Everything's better at the ocean.
Why vacation at PCB (Panama City Beach, Florida)?
If you love sunshine, warm weather, an ocean breeze, and white sandy beaches, there’s no better place to be than PCB. Vacationing at PCB is a place for the active or inactive, the athlete or beach bum, the family or party of two...it’s a place that checks all the boxes whether it’s a getaway holiday weekend or a well-deserved, relaxing week’s vacation.
What’s there to do at PCB?
First of all, let’s think about that question. What’s there to do on 27 miles of the whitest sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. If you do nothing at all but go to the beach every day, sink your toes into the warm white sand, look out at the blue ocean, and let out a sigh of relief, that’s enough for many after a year of living in the shadow of COVID.
If sitting on a beautiful beach with over 100 access points to the ocean isn’t the only thing you want to do on vacation, there are many activities and opportunities to fill your week with a different adventure every day.
If you’re active, what’s there to do at PCB?
There are numerous outdoor adventures for vacationers with an active lifestyle. For those who want to continue their workouts and keep up the busy pace, your first stop is St. Andrews State Park. The park is on two miles of beach with biking and hiking trails designed to satisfy tourist that wanna move and not just cruise.
St. Andrews State Park has the Gulf of Mexico on one side and St. Andrews Bay on the other. Visitors that like to swim, snorkel, surf, or kayak are in luck. There are rentals for all watersports and opportunities to pay as you go.
There’s a boat ramp, fishing guides, and camp sites; a perfect place to enjoy the outdoors for those who enjoy 'roughing it.'
Another place to visit is Conservation Park. This 3,000-acre park has 12 different trails and eight boardwalks. It’s a place where you can prepare a backpack and hike for hours or jump on a bike and peddle the pounds away. If you’re going to spend time here, be sure and bring your binoculars. The wildlife in the wetlands is a sight to see. Pack a lunch, bring your canteen, and become one with nature. The park is open seven days a week and is at the intersection of Panama City Beach Pkwy and State Rd. 79.
What if you prefer taking it easy but want to experience PCB?
A ‘must see’ is the seven-mile-long-barrier island that runs east to west between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrew’s Bay. Shell Island is miles of white sandy beaches with untouched vegetation and interesting sea creatures. You can catch a shuttle to the beautiful island from St. Andrew’s State Park. The shuttle offers day trips and rental equipment for those wanting to snorkel or paddleboat. You’ll see tropical fish, sea turtles, crabs, and even dolphins. In fact, you’re more likely to see dolphins in their natural habitat while on the island.
If you’re looking to collect shells, the early morning hours at low tide is the best time. Do you remember as a child finding the perfect shell? Maybe it’s more refined and shiny like a pearl. The conch shells are always fun too. Being able to hear the roar of the ocean in your ear from the perfectly-shaped shell built for marine life is an amazing experience.
If you’re an avid angler or a novice, there’s always chartering a boat for a day of fishing. There are at least 60 charter boats available in PCB. Prices will vary depending on how long you plan to be out and if you’re fishing or just enjoying the ride.
What’s there for the family to do in PCB?
If you’ve ever been to an aquarium or theme park like SeaWorld, PCB has Gulf World Marine Park. Of course, it’s smaller than SeaWorld, however, it’s just as much fun for the kids. If your children want to see a show with dolphins jumping through hoops, seals clapping their fins or maybe giving a smooch to one of your children, you’ll enjoy the park. Kids can pet the small rays in a pool area that’s kid-friendly. If you’re interested in swimming with the dolphins, there’s that too.
PCB has Shipwreck Island Waterpark. The park has been part of the fun at PCB for 38 years. There are wading pools and slides for the kids or more challenging slides for the teenagers. It’s money well spent. The park opens in late April.
Any recommendations for eating locally while at PCB?
For beachfront dining, there’s Pineapple Willy’s. You can’t go to PCB without going to this famous seaside restaurant. You can eat out on the deck that overlooks the ocean. They serve meals in little breadbaskets lined with red and white checkered paper. Their fried seafood is delicious. The restaurant serves a tasty tropical drink in Pineapple Willy’s special glassware. And, don’t forget to purchase a t-shirt...they’re too cute, lots of different colors especially the tie-dye option.
