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.

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!”

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.