Posted in farmlife

Painting Again

My hairstylist is right about more than just my hair color… Pinterest is the devil.

While she was referring to hair color and styles, I found it to be true for those cute farmhouse motifs and do-it-yourself recommendations. We live in a small farmhouse that is celebrating its 71st or 75th birthday.

Over the past few years, we made a few improvements. Okay, a lot of repairs including windows, siding, and HVAC. A few weeks ago, I removed a board in the kitchen and the paint peeled off the wall in sheets. The decades-old chalky yellow paint screamed to be covered so I painted it “Paris Mint”. In the morning sunlight, it reflected the green grass from the pasture, but at night, the kitchen dialed-up the 1970s decade and demanded their color back. And then, it bubbled and peeled from the wall.

I headed back to the chain building supply store and asked the paint guy for recommendations. The first guy recommended new sheetrock and walls. I responded that it sounded like he actually recommended demolition. He did not respond. Luckily, the second paint-mixologist recommended a heavy-duty cleaner and primer.

Armed with a lighter “Filmy Green” paint, primer and rollers, I spent most of Labor Day weekend priming, painting and moving furniture.

Those DIY shows make it look easy, but that is editing. While it took longer than a 30-minute segment on television, with help from my dad and brother, the kitchen looked great after a layer of primer. They left anf something caught my eye in the hallway. Peeling paint? Surely not.

Four hours later, I sat in the hallway littered with sheets of multicolored decades-old paint. How did I get to this point? I began to question every decision for the past 4 years. The animals still needed to be fed, and I sat surrounded by a crumpled dried paint.

There was no great epiphany, no camera crew… just me and a mound of paint. So, I turned off the audio book, cleaned up the trash, fed the animals and went to a cookout in my old neighborhood. I had paint stains on my arms, legs and the bottoms of my feet. I did not care.

Sunday afternoon, my dad and I finished painting the kitchen and hallway. I came to realize a few things to keep in mind if you ever dream of owning an older home:

1. There are always things to paint. The local store selling paint is glad to have customers like me. Unless you have an unlimited budget, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

2. There are always things to fix. The local hardware store likes for customers like me to visit. Agaim, unless you win the lottery or find a pot of gold, you will need to fix things or pray that someone you know can do it. I am forever thankful for my husband.

3. My house will never look like one on television, nor is it a rambling estate. It does, however sit under a rainbow when the storm clouds roll the right way. I keep looking for the leprechaun.

4. Camera crews are not going to roll through my latest project, but I am grateful for the time with family and encouragement from friends!

I will avoid being a blonde bombshell… except with Halloween props 😀

Posted in like-minded, Off the Farm, Uncategorized

I’m Here To Pick Up Chicks

We farm-chics stick together, because the things that happen to us are normal to those in our world, but completely foreign to  non-farm-folk. 

We all know that the post office handles lots of odd packages…including live baby chicks.  Baby chicks are shipped overnight and 2ND-day air around the country for small and large farmers to raise as organic meat-birds, game hens and egg-layers.  Hatcheries mail baby chicks in ventilated boxes with food in the bottom. These boxes are handled with extreme care and labeled “BABY CHICKS”. It’s when farmers like Audra show up at the post office after working in an office and tells the clerk, “I’m here to pick up the chicks” that it becomes a crap-shoot.  I thought it was hysterical and appropriate at the same time.

With quippy-farm-wit, we all expect our small-town postal clerk to say, “why certainly, I’ll get them from the back.” Instead, last week, Audra’s clerk asked, “do you have any identification?”  To which Audra replied, “my wallet is in the car. I didn’t really think you’d need my driver’s license to pick up my chicks. I know they’re in the back because I can hear them.” 
The clerk replied, “that package is for Ellis Farms. Did they send you?” 

Audra said, “I am Ellis Farms and the package is addressed to Rick, he’s my husband and he told me to stop and pick up the chicks on my way home.” 

The clerk countered, “We really need for you to provide your ID.” 

 Proudly, Audra did not lose her religion at this point, but asked the nice clerk, “Is there a chick-theft ring that I don’t know about in our town? How many people show up saying they’re here to pick up the chicks on the exact day and time that we received notification that OUR chicks arrived? I can hear them around that wall. Would you like to call the number listed on the parcel and speak with Rick about me picking up the chicks that he sent me to get?”

The clerk must have caved at some point. Because the clerk returned with a vented box of chicks, addressed to Ellis Farms and the clerk said, “We really need for you to bring your ID when you pick up packages.”