Sharkey’s Beachfront Restaurant is another local hangout. The restaurant sits beside the ocean and is reasonably priced. It’s casual dining much like Pineapple Willy’s. Sharkey’s has live entertainment that’s phenomenal. Rocking out while enjoying a delicious meal is pure vacation fun.
For more upscale dining you might check out Captain Anderson’s Restaurant on the waterfront. It’s a staple that’s been around for over 50 years. Their lump crabmeat and stuffed flounder is a meal to die for.
Captain Anderson’s has been named one of America’s top 50 seafood restaurants. It’s received accolades from Southern Living and Wine Spectator’s magazines. Get there early if you want to avoid the crowds.
What if you want to buy seafood to cook in the condo?
Such a good question and one many may ask while vacationing this spring and summer. COVID is still making headlines and safety is a top priority. There are many fresh seafood markets at PCB. What’s alluring is being able to cash in on the ‘catch of the day.’
If you like to cook, buying fresh seafood is the ticket to a wonderful, delicious meal. Let’s not forget money saved by cooking your own food rather than eating out. Choose from a selection of scampi, snapper, grouper, mahi-mahi, gulf shrimp, oysters, and crab legs. Seafood is easy to cook and prepare too.
If you want to boil your shrimp, bring a pot of water to a boil, throw in a seasoning bag, cook the shrimp for only minutes; once you take it out, simply chill and enjoy with some homemade cocktail sauce. That’s right, a little horseradish sauce, catchup, and lemon juice and you’re set.
Try a sauce and sauté your fish in butter, garlic, and parmesan. It’s really easy. Cook fish fast and in high heat. If you prefer to bake it, do so. Set the oven at 425 degrees and let it cook until flaky. You can place fish individually in aluminum foil with a few seasonings or let it crisp up in the oven with only a thin layer of aluminum foil placed loosely over the top of the fish. With the abundance of fresh seafood, it’s the best time to cook.
If you live in the Midwest, Panama City Beach is close in proximity and one of the most beautiful destinations on the Gulf. All that’s left is finding the perfect condominium. Check out Warren Beach Rentals. Beautiful condos. So many selections depending on your needs. They will never disappoint.
It's 65 degrees, the snow is melting, and it's time for a day trip. Reelfoot Lake in Lake County Tennessee is a great place to get away for a few hours and enjoy a brief excursion. Just a little over an hour from western Kentucky, it's a wonderful place to hike, eat some catfish, and go bird watching...big bird watching.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, now's the time to try and catch a glimpse of the Bald Eagle. Reelfoot Lake is one of the largest winterizing areas for Bald Eagles in the United States. Every year tens of thousands of Eagle Watchers come to Reelfoot Lake to observe and photograph these majestic birds.
Tuesday's beautiful weather prompted the quick trip and watching for eagles was top of mind. The best time to scout for these incredible birds is November through March with January being the peak month. Unfortunately, we didn't see America's National Symbol during our brief adventure, however, the ginormous nests were very impressive.
After spending some time eagle watching, we were ready to get a quick bite to eat. There are several restaurants along HWY 21 that serve delicious southern style meals. To name a few there's Lakeview Dining Room, the Blue Bank Fish House (opens after 4 pm), and Boyette's Dining Room. Tuesday's choice was Boyette's.
Boyette's has been around since 1921 and is one of northwest Tennessee's favorite eating places. People come from the four state area to eat at this little slice of heaven. There's a nice selection of ham, chicken and such but the best on the menu is the catfish. The meaty white fish has a wonderful earthy flavor and the breading is light, and perfectly textured. And the husbpuppies...my my. Don't forget the sides; French fries, onion rings, white beans, green beans and vinegar slaw.
If you noticed the big jars filled with buttons, that's a 'Whole Nother Story.' My grandmother kept a big ole jar of buttons in the bedroom under her cast iron sewing machine. Back in the 60's and early 70's there wasn't much to do on a rainy day at grandma's house. The cousins and I would play with those colorful buttons for hours during our visits. It's one of my favorite memories of my grandma's house and there are many.
After indulging in a plate full of goodness, it was time to walk it off. We crossed the street and headed to the Reelfoot Lake State Park. After taking a stroll down one of the many piers overlooking the lake, we snapped a few shots of the frozen water. It's very strange to be wearing summer-like clothing with the sun beaming overhead while standing directly over a frozen body of water.
