News and blog
I am almost embarrassed that it has been so long since my last farm update (last November I think). Better late than never. Hard to know where to begin though. Check out on the latest photos I have posted in the Gallery.
We added a new housedog in March – as if we really needed another dog? This one was for DH. Her name is SASHA and she is a Landseer Newfoundland. What a devil she is. We are still working on potty training and she knows that when she goes (outside of course) she gets a treat. So she runs outside and squats for a second just so something dribbles out and she runs for her treat. She could keep this up all day!
Welcome to SIMON and PETER – two new Nigerian Dwarf goats that I just “had to have.” DH is about ready to move me to the barn with all the animals. But they are sooooooo cute. Especial Simon who is a runt. Both are about 8 weeks old. Right now, they are being acclimated in the “holding pen” where everyone can get a good whiff of them and they can get used to seeing the giants in the pasture (the cows that is).
We have two new chicks – had four but one drowned and the other just disappeared. I think it might have been a midnight snack for an owl or a snake. DH is attaching hardware cloth (rat wire) around the chicken area as I write this. No snake will be able to slither through. One hen is still setting so more may be on the way and I understand that the hens will continue to lay fertilized eggs for about two weeks so Roody will have offspring to carry on his name!
I do not think I formally introduced BRONISLAV to my farm fans. Bro is a Bosnian Tornjak Shepherd – closely related to the Anatolian Shepherd. I rescued him when he was 5 months old from Arizona knowing that Bongo did not have long to live. Bro is going to surpass Elka’s weight (140) if he has not already. I sure hope he stops growing soon! He collects balls of all kinds and his favorite plaything is Patti LaBelle – yes a cow. They chase each other and she sometimes plays keep away with his ball. You have to see it to believe it!
Finally, I do not think I formally introduced BATMAN and SMUDGE – beautiful offspring of our house cat MISS KITTY. This was definitely an unplanned pregnancy! In Virginia vets will not spay/neuter until an animal is at least 5 months old. When we got Miss Kitty we had no idea how old she was because she was so little and she has not grown that much. So we obviously messed up. Although Batman and Smudge look nothing like Miss Kitty (in fact I think they each have a different father!), they definitely have her personality. They LOVE to be kissed and hugged and rubbed. And they groom humans the same way they groom themselves or each other. Unique kitties indeed.
We said goodbye to BONGO in December – he fought a valiant battle against the bone cancer but the cancer won out. We miss him but I know he is running pain free with Bailey, Samson, Delilah, Winston, Beau, and Nevada. If you loook closely at the photo on the right, you will see that Bongo is giving one of his signature smiles to Jim.
We also just lost our beloved ROODY – I am not even sure that I introduced him to everyone. He was a Faverolle and the most beautiful rooster I had ever seen. Something got into the pen the other night and beat him up pretty bad. I tried to save him but could not. Chickens are like sheep - they often just give up. I ordered a new cockerel but he will not arrive until August and then of course he must grow up.
We finally had to set our first ram PEPPER free. He had been lame for a long time due to being “rammed” once too many times by his pasture mates. Animals have a way of letting you know when the time has come and we have an obligation as their caretakers to listen. Here is the last picture I took of him and Elka together. Elka was his guardian angel – never saw a guard dog so devoted to one of its charges – but she knew he had special needs.
I say this is an update, but old age prevents me from remembering if I even wrote about this before. ELKA has Degenerative Myelopathy, which is similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease in humans. There is no cure. She quickly lost the use of her back legs late Fall, but continues to drag herself all over the pasture. Her chest and front legs are like those of a prizefighter! This girl is in shape. It is hard to watch but she continues to do her job and maintains the same spirit she always had. Time is her enemy but only God knows how much time she has - so we appreciate her every single day. The picture on the left is the last one with her standng on 4 legs around November 2012.
REBEKAH continues to bring smiles to nursing home residents twice a week. She is an amazing animal. She does not even mind when I dress her up in stupid costumes!
