Sunday, May 18, 2014

Diary of a Microfarmer: Animals are strange. People are stranger.

There are times when I need to organize my thoughts. This may be a rather public way to do it. There are not many people stumbling upon my blog in the vast expanse of the internet, however, so I'm confident that if my words can help someone else, they will find them. If you'd rather read fluffy posts about fluffy bunnies and ducklings, please stay tuned. I may not be all sunshine and butterflies, but I have my moments (that may or may not be followed by annoyingly happy blog posts of baby animals).

Okay, here. Fluff.

Struggling is something that humans and animals alike must do. Nature is full of struggling. And beauty. And miracles, and harsh realities of survival. Without darkness, there is no light. Without light, there is no darkness. We spend most of our moments living in the fuzzy shades of grey between them. It's pretty comfortable there...

Some of us are more comfortable existing closer to the darkness, as it keeps us more protected, and less shocked when things take a turn for the worse. I'm one of those. Prone to depression, and anxiety, and distrust. It keeps me safe. I'm everyone's friend, and nobody's friend. I refuse to hurt people, and give them all the benefit of the doubt. From a distance, people are beautiful. When they get too close, I see their ugliness. It's the inevitable ugliness of humanity- I'm not sure if anyone is exempt from it. Jealousy, judgement, selfishness... It's there, in even the best of us. It weakens me to witness it, so I keep it away. I keep them away.

You can call it Social anxiety, if you so choose. I call it a hyperawareness.

Anyway, this is a farm blog, so allow me to demonstrate a possibly-somewhat-weakly relative example in the animal world.

Just as they exist in the human race, bullies are present in animal relationships. We've all seen it. The pecking order can be particularly brutal in a flock of chickens, and especially upsetting when it's your favorite chicken (I'm SO sorry, Miss Red Hen). We try to talk sense to them, but it's pointless.

"Come on now, chickens!" "There's enough room on that roost for ALLL of you..... can't you just, scoot over a bit?"

"There, there, chickens- here's a new nesting box, so you can stop kicking the other chickens' eggs out and pecking a hole in them. Just wait your turn! Every chook deserves some privacy when they're laying!"

"Did you really have to run across the coop just so you could peck Miss Red Hen and remind her that you have first dibs on the FULL feeder of layer pellets? There's enough food to go around!"

No, it's futile. And talking to your chickens may just make you look like a crazy chicken lady.

People have pecking orders too, whether or not we want to admit it. Throughout history, it's been there, in different ways. Usually when things get too out of hand and unjust, the goodness of humanity rises up and restores fairness and human rights, but it takes time, and bravery to beat the bullies. And a collective effort of good over evil. Many times, it happens too late.

I think this is what separates us from other animals. We can question the order of things, and question why we respect some people more than others. We can break away from popular opinions and beliefs, use our questions to educate ourselves, and enlighten others, and form a new school of thought that can better humanity.

I don't think chickens in a flock will rise up and take down a bully at the top of the pecking order... then again, I've only been at this for a year, and don't pretend to be an expert. I do know, that the pecking order can change over time, for whatever reasons. Chickens can lose their status, and fall lower on the pecking order, and the weaker ones can move up.

Why Miss Red Hen accepts her status at the bottom of the pecking order is beyond me. She looks pretty tough .

Monsanto is a bully. The poor little farmers getting sued for patent infringement on their GMO seeds  (aka pollen and seeds blowing from GMO crops into the non- Monsanto fields) can't do much to protect themselves from this big bully. Monsanto IS in bed with the government, after all.

It will take a collective effort of enlightened "little people," to take down the Monsanto bully. On a small scale, this means that your average person needs to lessen the demand for GMO foods by buying organic, and locally grown food. This may be hard, since the bullies are fighting so hard against GMO labeling, but thankfully there are many foods labeled as organic, or non-gmo by the NON-GMO project.

Future children of America will, one day, read about Monsanto in their history books, and reflect upon how absolutely insane the notion of putting a patent on life really is. Not to mention how bizarre it was to put a fish gene in tomatoes. Hopefully factory farming and CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) will be in that book too.

Back to the animals...

Goats can be bullies too. I see it every day in my tiny herd. The irony? My mean herd queen, Violet, has no horns because she was disbudded as a kid. Snowdrop, the cutest little white goat ever, has lovely horns. I'm sure to respect them, because they could do some damage if I accidently got my eye too close to them... Violet, does not care that Snowdrop could potentially do major damage to her if she decided to. You see, they came from the same farm. A farm where Violet was, not only the only disbudded goat, but the TOP goat. Her attitude is formidable. She always has first dibs on food and treats. Snowdrop keeps her distance, in fear and respect, and allows Violet to bully her, lest she get rammed against the fence.

Is Violet overcompensating for her lack of horns, as bullies sometimes do? Does Snowdrop realize that she has the capacity to fight back and stop being a victim? Am I anthropomorphizing and over analyzing?
Sweet horned Snowdrop shares with baby Bolt.

I had a bully living next door, growing up. She was older than I was, and one of my very first examples of friendship. She's also one of the reasons it's ingrained in me to not trust people. Anyway, I was the younger one, so I naturally looked up to her. When she treated me like there was something wrong with me, I believed there must be. Guess what? There was something wrong with her, and her situation. Being blinded by the bullying, I couldn't comprehend that, though. I was just a little person. I didn't know that I had "horns."

Bullies are very insecure people. We need to see that, in our personal lives, as well as in our society. Our fear and subordination is their empowerment. Our enlightenment, is our horns.

So yes, to bring my point full circle (wait- what is my point???), people are strange. And you should have the song "People are strange" by The Doors playing in your head as you read this.

I feel closest to calm when working with animals and plants on a daily basis, as opposed to humans, even though plants and animals can be brutal as well. Yes, even plants like Creeping Charlie are only out for their own survival. Survival of the fittest. Selfishness has it's place in the plant and animal world. But humans? We're a strange breed. We have the ability to reach a higher level of consciousness and peaceful co-existence, yet we usually choose not to. We are responsible for protecting the Earth, and it's life, and as a whole, we're just not. But we should.

We need to choose a peaceful co-existence. Be like Milo.


  1. I just LOVE Milo and is caring, laid back "live and let live" attitude!

  2. I think watching my flock is fascinating and so much reflects what happens in life. It's sad that bullying not only happens in childhood but out in the workforce and adulthood too. And I agree, they are very insecure. On a brighter note - I ADORE that last photo!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Staci. I agree, it's sad that many adults can't rise above the bully mentality. I think with the advent of the internet, it's even more prevalent! And I love that photo too- Milo is quite a lover :)