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.
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.
*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!
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.
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.
As the saying goes people (animals) are going to stare, make it worth their while.
Have you ever read the book, Are You My Mother? It’s about a mother bird who leaves her little egg in the nest, and when she returns the baby had hatched and went out looking for his mother. He asked all kinds of different creatures, Are You My Mother?” What amazes me about that story is how it really isn’t too far from reality.
Here on the farm, we had two births within one day of each other; the first one was Brigitta, who delivered a bouncing little girl named Marta. One day later, Gretl was finally inspired and she gave birth to twins, a little boy Kurt and a little girl Liesl. The only goat birth I had ever experienced was Brigitta and she was an excellent little mommy, everything you would hope for, Marta was healthy, clean, and happy. But she was like this little bird from the book, she had no idea who her mother was at first, she would attempt to lick and nurse on our noses when we held her, she would follow Gretl and Louisa around, until she heard the call of her mother, than she would immediately perk up and run to the direction of the call. So when it came time for Gretl, I thought well it would be similar to our previous experience. Now why I would think this is completely beyond me, because when have you ever seen or heard of two people’s pregnancy, delivery, and parenting style even be similar.
Well Gretl was no Briggita, when her kids were born, she was ornery, she didn’t act like she was bonding with them at all, she wouldn’t nurse them, and when little Marta came bouncing over to check things out, she butted her clear out of the goat house. The twins snuggled up to me, they began following me around and I started to get really nervous, they had the sweetest looks on their little goat faces, almost asking are you my mother? They walked over to Brigitta with the same look, and I immediately developed a sinking feeling that she might just reject them, because maybe she isn’t the “mothering type”. So there I stood watching goats, and playing referee, Gretl didn’t want the kids next to her, but she didn’t want anyone next to her, the goat house they had all shared for months , she now claimed as her residence and if anyone tried coming in, they quickly were reminded whose house that was. So what do I do I thought? I went with instinct, I thought, maybe she doesn’t know any better, maybe she is completely exhausted she did just have twins after all. So I decided to clean up the house put in new hay for her and the babies, and give her a little food, and reprimand her every time she was aggressive to the other goats, or to the babies. Now because I did all of that all at the same time I’m not sure which one worked, but it didn’t matter because she started changing.
I started noticing Gretl acting more motherly, after she ate a little, knew she wasn’t going to get away with being mean and had a fresh clean place to relax, she started loving on them, nursing them, and they knew suddenly she was their mother. Now the house hogging well that took a little longer to correct, the solution, put on an addition. That very afternoon, Jody, my father, and my uncle got to work and added onto the goat house, and all seemed right in Gretl’s world.
Here we are now three weeks later, with three little kids, who are fast as lightning, brave, spunky, and quite full of themselves. They are bouncing around, jumping over one another, standing on their mothers, and getting quite steady on their feet. They play, they butt one another, and they scream if their mothers get to far from them. Louisa is serving as the “nanny” goat, she keeps everyone in line when her besties are sleeping, but really because she is still young I often think she is getting them more riled up and showing them how to get into trouble.
Here is what I have learned watching my goats. Goats are comedians, if you are having a bad day, just for a moment watch goats play. They jump sideways, they bounce, they flip about, and occasionally (when they have some fainting goat in their bloodline) they will just fall over. And if you look at them real close, it looks like they’re smiling. Sometimes when I’m having one of those days we all have, and am particularly annoyed by someone, I think to myself GOATS MAKE ME HAPPY…. You not so much!
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!
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.
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.
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!”
You know that scene from the Lion King where the new King of the Jungle is born and all the animals celebrate. It would appear that scene was over exaggerated for animation, I always thought it was a great beginning seeing the little baby lion held up for all the animals to see and welcome. They all seemed to gather around to see the baby, welcome it and yell with glee. As it turns out it isn’t all that exaggerated.
In January of this year, we added Friedrich to the VonTrapp family of goats, he was a sweet billy goat, yes you heard me a sweet! He was really socialized, man that sure makes a difference, and so friendly. (So friendly in fact he has no problems, riding in the car, or being walked on a leash.) He fit in nicely with the girls, they accepted him into the family and it didn’t take long before they did what goats do, make more goats!
