During the entire month of September, one animal will have an opportunity each day to persuade y0u that he/she is the ONE you want to sponsor, and come to visit.
We’ll post a new animal in the spotlight on our front page every day, and will also post on our Facebook page.
It can be as simple as an honorary stipend given to that animal for his/her feed and care. You receive a lovely packet with biographical information and photos. It can also mean establishing a relationship with your animal where you come to visit, bring treats, groom, and have deep and long conversations.
In addition to holding informal Saturday visits at the farm(every Saturday between 10 and 2), we will be out and about this month! Sunday, September 23 from 11-2 we’ll be at the Bark! in Kentlands. Come on out and schmooze with our woolly friends.
Check our Facebook page daily to read stories and anecdotes about the animals available nowhere else!
My dog Sullivan is a big black lab mixed with something. He’s a good dog but he has a few problems; mostly, he’s old. There seems to be a lot of that going around these days. And being old, he doesn’t always get a lot of warning when he has to poop. A few weeks ago he made it just outside the dog door and pooped on the welcome mat. Then it rained. The mat is ridged and so while poop pickup was not particularly convenient even with the nicely formed specimen, once it rained, of course, the poop became a fecal splat, deeply ingrained in the ridges of the mat. This was now a Project. The hose hookup at the house is not completely functional and last I checked, someone had scavenged the hose and used it elsewhere on the farm. So the pile stayed there.
Every day since that poop was deposited on my front step I managed to navigate around it. Folks coming to help do morning and evening feedings entered the front door and also navigated around it. With recent rains it increased its real estate and someone, most likely Sullivan, walked through it and spread it onto the concrete steps as well. Nothing that a good hosing down with some soap would not fix. But that required locating a hose, dragging it through an elderberry-filled jungle of the front yard, hooking it up to the somewhat crooked spigot, getting all the kinks out of the house, and actually washing it down. At most a 15 minute task. Instead of doing this, I and everyone else entering the house continued to walk around the pile. The accumulated energy of actively ignoring that pile was probably enough to scrub and repaint the front steps and put up window boxes. But so many of our piles are like that, aren’t they. And I still don’t have window boxes.
Some people clear their piles the moment they appear. I think these people are almost certainly descendants of aliens. They probably also don’t need coffee in the morning. Me — I seem to be a magnet for piles. I don’t ordinarily leave dog poop in my midst, I’ll admit, but I always seem to have an inordinate share of other Life Piles: laundry, overdue library books, bills, boxes for recycling, bags of chicken feed, veterinary detritus, duct tape, and, of course, Sullivan’s occasional indiscretions on the front porch.
Eventually I did locate a hose. I waded through the tangle of the front yard, hooked the hose up, and, with admittedly a great deal of cursing, worked out all the kinks so it would spurt water. I cleaned the heck out of that front porch. It felt good. I then went on to vacuum the house, do four loads of laundry, wash windows, clear the kitchen table of bills and dog biscuits and old tools, pay bills, check email, and generally become frighteningly efficient. For a few hours.
Now I’m back to normal, thank goodness. Sullivan continues to poop on the front porch when his old man intestines tell him to, but that’s OK. I’ve figured out that I don’t have to turn into superwoman to have a porch that people can walk on without fear of icky shoes. I’ve also been giving Sullivan a lot more hugs lately. He’s really old and he has bad breath but his ears are so silky and his head so regal and fine, and he follows me everywhere I go in the house, just to be close. He is a bit dotty, and sometimes forgets where he was going. He stands in the hallway and blocks traffic, and looks in wonderment at all the humans streaming around him, so busy busy busy all the time. His appetite is waning, but he has developed a taste for McDonald’s breakfast biscuits. He has some trouble getting up and down, but he still chooses the softest dog beds in the house. He doesn’t bark much anymore, and I rather miss that loud acknowledgement, but he still goes out to the front porch to greet me every time I get home. And if I have to clean up a pile or two in exchange for all that, well … hand me the hose.
It’s gorgeous. It looks, smells, and feels like dirt but it’s fully composted and aged manure all from our sanctuary animals, mixed with straw bedding and hay. And it’s come from happy, healthy animals.
Pickup Saturdays between 9 am and 2 pm, or by appointment (please email firstname.lastname@example.org). Bring a pickup truck, trailer, or heavy duty compost bags or buckets.
We do not charge for this wonderful composted manure and you can take as much as you like; however, if you are able to make a donation to the farm, we would greatly appreciate it – these donations not only help pay for food for the animals, but they help us maintain our tractor which is how we are able to give you such great compost!
Reports back from gardeners say that this stuff is magic.
We have both fully composted and hot piles (and everything in between).
Catalyst Compost: SMOKIN’! If you need hot manure to get your own compost pile cooking fast, you should bring tins or heat-proof cannisters. This stuff will get your compost broken down much faster, and will add vital nutrients.