As we were heading home, a white pelican with an awkwardly long beak came to say 'goodbye'. The fluffy-feathered bird was almost close enough to touch. Then, I tried to have a conversation with him and he swam away.
All in all, a quick trip to this quiet little spot in far northwest Tennessee was well worth the time spent. COVID-19 is still very much a factor when making travel plans. Having quick day trips where you can breathe in the fresh air is the best solution to rid yourself of cabin fever while continuing to social distance.
"...and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over where the Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him..." (Matthew 2:9)
At Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys and around the world Monday evening, many were watching for the Christmas Star otherwise known as the Star of Bethlehem. On this night, two planets, Jupiter and Saturn came together, almost converging, radiating a bright light that excited and caused many to pause. With that pause, a moment of solitude to remember the reason behind the story.
Melanie Bell is the owner of Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys. She had expressed a desire to have a manger scene built for the farm. Bell's son Dustin and wife Hillary started thinking about her request. The thought was, 'why not make it a stable with a hay manger for the donkeys to use and enjoy.' And that's what they set out to do.
Dustin said, "We got the sawmill slabs from a local farmer that uses it for firing tobacco." The slabs are the outer part of the log where its rounded. The stable didn't take long to build. Dustin and his dad had it ready to go in less than six hours. In addition to the physical structure, the pair constructed a hay manger and a cross that was built out of the slabs as well.
For special effect, they attached a solar powered flag light to illuminate the cross at night. "As long as the sun is shining for most of the day, the light should last most of the night," said Dustin.
Bell wasn't expecting a life-size stable, she was expecting a manger scene. It was hard to keep it a secret until Christmas. So, the family planned a surprise unveiling for mom. "Me and Dad had fun. Mom really was surprised when we walked into the barn." Dustin said she knew something was up but didn't know what.
If you're wondering why a stable or a manger, Bell explains:
The reason behind the family wanting the stable is simple...they wanted people to remember the Christmas story. "My family wants people to remember that Christmas is about Christ Jesus being born. That's why we celebrate Christmas," said Bell.
"The light shines on the cross at dark to pay tribute to Christ's birth, life, and ultimate sacrifice on the cross," said Bell. She went on to say that the commercialization of Christmas has many forgetting the reason for the celebration. She said, "It's not about Santa Claus or Black Friday specials. We want the stable to be a reminder that the King of kings and Lord of lords was born in a stable and placed in a manger."
The Bells plan to leave the stable up until after Easter. "If we get time, we may add a star over the top and have a light on that too." she said.
The donkeys have grown to appreciate the stable, especially after Bell added hay to the hay manger. "They weren't sure about it at first, but they want hay, so they all get in the stable now." said Bell.
Each afternoon, Bell heads out to the stable and fills the manger up with fresh hay. It's a gift that Dustin and his Dad made for mom and a gift Bell is sharing with the community of Lone Oak.
If you're interested in seeing the stable, Bell Meadows Farm is on Lovelaceville Road. The gift is very close to the road inside the fence. If you drive by during the day its easy to spot. If you drive by at night, the illuminated cross will provide plenty of light.
Everyday, the foal born late August and early September 2020, play in the field at Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys in Lone Oak, Kentucky. When the sun is shining and the morning's are still, the 'babies' can be seen chasing each other and running around in small circles while their mommas are busy grazing on the green, sweet grass.
Kitty Wells is sweet-natured and loving. She was the last foal born this season to Emma, the beautiful solid white Jenny. Emma is an amazing mom and she's quite protective of Miss Kitty.
Sheldon is a small foal and is very affectionate. His fur is mostly white with brown spots. He's quite the momma's boy. He stays close to his mom Gracie even now but does enjoy the company of the other foal.
Usually in the mornings, all the donkeys are in the corner of the field, closest to the house and the road. As you drive by, you can call out their names and they'll look your way in recognition.
Around mid-day, you can see the foal playing together. There's a lot of chasing going on and rubbing noses. Then, as the afternoon approaches, all the donkeys will head to the backfield, just before you get to the corn stalks.
In the evening, you'll see them head into the feeding area, one-by-one, taking their sweet time with not a worry in the world. What it must be like to have such a beautiful life.
