On New Year's Day, we said good-bye to "Baby" donkey. Our morning had been filled with much joy and then much sorrow as our sweet donkey girl passed. At least she passed peacefully in her sleep. I have to tell her story because I just came back from the barn with so much sadness. Her inseparable partner "Mommy" donkey was crying. There Mommy stood, head low and by herself and when I approached her I saw tears, yes tears, streaming down her beautiful long dark face. She is sad and she misses her Mom.
We adopted Mommy and Baby donkey along with Billy and Willy (our two pygmy goats) seven years ago. We were told they were from a petting zoo area by a feed store. Apparently they had been abandoned, but their background story was not really clear. They were temporarily living with someone who could only keep them for a short time. Their future did not look good, so we hitched up the horse trailer and came home with two donkeys and two goats. Our male donkey could not have been happier when Mommy and Baby walked down the ramp from of the horse trailer. He had two new friends and he was in love. The three donkeys were always together. This summer, Baby donkey was the ring leader for escaping from the fencing and going on adventures. Of course she would take the other donkeys with her. They would visit the neighbors and have a grand time while we went chasing them all over the neighborhood. I think they thought it was funny. I am sure it looked comical, with 3 people chasing after them. Although it was tiring, we always had a laugh too.
When our vet checked out the new donkeys, he pointed out that although "Baby" donkey may have been smaller than the others, she was not a baby. She was very old indeed and probably had suffered from malnourishment earlier in her life. He said most likely, "Mommy" donkey was the baby of "Baby" donkey. Since they were named by someone else, we decided to keep their names so we would not confuse them.
Over the years we have had our rescued/adopted animals pass away. Some have had peaceful passings like "Baby" donkey but others, it has been more difficult and our vet has been involved. The bond that the animals form with one another is amazing. When I hear people say that animals don't feel or know anything I just cringe. I have seen our animals show joy, sorrow, and even anger. When Sandy, our mare, became paralyzed in her back legs, she had to be euthanized. Alley Cat, our gelding who never left her side, spent the day charging up and down the field screaming for her after she passed. He mourned her loss for weeks. Baybe, our Holstein steer, actually tried to help her stand when she was paralyzed. He spent time with her licking her and comforting her. When Monty B, our mare who had lived for 42 years passed, Baybe bellowed loud moos for her. So on New Year's day when Baby donkey passed, Mommy donkey and Ezra stood braying loudly over and over. Their brays stopped by the next day but Mommy donkey's sadness was still present.
My heart hurts to see them hurt and when I witnessed those donkey tears, I must admit, I hugged her tight and shared my human tears.
Our farm and our son is featured on the World Vegan Day poster.
Our son feels honored to help spread the word about kindness and compassion for all animals.
Do you eat your weeds?
I am ever so grateful for our weeds. Perry Hill Farm is now drying and preparing various medicinal plants (a.k.a. weeds) and herbs for Three Sisters Herbals. We are very excited about working with them.
Chickweed is one of our favorite weeds. We eat chickweed in our salads, drink tea, make tinctures with it and use it in salves. My favorite herbalist has a great article on the uses of chickweed. Susun Weed.
Dandelions are such a wonderful plant. The bees love her nectar, and you can eat the entire plant. We made dandelion massage oil, dandelion vinegar, dandelion fritters and dandelion pancakes the other day. The salad we ate was made from greens in our greenhouse as well as violets and chickweed.
Reggie, Our Friend and Teacher
Reggie walked up to the
horse trailer. He is a beautiful, dappled gray gelding. He seemed
nervous and I asked his owner if she would mind loading him on the
horse trailer. Reggie had suffered an eye injury in both eyes. His
owner gave me his meds and talked with me about his past. Reggie had
been leased out to another family and when he hurt his eyes, they
really did not want to take care of him anymore. Unfortunately his
longtime owner did not have a barn to accommodate him. Reggie's owner
needed to find him a new home quickly, as time was running out on where
he was temporarily living.
I had seen the notice on one of the homeschool lists we participate with.... Horse to a good home.
