Chandler Meets Kramer

Déjà vu…. How do you define it? It’s a French term that basically means something you have already seen or something you’ve already lived through. Or how about the feeling where you meet someone brand new, but you feel like you have known him or her for years. This past week we experienced a little bit of both, as we returned to Winchester, Kentucky.

The day had finally arrived and with the tough week I had experienced I was reluctant to make the trip especially in pain, but I figured that sitting in a car in a reclining position wouldn’t set me back too far in my recovery. This time I wouldn’t be driving; Jody was coming along, as well as Dylan, Kayton and Chandler. (Phoebe’s condition isn’t  conducive to long traveling anymore) As you can imagine, the car is full of excitement for some and what in the world is happening for one.

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Then begins the déjà vu as we crossed the state line into TN, the rain began. Three hours later as we crossed the KY state line the rain continued and continued and continued. As we pulled into Flanagan Springs, there was no sign of the rain diminishing. We pulled through the gate and up the drive and the rain kept falling. Now after such a long ride in the car even with a couple stops, if you are 1-year-old Setter, you have had just about enough of well setting. So out Chandler came, to be greeted by Chandler Doppelganger’s. One’s that weren’t quite as large as he is but were just as friendly, and suddenly this semi confident boy became a big ole baby. We were reunited with Susan who took us around the corner to find our sweet little man, and we all felt it again love at first sight.

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We decided the weather was not going to rain on our parade, so we walked up to see Flag Kramer’s dad, along with the other puppies, the wild rumpus began. In the rain down the drive to the lower field Chandler the puppy pied piper led the crew.

 

One puppy in particular became completely enthralled with Chandler, that puppy knew exactly who his big brother was. It made me have flash backs to the day Dylan first laid eyes on Kayton and he asked us, “Is that mine?”

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At this point we were all soaked, the puppies were wet and muddy, Chandler was wet and muddy, but we didn’t let it stop us, in fact nobody seemed to really care. Not long after going down to the lower field the sun came out from behind a BIG BLACK CLOUD. And then the real fun began for Chandler and all the puppies. They ran, they chased, they handed out dozens of puppy kisses, they did everything puppies want to do, and need to do, and Chandler all 85 lbs of him did it too. Chandler was reunited with his dad Brandon, who 1 year ago looked like a giant compared to Chandler only now stood shorter and leaner next to his son.

Any apprehension about these two boys I had, born exactly one year apart (Memorial Day 2016 and Memorial Day 2017) had vanished. They immediately bonded. Before we made the long trek home, these dirty dogs needed baths, and to say some goodbyes to Susan, the puppies, and the new friends we had met (the new owners of another litter mate Copper). As we loaded Chandler and Kramer in the car, it hit me again the déjà vu only this time as I was looking at the paper work. It wasn’t just the Flanagan Springs name across the top or the fact we were pulling down the very same drive with another precious family member, it was the date July 28, 2017, and thanks to good ole Facebook and the “on this day” feature I was quickly reminded that one year ago on the exact same day, I was pulling down this very same drive with Chandler, life can be ironic sometimes.

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7-28-17 Picking up Kramer

The drive home was LONG, and by LONG I mean LONG. The rain started again, and came down, sideways and at times almost appeared to even fall upward. The traffic was awful, Google Maps kept redirecting us around numerous accidents and road hazards, a 4.5 hour drive started to look more like 6 hours, and just as we had spoken to Susan and Copper’s new parents about the questions started.  When we stopped for gas, stopped for potty and stopped for food, people come out of the woodwork with questions and comments. What kind of dog is that? Where did you get them? They are so soft. They are so cute. Is it a mix? Is it a long-haired Dalmatian (always my personal favorite)? So we become walking talking spokespeople for a breed that we think is AMAZINGLY special. The two new “friends” Chandler and Kramer did perfect on the ride home, even with all the delays, the children they were just like any siblings on road trips, only it wasn’t the normal “Dylan is touching me, Kayton is being annoying” no this time it was “Dylan is hogging Kramer” or “Kayton keeps messing with the puppy trying to take him from me!” Awww how cute they are fighting over the puppy… Jody and I smiled, and thought wouldn’t it just be wonderful if we heard them fighting over feeding and taking the puppy outside (yes I know but parents can dream).

The two great 90’s comedy sitcoms aren’t just running as an old rerun on Nick at Night. New episodes are being created here on the farm, in fact in just two days lots has already been filmed along with plenty of blooper footage, first episode, “The one where Kramer discovers Sinatra” or “The one where Kramer’s noises scare Chandler” or “The one where Kramer meets the French Man”….

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So for all those wondering what a Friends-Seinfeld cross-over looks like, well it’s black and white, set in the country and kind of barks at you!

Welcome to the Farm Kramer!

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When a Friend comes over NO NEED TO KNOCK!

As we arrive back home after a very long day of crossing several state lines. We are so happy to be home with Chandler and Phoebe’s newest “FRIEND”!

Introducing Kramer…

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Although we didn’t get to see any crossover episodes of Friends and Seinfeld back in the day, the comedy will continue here at the farm, and everyone will soon hear about our return trip to Kentucky to pick up our sweet boy, and our LONG trek home!

You’ve Got a Friend in ME!

I recently read an article on animal behavior when a member of their animal family is sick. It talked about when a domestic animal like a dog or cat gets ill the other animals in the family will often attempt to comfort the ill animal. We saw this first hand with Lexi when she was ill, the other dogs even the cats would go lay with her. When I have been ill or a member of the family has been ill, we often refer to the cats and dogs as our personal nurses, because they will stay right with us, almost like they know. Even in the wild dolphins will swim underneath an injured dolphin and push them to a surface to breathe.

