Monday, August 20, 2012

Week two and three at Farm Sanctuary

As I approach three weeks at Farm Sanctuary I am settling myself into a routine, despite a few changes that have occurred.

The biggest change that Tanya and I are adapting to is Ceci, the other intern, leaving.

Ceci was a good person and it is unfortunate we only got to work with her for a little over a week. As far as living goes it is not bad at all. We now both have our own room. 

But since she has left the workload has increased.

For the remainder of August I will be working the same shift for five days out of the week. The shift begins at eight and ends at five from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday and Monday are my two days off. The work that I do in a day involves cleaning waters, cleaning in and around all of the barns, extra tasks around the shelter and assisting caregivers when needed.

View from my porch

Waters means to clean out the water buckets for all of the animals. You start at the front of the farm and make your way to the back and your tools are a bucket, a small brush, a medium brush and a tupperware container.

There are a few different types of waters. One is called an auto-water. It is a small looking sink that is attached to a pipe and it fills up water as it is displaced from the animals drinking it. There are actual water buckets and for the larger animals there are massive tubs. For all three types you do the same thing, scrub any slime or algae off the container, rinse it and fill it up again.

In order to clean the large tubs you have to take most of the water out with your bucket and it involves a lot of bending over and by the end of the week your back hurts! The cow water located in their back pasture is the most fun. It is about the size of a hot tub and you clean it out with a pool skimmer. It is too large to empty out every day, so a full clean is done once a week.

Escaping doing waters without at least your feet being soaked is next to impossible.

We start the cleaning from the back cow pasture to the front of the farm. All of the barns get picked every day. Picking involves cleaning out the areas where the straw is soiled. Once the spots are picked you refill the space with a white powder called PDZ, that masks the smell and then you lay down straw.

There are designated days that each barn will get totalled. Totalling means to completely clear out the barn of all the straw, and refilling it with new straw. Depending on the size of the barn and whether the animals choose to cooperate this will take over an hour. Within this hour there is not much you do other than rake garbage bins full of soiled straw, lug the full bins to the tractor and lift it up to dump it into the bed of the tractor. Repeat this until it the barn is empty.

There is a list of tasks that are done on a daily basis, but there are also tasks that are specific to each day of the week and here it will specify if a barn is to be totalled. Other specific tasks include scrubbing the pig food troughs, clearing out the cow’s food troughs, collecting eggs in the courtyard and shredding hay - we will get to the burden of shredding hay a bit later.

From the cows, you move onto the horses, then on to the main cow and pig barns. From here you clean all of the barns that are part of the main birds including, Piper and Hazel’s barn, Jethro and Leopold’s barn and the Southern Belles.

After the birds you move onto the main sheep and goats and then the skinny goats. There are four goats that are "skinny goats" because they are under their average weight. These guys get fed special soft food, a bit of a protein to bulk up and shredded hay because the hay right from the bale is too hard for them to chew with their bad teeth.

Shredding hay. It may be too difficult to describe the awfulness behind this task. You grab a full bale of hay and toss it into a shredder. Sounds not too bad, eh? The shredder they have is probably the cheapest one that can be purchased. Since I have been here two have broke already. It takes about an hour to fill a big bucket, which takes about a half a bale of hay. The shredded hay blows everywhere. It is goes in your eyes, under your clothes...everywhere. But it has to be done, and it is easier for the goats to eat.

Such is my life five days out of the week. 

My home until September 30

Typically, there are extra tasks to be done when the daily tasks are completed. Some tasks include cleaning the litter boxes of the shelter cats, sweeping and mopping the floor in the office and volunteer room and doing laundry.

Since Ceci has been gone, these get done sporadically. In an average day, there are two cleaners to complete the daily tasks. Tanya and I are designated to help the only paid cleaning person, Ryan. Each of us get two days off a week and our days off are different so that there are at least two people in a day cleaning. There is only one day out of the week where three of us are working and it is a lovely day.

Needless to say, come August 31 when two more interns arrive Tanya, Ryan and I will be more than excited! Two extra sets of hands. Beautiful.

I am happy to say we have about one week and half until then and it feels great. It is not only great, that it is so close, but that we have been able to work as hard as we have up until this point.

The work I am doing here is the hardest labour I have done in my life. It may not be for someone else, but certainly is for me. For about 6 and half hours I am either lifting bins, lifting bales of hay, lifting water tubs/full water buckets and sweeping concrete (which is harder physically than I thought). This is also taking place in the heat of about 35 - 40+ degrees and there is very rarely clouds or a breeze. By the end of the day, after a shower and eating, sitting around is the greatest thing and by the end of a five day week my muscles are exhausted.

