Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Zachary and Dexter: A Video Post

Zachary wearing his little blue coat


I’m usually all about pictures, but this is going to be a post predominantly featuring video!

Though technically one of the videos is actually made with stills.

A friend of Ryan’s, Jason, has come down from NJ to visit the sanctuary a few times in the past few months, and is completely in love with it. As we all are. He took tons of pictures with his camera phone, and when he got home, he put them together with some music. I find this to be extremely powerful. He intersperses a few pictures from animal agriculture – not the graphic stuff, but sad stuff nonetheless. The juxtaposition between the sad-reality for most animals, and the rescued animals at the sanctuary as well as the crowds of people who are clearly filled with joy at spending time with the animals really makes it all hit home for me.

The next video is of the cutest little baby goat! Zachary was rescued on New Year’s Eve. Some people had bought him to use as a NYE sacrifice. Their plans were to slit his throat. It is hard to even think about, let alone comprehend. Their plan was foiled by Zachary himself. He cried, loudly, and since baby goat cries sound remarkably like human baby cries, the neighbors called the authorities to investigate. When they found Zachary, they were able to confiscate him because “livestock is not allowed in the city”. The law would allow the killing of Zachary, but not the keeping of him. This is sad, but true, but it also shows that even pretty low-bar laws can be used to save lives.

That video is of Zachary just a few days after he’d come to the sanctuary. Terry brought him down to be near us by the chicken yard, and he happily munched on grass in the sunshine, wearing his adorable little blue coat.

Even one week later, he was turning into a bit of a rascal! (i.e., being a completely normal baby.)

I took a bunch of video snippets, trying to capture his baby cry at the request of a friend. I put the snippets together using iMovie. I’m not very handy with video, obviously, but I think Zachary’s antics overcome my video skills!

And finally, some very short footage of Dexter feeling full of himself! I missed most of the action, actually, where he was pestering Gloria and Sal, and they were having none of it, kicking him and tossing their heads.

Knowing what all of these residents went through before they came to the sanctuary, to see them acting so normal (hijinks and all) is a beautiful thing.


Hello 2013

Snowy morning at the sanctuary

Snowy morning at the sanctuary

WordPress sent their annual “year in review” link recently. In 2012 I had 24 posts, and 12,000 views. I went back to look at last year. Last year was 21 posts and 15,000 views! Clearly I’m posting too often. 😀

I’m not really one for new year resolutions or year-in-review retrospectives, but seeing the numbers does get me thinking. Also, reading Mary’s blog gets me thinking – more on that in a minute.

I’ve never had a very specific purpose for this blog. I started it when someone I was friends with at the time said something along the lines of: you should start a blog about activism, with pictures.

And so I did. Slowly, inconsistently, but generally somewhere along those lines. I know she had in her head something maybe more photojournalistic. And perhaps that’s sometimes what I do. It has evolved to be mostly about the sanctuary, which makes sense, because that’s mostly what I do as far as activism goes. That’s where most of my pictures are taken, and that’s where I find most of my inspiration.

Geese in the snow

Geese in the snow

So my activism has essentially become that of sanctuary photography. I’m happy with that. I actually love that. And maybe there is more I could do with that. Perhaps I’ll explore that more this year.

And that brings me to Mary’s post! I read it just as I was struggling with starting this post, and I immediately bought “Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard” to read on my Kindle. I had a couple hours to kill while I waited for word from the mechanic on my poor old truck (final verdict: it will live), and so I started reading it immediately, and was energized and motivated and excited.

I’m only 65% through it, but based on what I’ve gotten from it so far I’d highly recommend it.

But start with Mary’s post.

Darcy, Tally, Gloria and Sal heading out into the snowy day

Darcy, Tally, Gloria and Sal heading out into the snowy day

I have a lot of things pinging through my head, most of them about how important support is. How overwhelming it can seem when you want to start out, but aren’t sure where (or how) to start. I think a lot about biking, perhaps because I found transitioning to vegan easy, but struggle a lot more with biking. (I bike commute about 6,000 miles/year — 26 miles / workday — but am still as likely to drive the 2 miles to the grocery store as bike there.)

Biking was, and sometimes is, hard. I love it, but it is sometimes intimidating for me. When I bike to new areas, I tend to research a lot. I use google maps to get a start on the best route. I will alter the route to take me along already-known paths/roads first. I use the street view to have an idea of what to expect en route as well as at the destination. I’ll email locations to find out ahead of time if they have bike parking, or ask friends on twitter or Facebook if I know they’ve been there.

Biking is a lot easier for other people than it is for me, or that’s what it has seemed like to me. I know a lot of people who describe their switch from driving to biking as if it was simply a fun thing to do. And there is some truth to that: biking IS fun. I enjoy it so much more than being in the car. It’s just that I have to think so much more about it.

I’ve explained to many of my coworkers when they say “you rode in THIS weather?” that aside from certain limits that I’ve set (more than 5″ of snow, or wind gusts greater than 60mph) I bike every day. I don’t give myself any other option, because if I allow myself excuses one day, I will find excuses every day.

