Meet Blair!

blairMy name is Blair Stanford, and I live in Northern Virginia. I work for the federal government, and originally learned about Star Gazing Farm via the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Wanting to see the actual farm, I signed up to attend a SGF volunteer day. I grabbed my boots, gloves and baseball hat and headed to the farm to help split firewood and paint a fence. The day was great; it was filled with friendly volunteers and animals, with Farmer Anne providing direction and encouragement and introducing all of the participants. I fell in love with SGF that day.

What is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

It’s so difficult to pick just one animal, as they each have their own personalities and are all truly special. Since I can’t pick, I’ll note a few of my favorites: Rocky the steer as he is huge, gentle and curious. It’s probably not true but I like to think that he acknowledges me each time I arrive; Sam the dog, an alert, strong, and somewhat shy animal who always seems to be patrolling the farm; Jack the rabbit, the biggest and friendliest rabbit I have ever met; Parsnip the sheep, as she has beautiful fleece and moves with a sense of elegance.

blairanimalsWhat about volunteering here makes you most happy ?

There is always something to be done at SGF so volunteers have the opportunity to help in a huge variety of ways. Whatever your skill and abilities are, there is a way to contribute and everyone works together to get the job done. I love that the animals are free-ranging, that you have the opportunity to work directly with them, and that you can immediately see how your efforts benefit the farm and the animal residents.  I particularly like working on events that introduce the public to the SGF animals and that promote education and interest in the farm.

Do you have animals at your home you’d like to mention?

I grew up with dogs and cats and most recently had two wire fox terriers (big dogs in little bodies.)

What is a fun fact about you?

In my spare time I enjoy west coast swing and country-western dancing.

Meet Nikki

nikkiMy name is Nikki Schmitzer. I work full-time at a law firm in DC and love the escape from the corporate world to the peaceful farm in the country. When I’m not working or volunteering, I’m usually doing something outside – backpacking or hiking in Shenandoah or George Washington National Forest, or biking somewhere. I also enjoy baking and nerding out with my Kindle or crossword puzzles. I have two cats: Oscar and Max, two big tabby rescue cats from the Montgomery County Humane Society.

What is your favorite animal?
Dee Dee. She is an old lady with the perfect mix of sweet and feisty. Laidback and always down for a hug…unless it’s feed time. Then she will not hesitate to bulldoze you out of her way.

What about volunteering here makes you most happy ?
Being around animals is, of course, the main draw. No matter what you are doing, even if you are scooping poop, it’s a good time because a sheep or goat is likely to be next to you asking for a scratch. The humans are great, too – everyone at the farm is friendly and works together. I also enjoy seeing each animal’s distinct personality and watching the bonds they form with each other – after seeing this, although I had been an ethical meat eater for years, I stopped eating meat entirely.

What is a fun fact about you?
My boyfriend and I are currently learning how to start a backyard apiary so we can harvest our own honey.

Meet Kimberly!

kimHi:) My name is Kimberly Kim, and I’m a freshman at Holton-Arms School. My favorite subjects are Art and History (I hope to take art history my senior year). I just recently started softball at my school, and it makes me more sore than a day at the farm! In the future, I hope to become an architect and travel all around the world and design buildings to help both people and animals (I was inspired by the book, Three Cups of Tea).

What is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

My favorite animal has to either be Sam or Tig-ba – it’s a really close tie. I love all the animals at the farm but dogs will always have a special part in my heart.

What about volunteering here makes you happy?

I honestly think the farm is one of the most special places for me to spend my time in. The farm really builds a connection between you, the animals, and the people; I bawled for hours when I heard Toby passed away even though I only saw him once a week. It makes me happy that I can spend only 4-5 hours of my time to really help the animals, and also make a lot of friends along the way.

Do you have animals at your home you’d like to mention?

