Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
1 November 2000 Issue

From the City to the Farm
by Michelle Rivera - [email protected]

New York City is wonderful this time of year. Central Park is alive with color and crisp fall scents and the city is busy twenty-four seven.

But the Catskills are even more in bloom with vibrant autumn reds, oranges and shades of bronze. And despite this beauty or perhaps because of it, all I could do was break down and cry with gratitude, love and despair.

My husband John and I spent a week in Manhattan. Being that we are both native New Yorkers who haven't been "home" in 15 years, this was a homecoming long overdue. We saw all the sights, just like tourists should, and met with the publisher of my book, Hospice Hounds (due out in June), while in the city. With the book business out of the way, and the sights of the city all seen, we rented a white Chevy Silverado and headed for the mountains. We got into Watkins Glen a little late in the day for us to visit it's main attraction, Farm Sanctuary, which is about 5 hours drive from New York City.

So we spent the night at Seneca Lodge on the outskirts of Seneca Lake, one of the finger lakes at the foothills of the Catskills. I was pleased to see not one, but two delicious vegan selections on the menu. This area is littered with wineries and apple orchards, and pumpkins were everywhere. Naturally, while we were there we treated ourselves to a wine tasting! The next day, we found ourselves headed up a long and winding country road up, up, up a mountain until finally we could see the brilliant red barns and cabins that make up Farm Sanctuary. We entered the visitors center where we were greeted by Ali, who runs the little store that displays all the fun things I have seen on their website. We introduced ourselves because being members is the only way to see the sanctuary without a scheduled tour, which only takes place on the weekends. (Guests who stay in the little B & B cabins on the grounds also have free access).

I have to admit that I was already feeling very misty at even being at the Sanctuary; and that we had found time in our busy lives to make this pilgrimage. Ali seemed a little amused at my emotional reaction to being there, but took it in stride. To her, I am sure, it was just another work day.

We browsed the gallery of superstar photos of celebrities who had come before us, and looked at the real-life cruel captivity methods - a veal crate and a battery cage. I felt so ashamed at being a part of the species that finds this acceptable. We looked at pictures of a recent rescue of over a thousand white chickens who had been housed in a deplorable condition. We were to see those chickens as we made our way through the farm.

Ali gave us a map and sent us out into the bright, crisp morning. The first barn we came to housed about eight cows, all dozing quietly. They looked at us with suspicion and we spoke to them quietly. One was missing an eye and I shuddered to think what horrors had accompanied that injury. We said goodbye to the cows, and learned from a sign on the barn that they were in a processing mode, having just arrived at the sanctuary. I guess that would explain their obvious discomfort at seeing us. The cows in the next barn were much more comfortable with our presence, and I guessed they have been in residence longer.

As we walked along the gravel path, John drew my attention to a large ginger cat who had been watching us from his hiding place the tall grass. "That must be the requisite barn cat," I commented.

We passed the rabbit refuge, and visited with the turkeys who will never end up on someone's plate. We watched the chickens, there were hundreds- play with each other and I was struck by the awesome beauty and majesty of a rooster who greeted us with a resonant "cock-a-doodle-do." We came upon a barn with sleeping pigs, all spread out in beds of hay. Some were almost buried in the hay with only their snouts visible. They looked so comfortable and I wanted to jump right in there with them. It was just like the feeling I get when I have to get up early for work and my dog and cat are snoozing in the warm bed, it is all I can do to keep from crawling right back in with them! The chickens freely walked on and around the pigs who snored loudly and seemed oblivious to them and us.

This site, above all others, made me beam with pride that we had sent money and supported this wonderful organization. The sight of sentient pigs, not a care in the world, sleeping peacefully and without fear was touching. The sight of chickens playing around them, two species that have no concern of violence with regard to their proximity with one another, and ourselves, yet another species, completing the picture. It was a quiet communion with these animals and we enjoyed the time immensely.

We asked to see Gene and Lorri Bauston, the resident directors, but were told they were in a board meeting. I would have liked to have thanked them for this moment. But maybe it's just as well I could not. As I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears, they may well have thought me quite daft and had me escorted off the property!

If you go: Visit their website for information and directions

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