I thought about answering it, but thought I am sure someone else will.
Time went on and I saw the notice again and again. I decided to give a
call. I did and agreed to bring Reggie to our farm.
a bit skittish when he arrived here. New barn, lots of new animals
around him: goats, sheep, dogs, cats, cows, chickens and horses. We
kept him in the small paddock away from the other horses. We like to
slowly introduce the horses so we can avoid other horses hurting the
new arrivals. All the horses could see each other, smell each other
and even touch each other over the fence. However, they were separated
with the fence. We had our vet come to check out Reggie’s eyes. After
our vet checked him he said, “Well you got a good one.” He was being
sarcastic. He was pointing to his health issues. Two pretty severe
eye injuries, two melanomas on his tail, and cellulitis in one leg. I
quickly said to him, “you know me, it’s not about whether he can be
ridden or do this or that, it’s all about he needed a home. I want him
to live out the rest of his life here. If we can ride him, great! If
not, so be it. He is not here for my pleasure. He’s here to have a
home and be loved and cared for.” My vet chuckled and I could see a
twinkle in his eye. He knew all of that about us. He then gave Reggie
a hug and said, “I like you Reggie, you’ve got a sweet soul!” My vet
was right and I knew the first time I saw him. He does have the
Reggie looking very regal.
Since Reggie has been at
the farm, we have been dealing with health issues it seems every few
months. First, it was his eyes. After we administered eye meds three
times a day for several weeks, his eyes finally healed. He was left
with some scarring and we believe he has a slight vision impairment.
We think he has a hard time distinguishing shadows. After many months,
we noticed his leg would swell up and then the swelling would go down.
Then, we realized his cellulitis had reared its ugly head. His leg
ballooned up and stayed swollen. Intravenous antibiotics for 3 weeks
were the first call of action. Well, within three days, Reggie rolled
and kinked the line in his vein. This option was not working, so lucky
for me, he seemed to tolerate a needle well and two times a day I was
giving him antibiotic injections. The vet wanted us to switch to oral
antibiotics. He was concerned that Reggie may not tolerate the
injections over a long period. Reggie really disliked oral
antibiotics. No way would he tolerate them. He could smell them in
his grain and refused to eat it. I would soak the antibiotics in water
and add molasses to make a nice paste to put in his mouth with an oral
syringe. He did not like that either and would often hold the paste in
his mouth. He would spit it out after I would walk away. It finally
became clear that injections were the way to go with him.
a while, the cellulitis was gone. Seven months ago, Reggie developed a
melanoma near his lymph nodes. It started to grow very quickly. At
the same time, Reggie started to lose weight. We have watched him
slowly lose weight. We changed his feed, added supplements, did
research as to what would be best for him, conducted endless
discussions and exams with several vets and friends who have horses.
When he first came, I told my husband that there was something wrong
with him. He was fragile and I knew something more serious was going
on with him despite the many blood tests and various vet exams.
Reggie loves to get dirty!
Recently, we found Reggie
lying down. We thought he had colic, instead, we realized he was
impacted. We worked pretty much around the clock to get him relief and
we did. He improved and his bowels were back to working beautifully.
The vet suspected he might also have an ulcer. Many of his symptoms
pointed towards the possibility of an ulcer. He has been on and off
antibiotics, pain meds and now he is on ulcer meds and antibiotics
again. He is hanging on and it is very clear, he is not ready to say
good-bye. He is not giving up and so we are not going to give up on
him. It would have been an easier route for us to have chosen to have him
euthanized. It would have been a lot less expensive, time consuming
and in the end maybe, emotionally easier. This journey is not about
us, this is Reggie’s journey. He is bright-eyed, has a great appetite
despite the fact he continues to lose weight. I am sure if someone
drove by the farm and saw him, they would want to call the ASPCA in
fear that we are starving our horse. Honestly, we have done just the
opposite. Reggie has as much grain and hay as he wants. He is always
eating. The food is going in and coming out and what is coming out
looks normal. He is not getting the nutrients from the feed. Reggie
follows me like a puppy. I love him so much. I often ask him if he is
hurting and if so, show me where. Sometimes, he will point his nose
right to a new melanoma growing on the opposite side of the other one.