Oddly enough, I was in the same post office not 10 minutes later, to sign for a large envelope…and the clerk never asked me for identification. 

So my friends, remain vigilant against possible clandestine chick-theft rings. What strange things have you pick-up at the post office, and did you have to show your identification? 

Thank you Audra of Ellis Farms for sharing your story, allowing me to paraphrase when needed, and to share a glimpse into a seemingly simple pick-up that went sideways.  

Photos contribute by Audra Ellis. 

Posted in farmlife, goatlife

We Called the Vet 

After four nights of 3 am bottle feeding baby goat Bert, we did all that we could, and then we called the vet at 6:45 am. I expected to leave a message, but surprisingly, my call was answered by our mobile vet and I explained that Bert had an elevated temperature,  faster than normal breathing, and weakness in standing.At 4 days old, he’s behind the curve because he did not get colostrum within the first 24 hours of his life. That first mother’s milk provides mammals with immunities to fight off infections for the first critical weeks. Without that nourishment and fluid, he’s fighting exponentially harder than his twin brother.

It’s been a roller-coaster with 3 am feedings and supplements. I’ve rationalized our decisions to this point and have been my biggest critic. Did we wait too long, should I have done something else, I am hardest on myself. 

I wrote down everything that we’d given Bert, a brief timeline of events. Jim took Bert to the vet’s place and I headed to work. Steeling myself for the worst, and knowing that going 23 hours without food is a poor prognosis, I hoped and prayed that he would either be ok or free of pain. 

About an hour later, Jim called to say that Bert was in better shape than the vet expected. He still refused a bottle, so she taught Jim how to tube feed him. The vet gave Bert an antibiotic shot, some additional anti-inflammatory medicine and said that he has and touch of pneumonia, but we did everything right. He may be a little more susceptible to infections, and he may be small, but his prognosis is good. I have to give him another shot in a few days, and to call the vet with any questions.  

At lunch, I called to check on Bert and Jim said that he perked up at the he sound of the other goats and when he heard his mother screaming for him, he actually tottered to her and she stood for a few minutes to let him nurse. Wonders never cease. I arrived home after work to find Bert napping in the hay, snuggled to his brother Ernie. When Julie Andrews spotted me, they stood up and started nursing again.  He’s still a little wobbly than the others, so we brought him inside to sleep in a laundry basket for another night while his lungs clear. He won’t take a bottle, so we tube fed him again late tonight and he’s sleeping in the laundry basket. He’s making huge strides and his eyes are clear, his coat is soft and his breathing has normalized. 

So in terms of John Wesley’s teachings, we did all we could and then we reached out for help. Our mobile vet is a blessing, an asset to the community and we consider her an extension of the family. Buy that’s a story for another day. 

Posted in farmlife, goatlife, Uncategorized

Goats in the Mist

While we wait for Betty White and Julie Andrews to deliver their babies, we welcomed two new kids on Sunday: a surprise delivery by Faith Hill, and tiny Clara Barton by Vera Wang. Before you ask, “what is in the water out there?” Remember, goat gestation is 150 days, and when Sam Elliott arrived late last summer, he liked all the ladies….a lot. 

Many mornings, I use my binoculars to peer from the kitchen window to count goats in the pasture. When I couldn’t locate Faith Hill, my friendly/pesky goat, I headed out to the barn. Hearing a new baby scream, I was overjoyed to see 2 pound MaeWest toddle to greet me. With her umbilical cord still fresh and her coat still damp with afterbirth, I scooped her in my arms and checked her. At first, I was disappointed because I thought she was a buckling. We only keep one male on the farm, and I remember the distress that Faith Hill had last summer when we separated her buckling. Picking her up again, I found her tiny “girl-parts”. And I sighed relief. She has a sweet disposition and does not run in fear like some do. 

Later that afternoon, Kelly called to say that he heard what sounded like a bird in the woods, and that Vera Wang was away from the herd. We found her tending a 1.5 pound pure white baby girl with ears as long as her little legs. Clara, named for three prominent women:

  1.  Clara Barton, American Red Cross founder
  2. Clara Swain, physician and Methodist missionary who focused on women’s healthare in India
  3. Clara Oswald, the fictional Impossible  Girl from the Doctor Who series

    Sure, she may look like Snow White, but she is so tiny that her odds may seem impossible. 