SOLOMON has matured into quite the handsome Newf. Except for a small problem with his hair, (we’ve thought about gel or braiding it) – he is the picture of a perfect Newf. Goofy as ever, Solly is trying to be a good big brother to Sasha but she really tries his patience. It’s like having a shark attached to your leg all the time.
PATTI and ANNABELLE have a new suitor. His name is Gordon and he is a handsome Belted Galloway who lives about an hour from the farm. His references are clean – no jail time, no drug use, no gang involvement (well, I heard he likes hanging with the goats – but he’s not considered an insider to their club). I did hear that his mom was a real heifer and his dad chewed tobacco – but hey, we cannot choose our parents can we? The girls will meet their suitor in October or November. I originally thought to breed only Patti but then I have heard stories about what cows can do when separated from a pasture buddy – and we know they can jump fences – soooooo. Besides, they will have their babies at the same time and will be able to help each other through the difficulties of nursing, weaning, and instruction on proper cud chewing and harassment of the guard dogs. Expect the nursery to open next Fall.
No sheep breeding this year. I think I’m through with that. Looking forward to calves though/ The goats continut to be a hoot - here are a couple of pictures of them mugging for the camera.
Let’s see we have some serious birthdays this year – I turned 60; DH turns 70, and our very first cat ELIJAH Turns 19. I don’t know if I am more amazed that I am that old or that Elijah is as old as he is. I understand how he feels though.
I will make a concerted effort to be current in my blogs. As always, we welcome visitors to the farm so if you are in the area – please call and come by. I'll leave you with some great pictures of the farm in the one and only snow of the year.
A couple of weekends ago Jim and I went to a horse clinic sponsored by Perfect Partners Equine - I took Babe and he took Kate. It was a blast and Jim did sooooo well. Here is a slide show of the event.
With a heavy heart, I report that Jim and I helped Bailey cross the bridge last night. It was unexpected for sure. Over the past week, Bailey has slowly lost the use of his remaining rear leg. No pain or discomfort – just no control. Last Friday Bailey had his monthly battery of tests – chest x-ray, abdominal ultrasound, blood work – all normal. We also asked for x-rays of his rear leg – nothing unusual showed up. Saturday, Bailey could no longer support himself to go to the bathroom. Yesterday morning he had an “accident” because he could not get himself up. The back leg just dragged. We decided to tough it out until Tuesday morning when Bailey had another vet appointment.
Last night, after drinking water, Bailey coughed up some phlegm that had blood in it. I discovered some bleeding from one small area on his gum. I contacted the on-call vet and asked for a referral to NC State. We arrived at NCSU emergency room around 9:30 pm. Preliminary findings after x-rays and blood work – blood profile normal, leg normal, probable bleeding into the lungs and a life threatening heart arrhythmia. Main concern by emergency staff was the heart problem followed by bleeding for which they could not determine the source.
God is amazing and I am always awed at the way he makes difficult decision-making easy. On the way to the hospital, I prayed and by the time we arrived, I knew this was a one-way trip. When the doctor gave us the preliminary findings – I knew it was God’s way of telling us the time had come to say goodbye. Bailey was not in pain at this point and the right decision at this point would prevent a prolonged and difficult route to the same destination. We had no trouble making the decision to say goodbye and I know he was ready. We requested an autopsy (which they do free of course) – and will have the results in a couple of days. At this point, we do not know if it was the cancer that sent him home – and that, of course, is troubling. To beat cancer and die anyway – how ironic.
I am at peace with our decision and with much prayer and faith am actually in a good place this morning. I know I will mourn him for a long time – he was a special boy – but I also know he is now pain-free and he will live on in my heart. I will report on the autopsy reports when available. Now I need to turn my full attention to Bongo and his ongoing journey with cancer.
Continue to pray for Bongo as he travels his own road with the dreaded cancer.
