Saturday, February 27, 2010


I am currently sitting in Panera's, a coffee shop, enjoying something I often take for granted. Electricity. It has been over 48hrs since I lost power at my house. Wow, winter is totally kicking my ass right now. It could be purely a coincidence, but every since the Canadian Women hockey team took gold against the Americans on Thursday and then the Canadian Men took gold on Sunday, mother nature has been pretty vengeful.

I went into New York City on Thursday for class and to see Deputy Secretary of the UDSA Kathleen Merigan give a talk on the Know your Farmer Know your Food program they are promoting. I usually regard any government initiative to help the little guy with a heavy dose of skepticism, but It was very interesting and I would take a look at the website. On my way home on Metro North they made an announcement that there was a tree on the tracks and we would be there for an undetermined amount of time. I jokingly said aloud (to anyone who was listening) that there was enough people on the train that we could lift it off. No takers. Then after 5 or so minutes I was informed the tree was down past Garrison station. I was saved! But this was just the beginning of the Snowpocalypse (Apparently, that it was this mess was coined by one the workers at Glynwood)

Getting home was a bit of nail bitter. One of the roads I take was completely blocked by a tree, I got stuck trying to turn around in a unploughed driveway, then had to drive up a steep, slick hill using my tiny two-wheel drive car. The visibility was poor and the roads were bad. The traffic light was out and it presented an ominous warning of what was to come. At home, I couldn't get into my driveway. I had to shovel and sand my way in. The lights were out at home and my husband was away in Texas until Friday. I went to bed hoping Friday would be better.

Friday rolls around and I call work at 7 am to see how they were doing and if I should risk trying to drive there. But Cale told me the farm had been hit really hard. Trees were down on the road, they ran out of hay, the tractor had a flat tire, one of the trucks wasn't working. Truly a cluster f---.

I begged my neighbors to let me boil some hot water, for coffee, at their place because they have a propane stove. I then spent the morning shoveling the driveway and trying to park my car out of the path of the plow. In the afternoon, the roads looked a bit better so I went in search of coffee and place to sit and read. I went to one coffee shop in Coldspring that was outright rude to me. She basically told me the place was closing soon (only 2:30pm) and that I couldn't free load because I had no electricity. Wow. Guess where I am never going again. Everything else in the town was closed. Even driving 20 minutes to Fishkill was a big fat waste of time. The Starbucks and Panera were closed, and the roads were starting to get bad again.

Back home I went, to sit in the dark with my dog. I risked watching a movie on my laptop knowing full well I would drain the battery. I didn't even make it half way through before it died. Fortunately, my husband called to tell me that he could come home Friday after all. They originally told him his flight was canceled, but then he got on a later flight. At 11pm, I spent 20 minutes trying to get the car out of the driveway. The French expletives were flying as fast as the mud from my spinning tires. By some miracle I made it out.

To make matters worse, my poor dear husband was sick all night. He got food poisoning in Texas. He ate sushi. Shoulda stuck with the BBQ.

Saturday, we were still without power. By 5 pm I was getting really stir crazy. I made some soup on our heater (thank god we heat with oil!) and then we went to Fishkill to Golds Gym to use the showers. I am really hoping we get some electricity soon. But 150 000 people in the Hudson Valley Area are without power. This could take a while. In the mean time, we are using our heater to melt snow (to flush the toilets) and to warm soup or water for tea. Like the saying goes, necessity breeds invention. Or something like that.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow, Snow, go away, come again another year.

Tuesday I left work around noon because it was starting to snow hard. Yesterday I couldn't even get out of my driveway because of the heavy wet snow. And today it is snowing again. Because I didn't work yesterday, I wanted to go in today to at least do morning chores. I was feeling very much like a slacker. Plus, I missed the piggies, cows and goats. (Sorry chickens, it's nothing personal, but you are just not that cute or that bright. But you do have delicious eggs!)