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It’s an amazing blessing to have humans in your life that provide that support like the dolphin, or that loyalty like dogs and cats. This week I have experienced a little set back, and with everything that happens around here on a daily basis, with one person down it can make the running of things quite difficult. On Sunday evening I started feeling not quite right, something was off. Monday was to be a very busy day, and it was one of those days where you give yourself the pep talk, where you tell yourself you can’t be sick right now there is too much to do. Amongst everything that was happening I decided it would probably be in my best interest to pop into an urgent care in between appointments and errands that had to be done. I explained symptoms to them there, and they ran one small test checking for a kidney infection, said there was little to nothing else they could do for me in house and referred me out to either the ER or to a doctor. Well as the pain in my stomach and back increased, my husband was able to get me into a medical doctor, and after my visit with her she referred me to the hospital. After multiple tests, they discovered I had a cyst that had just ruptured and it had filled my pelvis with fluid and blood, hence the reason I was in the awful pain, and most likely the reason I was not feeling quite right and had been completely exhausted. I was given some meds, released and told to take it easy!

Well everyone has rallied, I have had multiple human and animal nurses for the past few days, I am not one that stays down well, or one that enjoys sitting, laying, sleeping during the day, or even watching television. But I have listened. The farm has continued on, from my bed I could hear the goats, lambs and donkeys all screaming at Jody and the children for dinner. My father spent all day picking up the kitchen, and motivating the children to clean “drill sergeant papa” was in the house, and cleaning their rooms to his standard was a tough task. My mother made a delicious casserole, which has been a family recipe for years (I have included the recipe below), one that was always a crowd pleaser and the epitome of comfort food.

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

I had nurse or doctor Chandler and Phoebe at my service all day, in fact Chandler barely left my side.  Even my little dog brother Harley provided me comfort with his bull dog snuggles.

I also received multiple messages throughout the last couple of days that I have so greatly appreciated, from California, Connecticut, Florida, and right here in my hometown. Like everything else in life this too shall pass, but knowing that when you are down others are so willing to lift you up, is a special feeling!

From our family to yours thank you!

 

Here is our family recipe for the that comfort food “Chicken and Broccoli Casserole”

1 whole chicken deboned and cut into chunks (can use all chicken breasts too)
1 or 2 heads of broccoli or one large bag of broccoli
1 or 2 cans or boxes of cream of mushroom soup (we use organic), depends how much creamy goodness you are looking for.
1 cup of Mayonnaise
1 egg
½ cup of shredded cheese
Half of lemon juiced
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Couple dashes of curry

Cook the chicken either bake or if using breasts sauté in a pan.
Steam the broccoli

Set chicken and broccoli aside

Mix all other ingredients set aside some of the shredded cheese to top the casserole with.

Preheat oven to 375

Grease a 9×13 pan, layer the chicken and broccoli across the bottom of the pan, pour soup mixture over the chicken and broccoli, top with cheese.

Bake until cheese browns lightly and bubbles, usually 30-40 mins. It’s the perfect one dish meal, and is great with crescent rolls or biscuits.

Are You My Mother?

Have you ever read the book, Are You My Mother? It’s about a mother bird who leaves her little egg in the nest, and when she returns the baby had hatched and went out looking for his mother. He asked all kinds of different creatures, Are You My Mother?” What amazes me about that story is how it really isn’t too far from reality.

Here on the farm, we had two births within one day of each other; the first one was Brigitta, who delivered a bouncing little girl named Marta. One day later, Gretl was finally inspired and she gave birth to twins, a little boy Kurt and a little girl Liesl. The only goat birth I had ever experienced was Brigitta and she was an excellent little mommy, everything you would hope for, Marta was healthy, clean, and happy. But she was like this little bird from the book, she had no idea who her mother was at first, she would attempt to lick and nurse on our noses when we held her, she would follow Gretl and Louisa around, until she heard the call of her mother, than she would immediately perk up and run to the direction of the call. So when it came time for Gretl, I thought well it would be similar to our previous experience. Now why I would think this is completely beyond me, because when have you ever seen or heard of two people’s pregnancy, delivery, and parenting style even be similar.

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Well Gretl was no Briggita, when her kids were born, she was ornery, she didn’t act like she was bonding with them at all, she wouldn’t nurse them, and when little Marta came bouncing over to check things out, she butted her clear out of the goat house. The twins snuggled up to me, they began following me around and I started to get really nervous, they had the sweetest looks on their little goat faces, almost asking are you my mother? They walked over to Brigitta with the same look, and I immediately developed a sinking feeling that she might just reject them, because maybe she isn’t the “mothering type”. So there I stood watching goats, and playing referee, Gretl didn’t want the kids next to her, but she didn’t want anyone next to her, the goat house they had all shared for months , she now claimed as her residence and if anyone tried coming in, they quickly were reminded whose house that was. So what do I do I thought? I went with instinct, I thought, maybe she doesn’t know any better, maybe she is completely exhausted she did just have twins after all. So I decided to clean up the house put in new hay for her and the babies, and give her a little food, and reprimand her every time she was aggressive to the other goats, or to the babies. Now because I did all of that all at the same time I’m not sure which one worked, but it didn’t matter because she started changing.

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I started noticing Gretl acting more motherly, after she ate a little, knew she wasn’t going to get away with being mean and had a fresh clean place to relax, she started loving on them, nursing them, and they knew suddenly she was their mother. Now the house hogging well that took a little longer to correct, the solution, put on an addition. That very afternoon, Jody, my father, and my uncle got to work and added onto the goat house, and all seemed right in Gretl’s world.

