I wrangled a goat, and I liked it!

Yesterday was a milestone day for me:

  1. I drove 100 miles in one day
  2. I topped out at 70 mph at certain points
  3. I visited a fiber farm for the first time
  4. I wrangled Angora Goats
  5. I managed to stay awake on the drive home after a long physical morning, a hearty lunch and an amazing brownie.

Now that spring has arrived, it is shearing season for fiber farmers…time to bring in the harvest! Often, farmers hire shearers to visit the farm and shave the animals. Although the animals protest the handling, buzzing shears and all the commotion, they ultimately benefit because they trade in their cozy fleece winter coats for a haircut just in time for the sizzling spring and summer seasons. Fancy Fibers Farm hosts one of only two fiber CSA’s in the southwest, so the owner Mary is usually ahead of the curve: she offers weaving and spinning classes, runs a Ravelry group, hosts fiber retreats and invites her investors (and drop-in city slickers like myself) to take part in various events.

Shawndel and Biscotti

Shawndel and Biscotti, the yearling angora Goat at Fancy Fibers Farm

So, how did this city girl find herself in the Texas countryside on a fiber farm? Well, I’ve been ruminating (punny!) on the idea of raising fiber livestock on my (future) creative and healing arts retreat. I wanted to visit a fiber farm to experience one of the most labor intensive and necessary activities of the trade. I also REALLY love the idea of knowing the animals whose hair I use to spin into yarn that I crochet into various masterpieces for sale or gift. It was great to look them in the eye, and eventually wrangle their stubborn little bodies over to the shearer.

Sometimes there are mishaps, and this nanny goat suffered a cut on her belly while being sheared. She took it in stride, was calm the entire time, and only kicked a little when shearer Danny Smith patched up with floss and needle. A few minutes later she was out back bumping heads with a playmate, none the worse for wear.

I drove from Dallas to Farmersville, Texas to volunteer at Fancy Fibers Farm, and I left with armloads of goodwill, buckets of information and a glowing excitement to return in one month to help with the Alpaca shearing. Here are some more pics from shearing day.

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Who hearts goat wrangling? I do!

Shawndel wrangling a kid goat


Humans Have Gone Rogue

Humans can choose to avail ourselves of kinship with and empathy for our non-human family…

My friends and colleagues who label themselves Environmentalists, use language that masks the intensity of the violence committed against sea and ocean life. Even well-intentioned allies that I admire and respect, unwittingly use the same violent euphemisms that obscure the true injustices hidden inside words like “offshore drilling” and “marine bio-exploration”, both code for business based manifest destiny and the ghettoization of the seas. I am committed to peaceful practices, and strive to use peaceful, clear language, however I do believe in naming things as they are so that we clearly understand our challenges. Oil exploration is more than a “noisy and chaotic rudeness” that scrambles sea mammals’ perceptual organs; “drilling” essentially overwhelms and clouds the senses that they use to survive, to find food, to find and communicate with family and pod members, to travel safely and avoid predators and environmental risks. What scientific terminology and current environmental language lacks is any indication or acknowledgement that oil companies purposely use violent, gitmo bay-esque sensory deprivation tactics. The risks are not a harmful by-product of oil exploration technology, they are the purpose of said technology. Science and industry can create many painless and helpful things, why then do they create harmful techniques and machinery to search for oil? Oil technology actively dissipates and discourages ocean animals’ life re-producing behaviors and opportunities. IT IS WARFARE. Oil explorers intentionally use WMD’s (the sonic air-guns and other devices) to displace the animal populations. Just as sea trawlers were created to rip up the seabed in search of Blue Fin Tuna, Oil drilling IS the intentional slaughter of sea-life so that oil will become easily accessible.

Humans have gone rogue because those of us who truly empathize with the dire plight of other life forms on our planet number less than our counterparts who are either numb to it, or economically oriented in their opinion. Humans have no more right to earth’s “Stuff” than other life forms, yet we plunder forward as if imperialism, and the plundering of resources is the natural order and all existence awaits colonization.

The Situation Today

In the same ways that ghettos around the world represent the isolation and containment of socially undesirable people within one under-served location, and jail is the first step toward sociocultural exile or physical death, oil exploration and drilling ghettoizes sea life.