We brought another sow into a farrowing pen. Not because we thought she was due this week but because she was getting beat up by Peter the boar. She had more than love bites, she had gashes from him. Plus, she was too skinny. We suspected that she wasn't getting her fair share of the corn (being muscled out by Peter and the other sows). When we put her in the pen she was clearly ravenous, and started eating the bedding we put down for her.

The pigglets from both sows were doing great. The new bunch are adorable with their little pink and black spots. The older group and very playful and daring. I will put my hand in the pen and they run away and then slowly come creeping towards me and start sniffing my glove with their tiny snouts.

Lady the goat is doing great. She is fed three times a day and always finishes the half bottle we give her. We are starting to let her out with the other goats (when they are calm, after the feeding frenzy.) She follows us around like a shadow. I guess we have all imprinted on her now. We want her to socialize with the goats so she remembers that she is a goat. The twins boys are active and full of life and play king of the castle on the salt like. One boy gets up and the other than tries to knock him off so he can be on top.

In the past three weeks I have left early 4 or 5 times because of the snow. And while I don't mind getting out of rose bush duty every once in a while, I know they are under that snow waiting for me. And I would much rather clear them when its cold out so I can have four layers between me and their pricks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I won a bet, with myself

Last Wednesday we moved another sow into a farrowing pen and by Friday I was convinced she would farrow shortly. With my limited experience of three weeks behind me, I am hardly qualified to be the pig whisperer. But she was salivating heavily on Friday, her tits were pretty much dragging on the ground and she was following my every move. I took these to be signs of her becoming territorial, which pigs will do when they are about ready to give birth. By Monday morning she still had not farrowed. I said to one of the the follow workers " I bet you on Tuesday she will have her piglets." Sure enough, this morning when we went to feed her and the other sow she already had four piglets. And was still hard at work. In total she had five, but one of them died.

I was feeling pretty good about winning the bet with myself. Sure, predicting when she would farrow could be considered beginners luck. But let's not burst my bubble just yet, OK?

After morning chores we drove to check on the maple trees to see if we collected any sap. The sugar maple trees were tapped yesterday afternoon. It was a gray day and snow blanketed the ground and it was beautiful sight to see the fat and thin maples with the hanging buckets. Sugaring off always brings back lots of great childhood memories. The buckets were filled about two to three inches each with sap. As I dumped the buckets into the collecting container, visions of bacon, pancakes, scrambled eggs boiled in maple syrup and taffy on snow danced in my head.

Nicole, one of the fellow interns, noticed the the metal taps were stamped with a made in Canada sign. Damn right! We, are the kings of maple syrup. As much as Vermont tries to steal that title. Quebec is the number one producer in the world. I consider maple syrup to be as integral to my identity as poutine and hockey.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Little goat and the horse tranquilizer

Yesterday ended on a bit of a low note. The male kid, that was injured the other day, still wasn't able to walk or stand on his own. In the afternoon he still hadn't improved and was clearly suffering. His little goat whimpers tugged at the heart strings. The farm manager decided that it was time to put him down, for his own sake. The goat was given a horse tranquilizer. We hoped that he might pass away from the drug, or at least he would be heavily sedated. I volunteered to go with Cale to shoot the goat if he wasn't already dead. When we went to check on him he was still breathing. So we took him outside in the box and Cale loaded the 22. I stood next to him and we both looked away as he shot down at the goat. We brought the goat to the dump and placed him in the woods (circle of life thing, again). While it is never pleasant to put an animal down, it really was the best thing for him. It is inhumane to let anyone suffer.

On a somewhat brighter note, I took revenge on some Amazonian looking poison ivy vines today. I had no idea that poison ivy vines can get up to 3 inches thick. Brian (fellow intern) and I took machetes and loppers (bad ass clippers) and went to town on those vines. For the non-sugar maple trees we just severed the vines at the bottom of the trunk, but for sugar maple trees we tried our best to remove most of the vines. We are planning to tap the sugar maple trees (which is very exciting, being Canadian and all, I am made up of 10% maple syrup) so the nasty bastards had to go.