This is me. I know myself well enough for this, at least. What I have learned in “Switch” is that by setting very specific rules (ride every day that there are less than 5″ of snow on the roads and the winds are gusting at less than 60mph) I made bike commuting both my habit and part of my identity, and those are both extremely powerful forces.

But going vegan was easy for me. Sure, there were some challenges, but for whatever reason there were never challenges that stumped me, or that made me backslide. I was lucky enough to have support (online), which definitely made things easier. Some insight from “Switch” is that perhaps one reason I found it easy to go vegan is that shortly after I went vegan I realized that many of my favorite vegetarian meals were already vegan. Or easily made vegan. Being partway to a goal makes us more likely to accomplish that goal. (This is why Mary mentioned in her post that she will point out to people everything they already eat that is vegan.)

Bernard, Caryle, Charlotte and the herd in the snow

Bernard, Caryle, Charlotte and the herd in the snow

So when I go into vegan advocacy mode, I very often think about biking. Going vegan isn’t easy for everyone, and I know from my experiences with biking, and from my experiences reading what others say about it, that if you are struggling, reading someone else talking about how fun it is just isn’t always helpful. “Just hop on the bike and ride! Don’t think about it!” Except that I have to think about it, or I’ll end up at work with no breakfast or lunch and no decent place to get food. I have to figure out not just what to bring (and how much), but how to bring it. I have to bring my work clothes because a hour-long hilly bike ride requires (in my opinion) different clothes than business-casual-desk-job clothes, and I have to bring tools and tubes in case of a flat. Biking, for me, requires strategy.

On the other hand, reading about how rewarding it is, despite the challenges, is helpful for me. Reading about how other people tackle these challenges is motivating.

Jonathan and Dexter, greeting in the snow

Jonathan and Dexter, greeting in the snow

I had a very miserable ride home from work last week. Even as I rode, I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t that miserable. And maybe it wasn’t. There was a certain element of satisfaction that comes from battling the elements, but after about 40 minutes I was just tired and cold and drenched and pretty much miserable. My entire focus was on how much longer I’d have to be on the bike, outside in that crappy weather.

And even as I acknowledged this, I was thinking about how I’d answer the inevitable question at work the next day: “how was your ride home?”

And how I would spin it. Because being the only bike commuter means I’m representing bike commuting, always, every day. It’s a lot like being vegan, it’s just more visible.

Finally, I decided that there was no point in being anything but honest.

“That was a miserable ride,” I admitted to myself.

And once I admitted that, the very next thought – unprompted, unscripted, and absolutely honest – was, “and it was still better than driving.”

That’s my truth.

And maybe that’s the truth when we’re sitting at the most vegan-unfriendly team lunch nibbling on a pathetic salad with our stomach growling, and miserable both because wilted lettuce with shredded carrots isn’t going to cut it and also because a “team” lunch that ignores the need of some of the team members is a slap in the face: those are miserable experiences, but they are still better than not sticking to our ethics.

After all, we can bring snacks with us to the restaurant. (You can bring an entire meal into the restaurant if you want.) We can eat before or after. We can survive being hungry until we get home. It isn’t ideal, but miserable team lunches aren’t the every day reality of being vegan. Being vegan doesn’t mean deprivation and hunger. Though it does sometimes mean incredibly crappy team lunches.

Most of my bike commutes are great. I ride through a short but beautiful wooded section. I see turtles and snakes (not during the winter, granted), and deer and turkeys and foxes. I get a huge boost of endorphins, and a huge release of stress. Biking is an overwhelmingly positive thing in my life. But sometimes I have a miserable commute.

And that’s okay. I think that’s the point. It isn’t always fun, it isn’t always easy. But it’s still worth it. And usually it is fun, and once it’s our habit it is usually easy too.

Pigs, waiting for treats

Waiting for treats…

Thanksgiving With the Turkeys, 2012

Early morning frost

It was a great day for a giant vegan potluck at the sanctuary. I knew it would be when the weather forecast on the local weather blog included the imperative, “get outside on Saturday!”

The morning started out chilly – the blades of grass and the tables that had been set up by PCRM on Thursday had a thin layer of frost. But it was sunny and there was no wind, and it was going to get into the mid 50’s. It’s hard to get much better than that in mid-November!

Malcolm and Ben

After animal chores, we worked on covering the tables. The lack of wind is a big help for this task! Once all the tables were covered, some of us headed into the kitchen to get the food ready for the turkeys and chickens. Lettuce, tofu, grapes, bananas, apples and melons were all cut into the appropriate size for chickens and turkeys. Some bread was crumbled, and cans of corn were opened.

It’s fun to get the turkeys’ tables ready, despite how slimy cut up bananas can make you! There are always a few chickens who come over to get a head start. This year it was a few of The Nine, which was especially cute because it is their first thanksgiving at the sanctuary!

Cindy previewing the tables

People start showing up at about noon, which gives them about an hour to wander around before Terry gives the talk about honoring the turkeys at 1, after which people can start going through the potluck line. I worked the chicken yard, as usual, and got to talk to some friends who came by to say hello.

