top of page
  • Writer's pictureAccokeek Foundation

Decking the Stalls with Oats and Barley

by Polly Festa, Livestock Manager

As 2012 comes to a close I find myself reflecting on the past year. As always, when working with animals and the unpredictability of Mother Nature, there have been many ups and downs.

Polly finds time to play "dress up" in period clothing even when it's hot.

Polly finds time to play “dress up” in period clothing even when it’s hot.

The biggest down of the year was this summer’s drought, with its extreme heat. But both the animals and the staff came through it just fine. Only one case of heat stroke all year, leave it to the darn Yankee (yes that would be me) to think that there is no difference between 70 and 110 degrees. I have learned that the weather must be respected. This is not a new lesson, but one I seem to need a refresher in every once in a while.

There have been so many ups this year it is hard to pick which ones to talk about. The births, of course ,are on the top of the hit parade. I will never see too many baby calves or baby lambs. I love to sit by the pasture and watch the mommas with their little ones. To me there is nothing more calming or relaxing than that. (Come down to the farm this coming March and April; we have seventeen expecting mommas–nine cows and eight sheep.)

Kevin prepares Bliss for the County Fair.

Kevin prepares Bliss for the County Fair.

In 2012, we started a Livestock Apprentice program. I am very grateful to have the help of an apprentice, as well as the opportunity to teach and share with others the passion of livestock farming in a sustainable manor with heritage breeds. Kevin is this inaugural year’s apprentice; he is a Maryland native who wishes to have a beef and chicken farm in the future. I am looking forward to the future of this new endeavor.

I cannot talk about the ups this year without talking about my volunteers. There are two wonderful ladies who come out to the farm every Saturday and help me with different projects. Growing up as a 4-H-er, I know the importance of volunteering, these ladies have reminded me that volunteering in and of itself is reward enough. Because of them I have stepped up my own volunteering in my personal life.

Ingrid gives birth to the first spring lamb of 2012, Ithaca.

Ingrid gives birth to the first spring lamb of 2012, Ithaca.

There is an old tale that says that farm animals kneel facing Bethlehem and are given the gift of speech at the stroke of Midnight on Christmas Eve. It is said that it is because the ancestors of these farm animals were in the stable in Bethlehem. This tale is one of my favorite ones of the Holiday season. I have always, in one way, wanted to sneak down to the barn to see if the cows really do, but I have never done it. I don’t want to ruin the joy and wonder I still feel when I think about the tale. I don’t want to get all preachy. We all have something special that we cherish from our childhood. I know that the ancestors of my cattle are from England, not Israel, cows don’t know what day it is, let alone where Bethlehem is, and that it is impossible for the vocal cords of a cow to produce the sound of human speech. But I remember how it felt when my Mother told me the tale the first time. In the rush of the Holiday season I hope we all can find that moment alone were we can reach back to our childhood and remember that special thing Grandma did or the fruit cake that Crazy Aunt Frieda gave to us every year. If you need that moment, come on down to the Farm and walk around. I swear that, here, the world seems to slow down and give you some breathing room, if we’ll let it.

The new year, 2013, has the promise of being a wonderful year full of potential. Let us all share it with new life and new friends. From the animals and me, we wish a happy and healthy New Year to all our friends, both old and new.


11 views0 comments


bottom of page