He's a Transylvanian naked neck rooster, a Romanian heritage breed. This breed of chicken has been developed because of its lack of neck feathers. While you might think this gives vampires better access to their necks, the lack of feathers was originally caused by a random genetic mutation. They thrive in hot climates. Big Red is one of three roosters Gail received with her baby chicks while I was filming. He is featured in "Rooster Ruckous" on the Doeville DVD. Read more here:
Gail with pups
Doeville summer 2010 33
Each year, Gail produces a variety of heirloom vegetables, but tomatoes are her specialty. She usually has over 75 varieties. Photo by Javier Sagredo.
Ready for Her Close-Up
In the height of summer, the herd has grazed their fields down to nothing. So while she might look like she's angling for a close-up, this brave doe is inquiring about food, "Put that camera aside lady and bring me some nice green grass, would ya?"
Resting in Summer Heat
"Butterscotch," on the lower right, is one of Gail's named deer. White is a color variation bred into fallow deer long ago, but it is a recessive gene and so uncommon in the herd. As fawns, they are a light caramel color. Gail's rule is that any deer bold enough to approach the fence for food could be named. She was named by a child who said she looked like butterscotch, the girl's favorite candy. Pictured here with a lovely three year old buck, she's the feisty girl featured in "Doeville."
Fawns Above a Sea of Spots
Fallow deer fawns are born in late June and early July. While their moms eat breakfast, the fawns cavort in small "nursery groups." These two fawns show two color variations -- the most common, light brown color for which fallow deer are named (like a field that is fallow), and a coveted chocolate brown variation. Fallow deer keep their spots throughout their lives. While spots are easy to see on the "fallow-colored" deer, it's harder to see them on the chocolate and white-colored deer.
Heirloom Tomatoes, Summer 2010
The year I started filming, the tomatoes were gorgeous but the plants had been attacked by a common fungus that makes the leaves turn brown. Gail would spray an organic fungicide, but, as climate change kicks in, it is very hard to control in the growing heat and humidity of summers in the Shenandoah.
Yummy Chocolate Buck
He's handsome and he knows it. :) He's a one-year-old, chocolate-colored buck that Gail hoped to keep as one of two breeding bucks in the herd. Like the white variation, it's a recessive gene. Any doe he mates with that has the gene for dark brown could produce a chocolate fawn.
A highlight for me while filming was when Gail would release the chickens into the open yard so that they could forage for grubs and bugs. Also seen here: Gail's delightful penchant for eclectic decor in the garden.
Filming Day One
I started filming Doeville in August 2010. I had only recently acquired my video equipment and had only a rudimentary idea of how to use it. So I hired Irene Magafan, a graduate of the Masters Film Program at American University, to help me get started. Thus began my 4.5 year odyssey filming and editing Doeville.
"I Hate Kids!"
For those of you who've visited Gail's farm, you know she says this a lot. And of course, it couldn't be further from the truth. There's nothing she loves more than teaching children about farming and animals. This was a memorable day in 2010 because my son Aidan was there with close friends Pablo and Marta who now live in Spain. Their Dad, Javier Sagredo, shot many stills on Gail's farm that have been invaluable to Gail and me. He also organized work groups to help Gail with farm labor.
While filming Doeville, I usually worked out of my Honda Pilot. I could carry everything I needed, from camera to lights to sound gear. The farm is about a 2-hour drive from my house. Occasionally I'd go for just a day, but most often, I'd stay at least the weekend at my nearby Lake House at Bryce Resort. The best times, though, were when I could hunker down for a week or two. Once, because of a snowstorm, I spent a few nights on Gail's couch. Oh what lovely footage I got in the snow!
Decked Out in Camo
You know, I never thought I'd wear this kind of garb but, early on, it was tough to get the deer to behave naturally around me. For one thing, every time they saw my tripod, they thought it might be a gun. Sad perhaps, but it's the reality of farming deer for meat. And they are skittish animals at the best of times. This photo was taken by my dear friend, Jeanne Rawlings, a Nat Geo filmmaker who also visited to help me out.