    Since Monday evening, I’ve battled a sinus headache and mild fever. I’m not sharing my kleenex with anyone. After a night of pouring rain and very little sleep from the congestion, I trudged to the barn to check the herd at 4 am. Light from my headlamp danced on the thick February fog. I wondered if Naturalist Dian Fossey ever saw shadows in the fog as she studied Gorillas in Rwanda. Silently, I counted each goat. So far, so good. 

    #KidWatch2017 continues. 

    Posted in farmlife, goatlife

    Walks with Goats

    I’ve been told that a visit to the farm is like therapy. Even when we’re trying to outsmart a catfood-stealing raccoon or mending fences for goat escapees, there is something therapeutic to tending the animals, walking to the creek and searching for crawdads (aka crayfish).

    Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we continued a tradition of having bonfires as we cleared more brush from the pasture and fence lines. The difference this year was that we actually had goats inside the fence with us. We even gave the newest baby goat (ZsaZsaZsa-Noel) her first vaccine, and we did a round of goat deworming medicine for the others.


    When Kristie and Ali visited the farm, we had hoped that the donkeys would bray at the sound of a violin, but the donkeys just turned and walked to the barn, much to my disappointment. Kristie said, “this is the first time my audience has ever pooped during a performance.”

    Ali fed the goats and donkeys crackers and goat snacks, gathered eggs, and we looked for crawdads in the creek. This time of year can be overwhelming to adults. It’s remembering that acorns with caps, pinecones on dead trees and crawdads under rocks in the cold creek water are pure joy.
    It’s coloring in books, spending time and being present that is the present that so many seek this time of year. When the tree is put away, the wrapping paper torn and the lights grow dim, the time we spend in the company of angels is the gift that we carry throughout the year.

    In the words of the old hymn, “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what I can I give Him, give my heart.”

    May you give from your heart.

    Photos courtesy of Janet Reep-Morgan,  Kristie Bittleston and Jim Morgan.  Used with permission on



    Posted in farmlife, goatlife

    It’s 8:15, Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

    Living next door to my brother is extremely helpful. However, I’m sure he does not want to chase goats four times in 48 hours.

    Sunday morning, I called him after discovering Mary Poppins on the other side of the fence. I was in my pajamas and boots, just outside to break the ice on water buckets. There she stood, a 50 pound 6-month-old kid nibbling on privet leaves. Her mother, Julie Andrews, was frantic when I walked back the house to get my overalls and gloves. I imagined that I could hear her saying, “My baby, save my baby!”

    Donning my overalls, gloves, cap and with pliers in hand, I managed to rope Mary Poppins as she bleated as if I was hurting her. She slipped the rope, and I called Kelly. “Will you come help me catch Mary Poppins?” I asked when he answered the call. “Sure” He replied and I started devising a way to capture the kid.  I managed to grab her back leg. She screamed in shock, and I picked her up. As I tossed her over the fence, she twisted and head-butted my nose. It wasn’t bleeding. Then Kelly showed up we walked the fence line looking  for breaks. 

    Goat capture was not on my agenda for the day. Add in laundry, dishes, a request for a video of goat captures, and church…then fast-forward five hours. 

    In the waning hours of the day, I checked the goats. I found that I was 3 goats shy of a full herd. So, I texted to my friend Diane, “2 escaped. 1 stuck.”  Fence pliers in hand, I called her, “Where are you? I’ve got two escaped and one stuck in the fence. You asked for video, now it’s your time to shoot the video.”  I laughed and she said that they were enroute home from a day trip. With Jim at work for another hour, I figured that I could at least get one escapee back in the fence solo.

    I went into analyst mode and decided on a process flow. First, Betty White needed to be freed from the fence.  After she stuck her head through the 4×4 fence, her horns got stuck.  Suddenly faced with pliers, she magically backed her head out of the fence; she was toying with me hoping for a handful of grain. Second, I managed the grab Queen Lillian and tossed her over the fence. I heard Scooby barking as I tripped on a tree root chasing Mary Poppins. Counting down the minutes until Jim arrived home, I patiently followed Mary Poppins through the briars. 

    In the darkness, I heard, “Hey! The goat capturers are here…how do we get to you?” I looked up and asked, “who’s there?! Diane?” Sure enough Diane and her husband walked around the barn and helped snag Mary Poppins. They had been in the area and gladly helped with the escapee. Thus ended Sunday. 

    Monday night, after sitting in 90 minutes of snarled commuter traffic, I arrived home to see a light at the barn. I called Kelly, “are you at the barn?” 