It's a picturesque farm in the heart of the suburbs of Lone Oak. If you go a 1/4 mile down the road, you're on the busiest road in town. You'll see posts on Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys Facebook page regarding all the neighbors that drive by and say, "I drove by this morning and saw them on the way to work. I wanted to stop and take a picture." We all want to stop and take a picture.
Having the opportunity to enjoy this donkey world right along with Melanie and Kevin Bell, owners of the farm, is something special. For just a moment, you get to escape from all of life's worries.
Apollo 'the cat' after being rescued from a life of roaming the neighborhoods
This is Apollo. He's a gentle, older cat that wanted love and attention. He's not a mouser...he's a lover. Today, October 29, is National Cat Day. Cat Day is the most popular holiday for cats...encouraging adoption and many levels of cuteness.
There's a story behind every stray cat. Wouldn't it be something if they could tell it?
Here's Apollo's story told by his human:
One afternoon, a very kind soul from a neighborhood in Paducah brought this fluffy, chubby gray and white cat into a local veterinarian office. He had been attacked by other stray cats. The thing is, he's very gentle...the neighbors all fed and cared for him when he came around. However, the other cats bullied him.
The caring human brought the stray cat to the office for medical attention. He told the vet assistant that the other strays would probably kill him if he didn't escape their abuse and the friendly neighbor was unable to take him in.
So, the vet clinic provided food, medicine, and medical attention. One of the vet assistance fell in love with him immediately and after a week of healing, took him home as her own.
There's a National Cat Day website. On the website the celebration is considered quite the party. Here's what it says:
We explode the internet every October 29th. We live to celebrate cats and help them to find forever homes. Through our large social media & press platform, all year long we're able to partake in the wonderful world of cats and put the plight of cats in shelters, center stage. We educate literally millions all year long but on October 29th....it's party time!
We encourage you to spoil your fur baby a little more on National Cat Day than any other day (you don't want them to get too demanding do you?) by buying them a new toy drenched in cat nip, giving them something simply scrumptious to eat, offering LOTS more cuddling and making a donation to your local shelter in their honor. The best way you can celebrate though is to save a life!
So if you can....ADOPT....don't shop. Estimates reveal that there are approximately 4 million cats entering shelters every year with 1-2 million being euthanized. Often cats are overlooked and under-appreciated because they don't usually have jobs like dogs. But cats still lower blood pressure, offer unconditional love and companionship, tons of laughs and alert their owner to danger.
Many cats have been named heroes. So take that...dogs!
Sheldon is a snowy white precious miniature donkey living on Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys. Soon, he'll go to his 'furever' home with his new family.
The mud will wash off...no worries.
It's a little muddy on Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys today. All the beautiful donkeys are enjoying the cool weather. Sheldon and Alan Jackson are a couple of buddies that love this weather.
The Farm has recently trimmed, picked, and filed their hooves. Nothing like a good pedicure. Sheldon wasn't too crazy about the 'man'icure. "He just wouldn't stand still," explained Melanie Bell on her Facebook page.
After the pedicures, it was time to practice lead training in the rain and mist. The dreary weather isn't the best time to train, however, school is still in session. Bell said, "Leading is getting a little better each time."
As the babies grow and mature, they all have their special personalities. It's good to have the opportunity to say 'hello' and give them pets on their furry heads and rub their little ears. Even the jenny's love the attention.
Being on a loving farm with all these beautiful babies will put a smile on anybody's face no matter the weather.
If you’ve experienced a bad day, being around loving animals is a sure antidote for the blues. Having an arm load of puppies kissing your face and snuggling your neck would give anyone a warm, fuzzy feeling. If you’ve never experienced the affection given by donkeys, you’re missing out. Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys has given birth to four furry foals all within the last month. It’s a love-fest right out of the gate.
After writing the last article about the donkeys, Melanie Graves Bell graciously invited my husband and I for a visit to the farm. Bell and her husband, Kevin are owners of Bell Meadows Farm located in the heart of Lone Oak, Kentucky. In fact, their farm is right across the street from our subdivision. We’ve witnessed the donkeys playing in the field from a distance but never had the pleasure of being up close and personal.