One of the roosters, Russell, is approaching senior status and hasn’t been getting along with the other two roosters in his area, so we’d been rotating them in and out so that they’d all have outside time, but without conflict. He was on indoor time at that point, but I thought he might be okay with being held for a little while. Sure enough, he was content to be held and I was able to let quite a few people pet him. One of my friends was there with her three kids, and one of the kids is named Russell. They were pretty tickled to meet each other!

Someone nearby asked me about the feet of chickens, and here’s where it was really handy to have dinosaur-mad little boys around! They were able to explain the feet of chickens much better than I would have, and everyone was charmed.

A few minutes before Terry starts her talk, those of us working the chicken area do our best to encourage the turkeys to go up front and center. This is generally accomlished with bribes! This year we brought the tables that we prepared for the turkeys and chickens into the chicken yard before Terry’s talk so they’d stick around. Of course there was the somewhat typical and comical bird drama, with the guineas chasing everyone away from the food, and then three or four of us doing our best to herd the guineas inside so everyone else would have a chance to eat!

Hugo, the “challenging” turkey, even had his chance to come out and be admired. And for a few minutes he and Victor were even coexisting peacefully while Hugo was entranced by the treats on the tables. That only lasted a few minutes, and then Carole had to bring Hugo back inside, where he had his own table that he shared with the bunnies. Someday I am sure Hugo will calm down a bit. For now, we rotate them to avoid conflict.

The feast for the turkeys and chickens. Hugo is eating at the table, and Victor is displaying at the edge of the picture.

After Terry’s talk we were mobbed again with people wanting to meet the chickens. I went up to the house to get Harrison. Bringing him down to the chicken yard was a very slow process, because I had to stop every few feet for more people to meet and pet him. He was his usual wonderful self during the event, capturing hearts left and right. There was one little girl who asked to hold him every few minutes. She was very good about giving him up as soon as someone else wanted to hold him, I just had to keep an eye on her, because she’d wander off with him! She wasn’t the only one who did that. It was kind of funny, though it freaked me out at the time.

The new silkie hen, Audrey, who is still sporting yellow and green paint from being spraypainted before she was rescued, did really well. She’s a sweetheart, but she’s only been at the sanctuary a couple of weeks, and no one really knew how she’d do. She was unphased by the attention. She prefers to perch on people’s arms rather than being held, but she was very happy to let everyone pet her.

One of the best things about having a rooster like Harrison, who falls asleep in people’s arms and complains if he is on the ground because he wants to be held, is that so many people just never imagined that roosters could be so sweet. Many have never held a chicken before, or even imagined it. Many have never touched a bird of any kind. You can see the impact on them as they get to touch and hold Harrison or one of the other chickens who doesn’t mind being held.

And then invariably there are questions about whether all chickens like to be held, and we can point to all the hens and roosters running about in the yard doing their chicken things, and absolutely not wanting to be picked up. I think it is important for people to see that, and to understand that it is really up to the chickens themselves, and that they have their own distinct personalities and preferences. Our primary focus is on the animals – their safety, well-being, and happiness – but for those who do like being held, or don’t mind it in limited doses, we take advantage of that. No one can do outreach like the animals themselves can. And that outreach is critical – most animals aren’t lucky enough to be rescued by a sanctuary and the best way to help them is to reach people’s hearts, and thus minds, and encourage them to avoid participating in animal exploitation.

There are a lot of myths out there about chickens. That they are dumb is one of the dumbest. Chickens have cognition at the level of primates. They have many different calls, and they distinguish in their warning calls the size and general type (land versus air) of predator.

I had several questions from people who were surprised to see that there were multiple roosters in the yard together, coexisting (mostly!) peacefully, which exposed another myth. I was also able to point out to some visitors when Julius was calling his girls over to show them the great food he’d found (the entire tableful of food!). I showed them that he was picking up food and dropping it to make sure his girls saw it. Of course they were chowing down and were pretty much ignoring him, but he was doing his best to be a gentleman anyway.

Julius, Gretchen and Amber

I shocked one person by explaining to them that chickens are tropical birds, that they are native to the jungles of asia. Their jaw dropped. I’m not sure what people think about, or if they ever do think about the fact that chickens are native wild birds somewhere. I think that many people don’t think beyond KFC or the packages they see of bird parts in the supermarket. Or maybe even the footage from the farms and slaughterhouses – the graphic footage exposes cruelty, but it doesn’t do anything to confront the wrong-headed idea that chickens are just automatons, that they are just generic flesh and blood machines.

That way of thinking gets embedded in people’s minds without them even realizing it, and until or unless that thinking is challenged, they’ll continue to think that what what they see in the undercover footage, or what they see in the stores is all that chickens are. But if you take the time to watch the chickens, you’ll see so much wild bird behavior in them. You’ll see them keeping an eye out for arial predators (they will track airplanes flying in the sky), perch in trees (the girls rescued from a fighting cock breeding ring especially), hunt for bugs and seeds in the grass, go through courting rituals, dust-bathe, sun-bathe, and negotiate an ever-changing social structure. It took me a while of coming to the sanctuary to really “see” these birds for the amazing creatures that they are, but of all the animals at the sanctuary they are the most fascinating. I can watch them for hours and be captivated the whole time.