Drilling nullifies opportunities to thrive, and natural, life-sustaining resources like nutrient–rich food, space to exercise / play / stretch is aggressively occupied by armed men. Traditional nee customary procreation rites and techniques of child-rearing all but disappear when external forces isolate generational knowledge into disparate locations, eventually sapping the spirits of the young and wizened elders alike. Oil rigs, air-gun based oil-exploration and oil ships ARE seek and destroy based weapons, they ARE the patter-rollers that isolate, capture, torture and/or destroy sea-life. It is their purpose. Each time our elected representatives make concessions to the oil industry, they spit on the trust and power that we’ve lent them. We elected them to do what is true and just for all, yet it is often the last item on the agenda. Do we really need to amend the founding documents to include  the sovereignty and inherent value of animal, human and plant life? Why can’t we trust our elected representatives to simply uphold the most peaceful of all sentiments? If not through representation, what shall we do? I think that we should simply hold ourselves accountable  in our daily life by setting new standards, ethics and practices. We can reclaim power from those who squander public trust.

Paul Nicklen

Image by Paul Nicklen, high quality wildlife photography available for purchase on Art.com. Click image to visit.

I’ve chosen to speak out, to take the time to write about this, to sign the petition and make my voice heard in a state where Oil they drill oil then ship to Japan and other points east. Not many Americans realize that we SELL oil, we don’t just consume it. In Texas, the United States sells oil for use elsewhere, so know that any congressional bill in favor of Arctic oil drilling only seeks to drain the geologic lifeblood from under America just any other “third-world nation”; that is, a weakened nation-state that must exploit and sell its natural resources because it’s finished products are intentionally undervalued or overpriced in the global marketplace.

What Can We Do?

Each of us must be honest with ourselves to make different choices about the ways we travel, what we choose to buy and consume, and then shift our philosophical approach to match. Our next steps must show our willingness to consistently choose to do things differently. This includes shifting our approach to democratic representation. It is time for us to fire, impeach, un-elect poor congressional, executive, gubernatorial, mayoral, any and all elected representatives who knowingly pass bills that advocate for the deaths of the innocent or deny legal standing or rights to any citizen, human, animal or other life-form. It would be unacceptable if the people were to re-elect, or otherwise positively reinforce elected officials who undergird their voting and alliances with violence.

An image of: Free Beluga Whales Swimming in the Ocean

Available for purchase at art.com. Click image to view original.

A Pod of Beluga Whales Swim at the Waters Surface by Norbert Rosing

Why must we voters must always petition politicians to do what is right and just? Why don’t they automatically vote against greedy, trickster bills and policy, and then tell us that they did so? Inaction indicates that they do not have a positive, peaceful / non-violent moral compass and therefore SHOULD NOT represent the people. We hire them to do good works on our behalf at the policy level in the Nation’s capital, so that we can work, provide for our families and build a social fabric and nurture an environment that nurtures life in all its life-affirming forms. Why then must we always chide, cajole, and hambug elected officials to do these very things? If they DON’T affirm peace, freedom or sacredness of all beings everywhere, then what IS their orientation toward life, your life, my life, and who did we really elect to represent us?

The Visionary Activist – Diving into the Dark – February 23, 2012 at 2:00pm
Click to listen (or download)

Since we live in the age of digital petitions, you should sign the petition with “Don’t Be A Bucket Head”. This effort is from a vetted source and the signatures will be hand delivered to Washington. I trust mytho-astro-poetic genius, seer and weaver of aligned context Caroline Casey, and she trusts Michael Stoker. On her KPFA show, Visionary Activist, she invited Micheal to speak, and he explains the situation and shared the beautifully melodic vocalizations from Beluga Whales, and Ringed-Seals.

Listen to the amazing sounds of Ring Seals, Beluga Whales and learn about the 5-Year Oil Exploration bill before Congress


Land Lovers and Canning in my Native New York

The Canning Queen of the Desert from Etsy on Vimeo.

Eating from the Land Ties You to the Land

Monkeys, Mixtures and Magnamanities…

Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture.

~Donna Haraway, from the Cyborg Manifesto, in Simians, Cyborgs and Women (1991)

Jacques Derrida on “Animals”

A mash-up of thinkers whose writing style, content and intellectual dexterity that inspires me and influences my work.

And so it is 🙂

Donna Haraway reads the National Geographies of Gorillas: Margie & KoKo

From spectacle to suburbs: “Race, Culture and Class are recoded at the boundary of nature and culture

This special tv feature disturbed me in multiple ways; the first is that the zoo and scientists co-signed on the forceful abduction of Michael from his home, family and social relations only to be airlifted to the science-fictionesque California lab setting. His life trajectory was altered so that he would serve as a consort, and in the retelling, it seems that there was no qualm about the “ethics” of doing so. Another disturbing fact is the hypothesis that  “we” (humans) could / would come to “understand” the “mentality” of another “species” through the use of sign-language as two-way “communication”; As a thinking, feeling being, this tells me that they had no sense of the ways that  human “language” is socio-temporally situated and is therefore not generalize-able to any and all experiences. Even if the words used may refer to some reasonably understandable thing, meaning, intent and underlying assumptions are never exact from one communicator to the receiver. Language is a tool that shapes understanding, thought, perception and notions of self and other. The underlying assumption is that scientists gave the gorillas a tool to express internal events. In fact, scientists acted upon the gorillas with the language-tool to show them to use that same uninvited tool to further, irrevocably change themselves, their perception and experiences.

