Our Family History

Our Family Story

 A Little Background

Our story dates back over 20 years when a South Georgia girl met a young man transplanted from way up north.  Mary Margaret grew up in the one-red-light town of Homerville where there were no strangers.  When the volunteer fire department siren went off, townsfolk (not just the firemen) stopped what they were doing, jumped in their cars and followed the fire trucks to the scene.  As Mary Margaret explained to me on a visit during which my Sunday dinner (lunch to those of us living above Macon) of fried chicken, turnip greens, creamed corn, little peas, cracklin’ cornbread, and blackberry cobbler was interrupted, “We have to go because it is somebody we know and they might need our help.” 

I also spent the first ten years of my life in a small town – Plainfield, Illinois.  While there were many similarities between small town life in Georgia and Illinois, there were also some big differences.  Instead of alligators, pine trees, mams and sirs, catfish, grits, and honeybees, I grew up surrounded by cornfields, cornfields, and more cornfields.  In 1977, my family moved south to Rome, Georgia (still way up North relative to Homerville).  In Rome, I was first introduced to “THE War.”  In Plainfield, the Civil War had not been a topic in school or around our dinner table.  Apparently this was not the case in my new surroundings and the discussion not only took place in the classroom and at home, but on the playground, as well.  My education began with one word, “Yankee!”  In my experience, Yankees were a baseball team, so I was very confused as to why the school kids would call me by this term.  I sought the sage advice of my father and was instructed to respond to them with, “Who won the ____ war?”  Great advice.  Guess who ended up in a fist fight that day?               

North Meets South and Both Sides Win

Somehow, we both ended up at Emory University and after four years of friendship, we had our first date on Mary Margaret’s February birthday.    Unbeknownst to either of us until many years later, we both turned down other date opportunities the following week and, when we went home from our Senior year of college just 3 months later, both informed our mothers that we had found the person we wanted to marry!   Being the chivalrous type, I felt that I should wait a year from our first date to propose and I almost made it!  A few days before Christmas, I got up the nerve to ask Mary Margaret to marry me.  She said Yes, but I knew that I still had to seek her Daddy’s permission. He also agreed – not that he necessarily approved of me – but because he trusted his daughter’s opinion!  I didn’t realize at the time that there were still a few hurdles before the big day.  Luckily, I had already passed the biggest of those – approval by the family’s 150 pound bulldog, Herschel Sanchez Hoag (any 80s Bulldog fans out there?).   When Herschel rounded the corner on my first visit, let’s just say that my first instinct was to protect the possibility for future Mauers. Instead of baring his teeth, however, Herschel just placed both paws on my shoulders and, thankfully, gave me his seal of approval – a big slobbery kiss on my mouth.

My next test came in a smaller package, but packed a much bigger punch.  When my father-in-law-to be invited me on an excursion with him to check on his honeybees, I was so pleased to be included on manly business.  As we manly men left the women cooking, no one- Mary Margaret included!- ever suggested that I change out of my bright red shirt.  It was a cloudy and windy day (not a honeybee’s favorite kind of weather) and I headed out oblivious to the bullseye on my back.  When my red shirt beckoned Honeybee #1, he called all of his friends to the feast.  I handled it like a man and managed not to cry- thus passing Test #2, but I will forever remember the sound of mad honeybees.  Most importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about my wife-to-be.  She really doesn’t care to be left behind doing “woman’s work” and suffering of some sort will follow if I am a part of this action.  Otherwise, if I just include her, she will offer me more help that I can possibly use.     

On September 1, 1990, we made it to the altar.  Three months later, we got our first beloved pet, Honey Bun Mauer – the best Christmas gift I ever gave Mary Margaret.  Honey welcomed several other dogs into the family and was there to love and guard our three children before she left us at the ripe old age of 105 dog years.  Our first years of marriage were filled with long hours away from home as I continued to work in the family meat business in Rome and Mary Margaret worked on her doctorate in Biology down in Atlanta. 

