Wednesday, June 8, 2011

go team

I was thinking tonight about my relationship to the animals on this farm, how to best explain it. While I love my animals, the term "animal-lover" seems incorrect for this particular situation. I don't think any Peta members would consider me as such, and the idea of wearing sweatshirts with paw prints on them make me shift in my seat...

I raise some animals as companions, some as work partners, some as entrées. Line up any three animals on this farm and one could be a business partner, the other a vehicle, and the next dinner. I also don't see any of my animals as pets. Even my dogs, all of them doing (or have done) what they were originally bred to do. Jazz and Annie pulled me across the Idaho tundra on a dogsled. Gibson works sheep. While they watch movies on the couch with me in an cool house, I see them not as faux-children, but as teammates. I see every animal on this farm as a member of team Cold Antler.

I do not have a particularly warm/fuzzy feeling about any of the other animals here. Even my dogs don't get much of a parental vibe out of me. I care for them all (and the dogs I love as close friends) but I'm not this place's mother: I'm the quarterback and choreographer. These are my people, this farm, and it is why I so often refer to Cold Antler as We. The royal we, as in "We didn't get the other four turkeys yet" or "We're building a stable before fall and somehow getting this chimney installed and and legal" I'm always asked who the rest of "we" is, meaning what man came into the picture? I explain the same thing every time. The Farm (capital F) is me, too.

Ever play a team sport? Remember walking into that highschool locker room and talking over plays and assists, passes and strategies? That same camaraderie and mindset is how I feel when I walk out my front door first thing in the morning. This is my sport. These are my players: my pony, my sheep, my dog at my side. We're all members of a team and the opponents we are up against are doubt, fear, and the slightest waiving from the long-term goal that fuels this place: to be a successful, sustainable farm.

We need jerseys.


P.S. It was not my intention to knock the notion of pets, or to say my dogs aren't. I was trying to explain how I see us as a team instead of a mother to a child. Some folks in the comments seemed to think I took umbridge with the idea of my animals as companions. I do not.

29 Comments:

Blogger BlueGate said...

We too have a "team" but I laughed out loud when I read your last comment. Given your "network", if you aren't careful, someone's going to show up on your front porch with a milk cow ; )

June 8, 2011 at 10:08 PM  
Blogger Mindy said...

I try to explain this at my office job - the difference between pets and farm animals.

June 8, 2011 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger Jenny Glen said...

SNORT! "sweatshirts with paw prints..."
:)

June 8, 2011 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Eh, I'd consider myself an animal lover for sure,even though I eat some of my animals. I love animals enough to treat them well and give them the respect they deserve. True, some of them will be eaten, but that's their purpose on this earth. Man domesticated our cattle, sheep, goats, etc for meat (or milk or fiber, etc). If it wasn't for their purpose to provide for us, they wouldn't exist in the same form or same numbers they do now. I love animals enough to go out of my way to avoid factory raised meat because that's not how I like animals to be treated. So yes, I'm an animal lover. :-)

June 8, 2011 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

No, no- if you get jerseys you'll have to milk them twice a day.

You have enough to do as it is.

June 8, 2011 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

I read milk cow into that also :) too wonderful, can picture it now.....so much nicer then a team logo on a shirt :) kidding, although, you may oneday see those lovely cows in your dreams :) ??? Who's to tell?

June 9, 2011 at 1:23 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I have to admit I too saw a sweet fawn colored cow when you said Jerseys in capitals. One would look beautiful on your hillside with Jasper.

June 9, 2011 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

No cows, please!!!

June 9, 2011 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Aw Jenna, think how pretty it would look. Yeah, I draw the line at cows too.

June 9, 2011 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Jerseys are my very favorite type of cow!

June 9, 2011 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger J. said...

Boy, Jenna, I went straight to a sports jersey and laughed out loud. :) I'm sitting with my brother in a hospital in Rochester while he slowly works his way out of a nasty bout with encephalitis..week 7...it's really nasty. He is one tough cookie! Your blog always gives me so much...knowledge, an opportunity for a great read, and so, so much humor! You truly know how to "turn a phrase," Jenna! Keep it rolling! Positive vibes from Mayo!

June 9, 2011 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

So funny how we all interpreted her one liner differently, I thought of the sport type of jersey, hadn't even considered the bovine type, until I got to Paula's comment and laughed out loud.

June 9, 2011 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Mrs. N said...

I totally get this Jenna. I respect my animals lives, and I expect them to respect me. I do not see them as family or pets. This has caused confusion at times with many family and friends, who think I just want to collect any random animal and love it forever. They try to gift me with aging and unwanted animals. When I explain that the animals that I keep need to serve a purpose and fit into the puzzle on this one acre, they balk, So your not really an animal lover! No, I am a farmer.

June 9, 2011 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger cindycolombo said...

I have a clear distinction between our house cats, definitely pets, warm fuzzies, I am mom, part of the family kind of thing and our small group of livestock, chickens and rabbits.

They are livestock. I care about them and am invested in them and their welfare and would be very sad if something happened to one of my 4 layers. Ok so I do love my chickens, but it is very different from my cats. The rabbits are a totally different story, they are meat rabbits and I haven't even named the breeding pair. That doesn't mean I didin't I worry about them in the storm last night and it means a lot to me that we make sure they have the best, most comfortable lives possible and they are part of the success of our little urban farm but yes it is not a warm fuzzy. I like the team analogy Jenna.

