As we mentioned in this previous post, Daiku and I had been planning for a long time to go to Farm Sanctuary for our anniversary. The weather had been so bad all week, though, that we were afraid Saturday would not be road-trip worthy. When we woke up it was sunny and warm! (The weather report mentioned showers and thunderstorms later in the afternoon, but we conveniently ignored that...) So we woke up, put together a road breakfast
(whole wheat toast with Tofutti cream cheese and (l) Polish sour cherry preserves and (r) homemade peach butter)
and got on the road.
It is around 90 miles from our home to Watkins Glen, where Farm Sanctuary is located. As I took the above picture of a typical central New York scene of rolling hills and farmland, however, our camera told us it was running out of batteries! I was so upset, because I planned to take lots of pictures of the animals at Farm Sanctuary, and now I was threatened with not being able to take any. We were on a rural road, so there was no place to stop and buy batteries, plus we were short on time because we wanted to make it on time for the last tour of the day, at 3 p.m.
So this is my warning that the pictures I managed to get, with our camera and my cell phone, are not the best quality. What happened is that we would turn our camera off and every 10-15 minutes, it would get a slight charge that would let us take one or two pictures. Augh!
We showed up at 3 and signed up for a tour. Our tour leader, Jessica, started us off with a short video explaining the origins and activities of Farm Sanctuary. This video was touching, but we both had to turn away as the upsetting scenes, such as geese being force-fed for fois gras, or baby turkeys being de-beaked, were being shown because we did not want to start the tour crying.
First, we saw the cows.
Unfortunately, we couldn't get too close to the cows because there is a recently rescued cow who is (understandably!) suspicious of humans, and there was the risk that they would charge us. It was nice to see them grazing under the sun, though, since their present life is such a contrast to their nightmarish pasts: most of them are rescued from the dairy industry, some of them were "downer" cows who are considered useless by dairy farmers and left to die. Some of them had rescued themselves by literally escaping from slaughterhouses. This was just a hint of the spirit that all the animals had. One thing we immediately noticed was the lack of smell. Our only previous experience of cows had thus far been driving by huge feedlots on various freeways, and I realized now that cows (and other farm animals) are not inherently dirty or smelly, rather the smell and polution is a direct result of factory farming practices.
Here is a cow we were able to get close to. Here name is Queenie and she lives on the special needs pasture because she has a hip injury. She was the most gentle and friendly cow, allowing us to pet her, and even walking up to us. Now I realized how absolutely large a cow is-- and Queenie is a young and lanky cow! Unfortunately, a bunch of flies were bothering her this day. Jessica explained that they put an ointment on her face that is successful at repelling flies for a few hours, but then they come back. Fortunately, this does not happen all the time, just a few warm summer days.
Queenie lives close to some goats and the sheep pasture.
Here is Daiku with Dino the goat. Dino's from Brooklyn. He was given such a horrible diet that his bones are weak, so he has to hang out with the sheep (as you can see in the background) because normal play with other goats would potentially hurt him. He was so friendly and trusting and let us pet him.
This was my favorite goat. This cell-phone picture doesn't do justice to his beauty, with long horns and flowing white hair. After the tour, when we were allowed to roam the farm by ourselves, we went back to him and fed him an apple. Jessica told us that what the goats like even more than apples is leaves from the apple tree, so we fed him some, and he took them hungrily. He was (like most of the rest of the animals here) trusting, and came out of his barn toward us when he caught wind of the leaves in our hands. Beautiful.
We also saw the turkeys, who were adorable.
Here is one of the ladies in the pen. These poor turkeys were cruelly de-beaked, but they are all getting better and thriving now. I tried to pet them, but they weren't into it much on this day- and that is their perogative! When I managed to touch them briefly though, I was so surprised by how soft and fine their feathers were. Some of them were rescued from a man who was selling them to families who wanted to raise and slaughter their own turkeys for Thanksgiving. Apparently, nothing teaches children about the circle of life better than watching their parents raise, slaughter, and then eat turkeys. I was horrified, as I was never aware of this D.I.Y. style of Thanksgiving before.
Unfortunately, this is not limited to turkeys. One of the pigs we met was being raised by a family to be slaughtered for a father's day picnic! Thankfully, he escaped.
Here are the adorable pigs, who we found sleeping in their barn.
These are creatures after my own heart--they like sleeping and relaxing all day long!
And getting their bellies rubbed. I was once again overwhelmed by their sheer size. Pigs are huge! And their bellies are so fatty. If you rubbed really vigorously, she would raise her arms and her body would start shaking--just like a dog. Adorable.
We also saw lots of chickens. Some of them were broiler chickens rescued from Mississippi after hurricane Katrina. Their barn had been destroyed, and they had been abandoned, left to die. I did not realize that broiler chickens (and I hate that name) only live to be 42 days old. Naturally, chickens live to be many years old.
I took this picture for Urban Vegan:
This was the group that includes your new baby, Agnes! I'm happy to report that they look robust, relaxed, and happy.
On our way out of the farm, we saw this guy, hanging out by himself in the mud.
He was so adorable. And he didn't mind that we were intruding on his relaxation time to pet him and coo to him--very sporting of him, I do say.
One strange thing I saw at Farm Sanctuary was in a wastepaper basket in the women's restroom:
WTF-- a receipt from McDonalds...??!! I'd hate to think someone went to McDonalds and Farm Sanctuary in one day!
Then we headed to Ithaca, which is about a half hour from Watkins Glen. The weather was still cooperating (rain? what rain?) and we even saw a rainbow. Here is another scenery shot.
I wish our camera was not running out of batteries. One thing I really wanted to photograph was all the rolls of hay on farms that we passed by. The golden hay on the warm green grass with dappled sunlight-- ahhhh, perfect cliched shot!
In Ithaca, we went in for an early dinner at Moosewood Restaurant. This is a great old establishment, serving vegetarian and vegan food [but also some fish.] We went here last year on our anniversary, so we figured we'd continue the tradition. The food was good.
For appetizer, we had black bean ful, which replaced the fava beans of the classic recipe with black beans, along with cumin, lemon juice, tomatoes, and garlic. Pretty damn tasty. We also had spicy peanut soup, which tasted also of carrots and ginger. Here is a shot of those things, along with some locally made hard apple cider. I love drinking cider with meals, and this was one of the first "autumny" things that we've done this year- is summer really over?...
For entrees, Daiku ordered the Russian streudel, which came with a beet and cucumber salad. I didn't have any, because it had a lot of cheese on it, but it seemed to have some of my favorite flavors: fennel seeds, dill, phyllo dough, the works. Here is a photo:
What did I have for dinner? A vegetable tagine, a smoky mixture of potatoes, colorful peppers, black and green olives, tomatoes and artichokes served over couscous. Unfortunately, I will have to leave that to your imaginations since the camera finally gave up the ghost for good right after we took the picture of the streudel.
After dinner we walked over to GreenStar food co-op, one of my favorite food markets. It has a produce section that puts many mainstream supermarkets to shame, as well as a bakery with vegan treats, and an all-around fantastic selection of food, at great prices, with a strong community vibe.
As we headed home, we went to a coffee shop in the Ithaca commons, where many students hang out and got a cup of coffee for the drive home. In addition, we got some dessert, a slice of vegan banana blueberry cream pie. This is what I like about Ithaca- you can walk into any restuarant or cafe, no matter how big or small, and be guaranteed vegan choices. It was so funny, because this cafe had some scones that were marked "not vegan." Now, why can't the whole world be like this, where vegan is so normal, that non-vegan items have to be marked out?
Overall, a great day. We will not forget the animals we met, nor the lessons they taught us.