Saturday, December 5, 2009

orphans and alpacas

I woke up early, or early for a Saturday anyway. I was done with chores and on the road by 8AM. I was on a mission to load up the Ford with hay before any weather hit. As I drove I turned up the heat and opened the windows, letting that air hit me and move my ponytails around. Southern Vermont smelled like snow, like something was in the works. I stopped at the Sherman's General store in West Rupert for a cup of coffee and read the poster board outside sharing all the trophy bucks and scores. A few hunters were inside warming up from scenting in the morning. Everyone seemed excited about the snow, and the coffee. I was among them.

After the hay was unloaded I filled the bed with my trash bags and headed to the dump. (One of the charms of rural living is no trash pick up. That's a small price to pay, far as I'm concerned.) Jazz was deep into round two of his morning nap, so Annie jumped in the front seat for a ride into town. When we returned to the farm we were met by a big silver truck. A man came out with a silver badge and announced he was Animal Control. I didn't roll my eyes, but wanted to. I wasn't worried in the least and Annie and I walked right up to him and shook hands.

He went on to explain that someone had filed a complaint about how I take care of my animals. They told him my rabbits were in too small of cages, the goat was suffering, no one had bedding, there was feces everywhere and I keep my dogs in cages all day. (That last one was especially hard to swallow with Annie sitting happily by my side.) He told me I had nothing to worry about. He said he checked out the entire property and my animals and their homes were in great shape, that the complaint was ridiculous and the case would be closed. He actually used the word pristine to describe my animals' living conditions and overall health compared to some places he has to visit.

We talked for a long time. He was a really kind man, a retired police officer and seemed to be tired of having to seek out complaints like this. He said over 60% of reports about farm animals come from people without farm animals. That a lot of activists call because they don't understand why a goat would live differently than a labrador. I asked for a copy of his detailed report so I had it on file. He told me he'd gladly mail it and gave me a contact number in case I ever need to get in touch with him again. He then shook my hand, wished me a Merry Christmas, and told me people who complain about nothing and waste the state's resources should be fined. I liked him.

The state of Vermont officially recognizes me as "not a crappy person". I'm framing that report when I get it.

After my meeting with the Officer, I packed up Bean Blossom and her hutch and drove her to Shaftsbury. I was taking her to her new home with a friend I met through Storey Publishing. Mel, an amazing woman, was taking in my orphans. She not only adopted both of my angoras but all of my goslings. Her son Ben (possibly the kindest twelve-year-old boy I ever met) was thrilled to take Bean into his arms. I had already delivered the buck and the geese earlier in the week—this was the last trip to hand over livestock. I try not to think about what's happening when I'm doing this. If I think I get angry. I'm as far from perfect as you get.

As I waved goodbye and pulled out of her farm's driveway, it was starting to flurry. I had a warm loaf of wheat bread given to me as road food, and bit into it as I drove off. I was famished. I chewed my bread and watched the weather turn. The snow was a welcomed sign of cheer. I was feeling validated after the animal-control incident and happy knowing my animals were in such good hands. The snow felt like personal applause for the kismet.

I was now heading to Bennington to meet up with Abi and Greg, local readers of CAF who offered to foster Finn for me. They invited me into their home, which they were selflessly offering to my kid as well. The reason for the drop in was to allow me to check out their digs before I brought the goat to reside. You know, to make sure I was happy with it. Of course I was. These folks were amazing.

I never met this couple before, but at first hug right inside the front door I felt like Abi and I shared a college dorm. We talked over coffee while their adorable children ran around with their black cat, Obi. They told me their stories about buying property, and the ups and downs of it all. The whole time I couldn't stop thinking how damn lucky I was to have people like this watching over Finn. Their two-year-old daughter offered me a piece of Mandarin orange, and I instantly thought of horns. I reminded them to watch the young ones around Finn. Not because he would hurt them, but a quick turn could cause a black eye. The chances are slight, but it felt like the responsible thing to bring up. I hope with all my heart it works out for us all.

Then they introduced me to their pair of yearling Alpacas. Oh. My. God. I never was up close and personal with Alpacas before and was instantly smitten. They were hilarious, quirky, gentle and calm all at the same time. They took grain right from my hand and had these giant camel eyes that made me think of cartoon princesses. I won't be changing my fate from sheep to Peru's Best anytime soon, but I can see myself adding one or two to my flock some day. What dolls, them.

