As an indie filmmaker, some of the best perks are that you’re blessed with numerous opportunities to explore epic places while meeting incredibly amazing people from all walks of life. Passionate farmers in the bucolic hills of rural America; brilliant scholars and doctors who’ve dedicated their work to the bio-sciences; powerful teachers and speakers who advocate genetic diversity; a farm-to-fork movement of food industry professionals that is changing the way we approach and consume food. And that’s for just ONE of our projects! Yes, our upcoming documentary on Heritage Breed animals has become a labor of love …
So we embarked on yet another business/pleasure trip last month, and connected more dots on the heritage breed map.
First stop Missoula, Montana and a meeting with Bob Doxey of Lazy BD Donkey Farm. Hospitality and humor run rampant here. We were greeted by Bob and his family with a delicious lunch in the gardens followed by a leisurely horseback ride. When we dismounted and were ready to visit the mule and donkey corrals Bob remarked, “Let me show you my ass.”
Bob has been involved in the mule business since 2005, when he acquired a young Blue Mountain Highlander mammoth jack donkey. Lazy BD Donkey Farm has fallen in love with the Mammoth Jack Donkey, and now focuses primarily on breeding this wonderful gentle equine giant. Critical to breeding, the American ‘workhorse’ mule has been slowly declining in numbers since 1892 when farm tractors were invented.
Here’s a bit of trivia outlining the difference between a mule and a donkey: a mule is created by mating a female horse (a mare) with a male donkey (a jack). A donkey is obviously created by mating a female donkey (a jenny or jennet) with a male donkey (a jack).
We left Montana and arrived in Glenrock, Wyoming just in time to witness #Eclipse2017, where the Glenrock Branch Library was distributing free supplies – water, eclipse glasses – even ice pops. You know, there is EVERYTHING to be said about the homespun hospitality in rural America. It just rocks!
While gathering our eclipse gadgets we met Mary, a fascinating astronomer from Flagstaff, AZ, whose mother lived in Glenrock. Mary had set up two telescopes and was offering science presentations and literature on the eclipse. We couldn’t have picked a better place to watch this iconic event – it was absolutely phenomenal! (Until we crept back onto the I-25 southbound to Colorado, where it took us six painful hours to go 132 miles.) Inching down that windswept highway we passed random gas stations (and I mean random – it’s mighty desolate along the I-25 Wyoming corridor) that resembled scenes from the 1970s oil crisis! Yet the most shocking part of this drive was that there was only ONE rest stop on the entire route … and it was closed for the eclipse! Passing dozens of men urinating at the roadside fenceposts was … ummm … only in Wyoming.
Thankfully, the spectacular beauty of the Rocky Mountains reappeared as we coasted into Fort Collins. We spent an incredible day there with Dr. Charles Calisher, a renowned specialist in Arbovirology, the study of infectious diseases that occur via arthropods (ie. ticks, fleas, and mosquitos). These insects often bite deer and other animals, draw blood back and forth a few times, then bites humans, which causes transmission to people. Dr. Calisher has written and contributed to several books on the subject including his most recent, “Lifting The Impenetrable Veil: From Yellow Fever To Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever & SARS”
Our intent with this interview is to study how these diseases impact animals and farmers, especially among heritage breed animals, which are are said by some to be more pest and disease resistant than many other breeds. Many thanks to Dr. Calisher and his wife Shelly, who were so generous with their time and information.
And then we had our play day! Have you been to Rocky Mountain National Park? It’s no secret that Elara and I absolutely love the mountains, camping, exploring our national heritage and parks, and outdoor life in general. This park is stunningly beautiful in all directions. Many peaks were still snowcapped in the middle of August! The colors and flora and fauna in the park were magical, and the weather was splendid, making it the perfect end to our trip.
Backyard Green Films had originally planned to visit British Columbia on this itinerary; however, the devastating Canadian wildfires there have caused us to reschedule. At this point we’re planning a visit to our friends at Cherry Creek Canadians, breeders of heritage breed Canadian horses in Kamloops later this month. But they’re in the hotbed of the fires which have been ongoing since April. Some estimates suggest they won’t be completely out until the snows of December. In the meantime, our prayers and best wishes go out to all in beautiful British Columbia who have been affected by these catastrophic wildfires.
Here’s the trailer for our Heritage Breeds Documentary film. Yes, we’re working very hard, and it’s coming soon! Thanks for your ongoing support. Many thanks to The Livestock Conservancy, Rare Breeds Canada, the UK’s Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and to the dozens of incredibly dedicated breeders, scientists and others who’ve made the subject of genetic diversity, and the awareness and support of heritage breed animals your passion. We could never complete this worthy project without you!