Notice anything different about Dude? Look closer - can't tell - well he can. Dude is now gelded and he is not too happy about it either. Who would be?
But it was time. Dude has always been a sweet boy - not a mean bone in his body - but as you will see from the other pictures today, he was way to sexually active! Both Ruby and Jade are expecting - yup - both of them. I think Jade is further along - scheduled ultrasounds for Monday. I am not keeping two more donkeys - sadly they will be sold. But it sure will be fun watching little ones run around the pasture again!
Here is a very pregnant jade.
See that buldge on the right side. Yup - that's baby. I took a second picture just to be sure. I don't think she is more than 2 months from delivery but we will see.
You can actually the baby better on this second photo. It is interesting the way one side buldges out due to the way the baby is laying - after all this is a big.... baby. So here's Ruby - also expecting - again. Poor girl - if Dude had his way she'd be bare-hoofed and pregnant the rest of her life! This will be her third. Jade is her first - Pearl her second and now - well - hoping for another girl. After this - she is out of the baby business!
There has been one other noteworthy even on the farm this past week. I finally took Golda to the groomer. This was the second year in a row she did not blow her coat and although I brush her out often, something bothered me about her not shedding out two years straight. So off we went - her first trip off the farm. Then I got the dreaded call - she had to be shaved - no choice - matts on matts and some really nasty stuff underneath. So we agreed.
I felt horrible for letting it go so long. Anyway - here she is - Jim thinks she looks like a poodle - actually she does but we do not say that out loud :-) Her hair will grow back and she will forget all about it. She was depressed for 3 days after - actually hid - did not want to eat or play - but she is back to her old self these days - with just a little less hair....
Blessings to all!
Our bedroom and bath is now a nursery complete with two litterboxes (one big and one small) plus food dishes plus toys. Miss Kitty is a wonderful mom - she does not want to leave the bedroom (which is a good thing because she won't see freedom until we take care of a little matter called birth control). Solomon is not a happy camper - he is used to sleeping in bed and he is now relegated to the mud room floor - how the mighty have fallen! I tried letting him in for a while but he sat perched on the bed staring at the kitties as if they were hamburgers - that was the end of that.
This is the first time I have had the opportunity to watch kittens grow up. It really is special. Once they opened their eyes (about 2 weeks) they could not wait to move around. I tried making a nest in our walk in closet but Miss Kitty kept moving them to my underwear drawer. Well, that wouldn't do so I let them have the bedroom and bathroom. She immediately moved the kittens to behind our bed. Fine. But in he past week they have been pretty much living in the middle of the bedroom floor. Everythng is a toy. They have even figured out how to climb the few stairs onto the bed (we keep those stairs for elderly dogs).
Miss Kitty talks to them all day long (and all night unfortunately). Not sure what she is saying but they respond. She bathes them daily which is a real hoot to watch because they do all they can to hide from her when they know the time is near. They are now 4 weeks old. I think I have them all spoken for - which is a good thing because DH (dear hubby) didn't warm to the idea of three more cats in the hosue (what 9 would be too many?) I did not name them - and I think the b/w ones are boys - not sure - don't care - not my problem.....
Here are a few photos taken around bath time:
Spring has been big around the farm - lots of new additions.
At the end of April we received 6 new Faverolles - 5 hens and one roo. I think the black one is the roo. The coloring on several of the hens is very different than first group.
Well, Miss Kitty went and got herself in trouble...I could kick myself for not getting her fixed. In Virginia they will not spay until 3 or 4 months old and so, by the time I remembered I had not taken care of it - too late! Last week, Miss Kitty delivered 3 new kitties - very cute. They will also find new homes in short order!