We finished our Friday down at the local watering hole, Whistling Willies, in Cold Spring. For $2.50 a draft beer and some good conversation, it most certainly was Happy Hour. Even though I really do not like beer, for some reason, working hard makes beer taste better.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lady and the mischievious pigs

I know, I know, it's a never ending diatribe about goats. But there is so much to talk about. I found out that our baby girl goat has been named Lady. She continues to spend her nights indoors but we put her in the barn with the goats during the day. Her mom is still hostile towards her so they are in separate pens. Unfortunately her brother, who was very active this weekend can no longer stand up. We think he was injured by one of the goats jumping into the pen. It is really heartbreaking to watch him crawl/drag himself to his mom so he can feed. But because he cannot stand up he sort of just whimpers a bit. I have picked him up twice today and held him so he could feed off his mom. Not only is this an awkward job holding this thing in my hand up to the tit, but I also have to dodge droppings, chase after the mother when she decides to move every two minutes, and endure the horrid stench of corn-induced goat farts. We are feeding Lady every 3 hours (using 1 part powdered sheep milk to two parts warm water) at the same time one of us is holding up the little guy to his mom. Definitely not ideal.

Lady with her goat Snuggie

We have two types of pigs on the farm, Oldspots and Tamworths. We keep the Oldspots near the chickens and the Tamworths near the cows and goats. I much prefer the Oldspots because they are much friendlier and most of them are still under 1 years old. Whenever I go in their pen the little ones try to chew on my rubber boots. But they love to be pet and scratched. These guys are playful, and unlike the 700 hundred pound Tamworth named Peter who makes me crap my pants every time I go into feed him, these guys I am not afraid of. Their playfulness though can sometimes get expensive. For instance, in the past three weeks they have managed to tear out the heating element in their watering trough, for the second time. These things cost $50 bucks a pop.

In order to deter the pigs from destroying the new heating element, we decided to outsmart them. Using two by fours and screws, we anchored down the trough. We will see how long this lasts...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Corn is like crack to goats

Our goats go crazy for dried whole kernels of corn. We have been slowly adding corn to their diets to give them a nutrition boost (for all the preggo mamas). But as soon as they see us put down the troughs (even before we put any corn in them) they start pushing, shoving, mehhhhing loudly, and it almost sounds like some of them are crying. On Saturday, when I tried to feed the two mother goats in their kidding pens the ram stuck his head in the bucket of corn and started eating. He was stubborn, and a tad bit scary with his man horns, and there was no way I was going to fight him over some corn kernels. Sometimes, the goats will even jump into the pens with the moms and start eating their corn. I cannot wait for the corn feeding to end.

Baby goat update
So the first set of twins are running around with the big goats now (this morning I found them curled up together near the fence). The second set of twins are doing much better. They have little blue goat blankets on them (think, goat Snuggies) to keep them warm (very, very cute. Will upload pics tomorrow). When we placed the boy goat in with his mom he wasted no time finding the milk source. But the girl wouldn't even try. And now, the mother is rejecting her. When we put her in the pen the mother was getting violent with her. This sometimes happens when they are washed or do not spend enough time in the first few days with the mother. So, she is pretty much going to be a bottle baby, aka, our little pet.

Other than that, its been a quiet day on the farm. We filled meat orders for customers in the morning. I was practically drooling as I loaded cardboard boxes full of smoked ham hocks, breakfast sausage, ground pork, pork chops, bacon, and spareribs. All from Glynwoods heritage pigs. Yum!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Balls, Cannibals, and Enemas

Goat Update
The twin goats born yesterday were not doing so well this morning. Their body temperature was in the low 90s. The farm manager gave the goats a bath to bring up their body temperature, tube fed them, and gave them soapy water enemas to clear out the backed up poopie. As I mentioned yesterday, if they don't excrete the jelly shit, it makes it really hard for them to metabolize any nutrients. He also said he wanted to avoid tube feeding at all costs because the chances of them regurgitating (and inhaling the vomit) is pretty high. He would have given them a shot of glucose and other nutrients, but we were not stocked up yet, to get the nutrients directly in the blood stream. That way they get instant energy to keep warm.

