Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: open house

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.


Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary – Open House 9-25-2011

The Open House weekend is the biggest weekend of the year – the biggest fundraiser at the sanctuary as well as the one that draws the biggest crowd. This year they guestimated over 1,000 people showed up. It seems to grow each year, which is definitely a positive thing!

This year Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was the speaker. I was really excited about this – the majority of the supporters of the sanctuary, and thus the majority of the visitors at the Open House, are not vegan. Many are not even vegetarian. Colleen has a great message and delivery for that kind of crowd. And her recent book, 30 Day Vegan Challenge, was really the perfect thing to be pushing at the sanctuary, at this event, at this crowd.

The event this year was very different for me than in the past. Usually I spend my day in the chicken yard, which I love even though talking to people all day long is exhausting for this poor little introvert. This year Terry asked me to give Colleen a tour of the sanctuary before her talk, and I’m so glad Terry had Colleen get there early – she was busy signing and selling books from the moment her talk ended until she left to go to the airport! If she hadn’t gotten there early, she would not have had a chance to meet any of the animals, and she loves sanctuaries, loves the animals and their stories.

I managed to get her around the sanctuary to see most of the animals (the cows and horses and mules were off in the woods somewhere) within the allotted time. I had expected that I’d give the tour and skedaddle to the chicken yard, coming back up for Colleen’s talk, but in retrospect it was probably unlikely for that to have happened because having given her the sanctuary tour, I naturally fell into the role of doing whatever was needed to help Colleen, which means this was the first year I was able to listen to the speaker and see what goes on during the rest of the event!

And her talk was even more awesome than I had anticipated. If you’ve heard her talk – at an AR conference, another speaking event, or her podcasts – you know the warmth she brings to these talks. She talked of compassion, and of herself as a child, and of experiences with sanctuary animals in California. She talked quite a bit about the importance of sanctuaries and the impact that getting to know the individual animals can have in awakening our compassion – very different than learning statistics that can be hard to relate to. She also recited her “Prayer for Humans on Behalf of Animals,” which is powerful always, and brought tears to my eyes to hear it recited at the sanctuary.

The overall tone and message is essentially that she is like all of us – a caring, compassionate person. And that she knows that we can all be vegan, and she’s going to help us get there.

I know that many people came to the event specifically because Colleen was there. (I heard several people mention it while talking to her during the book signing.) Whether while signing books or simply while walking around the event, people were constantly stopping to tell her that she had changed their lives, that they listened to her podcasts and went vegan. It was very inspiring to hear this, to see how much of an impact she has on so many lives.

But there were also many people there who had never heard Colleen talk or even necessarily heard of her and her books, and it seemed that several of the conversations during the book signing indicated that people had been inspired right then to go vegan. One guy turned to his girlfriend and said, “will you take the 30 day vegan challenge with me?”

It was a really wonderful day, and luckily my friends who normally find me down at the chicken yard found me even though I wasn’t where I expected to be! Also, the world’s cutest 5-year-old gave me a gingerbread man that she helped make herself. You just can’t beat that!

And at the end of the day, there was cake from Brunie‘s, a vegan bakery in Baltimore. Delicious!

Goal for future events: PHOTOS! I tend to take almost zero pictures during events, and I generally regret it. This year’s open house is no exception! Colleen has some great photos from during our tour, though, so check out her Poplar Spring album on Facebook!

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Open House 2010

Malcolm, a baby goat who arrived the night before the Open House

The annual Open House at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary was this past Sunday. It’s the biggest event, and biggest fundraiser, of the year at the sanctuary, pulling in around 1,000 – 1,200 people usually. I haven’t heard the official numbers yet for this year, but early guestimates put the numbers at the high end of the range.

We’d all been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, and all the forecasters agreed that the rain would hold off until evening. The event is from 1-5, so we had high hopes that the weather would be good for the event. And then it started raining around 6:30am, as I was on my way to the sanctuary. It rained harder and harder as the morning went on, and we grew more and more worried. Who would realistically come to the event if it was raining?