Magic Mountains of Manure: 100% composted manure, multi-flavored: gifts from cows, goats, sheep, horses, and a variety of fowl, plus straw and hay, all cooked, regularly turned, and ready to go. Can be put directly on working gardens and lawns.
Note: we are not “organic”, but we do not use pesticides or any kind of chemicals on the property. All animals are free range, happy, and healthy, and their primary diet is orchard grass, timothy hay, grain, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
We invite you to come and take as much as you want, as many loads as you want.
Our annual letter is now ready for your reading pleasure! Meet all of the new animals at the farm and learn about all the activities from this past year. We hope you’ll be inspired to become a farm supporter, or to renew your commitment to helping our animals! [read newsletter PDF]
We wish to thank the following:
Your support is invaluable to the farm!
At our July Farm Tour, we held an animal sponsorship challenge: to try to get every single animal on the farm with a sponsorship from someone special. Thank you so much to those who chose your special guy or gal! We are posting the unclaimed sponsorships on our Facebook page daily, but you can catch up here to see who still needs a sponsor!
It can be as simple as an honorary stipend given to that animal for his/her feed and care. You receive a lovely packet with biographical information and photos. It can also mean establishing a relationship with your animal where you come to visit, bring treats, groom, and have deep and long conversations.
Check our Facebook page daily to read stories and anecdotes about the animals available nowhere else!
Laila has been here for so many years now. She was rescued, half starved, from the lake at the Rio in Gaithersburg, MD. She has had three boyfriends over the years who have passed away – 2 of old age and one of a predator attack that was terribly sad. She tried for nearly 10 years to hatch out an egg (one solitary egg), and every year, after about a month, the egg would disappear. This past spring she finally succeeded and produced a beautiful baby named Louise. We are not entirely sure it was her egg – but we aren’t telling her that, and hope you won’t, either. She has been a ferociously protective mom. She’s a sweet goose and never tries to attack car tires or visitors. Her sponsorship is only $25. Would you like to help Laila?
Today’s Lonely Guy is Bob the Bunny. Bob was found in a carrier in a park with dogs running around. Someone had attached a note to the carrier “I need a new home.” Well, that was their loss because Bob is a big time cutie.
He’s partnered with Cinnamon the guinea pig and best friend to form the dynamic duo, and they have travelled with me to do outreach and educational programs.
Confession: I used to call him “Bob the Slob” but in recent months he has cleaned up his act, so we won’t mention that to him, OK?
Bob has not had a sponsor take a fancy to him in a long time. His sponsorship is $50.
Today, Miss Maria Christina the cat is asking for sponsorship. She often gets overlooked, because she is shy and tends to hide when visitors are here. However, she’s very affectionate with those she knows, especially Tigba the dog.
Maria and her sister Evelyn went through kind of a rough patch earlier in the year, and they were fighting every day. It seems like Maria was usually the loser. Whatever it was, they have worked through their problems, however.
Maria is an indoor/outdoor cat. She comes in through the dog door, and sometimes up from the crawl space underneath the bathtub (yes, we need a new bathroom ….). She knows that every night around 6 pm the wet food gets opened up so that is the best time to catch her if you wanted to have a word with her! Her sponsorship is only $50 (and yes, more than one person can sponsor this cutie).
Hello, hello, hello, it’s day 4 of “OMG no one sponsored me at the farm tour!” And today’s special fella is Madison the sheep. Yes, he knows he has a girls’ name. But he’s named after the city of Madison which is named after the very venerable James Madison and that is good enough for him!
Madison is a wonderful sheep. He loves getting and giving hugs, and he loves sniffing people’s faces to say hello. He is FOURTEEN YEARS OLD which is very old for a sheep, but he does not act it in the least. He is an active member of the “Greedy Gums Gang” – a group whose business it is to follow humans who are carrying food and pester the heck out of them.
Sadly, over the years, Madison has not had many sponsors at all. He said he is tired of being a wallflower. He is such a goofy guy (at 200+ pounds, he still does the pogo-stick jumping around on all fours like a lamb). He’d love to have some special people come to visit him so he can snort in their faces and steal their cookies. He came here when he was just a baby and here are some rarely seen childhood photos of him! It costs just $75 to sponsor him and this will help with not only all the cookies he loves so dearly, but his much needed hay.
Day 5 of the special animal who was forgotten to be sponsored at our farm tour: Gruff the sheep. I will never forget the first time I saw Gruff. He was just a little lamb (hard to imagine now, as he more resembles a linebacker). He was so darling and had beautiful markings on him, and he was climbing and jumping all over everything. My kind of sheep: gets himself into trouble all the time! The owner said, “Oh, I think he is so ugly. I’m going to send him to the market.” I gasped, thinking, how could you be so blind? This is a smart and beautiful sheep! So …. Gruff came to live here. On the way home in the truck, he cried half the time (missing his mama from whom he’d recently been weaned), and leaned his head on my shoulder the rest. He’s a bit like a woolly bear, and wow, he is hard to shear (e.g. very uncooperative). He also loves to follow anyone around who might have cookies or feed in hand. Like Madison, for some reason he has not been sponsored for a long, long time. But he is SO friendly and would love to have special visitors.
