Story and photos by Lisa Burns
Live Local! contributing writer
If you would have told me 10 years ago that one day I’d be living on a farm sanctuary with goats, pigs and kangaroos, I would have said you were crazy. After all, I’d lived my entire life in the city. The eggs came from the grocery store, not a chicken’s back side. The closest I had ever came to farm animals was in elementary school, during a trip to the zoo, where a llama spit in my face.
Living on a farm was not in my plans. But as we all know, plans change. Six years ago my husband Dave and I were offered a chance to live on a rural property 20 miles outside of town. Dave, who grew up with horses and pot belly pigs in a small country town, was excited at the idea of farm life again. And once I saw the property, I was hooked, too. We would have space for a veggie garden and water feature displays for our business. Soon we had a horse, ponies, goats (to help keep the grass mowed) and pigs (to eat the leftovers), all adopted and fostered from nonprofit rescues. Last year change came again. We moved to a huge property, a former non-profit wild/exotic animal rescue that is now a private farm/sanctuary for animals that are not adoptable or cannot be released back to the wild. We are the caretakers to these 78 animals, and it’s one big wild adventure.
Life on the Farm | The Good
There’s nothing like waking up to the sound of birds chirping and a rooster crowing. The only thing better is the one-on-one time with the animals. Did you know goats and dogs are similar? They get excited to see us, love to be brushed and do tricks for treats. Each animal has its own personality, from Tugboat the Wallaroo, who hisses if we get too close, to Tara the Deer, who gives kisses daily. Every day is a new adventure and a chance to learn. I’ve witnessed the birth of a goat, learned to milk the mama when she couldn’t release her milk, and even bottle-fed her baby. I have also learned that llamas aren’t so bad. We have one, Speedy, who threatens to spit on us only if we ignore him or pay attention to the goats first. OK, that means he pretty much threatens to spit all the time. But he races along the gate when he sees us coming and loves to have his neck scratched.
We are not totally self-sufficient, but we are working toward being more sustainable. We get fresh eggs from the chickens, composting from the leaves and manure. We have room to grow veggies and herbs for ourselves and for the animals. The horses and goats work, too, keeping the grass mowed and weeds trimmed. We are lucky to have volunteers, including a couple who were here when we moved in and stayed on to help. They come over a couple of times a week to shovel manure and to help feed or brush the animals!
Life on the Farm | The Bad
Living on a farm is hard work. A good three to four hours of each day is spent feeding and cleaning up after the animals, not including play time with them, and there is always something that needs repair. It can be challenging to manage a farm and also run a business. And of course, there is no shortage of manure. Everywhere we look there are piles and pellets.
Caring for a sick animal is difficult, but does not compare to losing one we have cared for. We have had to lance cysts on goats, stop the bleeding on a pony’s face from a cut that was impossible for the vet to stitch, and keep a colicky horse from going down. Have you ever tried to take a horse’s temperature? You don’t want to experience that, ever. Oh, and the bugs! There are spiders the size of a hand that leave large intricate spider webs not only hanging between tree branches but in wide open spaces. Walking into one turns me into an arm-flailing maniac.
The worst are the giant lubber grasshoppers that jump on you at the most inopportune moments, I cringe every time I hear their snapping/clicking sound.
Life on the Farm | The Funny
As with most things in life, it’s important to have a good sense of humor. There is no shortage of laughter on the farm. Dave found out the hard way that goat’s milk isn’t too terrible. One afternoon, I was having a difficult time milking the mama goat, and when he bent down to see what the issue was, he was squirted right in the mouth. And remember the lubber grasshoppers I mentioned? While exploring the pastures with my grandson I kneeled to pick up something and one of the grasshoppers decided to jump up my shorts! Did I mention that they pinch? I scared the daylights out of it screaming and jumping around trying to get the darn grasshopper out of my shorts. But, bugs and all, I can honestly say the rewards of living on a farm with animals far outweigh the challenges.
Lisa Burns and her husband, Dave, own Backyard Getaway, a landscaping company that serves clients throughout the Tampa Bay region. She can be reached through their website, backyardgetawayponds.com.
78 animals and counting ...
On our farm we have 78 animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, conures, cockatiels, horses, ponies, pigs, goats, llama, sulcata tortoise, ducks, chickens, kangaroo, wallaroo, wallabies, deer
and a mutjac deer. Here are a few fun facts about these animals: