Therapy Animals and Photography

As you can read on the About Me page, I am a person who has suffered through a great deal in my life to date. I’m okay with everything that has happened, the medical diagnosis that turned my life upside down and even the tragedies that have occurred. I am not saying that it’s easy or that I am 100% dealing with the issues but I am saying that I have learned to cope.

In 2008, when I had two years of massive depression and then the diagnosis of Multiple sclerosis, a counselor decided it was time for me to access what meant the most to me in my life. Her suggestion was that I pick up a camera and start photographing everything that “spoke” to me. I started taking photos of nature and wildlife, animals and farms. My health care provider suggested that I start eating more raw foods, home-grown items so that I knew what went into the production of food goods and to find time to release stress.

All of this started a major transition in my life. I discovered my love of cattle. I discovered what I felt about the land, my natural environment and more of who I was on the inside. Working with the cattle is my true therapy. I learned that when I am around them, I breathe slower and I am more relaxed. I am not like Tigger on drugs, which is me at any other point during the day. I learned that calves never fail to bring a smile to my face. I learned the sense of accomplishment like I never have before after saving a calf from near death and then watching them give birth to their first calf.

I have learned that I can capture this passion through the lens of a camera too, not only for cattle but for tractors and diesel trucks, flowers and nature, wildlife and water. I’ve learned that I love the little things in life and have come to appreciate them that much more. It just seems that no matter how difficult my life is, there is always something so small that thrives through wind, rain and snow. If a tiny plant with the smallest of flowers can come back year after year during the harshest of elements that nature provides, then I guess I don’t have an excuse anymore to feel sorry for myself. Mother Nature has taught me that we all have our own storms to weather but, as long as our roots are strong, we can always regrow. During our regrowth, we may become something slightly different from what we were before but usually we are stronger on the other side.

I have lots that I could share about these feelings and emotions but I won’t bore you with the details. I will just remind you that no matter what, each trial we go through brings us closer to who we really are on the inside. I am a survivor, plain and simple.

So for now, I will keep working with my therapy cattle and grooming them to be friendly animals for others to use and learn from. I will continue to learn about what’s best for me and my environment. And, of course, I will continue to photograph everything along the way.

If you live in the area and just need some space…I will be more than happy to let you come laugh with me over calf-antics, share a spot on the banks of the pond at sunset, or allow you to stroll through the pastures capturing your own photos. My work here is meant to be shared.

Calf-Antics

Calf-Antics

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Country Girl Photo Shoot

To anyone that lives around me, I will be doing a free photo shoot for a few country girls in the very near future! I will need a group of ladies to volunteer! Age, weight, height….none of that matters. I want to capture the essence of what it means to be a Northern country girl.

If you have a farm, ride horses, drive tractors, throw hay bales, raise chickens, milk goats….then this is the thing to get involved in.

If you have kids that love the country, fishing….then this is the shoot for them! And maybe even you too!

 

I would like GIRLS, LADIES, WOMEN, TEENAGERS, YOUNG ADULT GIRLS, FEMALES ONLY this time!

 

If you are interested: comment here, find me a http://www.facebook.com/farmgirlphotography, or hit me up on twitter @CNYfarmgirl.

 

YOU WILL BE ASKED TO SIGN A MODEL RELEASE FORM AND THESE IMAGES WILL BE MADE PUBLIC.

If you are interested in a personal photo shoot with a similar concept, I would be more than happy to assist for a small fee.

Those Moments

Sometimes I just have THOSE moments. Maybe I am just a little more aware of the things around me because I am always searching for just the perfect shot. Maybe it’s because I look at things a little differently, seeking those things that a different and unique. I’m not really sure what it is, it just is. It’s difficult for me to explain and even harder for me to teach. It just is what it is.

Those moments I speak of are when something happens, for me it’s usually captured by a camera in my hand, that makes you sit back on your heels and ponder the moment. The moments don’t happen often. It’s rare and it takes you by surprise. It could be something crazy like a grasshopper that jumps on the window of the truck on a cloudy day. It could be something as simple as a calf smelling a flower. Then other times, it could be something as simple as the delicate petals of a flower that are nearly transparent from the rain, wind and sun.

These aren’t those moments that are bad. They are the moments that are miraculous. Those moments that I just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Some require patience but most just happen while out walking doing something entirely different. They are moments full of awe and wonderful amazement as you look up and see things in a different perspective. I am a professional photographer. These are the moments that take my breathe away and moments I am always on the look out for.

