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!”

Donkey Doula

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

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Donkey Mohawk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Donkey

 

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.