Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Poplar Spring Open House – recap

jake and stewart

Poplar Spring‘s Open House was yesterday, and I’m still tired from it. I helped set up on Saturday, which included moving about a million tables and four million chairs, and then I went back on Sunday morning to help do more set up, which included moving tables around again, as well as putting up tents and eating bagels. By the time the event started, I was sore!

I was helping out in the Cow/Horse/Mule area during the actual event, which involved trying to keep kids from getting into the area. Normally during tours or when we’re volunteering on the weekends people are allowed to mingle with the cows (if they’re even around!), but with 800 people there, the people had to be kept away. Of course some of the cows were perfectly happy to come up to the fence early on, and the mules love getting all the attention (and possible treats) they can, so they hung around the fence for quite a while too.

As the afternoon wore on, the cows and horses headed towards the shady wooded area. Most people really were well behaved. We took sponsors of the horses, cows, or mules to meet their new friends, and I encouraged everyone to come back and volunteer some day when they could mingle with the cows all they wanted.

I told the story of Tally and Darcy about three million times, and the stories of Jake and Norman about ten million times. All numbers are approximate, of course.


Tally and Darcy, two horses, are always of interest to people because Darcy went blind this year and Tally wears a bell on her collar so she can act as Darcy’s guide. This works quite well most of the time. Yesterday, though, Tally went into the woods where the cows were hanging out a couple of times, and Darcy wasn’t up to navigating the woods, so he’d head back to the pasture area. He’d be fine for a while, but eventually he would get a little agitated and start calling for Tally. She was practicing selective hearing, however, so I ended up leading her out of the woods a couple times so Darcy wouldn’t be alone. She earned (aka ‘was bribed with’) a carrot one of those times, so chances are she was trying to sucker me out of another the second time.

Jake and Norman got a lot of questions, because people were amazed at how giant these cows are. They’re Holstein cows, which might ring a bell for people – it is the classic black and white dairy cow breed.

Male dairy cows. Well, we know why no one ever sees cows that big – they never see adult male Holsteins. Jake and Norman are just normal size for their breed and sex. I ended up explaining this to quite a few people, and in their attempt to make sense of a world where farmers don’t care about the animals, other than as potential profit, they would ask more and more questions. And get more and more horrified. I didn’t exaggerate, I just explained a few things that they never would have thought to question before. And while I know they didn’t want to believe me, they were looking right at the enormous Norman and Jake, and they knew without a shadow of a doubt that these guys were significantly larger than any Holstein they’d ever seen before. They know, if they let themselves acknowledge it, that they really haven’t seen adult male dairy cows before.

Norman is one of the sweetest cows too. He’s a great ambassador. Last year he was quite depressed, because his girlfriend had died, and he was mourning her for quite a while. He’s in good form again, though.

James Laveck gave a talk, which I was excellent and perfectly suited to the crowd, which included many meat eaters. I couldn’t hear it from the cow area, but I got Dave (of Terry and Dave, who run Poplar Spring) to video it for me, and he did a great job, so I was able to listen to it tonight. I am hoping they’ll have the audio available at some point so everyone interested can hear it. I was able to talk to James and Jenny later, after the event was over and clean-up had been partially done (yet more millions of tables and chairs were carted too and fro), and it was very motivating for me.

The whole weekend was motivating for me in various ways, and one of the interesting things was learning that a fellow-volunteer knows someone who recently bought a dinner theater near where I live, and I think she might be interested in helping me set up a screening. I’d been thinking about this for quite a while, just a vague sort of thought. I mentioned it to James and Jenny because their films seem like they’d be good for the general public. After talking to them, I know that their films are great for the general public, and they took away my biggest excuse – I have no idea how to go about getting a screening done! Alas, they have instructions on their website, so all I have to do is do it. Hopefully I’ll have help though!

I heard that Neva was there too, but I didn’t see her. Or if I did, I had no idea. Neva, if you’re reading this, sorry I missed you!

Ryan was there as well, and I got to hang out with him and his family for a while. Turns out I’m quite hilarious to his young daughter. Table slappingly hilarious! He posted a video today on his blog, a youtube video someone made of Poplar Spring a year or so ago.

We all got to enjoy some creme brulee. Yes, vegan! One of the regular volunteers, Ahmed, and his wife are starting to import condensed soy milk into the states. They’ll be working with the online vegan retailers, but are also trying to get it in health food stores and other friendly store fronts. We’ll probably see it in places like Pangea, Vegan Essentials, Cosmos, Food Fight, etc first. No idea which will see it first, or maybe they’ll all get it in around the same time, but I will be keeping my eye out!

Oh, and thanks to Gary, who brought in a few cupcakes for us. (He’s talking about them on his blog today, actually.) They were extremely delicious, especially knowing that they came from a bakery near where he lives (or a shop that sells desserts anyway), a place that is not vegan, but which he was able to convince to carry vegan cupcakes. So kudos to Gary for that accomplishment, and thanks for sneaking some in for us!

bunch o' cows


4 responses to “Poplar Spring Open House – recap

  1. Neva October 2, 2007 at 7:13 am

    I was there! I didn’t get to see many people and I missed James LaVeck’s talk, which I was very sad about. I had a vet emergency Sunday morning (well Saturday afternoon – Sunday morning). And I was at the ER vet for hours Sunday morning as several dire emergencies came in. What a weekend! We brought food for the animals, but had to wait a while to give it to them.

  2. Deb October 2, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Yeah, I was bummed that I missed you! I’m glad you were able to get there though – I know it is difficult even on a good day, which it sounds like it wasn’t. Hopefully everyone is doing okay now!

    I do have James’ talk recorded. I will contact them to see if they mind me giving it out to a few people, though I know they were talking about possibly making the audio available themselves, so maybe I won’t have to figure out how to! It was a good talk, and definitely worth hearing if possible!

  3. Mary Martin, Ph.D. October 3, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    That last photo makes you realize how flippin’ behemoth those cows are! They’re gorgeous! And I love all the talk of “millions.” Funny stuff.

  4. Deb October 3, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Oh, good, I was trying to pick a picture that gave the impression of their size! I still think that nothing quite makes it as clear as being face to face (or as close as you can come to that) with them! And their faces are about as big as we are total!

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