What’s IMPORTANT!

You know the nursery rhythm about the old woman who lived in a shoe…. She had so many kids she didn’t know what to do? Well if that nursery rhythm was modern-day it would be about poor interstate 75. I’m sure like the rest of the South East, North East, South West, or United States, everyone is either comforted by the constant talk about Hurricane Irma or they are sick and tired of hearing about it.

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For us here, we had a very personal involvement in it. Since I was born and raised in the sunshine state, and we as a family have many we love and care about there we waited like many residents, along with locals here who also had loved ones in harm’s way. We opened our home up to those who felt they needed to get out of harms way, and the joke was depending on how many came, all porches, stalls, and floor space was going to be accounted for. As we all watched the destruction tear through islands we as a family have spent a lot of time on, made memories while visiting, and left tiny pieces of our hearts on. We couldn’t help but be nervous for our hometown, our people. What an event like this does is show many people true colors, we see many thinking of others, and unfortunately we also see those who capitalize on the vulnerability of others. Our hometown of Tarpon Springs was spared for the most part, even though many lost trees, had some flooding, or have been without power, for the most part they were spared. Our friends in the islands, and the Keys were not.

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As family and friends came to the mountains to escape the storm, bringing the essentials, their pets, saying goodbye to their homes their solitude for what could have been the last time, reflection happens. What are your top 10, what are your top 5, if you were told to leave get to safety, what are the true priorities. All those who fled with their pets, BRAVO, to all those who accepted the displaced evacuated pets BRAVO to you too! It is often said what I love most about my home is who I share it with. As many who are left with nothing but those special people in their lives, they can rebuild.

So what can we take away from this, here on the farm, I always try to look for an application or a lesson. We were all created with an innate resiliency, both animals and humans, one where for the most part we can bounce back, or react, or readjust. Dogs, that are not used to other dogs, during times of high stress can somehow get along in a dwelling with other animals. A cat that hates the car, can often times be aloof or sometimes grumpy, can ride for 12+ in a car, only to arrive at a farm with dogs, cats, and a slew of other creatures and handle it, even when being introduced to dogs. Children can handle not sleeping in their beds or even their rooms, they willing share it with someone they feel needs the space more for the time being. A house of 4, during times of need can function as a house of 9 or 10. Stress, emotions, lack of sleep, differences of opinions, discomfort, all are normal during times of high tension, but when it’s all said and done, knowing in any way you can assist those who need help in one way or another, you are willing and insist on helping.

As the death toll numbers continue to grow, as people continue to suffer in one way or another, remember it isn’t what we say, or sometimes what we even do but it’s how we make others feel that they will remember when these life stress triggers zap! Everyone is fighting their own fight, sometimes the fights are big sometimes they are small, but love covers a multitude.

Now here’s the distraction, I know if many of you are like me, sometimes we need one, a good chuckle or feel good story. In this case I will provide you all with a visual. A couple of weeks ago, our vet came to do an ultra sound on our little chocolate mini donkey Shawnee. Shawnee took one look at the ultrasound and with a look of you are going to stick that where, she took off running, her little legs moving as fast as can be. We thought it would be a good idea to use a lead rope to secure her from running again, as I looped it around her neck, she took off, with me attached wearing flip-flops and slalom skiing right out of the barn right towards the gate where she planned her great escape. I was not about to give up, but the faster she ran, and the further and further I was pulled and whipped, the harder I laughed, thinking this is why one does not wear flip flops in the barn, this is also why one does not use a lead rope without a halter and this is also why my life is always interesting. So with everything that everyone is dealing with right now in this moment, remember a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.

Pick me up!

My son turned 14 this week. 14 it doesn’t seem possible. It’s mind-boggling to me to think about how an event can happen that you anticipate, plan out, look forward to, and over think…. and than unfold, march on, lead to more events, more memories, more anticipation…. the next thing you know you are sitting somewhere years later in disbelief that the time, the years have flown by.