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Here we are now three weeks later, with three little kids, who are fast as lightning, brave, spunky, and quite full of themselves. They are bouncing around, jumping over one another, standing on their mothers, and getting quite steady on their feet. They play, they butt one another, and they scream if their mothers get to far from them. Louisa is serving as the “nanny” goat, she keeps everyone in line when her besties are sleeping, but really because she is still young I often think she is getting them more riled up and showing them how to get into trouble.

Here is what I have learned watching my goats. Goats are comedians, if you are having a bad day, just for a moment watch goats play. They jump sideways, they bounce, they flip about, and occasionally (when they have some fainting goat in their bloodline) they will just fall over. And if you look at them real close, it looks like they’re smiling. Sometimes when I’m having one of those days we all have, and am particularly annoyed by someone, I think to myself GOATS MAKE ME HAPPY…. You not so much!

How long is a horse pregnant for? FOREVER!

Have you ever met someone and you just knew that person was going to be in your life for the rest of your life. Whether they became a best friend, or you marry them, or you end up having them as part of your life for years and years. The relationship that you are able to sense from the moment you meet them isn’t always apparent, but when it is, you walk away from that meeting feeling like you have known that person forever. Introductions to animals can often times happen the same way. You hear people say they didn’t pick the animal or pet the pet picked them. Unless you have experienced it, it can be difficult to explain.

After we lost our horse Bull, we were all besides ourselves with sadness, he made quite the impact on all of us in a short amount of time. We cried over that horse. Those sad tears became happy tears in a very short period of time. You see the day we lost Bull I was in Georgia visiting with a lady who had decided she needed to give up her horse, she didn’t have the time she felt the horse needed and after talking with friends of friends, she was given Jody and I’s number. Before committing to anything, I wanted to meet the horse and her of course, and see if there was anything there. Well upon introduction to Ms. Scarlett, that feeling I described above how sometimes you just know, was the feeling that came over me. Scarlett would be an amazing addition to the farm, and the feeling was mutual we immediately bonded. Scarlett didn’t come home that particular evening but arrangements were made to bring her home.

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Upon my return though that evening as I entered the barn, and was struck with the visual of Bull being gone, a friend that was visiting noticed, AJ had what they call“bagged up” meaning you could see her milk bag, which usually is a sign of pregnancy. Now this was a wild thought to us, because first of all we did not have a stallion anywhere close to her since arriving, which would mean she would have been bred before we even got her. We were in disbelief and were trying to put all the pieces together.  So we decided it was time to call Dr. Jessica back to the farm, now remember 24 hours previously she had been her to put down our horse. Now she was being called to confirm a pregnancy. What a difference a day makes, huh? Well let’s just say the milk bag never lies. Miss AJ (Angelina Jolie) was definitely pregnant. How far along she was, who the father is, and when this baby will arrive is all still a mystery here on the farm.

Many months later, we still have a pregnant horse and a pregnant donkey. They love to give us false signs of labor. They have been moody, exhausted, and downright unhappy, but they are still holding on. It’s the joke around here, you still have that pregnant horse, or you still have that pregnant donkey? It feels like we are waiting on them, like the world was waiting on April the giraffe. Every time they make a noise, disappear from view, lay down, or put their ears down we think they are in labor. I just know at this point when it does happen we are going to probably have none of the signs we have been looking for and we will walk in the barn, and their will be an extra 4 legs waiting on us. We have waited on every full moon, new moon, old moon, rain storm, weather change, or any other thing they claim can cause an animal or woman to go into labor. We have had both Christina the Donkey and AJ the horse checked, rechecked, and  ultrasounded, all confirm the same thing we have two VERY pregnant animals.

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So that feeling I had, it was accurate! Scarlett arrived at the farm, and she has thrived. She went from not knowing her place and her role here with the other girls, to being the boss. Scarlett rules ALL! She is affectionate, sometimes pushy, and always looking for attention. She fits in perfectly, she loves to run and doesn’t like anyone in front of her. She immediately bonded to all of us, she is friends of Bing, occasional stall mates with Deani Martini, and besties with Carousel. Introductions went well, when we brought Scarlett here, we put her with the donkey’s in an adjoining but separate pasture, one where they could see and hear one another but were separate enough to not injure one another, after a few days we allowed them to touch over the fence, but still not be together. Finally in just a few days we put them all together in the same pasture, and what a sight. The three girls all ran around Scarlett, and they lapped the acreage again and again, once they stopped they would talk to one another, and then run around again.

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It didn’t take long for her to be accepted. Now they hate being separate, one day when we were painting my parents house, my mother went outside and standing in her driveway were two people with a bag of carrots. As some of you read this that will probably strike you odd, and it would have struck me odd before moving her. But since moving here it is NORMAL, we often will walk outside and people will be standing on the fence line taking pictures, or just watching the animals. So when I heard this I assumed they brought treats for the horses, it wasn’t until I saw the look of panic on their faces that I knew something was up!