It has started to bother him sometimes. I would say it is annoying to
him and not super painful. I would also say it does not bother him
that often. Unfortunately, I have been around many animals in pain
and cancer pain. It is rough and they tell you in their eyes and their
appetites. Reggie’s eyes are not like that of the other animals and he
wants to eat, he wants to be here. Therefore, we are taking it day by
day hour by hour. We are here to love him, help him and let him know
we will never give up unless he is ready or it has become too difficult
I was once asked, why do we help these animals? Why do
we take in so many animals that cause us heart -ache, so much hard
work, and cost us so much money? My answer, because they are all part
of this world and they need love, understanding and care just as much
as any person. Once we take an animal on our farm, that animal is our
responsibility; we do everything we can to make that animal’s life
peaceful, loving and special for them. Many people do not understand
this kind of commitment and love towards animals. They think animals
are here for us to eat and only give us pleasure. We do not see it
When you take in all these animals from various
backgrounds, you never know exactly how things are going to shake out.
Are they going to get along? Do they have some sort of illness? Some
of our animals on the farm have suffered severe abuse before they came
to us. We have some that experienced a good background but whether it
was for financial reasons, or their owners did not want them anymore,
they have found their way to our farm. We often get calls from the
Farm Sanctuary to see if we can adopt any more. We have adopted
several animals from the Farm Sanctuary and their staff has been to our
farm. When one of their staff came to our farm for the first time, he
looked around at our peaceful kingdom and said, “How long have you been
doing this amazing work?” He also said, “You must become a non-profit
so you can get help with what you are doing.” He stayed most the day
with us, took tons of photos and just hung out with the animals, our
son and myself. The phone rang the other day and the Farm Sanctuary
wanted to know if we could adopt a calf. As much as I wanted to help,
we are at full capacity. I said, “Please keep us in mind but right now
we need some more pasture cleared before we can take anymore.” Their
staff person said, “Don’t worry you are one of the first places we
call. We know how well you take care of the animals!”
The blessing that family and friends helped write for our son says, “May you always be a friend to the animals, some of them maybe your best friends and teachers.”
I do believe in this statement. For the most part, we do have a
peaceable kingdom on our farm. Dogs, cats, horses, cows, sheep, goats,
a pig, donkeys, ponies, turkeys, and chickens all very different, all
with different past experiences from really bad to good, they all
coexist. Yes, COEXIST…..a lesson we humans need to learn!
Reggie collapsed in our back yard a few feet from me. He was unable to stand back up. Our vet came quickly. He had suffered heart failure and he was euthanized. We were with him till the end and we held him tight as we said goodbye. You will always be remembered at Perry Hill Farm!
A Chicken Transaction Story
"Hello, this is Vicki Harkness," I said as I answered the phone. A very nice man on the other end asked could we take a few chickens. He had obtained our number from the Farm Sanctuary. We had been adopting rescues for quite some time and assured him that these chickens would have a good life on our farm. I also let him know we don't eat meat. At the time, I was working in Mid-town Manhattan. He was also in the city and I could take the chickens home with me one day after work. We agreed upon a day that I would drive our car to the city.
One afternoon at work I received a call from a voice I did not recognize. In a hushed tone the man said, "Hi it's Bill, I've got the chickens. I'll meet you in front of your building around 5:15 pm." I realized I didn't recognize his voice because he was whispering into the phone. We let each other know what we looked like and the clothes we had on. He said he would transport the chickens in a cat carry box. At 5:15 right on the dot, he was standing in front of the building. He seemed a bit nervous and handed me the cat carry box as he looked around. I presumed he was embarrassed, as he had just carried chickens via the subway from the Lower-east side. Considering that was our old neighborhood, and we've seen stranger things (human and other) I'm not sure anyone would have even noticed Bill and his captive chickens. We shook hands, he gave a check to go towards their care, thanked me over and over, and off I went with our new family members towards the car.