ANNNNDDDD….. It’s day 6, another chance to sponsor one of our amazing animals. Today’s cutie pie is Sullivan the dog. He looks like a black lab, but we think he might also have some Irish Wolfhound in him. One of these days we’d love to get a DNA test done on him!
Sullivan was running loose in Fairfax, not a care in the world, but infested with fleas and other bugaboos so animal control picked him up and got him presentable. And indeed, his handsome face and gentlemanly demeanor caught us hook, line and sinker. Because he is partly bald on his behind, some potential adopters said he was “too ugly” for them to adopt him. Can you imagine!? He was at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter two months before we were lucky enough to find him. And we think he’s gorgeous.
He’s an old guy – probably around 14. He has a little trouble getting up and down sometimes, but otherwise loves to run around on the farm, rub his face all over visitors, and sleep in the comfiest of beds. Sullivan is what I’d call a “sticky dog”. If anyone is looking for me, all they need to do is locate Sully!
He has some very funny habits. When I (or someone he knows) is coming up the driveway, he barks loudly and incessantly until we go right up to him. He does not do the same for burglars. When he runs, his soft ears flap up and down and look sort of like the Flying Nun.
His past is a mystery, but he gets along very well with all the farm animals and persuades all return visitors to the farm to bring him cookies.
Nicknames: Sully, Sully-Van-Man, Silly Sully
You can sponsor this handsome guy for $100. He would love to get visitors all his own, too. www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Our special animal today is Senna the alpaca. Senna is 20 years old – that is quite old for a camelid. She is an especially small alpaca, and she had a heck of a bad time before she came here. She was locked in the basement of a barn and never got to graze outside. The first day she arrived here with her friends, they went running up and down the hills in a happy dance.
She’s so sweet and gentle, and both Marguerite the alpaca and Louisa the llama are always looking out for her. She has been having trouble keeping weight on the past few months, so we’ve been hand-feeding her a special mash full of calories, which she LOVES.
Other things that Senna loves are: rolling in the dust and taking sunbaths, getting sprayed with the water hose when it’s hot out, soft molasses cookies, and being talked to gently. She’s not too much into hugging and kissing – but that’s an alpaca thing, don’t you know.
You can sponsor this sweet, gentle being for $100 here: http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Today our special one is …. the incredible, the amazingly cute, the tiniest of tinies … Cinnamon the guinea pig!
Cinnamon came to us from a dear, dear old friend who was going through a painful and difficult life change. We were so glad to be able to help both of them out.
And who knew that a few ounces of a being could have so much personality. Little Cinnamon loves to be held right under your chin and to snuggle. She also loves to have her chin scratched – it will put her into a trance. She also loves to hide in the hay. She and Bob are best friends – it’s an odd combination, but Bob is a small and gentle rabbit and they share their hay together in quiet companionship.
You can sponsor Cinnamon for just $50. This will help pay for her special food, her vitamin C, her litter, and her trips to the vet. http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
George came to us with a group of his friends when his owner, who had rescued all of them from very bad circumstances, lost her farm.
George has been a popular guy. Maybe that is because he greets all the incoming vehicles. Sometimes he gets overly friendly with the vehicles. Sometimes he gets overly friendly with their drivers. And, sometimes he just bites them.
George is a guard goose. He has been battling with Louie for over a year now as to who is the top dog in the goose game. Can anyone say testosterone overload? At any rate, George does a good job of protecting the farm from marauding 11 year olds.
He’s a handsome guy, but wow does he eat a lot, so he is in need of a sponsor to help his corn habit.
You can sponsor this son of a gun for only $25 here: http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Day Ten of our sponsorship drive brings us Tigger the cat! Tigger has not been sponsored in a while and he surely would like someone to consider him as special as we do. He is an extremely beautiful cat, and while his original name “Tigger the Mouser” was a nice thought, he is more of a “Tigger the Napper”.
He came from a large cattle farm where mom WAS a big time mouser and so left him to his own devices. His own devices meant putting a spell on Farmer Anne with his kitten eyes. In a trance, she somehow ended up with him on her lap as she drove home. He’s a big cat and finds the darndest places to nap, too!
You can sponsor this handsome feline for only $50 which means getting a very fine sponsorship package where you can read all about him receive a frameable photo, and you can also come to visit this dandy guy. http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Day 11 of ‘share the love and sponsor an animal’ bring us to: Leo and Ernie, the most amiable and wonderful Boer goats you’ll ever come across. These two boyos had a very bad encounter with some German Shepherds and got all torn up (and Ernie lost part of his ear). After a stint in the hospital where they got stitched up, they came here to be safe. At first, they wondered about our big white fluffy dogs and showed some worry, but now they realized that Henry, Nicole and Sam are on their side!
