Monday, November 29, 2010

In which I get bitten by a horse and eat lots of dessert.

Last weekend, Red and I trekked on down to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary for their annual Thanksgiving with the Turkeys. This is our third year, and it’s easily one of the best days of the year for me. I always feel so awesome at Poplar Spring, like I’m in a safe place. I think the animals who live there must feel that way too. I wish we lived closer, because then we could visit more often.

And yes, I got nipped by a horse. Keep reading for that nugget of awesome.

Anyway, food! And animals! And new friends! The weather was so gorgeous—warm enough for me to shed my sweater and walk around with my jacket over my “Save a Turkey, Eat Tofu” t-shirt. We were expecting a huge crowd, because the Washington Post had run an article about Thanksgiving with the Turkeys. Way to go, mainstream press! We later found out that at least 800 people showed up, and possibly closer to 1,000.

When we arrived, earlier rather than later, the crowds weren’t yet huge. We walked up to visit with the goats and sheep, and I received sweet kisses from Malcolm, a baby goat. He’s such a little love bug! Then a bigger goat named Lenny jealously head-butted him away from me, no doubt thinking that would earn my affection. I reproached him for his rudeness, then scratched his ears anyway.

Malcolm seeks sanctuary in the goat barn.

Red and I spent a few minutes with Chelsea, a sweetheart who was happy to stand by the fence and be petted and nuzzled as long as we wanted.

Kiss me!

Random pastoral images:

Next, we visited with the pigs. Izzy and Morty are massive compared to the tiny eight-week-olds they were last year! The sanctuary has new piglets, though:

I can’t remember their names, but as you can see, they are very cute. The big pigs were happy to see us as well.

Telling secrets.

The geese and ducks couldn’t have cared less.

Then, I had some people-finding to do. I was hoping to run into Deb of Invisible Voices (read her recap!), who volunteers at Poplar Spring, and Jennie and Alex of That Vegan Girl and City Pittie. We had all agreed to try and find each other, but with lots of animals and a huge crowd of people, it wasn’t exactly a sure thing. Deb is pretty much the Annie Leibowitz of Poplar Spring, so I sort of wandered around the chicken yard, looking for someone official-looking with a camera while trying not to give off Internet-stalker vibes.

On our way, we spotted this bunpile:

There are three of ’em in there. Poor light + hiding buns = crap photo.

We found Deb! And she didn’t think I was creepy! We found Jennie and Alex, too. Here’s Jennie holding Horatio. He and his brother Jethro are Japanese silkie chickens.

Jethro and Horatio treated us to an impromptu cockfight, which in no way resembles the brutality of a human-engineered cockfight. They squared off, puffed up, and rushed at each other, flapping. The whole thing lasted maybe five seconds. Deb explained that in nature, squabbles between chickens are more about dominance and posturing than causing injury. A few moments later, Horatio and Jethro were buds again.

As you see, Poplar Spring is home to lots of other birds:

Me ‘n Opal.

Gratuitous peacock shots:

Edward displays for Angie, his guinea hen lady love, who cruelly rebuffs him.


Lunch was great, as always. We ran into Linnea, who I’ve mentioned a few times. We filled our plates with tasty noms, and I was pleased to see that the cornbread we’d brought was almost entirely gone. People love cornbread. There was no decadent mint-chocolate pie this year, but I nibbled on lots of other desserts. After lunch, we visited with Deb a little more, then realized that it was getting late and we needed to go home and take care of Lucy.

And now for the part you’ve all been waiting for—the horse-biting.

As we neared the pig barn on our way back to the car, we saw that the horses and mules had come in from their pasture for some attention. I noticed a new horse, and went over to say hello across the fence. I rode horses as a kid, and I’m not nervous around them. I offered my hand, and he sniffed it and let me rub his muzzle. We were getting along famously when I felt a chomp on my forearm. It was very high indeed on the novel-sensation scale, but relatively low on the this-hurts-so-bad-I-want-to-die scale. Until he hung on. That part wasn’t so fun, and I found myself wondering what I’d do if he didn’t let go. Smack his nose and bark, “No!”?

Anyway, Bitey McChomperhorse let go, and I pulled up the sleeve of my jacket to survey the damage. It didn’t look like much, but I knew it would soon. We were an hour and a half away from any ice to prevent bruising (La Burnout’s first rule of injury care is to sit down and put some damn ice on it, whatever it is—unless it’s bleeding, then you need to grab a towel, but not one of the good ones), so I sucked it up, bid the horse a hands-free farewell, and headed for the car.

Later, I learned that His Biteyness is named Dexter, and that he is by turns sweet and mouthy, so I shouldn’t take it personally. The bruise looked very impressive a day or so later, and while I tried like hell to get a good photo for y’all, it was not to be. Next time Dexter and I meet, I will come bearing apples and carrots so he gets his nibbles out of the way before he spies my fingers.

And that, darlings, was Thanksgiving with the Turkeys.


  1. What a great time this all sounds like! Well, other than Dexter's "love nibble". heh We visited the Farm Sanctuary in New York one year and just loved it there. That feeling of peacefulness and being safe just can't be beat. You're very lucky to live within driving distance of such a lovely place!

  2. Annie Leibowitz! Ha! That made my day. :)

    The three piglets are Carmen (furthest away) and Julio and Lita (not sure which is which there...usually rely on seeing plumbing!), and the cute pig you're petting through the fence looks like Timmy. Morty was the black one walking away (I think you knew that though!) The bunnies are Pinky (white with gray spots) and Twinkle (white with black spots) and the third looks like it might be Allison (black) but Pinky and Twinkle love to cuddle with Elton (lavender) a lot, and with the dim lighting under the ramp it is hard to tell!

    Love your shot of Chelsea! Captures her personality! She's such a love...and always hoping for treats! (You can tell she gets plenty! lol.)

    It was great meeting you and Red! (And Jennie and Alex!) Glad the Dexter love bite wasn't too bad. He's about 18 months old, which I'm guessing is a mouthy stage. It sucks that he's acting up like this from the standpoint of him bruising people, but when he first arrived (literally showed up in the pasture! they have no idea how he got onto the property!) he was really emaciated and it was weeks before he even trotted. They weren't sure he could for a while! And the vet was amazed at how easy he was to handle. "A horse this age should be giving you all kinds of problems," was basically what he said. So, in a weird way, it's kind of nice that he IS being troublesome now. He obviously feels so much better! But then the result is bruised visitors. Can't win!

  3. Thanks for sharing this -- sorry about the horse bite! Hope it's better soon. My husband received a kick once. He was lucky - the resulting horseshoe bruise framed his "anatomy" with only an inch to spare! The kick had sent him flying. I like the bunny pic, darkness and all.

  4. I love Poplar Springs! I've never made it to the Thanksgiving celebration though, which makes me sad. I'm glad you got to go and have a good time, but sorry about the horse bite.

  5. I wish I had spent more time with the animals but we had a bunch of errands to run so we had to take off. It was great seeing you again though!