Huckleberry – A True High Point Farms Christmas Tale

   The story of Huckleberry begs to be told.  One day, I shall write it all down so that I can make it into a children’s story book….if not for publication – at least for my grandchildren. I think then I will aim for a younger audience but for my blog readers – the story as it really was. And as Christmas nears – I thought I would share the story with you – a much safer audience than a book critic.  And for those of you who faithfully follow my blogs and keep up with our family business – The Barn at High Point Farms – know what an integral part of our lives all of our critters are….and I think you must be drawn to them as well. So sit a spell and let me tell you a story.
   Late December 2010 was a particularly cold year for us here in North Georgia. In a region that snow is a rare but special treat – this winter was brewing up to be snowy and in fact – frigid event. Anytime that the temperatures suddenly dropped with a cold spell, somebody here at the farm would say, “it must be time for baby goats to be born…..” because it certainly seems that it is the dead of winter that brings on the arrival of our goat kids.
   This was the December in fact that Jill and I had finally had debated back and forth over whether to make the plunge and “start our wedding business.”  So at this stage, we were still full of ideas and what if’s and work lists….and then of course – Christmas!  With the unusual frigid winter blasts hitting the farm, it put us all into Hunker-Down mode. This meant all animals were brought into the barn to be stalled – each in their separate areas.  Buckets for food and buckets for water, nailing up some tarps to keep that Arctic wind from blowing in – the list was long and detailed.  The early snowfall was beautiful and fun but the 10-15 degree temps just put a sting into every activity and outdoor task. 
   Christmas Day arrived on cue as in every year.  The family rituals of coming here to the house early, opening presents, eating a festive brunch, and a nice drawn out family time was right on schedule when reality harkened.  We knew we needed to pop up to the barn and check in on all of the boarded up critters. Though they had been well stocked the night before, it was time to give another quick check on them.  “Quick” likely wasn’t the best word since it meant piling on layers and layers of clothes and gloves and boots and hats – but the animals would surely need some additional hay or possibly for us to break the ice in their water buckets. 
   Jill had her two young boys to take back to the farmhouse – so I headed to the barn alone. As I approached the inside of the barn, I knew that something had happened.  All of the horses were at their stall doors looking towards the middle of the barn.  All of the goats were huddled in the hay and looking towards the middle of the barn.  There in the middle atop of a soft pile of hay were two newborn baby goats. Births are always a precious thing and even the animals sense it is special too.  It creates our own little Nativity scene as the wonder of life plays out before our very eyes.
   But on this cold cold morning – the circumstances were not in their favor.  For there on the hay beside their attentive mother, laid one dead baby goat and his brother who showed some lingering signs of life – but just barely.  I made sure that there was indeed no life in the first before I went to the next.  I grabbed up the lifeless goat kid and held him in my coat as I ran off towards the nearest house – Jill’s farmhouse. 
   One thing you can always count on with Jill living in the old farmhouse – is that she will have a huge fire roaring in the wood stove.  With towels and a fierce body massage – the weak goat kid gave some reassuring signs of life.  Grabbed from the jaws of death, at the moment, it looked as though we had saved one life.  We have bottled fed many-a baby goats over the years.  Usually it was when a mother had triplets and just didn’t seem to have enough milk for a third – or if a kid was just a bit smaller than its siblings and was pushed to the side by the bigger ones.  When a friend from Australia sent me a special delivery one time – three empty whiskey bottles and special rubber “goat nipples” that screwed on the top of the   bottles. They were perfect fit and our baby goats always took right to them so much better than the nipple accessories here in the States.  Those Aussie’s know their goat nipples! ha, ha!
   Anyway – so we dug out the milk bottle, made a batch of goat milk from powder, warmed it up to the right temperature, and tried as best we could to get the baby to perk up some interest to the bottle and the milk – but to no avail.  After trying and letting him rest – and trying again….we knew we had little time to spare. 
   We called our down the street neighbor, Matt, who owns a small flock of sheep.  We knew that he tube fed his baby lambs from time to time. We hoped he was home. Fortunately, he was and he brought his supplies and came immediately.  Tube feeding is when you carefully funnel a long rubber like straw down the side of the throat till the end gets into the stomach.  You then take a large needless syringe full of goat milk and insert it into the tube which takes the milk directly to the stomach. This method puts the nutrition right where it needs to go no matter the willingness of its recipient.  Instantly – the milk begins to do its magic, the belly is full, and the kid can go to sleep now with a full belly – warming him up as well as giving him some much needed nutrition and energy.  Part two is that I had to learn how to do this.  It is scary beyond words.  Funneling this tube down the throat is not only difficult and not suited for anyone lacking confidence – but you have to steer it in the right way or it could go down into their lungs – which of course would be disastrous and likely lethal if I got milk into the lungs.  So, this task definitely falls into the category of “you do what you have to do because nobody else will – and it HAS TO BE DONE!”
