced farmer might just throw the chick away or put them in another box and walk away.  But we have brought many a chick back from the brink of death.  Ginger was practically decapitated when we found her, various chicks brought back by sitting on my lap watching television lived long lives.

So, do not give up hope on your weakened animals.  They may die, but you can hold them as their spirit is released.  We send love to each and every creature we have the honor of being around.  And this returns to us.

Life with Squirrels

 

squirrelWe have never been known to have underfed animals, and that goes for wildlife too.  Where most folks purchase squirrel proof feeders and shoo them away, we set out welcome signs.  We have a long history with squirrels.

It started with me as a child and teenager at the park feeding them and talking with them.  I didn’t think it strange, I still believed everyone spoke to animals.  Our first home we had together in Parker had a lot of squirrels, one particular was named Pierre, and he had a large bowl that we kept on the table in the back yard filled with bird seed and squirrel food.  The birds could still get to it and we didn’t have to mess with feeders.  One time we heard him yelling so we looked out our window.  There he was with his empty bowl.  He caught sight of us, showed us the empty bowl, then threw it on the ground.  Yes, squirrels are not much better than toddlers, I am afraid.

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We moved to Elbert county, and to our surprise found that there were hardly any squirrels!  We had one that visited us on the porch in the mornings as we had our coffee when we lived in Elizabeth.  His name was Pedro.  When we moved to Kiowa, there were even less!  We were delighted when we noted the squirrel nest in the tree near the road.  Unfortunately one baby fell out of the nest.  I carried him in my shirt tending to him, trying to bring him back to health.  But, I fear he had too much internal damage.  As I gently held him on my lap swinging in the back yard he had a seizure, scared me so that I tossed him.  I felt so bad, I held him close to me again crying as he passed into the next world.

You may have noticed we are not particularly scared of rabies.  Rabies is one of those rampant fears that is actually quite rare in reality.  No one seems to be scared of dogs and cats or people.  They could all be carriers!

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A few months back Shyanne brought to the shop a squirrel that she had rescued from the street.  We didn’t think he would live the night.  His held was tilted to one side and he made slow circles when he tried to walk.  We thought it was spinal, but began to believe it was neurological.  Every day without fail, the squirrel allowed Shyanne to give him his medicine.  We make very good animal medicines, and he received his twice daily doses of Arthritis and Anti-Parasite.  He took to us rather well, particularly Shyanne.  She could be seen out on her smoke break in the back with a squirrel playing at her feet.  Every day he wandered further and further, she would just call him and he came prancing back to her, gaining strength each day.

Soon he was well and we knew it was time to release him as he looked at us as captors instead of friends.  Shyanne drove him to a nearby state park and released him.  She sat on a rock watching as he climbed a tree, came back to her, climbed a tree, fell out, climbed a tree, looked at her with thanks, and was gone.  Through tears she made her way back to her car.

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Healing animals is one of our favorite aspects of our work.  We are glad that we did not raise our children to fear animals.  We adore these creatures that share the earth with us and they have made our lives so much lovelier, even the wild ones.

On our new homestead here, there are two rather fat squirrels that have been working very hard, despite the black birds, to build a nest in a hole in the tree outside our kitchen window.  We leave them bits of toast and greet them.  Perhaps we will have some young ones scampering around the yard and house.  I better get a bigger bowl.

The Littlest Farmgirl Strikes Again (and choosing backyard chickens)

How does a nearly four year old remember life on a farm so vividly two years ago?

“We need to get goats,” she says casually.

“We can’t have goats here,” I replied, “but guess what we are getting?”

“A cow?”

“Uh, no.”

“How will we get milk?” she exclaims!

“We are getting sheep though.” she continues.

“Uh, we can’t have sheep here.”

She sighed as if mustering patience for me.  “But I love sheep!” she exclaims again.

“We are getting chickens!” I said brightly.

She told me all about chickens and how we get their eggs and take care of the chicks and feed them.  The sunny opening of the soon-to-be shed beckons and I can nearly see the ladies pecking the ground in the sunlight, rolling in the dirt, and having their lively conversations.  Today we go to the feed store and reserve our chicks.  Two of our favorite breeds were our originals, Golden Buffs and Jersey Giants.  Neither breed is very interested in flying the coop and they are dang near cuddly.  They are also great layers.

Trying to appease the child I said, “Well, I think we can have ducks…”

“Oh good!  We’ll get a little swimming pool for them again..” Maryjane told me how we will care for them and did some quacking for good measure.  My goodness, what a memory.

Once a Farmgirl, always a Farmgirl.