I have a 9 (almost 10) year old Maltese mix named Cutie (I was six…). He’s (yes, Cutie is a boy) the most spoiled dog I’ve ever met but I wouldn’t trade him for the world. We also recently got a cat a few months ago, and she spends her time meowing for food, ripping up the carpet, and hitting Cutie (but I love her too).

What is a fun fact about you?

I’m someone who has a strong dislike for bugs and dirt, so when I told my friends that I was working a farm, most of them didn’t believe me – but I have a shirt to prove it!!

Meet Cheryl!

cherylMy name is Cheryl Mawo. I’ve been a psychotherapist in Silver Spring, Maryland, for 25 years. Before that I worked at a law firm in DC and before that I lived in Cameroon, West Africa, for 8 years. I’m originally from Oregon. I love to knit and crochet and make hats, scarves, wristers, and children’s sweaters for the SGF gift shop. Now I am learning to spin yarn on a spindle.

Who is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

It’s hard to choose just one favorite animal on the farm because they all have charismatic personalities, but I do feel a bond with Bello the horse. He’s so majestic and calm with all the animals and people meandering around him.

scarfWhat about volunteering here makes you most happy ?

I find volunteering at the farm to be spiritually uplifting. Animals seem to connect directly with my heart. And Anne is so warm and appreciative of all we do to help her and the animals.

afghanDo you have animals at your home you’d like to mention?

My husband Jim and I have a handsome rescued German Shepherd named Bosco, 10 years old. Bosco keeps us busy walking him, cooking his food, and generally trying to outsmart him.

What is a fun fact about you?

One day I answered the phone at home and found myself having a lovely chat with Archbishop Desmond Tutu who had dialed my number by mistake.

Meet Jake!

jjakeandsamMy name is Jake Pittleman and I have been volunteering at Star Gazing farm for almost 7 years.  This fall I’ll be going to Warren Wilson college in North Carolina. I love cleaning up poop.

What  is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

My favorite animal is Sam because I was here when he came and I remember him being scared of me and now he loves me and I love him.

jaketractorWhat about volunteering here makes you most happy ?

I love being able to help animals. I get the most happy when I see the other animals relaxing with each other.

Do you have animals at your home you’d like to mention?

I have a 2 year old collie mix and a 3 month old puppy who is a pit bull boxer mix.

What is a fun fact about you?

A fun fact about me is I play banjo and I’m learning mandolin.

Meet Eilis!

eliesMy name is Eilis Donohue. I’ve just graduated high school and am heading to Vassar College in a few short months! I learned about Star Gazing Farm when I happily stumbled across an article about it in the Washington Post a few summers ago, and have loved coming here as often as I can ever since. I’m interested in a little bit of everything, but I’ve always loved animals with a passion and was so grateful to find a place like the farm that welcomes younger volunteers.

Who is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

It’s honestly so hard to choose a favorite, since they each have endearing, unique personalities. They are some of the sweetest, happiest animals I’ve ever met. I will say, I really connect with Ti-gba the dog: she’s tough on the outside but a big softie inside, and amazingly perseverant.

What about volunteering here makes you most happy?

What makes me happiest about volunteering here is that it’s so evident that the animals are happy. They’re such good friends, and they all obviously love their lives here. It’s just a wonderful vibe, and seeing them all strolling around or sunning together always makes my day.

Do you have animals at your home you’d like to mention?

I have a lovely old mutt named Selkie. She’s a goofball who likes to play dress-up.

What is a fun fact about you?

While I’ve taken Spanish for 6 years formally, I’ve also been trying to learn German on my own for several years. Tschüss!

Meet Anne!

newman-anne-closeup72My name is Anne Shroeder, and I bought this property (which was christened Star Gazing Farm shortly thereafter) in 2002. I’ve always loved animals, and it seems to have run in my family, as my mother was always helping homeless dogs and feeding stray cats, and my grandmother used to regularly go to the horse auctions and buy the saddest creatures to take home with her. I’ve had a long and varied career, and while I still work (running my own businesses – web development and seasonal shearing) I love the farm the most.