As we pulled up to the farm, Bell was on the tractor...ears equipped with noise reduction headphones mowing the sprawling acres where the donkeys graze and play. Four of the Jenny’s were in the field with their babies enjoying the fresh air. Two Jenny’s were in a separate containment area. One was about a month into her pregnancy and the other, Loretta, was a ‘wanna-be’ mom. In fact, Bell had her in a separate gated area for that very reason. Loretta’s maternal instincts were so strong, she tried to adopt one of the babies.
As we made our way to the field, we were greeted by Elvis, Bell’s 25 year old gelding. Bell said he looks for ways to get into the bedding stalls. We had to make sure we kept the 2 x 4 in place so he wouldn’t escape. You could tell Elvis was a wise old donkey.
One of the first babies to greet us was Alan Jackson. Jackson was the third foal born on the farm this season. Patsy Cline, Jackson’s mom, is the dark-haired Jenny that’s a first-time parent. Bell said “she (Patsy) didn’t know what to do at all.” after Jackson was born (many human mom’s can relate to that feeling). For the first night or two, Bell had to hold Patsy in place while Jackson nursed. Now, Patsy's cooperating.
Alan Jackson is an affectionate little fella. He’s healthy, active, and eating well. Patsy is still learning the ropes on ‘the joys of motherhood.’ Lucky for me, Jackson directed all his love and attention to me while visiting. He’s my buddy.
Jackson doesn’t know a stranger. He decided not to let me get too attached and made his way over to my husband for some extra lovin’. No worries, Martina McBride showed up for a pet.
Martina was the first foal born on the farm to Daisy Mae mid-August. ‘Marti’ as she’s affectionately called, was born at 5:53 am, August 13. Bell stayed up most of the night with Daisy Mae as she paced and got ready for the birth. Bell said, “She’s a labor pacer and is very sweet and loving while pregnant.” Almost immediately after giving birth, Daisy Mae had Marti nursing.
“Daisy Mae is very maternal,” said Bell. “She doesn’t let Marti get too far from her side.” Like many kids, Marti will push the envelope testing her freedom. She’s very independent. Bell did say that Daisy Mae and the other moms are letting the babies play together in the field. “It’s so sweet to watch,” said Bell with a big smile.
Ten days after Marti was born, Sheldon, a.k.a. Mudpie, arrived at the farm. Sheldon is a small foal and is very affectionate. His fur is mostly white with brown spots sprinkled here and there. You can tell he’s a momma’s boy. He stayed close to Gracie, his mom, while we were enjoying the company of the other donkeys and foals.
The newest baby was only 48 hours old when we came to visit Bell Meadows Farm. “Emma is an amazing mom,” said Bell. She stayed within a snout's reach of the newborn as we loved on the others. Bell said she’s very protective and doesn’t let her wander far.
Baby number four is waiting on a name that reflects her personality. Bell prefers to name her Jenny’s after female country music singers. Her girl ‘Marti’ was named after Martina McBride. In fact, several of Bell’s friends played a game on Facebook trying to provide the most authentic name for Marti. There was Wynona, Dixie, Hillary, Reba, and others. Ultimately, country music legend Martina McBride won the hotly-contested name-game.
After the fourth and final baby of the season was successfully birthed, it’s time to pay ode to the dad. “The herd sire, Opie, has done an amazing job,” exclaimed Bell. All the babies are healthy, happy, and beautiful.
Watching the foals grow up and mature is an amazing experience. Most of the neighbors in Lone Oak get glimpses of their lives from cars while driving by or at the farm’s edge while taking a walk. Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys is a happy place filled with lots of love. And, Bell’s right. The donkeys are just like dogs. They enjoy cuddles, pets, and a good conversation. Thanks Melanie Bell for sharing your world.
It's another glorious day on Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys. Meet the third foal born at Bell Meadows this season. Melanie Bell, co-owner of the farm announced the birth of this little fella on a Thursday evening in late August on Facebook. This is Patsy Cline's first foal, though the event didn’t go according to plan.
Patsy is a first time mom and ‘doesn’t know what to do at all,’ said Bell. “We have to tie her up so she doesn’t kick him.” Bell was prepared for a long night. She said the newborn needs colostrum and Bell needs to make sure Patsy doesn’t hurt him.
There were posts from concerned family and friends asking ‘what will you do if Patsy refuses to bond?’ Bell commented that it’s never happened before. She’s been breeding, raising, and loving her donkeys since 2008 and this is new territory. Her plan was to sleep on the Tempur-Pedic mattress until she feels comfortable leaving the two alone in the stall.