Last December, we had an "accident." I was holding a breeding pair of Babydolls for pick up and the lady had to delay coming for about a week. In that time, one of the cows (I'm thinking Annabelle) decided the hay I had thrown into the stall looked better than the hay I gave her, so she popped the latch and let the sheep out and herself in. It did not take but a few hours for Moses to add to the population. The ladies were lined up with numbers. Oh well.... I am not sure, but I sure thought at least 6 ewes were pregnant but so far - on Saturday - Leah was the first to deliver twin rams (soon to be wethers). I am naming them Pinto and Paint (for obvious reasons). They are Barbado Dolls and will be for sale when weaned for $200 each. Leah makes the most beautiful babies! I do not know if more are on the way - it sure is passed the delivery date I calculated but it is possible that I got the date wrong. If babies are on the way - they should be here in the next 3 days.
Bongo and Bailey Update
Bongo and Bailey have both finished their primary chemo treatments and about to start a low dose chemo regimine - they are both doing beautifully. This month Bailey celebrated his 5 month ampiversary and Bongo celebrated his 3 month ampiversary. Please keep them in your prayers.
Sharon and Babe
Well, I have finally managed to get in some saddle time. I spent 4 days at a special clinic in Lexington Virginia where I finally learned that I am supposed to control Babe, not the other way around! This past weekend I attended an ACTHA ride in Palmyra Virginia where Babe and I learned how to avoid trees on the trail....it took a while and I have the bruises to prove it but we now have that skill down pat. We also competed in our first obstacle courses. No ribbons but we had a blast! Especially when I had to dismount and mount with a large stuffed dog in my hands. Babe never batted an eye. Nor did the big blue whale they placed at one of the creek crossings. She's come a long way - so have I.
New Jungle Jim
I do not remember posting pictures of the new playset for the goats. I am waiting for one of them to jump on Pearl's back!
I think Pattilabelle is now full grown - not sure about Anabelle - she may have another hundred pounds or so yet to go.
I have found a love for Bearded Iris and so I have been busy planting them over the past year or so. Here are a few pictures - they are so beautiful. Normally, plants come to my house to die - but I think my luck has finally changed.
That's it for now. Stay tuned for more lamb announcements. I will post this info on the main web page and under for sale as well.
Please pray for all those who are suffering in body, mind, or spirit.
As I write this it is still winter, yet you would never know it. We were robbed of winter – no doubt about it. Let’s hope and pray we will not be robbed of Spring as well! For those of you in the Midwest – I sympathize – if you live in Florida, you likely do not care, and if you are in California – well, what is that I keep hearing about the great weather in California? It is now 57 degrees at 6:30 am. with an expected high of 75. In Santa Cruz (our old stomping grounds), it is 41 degrees (at 3:30 am) with an expected high of 52. Hmmmm – I think I like it better here J Here is what is going on around Follow Your Dream Farm.
Bongo and Bailey
In mid-December, both Bongo and Bailey were diagnosed with bone cancer. What are the odds of that? Bailey had a synovial cell sarcoma on his rear leg and Bongo had an osteosarcoma on his front leg. With Bailey, we chose amputation immediately due to the condition of the bone. He is currently undergoing chemo and doing great. You would never know he is disabled in any way – same happy boy. His recent set of x-rays shows all clear.
Bongo – well that has been different. Due to the sorry condition of his rear legs (bilateral cruciate ligament disease) – we chose palliative radiation therapy. It started out well, but pain got the better of him and we finally amputated. He is also undergoing chemo. Unlike Bailey, Bongo does not seem to have the same intrepid, say never die spirit. We are struggling to find his comfort level. He is still living out in the pasture but his guarding days are done. I just want him to have a quality of life. If that is not possible – well, difficult decisions await. Here is Bongo checking out our one and only snowfall. The other picture shows a daily situation - Bongo defending his food from the carnivorous Simone. Bongo always prevails!
Pearl is our newest guardian animal. After Bongo’s cancer diagnosis I began to think about adding another LGD to learn the ropes while Bongo was still around. Finding an already trained LGD is not easy and the thought of having three dogs in one pasture did not set well. Pearl needed to be weaned and I fretted over what to do. Chris (my amazing farm hand) – suggested Pearl. Of course! It took a couple of days for Pearl to stop whining for momma – but once she got over it, she settled right in and everyone loves her. The three stooges (Cain, Abel, and Barnabas) have adopted her as their very own personal protection and follow her everywhere. And she follows them. Here is a picture with Pearl and DH (dear hubby).