Becoming a parent was one of lives great blessings. But everything it requires and brings is sure not for the faint of heart. When Dylan first started to walk, I mean run he went full force into every corner, or blunt object that was available to hit within head shot, he walked around with a knot on his head for probably the first 6 months after starting to walk. Hard knocks. And as a new mom, I quickly discovered if I reacted to every bump, fall or scrape he would react to every bump, fall or scrape. We even took it a bit farther, when Dylan would walk and trip and kind of fall we would clap, sounds weird I know, but it was like the support he needed to know okay you tripped or you kind of fell down, but you got this! Come on buddy up you go!

That clap, that little cheer we put into practice is really a valuable lesson that can be applied to any stage of life, any task, heartache, trip up or fall we make. We can overcome it. We can sit and wallow because we tripped or we can listen to the little cheerleaders in our lives and get back up.

It’s important to have those people in your life, the people who encourage, the people who help you grow, the people who get you back up. They aren’t usually the flashy cheerleaders, the ones looking to be showcased they are usually more of a pit crew. You know what I’m talking about a group of people who when we drive in they are their waiting to fix a flat, adjust some pressure or fill us up so we can get out there and get back in the race.

So what does this have to do with the farm? Well I needed a pit crew after our week, last week. Losing our little baby donkey, tripped us up for a little bit. And what a pit crew we had, the love, support and kindness that was expressed was overwhelming. Life is full of bumps and bruises, when we are down, sad, defeated, and that crew, those cheerleaders show up what an amazing relief it is to know people do care.

What I have also seen is animals also have a crew, when Christina was down, depressed and sad after losing her baby, her little donkey bestie, Shawnee was exactly the support she needed the next morning when they were reunited, Shawnee simply approached Christina and gave her a little donkey hug. Never forget to cheer on, build up and encourage those on your team, it can make more of a difference than you may ever know.

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Everybody Does IT!

Certain subjects can produce reactions in different types of people, like women, somehow when a group of women get together childbirth stories, or talks about hormones, at some point seems to come up. Some women have horrific stories of labor and delivery; others talk about hot flashes and menopause. Young or old, it’s a subject that somehow bonds the masses. Men though talk about much different topics, sports, beer, cars, how they got a particular scar,  hunting, or grilling. Kids both boys and girls, between the ages of about 4-8 seem to get an absolute kick out of talking about poop, their own, their siblings, an animal, it’s a topic that often embarrasses the mothers and cracks up the fathers. It’s such a fun topic for children that there is even books about it. Imagine a child’s reaction in this age group to the farm, where we have lots of well POOP!

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It never fails whenever anyone comes to the farm, within moments we can tell how the visit is going to go. If they immediately start high-stepping through the pasture like they are walking on hot coals, we know that they haven’t spent much time around horses, or the like. I always laugh when we have kids come to the farm, and we hear oh my are those your…. Before they can even say horses, either giggling or eeewww it’s pooping follows it.

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This is probably the point you all are like really? Is she really blogging about poop? The short answer I guess is yes.

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You see like with everything else here, there was a learning curve. We honestly didn’t know how to handle or what to do with it all. It’s something after the age of 8 stops becoming amusing, and there is no manure for dummies books out there. So we had to learn on the fly (literally). This is where things started to get really really interesting. After several months, of waiting for it to break down, moving it around, and using it as fertilizer we realized this was not working, there was WAY to much of it. So we decided to build an area where we moved it all, we got some composting worms, and allowed them to do their thing. Then came some discussions with people asking us if we were going to sell it? Sell it? Are you kidding me, who would? Wait people actually pay for poop? This made me laugh. So my husband the Craigslist King, decided he was going to check  out the market for manure sales. Well I grew impatient and wanted the stuff gone, so we opted to put an ad up for free manure. And I’m sure you all know what happened next.

The phone calls started coming through, and Jody and I both became 7 years old again, every single time the phone would ring and we would hear someone say, “we are calling about the manure you have on Craigslist” (insert obnoxious laughter).

'I'm collecting manure for my strawberries.' 'I always put cream and sugar on mine.'

Suddenly the pile started to dwindle, we had people come in trucks, we had people bring trailers, we had a woman in a mini van drive an hour to load her van full for her potato farm. I now know more about manure than I ever dreamed possible, and it started as one of the few things here I gave little to no thought. What I thought the animals did with everything I researched feeding them is completely beyond me. But just like anything else in life, the more you are around something and the more you do something the more you learn, the more it becomes second nature. You can choose to embrace it (let’s hope not literally), or fight it. If only we were as smart as a guy I just recently read about named Brett Reinford, who converted manure from his cattle into electricity, he went from spending $2,500 a month on electricity for his farm to absolutely nothing, that is amazing.