At 1:30 a.m., Bell was still in the stall with Patsy and the beautiful, fluffy baby boy. “I’ve been holding Patsy on a lead rope in the stall for hours making sure she stood still for the baby to nurse and didn’t kick him away.” said Bell. About an hour ago, Bell took Patsy off the lead rope to observe her behavior.
“I think Patsy is going to eventually get a little better at being a mom,” sighed Bell. Since Bell’s been awake into the wee hours of the morning, she’s been doing a lot of praying. Praying for Patsy to love her new baby. Praying for those in the path of hurricane Laura (This article ran during the first hurricane that past through Louisiana this season). Praying for a lot of things.”
The foal has been running around the stall and having fun. Bell took Patsy off the lead and was sitting in the stall with mother and baby. Patsy hasn’t tried to kick hard and she was standing and letting him nurse. “She still swats at him with her leg but isn’t trying to send him sailing across the stall.” said Bell.
Another hour or so and hopefully Bell will be more comfortable leaving them alone. Bell said she has to work in the morning and she’s afraid she’ll ‘feel like the walking dead.’
As she watched the new baby play, she’s thinking, “Just when I don’t think I could get a cuter baby, I’m just blown away at how beautiful this sweet boy is. He is very imprinted. I’ve played with him all night. Baby seems to be doing great despite all the trouble. He’s one tough little guy.”
There’s more news...Mudpie/Sheldon will have a new home. If you recall, he was the second baby born on the farm within the last couple of weeks. And there’s more, a fourth baby will be arriving soon. Talk about heaven.
Once upon a time, there was a dog named Brody. He could fly through the air with the greatest of ease that daring ‘young jack’ on the flying trapeze. Describing a dog like Brody is like describing the air that you breathe. He was a one-of-a-kind dog and sharing his ‘tale’ will be cathartic for me and potentially provide some solace for grieving pet owners.
Brody was one of those dogs that just happen in your life. It wasn’t planned or even conceived he would become such a permanent fixture in our lives. He was meant for someone else but granted to us. Brody was a special gift from God. It’s curious really, how animals find you or you find them. Just one of those twists of fate.
When Brody first came to live with our family, he was so small he could fit in the palm of your hand. When he ran, his front legs couldn’t keep up with the back legs causing him to flip and roll. He slept a lot and had the most wonderful smell. We all know that puppy smell (pause and take a deep breath).
Brody’s fur was white and tan and on the top of his head between his brow was a heart-shaped spot. We always thought the heart-shaped colored fur was a sign he was meant to be ours. He was always smiling. My husband called him ‘smiling jack’. And the dark eyebrows above his golden brown eyes reminded me of Groucho Marx.
Brody was a Jack Russell Terrier mix. The mixes are a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and Chihuahua dog breeds. They are high energy, playful and overall friendly dogs. The mixes are short-legged and stocky with white fur and black or brown spots. According to Caesar Millan, the well-known Mexican-American dog trainer, he said when choosing a dog, don’t choose the breed, instead choose the dog’s energy level.
During the years our family loved Brody, there was a lot of turmoil. Unfortunately, it affected his behavior and he would ‘act’ on his anxieties by snapping at people. When dogs aren’t getting what they need from their humans, they misbehave. Brody would bite. Not all the time, but if you couldn’t ‘read his vibe’ you should be prepared to get bit. Other than the biting, he was a joy.
Playing fetch with a ball was his most favorite game. He could play catch for hours. The backyard was Brody’s basketball court. ‘Air Jordan’ had nothing on Brody’s hang-time. He was like an animated character that would suspend in time and just ‘be’. And if it was too cold, the ballgame moved inside.
The whole family was part of the team. We each took our turn pitching the ball but Brody was the star player. ‘The pitcher’ stood over the kitchen sink with a clear view of the ball field ‘family room’. The ‘all star’ Brody would bolt across the hardwood floors, around the table, jump onto the couch, and wait for the throw. He never missed a pitch. As soon as the ball was caught, back to the pitcher it would go only to resume play for another 50 plus games of fetch.