The man said to me, uh we were driving up this way and saw two horses standing in the middle of the road, we didn’t know whose they were until we saw that fence over there was open (of course an open fence). As he is talking I’m trying to figure out how to get the horses down a very steep path, through a small gate, but hold on a second, how on earth did they get up that steep bank in the first place, suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by the horses who were still behind the fence screaming to the two that were outside the fence.  I decided to run to the barn to get a halter and lead rope. Upon my return, the girls on both sides of the fence had gotten themselves so riled up, that Scarlett was running like she was in the home stretch of the Kentucky Derby. The visuals that were happening inside my mind were terrifying, and all of them ended badly. Two options, open all gates and hope that the girls in the fence stay in the fence and call her in, or hope she wears herself out and allows me to put the halter on her so I can walk her back in. I opted for the first, and opened the gates, one person stood at one gate, one at another, as we tried guiding her into a smaller area which then led to the open gates. After what seemed like eternity. WE DID IT! Scarlett, Carousel, AJ, and Oreo were reunited, and have never used their horsepower on the road again!

As I conclude, AJ and Christina would like everyone to know, “YES THEY ARE STILL PREGNANT!”

Cats, Lambs,and Goats OH MY!

Do you ever have those moments in your life where you think back on something you did, only you are kind of in disbelief you did it? Like trying something different, doing something heroic, making a difference in just one person’s life, or doing something completely out of character. Since moving here I think instead of us being in disbelief  other people are in disbelief.

If you have ever cleaned out a chicken coop, you know it isn’t the most glamorous of jobs, who am I really trying to kid here, cleaning out the chicken coop is hands down an awful horrid task (my least favorite), they should do a “dirtiest job” episode on it. If there were ever a time I have wanted to wear a gas mask it is every time I have to clean out the chicken coop. It isn’t for the weak stomached that is for sure. If you would have told me 2 years ago that I was going to be living on a farm, and doing these things like cleaning out an awful coop, I would have told you, you were nuts. Now some how this life is enjoyable, satisfying, and we all know I really love my chickens!

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The questions we get all the time are….. who takes care of all the animals? Who cleans up after all the animals? How many animals do you have? Why do you have that many? Have you always been in and around a farm? What do you do if you all go away? There are always questions, inquiring minds want to know.

So here is the long and short of it all. Who takes care of all the animals and cleans up after all the animals? We do, we do not have any hired farm hands, we do not have any one that comes and cares for the animals at all except for us. We do have an amazing mobile vet that when things have gone askew we call and she comes and takes care of whatever we need. But otherwise, we are it. We physically see, talk to, feed, clean up after, and love every animal on this farm every single day.

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How many animals do we have? Well isn’t that a loaded question….. we currently have two dogs and two cats inside, we have a barn cat (the final member to the Rat Pack) Dean Martin….. who is actually Deena Martin (or Deani Martini… and her two kittens, Harry and Cali) I guess I should continue that story, we have 40 or so chickens, 4 ducks, 2 sheep, 2 donkeys, 4 horses, and now thanks to the birth of our new kids we have 7 goats.

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This question always makes me laugh…. Why do we have so many animals? Because we love them… is there really any other reason? And no we probably are not done, in fact I know for a fact we are not done. And yes we are aware we basically have a petting zoo, we are okay with that too!

Have we always been in and around a farm? NO! My father was born and raised on a farm in upstate New York, my love for animals could very well be in the blood. But neither Jody nor myself have ever owned a farm, or large animals or had acreage until we moved to North Carolina.

What do we do when we go away? Well it depends on the circumstances, since my parents built a house on the property, they will watch and care for things here on the farm if we go away on vacation and they don’t go with us.  If they go somewhere with us we have to ask someone to stay and keep everyone in line.

I will say this, if given a choice, now that we have been doing this for a year, I would choose this life. I/we know it isn’t for everyone. We know some people don’t understand it, and others are completely perplexed by it or maybe even grossed out, but we get it and we are really loving it. IT’S A LOT OF WORK! But the work is satisfying!

Our story is interesting, and often times humorous, it’s not everyday people drive with a lamb in the front seat of their BMW, through the Walgreens drive thru…. “Yes ma’am it is a lamb.” Or hold a billy-goat in the backseat of a car because it was the best way to get him home. Or transport two sheep in a dog crate in the third row of an SUV for 2 hours. I also don’t think most people would be nervous about the fence in the larger pasture not being secure, and think the solution to keeping Friedrich the goat safe and sound is to walk him around the pasture on a leash. But at the end of the day we have taken this new venture and we have adjusted, and we have made it HOME!

Now back to the cat with three names and 9 lives. A few months after moving here we had another cat dropped off here. Since Sammy was a barn cat fail, everyone kept telling me we needed a ‘mouser’ to leave in the barn and chase away or catch any and all mice. So when someone mentioned dropping one to me for my barn, I agreed. Before the cat arrived, I was really hoping that it was aloof and ugly. That would help ensure us not to have another fail!  When the cat arrived I was told it was a boy cat. Perfect I thought, ‘I don’t have to worry about kittens, I will get him neutered and we will be good to go!’ Well upon arrival I thought we might be in trouble, because this stray cat, was really cute, and really friendly. But I just can’t have another barn cat fail. Kids look at me, husband looks at me, cat looks at me. NOPE! BARN CAT! Dean Martin became the third member of the Rat Pack, and was living a good and happy life in the barn, he became fast friends with our horse Scarlett and all seemed okay. We called our vet and said we need to get him neutered….. fast forward a couple of months,  Jody and I went to California for our 15th wedding anniversary. Upon returning, the kids mentioned they had seen Dean while we were gone, but that he hadn’t been hanging out in the barn as much, immediately we thought he might have found himself a lady friend. That evening while I was in the barn, I realized two male parts (you all know what I am talking about) seemed to have vanished. We were almost positive that they were there before we left. So in a panic I called Jody to inform him about the lack of parts, and he recommended I call Dr. Jessica to see if she had come over and neutered him. After some conversation and being told she hadn’t yet, I look a little closer and realize that Dean Martin has as Dylan calls them nursers. Wait just a minute I thought, first this cat has missing parts, now it has a bunch of extra parts. Something is not right.

