Can’t Have Just One!

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s in the blood,” or “I opened my mouth today and my mother came out. “ Sometimes you go to do something and it just comes naturally. I feel like this is me with chickens. Now, I see the faces when I say the words, “I LOVE MY CHICKENS!” I also am asked often about how many chickens I have, let’s just be clear chickens are like potato chips you can’t have just one.

When I was a little girl I can remember my grandmother having chicken and rooster décor, as I grew older and had houses of my own I used roosters and chickens in several places throughout my house. I admired pictures that had chickens in them. I was always very intrigued by them. In fact for many years I would affectionately call my mother a chicken. But I never had my very own, until we moved to the farm. It was the purchase that I was the most excited about. I knew nothing about owning chickens. I did a bunch of research and read many articles, I couldn’t wait to walk outside to my very own coop and retrieve the eggs.

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I soon found out people have very strong opinions about chickens. Many people thought chickens were gross, mean and I hate to even say it but stupid. I was determined to find out as much as I could about how to make my hens happy, because happy hens lay more eggs or so I thought. Our first ladies we brought to the farm were already laying or about to start. Kayton who was also very excited about having chickens, used her own money and bought two Cream Legbar hens, that were only a couple of months old, she named them Pandora and Goldie. I chose a couple of “Easter Egger” hens, two Lavender Orphington’s and a gorgeous Easter Egger Rooster.

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Kayton  and Pandora
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Dylan & Kayton with Prince and Madonna the Lavender Orphington’s

Now this I think is where our chicken tale takes a sudden turn. You see Kayton’s two tiny hens became pocket chicks. Kayton would put them under her jacket and attempt to smuggle them into her bedroom. When we bought the “purple” or lavender orphington’s it was raining, what else should a purple rooster bought in the rain be named but “Prince” of course? We were kind of drawing a blank with the other rooster, until the night we brought him home he flew right out of the coop, and we couldn’t help but think of “One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s Nest”, so he became Jacko short for Jack Nicholson. One day on a break from school, Kayton decided to go check on Pandora, Goldie, and the others, when Jacko decided to venture out again. This time he really flew, as I was sitting in my home office on the phone with a client, I see my husband walking in slow motion calmly past my window calling Jacko, he attempted to toss his jacket over Jacko, and away he flew, right over the creek and straight into the woods, and was never seen again!

In a moment of weakness on a trip to my local feed store from the back of the store I heard the sweetest tweets and chirps. For a regular person baby chicks are very difficult to resist,  which made it near to impossible for someone like me, but who knew that there was a 6-chick minimum when buying them? After my husband rolled his eyes, and made comments about the 6 additions, on his next trip to the same feed store less than two weeks later, 6 more chicks came home. A few weeks later my daughter and husband were told that the last remaining duckling was about to go to wherever unpurchased ducks go, and because you guessed it a 6 chick or duckling minimum was required, a little Peking duckling and 5 chicks came home again. My husband became quite proud of himself, he had learned how to pick up “chicks.” In the meantime, I also discovered this amazing website that I could order any breed anyone could possibly want and they would ship it to your house, when I had placed my first order from this company, we were only one feed store purchase in, now we were multiplying at a much faster rate, because apparently we had OCD (Obsessive Chicken Disorder). People started labeling me “crazy chicken lady.”

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We were raising all of these amazing chicks, and I would tell people, you don’t understand these chickens all have names, they come when you call them, they run to us, they love to be held, and I could tell them apart. I already know you are thinking yeah right, unless of course you have chickens like this. But our ladies LOVE us, they run to me and flock around my feet, they love to be pet, many love to be held, and little Pandora who now lays beautiful blue eggs, will not leave us alone until we hold and cuddle her. Duck (yes that is his name) will hug us, he will talk when we talk to him, dances and thinks he is a chicken. I know what you are wondering so how many chickens did they end up with? I’ll plead the fifth, and Feather Locklear, Sophia Lahen, and Ginger aren’t talking either.