Every Tuesday our Intern Coordinator takes us at 3:30 p.m. to go get groceries, the first two weeks we were taken to Trader Joes, which is a really cool grocery store chain in the United States. Most of their products are their own brand and they are natural or organic.

Last week we went to a Whole Foods and it felt really comfortable. I often times think of Whole Foods as just a job and I can say that I do not miss working - who really would? But I do miss the place and all the people there. Being at that Whole Foods made me feel at home, as weird as it may sound. Plus the Whole Foods in the United States blow the Canadian ones out of the water and I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Every Wednesday we have an intern lunch. At 12:30 p.m. we enjoy a delicious lunch cooked by Karen, our intern coordinator and then we have a presentation. The past three lunches we have had were burritos, nachos and kale salad all accompanied with a bunch of fruit! Our presentations have been the History of Farm Sanctuary, Veganism 101 and the third was a presentation by Dr. Melanie Joy called “Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows,” that we watched on Youtube.

I have attached the video above because I really enjoyed it. It is about the psychology behind how we perceive different animals from a dog or cat, to a pig or cow. The video is mainly Melanie presenting her theories, but at one point she shows a video that is difficult to watch. She warns the audience before she plays it so you have plenty of time to turn the volume down and look away, but you should not let this small part of the presentation detour you from the presentation as a whole, because her theories are very interesting whether you agree or not. 

My backyard
I still miss home tons and I know that will never change because of the huge amount of love there.

However, I am more settled this week than last. The experiences I was hoping to have with animals I am beginning to develop. My mind is filled with less anxiety and therefore concentrating on things that I wanted to think about and reflect on.

A lot of what has opened my mind is the discovery of Krishna Consciousness. I stumbled upon this when I donated money to a monk at Warped Tour this year and he gave me a book. The book is called Bhagavad-Gita written by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I have only been able to partially dent the book, but so far I would have to say that it is not bad.

I have done more research on this movement, and I have also taken to listening to a podcast from a Krishna devotee every morning. The podcasts range from topics including; Life without strife, Looking beyond your circumstances, Treating everyone with respect and Keeping the proper perspective. 

They believe that we are the souls that inhabit our physical bodies and our bodies are nothing more than the machine that will allow us experience life and strengthen our souls. The book says we have a choice to either fuel our souls or fuel our material senses and physical body, water and food is obviously the exception. This is because when our life is over we do not take our physical body or materials with us, but we do take our soul. It is stated that the way you fuel your soul is by loving, respecting and serving all living things, no matter who they are - a human, an animal and the earth. That spoke to me because I already felt a pull towards those principles and this reassessed that.

I know many would disagree, for various reasons. Some of you may identify to another religion or no religion at all and some just have a different belief. And I am not claiming that this is correct, but I am saying that a lot of the ideals involved with this movement, in my opinion, are very relatable and can be practically applied to life. I cannot say I will devote my life to Krishna Consciousness, but I will continue to keep an open mind to the topics that this book discusses and apply it to my life and perspective as I see fit.

I am going to end this blog with a fantastic quote I stumbled upon on a yoga website:
“We should not avoid or deny our life and health challenges, but only accept and courageously move through and forward, and the flower of our full appreciation and devotion to life will bloom.”

Thank you much for reading! I will likely update within a week's time!

Much love, 

Things I have done:
  • Biked from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and back
  • Played poker with a bunch of strangers (not with real money)
  • Had an incredibly awkward conversation with a 40 year old man from Palmdale, CA
  • Got pecked by a chicken, rooster and turkey
  • Cleaned pigs ears
  • Held a chicken
  • Sun screened pigs ears
  • Rubbed a lot of pigs bellies
  • Cleaned out a barn
  • Brushed cow's hair
  • Finished Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Made a list of 101 Things to do in 1001 days - my deadline is Sunday May 3, 2015
  • Drove a big truck around the farm
  • Fed a goat medicine mixed with molasses
  • Sprayed turkey’s with water to cool them off
  • Hosed off pigs to cool them off
  • Sprayed water into pigs mouthes
  • Watched Breakfast at Tiffanys
  • Walked a turkey to his pen
  • Had my first sentimental moment with a sheep
  • Lifted a weight on my own I have never been able to lift
  • Skyped with Cat and Theresa, Pavel, Jessie, Mom, Dad, Allison, Julie, Oliver, Nico, Grandma, Uncle Frank and Auntie Carla

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