Amy, a week old Jersey/Dexter cross calf, smelling a wildflower.

 

The delicate petals of an unusual colored wildflower

 

The flight of the grasshopper

I have won awards, placed in the top 300 for international competitions, been published countless amounts of time and nothing compares to the moments when these moments are taken. No amount of money, praise or attention can compare. I take photographs JUST to capture these moments. It happens with nature, with people and everything in between. I’m just blessed to be able to have them happen time and time again!

 

 

Where I come from

As those of you that follow this blog already know, I love many things that involve nature and agriculture. Looking back over my life, I completely understand where those passions come from. Today, I will share a little bit of insight into the environment that I grew up in and around.

My grandparents had a small dairy farm in a little town nicknamed Canaan. To those that don’t know the meaning, it’s defined as the “Land of Milk and Honey”. This little community is situation between two other small towns named Harford and Slaterville Springs. The whole area is rural. The closest city is Ithaca and it takes 15-20 minutes to drive there. I went to school in another small town called Dryden. Each community is very close knit and for generations has involved varying levels of agriculture. Dryden prides itself on being a farming community. To the extent of which, every year there is a parade to honor the dairy farms during June. June is Dairy Month to those that didn’t know.

It’s hard to explain how the whole community and surrounding towns pull together to get involved with the Dairy Day. From spectators to local businesses, the area schools to the local churches, farms and political figures. There are floats, young children involved in reading clubs dressed to storybook characters, dog groomers, the local bank with it’s traditional horse drawn carriage and so much more involved in the parade that rolls through down Main Street.  After the parade, everyone goes to the town park. There are livestock, games, country music bands, ice cream and of course milk. It’s a fun filled day and a wonderful community gathering.

This year was the 29th year it’s been going on. I went to take photos of the parade as part of my job and to do a favor for a friend. It’s like old home days. I haven’t been myself since around 2002. I saw so many people I haven’t seen in years, some close to two decades. Everyone still knows everyone. You walk two feet and run into someone else you know. You run into family members you haven’t seen in a year. You see retired school teachers, old classmates, and other staples in the community. Yes, life moves on but here in this little small town once you are part of the community, you are ALWAYS part of the community. It doesn’t matter where you go or where your travels may lead you, it doesn’t matter where you work or what you drive…you are a lifetime member! I love this town and it’s passion for agriculture.

Growing up in this community that is surrounded by agriculture, swaying corn and dairy farms, you can see what I have such a passion to tell the stories behind the fields of green. The stories I write are about my neighbors, friends and even family. This is the very center of why I love all things agriculture. Don’t get me wrong, I am obsessed with cattle but understand this…the diversity within agriculture is amazing. Think of all the things that agriculture provides for us. It’s not only the food we eat but the clothes we wear, the fuel we use and so much more. We, as a society in general, tend to forget where so much of our creature comforts and the foods we eat come from. I am humbled to say that I am thankful for the community where I was raised because it taught me to value the hard work and dedication that goes into the many things we love so much.

I might not be from the boondocks and I might have grown up in a very culturally diverse area but, I will always be from a small town dairy community that shows pride in the area and all the richness it has to offer. I am a small town country girl!  And as that one country song says, “I’m proud of where I come from.”

How about you? Are there things about your hometown that have made an impact on your life? If so, how much?

Being Me

Part of what makes being me is my individuality when it comes to cattle. I love cows. It doesn’t matter what breed…although I do prefer those brown-eyed Bambi cows called Jerseys! I have a special connection with cattle. I can almost feel their pain when they are sick or injured. I just connect on a different level. Maybe it’s because I love them, like others love their dog. They are my passion.

As the saying goes on good old Lady Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I will give them care, food and pastures to graze. Uh, isn’t that kind of funny…a New Yorker referring to Lady Liberty and comparing it to cattle. Only in New York 🙂

I think I crazily just picked a farm name for when I get started on my own. Crazy isn’t it? The odd things that come to us sometimes….

Cattle have actually been my saving grace, not the other way around. They have pulled me up from the depths of depression and overwhelming sadness that I was struggling with when I got my first little bull calf. He forced me to get out of bed every morning to care for him. He needed food and water. He got lots of attention and was a spoiled snot.