New Yorkers truly love animals. As I walked down the street, many people would ask me to stop so they could see my kittens in the box. I would stop and smile and they would look in, look at me, look back in, and nervously smile before walking away. Clearly, they were surprised to see chickens.
Later on I found out that these two chickens were living in a park in the city, destined to be someone's dinner. Apparently, Bill had witnessed many chickens in this park being slaughtered before. He wanted to do something about this. Bill rescued them and brought them to me.
Early Morning Milking
January 2009 - This morning I went to milk lovely Brie-anna at 5:00 am. Now for a
typical dairy farm that is not early, but for me, it is! My sweet
hubby needed to leave the house this morning by 6:00, so I needed to
get my barn chores done earlier than usual. It was 13 degrees as I
walked out of the house. It was quiet and dark, as I walked you could
only hear my foot steps on the snow crunching. As I reached about
halfway to the barn, the chickens heard me and the roosters start
crowing. Buster the pony sees me and lets out a very hardy good
morning nicker. Brie-anna sees me and moos rather loudly. She’s not
happy that I didn’t let she and Buster Brown spend the night together
in the stall. “Sorry mama”, I tell her, “we needed some milk.” She
follows me into the barn. As I tie her up to be milked, Sally the
pony gives me a hardy morning nicker too. I turn the lights on in the
barn. The sun hasn’t even started to rise yet, but now the chickens
are coming off their roost. I think the light in the barn is confusing
them. Buster Brown starts mooing and complaining to me that I’m
taking his milk. I promised him I’m only taking 1/2 gallon and I’ll be
sure to save him some. He quiets down. As I start to milk Brie-anna,
I don’t feel the cold anymore. Brie-anna’s body is warm. She relaxes
and her udders become full of milk. The animals have become quiet and
all I hear now is the rhythm of the milk hitting the bottom of the milk
pail. This rhythm is so calming. It’s like meditation to me. I’m
thinking I should make this my regular milking time. It’s really
wonderful. The goats are all around me as I’m milking, they are
getting in an early morning snuggle with me. Billy is rubbing his face
on my back and trying to eat my hair. The chickens are running around
pecking at the ground. It’s peaceful. Just as my gallon pail looks
about half full, Brie-anna moves away from me. She’s telling me that
I’ve got enough and it’s Buster’s turn. She lets out a moo to make
sure I understood her body language. I unhook her. She’s very
impatient and really wants to be with Buster. I open the stall door
and in she goes, fast as lightning. He runs over to his mama. He
runs right up to her bag and gives it a big lift. He gives a few more
hard knocks to her bag and he starts nursing. I can hear the same
rhythm, although it’s a sucking noise now, not the milk hitting the
pail. She looks content. I thank her for my milk and I thank Buster
for sharing his milk.
I had a bowl of yogurt made from Brie-anna’s sweet milk with frozen
black raspberries and strawberries for breakfast this morning. I love
how my meal came from our farm. We are so fortunate to be able to
produce a lot of our food. I am grateful.
Buster Brown is Born
September 23, 2008 -Brie-anna delivered a beautiful calf today....we named him Buster
Joshua and I were on our way out to run some errands around 9:30 am. I told him we should check on Brie-anna before we left. I knew she was close and had been watching her very closely for the past two weeks. Sure enough, I could tell it was time. She followed me into a stall which was all ready for her. We had filled the stall with a thick layer of straw. I told her how I would not leave her and I would make sure she would be okay. Joshua and I sat down next to her in the stall. As she labored, we talked about the entire birth process. We talked to her and massaged her legs while she had contractions. When her sack came out and burst, Joshua decided he wanted to watch
from the outside of the stall versus inside. Joshua had much to tell daddy later in the day. He especially made sure daddy heard all about Brie-anna's exploding sack which shot
Giving birth is truly a miracle and I'm so glad I got to share this beautiful moment with Joshua!
Aerial photo by Hudson Valley Photo All other photos were taken at Perry Hill Farm by Vicki Harkness.