    He asked, “Yes, did you get the pictures?” I looked at my phone and saw two little brown goats on the wrong side of the fence…again. Twins are double-trouble. 

    My sister-in-law heard a goat screaming and Kelly found the twins breaking fences again. We repaired the fence, replaced the goats and shook our heads. 

    Tuesday night, Jim said that it was date-night which included homemade vegetarian burritos and a moonlit walk to the barn to count goats. At that point, I and heard the love of my life saying, “there it is, the shiny new roll of fencing that we’ll install on your day off Friday.”

    You might be a goat farmer when you consider a “vacation” day from the office to be a date. Just in case you ever wondered what we do on personal days, we usually do farm stuff. 

    Photos courtesy of Kelly Reep 2016. All rights reserved by 

    Posted in farmlife, goatlife

    It Was Fun Until I Stepped on the Yellow Jackets’ Nest

    When the vet came out for a herd check in September, I took a day off from work so that I could catch animals and give the goats their CDT shots. This annual vaccine prevents against tetanus and an overeating disease (enterotoxemia). At that point  the vet told me to give a booster after  4 weeks, then plan to revaccinate annually. Each month, we also check their famacha score, monitor for intestinal worms, and give deworming medicine quarterly. That’s our “worming protocol”. 

    We planned the October booster for  weeks. We added a new catch chute, strategized and successfully completed a walk through the chute without issue. Goat vaccine day arrived and my friend Cynthia came by with her teenage daughters to help round up the goats. 

    My rule to the girls, “don’t get hurt” was said too late.  The eldest backed into the electric fence and shocked herself.The youngest got stuck in he woods in between the long briars. And the middle, she followed me into the woods and got stung twice by yellow jackets. 

    During the goat roundup first pass, Faith Hill followed me through the chute and stood for her shot. Vera Wang and Rita Rudner were fairly cooperative. Betty  White escaped and vomited in a panic. Julie Andrews gave chase. Sam, Queen Lillian and Mary Poppins were decent, but Connie Francis made the afternoon into a full scale goat-hunt. We followed them into the woods, and  I stepped off he trail into a yellow-jackets’ nest.  The first 3 stings on my elbow felt like razor blades. Then, I screamed, C screamed and ran from the woods. A sting on my chest left me saying a bad word and a quest to find the  gas can. 

    Those goats could wait long enough for Kelly and I to kill the nest. We retraced our steps. Kelly found the small opening in the ground where foraging yellow jackets flew in and out. I poured gasoline on the hole. Kelly received a sting on the arm. He poked the ground. I slapped at my knee and felt more stings on my arm and leg.  

    We left the nest and tried once more to capture Betty White and Connie Francis. Successfully, Connie Francis came through the chute, and I managed to give her a shot with two people holding her.  At that moment, Betty White escaped a second time and I called the event to an end. I said, “well, if she dies, I’ll dig a hole” knowing fully that if she can be held for 5 minutes I can vaccinate her. She escaped twice that week and I did not feel like adding to her anxiety by continuing the chase. 

    My forearm throbbed. Four stings on my already sore arm (tennis elbow from goat wrestling  the previous month), one sting on my chest and one on my leg made me the winner with 6 total stings. At the end of the day, the girls said that they had a good time…minus the shocking, getting lost in the briar patch, and enduring stings by yellow jackets.

    The next night, Kelly and I checked the nest. It was dead and quiet.He dug out the bottom layer full of eggs. We refilled the cantelope-sized hole it dirt so that we wouldn’t break an ankle accidentally stepping into it. 

    Goat ownership, with its scheduling and pasture management, is like tinker toys …limited only by imagination and financing. It’s all fun and games until a goat fails to cooperate or somebody steps on the yellow jackets’ nest. 

    Posted in farmlife

    Raccoon Games 

    Did you know that raccoons can open the airtight, fire-ant-proof  Gamma2 “Outback Vittles Vault 15” container with a screw-top lid? It’s true. Those bandit-striped opposable-thumbed varmints figured out how to open the cat food container so that they could enjoy Purina Cat Chow Complete (the blue bag) at 3 a.m. It’s now a game of outsmarting the raccoons.

    I walked out to the barn to find a pile of cat food on the ground and bite marks on the container. It can be a little disturbing to walk out to the barn and find three items tossed about the barn like a crime scene. I tried questioning possible witnesses, but the goats, donkeys and barn cats refused to speak.

