Life with animals on the farm

We look after them, we form bonds with them, we exercise with them, we laugh and cry with them….

We have all developed a relationship with the farm’s animals. The iconic animals for our group are without doubt the goats, which have been growing up so fast since we welcomed them while they were babies. Some of us even made wonderful T-shirts to pay tribute to them during the first week of the trainees’ arrival and we have even made up a song about them. Life is good in the countryside! It is truly rewarding to see them playing around and getting more independent, progressively shifting their diet to grass, shrubs or branches after 3 months of bottle feeding them by hand. They have also started to grow horns which make them less of babies by now, even though we still see them as such. They also test each others strength and play by head butting each other and climbing out of their enclosure. We still have a thought for the two babies which couldn’t make it due to sickness, and are happy to spend time with the four remaining.

Holly is Jack and Kate’s dog and she has been spending much time with us. She’s a lovely dog that everyone enjoys since she is especially relaxed, wise and smart but also playful. Sunbathing is one of her favourite activities, and since her fur is pitch black she can become a heater very fast. That’s how in exchange of some cuddles you can then get your hands warm thanks to her. She takes her job very seriously as a learning assistance dog as she is often around when the trainees have classes, kids are playing around, or when the ROC guys are doing their job.

Ruth has been giving a lot of attention and love for the rabbit by letting him regularly run around in the small field next to the barn whilst she does yoga, allowing them both to stay fit and healthy. Josselyn, one of the trainees who is in love with every kind of cute things, has adopted the guinea pigs. The method used to take them out involves using a pipe and catching them inside, which can be kind of tricky. Josselyn said it is also funny because when you release them it feels like the pipe is shooting guinea pigs bullets on the ground.

The lambing season has been and gone, the ewes and their lambs are now grazing back in the fields peacefully after a busy month. The lambs are starting to get more playful, running around and jumping. They are discovering their environment with curiosity, and are getting more comfortable with our presence. Julia has been observing their behaviour and found out that their favourite place is the big chunk of manure at the top of the field, on which they can enjoy the warmth of the soil while sunbathing. Whenever they feel hungry, there is no rest for their mum as they will poke them until they get up and get their milk. Not to mention the chaotic communication that they make when people are crossing the field, feeling like the end of the school day with parents and kids running around trying to find each other.

The hens also have had attention from us, Chiara and Josselyn are involved in a permaculture project suggesting that kiwi fruit would grow in their field, allowing them to have places to stay perched while having a more diverse food source. Thanks to that, we can also harvest fruits for our own consumption, meaning that it’s beneficial for both sides.

The ducks are next to the garden and often looking like soldiers while they wander around their field in a line. They grate us with a cheerful “quack-quack” as soon as they hear the gate opening every morning. They also enjoy a lot bathing in their water container. They usually keep attention to our work in the garden, probably thinking of the juicy slugs they would find there. We are going to start letting them get used to walk in the garden as it is very beneficial for its maintenance since they eat all kind of tiny animals that could harm the crops.

Finally, the cows are another important part of the livestock, being a symbolic animal amongst farmland and participating in the extensive grazing policy applied here. The farm has a small herd of Belted Galloways which help the goal of enhancing the biodiversity. They are also very resilient to hard conditions and their small size reduces the negative impact of stamping that they have on the soil.

See our wonderful new short documentary ‘Toms story’ – about cows & community. http://www.ambios.net/our-farm/

Although they are not part of the livestock, pheasants behave like pets at the farm since they are always around, eating the corn and nuts supposed to feed the passerines. The squirrels are also frequent guests of the bird feeders and have always found new methods to get to the food despite us trying hard to come up with new ideas to keep them away.

As you can see, the farm is full of life!