And then we got lucky. A couple hours before the event was to start, the rain stopped. The skies lightened a bit, and we even had some sun here and there. The temps were perfect, the wind was light, and it all came together to be perfect event weather!

Some blue sky appeared!

The Open House includes a Silent Auction, a speaker, a band, some great food catered in from local vegan businesses, and of course the chance for people to meet the animals. Jonathan Balcombe, author of Pleasurable Kingdom and more recently Second Nature, was the speaker. I heard wonderful things about his talk, but hearing the speakers is one thing I never get a chance to do at the event. I did talk to him briefly afterward – he volunteers once in a while at the sanctuary, and it makes me that much more interested to read his books, though unfortunately I haven’t yet had the time to do so.

Watercolor of Jeremy, donated by Sorrow

I spent the event down at the chicken barn, as usual, and it seemed to be a good crowd of people pretty much the whole time. The friendliest chickens end up getting more attention than even they are interested in, but that just gives us reason to talk to the people there about the behavior they see of the chickens as they scratch at the ground and dustbathe and dance and, yes, even mate.

I was also lucky enough to meet some people who had played roles in the rescue of some of the Poplar Spring residents. One boy, maybe 12 years old, was clearly looking for a specific chicken. I asked him who he was looking for, and Florence was the answer. She’s one of the chickens who doesn’t live in the main chicken yard, but with a separate group who spend most of their time near the bird feeders by the house. I wasn’t sure exactly where she’d be, but I took him up there to see if we could find her. He told me on the way that it was his uncle who had rescued her, found in a parking lot (or garage) at George Mason University. I thought that was pretty cool. We did find Florence, hanging out with Marty and one of the newer chickens, Evelyn, so I left him there to watch them and hang out a bit.

Stained glass donated by Sorrow (which I think we displayed upside down!)

Later a woman, Terri, showed up who works for one of the nearby counties, and I learned that she had helped Arthur, the newer peacock, Betty, Butch and Billy (a momma sheep who arrived with her newborn twins), and many others come to the sanctuary. Terry tells me that they’ve worked with her for many years, and she’s determined to find homes for all the farmed animals, will drive them anywhere – has driven some up to sanctuaries in New York when Poplar Spring can’t take them.

Earlier in the day, while doing the normal animal chores, I was working with a woman, Karla, who had been part of the group who rescued Truffles, Timmy and Patsy! Even though I knew the story, it was great to hear some of the extra details of someone who had first-hand experience.

There is something very satisfying about talking to the people who facilitated the rescue.

Wilbur, eating ice in lieu of more interesting treats

That’s one of the things I love about the events – I am there to share my knowledge of the birds with the flock of curious, interested, and caring people who come to visit, but I always end up learning quite a bit from the visitors and other people working the event as well.

So the event was a success in the end, from every perspective. The weather, the speaker, the food, the band, and the donations.

Also read Ryan’s experience being flustered by the questions of a 10 year old (and an incredibly cute picture of his daughter holding the tiny bundle of cuteness we call Alina), and watch a great video of the event by a local paper. (Video auto-plays.)

The things my mom made and donated for the silent auction

Poplar Spring Open House 2009

I got to the sanctuary at 7am this morning, sort of shocked. Like, what was I doing there at 7am?

It was so beautiful though. Peaceful, the moon was setting, everything was quiet and hushed. I love those early mornings.

My schedule was:

  • 7-10am: animal chores
  • 10am – 1pm: help setup
  • 1pm – 5pm: the event! working the chicken yard
  • 5pm – 7pm: help cleanup

What was I thinking? I was actually thinking that I know myself, and I know I can’t walk away from work I can see needs to be done even if I haven’t signed up for it. So I might as well sign up and stay to the bitter end. Plus the bitter end comes with Stickyfingers cake!

I actually spent almost the entire day in the chicken yard. I was working with two of the weekday employees, which I love because they know so much about the chickens, and I learn so much. Simply based on the timing of when I asked the farm manager where he wanted me to start working, I was sent to the chicken yard to help there first thing. And that’s where I stayed until we finished that area, at about 11am.