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Pandora
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Feather Lockler

Chickens for me were everything I had ever hoped they would be, and more! Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy chickens and that’s sort of the same thing.

No More Bull

Contingency. Something that is dependent on the fulfillment of a condition. For example, I’m really excited about moving to North Carolina because I will finally get my very own horse. Kayton’s excitement for moving was contingent on having her very own horse. For all those women out there who were once little girls, I think most if not all of us have dreamed of having our own horse, we imagine ourselves riding with the wind in our hair. Kayton’s dream wasn’t much different from many others out there.

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We “thought” we were a horse family. Dylan had been going to the stables since he was 5 and taking riding lessons, many if not most of our trips and vacations as a family involved horse back riding. Both Dylan and Kayton spent 2 weeks out of every summer for 4 or 5 years at a local horse camp back in Florida, Horse Power for Kids. We all knew about tack, grooming, mucking stalls, and how most horses seemed to have a mind of their own. What all of that equates to in terms of owning your own horse is NOTHING!

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There were steps that had to happen before we just ran out and bought a horse or horses. We had a very old barn that was a shell. My husband drew up some plans to not only put stalls in this 100-year-old barn but, also expand it. We got some great help building these stalls and bringing our thoughts and design to life, all the while continuing to do research on the must haves, and several months of daily pictures of the horse that each of the kids wanted. Now just like anything else, there are many choices in the horse world about the type of horse, where you will choose to get the horse from, what you are willing to pay etc etc etc. Enough to really make you crazy in the process. Because we felt we had something to offer, stalls, land, “knowledge”, and love we felt like there had to be horses out there that would make all of us happy. Kayton wanted a black and white horse, Dylan wanted a fast horse, Jody wanted a big horse, I wanted a sweet obedient horse, the list of desires was ever increasing and our list of choices seemed to shrink with every desire we voiced. We contacted a horse rescue, and seemed to find two that would fit perfectly with our family, after jumping through a few hoops, it appeared those horses were already homed. After a few more weeks, we found a woman in Loudon, TN who was taking in horses that the owners just didn’t want or couldn’t raise them anymore. We found what we thought was the perfect horse for us. She was a gorgeous Bay and White Paint horse who was named Carousel. After speaking to the woman, and letting her know we were looking for 3 more horses she informed me that she felt she had at least two more she had just taken in that had been abandoned but were gentle and already broke (meaning they had been ridden before). There are many details to this story that for the sake of not boring you to tears I will omit.

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After the kids and I went to visit Loudon, TN, we found exactly every horse we had wanted. The 4th horse happened to be my horse, he was a gorgeous paint named Bull Hancock. Bull chose me, when walking the pasture in Loudon, he sought me out, and escorted me through the acres the children and I walked that day. I was sold; he was the horse for me. We made arrangements with her to come back and pick up all 4 horses, all paints, two black and whites, and two Bay and Whites. Jody made arrangements to borrow a horse trailer and we returned two weeks later.

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Now for those who have never pulled a horse trailer, like well us, this was a task. One that involved fingernails in the dash, a lot of watch out, you’re going too fast around this turn, we have no service and the GPS is out, and I don’t think we are in North Carolina anymore Toto. Jody on the other hand was confident he had it handled. I was not! This 3-hour drive there with an empty trailer was stressful, what were we thinking! Now we have to load 4 horses into this borrowed trailer and drive all the way back. Upon arrival, we were told that two of the horses who were going to be rubbing all the way back to North Carolina, had never been introduced, ARE YOU KIDDING ME! We were also informed that the trailer we had borrowed which was a slant load trailer, was not ideal for 4 horses let alone 4 horses of this size. I wanted to cry, in fact reflecting on this is makes me anxious, I don’t know how I did it without crying. The kids on the other hand were over the moon excited; we were FINALLY getting their horses.

