“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

A Children’s True Fable: 1818 Farms

The Fable Part
Once upon a time there was a little boy, about seven years old, who went to a petting zoo with his mother. As soon as he looked into the faces of the Southdown Babydoll lambs, he knew his destiny. So he said to his mother and father, “Mom and dad, I want to have sheep like those.”
His mother and father, Natasha and Laurence McCrary, answered him, “Well, son, we’ll just have to see about that idea. What would we do with them? Where would we keep them? How would we care for them?”
Well, Gamble McCrary, the little boy, had an answer for that. “If we got some Babydoll sheep, we could sell the wool and the manure. We could charge photographers for taking their pictures,  rent them out for Nativity scenes, and sell tickets to see them.”
Then his mother got to thinking. “We live in this quiet historic village of Mooresville, Alabama, with lots of land around it, so maybe having a couple of lambs, maybe a few chickens, a nice garden where I could grow lavender would work; it might teach the children things like responsibility and give our family a project we could do together.”
The True Part
While that conversation might be made up, it’s close to what really happened. They all got their wishes -- 1818 Farms was born and began taking on a life of its own.
And, wow, what a life it has become in less than two years after the spark lit the idea in Gamble’s imagination: First came the Babydoll sheep and some exotic chickens that would later lay pretty eggs the Easter Bunny might bring, and several cute pygmy goats that had to be bottle fed at first. 
1818 Farms eggs

Well, these adorable creatures had to be protected from mean predators like coyotes that live in the open fields and woods along the Tennessee River where Mooresville sits; that called for a guard dog, a Great Pyrenees named Kroaker, also adorable, who flew from California, where he had never met a thunder storm but, in Alabama, had to face them by jumping in people’s laps for safety. On sunny days the cute goats loved sitting on Kroaker’s back for fun. After that, a Great Pyrenees puppy was needed for Kroaker to mentor to become the next generation of a working guard dog, so the family had to travel to south Alabama for Justice. What a cute puppy! The next trip was to Tennessee for these really cute chicks that would grow up to lay gorgeous eggs. Then it occurred to everyone they needed barn cats, so they went in search of adorable kittens that would grow up with the chicks so all would live in harmony. But the first crisis occurred: a couple of the lambs got sick, including Buttercup, whom you can meet later in a video. Serious medical attention was called for, and everyone rose to the need, which included inserting medicines into certain orifices we’ll skip over. Soon came the first eggs – a pink one and a blue one. Last fall Cupcake arrived, a pot-bellied piglet who loved to climb on Justice’s back and loves to get her stomach rubbed.
While this peaceful kingdom called 1818 Farms kept growing, reality often intruded. Buildings had to be built, fences erected, lavender and vegetables planted; 1818 Farms lip balm, bath teas, gift baskets, and other products had to be made. T-shirts had to be ordered, a Web site developed, parties planned, manure cleaned from the stalls, winter coats made for the baby goats who weren’t used to such cold weather. Birthday parties and storytime events had to be scheduled. And the Italian crystal chandelier had to be hung in the Garden House where bridal lunches can be held.
I watched 1818 Farms become real vicariously through e-mails and pictures from longtime-friend, Laurence’s mother. She pitched in and did her share as well, including designing the logo, administering medicine, and trimming hooves. I dreamed of getting up there to see it all, and my dream came true this past spring.

A Blackberry Winter Sheep Shearing
Under an April-bright cloudless sky on a Blackberry Winter day, the Hutts went to an exciting and, to us, unusual event: the 1818 Farms First Annual (2013) Sheep Shearing day. It was pronounced the “First Annual” at the end of the day because of the event’s maxiful (made up word) success.
Joanna Leigh wandered around taking pictures, petting Cupcake’s belly, trying to photograph Frosty, the small white fluffy chicken that lays little eggs of a pinkish tint (pictured right), patting the wooly faces of the Babydolls, and peeking into the chicken coop during the laying.
clip_image006Professional shearer Charlie Meeks, himself a sheep-farm owner, had a recent back injury from having been butted in the behind by a ram, so he served as emcee as shearer Jimmy Parker gently relieved each Babydoll of its wooly coat. Meeks prepared the crowd, particularly the kids, for seeing the Babydolls being sheared, being careful to explain that “nicks and cuts” do not hurt the sheep and that shearing means harvesting a natural product which turns into flax and then into sweaters and blankets.
Excitement built each time as the four Babydoll sheep, LuLu, Buttercup, Static, and Daisy, were summoned, prodded, and led to their very first “haircut.” The two Great Pyrenees Kroaker and Justice kept anxious eyes on their charges from their enclosure, as Parker gently tucked and held each in their turn against his legs and began the shearing, first around their tummies, then the legs, then those cute faces, and finally the backs. Their wool slid gently into piles under them; when each was patted on its behind to scoot off to their enclosure, Parker scooped up the valuable wool and passed it around; those who handled it felt the soothing lanolin on their hands. 

