Today is "D Day".
First and foremost, D is for Departure. Nils' parents have been with us for six weeks and they headed back to Deutschland this evening. In that time with us, we've grown quite accustomed to having them around, and they've been a big help in the renovation efforts. It will be very quiet here … actually, what am I saying? It will continue to be just as chaotic as ever …
Anyway, due to limited time today, I decided to make this a Diverse Stuff Day and use the opportunity to show (rather than tell) what's happening on the farm.
Please mouseover each photo as you go along.
Thanks for following us, and mousing over our photos.
and Nils and Shecky, Daisy, Daphne, Esme, Donatello, Waldo & Statler, Guenther & Gaby, Solo & Kazu, and all the babies and new additions that don't yet have names …
If you've been following us here and on Facebook, you know that we have two rescue dogs in our family. You also know that they are most precious to us. You also know that they are two real handfuls.
I won't say that adopting rescue animals is for everyone, but I can say that if you're willing to put in some work, you'll get back in return a hundred-fold.
The greatest challenges that have come up for Nils and me in raising Solo and Kazu relate to the belief systems they acquired prior to our adoptions.
Solo's Belief System
Sad to say, Solo was abused. Based on his initial behavior, we are certain that he was abused by both white and black men, and tormented by other dogs. In his reality, anyone who carried a big stick, or a tool with a long handle was a threat, and he would react as any proper Aussie Cattle Dog would — with aggression. Based on what we'd experience with him, combined with a few hints we'd heard about his previous home, we believe that he was chained up in a yard with other dogs that were free to attack him. As a result, whenever he was put on a lead in the company of other dogs, he would go ballistic. It took us a long time to break him of these "beliefs", but little by little, he re-learned, and became more and more comfortable with different people, situations, and even some dogs.
The downside of his comfort became that he wouldn't let us out of his sight, and was scared out of his wits when we would leave the farm. It was heart-warming in many ways because it was clear that he'd grown to love and trust us. But as we'd try to leave, he'd wrap his front legs around either Nils' or my leg, and would bite at our pant legs to keep us home — it was as though he was begging us not to abandon him. After one or the other of us would peel him away, we'd squeeze through the farm gate, close it behind us, and try to ignore the pitiful whimpering. As we'd drive off, we'd watch him through the rear-view mirror trying to dig under the fence. I eventually learned to just stare straight ahead or squeeze my eyes tightly shut. In Solo's reality, each time we went out of that gate, we were abandoning him.
Thankfully, that too has passed, and he now lets us leave — a sad look in his eyes, but no drama.
Kazu's Belief System
In Kazu's case, she came to us at a younger age, and, as far as we could tell, did not come from an abusive home. However, she did spend at least a couple of her six months of life at the SPCA in the company of many other dogs. As a result, Kazu has deep-seated food issues. It's clear that there were many others with whom she had to compete. When she came to us, she constantly sought out food or food scraps; she ate everything and anything (and I really DO mean anything) she came across. Unfortunately, we haven't yet made as much progress as I would hope in six months time, but she's gotten better (at least she doesn't eat EVERY frog she comes across, nor EVERY cow pattie). So, there's been some shifts in her beliefs and fears of starvations.
Now there are some who will say that dogs (or any other animals for that matter) do not have consciousness and are incapable of belief systems. I argue that anyone who's spent any quality, loving time with animals knows with certainty that they have a consciousness, and develop their own belief systems. For what is a belief system but a set of precepts that govern our thoughts and actions.
How Their Limiting Belief Systems Don't Work Anymore
Solo's belief system included "Big men with sticks will hurt me, I must protect myself and attack", "When I'm put on a lead, I won't be allowed to protect myself," "If I let these people out of my sight, they will abandon me." At a time in the past, these were all beliefs that served Solo well; they were true beliefs and reality. However, once he left that environment, he couldn't so easily leave those beliefs behind. But in a different environment, they became truly negative limiting beliefs creating behaviors that could have turned into self-fulfilling prophecies. There was a period of time when we weren't so sure if Solo would ever calm down; there were moments when we considered giving him up; we even wondered if having him put down would be best to ease his suffering. Brief moments came when we, indeed, considered "abandoning" him.