I have to say that although they’ve only been here about 6 weeks, they fit RIGHT IN with all the other goatiness that goes on here. Leo has taken a tour of the house several times, and the inside of the truck holds a magical fascination for them, making unloading groceries a near impossibility (without losing some of those groceries to goats, that is). Leo is a gentle giant, weighing in at probably about 180, and Ernie is a smaller fellow with a special sweetness – but don’t be fooled, he is still a GOAT and will rob your pockets of anything tasty the minute your attention is elsewhere.
You can sponsor both of these guys together for just $75. http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Day 12 of our share the love campaign brings us the lovely, lonely Mae West. Mae was so bonded to her old man friend Juancito that when he passed of old age, she really didn’t know what to do. She does enjoy being petted and groomed, but more than anything in the world, she wants to find another soul mate. “A boy”, she said, “I like boys.”
Mae had been abandoned by her former owner at the Montgomery County animal shelter, where we scooped her up out of harm’s way (they were 100% full and that is not a good thing ….) and brought her to live with and love Juancito. She is still a relatively young rabbit, and while running about and exploring is “OK”, she says, she’d rather have a cuddle buddy. We are currently looking for a male rabbit in need (who is neutered) to introduce her to.
You can sponsor this dear girl for $50 here: http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Continuing with our sponsorship ‘share a little love’ campaign, today we are meeting Marguerite. Her original name was something very silly but we gave her the name of a beautiful flower in the hopes that she could be nourished and brought back to life here at this farm. She, Senna, and her mother Delphine (now deceased) were living – if you can call it that – imprisoned in the basement of a dank, old barn. No bedding, but lots of rebar sticking up, concrete floors, and no sunlight. She was only 2 years old at the time, and we are grateful that the lack of vitamin D did not affect her growth at all.
She is a very funny alpaca – if she sees something she is unsure about, she curves her neck down and charges forward like a donkey. She routinely chases Maria the cat for reasons I cannot explain. She will take cookies out of my hand, but, ordinarily, will not stoop to be petted. Marguerite is extremely protective of Senna, so when we are doing shots and hoof trims, she hums and circles and warns us that we’d better not do anything bad to her old Auntie.
I hope that she no longer remembers the horror she lived through in her early life – she has a free and happy life here, where she can run up and down the fields, roll around in the dust, take sun baths, and eat fresh grass whenever she wants. Would you like to sponsor Marguerite? It’s $100 for a one year sponsorship: http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Angel is our girl today! Angel is a beautiful Jacob sheep – sometimes they have four horns, but Angel sports just two. People often mistake her for a goat which she finds hilarious. Angel is petite but full of personality. She was raised in someone’s kitchen and believes she should still live inside the house (and every morning and evening bangs on the back door just to emphasize the point). She came to us because her owner had fallen on hard times and didn’t have enough money to feed her – so Angel was quite skinny when she arrived ….. she does not have that problem anymore!
She truly enjoys going out on the town, and frequently goes to outreach and fundraising events with us where she talks to people about the farm.
She loves Susan, one of our volunteers, and every single time runs after her car down to the gate when Susan is leaving, begging for just one more cookie and head scratch.
You may well meet Angel out and about one of these days! But if you’d like to sponsor her, she would love that and will be glad to hang out with you when you come to visit. Her sponsorship is $75 and can be done right here: http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Today you are going to get to know Tigba (or Ti-Legba “Ti” means little in Kreyol and Legba is one of the major gods in the Voudoun pantheon). She is Haitian. I found her in the street in Port-au-Prince nearly 14 years ago, a tiny starved creature who could only drag herself by her front legs because she had been run over. I had a meltdown in seeing her condition and the cruel way the people in the streets were trying to get her away from them – but then several amazing things took place that enabled me to bring her back to the states.
She’s now the queen of the castle. At home, she is territorial. She loves kids, she has a special bark and howl for Susan whom she adores, but in general she does not like or trust people she does not know (with the exception of those who bring very specific treats – you’ll have to ask her which ones those are). Out and about, she is Miss Charming so she goes to some of our outreach events. She’s also the bionic dog, having had orthopedic surgery on one back leg (that was completely broken in two) when she was just 2 months old, and then ACL surgery on the other leg a few years ago.
We’ve no idea what breed she is – I call her an “Island Dog” as so many of the dogs in Haiti and other Caribbean islands look like her. She is certainly a street dog at heart – a scrapper, but loyal to the core. She weighs only 40 pounds but dominates the 120 pound farm dogs with one sideways look.