My first steer

I call him my segway animal. He is the one that got me started into this passion for cattle. Then along came Belle, aka Ma, as a rescue cow. I remember crying with her in the pasture as I watched her protecting her calf in the grass. Maybe it was the maternal instinct in both of us that caused such an intense connection. I’m honestly not sure but I know I made a promise to her to love her and care for her the way she cared for her own child.

A peaceful bliss on her face. The look of an angel in contentment.

A peaceful bliss on her face. The look of an angel in contentment.

I watched her develop her motherly instincts and become the graceful “lady” I knew in my heart she was all along. She made me see exactly what I should do in life. Cattle in need are my real passion. Working with animals with a loving nature and attitude is the most rewarding job I have ever held. Belle is the perfect demonstration of that love and compassion.

Belle, the mother to many and the real reason she is nicknamed “Ma”

The passions have grown, the research into better methods have continued and I am a forever changed person because of the cattle. It is amazing to see the progress that has been made and how special my relationship is with the animals. I absolutely adore them all. They have shown me…well, ME. Through patience, tenderness and love for cattle, I have seen a side of myself that I never thought possible. A calm, dedicated individual who would bend over backwards to provide the same quality of life for my cattle as I would my family and devoted friends. A few have called me crazy and I admit I am but there is nothing in the world like having cattle trust you so much they enjoy your company…maybe even share a “kiss” or two.

Calf kisses just happen to be the best!

Calf kisses just happen to be the best!

Pasture Time

Part of my passion in life involves cattle. There is just something about them that speaks to the very essence of what makes me who I am.

Many people look at cows and just see another animal, one that is going to used for milk or meat. To me, I see a living breathing animal with a sacred purpose. That purpose is to provide us with food. I also have a purpose when it comes to cattle, especially those I work with. My purpose is to give them the greatest of care and the best of my heart. I am a firm believer in providing cattle with the best. The best food, shelter and care, along with the best attention.

I treat cattle like this for a variety of reasons. I will talk to you a little bit about “the herd” I currently work with.

Belle came to my care nearly four years ago. I will never forget the day the truck brought her to me. She was extremely thin. She had two calves nursing on her too. I remember sitting down in the pasture with her the first hour or so with tears streaming from my eyes as I watched her lovingly care for the two calves. I could almost see the look in her eyes as she tried to determine if the whole new area was real and not a dream. I fell in love with her…hard! Right there sitting in the pasture, I knew exactly what I was meant to do.

This is what Belle looked liked when she was unloaded from the cattle hauler

This is what Belle looked liked when she was unloaded from the cattle hauler

This is Belle after three years in my care.

This is Belle after three years in my care.

My passion with cattle is to care. I love the hands on process of what I do with cattle. I have recently been told that I am much like a cattle nurse, aka the Clara Barton of cattle. I have treated animals for hypothermia, going without sleep to change out heat blankets every half hour. I have gone without sleep to care for animals with bloat, pneumonia, dehydration, scours and much more. I have taken in sick animals and rehabilitated a high percentage of them.

I have lost a couple over the years, it’s part of life unfortunately. But I put my heart into every step of trying to save them. I have taken in animals from the auction barn that couldn’t stand or even walk. I have cared for them and am now watching them grow into healthy animals.

The cattle have helped me too. After dealing with a loss in my life that I didn’t think I would really ever be able to overcome, the cattle have given me a sense of fulfillment. The make my life tolerable. They are my “therapy”. I’ve had many people tell me that I am a completely different person when I get around cattle. My normal hyperactivity pacing stops, my heart rate slows and all my stresses seem to fall off my shoulders. They keep me going.

Pasture time is therapy. The cattle have brought a smile to my face, made me laugh with their “antics” and just make my world a much better place. Cattle are magic for me. They are everything that my life represents. Abused or sick, they trust others to care for them when they are in need. When they feel good, they have no problems kicking up their hooves and racing around the paddocks. They don’t care where they sleep, so long as it’s dry, warm and comfortable.

When I get down, upset or over emotional, I go outside to the pastures. I did just that on Saturday. Here are just a few images captured.

Sir (the black one in front) snoring soundly and drooling all over himself.

Sir (the black one in front) snoring soundly and drooling all over himself.

My youngest heifer and shy girl Charity

My youngest heifer and shy girl Charity

This tiny little guy was a HUGE hit with the curious cattle

This tiny little guy was a HUGE hit with the curious cattle