Sunday, May 22, 2011

Down on the Farm

The cottontails, robins, squirrels, and other backyard creatures I've spied since returning to Newton have added pleasure to my days. It's been especially nice to open the windows and hear birdsong while I work. But I still miss my toy poodle, Cosmo, who died almost ten months ago, and I yearn for closer contact with animals. I'm not ready to commit to another pet, but I knew where I could find a barnyard full of animals—Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Drumlin Farm is a wildlife sanctuary as well as a real working farm run by the Massachusetts Audobon Society. I remembered it well from the days when E. and I brought our children there to marvel at the animals, but it had been years since we'd visited. I wondered whether he and I would be the only adults unaccompanied by youngsters. I needn't have worried. There were lots of other adults enjoying the spring day, walking on the nature trails, and delighting in the antics of the farm critters. Lots of kids, too, both of the goat and human variety, which only added to the fun.

Thanks to Cosmo, I've become much more attuned to animals and the value of their lives. I recently read Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. His description of modern factory farming of animals filled me with horror and shame, so much so that I'm now eating mostly vegetarian. Occasionally, I make an exception for wild fish, pastured chicken, or grass-fed beef. I'm not totally opposed to eating meat, but I believe that animals should have a life worth living before their ultimate death. Happily, at Drumlin Farm they live that kind of life. (Note: All of the photos below can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Before we reached the actual farm complex, we visited "Bird Hill," home to injured birds given sanctuary by Drumlin Farm. Among them were a barred owl, a broad-winged hawk, a turkey vulture, and this pheasant, who seemed content enough, though I felt sad to see it confined to a cage, albeit a roomy outdoor one.

As we were leaving Bird Hill, we encountered a volunteer holding an American kestrel, which is a small falcon. This bird had not been injured but had been rescued as a baby and had imprinted to humans so could not be released into the wild. The handler assured me that it has enough space in its large cage across the road to experience some of the thrill of flight, though nothing like its wild cousins enjoy.

On to the farm! I found the chickens enchanting—curious, lively, playful. At Drumlin Farm, they have a pleasant outdoor enclosure which abuts a well-maintained indoor space. They can go back and forth at will. This healthy rooster did his rooster thing, strutting his stuff for everyone to see.

Our next stop was the pig area. The pig family was knee-deep in mud, the mother rooting away. Every time the piglets tried to nose in and join her, she shoved them away with her snout, which elicited high-pitched squeals. To my untrained eye, at least, it looked like pig heaven.

The sheep were nearby, doing what sheep do, eating grass and baaing. The one pictured is a natural-colored member of the Romney breed (I'll resist any political jokes). I like its black face, how neatly delineated it appears from the sheep's thick fleece.

The goats and sheep live in close proximity and share a big shed. In fact, you can see a sheep among the goats at the back of the group photographed below. I love how the kid clumsily climbs on the mature goat's back. And she doesn't seem to mind. She may or may not be its mother—a few moments earlier, the same kid was standing on the sheep's back!

There was lots more to see—cows, the resident pony, a vernal pool, an indoor-outdoor area housing rescued red foxes, opossums, and New England cottontails, and even an exhibit about bats, featuring hand-made bat houses. All in all, a great day down on the farm.

I can't resist posting the following YouTube video, taken by another visitor to Drumlin Farm, which captures the sheep noisily demanding their feeding. (To see the video in its correct aspect ratio, link to Who knew sheep could make such a racket? If you can't take the noise, skip to about the three-minute mark and you can watch the sheep react when their food finally arrives.

1 comment:

  1. Rhode Island Reds are the kind of chickens we raise...for eggs. They are free-range and we visit the back of the grocery store to pick up all the lettuce and greens they love. They are fed wheat, oats & rice, and never ever get any food with soy or other hormones in it. They get lots of bugs & slugs. We love our little egg makers. They are so happy wandering around through the fields singing and clucking.