The chicken area always ends up feeling like it is in its own universe. It is not far from the house, but it is down a slight hill, so the busy activity happens almost entirely out of sight of us. And it isn’t on the way to a different part of the sanctuary, so unless someone is going to the chicken yard, they don’t come down the hill.

In other words, it was almost surreal in its peacefulness, given the frantic activity we knew was happening just a couple hundred yards away, as everyone scrambled to get all the last minute things done for the big event.

Even when I made my way up the hill to see what I could do to help with set up, I ended up inside the gift shop folding t-shirts. While this is not my favorite activity, it was also quiet and peaceful, and even more significantly, it had nothing to do with tables and chairs. Tables and chairs are the typical set-up and break-down chore, and that’s what I’ve always ended up working on at every event I’ve helped at in the past. Today, purely by chance, I didn’t touch a single table or a single chair. If I’d had a dream, that’s what I’d have dreamt. Only it didn’t occur to me to dream of that; it just landed in my lap.

When I left almost exactly 12 hours after I arrived, Terry told me that they are guestimating that 1200 people showed up. Many more people than they’ve ever had in the past. I hope the silent auction went well. I put down some bids right before I headed down to the chicken barn when the event was about to start, but I don’t think I won any of them.

It is hard to gauge the size of the crowd from the chicken yard, for many of the same reasons that it was a peaceful oasis during the morning chores. We get a steady stream of people, but I have a feeling plenty of people never even make it down the hill.

The Open House tends to be primarily the current supporters of the sanctuary. And while you would think that means mostly vegetarians and vegans, truly most of the supporters are neither. They are the target audience of a sanctuary for precisely that reason.

There were many people who had never held a chicken before today. I am pretty sure that everyone who has ever held a chicken falls in love. I talked to some great people, and saw several people I recognized from previous events. Cornelius and Leopold, the Japanese Silkies, continue to be a big hit. They’re super sweet; they don’t necessarily make it easy to pick them up, but once you have them, they seem to enjoy being held. Oddly, or at least contrary to people’s assumptions, most of the chickens who don’t mind being held are roosters.

At one point we could hear a horse whinnying. I assumed it was Darcy; he’s blind, and thought Tally wears a bell to make it easier for him to find and keep up with the rest of the horses, sometimes he gets separated. And so he’ll whinny. This time it was Didi whinnying, which I thought was unusual, but then I also heard Darcy whinnying. I think Didi might have been calling back to him. Eventually Darcy heard Tally’s bell, and they walked over to each other, and touched noses. My heart melted.

At the end of the afternoon, the chickens started parading themselves into the barn. It was the end of the day, and they knew it. They wanted to go in and get settled for the night! It’s pretty amazing to watch.

After I helped with clean up chores (which again, purely by chance, ended up having nothing to do with tables or chairs), it was cake time. And cookie time. And leftover samosa and other tidbit time. Relaxing time, with fellow volunteers. I got some really sweet comments about this blog (*waves*), which is funny because there are actually very few people associated with the sanctuary who do read this blog. Especially not my fellow Saturday volunteers! Though as their source of Izzy and Morty pictures and videos, maybe they’ll start.

As we were all milling about, revved up on our sugar highs, Wilbur came over to join us. To do this he had to squeeze himself between two parts of a fence, offset specifically to be wide enough for humans to get through without having to be messing with gates, but essentially it is closed off for the other animals. No way will horses or mules or cows or pigs to get through there! Well, not full grown pigs. Wilbur just barely squeezed through, and it was hilarious. Of course he was going to get into everything if he stayed on the atypical side of the fence, so I sacrificed one of the awesome chocolate chip cookies that one of the other volunteers makes, and bribed Wilbur back through the gate we opened for him.

He was so cute. And his strength? I thought it was amazing that he was all the way down at the goat yard yesterday, but this morning, he walked all the way down to the creek; past the chicken yard by quite a ways.

We watched him walk past, and looked at each other wondering “is he supposed to be all the way down here?” As far as I know, he got himself back up to the pig yard just fine. He seems to have made some major progress in the past couple of weeks!

It was a beautiful, if exhausting, day.