    It’s now a nightly competition to see whether or not the raccoon wins a meal.

    Interestingly enough, the Vittles container fits perfectly in a plastic milk crate upside-down. I have discovered that the raccoon can lift a milk crate and a 10-pound spool of wire off the container in order to enjoy a buffet. The raccoons can knock over the spool of wire, but they cannot get their little paws around the container when it is upside-down, and lift it from the crate. 

    Yesterday, we found the Vittles Vault at the entrance of the barn where it had been tossed, end-over-end, yet still snug inside the milk crate. 

    Today, the farmer went outside and found the Vittles Vault lid at the back steps of the house; at least a 100 yards from the barn.  Just the lid…as statement that the vault was empty, and proof that they mastered the obstacle course. The discovery of the lid in the backyard, 100 yads from its origin was a bit creepy.

    Yes, my 3-month-old Vittles Vault 15 looks a little like the luggage on the Samsonite commercial where a bear tosses it in the air. It is covered with bite-marks and scratches. Yet it still maintains its airtight seal and is a well-made container. I highly recommend it. 

    Now to figure out what they want. We must brush up on our “raccoon whispering”.

    Posted in farmlife

    Did you always….

    Recently, someone asked me, “Did you always want to be a farmer?”

    I almost spewed my coffee and said, “Lawd, no! As a teenager, I wanted to get off the farm as quickly as I could!  I despised smelling like iodine and cow manure; no air conditioning and working every other weekend. I didn’t want to be tied to a bunch of smelly animals. Besides, Daddy told me not to be a dairy farmer where it’s like you’re beating your head against a brick wall…and Mama didn’t want me to go into nursing where people are sick all the time.”

    “What made you come back?”

    “My husband became interested in beekeeping. We loved our suburban neighborhood, but it didn’t welcome the idea of a few hives. So, when a place close to my old home became available, we jumped at an opportunity to move. It means a longer commute for work, but the location is worth it.”

    Farming takes on many forms; our current state is a small-scale family farm of donkeys, goats, chickens and bees.  It’s not the large operation of twice-daily milking dairy cows, but it’s still a passion. I don’t always jump out of bed on a freezing-cold morning so that I can break ice from water buckets. Sure, it would be easier if I didn’t have to mow grass for 2 hours each week…and my back would not be sore from lifting 50 pound chicken feed sacks, but there’s something about new life with goats, donkeys and chickens. I love the fact that entire meals that we eat often come from the garden. I love to make soap with milk from our goats (even though she thinks that it’s torture).

    Sure the house is old and seems to constantly need repairs and updates. It will never be a shiny McMansion with all the creature comforts, but it’s home. When we open the windows at night, we hear coyotes, cicadas, crickets and owls. The donkeys munch grass beneath the security light in the pasture next to the house.  Fire ants find their way into feed bags, the car, and even the house. We question when strangers drive down our road; those we call “looky-loos”.

    We welcome friends and family for visits and revel at the sunrises and sunsets. I scare myself with creaking noises in the barn. I laugh when my brother stands in the pasture and calls,  “Here Kitty Kitty” so that the goats come running toward me! I take vacation time from work so that I can be at home when the vet visits for a herd-check.  Our farm is an outreach to the community.

    Our community is larger and smaller because of our connections through social media and through extended family. Everyone is our neighbor. Events around the world impact us, just like they impact you: gas shortages, riots, maternal health, education, wildfires, and politics. Yet, sometimes, amid the daily milking chores, gathering eggs, checking fences, committee meetings, requirements gathering, SQL statements, and commuting…goat antics are the things that make the most sense to me; and that includes goats in hot-pink tutus and neon-green halters.  These are the things that bring us joy and what we want you to see. We find it difficult to share when we lose a hive, when the goats need to be treated for intestinal parasites, or when the chickens are sent to the retirement-home-in-the-sky. These things, you will not see.

    What you won’t see, is me crying in solitude for the losses of our hurting friends while the pine trees whisper in the wind. What you don’t see is me making phone calls and writing letters to those who have experienced loss of loved ones. What you can’t see is my fear of uncertain times, and my outstretched arms in faith and prayers for peace and love.

    Did I always want to be a farmer? I wanted to make an impact.  And it happens to be that my experiences make me who I am, just as your experiences shape who you are. If being a farmer lets me be part of the greater good, to see beyond the exterior, and to own part of the hurting world, then I will be a farmer.  Find your outreach.

    “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.” Hebrews 11:1