The cows are grazing on an abundance of fall grass, two calves were recently born, and some of our livestock have been blessed. On Oct. 4, in celebration of St. Francis of Assisi's Feast Day, goats Dixie and Pixie were blessed by the Rev. Charles Wynder in the chapel of St. Paul's School in Concord. As any nervous goat would, Pixie dampened the vestibule, but then the two goats entered the sanctuary and trotted calmly down the aisle.
"The girls walked right along with me," said farm helper Diane Hersey. "Normally, they are reluctant to enter a new place, but I think the organ music soothed them. They felt right at home."
Even less housebroken than the goats, June the heifer and Eleanor the donkey received their blessing outside the chapel. These creatures live at Miles Smith Farm but are owned by the nonprofit Learning Networks Foundation and are trained as therapy animals. Studies have shown that animals can make people feel better, a theory embraced by St. Francis in the 1300s. St. Francis called all creatures his "brothers and sisters" and supposedly persuaded a wolf to stop attacking locals if they agreed to feed the wolf. A man with compassion who, as a saint, is still helping animals today.
As it was for Dixie and Trixie, music was my favorite part of the service. Not usually an emotional person, I shed a tear after the fourth verse of "All Things Bright and Beautiful."
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures, great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
A week after the blessing ceremony, Foundation animals returned to St. Paul's School for the annual (except during the year of the pandemic) Eco-Fest. It's a fun celebration with music, food, and activities, including a tight rope, a two-inch-wide strap stretched between two trees. I saw at least one student, with excellent balance, walk the entire rope without falling.
In addition to the blessed animals, we brought a lamb, a steer, and two bunnies. The well-behaved donkey, lamb, cattle wandered the grounds munching on grass, but the goats were not as obedient. They tried to push over the bunny pen to steal rabbit pellets, so they were confined to a pen we brought with us. Maybe they were bored. I never thought to challenge them to walk the tight rope. Maybe next year.
Abby the lamb's favorite activity was pumpkin-carving led by a master carver, not for the artwork, but the pumpkin guts. Usually timid, Abby pushed her way into a group of carvers, seeking seeds. A pumpkin-seed fan myself, I think Abby has good taste. Of course, she ate hers raw, and I prefer mine toasted.
The school gave us all the pumpkin seeds and pulp, plus the flubbed jack-o-lanterns, which we loaded into the stock trailer with the animals. I'm sure Abby dined on pumpkins all the way home.
If you want your child or children to spend a half-day with these bright and beautiful Foundation creatures, the farm is hosting a camp for youngsters from ages 10-16. Farm games, an animal relay race, and other activities will be part of the camp on Saturday, Oct. 23, from 8 a.m. to noon. Details are here: https://milessmithfarm.com/farm-camp.
Author Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, N.H., where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs, and other local products.