The Rainbow Bridge is a place that gives pet owners peace after discovering their pet isn’t going to survive a terminal illness or it’s ‘their time.’ The bridge is an ethereal overpass that connects heaven and earth. It’s a spot where owners and pets reunite for good after they’ve both passed away. It’s a beautiful, mythical place that gives comfort to owners after losing a pet.
The reassurance of imagining a wonderful field of grass where animals go to play with other animals is comforting. They play fetch and live without pain, fear, abuse, hunger, any of the bad things humans may have thrust upon them. Waiting for the day to reunite with their master or best friend.
The poem originated in the 1980’s with some confusion as to the author (hence unknown author). The person with a copyright for one of the versions is Paul C. Dahm. He’s one of three authors that claimed to have written the poem and one of three that wrote books in the 1990’s about pet loss.
The books opened a whole new dialogue for grieving pet owners. There were websites created to help with the loss of the pet. Wallace Sife, one of those claiming to have written the poem, started an organization called Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement and wrote the book entitled “The Loss of Pet”. It wasn’t until the books on bereavement were published that pet owners were set free to grieve without shame or judgement.
Today, veterinarian clinics are ‘on board’ with the whole pet bereavement thing. If a beloved pet needs ‘end of life’ care, the clinics are very accommodating. Candles are lit in honor of furry friends and a quiet place is provided, either at the clinic or at the owner’s home. It’s truly one of the most difficult, yet necessary practices pet owners have to endure.
That’s exactly how Brody’s story ended. He had a tumor the size of a cantaloupe on his spleen and ‘mets’ on his lungs. Metastasis or ‘mets’ is the spread of cancer from one body part to another to form secondary tumors. The veterinarian said it was highly unlikely he would survive the surgery and would most likely bleed out on the table. He was in pain. It was an incredibly difficult decision. Brody was 11 ½ years old.
A friend of mine recently lost her Jack Russell mix and shared her pain and love for ‘Sophie’ on social media. Actually, her son shared his grief and I happened to be online that night. His grief really resonated with me. Sophie was the same age as Brody, a mix-breed, and very loved. As my friend’s son was grieving, I shared my experience about losing Brody. I told him he would be sad for a while and the hole in his heart will always remain. However, as time passes, the loss will hurt less and he’ll start to remember the joy she brought to his life. Memories will be good memories.
Remembering our pets and the possibility of meeting them again at The Rainbow Bridge is a wonderfully, imaginative end to life’s journey. A bridge where ‘there’s plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.’ Personally, I can’t think of a better ending.
Mom, watch this!!!
Four days old and more independent that Mom wants. Look at her go!!
Bell Meadows Farm presents Martina McBride. I’m gonna call her Marti.
Usually my babies are already sold at this age but I may keep her for new breeding stock. I will let you guys know if I decide to post her for sale. Stay tuned.
It’s 2:15 a.m. and Daisy Mae is pacing. She’s definitely in labor. “She’s so loving, sweet, and clingy when she’s in labor. She likes the company when I’m with her.” said Melanie Bell. It’s 2:45 a.m. and she’s sweaty and there’s more 'poop' on the fresh shavings, another sign of labor. It’s 3:06, she’s stopped pacing. Both Bell and Daisy Mae are yawning. It’s 4:45 a.m., it’s a girl!
Smack dab in the heart of Lone Oak, Kentucky is a full-service farm that’s been in the family since the 1940s. Melanie Bell, a Paducah Tilghman graduate, and her husband, Kevin moved to the second-generation family farm on Valentine’s Day 1992. Bell Meadows Farm, formerly Ham Farm, was previously owned by Kevin’s maternal grandparents, Earl and Edna Ham. After Edna passed away in 1991, the Bell’s became the proud, new owners of the family farm.
The 65 acres of farmland located on Lovelaceville Road extends as far back as the Lone Oak Tennis Courts at 400 Lakeshore Drive. Currently, the Bells lease 33 acres for farming soybeans and corn and the rest of the acreage is farmed by the Bells. The land cultivates good, quality hay and is sold to local farmers to feed their livestock.
Through the years, animals have always been a big part of the farm. In 1947, a large concrete barn was built and used to board horses. The farm raised cattle in the 40s and 50s and again in the 80s through 2010.
Even their eldest son Cole knew how to turn a dollar by raising chickens. He started with a few hens as a preteen and launched a chicken egg business. At one point, there were 60 chickens on the farm. For 11 years, he operated Barnyards Best Fresh Country Eggs and sold to local restaurants and surrounding residents in the area.