Wilbur, thinking he’s a sheep, and an Izzy-Morty update

The first thing I saw when I arrived at the sanctuary this morning was Wilbur hanging out with the sheep near the gift shop. It was exciting, because he’s really getting around more, and it was hilarious because when one of the sheep (Clover, perhaps) tried to say hello, Wilbur warned him off. They were around the same height, so on first glance Wilbur seemed to fit right in. Later Wilbur went down to the goat yard to check things out there. Hannah was curious, but wouldn’t get close enough to sniff noses when Wilbur put his nose close to the gate. It was cute, like they were both trying to figure out how the other fit into their view of the world!

The first person I saw was a fellow volunteer, Amy, and the first thing she said was that Izzy and Morty were doing great.

I felt like I let out a breath I’d been holding all week. We poked our head into the gift shop, where they were chilling out, and saw for ourselves. Morty had grown a ton, was 3 or 4 times the size from last weekend. Izzy is not growing as fast, and in comparison to Morty doesn’t look like he’s growing at all, but that’s just an illusion. He is growing, and he’s been doing great. He’s still a little wobbly, but he really is doing great.

Morty is already a big fan of belly rubs. There is something incredibly precious about this tiny miniature pig rolling over for a belly rub.

It was a fairly crazy busy day. The goats have had pink eye running through the herd, and I helped Terry give them their ointment. My job was to hold them still. Goats are strong, and it was quite a workout!

The Open House is tomorrow, and somehow all these little chores, which weren’t actually so little, took up large chunks of time and effort. By the time we were done with chores, it was 3pm. 3pm!! On our really slow days we’re done by 1pm.

But at the end of the day we got to see Morty and Izzy running around outside, exploring bits and pieces of their world.

Morty’s world is a bit bigger than Izzy’s. Izzy sticks close to Terry. 30 minutes of excitement, and they were down for the count. Just like the babies they are.

I will put in about a 12 hour day tomorrow, not including travel time, but that’s nothing compared to the work of those more involved in the event planning. I get exhausted just thinking about everything they do to get an event like this off the ground!

chicken duty at the poplar spring open house

I’ve worked the horse/mule/cow area at events before, so this time when they asked us for our preferences, I went with chickens. I have gotten to know a lot of the chickens in my weekly volunteering, but what I found with the cows is that I learned their names and stories so much better by working their area during a big event.

So this time it was the chickens and turkeys (and guineas and the peacock).

victor, elliot and gobbles

victor, elliot and gobbles

When I first started volunteering at the sanctuary, I couldn’t read the chickens at all. I didn’t understand them, and I was a little freaked out at the thought of holding them. Of course I wouldn’t have admitted that, so the first time Dave said “do you want to hold one?” and put someone in my arms, I went along with it.

And I learned.

Chickens are curious and intelligent. They are filled to the brim with personality, and they go mad for corn and grapes and bread. The roosters will show their girls where the food tidbits are, and they’ll often pick up pieces and drop them on the ground again so that their girls can see it.

I think that my experience is very common. When we don’t have a lot of exposure to birds in a way that lets us observe their personality, they seem alien. Their expressions are inscrutable.

And I think that is why a lot of people will give up eating cows and pigs, but continue to eat chickens. Those big brown eyes of the cows and pigs make their intelligence and personality obvious to anyone who has been around dogs, but chickens remain more of a mystery.

The big events at the sanctuary are never my favorite days at the sanctuary. There are a lot of people, 800-1000 expected today, and usually when we’re at the sanctuary it is around 8 of us. When there are so many people there, we have to limit where they can go, and we have to keep an eye on the people as well as the animals. We answer a lot of questions, many of them the same ones over and over.

What I saw today, though, is that we were able to give many people their first exposure to these birds. Some of them like being held, and those got so much attention all day that they’ll be spoiled for weeks to come. I could see that people were touched by these wonderful personalities, that they could see their individuality.

Some of this I saw in the few pictures I snapped while I was there. Some of it I was able to see during the event.