My Bull was the last to come out of the stalls, as I went to load him in the trailer Jody and I noticed he was limping, something you never want to see with a horse, let alone a horse you were about to take home. When we mentioned it, we were simply told he looked a little stiff. We were apprehensive but also knew we had a wonderful vet and we would have her come and check him out right away. The ride home was to date one of the worst drive homes EVER, think of everything that you would not want to happen while coming home with four, 1000 lb. living things in a trailer. First the sun had set and it was dark, then the realization that the trailer had no lights, then 4 horses nipping and kicking at each other causing us to fishtail on mountain roads, then being paced by a police officer at 20mph because of a road closure due to an accident. That three-hour trip took 6 and by the time we arrived back at the farm, it was almost midnight. We were all DONE! We put the horses in their new stalls, gave them lots of water, and were thankful that we made it home in one piece.

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Like everything else on the farm, there was a learning curve with the horses. We had to earn their trust, they had to figure out the new routine here, get use to one another, get use to their new home, and figure out the pecking order. I quickly discovered that horses are kind of like really big dogs, and they all have their own personalities. As the first day or two passed, we really saw Bull favoring that leg, and felt he really needed to be evaluated by our vet. Well it wasn’t good news, basically he had to go on anti inflammatories and he was lame in the leg, I was told not to ride him, but we really didn’t know what was wrong with him. We continued treatment, our vet continued keeping close tabs and giving us advice about what to do next. As the weeks turned into a couple of months, Bull continued to get worse instead of better, despite the best care, and every effort he just kept behaving in a way that was not the horse I saw in the pasture that day. He was charging us in the pasture, while I was grooming him one evening along his spine he reacted and kicked me down in the stall. Pain killers, stall rest, anti inflammatory, shots, the list went on and on, an honest conversation happened where we were informed something bigger than what we saw was happening, our vet felt something was gravely wrong with Bull’s spine. Now this is not what you want to hear, Bull was my boy, he was part of our family, and was loved and adored in the few months he was here. We had to make a decision that was in the best interest of Bull so he wouldn’t suffer and for us along with the other horses. After the decision was made, our vet was correct it appeared once she was really able to examine Bull, he had a broken back, that bone must have been pinching a nerve and causing a slew of other problems. Bull is now buried here at the farm, he was the first animal we have ever lost as a family, and will never be forgotten.

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There was NO MORE BULL, but within 24 hours, we went from crying sad tears to crying happy tears.

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The Rat Pack

We have all heard the statement I’m a dog person, or no I’m more of a cat person. There is no denying that each have their own personalities, their own way of expressing themselves. Even within the cat or dog world each breed, or pet definitely has their own way of doing things.   I always say I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to being a dog or cat person, according to recent studies I make up a small segment of the “pet loving” population.

Two years ago, we decided as a family, as I describe this cat, you will quickly realize this was not a North Carolina farm purchase, to get a certain breed of cat that was known for not being as aloof, one that was supposed to be affectionate and one that was going to be tolerant of being smothered by daily love from children, myself and dogs. We settled on a Doll face Persian or Teacup Persian. Yes I realize that isn’t the official breed and I’m okay with that. When we found old blue eyes, we quickly realized this little white kitten was not your normal cat. Sinatra was a dog-cat, would follow us around the house, would come when you called him, wherever we were he was, when company would come over he would come out and say hello and be at the door right next to the dogs to greet us. We also realized he was always watching us, almost supervising whatever we were doing. Old blue eyes quickly became the boss of the house, Sinatra the Supervisor. I will be honest until Sinatra all 6.5 lbs of him 4 lbs of which is all white fluffy hair came into our family I was a dog person, and even though he softened me, I didn’t really want more than one cat in the house, or in the car (yes Sinatra loved to go for rides in the car).

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The day we brought Sinatra home

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Yes Sinatra is on a leash just like the dogs!
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Sinatra going for a ride in the car!

