lost, for a little while


destination: forestville
March 25, 2011, 1:01 pm
Filed under: trips

Feeding time

Once upon a time, my friend, Ani, lived in the suburbs of Michigan with her mom and brother. Their house was in the neighborhood across the street from the high school, next to one of the local golf courses, and it was your typical ranch house with a two-car garage. One day, Ani’s mom developed an interest in chicken-rearing, and not long after, they were hatching eggs on the living room table and housing the young chicks under heat lamps in the garage. Needless to say, it was a little odd.

Ani’s mom soon struck up a friendship with a man in New York through a homesteader’s message board, and eventually moved to be with him on his farm in the western part of the state, just north of the Pennsylvania border. They now run the farm, Roo Haven, together, raising organically-fed, free-range chickens, and selling the meat and eggs at farmer’s markets, co-ops, and to individual customers. Ani’s currently living there with them, so for my post-Cleveland stop, I veered into farm country for a two-day visit.

Death stare

I pulled into the driveway just past noon, and was greeted by a barking dog, some aimlessly-wandering chickens, and, finally, Ani and her mom, both wearing mud-encrusted galoshes. The snow had finally melted, the sun was shining, and I felt a strong urge to stay outside, soaking it up, as long as possible.

Ani lent me a pair of boots and introduced me to each of the groups of chickens, pointing out her favorites — Googly, Pippen, and one whose name I can’t recall, though I remember learning that she was the daughter of a beloved hen named Mother Theresa. We entered the pens and hen houses and were swarmed with clucking, howling chickens as we dumped containers of feed into the troughs. As they fought over prime feeding spots, Ani knelt and reached into the various roosts to feel around for eggs to add to the plastic bucket we were hauling around with us.

Jackpot

When I buy eggs at the grocery store, it’s a pretty straightforward choice of white or brown; some are occasionally more speckled than others, but for the most part, they’re unremarkable and boring. The eggs that Ani was collecting were a crazy variety of pale blue (some with a more greenish tinge to them), peachy brown, and light tan. Some were unblemished, while others had delicate spots sprinkled on the shell. I was kind of mesmerized by them all.

When Ani was done getting attacked by some moody hens who refused to budge from their nesting spots, we went to meet the turkeys. Have you ever seen a live turkey up close? I feel like I must have at some point in my life, whether on a school field trip or a stop at the petting zoo, but the real thing surpassed whatever image in my head that I was expecting. Meet Sam:

King of the turkeys

My picture doesn’t do justice to this magnificent, ugly-beautiful creature. Like most (all?) birds, the males are the ones worth writing home about; Sam’s head was an intense electric blue, and when I cautiously reached out to pet him, it felt like I was patting a warm, dry brain — one littered with sparse hairs. As unattractive as that sounds, Sam certainly didn’t think there was anything less than perfect about himself; he puffed up with pride whenever we gave him some attention, his soft feathers fanning out the like pages of a book as he slowly glided around the straw-covered floor.

The females were not so graceful. They perched on the wooden beams of the house and crowed loudly every few minutes, looking like scrawny teenagers in comparison to the positively regal Sam, and acting just as bratty: Ani whacked one on the head after it tried attacking her coat sleeve one too many times.

After making the rounds, we cleaned up and drove to nearby Fredonia to check out the small town and try the latest addition to the local businesses: The Green Tea Room. It’s a casually-decorated coffee house with awesome paninis, but my favorite part was the bathroom, whose walls are all dry-erase and covered in messages scrawled by past patrons (I added my blog address while I was there).

When we returned to the farm, we hitched a ride to a nearby dairy farm where Ani’s mom took some egg orders and we fawned over a rusty-colored newborn calf that was already almost twice the size of me. It was milking time at the Lapp Farm, and the owner, Rachel Kellogg, was overseeing the process with the help of her nieces. The girls were hardcore mini milk maids; they hefted the heavy metal buckets with ease and quickly maneuvered a shovel into place whenever the cows decided to create some fresh manure (I hid behind Ani when the cow right next to us kicked it into high gear, afraid there would be splatter action).

FYI: Cows are huge

On the way home, we drove through nearby Lily Dale to appease my curiosity about the spiritualist community, but it was a pretty normal-looking village, minus the signs advertising mediums and an overall feeling of foreboding (think the witch’s house in Hansel & Gretel).

For dinner, we ventured into Buffalo, which is about an hour north of Forestville. Before starting my trip, I was assured by Bethany that the Anchor Bar in Buffalo is, indeed, the place to get the eponymous wings the city is known for, so we drove past the still-celebrating St. Patrick’s fans in the street and grabbed a small table in the back of the restaurant on the corner of East North and Main Streets. I’m no expert when it comes to Buffalo wings, so the most I can say is that they were good, and pretty much what I expected when I think of chicken wings. I ordered mine with medium-hot sauce, and was regretting that decision about halfway through my plate, but I pushed through and finished them all. Ani went with the more reasonable “mild,” and finished her meal without watering eyes or a runny nose.

The next day, the sky was back to being gray and cloudy, so our visit to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Garden that afternoon was an especially wise choice; not only is it indoors, but the bright flowers cheered me up after my mood took a beating from the miserable weather. We were pretty much the only ones there, and took our time smelling the herbs and flowers and reveling in the warm, sauna-like air of the various indoor gardens.

Bam

Tuesday morning, I said goodbye to the inhabitants of Roo Haven Farm (including a day-old, fuzzy, yellow duckling), and headed east on route 20, past the Finger Lakes. Time for ‘Cuse.

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