In Kazu's case, her beliefs and fears of never eating again probably served her well while she was in the SPCA. Because of her beliefs, she likely fought harder to get to the food bowls to get her share. However, today, these fears are no longer valid, and certainly no longer serve her. Quite the contrary. When she eats EVERYTHING, her stomach will reject, and she has had more than her share of a runny tummy; I have had more than my share of early morning clean-ups.
Are WE Any Different?
Are these situations with Solo and Kazu really any different than what you and I have experienced with our own belief systems?
- Do you keep up certain habits or behaviors "just because", even if those habits or behaviors are way beyond their "expiry date"?
- Haven't you ever thought, "I'm not good enough (smart enough, tough enough, pretty enough, creative enough)", and so not tried?
- Maybe you've said, "S/he's going to reject me (fight back, create a scene), so I'll do it to him/her first!", and done something stupid?
- How about "Others can do it better (nicer, prettier, more perfectly) than I can", so you don't bother?
- Perhaps, "If I go, people will laugh at me (ignore me, not care if I'm there or not)", so you don't go even though you really want to?
- Ever said to yourself, "If I get involved, I'll only get hurt (angry, upset, rejected)", so you justify not making an effort?
- Are you still holding onto beliefs that might've served you very well long ago, but that are keeping you back now?
If any of these resonate or ring familiar, consider:
If Solo and Kazu can change their belief systems, so can you!
Even before we moved to the Farm, when we talked with our country neighbors about wanting to raise animals, in the course of conversation, someone always eventually said, "… make sure you don't name them!"
Now I completely understood this for animals being raised for consumption. Who wants to sit down at the dinner table only to discover that the main course is Henrietta stuffed with apples, raisins and sausage. But we were pretty sure that the first generation of animals on our farm would be more like pets than a source of food.
As those who have followed us from the beginning know, when we got our first hens and rooster, what'd we do almost immediately? We named them!
Over the first six months of (our) life on the Farm, we've lost:
- 1 Zulu rooster named Boris.
- 3 white layers — the first went so soon after arrival that she died without a name, one was named Lucy, the last was named Posh.
- 1 Zulu hen named Natasha.
- 7 no-named chicks, 1 chick named Groucho (I couldn't resist, he had the eyebrows!).
Most died at the hand (sic: mouth) of our "loving" Australian Cattle Dog named Solo. (Clever dog that he is, he quickly figured out how to get into the chicken yard; more recently, he learned how to jump a four-foot fence. In his defense, however, some of these fowl deaths occurred when the birdbrains ventured into dog territory) A few of the babies died "just 'cause" — they weren't strong enough to make it through infancy, Still others were killed and devoured by a raptor — we're guessing a falcon or a hawk, in another instance, perhaps a mongoose or a rat.
All very sad.
But, without a doubt, the losses that were the hardest for me were those animals that had names. In my mind and heart, the choosing and giving of a name (contrary to what Shakespeare's Juliet suggested when she said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.") allows personalities to blossom, and, of course, creates a connection.
I've learned there is some value to "make sure you don't name them!"
You may have noticed that seven of our chicks went un-named. Perhaps you believe that I've come to agree about not naming? With the death of a few chicks early on, we, indeed, wanted to see how many would survive before committing. But, it really has been only a waiting game.
If you saw our holiday greeting on Facebook, you know that we have added a goose and a gander, a drake and two ducks (or hens), and five guinea fowl to our brood. Whether by way of domestic or wild animal attack, accident, or otherwise, it's likely one or some of these may not die of old age. Each loss will impact me. But, I don't want these animals to go through their lives as "goose", "gander", "duck 1" and "duck 2." I'll likely feel differently if/when we start raising for food (see above reference to Henrietta on your plate), but these animals have gone long enough without names.
And, I'd like to invite you to help us name them?
Gander and Goose
The gander (with gray feathers, left of both photos) is quite vocal and a little cheeky. If I'm late for feedings he will hiss up at me as a reprimand. The goose (right of both photos) is quieter, stands back, and usually lets the gander do the talking. Contrary to the rep, they are not at all aggressive. Admittedly, they haven't yet been tested with strangers. They make a very nice couple.