Tigba is a character, a loving companion, and she says that she would never want to go back to city life – she loves the fields and the piles of manure, the muddy streams and the chickens. She is now a bit on the older side so she requires some regular health monitoring but aside from hypothyroidism, she is a pretty tough broad. Would you like to sponsor this little girl? The cost is $100 and can be done easily online here: http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
You can also read more about dogs in Haiti here: http://language-works.com/Haitidogs/
It’s our last day of the sponsorship drive “Share a little love” and our grand finale girl is Brandy. Brandy is a gorgeous Angus cow who was passed from home to home. It’s hard to believe now, but she was starving as a baby and was rescued by a kind lady who also had a sheep named Boo. Brand loved Boo so much. But when she went to her next home, she was separated from Boo; not too long after that Boo died. When Brandy came to Star Gazing Farm she looked as though she’d landed in heaven when she met all the sheep. She likes to eat right beside all the sheep at the trough, so we just call her the “big black sheep”.
Brandy also loves Bullwinkle and is extremely friendly to visitors. It’s amazing how gentle she is, given her extremely large girth. When she wants to play, she just rolls the 800 pound round bales around the farm.
Would you like to sponsor Miss Brandy? http://www.stargazingfarm.org/animals/sponsor-an-animal/
Every summer the Montgomery County Farm Tour brings hundreds of visitors to our farm. There are so many poignant moments, when people connect with animals in sometimes unexpected ways. It’s a beautiful (but hot!) event. Kids get their faces painted, adults sit and watch the roosters in the trees, the goats get into people’s belongings, and people go home with one-of-a-kind souvenirs from our farm, including sponsorships of an animal.
I have a confession to make. Well, it’s not really mine alone, but the incident is certainly a blight on my family’s reputation in the animal kingdom. When I was very young and already an avid animal lover, we had a cat named Fluffy. She was a Siamese and somewhat high strung. I loved Fluffy – I loved all animals, and I especially loved cats. Cats, cats, cats! But according to my parents, she scratched my face while I was sleeping. More than once. I remember not caring at all, an insouciance that has certainly carried through to the present day. But my parents were overprotective and they ‘got rid of her’. They probably didn’t use those words; at least I hope they didn’t. They told me she went to live on a farm somewhere…. I don’t think I bought that explanation, even then. They eventually replaced her with a sweet Calico cat named Alice who lived with us until she was 20 years old. All pets thenceforth were kept for their entire natural lives. I might have had something to do with that – I’m not sure – but I did develop a loud voice for animals early on in life.
To be fair, my parents were (Fluffy aside), in fact, real animal lovers: picking up strays, adopting from the shelter, donating often to animal causes, helping people out who had animals and could not take care of them. We had an epileptic black lab named Peppy whom they fished out of a dumpster when she was just a puppy, a deaf Irish Wolfhound named Daisy who only loved my father and had a peculiar look on her face her whole, strange, soundless life, and a dear, dear Great Dane named Orrie who, when she died of the bloat, took a piece of my mother’s soul with her. My folks gave great vet care to our animals and let our pets sleep in my bed (the real litmus test, I think!). I was an only child and I’m pretty sure our dogs and cats were my brothers and sisters. It was a good way to grow up. I’ve never understood why people feel they need to wait till their children are older to get pets. It’s not as though a 12 year old will contribute any more to the care of the animal than a 2 year old (no, seriously) – and why not get 10 years of extra furry snuggle time in there? Children who grow up with pets are usually much less likely to be afraid of animals, to develop a more robust immune system (think: where EXACTLY has that tongue been?….), and to experience a whole different realm of species interaction that enriches, amuses, and engenders compassion.
Amazingly, one of the top reasons cited for giving up an animal is “we’re going to have a baby.” Wow – shouldn’t it be the reverse? “Honey, let’s get a dog for our new baby so they can grow up together.” Those who work on the receiving end of unwanted animals (rescue groups, animal shelters, sanctuaries like Star Gazing Farm) hear many stunning reasons that people no longer want to have an animal in their lives anymore. On the hit parade: “we are moving”, “he sheds”, “we got a kitten and the older cat doesn’t like her”, “my kids aren’t interested anymore”, “we don’t have any time for him” , “my new boyfriend doesn’t like dogs”, “she’s getting too old”. Then there are the simply heartless ones like “we just bought a new sofa and he doesn’t match.” Yes, someone really said that.
Star Gazing Farm receives a large volume of requests every week to take in animals. Many times there is much sadness in this – people’s life circumstances have changed, and they do not want to part with their animals but cannot find any other solution. On the other hand, I get some emails that read like this: “we have some unwanted roosters – can we bring them to you today?” Oh dear, it makes one wonder just what those roosters did to find themselves out of favor …. Now, if we took every animal in, we’d soon be broke and living under the 14th street bridge. So, “no” is unhappily often the response. I try to talk with people about what is really going on. Sometimes it’s possible to help people figure out ways to solve the current issues with their animal – a sturdier fence, separating someone who is causing trouble, changing the diet, getting a companion for a lonely animal. But sometimes it’s a matter of illness, accident, home foreclosure, divorce, even domestic abuse in which case placements need to be found, sometimes quite quickly. Moreover, the local animal control agencies call us when they pick up strays or have seized farm animals in a cruelty case. Just as a bizarre fact, we got calls about 3 separate stray pigs last month. Pigs were apparently on the move.