In 1994, we were blessed with our precious son, Jason.  Two years later, Jessica arrived, filling our lives with that special girl sweetness.  Just prior to the new millennium, our child who is always surprising us, Maggie, arrived early to celebrate Christmas 1999!  It was with these three in mind that we made the big move from life in town to life in the country when the opportunity presented itself.

Farm Life Begins

After years of corporate life, my family sold our meat business and we moved a few miles out of town onto a 65-acre farm.  At the time, we had no plans to raise animals of any kind, but were just looking for a home with land that would give our kids plenty of area to roam and explore.  Other than dogs, hamsters, gerbils, and the occasional hermit crab, we had never had any other animals.  Our excitement over having horse stalls in the barn was due to the fact that they provided a great area in which we could store our furniture while we renovated the house!  It wasn’t long, however, before nature called. 

First, we decided that it would be great to raise chickens, thereby giving the kids some outdoor chores and producing our own delicious brown eggs.  What a thrill it was to bake that first super fluffy cake with OUR eggs!  Next, our kids discovered the cutest little bunny rabbits at the nearby hardware store.  While most ended up in one of those horse stalls in the barn and, eventually, as free roamers around the barn, one special little one was an “inside” bunny.  Georgia (later shortened to George when we discovered his correct gender) was our precious rescue bunny.  Abandoned in a bucket at the hardware store as a tiny, teacup-sized baby on the brink of death, we cuddled and nursed George, feeding him water and honey through a medicine dropper, and loved him to life.    Needless to say, little flop-eared George became a special part of our family and a good friend and playmate to our lab/Australian mix dog, Sandy. 

After chickens and rabbits, we went a little bigger and acquired 3 goats – Winnie, Cocoa, and Yodel.  We were looking for farm animals that the kids could enjoy feeding and petting and that would be easy for novices such as ourselves to raise.  Therefore, we were quite disappointed when the 3 young goats would have nothing to do with us!  Luckily, knowing who to go to for advice was something we had learned by now, so down we went to the hardware store.  There, we learned that we just needed a good nanny goat to teach those kids how to act!  Thus, we acquired Nanny, an older, homely little goat that straightened those girls out in no time.  Within a few days, she had convinced them to eat out of our hands and follow her wherever she went.  Nanny was nothing short of a miracle cure for our disobedient youngsters and much to our surprise, came with an added bonus.  As we discovered a few months later, she was expecting what would be the first animal babies on our farm!  The birth of her twins, however, was bittersweet, as one was stillborn.  This event introduced us to a tough reality of farm life – while there are immeasurable blessings that come from investing time and love in your animals, there is also great heartache that comes with the inevitable losses.  This lesson has been repeated many times in the years since, but our whole family agrees that we would never forego having been a part of the lives of those animals we have lost, just to avoid the pain of their absence.  Its severity only serves as a sweet reminder of how much our extended family of animals means to us and how they deeply they touch our lives.  Understanding the cost of love and the realization that it is so worth that cost is one of the many life lessons that living on the farm has provided our children and for which we are so grateful.

Farming Takes on a Whole New Facet

At this point, the guy who had dreaded any kind of yard work and spent years in a tie behind a desk in an air-conditioned building was hooked.  Those eggs from our chickens tasted so good that I decided that growing our own livestock for meat would be even better.  Having been in the meat business all of my life, I began searching for the breeds that would provide the tastiest meats.  Much to my surprise, this search led me to Heritage breeds of livestock that were endangered.  Thus, my quest to simply find the best-tasting meat opened our family’s eyes to a much greater concern – preserving God’s creation by helping restore endangered species.

I became a voracious reader of farm journals and endangered livestock web pages and decided to begin this endeavor with two species.  I chose Mulefoot hogs due to their friendly disposition, ease of management and, of course, meat quality.  They have proven to be all that I had hoped and more (see About Deerfield Ranch Mulefoot Hogs for more information on our herd). On the sheep front, I narrowed my search to two breeds, Jacob and Santa Cruz sheep.  After much searching, I was unable to locate the Santa Cruz variety, but was successful in acquiring six Jacob sheep (see About Deerfield Ranch Jacob Sheep).