That evening Jody decides to do a little kitty spying, and after feeding Dean he follows him under the cloak of darkness wearing his trusty headlamp, to see where Dean had been going. (This seemed like a better idea, than Dylan’s idea of putting the GOPro on the cat). He followed him from the barn, up the side pasture, through the fence, over to the house, and then underneath the house. Jody then proceeded to squeeze himself into the crawl space under the house, where he found three kittens. So Dean was Deena, a girl cat, and when she went out one night got herself into some trouble and became Deani Martini….. These were very cute, pudgy, fluffy and well cared for kittens. She was an excellent little mom, and it all seemed to make complete sense. One of the kittens was homed, and the other two are kind of aloof, and really good little barn cats, so they have stayed here on the farm with Dean. All have now been spayed and neutered, and we hope we won’t be surprised with any more cats.

For the record, I have since learned how to tell the difference between male and female cats, and no it isn’t as obvious as you would like to think it is. I read a quote that pretty much sums it all up. “Here in the South we don’t hide crazy. We parade it on the front porch and give it a Sweet Tea!”

Nothing is impossible…

Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. For the most part  a good majority of people hate or detest change; in fact many people will admit change results in anxiety. Compound that with BIG change, and it can result in big issues.

I have always been the type person that isn’t afraid to try new things, my husband says he doesn’t like change, but I wouldn’t say it causes him terrible anxiety, just takes him a little bit to get use to whatever has changed. In fact, our whole marriage has been full of change, redoing and trying new things.

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When we met and got married we each had our own homes, we both sold our homes and bought a new one together. It was only a few miles from both of our other houses, so on the scale it was a small change. We started our marriage with the remodeling of this home we purchased together. We completely redid the house and brought Dylan home from the hospital to this home.

651 Sedgewick Way

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A year later, we had another change we opted sell this newly remodeled home, for a home that was about 30 minutes from all of our families in an area and county that neither him or I knew anything about. I know as I type this 30 minutes doesn’t seem like anything, but to someone who lived in three different homes within a 5 mile radius of my parents home, this house was a HUGE change for us. We thrived after sometime, and made Lutz, FL our home for 9 years. We remodeled that house…. This was the start of a pattern, buying and redoing. Kayton was brought home from the hospital to this home, and we enjoyed getting to know a whole new area.

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After sometime, and some family health problems with my grandmother, we decided it was time to move back “home.” Home for me was Tarpon Springs, FL, I was raised my entire life in that area, graduated from school there, and knew the town and roads like the back of my hand. We fell in love with a home that was in a waterfront community, in a serene gorgeous location. Being able to see the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and smell the salt air everyday was just amazing really. This home we redid from top to bottom, and really were thrilled with the results. It felt really good to finally be home, and although we never had any regrets about our move to Lutz this move back felt very right. We settled in and were living closer to our families again, the kids adjusted very well to their new schools they made some new friends, we weren’t too far from their “home” so we felt like we were in a good place.

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After three years of finally being home, the bug for change bit my parents. You see we had been caring for my grandmother who was in the final fight with her battle with Melanoma, and after we lost her, they did a little reflecting and thought it was time for them to experience a change.

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My childhood home, and my parents home for 34 years.

They had been in the same house for 34 years, my childhood home. They were convinced that a little town they had visited on that years anniversary was the town we were all going to move to. I on the other hand thought they were well CRAZY really. To say they were direct with their hints is quite the understatement, they first convinced the children, my husband needed very little convincing and he was on board, I on the other hand, I will say it again, I thought they were CRAZY! Why on earth would I move to a little town in Georgia I had never heard of, that was 1 hour away from even a Lowes or Home Depot. I WAS NOT MOVING! January 2016, we lost my beloved grandmother, and decided as a family to take a little trip to the mountains of Franklin, NC. A small town I had been coming to since I was a little girl. A town we had visited as a family before. My husband had designed a home that the client agreed we could come to, in order to just breath and decompress after a very emotional few months. When we arrived to this home, it was for sale, which caught us all off guard. At the end of this visit, I felt I had the best idea EVER! We would buy this home with my parents, and they could get their fix, they could become snowbirds, come to North Carolina during the hot Florida summers, and spend the winters in Florida, when my father retired. They really seemed to also be in agreement with this FANTASTIC idea, and we ended up making that plan a reality. We bought that mountain home, and redid it, made it a place that we would love to come and visit and share with others.

Now here is when things took a drastic turn. With every trip we took to North Carolina, to buy furniture, to remodel, to paint, to do whatever needed to be done to make this place our 2nd home, we left a piece of ourselves in those mountains. We would plan on staying a week, and we would stay 2, from January-May we were in North Carolina almost as much as we were in Florida and we started having really serious conversations about how much we LOVE the mountain life. My parents, then decided that really they didn’t want to go back and forth when my father retired. They really loved it in North Carolina too, and why not just sell everything in Florida and move to North Carolina. Now the reality of that suggestion didn’t sit well with me, I was torn. All I had ever know was in that sunshine state, yes we had traveled all over the place, but Florida was always the place we went home to, how can we just leave that behind. Jody was all for this move, he said he could work anywhere, that he always wanted to live in North Carolina, and that maybe it should be something we really think and talk about as a family. When the kids became privy to this idea, they were all for it, they had fallen in LOVE with North Carolina, but were also not wanting to leave their friends.