After the bath, he put the goats in a cardboard box with a hair dryer to warm them and help increase their body temperature.We monitored the little goats through out the day and took their temperature (rectally) and it was up to 100F. But they were still not digesting the milk given to them. We tried another round of soapy water enemas, and the poop was freely flowing, and put them back in the box. In the afternoon, we brought the goats back up to the barn to be with their mothers.

Fact: Kids (aka baby goats) sound almost like human babies when they cry.

The male kid latched on to his mother with no problems, but the female (who was the runt of the liter) was barely able to stand. I held her and felt for her mamas tit and tried to put it in the kids mouth. She would not take, and it was awkward trying to hold her, open her mouth, and shove the tit in their. When we checked their temperature an hour later it had dropped again to 90s so we needed to put them inside the box for the night if they had any chance of surviving. I hope the little girl makes it.

Piglet update

For any squeamish man out there reading this, it's about to graphic. Today we emasculated two piglets. First, we knew that we would have to get the piglets, and ourselves, as far away from the sow as possible. The moment she hears her babies screaming, she is going to be pissed. We seperated out the males, and grabbed one by the legs. It immediately started squealing. The mama was snorting and grunting and you could tell she was not happy. We moved far away as we could and shut the gate between us, her, and her pen. One of the interns held all four legs and exposed the sac area while another farm worker took a paper towel covered in iodine and wiped the area. With a sharp scalpel he mad an incision on one sac and popped the nut out and cut the attachments. He repeated the same thing for the other nut. It was quick, with little blood, and aside from the high pitch squealing was not so bad to watch. Although, I don't know if I have the guts to do it myself. I couldn't cut my dogs nails as a puppy because she screamed so loudly.

Apparently two rabbits gave birth yesterday after I left. I was not aware of this when I feeding and giving them water. I looked into one cage and found a half eaten baby rabbit. I then looked into her kit and found two other little rabbits (they look like mice or rats when they are born) and it wasn't moving. I wasn't sure if I should take them out of not because I didn't know when she had them, so I thought maybe they are still alive. When I checked on her later, the baby rabbits hadn't moved and looked still pretty dead. It was a little eerie seeing these tiny creatures that look nothing like rabbits just lying their dead, or worse, half eaten. They definitely don't look as cute as baby goats or pigs.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Seeing Double

Today was very exciting. After a day of rest, due to a big snowstorm, I was eager to get to work. Me and another intern, who also stayed home yesterday, apparently had missed the birth of twin goats. Eager to see the new crew we volunteered to feed the pigs and cows while the other two interns fed the chickens and rabbits.

When we went over to her pen, I saw these two tiny black and white goats, huddled with their mama (good thing we put together those kidding pens last week.) I fed her some hay. A little while later I went back to check on her and she had buried her babies under the hay and they were bleating. So we uncovered them and they walked away wagging their little tails like dogs.

As we fed the other goats and cows we heard one goat mehhhhhing loudly. Someone yelled out that she was giving birth, so I ran over. She was sitting on her side with her legs out, and you could see two little hoofs poking out. After a half and hour she hadn't made any more progress, so the farm manager came over and gently worked the kids head out, and she finished up the rest. This slick creature came out and the farm manager brushed away the guck from his face to help him breathe easier. The mama goat and her kid were placed in one of the pens and she immediately started cleaning him. In between yawns that is. The farm manager said that he thinks she might also be carrying twins. Sure enough, 10 minutes later another one came out. This time much quicker. This tiny one was a girl.

So, now we have two sets of twins! So adorable.

