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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. For the most part a good majority of people hate or detest change; in fact many people will admit change results in anxiety. Compound that with BIG change, and it can result in big issues.
I have always been the type person that isn’t afraid to try new things, my husband says he doesn’t like change, but I wouldn’t say it causes him terrible anxiety, just takes him a little bit to get use to whatever has changed. In fact, our whole marriage has been full of change, redoing and trying new things.
When we met and got married we each had our own homes, we both sold our homes and bought a new one together. It was only a few miles from both of our other houses, so on the scale it was a small change. We started our marriage with the remodeling of this home we purchased together. We completely redid the house and brought Dylan home from the hospital to this home.
A year later, we had another change we opted sell this newly remodeled home, for a home that was about 30 minutes from all of our families in an area and county that neither him or I knew anything about. I know as I type this 30 minutes doesn’t seem like anything, but to someone who lived in three different homes within a 5 mile radius of my parents home, this house was a HUGE change for us. We thrived after sometime, and made Lutz, FL our home for 9 years. We remodeled that house…. This was the start of a pattern, buying and redoing. Kayton was brought home from the hospital to this home, and we enjoyed getting to know a whole new area.
After sometime, and some family health problems with my grandmother, we decided it was time to move back “home.” Home for me was Tarpon Springs, FL, I was raised my entire life in that area, graduated from school there, and knew the town and roads like the back of my hand. We fell in love with a home that was in a waterfront community, in a serene gorgeous location. Being able to see the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and smell the salt air everyday was just amazing really. This home we redid from top to bottom, and really were thrilled with the results. It felt really good to finally be home, and although we never had any regrets about our move to Lutz this move back felt very right. We settled in and were living closer to our families again, the kids adjusted very well to their new schools they made some new friends, we weren’t too far from their “home” so we felt like we were in a good place.
After three years of finally being home, the bug for change bit my parents. You see we had been caring for my grandmother who was in the final fight with her battle with Melanoma, and after we lost her, they did a little reflecting and thought it was time for them to experience a change.
They had been in the same house for 34 years, my childhood home. They were convinced that a little town they had visited on that years anniversary was the town we were all going to move to. I on the other hand thought they were well CRAZY really. To say they were direct with their hints is quite the understatement, they first convinced the children, my husband needed very little convincing and he was on board, I on the other hand, I will say it again, I thought they were CRAZY! Why on earth would I move to a little town in Georgia I had never heard of, that was 1 hour away from even a Lowes or Home Depot. I WAS NOT MOVING! January 2016, we lost my beloved grandmother, and decided as a family to take a little trip to the mountains of Franklin, NC. A small town I had been coming to since I was a little girl. A town we had visited as a family before. My husband had designed a home that the client agreed we could come to, in order to just breath and decompress after a very emotional few months. When we arrived to this home, it was for sale, which caught us all off guard. At the end of this visit, I felt I had the best idea EVER! We would buy this home with my parents, and they could get their fix, they could become snowbirds, come to North Carolina during the hot Florida summers, and spend the winters in Florida, when my father retired. They really seemed to also be in agreement with this FANTASTIC idea, and we ended up making that plan a reality. We bought that mountain home, and redid it, made it a place that we would love to come and visit and share with others.
Now here is when things took a drastic turn. With every trip we took to North Carolina, to buy furniture, to remodel, to paint, to do whatever needed to be done to make this place our 2nd home, we left a piece of ourselves in those mountains. We would plan on staying a week, and we would stay 2, from January-May we were in North Carolina almost as much as we were in Florida and we started having really serious conversations about how much we LOVE the mountain life. My parents, then decided that really they didn’t want to go back and forth when my father retired. They really loved it in North Carolina too, and why not just sell everything in Florida and move to North Carolina. Now the reality of that suggestion didn’t sit well with me, I was torn. All I had ever know was in that sunshine state, yes we had traveled all over the place, but Florida was always the place we went home to, how can we just leave that behind. Jody was all for this move, he said he could work anywhere, that he always wanted to live in North Carolina, and that maybe it should be something we really think and talk about as a family. When the kids became privy to this idea, they were all for it, they had fallen in LOVE with North Carolina, but were also not wanting to leave their friends.
So what do you think I did, I mean I couldn’t fight 5 people who were all for moving personally, I had to show them this idea was just unrealistic and not a good idea at all. How was I going to be able to do that? Easy! I was going to start looking at real estate, I needed to show everyone that what we were looking for did not exist. You see if I was going to change, it had to be DRAMATIC. Nothing could resemble home, I had the ocean, the space, the town, shopping, convenience, and familiarity. So if this big move was going to happen, it better be worth it. So I found a couple of houses and got in touch with this savvy real estate agent Evan Harrell who unfortunately knew his stuff, and knew his town. After looking at some houses and finding nothing I had succeeded, this was a BAD BAD BAD IDEA! Then the words no one who is proving people wrong want to hear…. Give me a list of what you are looking for and if it’s out there I will find it. As I roll my eyes, and try to think of things I need like an elephant shower house and a llama petting zoo (for Jody of course). I also was curious and thought, if I give him a list could he really find what we are looking for? Okay, just for the fun of it here is our list:
1. I want an old farmhouse
2. We want at least 10 acres
4. Creek or River on the property
5. A place to build my parents home
6. Needs to have a huge kitchen
7. Minimum of 4 bedrooms
8. A view
9. Flat area to ride our horses we didn’t have yet
10. Good cell service and internet because of work
I mean it wasn’t that hard right? As we departed from the car, he said he would look up some stuff and asked if we could meet the next day. Well the next day we were suppose to head back, but what is one more day. I had a case to build here and needed to see that this place didn’t exist. When we met the next day, we headed out to two houses, which were both big belly flops. The pressure was off, what we were looking for, didn’t exist and I could stay in my coastal town.
As we continued driving, along a beautiful river, and rounded bend after bend, with one gorgeous backdrop after the next, we pulled into a gravel driveway with an old white farmhouse, big black barn, and one of the prettiest pastures I had ever seen. Most people would say they could hear a pin drop, I heard the kids squeal, and a few choice words going off in my brain. WAIT …. WHAT? Where are we? How did he find this place, I had looked at every house on Zillow and realtor.com this place never ever came up. To say the place was the checklist match, would be an understatement. Now inside the bones, the vision I could see it. Many others must not have been able to but I saw it, I saw how amazing this house could be, it needed to be restored, reloved, and redid. And you know what, I was just the person to do it. Within 24 hours, and one more visit to that farm, we submitted an offer. After some countering, discussions, pleading via a letter to the then owner, that 140 year old Farmhouse became ours. It was the beginning of our Farm, the continuation of our Family, and the perfect place to view fireflies nightly.
We restored this old house, reloved old things that had been covered up, and redid every aspect of our home. Moving was not a walk in the park, it was difficult, it was emotional, but it has been a welcomed change. I know what Evan, heck I know what everyone was thinking when we said we wanted to move up and have a farm. It’s probably a cross between the movie City Slickers and the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies.
But we are sure learning a lot, we have made this place our home, we have brought a lot of life back to this farm, have survived and flourished our first year here and quickly realized, “If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!