As the next few months past, we noticed Gretl really starting to show; since she has some Pygmy in her line and is a “low rider” she seemed to show quickly. Our vet confirmed what we were already seeing and did an ultrasound, two little goats’ twins were seen. We soon realized that Brigitta too was expecting, although we had no idea if she had one baby, two or three in there. Or who was pregnant first.The days, weeks, and months have passed, and Gretl just continued to grow. In fact she was looking so big and uncomfortable that it almost looks like she is going to explode.
You know those nights you go to bed like before a big trip, and you set your alarm because you have to get up early in the morning, but it doesn’t take you long to think setting the alarm was pretty much pointless, because you never really sleep, you seem to stay up all night waiting for the alarm, because you are nervous it won’t go off, or you will sleep through it. This has been me for weeks now. I think I hear bleating in the middle of the night, I listen for kicking in the barn, or neighing from the horses. I run out in the morning and count goats and donkeys just to make sure one wasn’t added in the hours I was asleep. Well last night was all of that with an extra oomph. Jody and I went to bed, and the natives were restless, the dogs never quite settled down, the cats ran to and fro throughout the house. About 2 am Chandler and Phoebe both started to bark, and ran outside, I was convinced this was it….. Nope all seemed normal, we were awake, dosed back off, 3:45am again awake, and nope nothing. Finally at about 6:30am I gave up and decided to just get out of bed and have some caffeine. As I walked into the kitchen all I could think of was how this totally stinks, why am I up so early after barely sleeping on a Sunday morning? This was going to be a two-cup of coffee day.
As I sat down to drink my coffee, and looked outside, I thought today is going to be a beautiful day, the birds were already singing, the sun was starting to peak out. I drank my coffee, and for a moment enjoyed the quiet room, and morning Mountain View. About 7:30am I look out the front windows toward where the goats are and I couldn’t really see the goat house, because both donkeys were standing there blocking it. On the other side of the fence the horses were all kind of standing there, Roadrunner our rooster was really singing his good morning song, and the lambs were running back and forth, like they are running sprints. Something seemed askew. I put on my boots and walked toward them, and there were no sounds that made me think anyone was in labor, and to be honest, I had just spent a good 30 minutes watching a man on YouTube deliver goats, because Gretl had isolated herself, and I had read somewhere that was a sign. This whole thing is new to me, and I have always been the type that the more I read, watch or research the better. As I got closer, Gretl moved from the corner of the goat house, and I see something bloody. Wait is that what I think it is, yes it is it’s a baby, a tiny little very new baby, and I CRY! Yep I sit there in the goat house and cry.
Once I pull myself together I realize, we have a baby, a healthy beautiful little baby! I stand up look around and see movement at my parents house and start to yell across the pasture, yell who am I kidding I WAS SCREAMING! I then scream for Jody, I screamed so loud, that I was like the monkey that holds the baby up in the opening scene of Lion King. All of the farm family came running to see, all of the horses, stuck their heads over the fence, the donkeys, Friedrich, the lambs, even the chickens had a bunch to say. WE HAVE A BABY!!!
Wait, whose kid is this? I looked at Gretl and she was still big as a house and completely uncomfortable. Then I noticed Brigitta pushing out some of the after birth and realize , it was Brigitta’s baby, we were so worried about Gretl that some how we missed all of Brigitta’s signs and she just did what she needed to do. Brigitta came right over and started nuzzling the baby. The relationship between mother and baby is so incredibly special and beautiful, she cleaned this little baby all up, she was gentle and sweet. The baby stood, the baby cried, the baby nursed. All the horrible videos on YouTube and horror stories I have read for the last few months were put to rest, at least for right now. WE HAVE A BABY a healthy adorable little kid!
Brigitta and Friedrich along with the rest of the Barrows Family, have a sweet little girl, she too is a VonTrapp, introducing Marta, born July 2, 2017.
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.
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!
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!