   So, we kept the little kid in a box on a blanket right beside the wood stove.  I came back up and tube fed him two or three more times before sunset. The recovery was quick and a delight to see a frisky little kid emerge. Though he begrudged the tube process, he was anxious to have his belly full again.  We wanted to take him back to his mother since he was feeling so much better. If we kept him too long away from his mother – she may reject him.  So before bedtime, we took him back, confident that we had given him the necessary boost he needed.  We built an igloo of square hay bales in one of the stalls and put him and his mom, Annie, in it.  We helped to steer him to his mother teats and he got connected and happily nursed as instinct prevailed.  She wasn’t sure what to think of him but was submissive to the process, but we were confident that she would accept him and let him nurse again.  With plenty of hay as a bed and locked in a stall, we left them for the night.
   Early the next morning, Jill was the quick one to head to the barn and check on the baby.  To her surprise, there were more babies born to two different mothers.  These babies all lay shivering and dazed by the frigid environment.  She knew from yesterday’s experience that a quick rescue plan was needed to save these babies. As she peaked into the stall to check on Annie and her boy, she saw the little boy kid laying lifeless once again on the hay.  Annie seemed interested in his plight but was obviously unwilling to accept him as hers.  A quick panic-ridden phone call to me meant hustling out of bed quickly to fetch as many towels as I could locate and rush up to the barn.
   It was a Chinese Fire Drill of sorts…..grabbing up baby goats, wrapping them in towels, heading for the warmth of Jill’s house, looking for boxes to place them in, trying to keep them separated so we knew who was who and who belonged to who – in the hopes of somehow returning some of these babies back to their moma’s at some point. But for now….our emergency mode was frantic.  The poor little original boy kid was at death’s door again – cold and lifeless but alive. He had likely laid all night unattended by his mom….and not even benefited from her body heat during the additional freezing temperatures. 
   The other baby kids were in much better shape but we realized that the extreme cold temperatures were just taking a toll on their newborn situation.  Now imagine this. All of these baby goats (a set up triplets, a set of twins, and the original boy) were white with some bits of colors on their head.  It was certainly a task to put one set of twins in this box and remember that they belonged to Snow White – while in these other boxes, these three babies belonged to Comet and then one for the original boy.  I wish now that we had taken a picture of this.  Jill’s kitchen living room area is more or less one large room with a huge brick fireplace in the middle that only serves as decor at this point. The large separate wood stove sets in front of it with its ventilation pipe running up the original brick chimney.  In the corner of the room is a Christmas tree of course. There are couches and kids and toys and furniture and now four boxes of baby goats.  What a sight! 
   With a quick batch of warm goat milk, first up was the lifeless little boy goat in hopes that he would somehow regain his strength – once again.  We felt so guilt ridden as if we had sent him out in the cold to die. But our mindset had been that he would reunite with his mother…and maybe he would have had the temperatures not be so awfully cold.  Once again, the tube feeding method was completed – slowly, carefully, and cautiously. In fact, I went down the line and tube fed each and every baby there.  Quick and easy (per say) and it got them all full and sleepy, making it easy to bed them down by the wood stove.  Poor Jill with her two young children, Finn and Tucker – 5 mos. old and 3 years old. What a task she had keeping the goats in the boxes, keeping Finn out of the boxes, and soliciting Tucker for continual assistance.  Maybe it is actually “Poor John”, Jill’s husband, who didn’t grow up on a farm but often has had to learn to be understanding when the Farm Girl role was required of his wife.  But four boxes of baby goats – that might’ve been a lot to ask of him…but he endured it despite it all.
   As if we didn’t have enough to do, our tasks that day also included devising a plan to create some sort of housing for these new nanny goats so that we could re turn their babies back to them – a way to hang a heat lamp safely, a barrier from any wind, where they won’t be so apt to lose their body warmth. Plus – goats tend to all get pregnant one right after the other, so we knew full well that more babies were to come.  If we didn’t come up with the right solution, we would need more boxes – and that didn’t seem like a good option. 
