Has it really been that long?

There’s a saying, “Life is what happens while you are BUSY making other plans!”  To that I say yes it is.

Does anyone else feel like they went from being fast forwarded thru life, then someone grabbed the remote and pressed pause.  I know it isn’t just us here, in the mountains of North Carolina.  To some, this pause from the corona virus maybe welcomed, take the virus out of it, did anyone else have the growing to do list of projects, organizing, honey do or cleaning task lists that as soon as one would be complete one would be added, and you said the words, “if only I had the time!”  Suddenly we have the time, but maybe lack the desire, or our circumstances have changed because of the sudden pause that we are shocked or are scrambling to figure out what is next.

There’s a saying, “Life is what happens while you are BUSY making other plans!”  To that I say yes it is.  So what has life looked like here on the farm…. Well you know what they say nothing is as constant as change…. here’s a recap!

We lost our dear Phoebe to Cushing’s Disease, the silver lining was she went peacefully at home with her family.

After several months of begging, saving and working Kayton bought herself a little painfully gorgeous Springer Spaniel who we named S.O.S (Spawn of Satan)  I mean Frasier.

He is about to turn 2 years old and we are all still patiently waiting for him to not be fascinated and obsessed with everything we do here on the farm.  He loves saying good morning to all the chickens, sneaking into the pasture with the cows, jumping over the fence into the side pasture with the goats, sheep and donkeys,  and needing a daily dip in the koi pond.  He’s as busy as he is beautiful and well, we love him.

So when you say things like two dogs is enough sometimes you end up with three…..but when you say things like 3 dogs is crazy, what were we thinking,  you most definitely will end up with four or at least that is what happened here.  How does it happen?  Well here at the farm we have had some crazy things arrive, I’m sure you all remember chickens being delivered by mail, the big chicken rescue across town, but that’s nothing.  We had a lamb and a cow both rejected by their mothers come….  Godiva our little bottle calf is doing amazing, fat and sassy as ever.

We had a man in a truck wearing boxers throw a baby deer over the fence, that was a story.  

But less than a year ago, about August 2019, while the children and I were meeting up with some friends for a long weekend, we get a phone call early in the morning and it went something like this, “Tiff, there’s a dog in the yard a little dog a small little white dog.”  I said, “Okay, Jody where did the dog come from?” “Someone threw it over the fence.”  My grandmothers saying is now dancing around my brain, “Make your words short and sweet for one day they will be words you eat.”  “Jody!” I said, “We are not keeping this dog,” only I tried whispering it because if the children heard me say there was a dog the fight would begin.  He agreed…. but the play by play updates began…. I think she is hurt, she’s very thirsty, she’s very friendly, she’s starving, the dogs love her (uh wait she has met the dogs?)  So he put an ad up, called the vet, asked neighbors, posted her picture no one called, so he thought since it was a Saturday he would give it a couple more days and see, I agreed but don’t bring her in the house she can sleep in a bed in the barn.  Few hours later, videos of this little white dog enjoying a movie lap-side.  Well we all know where this is going right…. no calls, no one claiming her, she isn’t chipped, and there was no way I would ever take her to a kill shelter.  So two days later we walked thru the door, and she poured it on thick, was angelic, no accidents in the house, no excessive barking, and the three boys adored her let’s be honest the five boys adored her 4 and 2 legged.  Who am I kidding, she knew who the biggest sucker of the whole house was and if she could win me she was in.

So it happened she was named, and once you name anything your done for.  With one ear permanently damaged (it was broken when she was thrown over the fence) and the other ear normal we decided to name her Pippy (as in Pippi Longstocking).

So 4 dogs and well we know its crazy and its not for everyone, we get it, but 4 humans 4 dogs it really works out okay.  My husband likes to say as they were driving down the street she looked at the farm and said here looks nice toss me here.  She flew over the fence and into our hearts, little Pippy is a mighty little puppy who has taken this farm by storm.

Lots of guesses came in on what they thought Ms. Pippy the Puppy was.  She has little whisker goatee type hair on her mouth we heard many times over, wire haired terrier, Jack Russell, or Scottish Terrier.  So we couldn’t stand it and had her DNA tested.  Turns out she is a CERTIFIED MUTT although we think she is a pure bred cuddler, and we are happy to have her as our newest canine addition!

So want to know what else is happening around here?….. stay tuned, we have lots to share!

 

UPDATES

Life whether its normal life, dysfunctional life, salt life, lake life or farm life, can sure be busy. It’s been to long of a hiatus for nothing more than normal life and farm life combined. We have had company, and full weekends compounded with daily chores and life with kids (the human kind), and boom suddenly it’s nearing the end of 2017 and I sit here thinking where did the year go?

So just to keep everyone on the same page, I had lots of names for the next blog, but we are going to simply call it UPDATES!

Here’s what has been happening on the farm. Friedrich has returned from his, well goat visitation, he came home happy and ready to continue his billy goat ways. Within a few days of being home, he made his presence very known, all of the girls clearly knew he had returned. Along with Friedrich we had a little sweet goat named Heidi come for a visit, and I have never seen goats so hospitable to a “stranger”! They immediately were excited about her visit and everyone seemed to get along perfectly, but since she was really here to visit Friedrich, her visit was short lived and the VonTrapp’s were saying “So LONG FAREWELL” to Ms. Heidi.

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We have been getting lots and lots of questions about our pregnant horse “AJ” and Ms. Shawnee our chocolate donkey. Unfortunately we have experienced a lot of loss on the farm, and both pregnancies were somehow aborted at some point. So AJ and Shawnee are no longer pregnant, and we will not be having any foals in the near future. We don’t really know why, and we wish the outcome would have been different as we were so looking forward to the new additions. But both AJ and Shawnee are doing great and are healthy and happy so that’s the silver lining.

And finally I can say it I have been waiting and waiting to say these words, the greatest movie quote said in my best southern accent, “I gotta go, we got cows!” My farm wish has come true. We finally have cattle. For those that know me, and have been here to the farm, know how much I LOVE COWS! I have them everywhere, I collect fun ones, I have pictures of cows, and even a cow head in my kitchen. It was always a surprise for people to hear of all the animals we do have, that we didn’t have a cow. Now I love all cows, Jersey, Belted Galloway, Angus, Dexter, but my favorite looking cow of course is the classic black and white (shocker) Holstein, and as badly as I would still love one of them, we ended up getting three Angus, two girls and a boy.

 

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*side note, if you are in the market for a cow, I do not recommended looking at a fair for one, or allowing one at the fair to try to coerce you into buying it. Found the cutest little Jersey cow at the local agriculture fair in our town, it happened to be from the “Biltmore” line of cattle, when I asked about how much they were I was answered with a short 15. I knew it wasn’t $15 so I said, “OH $1,500” which I received the reply, “NO $15,000!” I can’t even imagine, better be golden milk for $15,000.

For those who have not spent time with cows, they are a blast, especially young ones, they run, they jump (which I guess is where the nursery rhyme came from), they love playing with Chandler, they are friends to the horses and the goats, and they have the cutest noses ever. And although we have not assessed their skills on the tennis court, we had a feeling the two very athletic girls might have some skills. Introducing Venus, Serena and Bull!

 

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.

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.

Mary Poppins Laugh

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.

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!