When I was a little girl, I resolutely, every year, asked my mother for “100 cats” as my Christmas wish. We already had a wonderful cat and dog, and my mother wisely allowed me several dozen stuffed animals all of whom slept with me in their specific spots on the bed, but no cats ever came down the chimney. I never dreamed I would one day live on a farm surrounded by animals, but if I had known about such a thing, I’m sure I would have pestered my mother about sheep and goats, as well!
I think that most children’s natural instinct is to be drawn to animals; it’s so healthy and needs to be supported in a constructive, safe, and enduring way.
This is what we do at Star Gazing Farm.
Children come to this farm and are filled with delight.
I love watching their reactions when they first meet the naughty and charming Mr. Newman Goat, or are allowed to gently hold a small hen, or look up at the wondrous sight of a sleek, black, horned Bullwinkle the steer, so large that he must be bigger than a house! The instinct is to touch, talk to, nurture, get IN TOUCH with these animals—to know them as “people”. And our farm is different, because the animals are not going to be eaten, bred, sold, sent off to auction or otherwise cast off. This knowledge offers both young and old a security that is hard to find nowadays. It’s a promise I give to the animals and to the people who love them – that the residents at the Sanctuary will be cared for in the best possible way and with the most love, until it is their time to pass away. But I can’t offer that assurance without your help! Your tax-deductible donation of $25, $50, $100 or even more will go a long way to care for the animals on the farm.
This past year we’ve welcomed a number of new animals, some of whom have required quite a bit of rehabilitation. The most dramatic and emotional rescue this year was that of Kimiko, a sheep who was severely abused and seized by animal control, and brought here to recover and life a good life.
Then Melvin the rooster simply showed up one day– volunteer Carlos found him loitering behind the compost pile looking like he’d been chewed up by something. It has taken him about 8 months to full grow back his beautiful feathers, but he is now the man about town and welcomes visitors with his dance. Roosters Bobby and Billy Bob were rescued from a crack house, and ShibShib the baby bunny was found abandoned in a dirty cage in a dog park. And these are just a few of the stories.
Many years ago I went to a class on “how to be a first time horse owner” and I was much struck by the first concept they taught us: “Love is not enough.”
What drives me to take in unwanted and abused animals, and what inspires both young and old to volunteer at the farm is surely love – but love nearly always gives us more than we bargained for! This is where learning and dedication come in. I feel very proud that I am able to share the lesson of responsibility and “love in deed” to the children who come to this farm. They learn that love is not just a feeling.
Animals have to be fed every day, no matter what the weather, one’s mood, or other tempting activities; they need to be cleaned up after…all the time; they like cleanliness, and as I say to new recruits, “if you wouldn’t drink out of that water trough yourself, it’s not clean enough!” The young people experience “gross” in 3D technicolor, and they know it has to be gotten over, like, ‘right now dude’. With all the laughing, the gentle holding of the small animals and the navigation amongst the highly socialized and affectionate large animals, this is actually serious business. Life lessons. I have watched dozens of kids grow up into simply amazing human beings who know how to work and have true compassion for other beings.
More than once I’ve heard volunteers and visitors alike say that this is their “happy place”. The young people who come every Saturday not only befriend but learn to care for the animals. They know all about the animals’ histories, and tell tales of the animals’ various exploits (most especially the goats’!) with great hilarity. And taking part in the animals’ healing process gives them a sense of hope and power, that, I hope, will stay with them all their lives.
While our most visible activities are here on the farm, in fact, Star Gazing Farm also regularly helps in placing animals in need at other farms (sadly, we cannot take them all). The professional shearing work I do at over 175 farms in the region gives me fantastic opportunities to network with other, responsible farmers and I’ve located wonderful homes for animals through this work. I receive calls and emails almost every day asking for help in placing unwanted animals. It’s so sad. One such case was Coco, a neglected sheep who had not been shorn in over three years (sheep must be shorn every year for their health!); I removed a fleece weighing nearly 30 pounds! Now Coco lives happily at a beautiful farm in Dickerson, MD.
You know, there are sometimes very painful things involved in working with animals, especially those who have been mistreated or are ill. However, there is a much larger measure of awe and happiness in seeing them recover.
Beloved Bello the horse has been suffering from a rare bladder disease the last few months and has made several trips to the equine hospital in Leesburg, VA. I have learned how to administer intravenous sedation and perform the necessary lavage treatment at home with the excellent help of volunteers (who all are going to be awarded honorary nurse hats). And Bello is gradually ridding his body of the toxins. But such treatment is costly. Your donations go directly to help pay for this type of high-quality medical care of the animals. And not only are you helping the animals’ health, but you are contributing to the learning process of the youth who, rather than being sheltered from this reality, are brought right into it and educated. You would be amazed at the maturity of the kids who work at the farm!
We had to say some truly sad goodbyes this year; we lost Burrito the 16 year old feisty old lady goat, and Rafael the rooster, our long-time resident who often lived inside the house. I miss his morning crowings! We also lost our sweet ducks Gerri and Daisy. Just as you never forget your beloved pets, ours also remain with us always in our hearts. If you would care to make a donation in memorium of any of our animals – or in memory of one of your own who has passed, we will apply your donation to our hospice care/funeral fund.
We are so close to getting the new barn! We owe much gratitude to everyone who has donated so generously for this extremely important addition to the farm’s infrastructure. Drainage has been established, barn pad expanded and leveled, new water hydrants and electricity trenched and run to the site. We are only $2,000 short of our goal. So close! With your donation of $25, $50, $100 (or for your name on a barn plaque, $500) you can help us realize this dream!
We thank all of you who have so generously given to the farm in the past, and during this holiday season we ask you once again to please remember us in your end of year giving plans. It’s your donations that feed the animals, support the youth programs, pay veterinarians, farriers, and hay suppliers, and ensure that our sanctuary animals have a continued, secure future. Although we work with the local animal control agencies, taking in and helping to place the unwanted and abused farm animals in their care, we receive no government funds or grant monies and so rely entirely on donations to help the animals.
For the animals,
Anne E. Shroeder (Farmer Anne)
P.S. The Sanctuary needs your support! Won’t you send your tax-deductible donation of $25, $50, or even $100 today? Thank you.