We were told to monitor them to make sure they were up and walking, and feeding within an hour. Since the temperature is in the 30s and they only have so much brown fat, their body temperature can drop too low if they don't start feeding. Also, we were told to look out for the dark brown jelly shit. The first shit that comes out. If that doesn't come out pretty soon, the kid gets blocked up and can't absorb much energy. Then we would have to do a soap

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

5 reasons I love my job

1) Every day I get to be around pigs, goats, sheep, cows and chickens. All I have to do is feed them, and they are happy. Sometimes they let me pet them. But mostly they run away from me. Now thats power! How many of your coworkers run away when you walk in the room?

2) My "office" is the outdoors. And I have a million dollar office view.

3) No one cares if I wear the same clothes everyday, and I get compliments on my sexy steel toe rubber boots.

4) Two words: Power Tools. Nuff said.

5) Free work out. I don't need to go to the gym anymore. Although I fear I may end up with a disproportionately large right bicep.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Satan's bush

Thursday and Friday we tackled the very unpleasant job of cutting and clearing the invasive multi flora rose species from one of the fields. These little bastards have a wide variety of pricks. Tiny pricks, big pricks, and in between pricks. Some would just stick to your hat, jacket, and pants as you tried to pile them, others pierced right through your two to three layer protective gear to cut your legs and hands. I decided rosebushes should be renamed Satan's bush because they are so cruel and prolific.

We did have the baby cows to keep up company. They were out in the field licking the piles of thorny brush. Crazy cows. Here I am cursing the brush and they are licking it like a lollipop. Then again, if you have ever been licked by a cow, its like taking a 50 grit sand paper to your hand, so it probably feels really good to them. I kept hoping they would help pick up some of the branches and stack them for us, but they are a bunch of freeloading slackers.

Interesting fact: cows gestate for the same length as humans, and pigs for aprox 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days.

Baby Watch
Good news. The surviving 6 piglets were still alive and well. They were all running around and for the most part getting out of their mothers way. One little piggy was stepped on and squealed a bit, but seemed relatively unharmed. They have a little escape route under the wooden fence to a straw bed warmed by a heat lamp.

Speaking of baby watch, I thought that I spotted one of the goats giving birth. I alerted the guys and they put her in one of our freshly built kidding pens. Turns out that she was not giving birth, but had a prolapse vagina. Most likely due to her carrying twins or triplets. The pressure is so great that it pushes her uterus out. Apparently that is pretty rare for goats. Or at least none of the guys had witnessed that before. The goats are not due until April, so we are going to have monitor to her pretty carefully.

Friday was Tanjore day. Whenever someone leaves Glynwood or on special occasions the staff go out to eat at Tanjore, the Indian restaurant in Fishkill. Well, I guess we must have impressed them with our awesomeness, or they had a hankering for some buffet, we all went to eat lunch. We were warned that after eating lunch there, we would be rendered incapacitated for the rest of the afternoon. Their prediction rang true. Two plates of Indian food later, our hour lunch turned into two hour lunch. We fed the animals and called it a day.

I Heart Tanjore day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A cruel lesson from Mother Nature

It was a gray morning laid with fresh snow that gave a peaceful feel to the farm. I went to feed the sow and in the dark I made out some shapes on the ground that looked like sweet potatoes (don't judge my comparison). I immediately realized that those shapes were piglets. But a lot of them were not moving. I ran to tell the other interns and livestock hands about the piglets. We inspected the litter and 6 piglets were moving around, 7 piglets were dead, and one piglets breathing was shallow. One of the guys picked him up and handed him to me to hold. He was so tiny and looked like he was barely alive. The mother had rolled over her piglets and killed them. Unfortunately, this happens more often then one would think. We took the dead piglets and placed them in a bucket.

It may sound heartless, but we threw the dead piglets into the woods to feed the wildlife (coyotes and what not). The whole circle of life thing. The logic was if we gave them food every now and then, they would leave the live animals alone.