It’s to be expected that there will always be a great shuffling around of animals and part of what my farm and so many animal groups do is to assist in these matters. I will say though … it really hurts my heart when I hear: “I need to get rid of my animals.”
I wish, at least, that people would change their language, for, surely, doesn’t language shape our thoughts? Instead of saying “I need to get rid of Fluffy”, how about:
The reality is the same: Fluffy has to go. But I do think the way we think about and verbally express this re-location of Fluffy matters. It may make the difference between placing Fluffy in a loving home or unwittingly letting her be sold to a lab, to be used in dog fight practices, or to be even more neglected than she was to begin with. ‘Getting rid’ of something implies worthlessness. And I very much doubt that Fluffy is worthless. None of them are worthless. If we could all work on the way we frame an unfortunate situation (animals are about to be parted from their human friends), we would not hurt our animals’ feelings quite so much.
For, they do, you know, understand. Just ask the animals at our farm.
It’s now spring and a beautiful time to come out to the country. Our animals love visitors, too.
Our volunteers have a lot of work to do now, and so we can only be open to the public a few times a month. Please check our events calendar for the next upcoming informal event days.
Photographer Amanda Clark has captured the character and spirit of our animals in her amazing album of black and white stills. You can enjoy the photos online, or order prints for your home. 50% of all print sales will be donated to Star Gazing Farm.
For those of us a bit up in years and knee-deep in the matters of bottle feeding lambs, shoveling manure, paying bills, and wondering where the next arthritic pain might arise, the romantic aspects of Valentine’s Day are pretty much lost on us. That’s not to say that we have an (albeit) murky memory of such things. And that we don’t applaud the incredible optimism of those who do find love before, after, around or merely on this day. And that we certainly wouldn’t eschew a box of chocolates or some flowers … But love takes on a different meaning for some of us, after all the kissing has been done.
That is to say that receiving a snort from a goat or a woolly greeting from a sheep now delights us just as much as Tall, Dark, and Handsome once did.
The other day I saw our alpaca Marguerite tearing down the driveway in pursuit of Nicole the Great Pyrenees who was desperately trying to get away from her. Marguerite swung her neck in absolute delight, “look Ma, no hands!” The unexpected gives me more joy than any night out at the movies ever did.
Let’s be honest here – ever since I found several dozen kindred souls at an “Anti-Valentine’s Day” party, where there was a Cupid piñata and a 4 hour playlist that included such hits as “Love Stinks” and “Tainted Love”, I’ve had a different appreciation for this day. And I assiduously avoid it. Until now.
This year I just have the feeling that everyone might benefit from indulging in a few mushy feelings. Forget and wine and roses: let’s talk about animals.
Raise your hands, now – how many of you actually can’t get to sleep at night until your dog or cat is snugly in bed with you? How many of you have had to toss your partner onto the couch because “there are too many bodies for this bed”? Who among you would rather hang out with your friends’ pets at a party than try to meet new folks? I thought so. So take it up a notch or three and you might just land on a farm.
Over time the house has hosted (sometime inadvertently) goats, sheep, turkeys, roosters, rabbits, and a pig – not to mention a host of wild creatures who make their way inside, sometimes on the feline express. While this would not really put us in the running for “House Beautiful”, it’s a good way to live. We like each other’s company and while we all had different parents, we can all agree on one thing: we find deep meaning in cookies (except Gruff the sheep who is obviously very confused about life). Every evening there are knocks on the back door – first from Dee Dee Donkey who slams it with her front hooves, then Angel the sheep who head-butts it . Then eventually I hear the gathering sounds of the dinner crowd: Waldo the pig grunting, baaing, mooing, barking, and the occasional swear word. Mostly they want cookies. Molasses cookies, ginger snaps, Fig Newtons (but not the generic: brand name only, please!). I think I can speak for everyone in saying that there can never be too many cookies in life.
Now, some more organized farmers may find our methods here alarming – not the cookies; all sensible farmers know the value of cookies – but the fact that all the animal species live together as one big group. Our guys: they love it. The different opinions provide an endless source of conversation, and they’ve all somehow, some way, worked out ways to get along. Afternoons during naptime, if I’m not having my own lie-down (clarification: this is an age-old civilized European tradition and has nothing to do with being, feeling, or looking a bit worse for wear), I will find the animals sacked out together: Mehitabel the donkey in “her” spot (and don’t mess with her spot), Newman Goat and Dee Dee Donkey quietly discussing the BBC news in the corner, Rachel, Bart, and Madison the sheep lined up against the back wall, Louisa the llama, and Waldo the pig, with Mr. Pickles the rooster sitting on his rotund form.