No great inter-species understanding was accomplished here. That which the two gorillas expressed was unique to the experiences of two captive gorillas living in the bizarre human contexts of laboratory and suburb.

So I ask, just was inter-species understanding was truly achieved by this work? That “gorillas” feel emotions and have the desire and ability to communicate, and form deep, intense and persistent social bonds? these are things we learned by simple observation.

Projects like these to me have the appeal of fetish. The object of interest is not real for its true role, rather for its assumed entertainment value in an imbalanced power relationship.

I hadn’t expected to go this route when I posted the videos, however viewing them all in succession prompted these thoughts that I share with you today.

What is your takeaway from these videos?

Humpback Whales are People too

I found this video from the Great Whale Conservancy and wanted to share it with you because of the pure emotional display of our cousin, a Humpback whale dubbed Valentina. The video is the product of, and is in itself, an earnest display of empathy, a call to action around fishing practices and re-envisioning the modern diet (for more on this one, oh you just wait for my next post!), and proof that our non-human family feels emotion just as potently as we do.

The full story will be aired on ABC’s 20/20 on Friday, August 19, 2011.

When you watch it what does it make you feel?

How’s about People Control instead of Animal Control?

My Feeling Friends,

Laughter is the key! It sounds (and looks like) Palm Beach County Department of Animal Control should petition the County for more funds to do a concentrated campaign of “People Control”. Florida wildlife is of the most intense sort (think gators), so concerted public education (outside of their offices) about area wildlife, safety risks and overall fuzziness quotient would really benefit animals, tourists and potential “attackees” alike.

Once upon a time, I was an Animal Caretaker at the Millbrook School’s Trevor Zoo , where I cared for Otters (as well as other animals). From the first moment when Mr. Meigs introduced us during morning feeding time, I noted their water-slicked,  lithe little frames, and heard their grunting, fussy voices as they fed. Oh, dear baby Buddha, how to describe it? Think of a hairy version of a piranha “feeding frenzy”, on land – seemingly chaotic yet completely ordered, replete with sharp needle teeth and the need to get the heck outta the way when it’s not your turn!

Well, the fuzzy imaginings I’d previously held, all completely melted away when I inadvertently stepped back, tripped over my surpise at their Otter intensity. I then unwittingly zapped myself on the previously unnoticed electrified fence (not fun) which was there to protect us from each other and other unwelcome or unfortunate interactions. Suffice it to say, I learned VERY quickly to not get too close and promptly let go of my dreams of snuggling an otter like a wet pet ferret.

Otters, however cute , are strong-willed animals, and are best observed from afar while they frolic in the water, away from exposed, vulnerable human fleshy parts.

Looks like our amateur cameraman learned this lesson harder than I did! He shouldn’t feel too bad, he’s now a member of an elite” club! 🙂

If you survived it, you can laugh about it!

Laughter is the Best Medicine!


Shawndel Frasera Haiku:
Visual Research

Zoos as corporal punishment – Birth of an Elephant

Watch and think about this video. What do you Feel? How can we Grow beyond this way of relating to and interacting with other life forms? What does it say about humans, that this is Our Way?

Imagine giving birth in a jail at just 17 years old after being impregnated unwillingly by a 43-year-old male; It could be you, your mother, sister, cousin, aunt or friend at 17 years old, giving birth under duress, major stress; legs chained and roped to steel bars. Vagina being probed by many strange hands poking at the unborn child inside, uterus and cervix contracting, trying to release the baby. There is a loud gush as mucus and amniotic fluid hit the floor, transforming cold hard concrete to a slick, bloody pool of First Water. She is overwhelmed by the pain and understandably, acts out because of it.

With no protective circle of female relatives around to coax, support, comfort and calm her through the birth of her child, her progeny arrives after she bears down and pushes the baby out. At the very least she may be ambivalent, but her temperament suggests anger, frustration, a willingness to be the martyr to sacrifice her own heart and well-being by attempting to mercifully take her child’s life to save him from a similar fate of captivity and forced breeding. Imagine that act is misunderstood by her captors and she is treated like a “dumb animal” because of it. Mercy is a decidedly punishable act in the face of institutionalized rape and forced breeding. Because it decreases potential profits. Justice is a blissful thread of naiveté not woven into the fabric of the ideology of the accrediting organization, the American Zoological Association.

Former zoo worker and aquarium volunteer

Shawndel N. Fraser