   Stringing up heat lamps is risky business.  If hung haphazardly, a heat lamp could catch hay on fire and you could lose your whole barn – animals included.  It was an immense fear of mine so we really struggled to find suitable and safe alternatives.  The barn seemed semi-full already with our horses.  Baby goats would need a dry, warm place out of the wind where they couldn’t even get into trouble if they wanted to.  Where in the world would that be?  Our best plan was to convert the Milkhouse.  The Milkhouse is a masonry building (a.k.a. the current Groom’s Room and current Workshop) with two rooms.  Each room was full to the gills with stuff and junk.  But, it was best to be as close to the barn as possible to keep our animal chores within range of each other.  So, we began pulling stuff and creating several segregated areas so that each nanny could have an area just for her and her babies. This helps to keep the peace but it also helps them to bond better since we were still keeping their babies part time in the boxes in the farmhouse and returning them back to their moms periodically for feedings. 
   The following day – which is day three for the little original kid – we saw much improvement.  We switched him over to the bottle to feed him which he took to now because he had some strength to him.  He had become our little baby – as they always do when you bottle feed them.  We knew we needed a name for him and pondered some good choices.  Jill’s littlest boy, Finn, was especially intrigued with the little goat.  Finn found it fascinating that the goat got a bottle just like a baby would.  Jill in essence had two little babies….and we knew that Finn would become the goats buddy in no time.  Because of some family history and because of the cuteness in the names….we opted to call the little baby boy kid – Huckleberry….so that we would have Huckleberry and Finn!  Corny – yes, I know but cute!
   Over the next week, we indeed ended up with many more baby goats – a total of 21 babies born in 10 days!  I swear it was a bumper crop that year. The temperatures remained extra frigid for another couple of weeks so we had 4-5 heat lamps sprawled over a slew of baby goats. Even days after the first couple of deliveries – Jill, out of precaution, would bring the babies inside at night just to oversee them during the coldest of the temperatures – to return them back to their respective mothers the following days.  We would haul the kids – one under one arm, the other under the other arm….walk out towards the pen as their mothers would be baaing out to them and them back to their mom’s.  It was a crazy routine for a few weeks as we had all available space full of sectioned off contraptions as make-shift pens….watermelon boxes cut up as a floor so they would not chill on the cold concrete floors….with layers of hay on top.  Plus their moma’s beside them – segregated by twos so that we could find two amiable nanny’s who would get along during this close confinement.  I know as I write all of this is sounds so chaotic and confusing and trust me…the regimen was crazy.  Most people would never believe of such a story – of such a hectic regimen but it is part of living on  a farm with animals….Unbelievable – Amazing – Rewarding – Totally Looney!  If it wasn’t for the love that we have for our critters – it would’ve been horrible.  But….we saved them all and lost only the first initial one….and for that, we were tickled pink.
   But, that is not the end of the story of Huckleberry.  It is only the remarkable beginning.  It is part of the wonderful story because he was a Christmas baby  and that alone should make him feel special.  It is part of the wonderful story because he was brought back to life – not just once from death’s door, but twice!  What a miracle.  And also because he was our special little kid who eventually would not sleep in the box by the wood stove in Jill’s house but in the barn stall with a slew of other thriving goat kids.  But three times a day, we would go out to the barn and holler “Huckleberry!” and he would hear us and holler the loudest and more frantic baa back.  In fact his “baa” sound more like a “baAAAAAAAA!”  We would let Huckleberry just hang around us when we were working on things.  Remember – by this time, Jill and I had already decided that we would convert the barn to a wedding venue, so we were on task almost every day especially if the sun was shiny and out.  Huckleberry would follow us like a dog – or like a shadow for in his mind – we were his Moma….and  Finn AND Tucker were his playmates.  He became a special kid to us from these special times and connections and as he grew – he greeted friends, family, and visitors to the farm and they were all amused at him and his friendliness.  He looked like a goat but he acted like a dog. We got Bear – our little Great Pyrenese pup – to protect the goats one day. He and Huckleberry were fast friends. As spring approached, we opted to keep Huckleberry as a neutered male pet instead of sell him as we often do some of our herd each year.  Huckleberry was just too much fun to have around.  So, we kept Huckleberry until……………..
   Until is the rest of the story and the best part of the story.  The conclusion of this story will be posted in a couple of days……..I hope that you take some time to check back soon and read the rest….