I can’t explain it, and I don’t want to even try. It just is. And it’s beautiful. And it speaks volumes of love, tolerance, acceptance, and a willingness to just get along.
So this Valentine’s Day I’d like to ask you to show your love to the animals. Don’t bother with the chocolate (unless it’s European and involves hazelnuts). Leave the flowers where they are growing. Instead, participate in the joy of this funny little, humble farm in Boyds, Maryland. Whether you visit in person or remotely through words and pictures, I think you can grab (wait now ….) some good, positive feelings, straighten out your mood for the day, let the bad news in the world roll off your back; know that there is a group of animals here who hold out for peace. We shall always strive to be a peaceable kingdom. Won’t you join us?
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.“
—Isaiah 11: 6-7
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As a lover of language, I frequently get my panties in a twist when words are appropriated and used for purposes other than their intent, linguistic origin disrespected. I recognize deep curmudgeonly tendencies in my reactionism. Be that as it may, sometimes upon deeper examination of some words (except the word “impact” used as a verb which I will vehemently battle till the end of my days), I often find an interesting meandering path of vocabulary evolution. To wit, I’ve been recently pondering the word “concierge”. Think about this word for a moment – doesn’t it connote elegance, style, protection, a luxury apartment building in, say, the 16th arrondissement in Paris? A handsome gentleman wearing a gold-braided uniform welcoming you with “Bonjour madame”…. Sigh. Now, in recent years the word has been usurped by the medical profession which has coined the “Concierge doctors”, an utterly irritating misuse of this term. But I digress.
The truth is that the word concierge comes from the Latin conservus (“fellow slave”) which puts an entirely different light on the whole thing, don’t you think? But that is one of those strange, byzantine paths of language whereby the original meaning is entirely turned around. For concierges, contrary to being enslaved, are Gods in their own little worlds.
Hélas, I have little experience with the 16th arronidissment of Paris, but I lived in Cairo for a year back in my youth, and there were concierges everywhere. We learned to fear and respect these guys; I’m convinced they and the taxi drivers ran the entire city. In Cairo the concierges are called “bawwaab” (bawwaabi, plural, and you’d better think of them in the plural since the vast majority of Cairo residences housing some 7 million people are apartment buildings and them’s a lot of bawwaabis).
Bawwaab البواب means literally “he of the door” or the “door doer” or more concisely, “gatekeeper”. Being a bawwaab is a pearl of a job. First of all, you get a place to live. That’s a big deal. Second, bawwaabis know everything, and I mean everything, about their tenants. Want to sneak in a lover, a quart of liquor, or have a new television installed? Got to go through the bawaab. If he doesn’t want your lover or liquor or TV to pass through his doors, guess what.
These guys (and they are guys) usually have a room right off the entrance of the building, or sometimes an apartment in the basement – but in my experience, they mostly hang out on cots right near the front door 24/7. Protecting their throne. They are more effective than security cameras.
Now, I suspect that had I better understood the art of baksheesh بقشيش (“tip” – we will not refer to the word “bribe” as it would be indelicate) I might have found navigating Cairo a bit less tedious. Some of my male friends lived in an apartment building with not one, but two bawwaabis, one of them enormous and frightening. Phones in Cairo were not in abundance in those days (I was lucky enough to have one, but I had to shake it up and down several times before getting a dial tone), and any attempts to go up to my friends’ flat even for a brief word were blocked, physically and, perhaps more importantly, morally by this impressive man. Strangely, though, there was a riotous New year’s Eve party at their apartment that I never could figure out – replete with music blasting from the Romantics, large quantities of bad beer, and at least a dozen females, it was a recipe for infidel cavorting. I strongly suspect heavy baksheesh was involved.
Things are honestly not so different here in Boyds (minus the New Year’s parties). My farm has a few bawwaabi and I can tell you, they are worth their weight in gold. I think the US should adopt this form of social monitoring and we would all live cleaner lives.
At my farm, no one gets in or out without my bawwabis’ notice. They alternately walk the perimeter and sit up front watching the farm’s comings and goings at all times. They are not named Abdul or Samir or Hassan – they are Nicole and Henry and Sam, though Sam is not sure it’s entirely his job and sometimes goes up to the neighbors to indulge in a bit of Vodka and pickles (we’re an international crowd out here).
These are working dogs. Livestock guardian dogs. Big, white, fluffy, smiling, cute, huggable, and utterly lethal to predators. Travel anywhere in farmland and you will see these big white dogs dotting the countryside. Laying down. Taking a sunbath. Stretched out and utterly relaxed. On vacation. “My God, they’re all asleep at the wheel”, a casual observer might say. You of little faith, you have not seen a slumbering LGD rise up in a millisecond to address an issue with tiger-like ferocity. Beware, ye foxes and skunks and groundhogs and uninvited UPS trucks. These dogs have no interest in humans they do not know, other than their ability to dole out treats (baksheesh, anyone?). Unless a human were to enter the property sporting a shotgun or evil intent, the dogs could not be less curious. This has led to great frustration on the part of those visitors who desperately want to pet the big white fluffy cute huggable dogs. But when it comes to keeping animals out who might harm their chickens or ducks or sheep or goats or alpcas or horses or emus or any other creature that is tasty to a carnivore,they transcend the cute and show who they really are: fierce protectors.