There were the kids who gathered around when three of the chickens ignored the fence (as they sometimes do) to come out where the people were. They listened to me, sat down instead of accidentally chasing the chickens (people will follow them, and other animals, not really understanding that following them is a slow-speed chase), and were almost beside themselves when one of the chickens let herself be held. They couldn’t get enough.

That was a pretty common scenario, though the chickens did mostly stay inside the fencing.

Towards the end of the day, the chickens and turkeys all decided that it was time for bed, so they went inside to their night perches and hung out. The crowd of people had mostly dispersed by then, but there were a few stragglers.

One was a FARM employee, Adam, who I had thought looked vaguely familiar. He’s the AV guy we always see running around at the AR conference, so he looked vaguely familiar for a good reason. I’d earlier met Jen, who I’d also recognized as being someone running around with equipment hanging off her while looking stressed. It was good to see them both looking more relaxed.

Adam sponsors one of the Japanese silkies, so I went into the barn and brought him outside for Adam and his friend Robin to meet. Cornelius seemed happy enough being held, so I handed him over for them to hold. There was such a look of joy on both their faces.

He’d been talking about how important he thought it was for people to make personal connections with the animals, so they can understand who is being impacted by their everyday decisions. And I can’t disagree – this is clearly important, and we can only hope that days like the open house will influence people.

It was clear, watching Adam and Robin with Cornelius that there is a special joy that comes from interacting with these rescued animals. I could see it shining from them, and though I didn’t get a picture of them, I recognized that same joy in other people in some of the pictures I did get.

It was an amazing day, really. I got to know more of the chickens’ names, and I had the chance to feel some hope as I witnessed joy. And maybe some of the people there fell in love with the chickens, as I’ve been doing ever since I first started to really see them.

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary: Open House 10/12/08

Next Sunday is Poplar Spring’s Open House. This is their biggest event, and their events tend to be pretty big. I think last year they had something like 1,000 people show up.

It is a fund-raiser for the sanctuary, but it is also a great chance to introduce a lot of people to the deliciousness of vegan food. The food for this event is catered, and it is definitely delicious. The majority of the people who will come to the event are not vegetarian, let alone vegan.

I find that interesting. But if I think back to my pre-veg days, I can imagine myself being one of those as-yet-clueless supporters.

I bet I would have found the path to veganism faster, though, if I’d had a Poplar Spring in my life back then.

Outreach is one of the points of sanctuaries for just this reason. Offering free food and the chance to meet these amazing rescued animals, and it is no surprise that the events draw a lot of people. I’m sure there is always a percentage that has never had vegan food before. Guess they get to see first hand that we eat more than just bunny food, bark and twigs!

Today doing our normal volunteer chores at the sancutary, we ventured further into the pig yard than normal in preparation for next week’s event. It was a gorgeous fall day, and a lot of the pigs were out enjoying the weather. We had a lot of rain in September, so things are super green too.

One of the pigs was almost entirely hidden, lounging in the creek, with the weeds all around him. He was so pleased with himself to have found his little spot!



Another pig, who must have spent quite a bit of time in the creek herself, joined us when we were about done, standing in the way of the gate so that we were forced to give her some attention. I don’t believe this was an accident – the pigs are clever! And adorable.

Charlene has an especially cute face. I had never really noticed her face the way I did today, but it just was extra cute, reminding me of a teddy bear somehow.



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

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary Open House – Sunday, September 30!

sheep at psas

If you’re in the general DC area, the local animal sanctuary, Poplar Spring, is having an open house this coming Sunday from 1-5. I’ll be there all day!

Sunday, September 30, 2007
1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Our biggest event of the year — and everyone’s invited! Come enjoy a live band, speakers, delicious catered food and drink, a fabulous silent auction, clowns, and the opportunity to stroll around and visit the rescued animals. RSVP requested.

I’ve heard that the speaker is to be James Laveck! They’re expecting around 800 people this year, and the food will be catered by Java Green, Stickyfingers, Yuan Fu, Antonio’s Cafe, and Hard Times Café, so the food alone should make it an event to experience. I’m looking forward to all of it, except maybe the clowns.