Maple Farm Animal Sanctuary - Mendon MASS
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Summer at Maple Farm Sanctuary

By MFS volunteer Jessica Bewsee

Being a volunteer at Maple Farm Sanctuary is a year-round gig—and trust me, it’s a gig of extremes. In February, when I’m toting buckets of water through the snow wearing my Carhartt gloves, I’m dreaming of warmer weather. But in July, when I’m mucking out stalls, and shavings are sticking to my sweaty skin, I get a bit nostalgic for winter.

So, while I’m certainly noticing the recent rise in temperatures, spring and summer at MFS also bring many changes in the behavior of the animals. You might think they would become more sluggish like we humans do, but they actually seem to enjoy it. There’s more laying in the sun, more games of head-bonk between goats, and more berry-snorfing at the mulberry tree by Piggy Smalls.

Here are some scenes you are likely to see during the summer at MFS:

A Refreshing Dip

Our geese always have three pools to swim and play in, but in the summer it’s really important that volunteers keep the pools clean and free from algae, and replace the water daily. The geese love this production. They often stand around the pools watching us work. Juliet, our female white Chinese Goose, likes to be sprayed with the hose (she quacks and quacks with happiness when I give her squirts on her chest) and Romeo, the leader of the gaggle, immediately hops in and dips his head under water repeatedly, stretching out his wings to their full span.


A Relaxing Mud Bath

In the winter, Jonathan the pig will spend over an hour building his hay bed, as it’s a task he takes very seriously. He puts in just as much time perfecting his summer wallow. He uses his powerful snout to dig deep into the mud, and he even pulls up any weeds in his way. 

Once Jonathan has sufficiently deepened his hole (and, I confess, I’ve added a large bucket of water to help with this endeavor), he slowly eases in for a relaxing mud bath. One peculiar thing I’ve noticed is that he seems to only want to cool down one side on his body. When he stands up he’s pink on one side and muddy-brown on the other with an actual line of demarcation running down his back!


A New Haircut

Finn the sheep displays some of the most noticeable seasonal differences. All winter long, his wool is thick and fluffy, making him appear huge. In the early summer he gets shorn, a process he tolerates but doesn’t particularly relish, and afterwards he looks half his size! After he is fully shorn he spends the day in hiding under the barn with the llamas, pouting over his nakedness. But in spite of Finn's initial reaction, it’s always very clear that he’s much more comfortable with his summer ‘do.


Indulging in Watermelon

In the hottest weather, volunteers bring the chickens their favorite treat: fresh watermelon! We’ll cut the melons in half and place them under the shade of the big maple tree in the front yard. The chickens swarm the melons within seconds and peck at them with delight. Lovey, our sweet chicken who is missing the top part of her beak, shovels the juice of the watermelon into the bottom half and tips her head back to let the juice drip into her mouth!


Staying Cool

Gwendolyn the turkey doesn’t seem to enjoy watermelon, but she knows how to keep cool! You will find her sitting in front of the fan in the barn, laying under the chicken tree taking dust baths, or cooling down her feet in the bowl of water I bring her when I do my barn chores.

While there are many differences between summer and winter on the farm, the one thing that never changes is the volunteers’ commitment to the animals’ care and the bonds we share with them. It’s a pleasure to work at Maple Farm summer or winter, rain or shine.

Come see for yourself! We’re always looking for more volunteers to help in the barns. It’s also a great opportunity to spend some quality time with the animals. Join the MFS volunteer community today.