Fast forward to June 2016, our very first full week living in North Carolina. Our house was in full demo stage of renovation and we had just moved from Florida. Sleep was overrated at this point in our journey and the nerves were completely raw. For all of those that have moved you know what I am talking about, for all those who have moved out-of-state, it’s a different level, and those who have moved out of state with children and animals, yep different level of crazy. My children were trying to settle in and figure out their new place in their new state. My son Dylan was visiting at a new friends house, when an old VW Beetle was brought to his friend’s house to be restored, as the car pulled up and the hood was popped, out from underneath the hood ran one very small animal, laying inside was another small animal, beside two small dead animals. Now what was said, or not said I don’t think my husband and I will ever know, but what we do know is my son was “gifted” as a big ole welcome to the country this half dead small animal that they claimed was a cat. Now I was not for this, in fact knowing what we were dealing with moving, renovating, not sleeping, adjusting, why would I be for caring for a dying animal. But I’m an animal lover, plus the peer pressure, and the false promises of the children stating you guessed it, “Please Mom we will take care of it,” had me caved in pretty quickly.

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I was told on the phone that this animal they were bringing home was a cat. This animal they brought home was no cat, this animal was an opossum cat. In fact I was so convinced that it was a baby opossum that I kept googling opossum babies and comparing the images I found to this thing Dylan brought home. People say baby anything’s are cute, the people who say that never saw this thing. But it was malnourished and very young and I couldn’t think of letting it go and die somewhere. So we goggled, (If you haven’t been able to tell Google has really given us valuable advise) “How to make formula for abandoned cats?”, and we immediately bought everything we needed to make her formula. We made an appointment with the vet who informed us this little calico kitten was a girl, that almost all calico cats are girls (this was new information to me that I have used and shared several times since) and that we saved her life, that she was probably only 24 hours away from death.

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Sammy the Opossum Cat

You know how you hear of people whose lives have been saved having a profound appreciation for those who saved it; well this little kitten had that. For an ugly, malnourished, wild kitten, she was expressive, happy, curious and so loving. It wasn’t long before Sammy Davis stole our hearts. Sinatra and her became fast friends, and we had the second member to The Rat Pack.

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Sinatra and Sammy Davis

It wasn’t going to be long before the third member was going to find it’s way to the farm.

Fences

We are going to call this simply fences. I read a quote from Will Rogers that said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.”  Somehow everything about this quote is relatable to us here on the farm.

One day before closing on our farm we were walking through the pasture looking at the property, I started to lose my balance a little, and grabbed the closest thing to me to prevent me from falling. As I felt a zap zap zap in the palm of my hands instead of screaming or even letting go, I proceeded to laugh. Yep, I had just grabbed an electric fence! I quickly learned how to spot a “hot fence” or listen for a sound that it makes.  Important and valuable information to learn!

Fences continued to be a big lesson we have learned about on the farm. A neighbor told us after getting the first two goats that if you ever want to know what condition your fence is in put a goat in the fence in question. We found this to be very very wise advice after adding another “kid” to the group, little Louisa, whose nickname could have been Houdini. Louisa’s first day here went surprisingly well, introduction to the other VonTrapp sisters seemed to be going good. She seemed to be a happy little goat bounding around, but that night while we headed out for the evening apparently Louisa planned her great escape. As we were across town, Jody’s phone rings and its our neighbor, he informed us on his way back from a Volunteer Fire Department call, he saw our new little tan goat Louisa running along the road. In attempt to remain calm we quickly escorted the children to the car, buckled up and then drove like Mario Andretti back to the farm. The children were convinced she was hit, she was gone, or other horrible things we will not mention here. As we pulled back into the driveway, we could hear her cute little goat song coming from the big pasture. Now let me paint the picture for you. We were coming back in dress clothes, it was pitch black out, and we live on several acres. Instead of running inside to change we decide to set up a goat blockade, with my husband in a suit, tie, Florsheim shoes and a headlamp, in an attempt to confuse Louisa and ultimately allow us to catch her.  Well we succeeded we were able to get her and return her back to the VonTrapps. To our surprise it wasn’t the fence that was the issue at all, it was the fact that goat could jump, in fact she jumped onto her goat house and straight out of her goat fence security.