I made it home just in time to pick up an apple pie at Wayside and head over to the Sandgate Christmas Potluck. It was so wonderful. Any doubt I had about leaving this town melted away. The people, the history, the farmers, the fact we all sang with Santa as the snow fell outside in thick chunks—all of it perfect. I'll write more about it soon, but know that my hearts all filled up tonight—packed to capacity. And now I'm going to listen to what's going on in Lake Wobegon, drink my hot chocolate, and call it a night.


Blogger Lynnanne said...

wow. glad to hear all's well... especially with the humane officer. aren't alpacas the most adorable things? we've had our eyes on them... and will have them as soon as we have a place to keep them.
congrats on the new book deal.... sounds like it's been a whirlwind week for you, but things seem to be looking up.
again, congrats! and thanks for sharing...

December 5, 2009 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Sharyl Suzanne Morris said...

So, so happy to hear this. (I'm angry at your neighbor again, though.)

December 5, 2009 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Fallen Oak said...

The one on the right looks like a Ramone.

December 5, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Seafish said...

I can't believe these people called animal control. At least you can sleep sound knowing you've been vendicated.

December 5, 2009 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

By God they are cute! There's a place a mile or so from me that has them. I love driving by there.

I guess I didn't realize that you had to take your geese to a new home too! I'm so sorry Jenna...that person who 'wasted the officers time' should be fined and as community service should follow you around for a weekend or 2 and help you muck out the barn for a couple of weeks. Then, they would have somethig to 'think about' as my Granma used to say!

December 5, 2009 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Curious whether the "neighbor" was at the potluck or not. Although this person might be a neighbor they certainly are not very neighborly. Unfortunately, you have received the brunt of their lack of understanding. A good neighbor would have discussed their concerns with you first. The downside is the relocation of some of your animals. The upside are the new people coming into your life and the motivation to make things happen faster (buy propety).

My best to you!

December 5, 2009 at 9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So happy to hear you found some homes for your animals. I almost cried when I read about you predicament. I hope to have a farm myself in a few years. I have been vegetarian and an activist (various forms) for years, but the biggest issue I've always had with other animal activists was the actual lack of knowledge about animals that many of them had/have. Just because an animal is a farm animal does not mean that is being mistreated. Many activists decide to make quick judgments and decisions that can be heartbreaking to animal caretakers and homesteaders, as you well know. So happy the animal control officer was friendly. Sounds like things are looking up. That makes me so happy for you.

December 5, 2009 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Sherry Sutherby said...

Glad you are having some closure with your events from the past week.

Move forward with self independence. I can't imagine life off our "40".

One of our best friends came today and we ran our sled dogs all morning and half the afternoon on fresh snow. She also happens to be our Animal Control officer...

Life is good.

December 5, 2009 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Gwen said...

Bad neighbor. Bad, bad neighbor! I've been sad and now, am relieved to hear that things are looking up. And that vindication... it's a good thing. I turned in a neighbor/dog owner who kept their dog chained to a tree with no food or water. But not before I stopped, fed and watered the dog, knocked on the door, and politely offered to help them put up a fence or maybe even find a new home for the dog. There are some people who mistreat their pets and animals. You are certainly not among them. Thanks for updating all of us.

December 5, 2009 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

All I can say about the Animal Control situation is - Wow. Good job to you for handling it so gracefully! I think I might have had a breakdown right in front of that guy before he got a word out. I'm glad it worked out in your favor.

December 5, 2009 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

By the way, I've heard that alpalcas (or maybe llamas?) are better than guard dogs for sheep...

December 5, 2009 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Aargh, so much drama over perfectly normal animals. Is this neighbor of yours a vegan? Or does s/he simply prefer their dinner be thorougly abused before slaughter?

I've only been reading a couple of days, but I'm surprised that living the simple life, reaching out to others wishing to do the same, has actually been controversial here on your blog. Honestly. Aren't there enough blogs out there for these snippy folks to find something more to their own taste?

December 5, 2009 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Yai Yai said...

I’m saddened to hear of your troubles.
1. Leave up the donation button, no one is forced to use it and if it offends someone they should write their own blog not complain about yours.
2. To me it sounds as if the neighbor doesn’t know or want to know anything about you and how your animals are cared for. Which means they are a chronic troublemaker and/or jealous of your success. Don’t kid yourself, jealousy and bitterness will motivates more than a few people to try to tear you down to their small and petty size.
But we, your loyal readers know that won't work!

December 5, 2009 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Dessa said...

Some people have too much g*dda*ned time on their hands. I'm real sorry for the trouble they tried to cause you but I am thrilled that animal control knew what they were dealing with.

December 5, 2009 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Amy McPherson Sirk said...

