Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Unexpected Farm Visit

For the past few weeks I've been working in the field doing plant surveys.  The surveys have all been on private property in an agricultural area.  This means I've been chatting it up with farmers as I get permission to get on their land.  In general, the farmers have all been elderly gentlemen, who are raising beef cows, and lots of hay.   And, as I'm sure Joe, who has been my primary field partner for this project, can confirm, I'm a little nervous around herds of large animals.   Don't get me wrong, I like to see a field of large herbivores as much as the next guy, but walking among them is a whole other thing.  Especially when there are bulls.  I've heard too many stories about mean bulls to feel like introducing myself to any I come across while working.  

So, after days of having to put on a brave face and boldly enter cow territory, it was such a nice break to meet a lady farmer who had animals more my size.  The first thing she told us was that she had new baby pigs, and new baby goats.  Please, please may I see them?   She was nice enough to give us a full tour of her pot bellied pig operation.  A half dozen pigs may not seem like an operation to most, but I thought it was perfect.  The babies were kitten sized, and I had to hold myself back from asking to hold one.  I wasn't sure if asking to hold someones pig was crossing the line with someone you just met.  

When she gave permission for us to survey her back fields she warned us there were cows, and a potentially mean Jersey bull.  Other than the Jersey bull, she said the rest were spoiled and liked to eat white bread.  She said they would do anything for white bread.  I almost told her we would be right back after I went to the store for some cow bait, but we had work to do. 

On our hike to the back forty, Joe coached me on how to run around a tree should the Jersey bull come after us.  For some reason he didn't think trying to climb a tree was going to be my best option.  Something about low center of gravity and unreliable arm strength.  This was not helping me feel better about cows in general.  Then, we saw the herd in the distance.  "What's on their heads!?"  Giant horns, that's what.  These were highland cattle, and they were impressive! 

We steered clear of the Jersey bull, but we couldn't resist these big shaggy dinosaurs.  The white one in the photo above is a bull, and he didn't even try to skewer us.    

On our way back we met a skittish white mule and two very friendly donkeys.  

Adorable, smaller than me, with no skewers on their heads, fuzzy donkeys.

Donkeys may be my new favorite animal. 

One of my long time favorites is goats.  Not only did this farm have a momma goat with two new born babies, but there were two big baby goats who were being trained as pack animals.

The older babies followed us like puppies through the fields, munching on the tops of clover and other weeds.  When we would get very far ahead of them and they thought we were gone they would cry loudly until we waved our arms to get their attention.  Then they would bound through the tall grass toward us.  I felt just like Heidi. 

The momma goat thought my clip board was tasty, and enjoyed a fun game of pushing with Joe.  He started it by putting his hand on her forehead and pushing against her while she pushed toward him.   I'm pretty sure he lost since he ran from the goat stall yelling "stop it!".   She didn't know when the game was over, and now I know that's why you don't push on a goats forehead.   It's all fun and games until someone gets rammed in the knee. 

We were told the horses in the next field were friendly.  I know from experience that this means they are not going to respect my personal space, are going to crowd around me vying for attention, and generally make me nervous when their hot breath is on the back of my neck while I'm trying to work.  They did all those things, but they were well behaved and it was great fun to have horse companions. 

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