Posted in Raised by a village

The Adventures of WWMLP

A few weeks ago, I stayed overnight with a friend for logistical purposes. Her daughter Ali, gave me her favorite toy, a Wonder Woman action figure and a My Little Pony toy with a purple mane. To me, these two little figurines are like the widow’s coins; they may seem like trinkets, but they represent a great treasure. It’s one thing to receive a gift,  it’s something special to be given a favorite toy by a 5 year old.  

Ali wanted me to have a toy in case I got bored. The past few weeks have been far from boring.  Between hospital visits, healthcare navigation, work, farm life, new baby goats, a car accident, my own trip to the emergency room, and a few UMW presentations and meetings, life has been topsy-turvy.  In the midst of it all, Wonder Woman (#WWMLP) and My Little Pony have adventured into the world.  They’ve been to my office, walked on the nature trail, saved a cat-toy from peril, helped install new packages of honeybees, helped me with a sermon, and they were in my backpack when I was in a multiple-car accident on my way to work.  

No, I’m not placing my faith in an action figure that was conceived by a man in the 1940s. During this stressful time, these little toys remind me to take a break from my spreadsheets, to be connected with my coworkers, friends and family, to do something silly, to be brave, and to be faithful.  I believe that Ali’s gift of her favorite toy was a visible example of how God gave the world His son Jesus.  

I am in the early stages of photojournalling the adventures of Wonder Woman and My Little Pony through Instagram #WWMLP. Just in case you grew weary of my goat and chicken stories, now, you can look forward to the adventures of a Wonder Woman action figure and a purple-maned pony.  There will still be plenty of farm stories….now with an action-figure side-kick. 

Posted in Raised by a village

Ribbons and Sand

I see multiple prayer requests on social media. I pray for healing of loved ones I’ll never meet, and sometimes I wonder if my responses matter. I mostly blog about goats, chickens and farm life because that’s normal. It’s controllable and goats make me happy.

Recently, I sat in a hospital chapel, surrounded by a comforting silence and at a complete loss of words to pray. I cried, I sobbed,  and yet words for a prayer did not form into cohesive sentences.

At the front of the chapel, glass vases sat on a table surrounded by candy dishes filled with colored sand. Each dish contained a small plastic communion cup.  A placard instructed visitors to think of someone, and pour a bit of sand into the vase. It was a community of prayers layered in colored sands of blue, yellow, brown, white and green. On another table, colored ribbons adorned grapevine wreaths with instructions of “say a prayer and tie a ribbon on the wreath.”

It reminded me of the thousands of ribbons tied to the Freedom Bridge fence at the DMZ in South Korea at Imjingak. I could not read the prayers in Korean, I knew they represented a person. The ribbons in the chapel also reminded me of the memorabilia tied to the security fence at the Oklahoma City memorial site.

I took comfort in knowing that my support network is strong. It struck me that those sands were like the ribbons at the Freedom Bridge: ways that people reached out in a time of uncertainty to find comfort. To some, the sands were just colored rocks, but to others, they represented a way to reach out and have a tangible link to others who needed to know that they were not alone. In the moment, the sand was a visible reminder of the interconnectedness we have with each other, even when we are guarding our hearts.

Posted in Raised by a village

Date Night

Jim and I went on a date. He called it an educational field trip. Kelly chaperoned our evening drive and we dined on chicken wings and fried fish. We went to the Livestock Auction where we saw a throng of people packing the auction block, a line to the restroom, big screen televisions, and the auctioneer was on his game. 

I learned at the young age of 4 to sit on my hands, don’t point, and to pay attention. Those three rules still apply in a different way. The Cleveland County Livestock Auction was known to us as children as “Dedmon’s” or “The Sale Barn” where we took cows no longer producing milk. Now, the auction company sells cattle on Tuesdays and other livestock biweekly on Friday Nights. I do not remember ever seeing that many people packed into the auction room. 

We arrived shortly before 7 pm, much too late to get a seat, but plenty of time to get a plate of food, walk the catwalk over the animal stalls, watch animals being run in and out of the auction, and to people-watch. 

In case you’re wondering, intake of animals for sale begins around 3 pm, so arriving at 6:45 pm with a rooster in the trunk of your car will get you a nasty look, a sigh and the explanation that they have registered 400 birds and yours will be last in line to the auction….probably around midnight. That’s why Max sat in a cage in the trunk all evening…and that probably why his story to the other chickens sounds a bit like an alien abduction. 

We didn’t buy or sell anything, but Jim learned all about the Livestock Auction.

Posted in Raised by a village

Steve’s Chasing Cars

Friday morning, while wrapping up a requirements meeting with my boss and a developer,  my phone vibrated and displayed the name of Daddy’s neighbor.  I excused myself and took the call. A million things instantly ran through my head. He said, “I hate to call you at work, but one of your dad’s goats is standing in the road, he won’t move and I think he’s chasing cars. I just don’t want him to get hit.”  This man whom I’ve known my whole life and whose wife was one of my teachers, has a calm demeanor and nothing ever seems to upset him. His genuine concern for daddy’s goat and our family immeasurable.  I asked, “is it the gray one?” When the reply was yes, I thanked him, assured him that I would take care of it and would let him know of we needed anything. 