Since we don’t live on a Suessical Farm where everyone’s a pony that eats rainbows and poops butterflies, we will continue to have a plan for poop, because what goes in certainly does come out.

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Love to laugh…

One of my favorite movies as a child, and still even now is Mary Poppins, I can still sing the words to almost every song, and I always appreciated how Mary had a real way of making even the menial sometimes miserable chores seem fun and enjoyable. I also loved how she was stern when she needed to be yet she was respected and admired for it. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when they laughed so hard when visiting  a friend that they ended up having tea on the ceiling. Who can watch that scene and not relate to all of the different laughs people can use, and it really shows how infectious laughter is.

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Some people refer to laughter as medicine. Others say it’s contagious, however you refer to this outburst of joy, no one can deny how it is often necessary, sometimes spontaneous and really is chicken soup for the soul. I have found in life that when times are dark, when things get hard, the first thing that is usually missing is some type of joy, some kind of laughter. Laughing at stupidity, laughing at a joke, laughing at yourself, laughing alone, with family, or friends, is a blessing.

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My family is laughers, we sometimes laugh loud, hardy, boisterous laughs that scare or catch others off guard, we have been known to get a case of the giggles at times when we shouldn’t and later when we think about it start all over again with tears running down our face.

Here on the farm we are surrounded by comedians, which perform stand up comedy routines, daily. Some are funny looking, some are funny acting, and some purposely do things to get a reaction from you. We are living many of the viral videos I see posted on social media, the videos of funny goats, crazy chickens, floppy clumsy puppies, or people who attempt something only to suffer great fails. Goats really do run and bounce off any and everything around them, puppies really do fall over their own feet, and people really do get drug in flip-flops attempting to hold still pregnant donkeys (okay maybe that video hasn’t gone viral yet). The term funny farm isn’t really a stretch.

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I find myself in the barn, the pasture, the goat pasture, the coop smiling, not because the task is always enjoyable but because the creatures here at Firefly Acres are always ready to perform, ready to take something menial, or miserable and make it fun. The animals are Mary; they know with every job that must be done there is an element of fun. This is life isn’t for sissies, or for the faint of heart… it isn’t something where everyone can take the day off, or one person can handle it all. But when we don’t sweat the small stuff, when we work together as a team, when we find the humor, the chores become less of a chore, and the time we spend doing these chores go by faster. This is something that young or old can surely benefit from, laughter is an instant vacation, it can transport you to a place that on the outside appears normal, dismal, or nothing special, into a moment that is enjoyable, memorable, and treasured.

When my grandmother was in her final fight for her life, we were sitting around my parent’s house just existing together really. This particular evening she was up sitting in the living room with us, from an outsider looking in, this would be what many would define in the moment as an uneventful, maybe even a bad night. The details of what transpired I do not recall, other than my French Bull Dog comedian brother Harley got very excited about something and with that excitement came drool, and some how that drool found it’s way into my son Dylan’s mouth. What transpired after that was a sprint to the restroom with the dull sound of dry heaving in the background, we though couldn’t hear those sounds because we were laughing so hard, so loud, and with such gut wrenching force that Gigi almost fell off of the couch. We all needed that moment (Dylan will say he definitely did not need that moment) but that memory, her laugh, the look on her face, the uncontrollable tears that resulted are etched into my brain, and the brain of all those that were there on that night. I truly believe what is written there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.

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When our friends and family come to the farm, we laugh, we enjoy one another’s company, we watch the comedians perform, we laugh at some who visits phobias, and we laugh till it hurts or until we can’t hold our bladders anymore. We create memories from time spent together. We take a break even if it’s just for a moment to laugh through our noses, because we love to laugh, loud and long and clear.

What are they all looking at?

I’m sure everyone has seen those dinner bells on the front porches of homes, most of the time they are depicted on older television shows, or in a farm setting like we have here. The wife prepares dinner and calls everyone in using this dinner bell. Living here on the farm I have realized that the bell would be a waste and definitely not needed. In fact we have become almost secret service agents in an attempt to not alert anyone around to our whereabouts yet somehow they always seem to know.