As has become pretty common, there were people from a couple news sources there. One photographer was a woman from the Washington Post, and I recognized her from previous years. Her photos are online, and really tell a wonderful story about the day. The associated article, on the other hand, was pretty stupid and borderline malicious, so don’t read it unless you are in the mood to be angry.

Wash Post photographer meeting Alina

At 3pm people gathered up the pumpkins that had decorated the tables and some of the bigger ones on the ground, and headed to the pig yard to feed the pigs some pumpkins. Everyone loves this, and apparently people were standing in line to get to the fence to throw their pumpkins! There were so many pumpkins thrown into the pig yard that hours later, after the event was over and the sun had set and all the tables and chairs had been collected and hauled onto the trailer, the pigs were STILL out there munching on pumpkins!

Of course the event is always fun on a personal level too. The energy of a 900 person vegan potluck is pretty intense! And I have friends who come from various places – Harrisonburg, Philly, Baltimore – who I don’t get to see very often, plus all the local people who I don’t see very often, so it ends up feeling like a reunion of sorts.

I was more neglectful of taking during-event pictures than normal, so I don’t have much to show in pictures for what was a really fantastic day, but I felt like it was one of the best thanksgiving events we’ve had. Everything seemed to go so smoothly – from the animal chores to covering the tables to the event itself – and everyone who stopped by the chicken yard seemed to be cheerful and relaxed. Even the little kids, who sometimes get upset when they have to give a chicken they’re holding to the next person waiting or who have to wait while we find a “little chicken” who is ameniable to being held, were really calm and understanding about sharing and waiting. I think I recognized most of the kids from previous events – maybe it was just a sign of them being experienced with how things go in the chicken yard!

As always after events, I vow to take more pictures next time. I’m so glad that the Washington Post photographer was there, and that such great pictures got into their online gallery. So many of her pictures are of moments I kicked myself for not getting after the event was over!

sunset at the sanctuary

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Open House 2012

My view of the pig barn across the duck pond as I left after the Open House

I think that all of us involved in the sanctuary‘s Open House spent last week anxiously watching the weather reports for Sunday. It seemed that every day the forecast was more grim – colder, wetter, and all around worse for an outdoor no-rain-date event that is also the biggest fundraiser of the year.

Cold front moving in, bringing clouds…

By the time Saturday came – gorgeous, warm, blue skies and sunny (at least part of the time!) – it was clear that Sunday was going to be 25 degrees colder, and that there was no chance of a dry day. Terry and Dave had rented an extra tent to cover where the speaker and audience would be, and for the Silent Auction tables that are usually just outside the Silent Auction tent.

Extra tent. Silent Auction tent off to the left.

We only pulled out about half the usual number of chairs, and we had a good crew to help with the set up after chores on Saturday, so that wasn’t as painful as it usually is!

After set up, I headed into DC to pick up a few hundred pounds of cake from Sticky Fingers.

Cake is heavier than you’d think! 4.5 sheets fits just fine in my little truck.

We still had hope that there wouldn’t be rain during the actual event, or that any rain would be more of a drizzle than a downpour. And that’s exactly what we got. It was cold, and it rained in the morning while we did chores, but a couple hours before the event started the rain dried up, and it stayed dry until after the event, when we were cleaning up.

Charlotte in the early morning drizzle

The sanctuary has been lucky for many years, and though this year’s weather wasn’t perfect, it certainly could have been much much worse.

Initial attendence estimates are that about half the normal number of people came. Terry had expected worse, so even this was somewhat positive news! I haven’t heard even a rough guestimate on how much was raised.

The Silent Auction tent was hopping at the start of the event!

The speaker this year was Karen Davis, of UPC. I was down at chickens, so I didn’t even see her, let alone hear her talk, but from what I heard from visitors to the chicken yard, her talk was really good. Maybe someday we’ll start getting good video of the talks so that we can all enjoy them afterward!

We brought Harrision down from the playhouse to the chicken yard again. And as usual, he had a great time. He was basically held and snuggled for four solid hours, which is his very favorite thing. It was great to give people the opportunity to hold him, especially the people who were really uncertain whether they wanted to hold a chicken. They’d be a bit nervous, sometimes they’d ask if he bites. I would always assure them that he was just going to fall asleep as soon as he was in their arms. And as soon as they held him, they fell in love. And then I’d tell them about the Chickendales calendar in the gift shop!

Harrison sleeping in a little girl’s arms

At one point one of the young volunteers, Max, came up to me asking if I could try to find someone who didn’t mind being held. There were people who really wanted to hold a chicken, and the usual suspects (aside from Harrision) were not interested in being held right then. I put him in charge of supervising Harrison and went looking.