We are gearing up for baby season on the farm. The farrowing sow is just the beginning. We spent the afternoon building lamb and kidding pens in the barn. I have a whole new appreciation for zip ties. We essentially built pens using zip ties, clips and metal fencing.

I was anxious to check on the pigs before I left, and the little guys were all mobile and walking around. If there is one lesson those little guys will need to learn quickly is to get out of big mamas way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Whats for supper? the Easter Bunny.

Rabbits are shit machines. Walking into the room where these little fury creatures are housed in their cages, you can't help but think these things live for shitting. That, and one other important thing, doing IT. In case you didn't know, rabbit poop looks like rehydrated raisins.

The rabbits are being raised for meat. I asserted rather naively that it must be hard to kill the rabbits (because their so cute), to which the livestock guy responded "oh no, it is really not hard. You just put its paws in a strap, break its neck, and drain the blood. And, the skin pulls off really easily."

Um, OK. Can't say I am psyched to partake in snapping the Easter bunnies neck. But if I close my eyes and imagine the taste of the stewed meat, I might be persuaded otherwise.

In the afternoon, we rounded up the goats and sheep and recorded their id tags, and some cases if they were missing one, we had to issue another one. The id tag machine works very similar to getting your ear pierced, the goats didn't seem to mind it, they just don't really like you holding their head, or touching them.

The day ended with another cleaning out of the chicken pen, scraping out all the bedding, throwing down some lime as a disinfectant and then fresh straw bedding. I learned that there are three type of chickens, Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, and Araucanas.

Anxious to sample the chickens goodies, I took home a couple of eggs and scrambled them for supper. Breakfast for supper is totally the way to go. I may be biased, but they were the creamiest and best tasting scrambled eggs I have ever made.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Holy Crap. Literally.

At the early hour of 6:10 am, my faithful alarm clock went off. I put on my thermal underwear; a pair of hiking pants that saw me through tomato picking 5 years ago, a hoodie and my wool socks, and headed downstairs for the coffee pot. After three cups of coffee, I was ready to start the first day of my farmer training.

For the next five days, us interns will be following two other workers around and learning the animal chores. We started at the pig barn. We were warned that the four hundred pound pigs are not very nice. And that we should basically get in and get out as quick as we can. " Do not get knocked down, or they will eat you." One of the livestock guys said, half jokingly.

After the pigs, we met the chickens. Some were laying hens, and some were meat chickens. Each intern grabbed a 50lb sac of corn feed and gracefully, or not so gracefully in my case (note to self, must get stronger) hoisted it on to our shoulder. As I dumped this awkward heavy load into their feeders, stray chickens would peck at my leg.

After feeding them we collected eggs. We noticed a dead, stiff chicken on the ground. One of the guys picked it up and threw it in the back of the truck. He said he wasn't sure what happened to him. We also noticed one the chickens looked rather lame, his toes were all twisted and his beak was messed and crooked. He might end up on the chopping block tomorrow. It's not fair to leave them that way because he will be picked on, or rather pecked on, by the other chickens. Chickens hate weaklings.

After lunch, we were initiated or hazed, if you will. We were tasked with the mission of cleaning out one of the chicken stalls. The cobwebs and dust on the ceiling, the shit caked to the wall, and straw bedding on the floor and nest matted with feces and urine, all had to go. With our handy dandy face masks, we started sweeping, shoveling, scraping excrement off of everything. The smell is 10 times worse than a men's urinal in a Greyhound Bus station.

At one point, one of the roosters got out and flew over the fence. We had to go and retrieve him. I was given a long stick with a hook at the end and was supposed to hook his foot. Roosters are fast. We kept chasing him around and at one point I almost hooked his foot, but he slipped away. Slippery little coq. Eventually we cornered him and just picked him up.

It was a good day.

As I drove home I flipped to the country station. And for some reason, I felt like having a beer.