Tina is up for some fun in this week’s challenge as she invites us to look at Precious Pets. She especially mentioned a pet ox. So…
Meet Ted and Bear, a team of oxen that I considered co-workers when I was at Old World Wisconsin. They were very good at following voice commands given by Dirk, the farmer. They hauled wagons and did all the heavy lifting around the 19th Century living history museum. They weren’t really “pets”, I guess, but the photo Tina shared wasn’t really an ox, either. I think it was a domestic water buffalo. (I stand corrected. Tina assures me it is a domestic ox.)
Now, I must confess that I don’t have any pets at the moment. The only animals I have ever lived with were cats, fish, and my daughter’s mice. But I love animals and consider them sentient beings worthy of the greatest respect. I am an enthralled observer of the wild creatures that live around the nature preserve where I rent a house. There are a pair of Sandhill Cranes that visit from March through November.
I am delighted by their elegance and their devotion. Each year, I mark their nesting and parenting habits. The first year, they fledged twins. Subsequent years were not so rewarding. One year, they had a colt that was hit by a car. This season, one of the adults disappeared for a while. Now there are two again. A new romance, perhaps. Cranes are a symbol of fidelity because they mate for life and always look out for each other. When one is foraging for food with its head down, the other is not far away, and on the lookout.
I am and have been a proud grandmother of quite a few “fur babies”, however. What I am most proud of, I think, is seeing how my children love and nurture and foster pets, truly doing their best to care for them and have meaningful relationships with them. My kids have taught me quite a lot about dogs, and I have learned to relate very well to them, overcoming a sort of phobia I developed as a young child who was overcome on the beach by an excited Irish Setter. Here’s a gallery of my “grandkids”:
For myself, I have a sweet little companion I call Jimmy Bear. He shares my bed and eats nothing. A pretty nice arrangement, I must say.
“Measured against the agenda of human survival, how might we rethink education? Let me suggest six principles.
First, all education is environmental education.” — David Orr, What Is Education For?
I actually met and spoke to David Orr at a conference near the Aldo Leopold Foundation Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin a few years ago. He is a fascinating speaker, a person who has clearly thought a great deal about how humans fit into the natural world.
Yesterday, I spent the morning volunteering in a homeschool class at a Nature Center. The children, aged 6-8, shared their journal entries during snack time. They each had spent time in a “Secret Place”, observing the natural world around them, drawing pictures, writing sentences using vocabulary words, and playing. I was so pleased to see this, and told them that they were following in the footsteps of Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, Beatrix Potter and many, many others — very important thinkers and learners.
What do we need to learn from Nature? So much. I have a page on this blog called “Spiritual Lessons from Nature”. Click on the link just under the header if you’re curious about them.
Some things I’ve learned about Nature: it’s powerful and deserving of respect.
It’s complex and autonomous.
It’s vast and largely incomprehensible.
It’s older than anyone can imagine.
It’s more detailed than anyone can see.
Humans are just one small leaf on the great Tree of Life. That’s always good to remember.
Thanks toPatti for hosting this challenge and for sharing stunning photos of Fiji.
During training for my new job at Old World Wisconsin, I was introduced to many new friends. On the last day of training, I took some pictures. Here are some portraits and brief bios about my new co-workers.
This is Bear and Ted, out in their favorite pasture next to the 1860 Schultz farm. They are a magnificent team of oxen. Bear is on the left, with a brass horn cap on his left horn. (“Bear left” is how I remember which one he is.) This is so that when he is yoked to his buddy Ted, he doesn’t gore him by accident. Each of them weighs about a ton (2,000 pounds). They like to be rubbed under their chins, but they will drool on you. I’ve been told that I will now enjoy good luck because Bear drooled on me. I like how this photo reminds me of the drawings for the book Ferdinand by Robert Lawson.
This is Ted with Bear behind. (Okay, I couldn’t stop myself.) They are clever escape artists, but also well behaved. They managed to bump up against the logs that cross the fence opening in such a way that they worked them free from their supports. They carefully stepped over them and went out to the garden in front of the homestead and helped themselves to the red cabbage growing there. Then, they went back into their pasture. The next morning, the staff looked at the obviously nibbled produce and the huge hoof prints in the garden and thought, “Oh no! The oxen are loose!” But there were Bear and Ted, looking innocent as can be from the pasture enclosure. But then they checked the gate, which these guys failed to close behind themselves, and their guilt was confirmed. I give them credit for sticking to the garden paths and returning home by themselves.
This is a close up of Ted. He’s a good worker, slow and steady. He pulls carts and plows and isn’t as skittish as a horse. You can hook up a cart to the team and go into town, but it’ll take you a while. They can run as fast as 30 miles an hour, but not for long. You can’t saddle them up and ride them because their spines form a peaked roof that’s uncomfortable for the rider (and probably for the animal as well). Sometimes a farmer would put a child on the ox’s back for a short time, just for fun. They are very docile, and these guys respond to commands like “Gee” and “Haw” and “Whoa” and “Get up” and “Back up” very cooperatively. They kick to the side instead of straight back, so when you walk beside them, you want to be in front of their back legs. So, that’s Bear and Ted. Here’s another team member. We call her Queen.
She and Quincy make up our team of Percherons. Stud horses were brought over from Europe in the mid 19th century and bred with local mares to improve the stock of draft horses for heavy farm work. I don’t know the pedigree of Queen and Quincy, but I imagine they’re crossbreeds. What non-profit museum could afford purebreds? They do a lot of wagon hauling in the harvest season, I think. Kids love to see them, but they’re massive and a tad dangerous. We have some quite elderly horses who provide the petting and photo opportunities for visitors with less risk. Steve put his apple core in Queen’s feed box just about 20 minutes before I snapped this photo. That may be why she’s giving me such a benevolent look.
This is Lily. She and her paddock mate Daisy (who was known last year as Thelma) are over in the Koepsell farm, where they are installing a new exhibit called Life on the Farm. They’re erecting a petting barn for baby animals, and Lily will be used for milking after she’s calved. Oh, yes. She’s pregnant. Look in her eyes and you can see the fatigue and determination of a heavily laden mother-to-be, can’t you? She will be producing milk for our dairy demonstrations: cream separation, butter churning, cheese-making and such. I am hoping to get the opportunity to milk her. I used to milk goats at a camp when I was in college, and I really enjoyed it. We milk by hand at OWW, of course. It seems like a very intimate way to get to know another working mother. Perhaps it will produce a beautiful friendship.
The pigs who will be in the piggery over in my area haven’t been moved onto the site yet. One sow just gave birth to a litter of 7 about two weeks ago, and another is about to drop her litter any day. The piglets are still too young and the weather too cool, but I will get a batch in a few weeks, I imagine. I’ve been instructed to name them things like “Bacon” and “Hammie” if anyone asks. Hog butchering is one of our autumn events.
I am very excited about working with these creatures. I want to be more aware of my anthropocentric mindset and challenge myself to think outside of that box. I wonder about the relationships we have with animals and the domination that we assume in those relationships. I expect that there is a lot more to discover than what we are used to or instructed to consider.