Like Max, I kept striking out, until I thought of the Japanese Silky boys, Jethro and Horatio. They enjoy being held, and while they don’t usually like being picked up it was late enough in the day that they were starting to head toward their stall in the barn. I got Horatio into the barn, and then was able to grab him. I’d have felt bad about tricking him, except that I knew he would enjoy being held for a while.

Liquin and Horatio. He’s a sweetheart! His eyes were half closed as she held him.

People tend to love the Silkies. They look so different, so distinct, and it fascinates people. “Is this his comb? He looks fluffy instead of feathered!” He required a bit more care when transferring him to different people, because his tendency is to be a little restless compared to Harrison, but many people got a chance to hold him, and many more pet him as I held him.

I got some good questions – people wanting to know how you tell a rooster from a hen, and about rooster courtship rituals.

We had a fairly steady crowd – sometime there was a line to hold Harrison, other times there were only a few people down at chickens, but I don’t think there was ever a time when there were no visitors at all.

Shannon (aka VeganBurnout) snuggling Harrison, with her husband smiling at them both.

After the event was the reverse of the day before. Folding up the chairs and tables, hauling the tables to the trailer on the truck, and then to the barn and into the little storage area, putting the chairs into their boxes and loading them onto the truck trailer….and then there was the eating of leftover food, and the half sheet of cake that gets reserved for the volunteers. (Terry knows how to motivate vegans!)

I donated a few things to the silent auction. Some canvases, but I’d also had some glass photo cutting boards made, and some photo iPhone covers, and those seemed to be popular as well. I’d ordered them as an experiment, curious what the quality would be like. Good enough, I guess!

A friend has donated her expired Canvas On Demand groupons to me, and I’ll be using those to print more canvases to be used in future fundraisers for the sanctuary. There are rumors that we might do another silent auction at the Thanksgiving With The Turkeys event, but otherwise they’ll be in the silent auction at next year’s Open House. Thanks Ida!

The calendars were apparently a pretty big hit also. This is the first time in several years that I’ve had them ready in time for the Open House, and it sounds like that was a good thing. October seems early for people to be thinking of the next year’s calendar, but maybe it ends up being the right time.

There is currently a really nice coupon on Lulu for ordering them online – 30% off with coupon code “MEMENTO”. (No quotes, but must be all caps.) That coupon is good through October 15, 2012. There will be other coupons later too, but 30% is generally the best you can get, and I don’t know if I could predict whether there will be another 30% off coupon! But if you miss the October 15th deadline for this coupon, you can always check Lulu’s current specials page to see what coupon is active.

PSAS 2013 Calendar Cover

There are two calendars this year. The regular one, with the stories to go with each resident, and new this year is the Chickendales calendar, which has the names of each rooster, but not the stories.

Chickendales 2013 Cover

You can see the full previews of each calendar on their Lulu page.

New Arrivals: Pygmy Goats and Isaac the Piglet

Jake helping with the calendar

Jake helping with the calendar edits

Between travels and working on the calendars for the sanctuary, I’ve neglected the blog!

The calendars are now done, and a batch has been ordered to get here in time for the Open House, on October 7. It always feels good to get the calendar done – it’s a much bigger project than it seems like it would be! I’ll post a link to where they can be bought online soon.

Almost two weeks ago two new goats arrived at the sanctuary. They are pygmys, which means they are very small – even smaller than you’d imagine! Even knowing ahead of time that they were tiny, I was still surprised when I saw them.

Napoleon and Sebastian

Napoleon (looking at the camera) and Sebastian

Napoleon is full grown, and about the height of a water bucket. He is wary of people, but I think he’ll come around pretty quickly. He seemed more interested-but-wary than freaked out when we peeked into their quarrantine stall last Saturday, and today he was letting Terry touch him to a limited degree. Sebastian is only 6 months old, and he seems to be used to being held already. He certainly didn’t mind all the chin scratches he was getting!

They came from a hoarding case, where the man who had them seemed to be collecting animals. They were malnourished and riddled with internal and external parasites, living in a room with a strange group of animals – cats, dogs, snakes, birds, and even a kinkajou. (I hadn’t even heard of a kinkajou until Terry told the story. They are a mammal from Australia.)

The other recent arrivals from a hoarding case, The Nine, are settled in and doing really well. So far, they have remained a group, and can generally be found with each other. I haven’t made much progress learning their names so far, I only know a few! And four of the Nine are buff girls who look almost identical. I know one is Cindy…she was the friendly one when they first arrived, but now they’re used to people being treat dispensers, so they’re all pretty friendly!

A few of the nine

A few of the nine…Frankie is the one in the middle with the dark fluffy head.

Carole and Ziona, the weekday staff in the chicken yard, will be able to help me learn their names when I see them at the Open House. I’m sure they already can tell the buff girls apart!