We've already named our drake (sorry). We're not sure if one of the geese picked on him, if he got caught in the fencing, or if unbenownst to us, Solo got a hold of him, but, he has a lame foot. For the past two weeks, we've had him isolated in a cat box (without the cat), and I've been hand-feeding him, and cleaning his (very, very, very smelly) box twice a day; Nils has been handling him a lot to spray his leg with antibiotics. He's now back on his feet (with a little limp) and is most definitely a pet … when he sees me coming, he comes hopping over with his tail wagging. Somewhere along the way, Nils and I decided that he was a Horace (Actually, I wanted Francis, Nils wanted Carlos, we compromised on Horace. Don't ask.).
But, Horace's two female companions still need names. By nature — they're Muscovy ducks — they're both rather "demure" and not very talkative. They are, however, very friendly and are happy just hanging out together. If they were human, I'd assume they were BFFs.
The guinea fowl, who have by now gotten very big, will have to wait. Call me a "fowl-ist", but frankly, aside from varying sizes, they all look alike to me.
We're open to any and all (preferably adorable) suggestions for our 2 geese and 2 ducks … the more animals we have, the harder it gets to find nice names. Help!
It hasn't been for lack of material that I've neglected you here on our blog. Quite the contrary.
Life has been chock-a-block (I learned that adjective here in S. Africa), and while I used to write all my blog postings late at night, nowadays, by 9:00 p.m. the only thing I'm generating is a lot of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.
I haven't yet figured out how to get the blog writing done in between tending, feeding and spying on chickens (the last because one was sick, but I couldn't figure out which), making compost, chasing after Solo as he herds the neighbors' cows AND the wild blesbuck, designing my worm farm, establishing two businesses in a "foreign" country, researching sheep and Muscovy duck raising, and keeping up with the laundry and household messes that magically appear out here in the country.
Complaining? Well, maybe just a little bit, but as proof that we've been busy, here are
a few things we've learned without our computers
►Never wear "city flats" with shiny metal bits in the chicken yard. I nearly had heart failure when the chickens rushed at me and started pecking at my feet! (ditto decorative flip flops)
►Contrary to what I could've sworn I'd learned in elementary school (did you learn this, too?), if you cut a worm in half, you don't get two worms. You MIGHT get the head of the worm to grow back a tail, but you're just as likely to end up with two halves of a dead worm.
►When you live on a farm, there's NO hope of wearing the same pair of pants or shirt twice. A dog greets you = paw prints on your chest; you lean your elbows on a fence post = bird doo on your sleeves; you slide into the pick-up truck = dried dirt on your backside. Heck, this time of year when it's dry and windy, just lean against a piece of furniture that was just cleaned = you have a brown dusting. Browns and beige are my new fashion color choices.
►When tugging violently at a stubborn, invasive plant in squatting position, make sure there isn't a cow pattie directly behind you (see above).
►When you've got an important client meeting in the "big city", don't wear your suit, tie and fancy black shoes into the pick-up truck (see above).
►One of my favorite stress reducing exercises used to be using the paper shredder in my office. Pulverizing sheets of paper into teeny tiny flakes really helped to ease feelings of aggression or frustration. However, it doesn't begin to have the same impact as turning nice big tree branches into wood chips! Better than meditation!
►Everyone in South Africa has an opinion on how to do something; each one of the opinions is different.
►"It's Africa" is a phrase often said with a shrug and smirk when something goes awry or one's faced with incompetence. While we've had our share of both in South Africa, no more than anywhere else we've lived … France, Germany, Austria, England, the United States … there are problems and joys everywhere.
►When you have a dog, don't bother to clean the bottom two-feet of your sliding glass door. It's a losing battle.
►Sheep are "trunk-sized" ("boot-sized" in British English), which is one of the reasons why lamb is so outrageously expensive. We are going to try raising sheep nonetheless.
►If you're embarking on an adventure like ours, it's good to be married to a German engineer.
►Alpaca are perhaps the most adorable animals I've yet to encounter. I'm trying to justify the high investment required by claiming to use them as "guard alpacas" for our sheep.
And now, I can only recommend you get away from your computer too; you might learn something new.
If you've been following us on Facebook, you already know that we had our first animal tragedy at Chrysalis Farm.
From The Tao of Pooh, "Through working in harmony with life's circumstances, Taoist understanding changes what others may perceive as negative into something positive."
In my head, I know that country living means exposure to the harshnesses of Mother Nature. In my heart, I don't see quite so clearly. I have a ways to go in overcoming the "Yuk Factor" that can fill me with fear and disgust. Trying a slightly different perspective on some unpleasant discoveries on our arrival helped a little bit …