There has been a lot of talk in our nation recently about working class people. I am working class, and so are my dogs. I feel no more enslaved to work than they do, although I have heard some say it is, indeed, as the Latin would have us believe, slavery to make an animal work. “How can you enslave an animal so?” I counter with, and what would you have them do? Ignore thousands of years of genetics, instincts and primitive knowledge and make them sit on the couch with you to watch NCIS? There are leisure dogs (there are 2, in fact, residing inside my house) who quite like NCIS. But a true working dog whose every molecule is programmed to do a specific thing is ill suited to the domestic life. Work is a biological imperative. Border collies herd. If they are not given sheep, they round up the neighborhood kids. Hounds, alas, are hunting dogs and if they are not out with Guys with Guns, then they work on eliminating the neighborhood’s squirrel population. Livestock guardian dogs are concierge dogs. They are the bawwaabis of the farming world. They live to watch, listen, and protect.
But here is the thing. Late at night, where in the darkness all I can see are white dogs like spotlights gracefully moving about, things change. Night softens the shadows and the quiet brings into relief natures’ sounds. Ancient as great white wolves, these dogs circle each other , leap up, bumping each other, snorting and grunting and growling with pleasure. First one starts, and then the next, and they twist and turn, smile and snap, splay paws on the ground and jump to the side, asking me to do the same. Once, just once, Sam lets out a long, heart-wrenching, high-pitched howl. I twist my torso around one way and the next, inelegantly following them, and under the cold December moon I am allowed to join the White Dog Night Dance. They are no longer bawwabis, and I am no longer just a farmer.
‘Till next time,
“To run with the wolf was to run in the shadows, the dark ray of life, survival and instinct. A fierceness that was both proud and lonely, a tearing, a howling, a hunger and thirst. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst. A strength that would die fighting, kicking, screaming, that wouldn’t stop until the last breath had been wrung from its body. The will to take one’s place in the world. To say ‘I am here.’ To say ‘I am.’”
― O.R. Melling
“His arrival detonated two sheepdogs that began barking even before they emerged at a dead run from behind the garage.”
― Anita Shreve
Need to contact us about a visit?
In order to make your visit as memorable as possible we ask that you review our recommendations before making your trip.
We have informal visiting hours every Saturday from 10am-2pm, and formal events three times a year. If you are planning on dropping by on an unscheduled (informal) day, please just let us know you’re coming; we are working on Saturdays and need to plan for a tour guide for you. Please note: there are no unsupervised visits.
There is no cost to visit the farm. However, we greatly appreciate a donation, since donations is how we pay for feeding and caring for the animals.
There is a gate into the farm; please close it behind you so the animals stay inside the farm. Once inside, please feel free to park in front of the house in the areas indicated by the red arrows. Mr. Newman Goat-only parking is in the rear of the home, and he prefers to leave that space open for hay deliveries.
We welcome family visits, as we believe learning about the farm animals is a great educational experience for both young and old. Parents must stay with their children at all times.
Please leave all pets at home. If you need to bring a service animal please contact us first, as we have Guardian animals on the farm.
The animals love apples, bananas, lettuce, and other healthy treats like fig newtons. If you’d like to bring treats for the animals, please take them into the farm office first to be sorted. We monitor what the animals eat every day. If you wish to bring your own snack, please consume it in the designated visitor areas and do not bring any food into the barnyard.
Please feel free to take lots of photos! We love seeing the farm through your eyes, and your happy faces are our happy memories.
Please go to www.stargazingfarm.org/directions for detailed directions. We are approximately 6 miles away from Route 270, Germantown exit.
You visit the farm at your own risk. By visiting the farm you agree to the following:
I hereby acknowledge and assume the risk of participation in any and all animal related activities at SGF or in any and all locations where SGF activities take place. I hereby acknowledge that I will release, Star Gazing Farm, Inc., its officers, staff members, volunteers, instructors, advisors, and/or agents in any location where animal related activities are conducted or animals and/or property are used, of and from all claims which may hereafter develop or accrue to them on account of injury, loss or damage, which may be suffered by said minor or to any property, because of any matter, thing, or condition, negligence or default whatsoever, and they hereby assume and accept the full risk and danger of any hurt, injury or damage which may occur through or by reason of any matter, thing or condition, negligence or default, or any person or persons whatsoever.
We offer community service learning hours to young people in the Montgomery County school system! Volunteers must be at least 11 years of age. Volunteer Application Form.