After chores were over last Saturday, Terry dragged a fallen tree branch from the parking area to the goat yard so she could throw it over the fence on the far side of the goat yard, into the forest. The leaves on the fallen branch were completely dead, not something she thought the goats would be interested in, but from their reaction you’d think that it was the best treat in the world!

goats and dead leaves

The goats running to get the dead leaves

They started rushing toward the goat yard’s gate as soon as they saw Terry heading there with the branch. Once she had the gate open, she could hardly get through because they were already starting to eat the leaves!

Taking a wild guess, we can only conclude that goats love dried leaves from walnut trees.

goats munching on the dead leaves

The goats munching on the dead leaves

If you follow Poplar Spring on facebook, you probably saw the update this past week about the new piglet, Isaac. He is actually a wild pig, was rescued from the flood waters of Hurricane Isaac, and was cared for by Rescue Ranch. One of the long-term PSAS volunteers happened to be down there helping care for animals impacted by the hurricane, and he facilitated little Isaac’s move to PSAS. He even cancelled his flight home so he could drive Isaac all the way (18 hours!).

When I saw his picture, I thought he looked like a Duroc – three pigs who were rescued a couple years ago are Durocs, and he looks a lot like them. I mentioned it to Terry, and she agreed. She thinks that there were some domestic pigs that were released years back, and Isaac is one of their descendants. So, a wild pig, but a domestic breed.

Isaac is so cute! Very sweet and friendly, rolls over for belly rubs already. He isn’t phased by much of anything. He came down to the chicken yard with us, and he had a great time exploring and rooting. The chickens and turkeys and peacock were very very interested in him, but a bit scared of him too. They’d gather around to watch him, and then scatter with alarm calls when he turned toward them.

I got some video!

Bonds Among Rescued Farm Animals

Rocky is one of the sweetest goats. He came to us when he was found, abandoned, wandering along a highway. He has some kind of disease that will cause him to get arthritis early. It’s possible that he was abandoned on the side of the road for that reason.


He loves attention, and if you scratch his back in just the right spot, he will wag his tail!

Patty and Paige came to us 13 months ago when they were just a few months old. They were found as strays (!) in DC. Here’s a video I found from when they first arrived!

We don’t know their stories prior to being found as strays, but there’s something about the bond that pigs form when they arrive together, they tend to stick together for much of their lives.

Last weekend the mud puddle was pretty healthy, and there were several pigs lounging in it, enjoying themselves. Patty and Paige showed up, and though there was plenty of room for them to have spread out, they chose to lay down right next to each other!

patty and paige in the mud puddle

Patty and Paige

Another group that came together, and have stuck together, are Sprital and his fellow Bantams, Lindy and Mindy. They were rescued after Katrina, found in a yard of a destroyed barn. Most of the animals had died in the storm, but Sprital and a few others were alive. They were brought to Poplar Spring, and they’ve stuck together ever since.

Sprital, Lindy and Mindy

Sprital, Lindy and Mindy

I often wondered if it was because Bantams are a miniature breed, thinking that they had a sort of sub-culture in the chicken society, but Alina – the little bantam hen who loves to be held (unlike the Katrina survivors) – has never really associated with Sprital’s group.

Nine new hens arrived last week from a hoarding situation. The woman who had been keeping them in her backyard ended up in the hospital unable to care for them any longer. They went from a small (and apparently very dirty and ill-kept) enclosure, to the sanctuary’s chicken yard with all that grass and dirt and bugs and other chickens.

One of the nine new hens

One of the nine new hens

It will be interesting to see if these nine tend to stick together!

I’m really glad that the Open House is coming up in a couple months – on October 7th – so I’ll have a chance to ask Carole and Ziona, the weekday staff in the chicken yard, about where the nine new hens end up in the social structure! Hopefully by then I’ll know their names too – that gives me about 6 Saturdays of asking Terry each week!

2012 Farm Tour at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Last weekend was the annual Montgomery County Farm Tour, which the sanctuary participates in. It’s an interesting event, because the people who show up are often there more because the sanctuary is one of several places they are visiting as part of the Farm Tour, as opposed to coming specifically to visit the sanctuary.

visitors at the goat yard at psas farm tour 2012

Visitors at the goat yard

This can make for some awkward questions or comments from the visitors, but it is also fantastic outreach potential. Most of the visitors are families, and kids are a great audience for planting seeds of compassion. Many have likely never considered veganism, or the animals.

Tilly in the foot bath

Tilly in the foot bath

For many of these visitors, they have never had a chance to interact with pigs or cows or chickens or turkeys.

I spent the event in the chicken (and turkey, peacock, guinea, and golden pheasant) yard, as usual. Luckily this year it was less than 100 degrees, so everyone was more comfortable. Most of the chickens who are normally happy to be held, though, weren’t in the mood. And one of the ones we can always count on, Alina, was happy to be held, but was overheating quickly.

I mentioned this to Terry when I saw her while I was getting food on a break, and she suggested we bring Harrison down to the chicken yard. He lives in the “Playhouse” these days, having been ousted as Top Rooster in the main yard, and he was happily hanging out near the picnic tables up the hill from the chicken yard.

