Sunday, July 09, 2006

Our Summer Vacation: Part III -- Cute Animal Segment

As a city slicker, I have that constant fascination with farm animals that makes my agrarian friends hoot with laughter.

"No, you don't want to raise goats," they inform me, "Or chickens or cows or any of those things."

"How about sea otters?" I enquire.

During this whole trip Eric was, I think, faintly amused at my obsession with taking pictures of animals.

"Look, look! Chickens scratching in the dirt!" I'd shout as I dashed forward with camera in hand.

"Yes, that's what real chickens do," he replies.

I snap a few pictures of happy chickens being happy chickens and then am overcome at the mental picture of all those sad birds trapped inside a hen house with a tiny door at one end so that they can be called "free range." I recently learned the term "pastured poultry" meaning chickens that are raised roaming over grass and scratching for insects. If you want to find out where they raise pastured poultry near you, check the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association site.

Many of my friends have expressed the desire for their lives to play out this way:

"I'd quit my job and have a farm up north someplace and raise goats..."

For all of them, I include this happy goat picture from Sycamore Herb Farms (Highway 46, 3 miles west of US 101. Open 10:30 to 5:30 daily; (800) 576-5288.)

The day of our trip to Hearst castle, we decided to drive a few miles north to Piedras Blancas to visit the elephant seals.

Elephant seals are too much fun. In this part of the season, the juvenile males are molting still. Here they're lined up at the edge of the water like anchovies in a can.

These aren't the big alpha males, we're told, although these boys look like they outweigh me by about 700 pounds. Every so often they get into little tiffs with each other, and then flop back down on the sand -- probably because it's too much effort to keep that up for long...

A clutch of pelicans sailed low over the beach and made for a picturesque moment.

Across the highway Mr. Hearst's zebras still roam the pastures as if they think they're cows. The zoo they came from is long gone, but they seem happy enough. Maybe it's the views.

We stayed over a night in Monterey, and of course, a visit to the Aquarium is de rigeur.

Eric had never seen them feed the fish in the big tank before, and afterwards, we scampered up to the third floor to watch the diver come up, flippers and all.

Over at the otter tank, it was naptime. Here, one of the otters slumbers peacefully with some seaweed clutched like a safety blanket in her adorable paws.

I love cute paws.

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