Shearer Jimmy Parker with Buttercup, below

The Happy Ending
And so the McCrary family’s hard work and determination created 1818 Farms, making their dream of a family project come true. People came from far and wide to this magical three acres to watch the cute animals romp, lay eggs, lie on their backs to get their stomachs rubbed or climb onto each other’s backs, and live happily ever after.
   Watch the 1818 Farms video at the following link: http://www.youtube.comwatch?v=LJfaWNTWnLw
More links:

The 6th Birthday Party Balloons Caper


It was the day before Joanna Leigh’s 6th birthday party, which these days is almost as bad as the day before Christmas, since six-year-olds think their birthday is bigger than Christmas. I don’t know how long that belief lasts, but just in case, to improve behavior, I’ll start invoking “your next birthday party” instead of Santa Claus.

 The planning and most of the execution was done. We would have it at our neighborhood pool, the bouncy castle would go outside the fenced-in pool area, and they could just run back and forth from one to the other. I dreamed that this plan would wear them all out. I had yet to go to Sam’s for the cake, the Dollar Store for the favors, and Food World for the balloons. So off I went, tearing around like a normal-aged parent instead of a 70-year-old parenting grandmother. Aaaarrrgghhhh.

 I soon found out it’s those damned balloons you have to watch out for.

The calendar said May 24; the north breeze said this is very weird for May in Alabama; I said “thank you!” I got the cake, a princessity creation in pink and dyed-crisco flowers. The unusually cool weather let me get it home without its melting into the seat.


The 6th Birthday Party Princess Cake


I put off going for the balloons so that they still would be floating for the party. I got the favors.

 Finally I headed for Food World. I ordered 20 balloons of several colors and one mylar pink princesses creation to match the cake and went for all the other supplies are they were getting their shot of helium. I came back to the balloon niche and looped them around my wrist. In the checkout line I could see the other people smiling and laughing to themselves as I struggled with getting my wallet out, paying, keeping ahold of the balloons, and heading for the door. Out I went, not looking back.

 “Oh, man,” I said out loud when the door opened. The wind was trying to blow the balloons into the Universe, tightening the ribbons around my wrist. Thankfully, I had the parking place closest to the door. I pushed the buggy and pulled back the balloons, pushed the buggy and pulled back the balloons. I struggled to get the back of the SUV open and the 20 balloons stuffed into the car. Then it hit me.

I had let go of the buggy.

 “Oh, shit,” I said too loud as I watched the buggy rolling the 150-yard parking lot, all downhill, toward the curb butting up to the highway. I heard laughing behind me. I turned. A woman at the door was howling with laughter as she shouted between guffaws, “I really would help you if I could!” I just threw one free arm up in the air and shouted, “Don’t worry. I can’t even help my own self!” I managed to slam the back hatch shut, wondering in a flash how many balloons I’d popped.

I turned back to the buggy’s downhill event just as it hit the curb. It stopped and somehow stayed on the ground, but the groceries flew up into the air like firecrackers.

 “This is entirely refuctious,” I screamed. I hopped into the car and headed for the curb.

 I got there in time to see the yogurt from several tubs that had ejected into the air like the space shuttle all sprayed onto the grass. Liters of soda were spewing around on the ground like bottle rockets. The cantaloupe took out the cheese straws, smashing them to smithereens, as I later learned.

 I grabbed up what I could and laid rubber getting out of there. Somebody later said, “I’d have just left the stuff there and drove off.”


Stuffed balloons“But the party, it was about the 6th birthday party,” I replied.


I had to go to the grocery store yesterday. I dreaded seeing someone who recognized me as the dodo involved in last week’s balloon caper. Being a 70-year-old parenting grandmother has its ups and downs, but this was as sideways as it gets.


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