Who is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

This is an impossible question. I love all of them.   I pet and talk to each of them every day and each has his/her own personality.  However, I’d have to say that the one animal who is the most frustrating, the most charming, and the one who really has my heart, is Mr. Newman Goat. He moved into the farm only 6 weeks after I did so we’ve been friends for a long time.

What about volunteering here makes you most happy?

I love feeling like I can help animals in need. And what really inspires me is seeing the relationships that evolve – both amongst the different animal species and between the animals and the volunteers. The human-animal bond is, in my opinion, one of the greatest hopes we have of cultivating a kinder and more humane society where animals are appreciated and valued, and not just used and put on the dinner plate.

What is a fun fact about you?

Two fun facts:  (1) I lived for a year in Cairo when doing my graduate studies in Arabic Linguistics.  (2) I met Paul Newman when I was working at the Saudi Embassy in DC; he was very handsome, but very short!

Meet Barb!

barb1I’m Barb Thaler. My husband and I started as volunteers while accompanying our daughter Rose for her SSL hours. It’s an outdoor family outing where we meet folks who share the love of the farm, work hard, and feel good about what we’ve learned and accomplished. Not only do we come as a family on Saturdays, but I love coming as well on a weekday. It feels like a getaway that allows me to connect with nature and animals while helping a wonderful cause. The physical work is great exercise that’s a lot more fun than going to a gym. The physical work has also been extremely helpful as a means to release any pent up anxiety. I always have a good nights sleep after a days work on the farm. It’s very peaceful during the week, outside of the interspecies banter that goes on, and satisfying to help Farmer Anne Shroeder. I’m also a certified Montgomery county “weed warrior” which allows me to save native trees by removing non native invasive vines.

barbWhat  is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think Dee Dee and Bello are super calm and sweet.

Do you have animals at your home you’d like to mention?
At home we have Ella, the sweetest, most loving golden/ lab mix ever. We also have a cuddly Holland lop rabbit named Pancake, and 2 parakeets, Skye and Indie.

What are some fun facts about you?

I love stand up comedy, dancing to funky music and singing harmony. Oh yea, and I’m a foodie.

Meet Derek!

derekMy name is Derek Newberry and I am a Senior at Walt Whitman High School. I used to row crew for my high school team but stopped at the beginning of Junior year after I sustained multiple permanent injuries. I now volunteer at Star Gazing Farm and for the Red Cross, work out regularly, and spend lots of time with my friends and family. I have played the violin for nine years and am in my school’s orchestra and played in the pit orchestra for my schools performance of Ms. Saigon, which was tons of fun! I am incredibly excited to go to college next year, but I hope I can still come to the farm to see the animals every once and a while.

What  is your favorite animal on the farm and why?

My favorite animal at the farm is Tetsuro the pig because he seems so happy and relaxed every time I see him. I love how you can scratch his belly and he will just collapse in grunts of pleasure. I also think he is one of the sweetest animals on the farm and is extremely smart. In addition, I really like that he will always allow me to scratch him and almost never goes out seeking trouble.

What about volunteering here makes you most happy ?

I could go on and on about why I love working at Star Gazing Farm, which I did in multiple college essays I wrote this year. In one of these essays I summarized why I love the farm: Each time I return home covered in sweat, dirt, and debris, I feel proud of my decisions, of who I am, and what I am doing for these wonderful animals. I constantly make new friends, both human and animal, and have a much better understanding and appreciation for rural America and the world. While I don’t plan on becoming a farmer and love my life in the city, the farm has given me a rewarding place to unwind, work hard, and express who I am.

Do you have animals at your home you’d like to mention?

I have a six year old Bichon Frise named Madeleine who is the cutest and silliest dog in the world. My family also just got two new kittens from a shelter that we have not named yet.

What is a fun fact about you?

I have been vegetarian since I was born, and I love animals with a passion.