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Meet Louisa

Fences and farms go hand in hand, in fact, I often wonder as many gates as I open and close a day are we fencing them in or are they fencing us out? It’s one of the first reminders we give to all who stop by and say hello. Did you close the gate, watch the fence, make sure the stall door is closed? Some do forget, we have had donkey’s in the driveway, a horse who practiced their 100 yard dash down our road, and most recently we had to recruit my parents French Bulldog aka my brother Harley to herd, you guessed it Louisa back in with the other VonTrapp’s after someone left the gate open.

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Louisa, Friedrich and Brigitta
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Harley the “unlikely” Goat Herder!

As the fence reads at our farm, “Please Keep Gate Closed. Don’t let the goats out no matter what they tell you!”

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I goat this!

As with any story there is a beginning although this isn’t the beginning of our “new life” in North Carolina, this is the beginning of bringing new life to the farm.  We figured with all the construction and the lack of real experience with farm animals, we would start with what we thought was easy.  We spoke to some neighbors got in touch with a guy who was looking to sell two lonely goats, that he no longer had a need for.  The day they arrived was an exciting day for us, because well they were our first new residents.  Now I’ll be honest the only real interaction any of us have ever had with goats before was at our zoo back in Florida, and at a petting zoo or two that we would take the children too.

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This was at a local petting zoo!  This is what we were expecting!

I didn’t think in my mind that it would be much different, I assumed they would be like any other cute, friendly, hungry goat we had ever visited with in the past.  Let’s just say that wasn’t at all the case, in fact, I don’t think these goats had ever been really handled, and most certainly not handled by the likes of us.  Let’s give you a mental picture, we are that family whose voice changes when we speak to living things, we are the family who attempts to speak dog, cat, or in this case goat.  We didn’t think it was too much to ask for the goats to immediately love us, I mean hello ladies don’t you realize how amazing we think you are!  As we showed the goats their new home, they ran as fast as the could away from us, we went to the left they went to the right.  The kids had treats, food, and even looks of come on goats we just want to hug you!

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As the kids looked at us with complete disappointment, my husband and I looked at each other and thought, why oh why hadn’t we just bought the tiny little bouncing goats we saw for sale online?  This was better we told the kids, since this is new for all of us, it’s better they are full-grown and hardier, they would be safer from potential predators, as I attempted to reassure myself, I mean them, I was also googling, “How to make a goat love me”  and made it my mission to break the goat code with these two lonely goats on a hill.  Wait wait, that sounds familiar high on hill was a lonely goat, that’s it we will name them after Vontrapp children because who doesn’t love the VonTrapp’s.  Welcome to the family Gretl and Brigitta, you’re going to love us, we goat this!

 

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Goodbye Salt Life…. Hello Farm Life!

This is the post excerpt.

A year later and wow the place is barely recognizable. We left our urban salt life behind in Florida one year ago and started our adventure with the purchase of a 140 year old farmhouse.   As we arrived in our small Western North Carolina town, two kids, two dogs, and well let’s pretend just two Haul’s  later, we never would have dreamed in just one year we would have been able to redo, reconnect and recreate a new reality for ourselves.  IMG_6409

We have been able to expand our barn, the farm, and our hearts.  We have added more life to the rolling pastures, more braying, neighing, clucking, and singing.  Why now would I share a look into our life here?  Well because we figure there are more people out there just like us.  People who think they want a change, a big change.  People who leave behind everything they have ever known for something different, something really different.  We left the salt life for the farm life.  It hasn’t been easy, but I can guarantee it has been amusing to many, including ourselves, as we have struggled at times with this new life of ours.  So if you are looking for some encouragement to try something new, some advice on what to do or not to do, or you just want a good laugh.  Stay tuned…..

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