So what do you think I did, I mean I couldn’t fight 5 people who were all for moving personally, I had to show them this idea was just unrealistic and not a good idea at all. How was I going to be able to do that? Easy! I was going to start looking at real estate, I needed to show everyone that what we were looking for did not exist. You see if I was going to change, it had to be DRAMATIC. Nothing could resemble home, I had the ocean, the space, the town, shopping, convenience, and familiarity. So if this big move was going to happen, it better be worth it. So I found a couple of houses and got in touch with this savvy real estate agent Evan Harrell who unfortunately knew his stuff, and knew his town. After looking at some houses and finding nothing I had succeeded, this was a BAD BAD BAD IDEA! Then the words no one who is proving people wrong want to hear…. Give me a list of what you are looking for and if it’s out there I will find it. As I roll my eyes, and try to think of things I need like an elephant shower house and a llama petting zoo (for Jody of course).  I also was curious and thought, if I give him a list could he really find what we are looking for? Okay, just for the fun of it here is our list:

1. I want an old farmhouse
2. We want at least 10 acres
3. Barn
4. Creek or River on the property
5. A place to build my parents home
6. Needs to have a huge kitchen
7. Minimum of 4 bedrooms
8. A view
9. Flat area to ride our horses we didn’t have yet
10. Good cell service and internet because of work

I mean it wasn’t that hard right? As we departed from the car, he said he would look up some stuff and asked if we could meet the next day. Well the next day we were suppose to head back, but what is one more day. I had a case to build here and needed to see that this place didn’t exist. When we met the next day, we headed out to two houses, which were both big belly flops. The pressure was off, what we were looking for, didn’t exist and I could stay in my coastal town.

As we continued driving, along a beautiful river, and rounded bend after bend, with one gorgeous backdrop after the next, we pulled into a gravel driveway with an old white farmhouse, big black barn, and one of the prettiest pastures I had ever seen. Most people would say they could hear a pin drop, I heard the kids squeal, and a few choice words going off in my brain. WAIT …. WHAT? Where are we? How did he find this place, I had looked at every house on Zillow and realtor.com this place never ever came up. To say the place was the checklist match, would be an understatement. Now inside the bones, the vision I could see it. Many others must not have been able to but I saw it, I saw how amazing this house could be, it needed to be restored, reloved, and redid. And you know what, I was just the person to do it. Within 24 hours, and one more visit to that farm, we submitted an offer. After some countering, discussions, pleading via a letter to the then owner, that 140 year old Farmhouse became ours. It was the beginning of our Farm, the continuation of our Family, and the perfect place to view fireflies nightly.

We restored this old house, reloved old things that had been covered up, and redid every aspect of our home. Moving was not a walk in the park, it was difficult, it was emotional, but it has been a welcomed change. I know what Evan, heck I know what everyone was thinking when we said we wanted to move up and have a farm. It’s probably a cross between the movie City Slickers and the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies.

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But we are sure learning a lot, we have made this place our home, we have brought a lot of life back to this farm, have survived and flourished our first year here and quickly realized, “If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”

Whose Kid is this?

You know that scene from the Lion King where the new King of the Jungle is born and all the animals celebrate. It would appear that scene was over exaggerated for animation, I always thought it was a great beginning seeing the little baby lion held up for all the animals to see and welcome.  They all seemed to gather around to see the baby, welcome it and yell with glee. As it turns out it isn’t all that exaggerated.

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In January of this year, we added Friedrich to the VonTrapp family of goats, he was a sweet billy goat, yes you heard me a sweet! He was really socialized, man that sure makes a difference, and so friendly. (So friendly in fact he has no problems, riding in the car, or being walked on a leash.) He fit in nicely with the girls, they accepted him into the family and it didn’t take long before they did what goats do, make more goats!

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As the next few months past, we noticed Gretl really starting to show; since she has some Pygmy in her line and is a “low rider” she seemed to show quickly. Our vet confirmed what we were already seeing and did an ultrasound, two little goats’ twins were seen. We soon realized that Brigitta too was expecting, although we had no idea if she had one baby, two or three in there. Or who was pregnant first.The days, weeks, and months have passed, and Gretl just continued to grow. In fact she was looking so big and uncomfortable that it almost looks like she is going to explode.

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You know those nights you go to bed like before a big trip, and you set your alarm because you have to get up early in the morning, but it doesn’t take you long to think setting the alarm was pretty much pointless, because you never really sleep, you seem to stay up all night waiting for the alarm, because you are nervous it won’t go off, or you will sleep through it. This has been me for weeks now. I think I hear bleating in the middle of the night, I listen for kicking in the barn, or neighing from the horses. I run out in the morning and count goats and donkeys just to make sure one wasn’t added in the hours I was asleep. Well last night was all of that with an extra oomph. Jody and I went to bed, and the natives were restless, the dogs never quite settled down, the cats ran to and fro throughout the house. About 2 am Chandler and Phoebe both started to bark, and ran outside, I was convinced this was it….. Nope all seemed normal, we were awake, dosed back off, 3:45am again awake, and nope nothing. Finally at about 6:30am I gave up and decided to just get out of bed and have some caffeine. As I walked into the kitchen all I could think of was how this totally stinks, why am I up so early after barely sleeping on a Sunday morning? This was going to be a two-cup of coffee day.