Melanie said, “We had a refrigerator on our back porch for many years and people would leave their money in a jar and get fresh eggs in cartons out of the refrigerator on the honor system.”
The farm is home to many animals: wild turkey, deer, fox, coyotes, skunks, groundhogs, opossums, owls, hawks, all God’s woodland creatures. One of the most beloved animals living on the farm are Mel Bell’s donkeys. In 1996, an eight month gelding named Elvis arrived on the Bell farm. For a time, goats were raised on the farm and they were Elvis’ best buddies but Melanie’s heart was with the donkeys. Elvis is now 25 years old and is as much a part of the farm as any one person, animal, or fixture.
In 2008, the Bells bought five six-month-old baby Jennets (female donkeys) and a five-month- old baby Jack (male donkey for mating). When the donkeys turned three years old, it was time to breed, raise and sell registered miniature donkeys. This was the beginning of Bell Meadows Farm Miniature Donkeys.
Melanie is the caregiver of the 'much loved' donkeys. From birth, she takes care of the donkeys or babies as she calls them. “The babies on the farm generally see me before they see their real mom because I get in there and towel dry them and clean them up as soon as they are born and mom is resting a minute.” Bell said this is called imprinting and “they love me like another mom.”
Bell said donkeys have similar personalities to dogs. “They love to be cuddled, brushed and are very affectionate.” They know their names and they think of her as one of them and trust she will be there when it’s time to give birth.
Donkeys gestate for 365 days and are bred on Bell Meadows between April and October. Typically, the foals (babies) will nurse for six months and will be weaned by Bell if the mother hasn’t already done so. Bell said the donkeys are definitely pets and it’s hard to see them go, but they are stock for her business.
There’s a waiting list for these docile creatures. After birth, Bell said she usually calls the first person on the list to see if they’re interested. She’ll share the sex of the foal and the color. If they prefer to wait till the next birth, Bell calls the next person on the list. She says she likes loving the donkeys and getting them ready for their new home. They’re usually sold 24 - 48 hours after birth.
“I’ve only kept one baby so far and that’s Loretta.” Loretta was born in 2012 when temperatures remained over 100 degrees for 10 consecutive days. She said the baby had to have IVs in order to stay hydrated. Bell said, “I always get attached but with Loretta I was super attached because we worked so hard to save her.” She continued, “Loretta had a hard time nursing to hydrate and getting the proper nourishment needed after birth. The heat was horrible”.
Bell is responsible for the day to day donkey care and maintenance. She said her husband and family help with hauling hay, worming, and taking the donkeys to the vet, if necessary. A Farrier comes four to five times a year to trim their hooves. Bell scoops the poop, feeds, maintains, loves, and spends time with her animals. “Regardless of the weather, the animals need to be taken care of. If it’s 104 degrees or 12, it’s a year-round job.”
The Bell family have outside jobs and generally stay 'six to 12 months behind' on the farm. “On farm days, we’re busy checking on the donkeys, cleaning out the troughs, hauling food, cleaning manure out of the barn, checking and fixing fences, cutting trees, maintaining the farm equipment, disking, planting, cutting, raking, and hauling hay.” said Bell.
The Bell’s two sons are grown and no longer live on the farm. When there’s a big job to do, such as new fencing or cutting down trees, the sons are there to help. In fact, Bell said much of her strength comes from God and her family. “My family is always a phone call away in an emergency or when I need to discuss a farm issue. I couldn’t do it without God taking care of me and blessing me through tough times including cancer.”
After giving birth this morning, Daisy Mae is doing well and her foal is already nursing. Bell said, “She’s a beauty.” Facebook posts are pouring in congratulating Daisy Mae on a job well done. Neighbors in Lone Oak are excited for the opportunity to watch the foal in the field. Being right smack dab in the middle of the suburbs is a joy for the residents that walk or drive-by Bell Meadows. Seeing the donkeys play, run, and enjoy their day is special.
Bell said, “my favorite time of the day is usually when the work for the day is done and I get to come into the house and get warm or in the air conditioning and relax after doing chores.” Her favorite part of farm living is ‘watching the animals give birth and watching the miracle of life.’