A typical day here on the farm is coffee (because life without it would be scary) and then the morning check in. We make sure everyone is present and accounted for, and then the job of feeding the masses begins. Dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, donkeys and horses, are you out of breath? As the day progresses we personally check on everyone make sure they all have water, we listen for odd noises (like baby Kurt whose new budding horns got stuck in the fence so he screams until someone frees him). This week has been an interesting week for odd things. You see normally when the masses even here a peep they all start making themselves know, the squeaky wheel gets the oil they say how about the loudest screamer gets fed first. It seems that no matter where I turn there is a set of eyes staring at me.

It is a very common thing to walk towards my car, walk out on the porch, drive thru the front gate or even when I’m on the phone, someone will hear me and demand something from me. Since I think I have learned how to speak the foreign languages of Christina the donkey, Gretl the goat, Feather Locklear the chicken, Ellie Mae the duck, and whatever language Zuri and Zahara the sheep speak, I have been able to discern for the most part what exactly everyone is needing or wanting. For instance, if I go into the barn to put feed into the feed bins you will hear the sheep begin to baaaaa at a volume that is almost shocking for their size, which will get Christina and Shawnee braying so loudly that if you are inside not aware of what is happening you would assume they are in labor (one can dream at least), which will get Friedrich the goat bleating for food, attention or because he just wants to be louder than the ladies, which will get Beep Beep crowing so loud from the chicken coop that he could wake the neighbors down the road. I know this sounds like a bad soundtrack to a farm based horror movie, but you get so accustomed to the noises that if you don’t hear them you begin to get nervous. It’s exactly like when your children decide to play quietly, you immediately run to check on them because something has to be really wrong.

The other night I walked outside and looked over towards the pasture, at the chicken coop, and I see all of the chickens and ducks jammed up in the smaller section of the oversized enclosure.  Now this was a very odd sight because there has never been a time when the chickens see me that they all don’t run towards me and towards the area they know I am going to enter, this time though they all just stood huddle together and not making a peep. This was concerning, so I decided it was time to investigate, which made everyone come alive, wanting attention, food or to just be heard, so much so that for a moment I was distracted and almost lost sight of what I was really doing out there. As I entered the enclosure a couple of the ladies came towards me, but the majority stayed huddled all together, and I got a sinking feeling like maybe something is in the coop trying to attack them, as I threw down some treats for them, I noticed Heidi Plume (one of my Columbian Wyandotte’s) hanging out in the nesting box, but where was Cruella DeHen her Wyandotte sister? And then I saw her, almost completely flat like a little pancake stuck between the big main enclosure and the small coop where we put the smaller chickens that we raise. She was bleeding, and it didn’t appear she was even blinking. I yelled for Jody, because getting her out was going to be no easy task, we had to pick up the small coop, and move it so we could free her.

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At this exact moment our vet Dr. Jessica was driving in to check the still very pregnant Christina, so Cruella immediately got checked out, she was going to be okay but she did have a broken tail, her neck was missing most of her gorgeous feathers, and her skin was severely bruised. We still have no idea how she got in there, or how long she was in there, but she lived to tell about it, and is now separate from her girlfriends because chickens will bully or peck at the one they feel is injured or weak, so at night she sleeps in her own secure area and during the day we allow her to hang out with the goats and Heidi, until two days later, when she apparently convinced Heidi to squeeze into the very same spot we rescued her from before…..apparently chickens do not have memories like elephants.

What I have learned from being a mother to human and non-humans is noise signifies life, the louder sometimes the more alive. Although we can often bask in the quiet and feel that silence is golden, if it lasts too long, and it’s an animal or a child investigate. Cruella is improving although her tail is crooked, and her feathers don’t look like they will come back around her neck, she is alive and we are hoping she doesn’t continue to try to make herself into a chicken patty. And tonight just like the night before, all of the farm sang their song as soon as they heard me coming in their direction, and as usual all eyes were on me, all of them rudely staring so unapologetically.

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As the saying goes people (animals) are going to stare, make it worth their while.

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