As I sat down to drink my coffee, and looked outside, I thought today is going to be a beautiful day, the birds were already singing, the sun was starting to peak out. I drank my coffee, and for a moment enjoyed the quiet room, and morning Mountain View. About 7:30am I look out the front windows toward where the goats are and I couldn’t really see the goat house, because both donkeys were standing there blocking it. On the other side of the fence the horses were all kind of standing there, Roadrunner our rooster was really singing his good morning song, and the lambs were running back and forth, like they are running sprints.  Something seemed askew. I put on my boots and walked toward them, and there were no sounds that made me think anyone was in labor, and to be honest, I had just spent a good 30 minutes watching a man on YouTube deliver goats, because Gretl had isolated herself, and I had read somewhere that was a sign. This whole thing is new to me, and I have always been the type that the more I read, watch or research the better. As I got closer, Gretl moved from the corner of the goat house, and I see something bloody. Wait is that what I think it is, yes it is it’s a baby, a tiny little very new baby, and I CRY! Yep I sit there in the goat house and cry.

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Once I pull myself together I realize, we have a baby, a healthy beautiful little baby! I stand up look around and see movement at my parents house and start to yell across the pasture, yell who am I kidding I WAS SCREAMING! I then scream for Jody, I screamed so loud, that I was like the monkey that holds the baby up in the opening scene of Lion King. All of the farm family came running to see, all of the horses, stuck their heads over the fence, the donkeys, Friedrich, the lambs, even the chickens had a bunch to say. WE HAVE A BABY!!!

Wait, whose kid is this? I looked at Gretl and she was still big as a house and completely uncomfortable. Then I noticed Brigitta pushing out some of the after birth and realize , it was Brigitta’s baby, we were so worried about Gretl that some how we missed all of Brigitta’s signs and she just did what she needed to do. Brigitta came right over and started nuzzling the baby. The relationship between mother and baby is so incredibly special and beautiful, she cleaned this little baby all up, she was gentle and sweet. The baby stood, the baby cried, the baby nursed. All the horrible videos on YouTube and horror stories I have read for the last few months were put to rest, at least for right now. WE HAVE A BABY a healthy adorable little kid!

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Brigitta and Friedrich  along with the rest of the Barrows Family, have a sweet little girl, she too is a VonTrapp, introducing Marta, born July 2, 2017.

 

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Friends of Bing

Whoever said diamonds are a girls best friend never owned a dog. A man’s best friend, a boy and his dog, or a true friend that leaves paw prints on your heart. For people who love there dogs there are a million descriptions. My children refer to our dogs as their siblings; my parents refer to their French Bull Dog as my brother (I really hope their isn’t any family resemblance between us), sorry Harley.

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My dog brother Harley

When we made the big move from Florida to North Carolina, we had two amazing dogs, a sweet, big eyed Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (who wasn’t doing all that well) Lexi, and a spunky black and white Springer Spaniel named Phoebe. We had both girls since they were only 7 weeks and when we moved to the farm they were both 8 years old. Before all the farm animals, before the Rat Pack, and as long as the kids could really remember Phoebe and Lexi were a big part of our family. The 9 road trips we made in between January and June between Florida and North Carolina, Phoebe and Lexi were with us. They were a family fixture and inseparable since we brought them home. We moved three times with our girls, we did dog fostering with Springer Spaniel Rescue, and for the most part where we went they went. Because of their sweet dispositions and demeanor, I never had to worry about them with children, and when Phoebe got a little iffy, with my parents puppy Harley we brought our awesome dog trainer Robin back over to help with introducing them, and in time they too became friends. They really were good dogs.

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Once we decided to move to North Carolina, we felt  it was time to get another puppy, one that was going to be bigger than the girls, playful and would do well with our new lifestyle. After some extensive research, and tossing around the idea of another Springer, we opted for a different breed, one that isn’t as common or easily found as some others. I made some phone calls, and ended up getting in touch with a woman I really just clicked with, a breeder in Kentucky of amazing English Setters, and after speaking to her, and seeing her dogs at Flanagan Springs I knew this was not only the dog for us but the breeder.

On Memorial Day 2016, 12 little puppies were born, I mentioned they were a hard breed to come by, and when I contacted Susan to put a deposit on a puppy she informed me that we were number 12 on the list. So the fact there were 12 puppies, had us very excited. From the moment we saw these puppies we were in love. We had our eyes on one little boy, but with being the last to pick we tried not to get our hopes up. As the weeks went by we received weekly updates and pictures of the puppies, and even though we all attempted to not get our hopes up, we couldn’t stop looking at that same sweet little boy, the black ribbon (that’s how we could tell them apart they all had a different colored ribbon on). The day came, that we would find out which little boy would be ours, and to be honest I was afraid to find out, I was afraid to tell the kids, but they are kids, and they seem to somehow always know the date when you would like them to forget. When I opened the message and was informed that black ribbon was ours, we all squealed…. So much for not getting our hopes up. The black-eyed, black eared little boy was our Chandler (yes we are huge fans of FRIENDS, in fact this is why we also have a chick and a duck….all fellow Friends fans will understand)

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The day had finally arrived for us to go and pick up our puppy from Kentucky. To say I was nervous was an understatement. You see right around this point Lexi really started to make a turn down hill. She was symptomatic of kidney failure, and was undergoing tests to either confirm  or to let us know what was happening. We also didn’t know what the girls would think of Chandler, or would we feel the same way about him as we did Phoebe and Lexi? We had some construction going on in the house that day, so Jody was unable to make the 5 hour drive with me. Kayton though wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to meet Chandler and the 11 other puppies. Wouldn’t you know it, my car never had car problems before until this day, I had never drove in hail until this day, nor had I ever been to Kentucky, so this was a day of firsts. All things were resolved, and we still made it to get our boy.