My boss and the developer, a young graduate who just moved to the area from the Midwest, looked at me quizzically. I said, “Daddy’s goat Steve jumped the fence and is playing in traffic.” They cracked up. “How often does this happed?” I replied, “it’s not the first time. We used to get calls all the time from someone saying that the cows were out. Now, it’s goats.” 

I texted daddy, “Walt just called. Steve is in the road.”   

I texted a cousin. On her way home from a meeting in town, she checked the side-ditches looking for signs of an injured goat. I went to my next meeting and received the text from Daddy, “will take care of it.”

After that meeting, I called Walt to thank him and told him about Steve the Stud and his amorous activities. Walt said, “it sounds like he’s trying to avoid the responsibility.” I laughed and said, “he just realized how many baby-mamas he has!” 

Daddy texted with, “tied Steve to a cement block at the tool shed with hay and water. Will have to do until we get new fence. Got out one too many times.” 

My co-worker, Steve,  just shook his head at the goat’s antics. 

Now, before you say, “poor Steve” let me say that I do not like tie-outs. However, in Steve’s case, he prefers it. How can we tell? He is calm and he smiled.  He lived the first 9 months of his life with his prior owner on a leash and living in a doghouse. Steve is on the other side of the fence from his ladies and seems to love the single life of a “ball and chain”. He has shelter, food, water and is loved. 
Now, we’re prepping for a new solar-powered electric fence that will house both he and Sam in temporary-movable areas for cleanup of privet and vines. 

I’m just thankful for an employer who understands that you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. In my line of work as a business analyst,  some say that it’s difficult to find the right mix of IT/business process design. You don’t always get this eclectic mix. When you ger me, it’s that mix plus volunteerism and farming. At a volunteer event over the weekend,  someone commented, “you’re real.” I may not be Santa Claus,  but yes, gentle readers, Janet is real. 

Posted in Raised by a village

He’s No Dud, Steve’s a Stud

He’s no dud….Steve’s a stud. Remember back in October when Jim and I picked up Steve the Goat for Daddy? Well, we wondered whether or not Steve was going to be good sire material. Last month, Daddy admitted that he wondered if Steve was a dud. We feared that Steve had been pushed to the friend-zone of the goat-mating world. Well, the wait is over. Just over 5 months have passed, and the first new pygmy goat was born today. A sweet little nanny, mostly white with buff highlights walked alongside her long-haired mother in the pasture at Daddy’s. 

At first, we thought that maybe a few of Daddy’s nannies were pregnant. With goat gestation around 150 days, many times they do not show signs of pregnancy until around 4 months. Today, I confirmed that all of the remaining 9 goats are pregnant and due within a few weeks. 

No, Daddy doesn’t name his goats after celebrity-figures like I do.  He names them “Spot”, “Buck” or “Number 3”. His are mostly white and black angora mixed la mancha  pygmy goats. They’re smaller goats and of course I held the first of many more to arrive. 

Yes, in our pasture, Betty White is still pregnant.

Posted in Raised by a village

How’s Bert?

“How’s Bert?” 

“He’s showing signs of being a goat each day.” 

Last month, when Bert and Ernie were born, I never imagined the weeks of daily bottle feeding. And let me clarify that I say “bottle-feeding” as a nicety. Bert never latched on to a synthetic nipple, and I tried 3 different kinds. When Jim took Bert to the vet, she taught Jim how to run  tube down his esophagus, add a syringe and slowly inject 60 ml of milk replacer into the rumen. Jim them taught me. Each morning at 0530 and at night, Jim held Bert in a laundry basket on his lap in the kitchen, I ran the feeding tube down that little goat’s throat.  I  pushed 2 syringes full of warm milk replacer into this adorable little goat’s  first stomach. I removed the tube, sanitized it and the syringes for the next feeding preparation. Bert settled for the night in the laundry basket under the table. This was the twice daily “bottle feeding” routine that we maintained for nearly 3 weeks. 

One day at the office, a coworker asked about Bert. Another coworker walked into the room as I said, “He’s doing much better, we give him a bottle, and he sleeps through the night on a blanket in a laundry basket under the kitchen table.”  The other coworker asked, “do you need an air mattress? Or do we need to take up a fund for a crib?”  

I replied, “no, I don’t think my goat would appreciate an air mattress, but thank you.” 

Each morning, we put Bert back into the pasture and his bleating brought Julie Andrews running as if to say, “my baby, you brought my baby!”  Bert now trots a little and is able to keep up with the herd as they browse the pasture. The donkeys are the kid-sitters as ZsaZsa teaches them the art of jumping onto the backs of donkeys like a circus trick. I don’t know how many kids Julie Andrews has had in her lifetime, but she seems to be tired…and Bert’s early struggles were more than she could handle until we stepped in and helped him get a second chance. 

I tell you these things to show my frailty of humanity. This week has included the unexpected death and funeral of a beloved sister-in-law, news of a cousin’s  health scare, work projects that stretch my Excel formula-writing skills, and juggling volunteer responsibilities that would make a time-management guru openly weep. Bert has been my gift of seeing a sutuation from both sides: of not giving up and understanding how easy it is to give up. We could have easily left him and then buried him at a day old. But we chose to fight for a second chance. And this time, we’ve got a goat on the mend.  

Bert is a sweet goat. He is friendlier than others and still lets me carry him for a bit. Although,  he is beginning to smell like a goat, dirt and grass, more than my sweet milk-replacer baby. 


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.