Livestock Guardian Cat
Not only do we have livestock guardian dogs and a livestock guardian donkey - but it turns out we also have a livestock guardian "cat." Yup - one of our barncats - "Rocky" has appointed himself the official guardian kitty for the ewes. He does not hang out with the other barn cats - instead he spends his days hanging with the sheep and goats. His favorite perch is the the cable spool.
We did not breed this past Fall – well, let me clarify that – we did not intentionally breed. I sold a breeding pair of Babydolls and had them in a separate stall for several days until the new owner came. During the course of 3 or 4 days, Moses managed to escape twice. He had help of course. Annabelle wanted the extra hay I put in with the newlyweds so she opened the stall door herself – twice. So – it is possible that we may have a few lambs yet. We will not know until late April.
Shearing day is April 5th. I worried that this might be too early - hah! What was I thinking? Little did I know that this would be the year without winter. Turns out it is a good thing the shearer will be here early. Lord knows it may be in the 90s by then.
The girls have done well over the “winter.” We consistently received 6 or 7 eggs per day. I hope this will increase now that longer days are here. No, we do not eat 4 dozen eggs per week – I give him to church members and friends. I love my chickens! In fact, I just ordered a Faverolle rooster. Hopefully this will encourage Jim to wake up earlier!! Now that he is semi-retired, he is living a leisure life and sleeping in. No fair! I also ordered I also ordered a male and 2 female “Easter Eggers,” one female “Welsummer,” and 2 female “Blue Splash Marans.” Thought I would mix things up a bit and I’d love to have babies (chicks that is).
The goats have a new jungle jim thanks to Chris. Abel is the one who uses it the most – he plays king of the hill.
Pepper is still limping along. He has difficulty getting up but once he is up manages to graze. Elka sticks by him like glue and Pepper uses her for moral support. These pictures are typical of what I see daily with them. Notice in the one picture that Elka has her paw on top of Pepper's head. I am not sure what this means other than it is like holding someone's hand to reasure them. It is quite touching to see.
Only one small snowfall this winter – rats! I feel cheated. Here are a few pictures to memorialize the "event."
All is quiet in general. We are in maintenance mode – painting decks and roofs, cleaning up the gardens, getting ready to plant “THE” veggie garden. Chris made me a few extra planter boxes – this year we will try corn, peas, pumpkins, onions, watermelon, and lettuce in addition to cucumbers and cantaloupe.
Our daughter Kara and her new hubby are scheduled to visit in April as is my “only” friend from California. I am still slogging through school – have around 24 more credits to my BA in English Lit. I just received notice that I am now an “official” substitute school teacher for Halifax County, Va. I am looking forward to some practical classroom experience. Jim is enjoying semi-retirement and I continue to attempt to “train” him on farm chores. He is resistant – but he loves the tractor and his zero turn lawnmower!
God has been good us and as we hit the bumps in the road (as we must) he has been there to help us along. I have never felt so content and safe in my life as I do here and now. I hope and pray that everyone attains that same feeling sometime in their lifetime. It took me 55 years to get there – so do not despair – there is always hope! Prayers and hugs to all. I love hearing from everyone – so please post comments.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A LICENSED INSURANCE BROKER, NOR IN THE INSURANCE BUSINESS, NOR AFFILIATED WITH ANY INSURANCE COMPANY.
Do you have pets that you treat better than your children? Are you independently wealthy? If the answer to the first question is yes and the answer to the second question is no – this blog post is for you. Dealing with Bailey and Bongo’s cancer caused me to sit back and think about our options without insurance. Unfortunately, the answer is pain management followed by euthanasia. Since it is possible that, with treatment, some animals live one to two years (or more) after a cancer diagnosis, that would have been a gut-wrenching situation.