But Terry knew he’d be even happier being the poster child for chickens at the chicken yard. He loves being held – he loves it so much that he actually complains when you put him down!


Harrison being held by his biggest fan

It was a fantastic idea. Almost everyone who comes down to the chicken yard wants to hold a chicken, and having someone who loves it as much as Harrison takes all the stress out of it for those of us working the chicken area, and makes it a lot of fun for all of us. Harrison also, magically, was not getting overheated, even though he was held continuously for hours!

I stood outside the fence of the chicken yard, and people pretty much lined up to have their chance to hold him. I’d do the transfer between people so that I could make sure they were comfortable holding him, and that he was settled comfortably in their arms. Also because during transfers from person to person, he’d sometimes flap his wings – just a natural bird thing to do if he was feeling unsteady for whatever reason. He’d settle right back down, but it’s one thing for me to get flapped in the face with his wings and knowing what was going on, versus someone unused to birds…

The two young turkeys, Tilly and Cosette, came out with us too. We brought a footpath out so they could get in and cool down. It was pretty cute to see a small crowd of little kids very gently and very seriously splashing water on their chest and legs to help them cool down.

Cosette in the foot bath

Cosette in the foot bath

One of the things I really enjoy about events is getting a chance to work with the weekday staff. (They have mostly staff during the week, and purely volunteers on the non-event weekend days.) On the regular weekend days, all the volunteers go with Terry from animal area to animal area in a group. On the weekdays, the staff each have their area(s), and so while I end up knowing more about the general population, the staff know more details about the individuals in their areas of responsibility.

There are a lot of chickens whose names I don’t know (and some of them are really hard to tell apart until you spend quite a bit of time working at it), so event days are a great chance for me to pick the brains of the staff. Carole and Ziona know not only the individual names, but they also know all the minute details about the current state of the ever-changing social structure in the chicken yard, and event days mean I spend hours in the chicken yard with them.

Carole answering a young visitor's questions about peacocks

Carole answering a young visitor’s questions about peacocks

Carole was a teacher before she “retired” and began working at the sanctuary. It is easy to see her history as teacher during these events. She is really good at answering the many questions we get.

About 600 people came to this event, and while that doesn’t make it the biggest event, it is probably the event that has the highest percentage of people who have never considered veganism before. The exposure is everywhere – the animals themselves, the vegan hotdogs and vegan hamburgers sold for lunch, the sign at the sink by the goat yard giving information on vegan soaps…much of this exposure is the type that people can take in on their own, and it will be food for thought for them. But when they ask for the stories of the animals, they get another dose of it.

You just can’t tell the stories of these rescued animals without it being a lesson in “why vegan”.

Emma, Amber and Horatio

Left to right: Amber, Emma, and Horatio. Amber and Emma were rescued from a cock-fighting breeding ring in Virginia.

Heat Wave at Poplar Spring

Tilly, cooling off in a foot bath

Tilly, cooling off in a foot bath

The record-setting heat-wave is old news by now, and thankfully the heat has broken on the east coast (the southwest is in for it now). At the front end of the heat wave, we had an unusual-for-the-area derecho storm rip through (June 29), causing millions of people to be without power for days, a few thousand for more than a week. I was one who lost power (friday night – tuesday afternoon), and the sanctuary also lost power (friday night – monday afternoon). Luckily they have a generator so they could run the water pump (essential when you are caring for 200 animals!) and a couple people lent them smaller generators so they could run the fans for all the animals too. So the animals were pretty comfortable (as comfortable as it ever is in the high 90’s and high humidity), and luckily there was no damage from the derecho winds.

This past weekend, when it hit 105 on Saturday, was the tail end of the heat-wave. A few weeks ago they’d set up a hose with the nozzle set on mist, and aimed at the mud puddle in the pig yard as a “cooling station” for the pigs. It was very popular, as you might imagine!

Cooling station in the pig yard at psas

Cooling Station

When I walked by on Saturday, I was happy to see that Harley was one of the pigs in the cooling station. He’s one of the younger pigs, and definitely low in the pecking order, so if another pig had wanted his spot, he’d have moved.

Harley at the cooling station


Dave was walking by too, and as I stopped to take pictures of Harley and the other pigs, he aimed the spray right at Harley’s head.

It was amazing. Harley, whose ears usually are covering his eyes, put his ears back and just leaned into the spray with a look of bliss.

Harley blissing at the cooling station


As we were picking up in the pig yard, some people arrived with a new goose resident, Duchess. She followed them as they came to visit in the pig yard, but she seemed a bit confused as to where she actually wanted to be. After she came rushing in the pig yard through the gate, she then tried to get out again through the fence. She was getting agitated, so I picked her up and carried her across the pig yard toward the duck pond.

Duchess on the duck pond at psas

Duchess on the duck pond at psas

Terry held the gate for me, and we brought Duchess down to the pond and stayed with her while she got in and swam around a bit. As she cooled down and calmed down, Roxanne, the youngest pig, joined us, having escaped out the gate we’d opened to bring Duchess through.