Upon arrival, we walked through the gate and all 11 puppies were there, now how would we know which one our Chandler Bing was? We didn’t need to know, apparently he knew we were there for him, and came running. As we made the long trek back to North Carolina with our new little guy, I wasn’t worried anymore, I just knew he was going to fit in perfectly. Introduction to the girls went great, Jody and Dylan loved him, everyone that met him immediately became his FRIEND! Living up to his name, this dog is a comedian, he knows when he is being funny and will look to you for reassurance. Watch dog, he isn’t in fact he leaves that up to his big sister Phoebe. He also is not aware of his grand size he thinks he’s an 80lb lap dog and sometimes thinks he is a parrot (he loves curling up behind us and putting his head on our shoulder). Chandler has been the most wonderful addition to our family, and has helped us deal with what was on the horizon.

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The symptoms we saw Lexi having, continued to progress. Her blood work came back that she was in renal failure. We decided that we were not ready and that we were going to continue treatment for as long as we could. We changed her diet, I started making low phosphorus dog food for her, she went in for a solid week for daily IV fluids, she was on medication along with pain meds. At first it seemed that maybe she was bouncing back. To us that would make sense, because Lexi, hadn’t been well for sometime, she had numerous issues in the years we had her, and we were told several times it was going to be it for her, and every time she bounced back. I think though she exhausted all her bounce, because after several months, she had no more zest left and we lost our sweet girl on May 15th, of this year. She too is buried here at the farm, and it just hasn’t been the same without her. Both Chandler and Phoebe were really bonded to their big sister, and for the first couple of weeks after losing her we would find Chandler lying near her gravesite. Losing a pet is heart wrenching, it is like losing a very special family member, to all those who have lost a pet, the pain is heavy.

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What we have discovered since moving here is having a farm is not for sissies. We have lost our horse, a few chicks, a baby lamb, and our beloved Lexi, in just the first year, yet we know the grief we have felt is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith, but it is the price of love. Despite the loss, the love we have for each other and all these awesome creatures we have here on the farm, is a blessing.

Donkey Doula

Who wouldn’t love a miniature donkey? Have you seen them, they get very fluffy in the wintertime, they have mohawks and follow you around because they love companionship. To me adding a Mini Donkey to the farm was a no brainer. What are they good for other than loving and watching, to our surprise a lot? Kayton and I took a little road trip to a farm in Waynesville, NC that breeds donkeys. We heard a lot of opinions about donkey’s every time we mentioned getting one, we heard they were mean, stubborn, and pretty much worthless. We were a little reluctant to go to a farm full of them, would they bite us, would they even care that we were there? What a pleasant surprise upon arrival.

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Donkey Mohawk

First of all I can’t say enough nice things about Gail, with Rocky Branch Longears. From the moment Kayton and I got out of the car we knew we were going to have a hard time not leaving with all of them. When we entered the property these donkey’s came running to us, as we visited with Gail they leaned on us, they pushed one another out-of-the-way so they could be the ones to get the attention. How could we resist? Now the decision came, do we wait for a baby to be born, or do we buy one that is a little older, or do we buy a pregnant one so we can experience both?

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After some conversation we opted for the pregnant one, a little sweet tiny girl named Shawnee. Gail recommended that we get two because they need a companion but thought with the horses, goats, and us, she might be okay. So we settled on just little pregnant Shawnee. The day Shawnee came to the farm, my husband was still skeptical, because he couldn’t go with us and see for himself what we saw. He still wasn’t sure what the purpose of having this donkey (or you know that other name for them) was. I though knew he would feel very different in a matter of no time….. wait for it!! Yep quickly, and I mean quickly he saw what Kayton and I saw, and decided that Gail was right Shawnee needed a companion (less than 48 hours later). So back we went to Longears and purchased a little grey girl who resembled Eeyore, her name was Christina.

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I will tell you what a donkey is good for, mini or not. If something is threatening their family that something is going to get it. They have chased off a coyote, killed a red fox, and not left the side of an injured horse on stall rest. As of late they have also stayed in the goat pen, keeping pregnant Gretl company. In addition to all that they make awesome pets, they follow us all over the place and they love to be loved.

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As the story goes, time went on and we were so closely watching Shawnee, for signs of pregnancy progression, we were so focused on her that we somehow failed to notice what was happening to Christina and her expanding waistline. After several months, we figured out that Christina was really the pregnant one, or at least the one further along. And she started growing and growing and growing. It has been 12 months, and that donkey is still growing. She has been closely examined, inspected, and even had a little donkey ultrasound. And we continue to wait.

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Now ladies, imagine being vertically challenged like I am, and like Christina is and being pregnant for a year, only to know it could be up to 14 months before we see little longears born. Oh the pity I feel for this donkey. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am not normal, I know this, and I am okay with it, normal people wouldn’t refer to themselves as the donkey doula. They wouldn’t try and make a little donkey as comfortable as possible or have visuals of themselves sitting on the front porch rocking the new baby donkey, or do impressions of what donkey Lamaze sounds like. But that is what makes me who I am. So we wait, wait for the debut of the most fantastic little creature to join the rest of us here on the farm. We wait to see if it is a Jack or Jenny. Wait to see what color the baby will be. And wait for the oppurtunity to hold and rock this new mini long ears.

We hope you enjoy waiting with us anxiously, to hear the story of this donkey doula in action, and to see the sweet babies debut. Stay tuned the Barrows Baby Farm is coming soon!

Baby Donkey