Sophia does her Dad Fernando Proud

Sophia visiting pre-procession

Palm Sunday has been a special day for St. Michaels Episcopal church because of its celebration of Jesus’ ride into town on the back of a donkey. It became an even more special day thanks to Sally Swift who thought the church’s celebration could be improved a bit if a real burro could be persuaded to lead the procession. Enter Fermando, world’s cutest donkey. He led the procession to the delight of Sally and her fellow church members. No one could resist Fernando’s charming ways. Sadly and most unexpectedly Fernando passed away in the early winter of 2009. It was at this point that the church offered Sophia, Fernando’s daughter, a chance to step into her father’s shoes. Last year, her first go at it, was a bit sketchy… Dr. Sorton and I had to literally lift her hind quarters into the air to get her to move forward. Maya Sutton-Smith patiently encouraged her while Sophia’s ‘rear wheel drive’ was not so delicately ‘encouraged’ to get along little donkey… This year was the year for Sophia to prove the naysayers wrong! She most politely and willingly led the Palmsters along with joy in her mighty little burro heart. Palm Sunday was special indeed. Thank you Sally Swift: your vision carries on to the delight of others on Palm Sunday as well as on the  other 364  days of the year!

A huge thank you to Dr.Pam Sorton who has been instrumental in keeping Sally’s tradition going.

Buddy Walk, Kiwanis Benches, Volunteers!!!

On October 2nd Gail and board member Patti Doiron participated in Brattleboro’s Buddy Walk which is an annual event held to raise money for the Winston Prouty Center.  We sold FC tee shirts, homemade cookies and met many wonderful people.  Another huge delight was seeing old friends who were also participating in this important community event.

FC is now looking more uptown thanks to the Brattleboro Kiwanis Club who have donated 5 benches to place in strategic places.  The benches allow clients and their families to have a comfortable place to sit and observe our teachers interacting with peers or with other species of teachers.  This special contribution to our environment is a keenly important one.  A HUGE thank you to the Brattleboro Kiwanis Club!

Bridget, Scarlette and Bob enjoying one of  the new benches.

Another wonderful addition to FC has been the increase in our volunteer staff.  Annette Dykema, Natasha and Joshua, Katie MacAllister, Anna, have joined our volunteer crew and have already made a huge positive difference at FC.  Natasha and her husband Joshua have made our duck habitat look oh so much better and more comfortable for our inimitable duck teachers and with help from Annette have reconfigured the chicken yard. The volunteers have been staining, cleaning, mucking, training etc.  What a wonderful thing for all!!!

Our new volunteers  join: Elizabeth Doiron, Maya Sutton-Smith,Wendi Zimmerman and Katie Reynolds who have contributed so very much in helping to make Farming Connections a better place for both animals and people.



We lost some very precious teachers over the past months.  Fernando, the world’s most adorable donkey died unexpectedly this winter.  There were many tears shed as Fernando  brought joy to so many.  His absence can still be felt.

Our Beloved Fernando




We lost our playful feline clown, our beloved quirky  little Cole Daniel Bolo.  He was not feeling well but before we were able to bring him to the vet he disappeared.

Saryn, who with her son Ethan sponsored Cole Daniel, is holding the little guy the day he arrived.

The severe heat of the summer took a heavy toll in the chicken family:  we lost Amanda, Helen and Maude.  The circle of life can be a very difficult one to accept but harder to deny.  While our tears were still wet on our cheeks,  Samantha presented us with 6 healthy and adorable chicks.  New life has a way of reminding us that death and birth are tied together.


Maude, Shade's Mom, stately friend


Amanda, Elizabeth's special girl

Helen who ruled the roost with dedication



Animal Mediated Therapy- one reason it works!

Many of the young people who come to Farming Connections have had trouble making and keeping friends, getting along with others  —   including members of their own family.  It is not uncommon for people who do not feel comfortable around others to avoid looking at them directly – even when they are talking to someone.  This lack of eye contact makes it impossible for them to become good at reading the expressions and movements of others.

While one cannot go back and redo what happened in early childhood or modify genetic predispositions, it is possible to improve one’s ability to notice nonverbal cues and translate them.  Starting this communication education with animals makes it far less threatening than starting with peers or authority figures.  Animals, after all,  do not judge us they simply respond to us. Our farm teachers are quite good at letting us know how things are going.  Making a mad dash away from us is hard to miss or to misinterpret and a slobbery lick while trying to fit into your lap is equally transparent. While these behaviors are easy to read, more subtle animal speak can also be mastered.  This mastery and the accompanying self-confidence it brings can become a springboard to improvement in communication away from the farm.

Now what does that mean??

Below is an excerpt from an article that relates to how we can improve our ability to connect with others:

What do neuroscientists know about what happens in the brain when we are more “socially intelligent?”  One finding is that what one person does…exhibit empathy, for example… affects their own brain chemistry as well as the people around them. One person’s behavior “powerfully leverages the system of brain interconnectedness,” wrote Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, authors of “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership” in September’s Harvard Business Review.

Scientists found the existence of “mirror neurons;” when we become aware of someone else’s emotions via his or her behaviors, our mirror neurons mimic those emotions. The neurons create an “instant sense of shared experience.

Intuition also is located in neurons called “spindle cells.” These make it possible for a super-rapid coming together of beliefs, emotions, and judgments that result in our first impressions of people we’ve just met.  It’s our social guidance system, Goleman and Boyatzis wrote.

The surprising thing to me about all this is that if you’re motivated to have more social intelligence, take heart. You can. Once you become aware that your SI quotient is low, you can  learn and practice new behaviors and thoughts, which lead to changes in emotions…”

Rolling Along

After a long absence of blog updates it’s time to bring everyone up to date.

As you may have guessed, we had yet another litter of little bunnies.  Ms. Madison, pictured in the little red truck, was the smallest and some would say the sweetest.

We had a full house of hoppers- almost wall to wall rabbits. The boys who still live here have all been neutered and the baby boys who were not neutered are in their new forever homes.  What this should mean is we will not be having any more baby rabbits but will spend our time enjoying the ones we have.

Our exciting plan for our rabbits is to have a bunny jumping competition right here at Farming Connections so stay tuned!

When rabbits were bumper to thumper. (sorry about that)

Gentle Spirit, Generous Heart

One of my students has a very special gift with the animals especially with Buster our Percheron. Her gentleness and patience with all of the farm residents makes her one of the animals’ most favorite visitors.  Recently Clary did something that was really awesome.  Not the “awesome” of kids’ slang, but the awesome meaning to inspire awe.

On her last birthday, instead of asking for a new doll or video game or new this or that, she asked her Grandmother to give her a year long sponsorship for Leo one of our barn cats!  Now Clary is just 9 years old!   To be that caring and generous so early in life is something very special indeed.  Leo is one lucky cat and the rest of us  — both human and non-human animals  —  are lucky to have such kind young lady in our midst.

Leo’s sponsor is Clary Sage Mitchell

Rabbit Magic

If you’re going to be proved wrong, Moxie/Duncan had the perfect way to show more than one human that we just don’t know very much about rabbits.  Last Thursday, September 3, while cleaning the rabbits little house, I discovered a little nest with  itty bitty baby bunnies!  Moxie/Duncan/Doxie is a girl after all!!!  When the folks at Lightlife Foods decided to sponsor our new lop- eared mom, I bet they were not expecting this!  One of the little ones looks amazingly like his father Oslo and the other survivor ( 2 little babies did not survive) is black with a little hint of white around its ears. You can see for yourself !