We have had pet insurance for our dogs since the early ‘90s. At that time, the industry was in its infancy and the choices were not great – nor were the benefits. A few years ago, after Samson’s TPLO surgery I decided to review what was available. The policy we had at the time covered only about 45% because they based payment on a schedule of benefits with maximum amounts for each procedure. In addition, the deductible was per claim. I found several companies that offered good policies but ultimately, consumer reviews and opinions led me to Embrace. Everyone raved about them. They operate more like a small family than a corporation and they pay based on actual charges. Huge difference.
As a rule, I do not discuss personal financial information, but this issue is so important to me that I want to illustrate what an illness such as cancer can mean financially.
Samson was my special needs child. He had problems from the very beginning. We went from epilepsy, to bilateral deafness, to three TPLO surgeries, to a spinal cord stroke, to immune mediated thrombocytopenia, to degenerative myelopathy, to finally putting him out of his misery. When he had the TPLOs and MRIs – we had a different policy. We submitted approximately $14,000 of invoices to insurance. When the dust settled, we were out of pocket about $6,000.00. We were fortunate that, at that time, we had the resources to cover the expense. After that we changed to Embrace. During the period of time where we dealt with everything else – we had Embrace. They could have made a case that Samson’s stroke was related to his prior surgeries or his diagnosed brain abnormality – but they did not. We submitted about $13,000 in medical bills but paid only around $1500 in the end. His treatment included 3 weeks of rehab at a boarding facility which included water therapy. In addition, treatment for the IMTP included a new drug which cost more than $800 per treatment. Embrace covered everything.
Bailey and Bongo
As you know from my last blog post, both Bongo and Bailey were diagnosed with bone cancer in the same week. Bailey had his leg amputated but Bongo is not a surgery candidate and is undergoing radiation. I recently submitted the first round of bills from my vets and the hospital. They totaled $4,792.27. This included Bailey’s amputation. Embrace is paying $3,580.77. The unpaid amount represents $400 in deductibles ($200 per dog per year) and $800 in prescription drugs. You can purchase coverage for drugs but I did not (big mistake). Our decision to proceed with the amputation, radiation, and chemo were entirely based on the fact that we had insurance to cover it.
With Embrace you choose your deductible (we chose $200), your co-pay (we chose 90%), and your annual maximum (we chose $10,000). The annual premium for our six dogs is $323 per month. This includes a multi-pet discount (not sure how much though). As I said before, Embrace pays based on actual invoices – not a schedule. There is no extra charge for cancer coverage, which includes radiation and chemo. They also pay for continuing care which is a big deal. When Samson needed additional rehab months after the initial stroke, Embrace covered it – no questions asked. Embrace also covers alternative treatments like acupuncture, holistic vet consultations, and water therapy. Both Bailey and Bongo will soon begin acupuncture for pain management.
Maybe this seems like an advertisement for Embrace. It is not. I have been in a vet office on more than one occasion where an owner had to choose euthanasia due to lack of funds to cover treatment costs. It is painful to watch. If I can save one pet owner (and pet) from facing that type of decision – I will feel as though I have done an important service.
To all those with pets suffering from terminal diseases my heart goes out to you. To all those who beat the odds with aggressive treatment – hooray to you! For those that have tried and failed – you can be comforted by the fact that you did all you could. I understand that not everyone can afford $30-50 a month for insurance. The real question is: can you afford not to have it? When people in my community suffer a major illness or accident and face huge medical bills – the churches jump in to organize fundraisers and offer donations. I am certain that a serious illness or accident involving one of our beloved pets will not rate that kind of response. So think about it.
I am including a link to Embrace if you want to get a quote (which costs nothing). Do your own homework. Compare the policies. Consider the risks and the possible consequences.
May God keep you and all your furry friends in his hands and grant you health and happiness.