As hard as it is to give up your critters, at least something good has come of it. Your circle of friends has widened and you have made an ally in Animal Control. I'm amazed at the trouble one busy body can stir up. But won't it be wonderful when you have your own place and are free to do as you please? Best of luck. Please keep us posted as we're all rooting for you.

December 6, 2009 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger Rene said...

Dang girl, you've got a spine of steel. I'd have been a wreck even if I knew my place was in tip top shape. I am also not a good person which is why, if it were me, I'd have sent copies of the report to the land lord and nosy neighbor, too.

One thing I've noticed about alpaca is how calm they always seem to be. I've heard they can be a good defense for sheep herds against predators but that might be an old wives tale, too.

I'm glad that things have worked out for you and the animals, even if my heart still aches for you. You'll be able to hear my cheering from Washington when you finally get your farm.

December 6, 2009 at 12:46 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Yea!! I'm so glad you were vindicated! Shame on your neighbor!

December 6, 2009 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

YAY! Enjoy the snow and your slice of vindication!

December 6, 2009 at 1:46 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Fallen Oak is right. The one on the right DOES look like a Ramone.

December 6, 2009 at 1:57 AM  
Blogger cabbage rose said...

Some folks don't know true happiness and peace. They just don't get it. They only know an emptiness inside that they try to fill with "it". They think "it" will bring them happiness and peace. If they don't have "it", you can be sure they are thinking about how to get "it", when they get "it", they worry about losing "it", and when someone else gets "it" too, they're not satisfied with "it" anymore, and need a new "it", a better "it". The thing is, "its" never enough. Never will be. So they don't know true happiness and peace. Might never know it. But they sure know when others have it, true happiness and peace, and some of them (not all, just some)...just. can't. stand. it. Mean and hateful, they are. Such a shame. But you, my sister, get it and have it, that true happiness and peace, and they can never, ever take it away from you, unless you give it to them - and I KNOW that ain't gonna happen! So you just keep on doing what you do, and remember that all of us out here have got your back. All you have to do is holler, and we'll be there for you. Because that's really what life is all about, isn't it? Taking care of one another. Caring about one another. Giving and sharing with one another. Yeah, you and all of us, we get it, and it is good, and it is enough.

December 6, 2009 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger tigress said...

i totally agree with fallen oak. a ramone completely!

so glad you found good homes for your animals jenna - and new friends.

also, i know a lot of us are angry here at your neighbor's actions. and even though what happened TOTALLY sucks. i would like to suggest that maybe she really did think she was doing the right thing, however misguided. not that it is makes anything better, i just think that being quick to judge (on her part) started this whole mess and judging and lack of understanding is pretty much always a painful path.

December 6, 2009 at 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago. a relief postman thought I had left my dogs home alone for days. The RSPCA officer and I had had a good natter about things and he said I looked after my dogs beautifully. The relief postman did not know that I routinely left brown envelopes containing unwelcome solicitors letters in the post box for days sometimes because I couldn't face them when going through a very traumatic divorce! So it happens but you were vindicated Jenna!

December 6, 2009 at 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whew! So glad to hear that it went well with animal control, though sorry you had to deal with it in the first place.

Dang! I missed PHC last night because I was at a wedding - I'm sure it was an excellent show, as always. Some day I'll have to tell you about the time I met GK! :-)

December 6, 2009 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger j.c. said...

Glad to hear things are working out and that your visit with the animal control officer went well!

I just have one question though - if your landlord said you could have animals (is it in the lease?) and the animal control officer has no beef with you, why are you getting rid of your animals, even temporarily? If it's in your lease that you can have livestock and you have proof you are caring for them fine (per animal control, even!) your landlord can't do a damn thing to you.

December 6, 2009 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

j.c. It's complicated. The landlord approved the dogs, sheep, chickens but never approved the two rabbits and Finn (Who was a replacement for Marvin when he left the farm) I never had a single problem with livestock and the landlord before and just assumed the rabbits, bees, goat would be okay. But they don't want the farm here now, never really did, and since I never asked for those animals they had to go. The others can stay and will leave with me when I move on to my own place...

December 6, 2009 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger j.c. said...

Ahhh, I see...makes perfect sense. I just didn't want you to get railroaded, but it sounds like you are doing what you need to do. I am looking forward to your reunion post when you get that farm in the spring!!

December 6, 2009 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Spring Lake Farm said...

Jenna - I've been a dedicated reader for about 8-9 months now. I have not donated not because I haven't wanted to support you but because I'm too broke trying to take care of my small dream farm. I find your writing so inspiring and akin to some of the issues that I deal with daily and it always makes me so happy to hear of readers wanting to help you out financially. They (your readers) have hearts that are so big, so don't take away their desire to be a part of something that they love.

