Plants and Climate Change

Amazon Animal Farm

I've got good and even better news for those of you expecting a slide show today. (Welcome to the Year of the Spin). The good news is that the slide show is so cool — with music, birds, river splashing and narration — that several of us are now up to our elbows in production and it's taking a tad longer than expected.

The even better news is that in hoping to mollify those of you who heard Rosario on the radio and want more, I've got animal pix from the Rosario family farm. Who could resist this face?

Rosario family dog

hide captionHe's about 35 pounds (if he was yours, he'd weigh more), shy and very submissive, but I am here to tell you, Pao Preto (Black Wood, don't ask) is one lucky dog. Rosario first saw him in Macapa, a large town about 3 hrs away, where he was both starved and owner-abused. She liberated the little guy from his rotten, stinking human in trade for a dozen eggs, and now Pao Preto gets to do something all day that even my spoiled brats don't get to do: bark.

photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Being a lifelong vegetarian, I tried not to get attached to the little piggy (pictured below, and by the way she's going to be sold; the Rosario family wouldn't touch her), but I nearly fainted from cute overload when I first spied her with his little hoofs hooked over the barn door. Her massive mother, however, Boneca (Doll), is a cherished member of the Rosario family; it seems there are enough stories about her to fill a few childrens' books. My favorite is the story about how she collapsed after eating something clearly lethal, and was subsequently revived by several pots of strong black Brazilian coffee.

a Rosario family pig

hide captionCan you imagine coming home to this little doggie every day? That is, before she gains another couple hundred pounds?

photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

One of the reasons there are plank walkways around the entire Rosario house is because the ground floor belongs to a bunch of roosters, chickens, and ducks. The ducks and chickens are easy to live with, but those roosters! They start crowing at about 3am and until evening falls, they never seem to stop. Of course, that's only news to those of us who are more accustomed to car horns and pistols going off at night, not farm animals.

a Rosario rooster

hide captionGood-looking though he may be, this guy had a cruel streak (OK, so I'm anthropomorphizing) and pecked the heck out of one particular chicken. Out of my depths on this issue, I chose not to intervene.

photo credit: Ketzel Levine

The ducks seems to have the most fun, alternating between dry, muddy and aquatic terrains. I particularly loved the way they paraded up and down the pier during low tide; this close to the mouth of the Amazon, the tides came and went twice a day. After spending a week bathing and swimming in this Amazon tributary, I am living proof the river is quite benign.

ducks walking the plank

hide captionDucks commuting home the hard way. In high tide, this little boardwalk is completely submerged.

photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

I wouldn't have guessed that all these free-range farm animals would get along so well — true, the dog has been known to steal eggs — but even the cats are (relatively) well-behaved. They're certainly not warm and fuzzy like my own Lulah, but unlike Pao Preto the dog, they're allowed in the kitchen. And I might add they are quite the beggars.

Alvino and the cats

hide captionAlvino is one of Rosario's younger brothers, pictured here with the two family cats, Mr. Chau (Mr. Floor, he's the Siamese) and Mrs. Dancerina.

photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Come back tomorrow for the first Talking Plants slide show, when I will prove there is more to life than Super Tuesday...



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I have also been lucky enough to live with Rosario's family off and on over the past five years as graduate student -- and have learned many valuable life lessons. I was with the family the day boneca, the pig, collapsed. One thing to know about boneca is that she is a vegetarian pig. Having run out of veggie pig food, Rosario and family decided to feed boneca cat food -- a terrible, almost fatal mistake. The vegetarian pig apparently suffered from low blood pressure and was revived with large doses of caffeine, which balanaced the pressure. I was very relieved, as boneca is my favorite animal of the Amazonian barnyard...and have many more pig stories to tell.

Sent by Angela Steward | 12:12 PM | 2-5-2008

Can I please have your life - just for one day?..I mean, to be able to write about something so interesting and visit the Amazon jungle as part of your job and stay with these wonderful people and experience something so unique - just as part of your job - does seem tad unfair as I sit in my corporate office tying this! What a wonderful story - it was such a relief from the constant assault thats super Tuesday. It transported me to another place - where words like Clinton and Obama mean little. It was a brilliant piece - it literally helped me escape my world for just a few minutes as i travelled with you to Amazon and met these wonderful people and imagined the birds singing and the Amazon gurgling in my backyard. *Sigh* Do give exchanging lives with me for just a day some consideration. Thank-you for a wonderful story!

Sent by Aarti Ramachandran | 1:41 PM | 2-5-2008

Angela, thanks for the back story on Boneca. I'm delighted you stopped by, of course I know all about you. Rosario and Dona Raimunda adore you.

And Aarti, I won't deny it, this was the trip and (who knew?) story of a lifetime. I don't suppose it would make you feel any better knowing I am capable of stressing myself into near-hospitalization when I write a story?
No? Oh well, I tried!

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 5:39 PM | 2-5-2008

And Ketzel, following up previous comment...yep, you're right on with the biodiversity view for all producers. Got my heart backed up before my brain acknowledged that point.
Your pig pic is one of the sweetest I've seen. And the description of the wooden planked paths above so that the poultry can meander below- great idea. Thanks for bringing it to attention. Love this story, good reading,reporting, the views!...take care-

Sent by Terry Starks | 8:56 AM | 2-6-2008

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