June 9, 2011 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I know the feeling!

But I, too, thought you were referring to milk cows when you said you need Jerseys, LOL.

June 9, 2011 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Katiegirl- I agree. I would add, that Gena, your Sibes are pets, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that- when did it become faux pas to have pets and farm- I must be slow...... I have a few pets. I enjoy the heck out of them and the only team work I get out of my older dogs, is when I open and shut the door while they come and go;) My Kelpie and Border Collie are worked every day, and without them I could NOT keep sheep- we have several fields and 83 acres of places they would like to be, besides sitting in their fields. At the end of the day, would I keep them if I lost the farm? You BETCHA.

June 9, 2011 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

I see a milk cow in your future? :J)

June 9, 2011 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

what's the difference between a companion animal and a pet?

while i don't consider my dogs my "kids" i love them will a whole heart, not one bit escapes their grasp. they are my companions, my friends, and my pets regardless of what purpose their physical being serves. i joke to my schutzhund trainer i have a working pet, he cringes.

in contrast to your feelings, i firmly believe i play the role of mommy dearest on my property. the ebb and flow of crops, animals, cars, and compost are influenced directly by my actions.

interestingly enough the definition of mother:

6. a. a female or thing that creates, nurtures, protects, etc, something "
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mother"

i feel like ive mothered the hell out of my garden this year! from tilling the soil and planting the first seed to weeding/watering and building fence its evident to me farming is a cycle of creation, nurtering, and protection.

you mother your ewes so they can mother their lambs.

its interesting how different view points can create similar desires.

June 9, 2011 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Merdith
Well said. The other day, it was brutally hot and I had to worm some older ewes. This required my dog to hold them on a fence for me, and keep working until I said "that'll do". She did. I rewarded her by allowing her a swim in the pond, and then, that night at home, she slept next to me in bed. We have a working partnership, enhanced by our bond. She was bought as a pet and my life evolved, and she stepped up to the plate beyond my wildest dreams.

June 9, 2011 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'm not knocking pets at all! Certainly my dogs are pets. I wanted to explain that while they are all pets, I don't feel like their parent or see them as children: I see us all as a team, one farm ecosystem.

June 9, 2011 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Great post, LOVE this blog, makes me smile everyday!

June 9, 2011 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

kelpie and collie - how i envy your evolution from simply owning a pet to creating a partner!

two of my dogs are terrier/hounds (a pit/hound and jrt/dachshund). as my life evolved to include chickens, they evolved into the number one predators on my property, genetically wired to track (hound) and kill (terrier).

next dog will be an adult shepherd or shepherd mix, if i outlive these current dogs i'll be in serious need of a terrier and hound break.

i can't imagine how jenna manages two high prey drive huskies with free range chickens.

June 9, 2011 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

She's thinking cows already!!!!

Oh, wait. Right. Jerseys are those things that sports teams wear sometimes.
...can you tell I didn't play an organized sport in highschool?

:-)

June 9, 2011 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

My older dog, a Kelpie was imported from over-seas, and her mission was to be an agiity dog. We took one herding lesson, and that was it. She does have working dogs in her pedigree, but still a true pig in a poke. She's the dog I take to other properties to handle other's sheep. My Border Collie is all working bred and is starting to learn farm work too. I remember one time, we were at a weekend long herding clinic, and Lucy, my Kelpie and I stayed in a tent trailer over night. She had worked hard all day, and at night, she wanted nothing more than to be next to me on the bed, and let out a huge sigh when I turned out the light.

June 9, 2011 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

My farm is more like a corporate bureaucracy. The llamas are the supervisors - always watching, never quite satisfied. The sheep are middle management - nobody sticks a neck out, a little nervous, and everyone pretty much does what everyone else is doing. The goats are the sales staff - chatty, friendly, pushy and more than a little hyper. The hens are the secretaries - busy, busy, busy. The cats? They are the retirees, even the two year old. And I am the janitor, food service department, transportation, accounting and maintenance.

June 9, 2011 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Diane: I loved that!

And your chicks are okay, it'll pass. They just need their bums wiped and some time and maybe separation from the flock? put them in a brooder-in-a-brooder if you have too.

Mine had it a few days and it passed.

June 9, 2011 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Jenna I totally understood the distinctions you were making. I have two dogs one little lap dog who is totally pet and another who while she is a pet is also my companion and works with me in the yard. Our bond is different I watch out for her and she does me also. I know if we moved to our dream homestead/ranch she would work it by my side. She has the nose, agility, endurance and intelligence for any work.

Diane your analogy was hilarious! It was a great laugh after a long day.

June 10, 2011 at 1:32 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm sitting at my desk at work this morning, and had to laugh when I read Diane's post...it's comical to look around you and see your colleagues as llamas, sheep, goats...lol! Great way to start my morning!!

June 10, 2011 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

i was just thinking about this yesterday. we just butchered some meat chickens and i was trying to explain that our meaties arent pets - and neither are the rest of the critters in the barnyard. someone thought that i wasnt "an animal lover" - but i am. i do love them and the work they do. but i dont see the stock as companions at all. they do their job and i appreciate it - deeply. but i dont love them meaties in a snugly kind of way at all!

ps i want a Jersey. cow that is. i have plenty of sweatshirts
;-)

June 11, 2011 at 8:09 AM  

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