I'm so glad that the encounter with animal control went so well. I know it must have felt like a weight had been lifted. Take heart, enjoy this beautiful time of the year and know that there are people you have never met that keep you close.

Happy Holidays,


December 6, 2009 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

Man oh man what a week! Thank goodness weeks like this don't happen too often. Thank you for exhibiting such grace under fire. Believe me it is a rare a beautiful thing to see. I know you probably felt and thought the things most of us do, but the difference is you never passed those thoughts on to us. You stayed as upbeat and positive as possible, and when you couldn't avoid filling in details, you just stated bare facts with no emotional shadings of judgement attached. I truly admire that.

You deserve your vindication and all the feelings of "I told you so" that come with it. Frame that report. Heck. Have it printed in the paper so everyone can see. I'll even use that "digusting" donate button to help pay for the printing if you decide to do so.

Now. I've spent enough energy on those small minded, weak spirited, too lazy to look into the true situation individuals. Tell me all about the potluck.

And can you believe it! It snowed in Louisiana Friday. It wasn't enough to stick but it was surely strange seeing the white stuff come down and having to drive home with it hitting the windshield. It has snowed here before, but never, in my memory, before Christmas.

It sure makes a crackling fire in the fireplace extra special.

December 6, 2009 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Abi said...

What an awesome sight to see Hayden and Indy on the pages of CAF! It was so cool to meet you yesterday and like I mentioned Simonne is your biggest fan now, I am sure of it :) We look forward to watching over your sweet boy while you make way for your next adventure. ooxx from Abi and Greg Jorn Simonne and Vaughn

December 6, 2009 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Well, that encounter with animal control had to be deeply gratifying! :D

And you're right about the horns. They'd never hurt you on purpose, but man, a quick jerk of the head really will clean our clock (ask me how I know).

December 6, 2009 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger jen said...

Wow, Jenna, that is such good news! I am happy the meeting went so well. I'm sorry for the other bull**** that's been going on, but you are obviously one tough cookie, and you have all of us pulling for you!

December 6, 2009 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Patsy from Illinois said...

Your landlord obviously want you out of there. Who knows the real reason? People can be very tricky.

The animal officer may be just the man to ask for any leads on a few acres. He will be all over the county and would know all the best places. And those that would be the best for your animals and gardens.

You are going to need to be very careful of your landlord and neighbor. Something is definitely going on there and I don't care how nice they are to your face.

Winter is the best time to buy if you can afford it. The lookie lous are asleep in their dens and those desperate to sell will come way down on price.

Again, keep the animal control guy in mind for good leads.

December 6, 2009 at 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you just LOVE Alpacas? I met one 2 years ago on my birthday. I had always wanted to meet one in person after being asked to cartoon one for an owner. I was in love too. :)

December 7, 2009 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger DarcieGlam said...

Wow, what a week of ups and downs! Vindication must feel sweeeet. I can't help but think there is perhaps a small minority (like 2?)who don't want the notoriety of your "fame" in their midst. I'm a New Englander, and it can be that way. So glad that almost all there consider you a friend and are so supportive! That is a great suggestion to stay in touch with the AC officer for leads on a farm.

December 7, 2009 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

My DH is an animal control officer here in the suburbs. He's learned over the years that a majority of the calls he gets on a neighbor are by folks who are either malicious, clueless or both. I'm sorry you had to deal with such stupidity, but I'm glad you got to meet a fine example of the ACO breed (so often maligned in cartoons but most often very nice and wanting the best for both humans and animals.)

Congrats on the new book contract and I'm most relieved to hear you found a good home for the critters who couldn't stay with you.

December 7, 2009 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Trista Hill said...

HOORAY!!!! So glad this is working out. I love that all this has made it more firm in your mind about getting your own place. You will get it sooner than later, better than you ever expected. I can't wait and am so excited for you!

December 7, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger ecogrrl said...

Oh man, the first thing that went through my mind is what Rene said -- I totally would have mailed copies to my detractors. Your restraint is teaching me a few lessons, and I appreciate it.

December 7, 2009 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger KimT said...

I think you have to get 2 alpacas. I think they need a friend. Not sure wear i got that, probably saw it on TV somewhere.

December 8, 2009 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger KimT said...

why would someone make a false complaint against you? I don't get people! WHoever did it should be fined, as the officer said.

December 8, 2009 at 6:10 PM  

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