I got some apples from the barn and tried to bribe her back through, but she wasn’t too interested. Forget cooling stations and creeks, here was a pond!

She wandered around the perimeter a bit before walking in. She was so cute, sticking her whole head in the water at times, blowing bubbles, and rooting on the bottom of the pond. Talk about bliss!

Roxanne in the duck pond at psas

Roxanne in the duck pond at psas

I took some video, and was convinced to put the entire almost-8 minutes on vimeo.

Roxanne in the duck pond

A reporter showed up while we were doing the cow pies – he had contacted Terry to set up an interview so he could do an article on the animals and the heat. Roxanne had come back to the pig yard by then, so he missed seeing that cuteness in person, but Dave and Terry had me show him some of the pictures I took of her in there. He was interested in using a pic and linking to the video for his article, so I sent him a few that evening. He ended up using the one of Harley blissing out with the spray of water. It ran online in the Washington Post on Sunday, and in the print version on Monday!

So out of the blue, I got a picture published in the paper!

The hot days in summer are when the animals are the most lethargic (and I include humans – we definitely move slower on these hot days), so they’re often pretty dry in terms of photo ops. It just happened that we’d had a couple super cute photo ops that day – we couldn’t have done better if we’d planned and schemed to get photo ops for the article!

Our favorite quote from the article:

As I watched Terry round up Tilly the turkey and deposit her feet into the bath, it occurred to me that Terry was one of those people who made it impossible to measure yourself against: You can never be so good.

Terry is probably embarrassed that we keep quoting that one sentence, but it’s the truth for both Terry and Dave, so we’ll keep quoting it!

roxanne in the duck pond at psas


Lillian and Lance

About a month ago, two chicks came to Poplar Spring from completely different situations. Lillian (the little red hen) was rescued from a hatching project, Lance (the little white rooster) from a reptile show. They’re both cute as anything.

And they’re growing fast! Lillian was 3 weeks when she came to the sanctuary, so last weekend she was 6 weeks old, and Lance is 2 weeks younger than she is. She’s already almost fully feathered!

They’re still babies, though, peeping away. They spend their nights in the “infirmary”, and when I went to bring them outside, they were perched on top of their enclosure! Guess they can fly a bit already.

It was so much fun last week to just sit and watch them explore their world. Lance decided to take a dust bath…except he was in the grass! We’ll call it practice.

When a plane flew overhead (the sanctuary is on the flight path to Dulles), Lillian watched it, perhaps wondering if it was some kind of bird.

They even gave an alarm call after following a bee around and then realizing that it wasn’t a good thing for them to be interested in. I was taking a video at the time, but I can’t really pick out the alarm call even when I go back and listen very carefully. Dave is the one who heard it – he’s a lot better at understanding their different calls than I am!

See if you can hear it:

When I posted this on my FB page, Mary commented:

It’s so great to see them acting the way they’re supposed to act, in the grass, under the sun. And not in danger.

That’s it exactly. It’s why I always am thanking Terry and Dave for letting me come out and pick up poop!

Another friend, who played a part in Lillian’s rescue, was describing their visit to drop Lillian off, and had a very similar sentiment:

My sister was the one who came out with me, she’s a new vegan and was so touched by all the beautiful creatures. We spent a while with Lance and Lillian before leaving, just enjoying seeing them in their new, safe home and thinking about the wonderful lives they will live. I even got to hold Harrison the rooster and my sister just kept on petting him, it was a very spiritual experience for us – I think only fellow animals lovers can understand that.

This is a big part of why sanctuaries are so important — important for the animals who are being rescued, but also important because they then have a chance to play a part in reaching people’s hearts and minds. They can motivate people to make positive changes in their life (which helps other animals), or they might help motivate people to stay vegan. They remind people of what, exactly, is at stake. For those of us who are involved in activism and thus never forget (in often wrenching detail) what is at stake, sanctuaries are a place of peace, of hope, and essentially a sanctuary for us as much as the animals themselves.

Veganism isn’t abstract. It’s as personal as it gets.

WVBS – Falls Church, 2012

Last weekend I helped out at the local vegan bake sale that Gary puts on every year. It was my fourth year helping out as the event photographer, which is of course my favorite way to help out!

I am much more comfortable taking pictures of animals than people, but this event (as well as some of my fellow volunteers at the sanctuary) help me get more comfortable with the people pictures. And the kids eating the treats are my favorite pictures at these events. It helps that most kids are unselfconscious when it comes to pictures being taken of them!

This year shortly before the event was over, a man stopped by. The event is busiest in the first half, while the neighboring farmers market is in progress, but it was very slow when he stopped by, which was perfect because he had a lot of questions.

He started by asking generic questions about how you replace eggs in baking, but it was clear very quickly that he wasn’t your typical bake sale attendee! He works for a catering company that supplies lunches to some of the area schools, and of the however-many kids he provides lunches for, he has 21 vegan kids to feed. So he was there looking for ideas and information, which I thought was really cool. Those 21 vegan kids are going to be a lot happier with their lunches in the future, I have no doubt!