Margie Gardner

Wedding Year 2012 Concludes

Picture

November 10th concluded our last 2012 wedding. It was as beautiful and as special of a wedding as our first wedding of the year (March 10th) was.  It has been a long year – with many brides, many details, many improvements, many memories, and many new friends.

I am amazed that our perfect record remains in tact – No Rained Out Weddings!  We had several close calls where the rain came in just before….and gave everyone pause to pull out their Plan B option for review, but then the rain came and the rain went as if on cue.  There were several weddings where there were a half dozen family or friends standing in the barn looking at their i-phones as they watched the weather radar maps as a front looked like it was coming right for us – yet disappeared as it approached our valley.

We had one wedding where the beginning of the day couldn’t have been prettier – not a cloud in the sky. Yet – as the ceremony time arrived – a rumble of thunder could be heard as a storm rolled from the northwest oddly down towards our way.  Guests had arrived – a shower and storm came – and the bride, known for loving storms, decided to wait an extra 30 minutes to see if the storm would pass before going to her plan B.  So…we waited…on pins and needles hoping that the bride was handling the situation with peace. Indeed she was….and the talk of her guests were “oh, this is just like Mandi – she loves a good storm!” After a brief wait – the wedding went on as normal and it was one of the more memorable weddings and the photos were amazing due to the odd light that comes after a rain. 


We continue to be impressed by the creativity of our brides, the variety that comes from them, the great ideas that we see implemented, and the uniqueness of each of them.  We are privy to a continual stream of pinterest ideas and looks. 
We have been fortunate to get media exposure too this year getting picked up on several of the internet wedding blogs, local newspapers, and in magazines.  We are excited about the Carly/Michael wedding from March(photos by Soli Photography)  that will be featured in the Winter issue of DIY Weddings Magazine – to be on sale soon.  Several other weddings have been submitted to various magazines – so we hope for more announcements later. We do no wedding fairs and very little advertising So, we are dependent on word of mouth, the attraction of my website where the amazing photos from our talented photographers share their works of art, and our Facebook page where we are linked and liked in a new age of social media. So, each and every bit of media exposure is exciting and precious to us.
We even found out that one of our brides did a music video here.  Long story and a strange one but check out sometime on Youtube a music video for MatchBox Twenty song titled “Overjoyed.”
We have had brides come from far and wide to have their wedding here at High Point Farms….West Coast, Augusta, Raleigh, Colorado, Japan, and more. Beyond our destination wedding brides – their family and guests have come from the four corners of the country and even beyond to attend these beautiful Georgia southern weddings here at the barn. It has been wonderful and fascinating to meet so many delightful people from all over.  Southern hospitality has officially been spread far and wide.  We have also had a few military brides/groom who either just loved the idea of a southern wedding or had some sort of connection to the southeast but those have all been fun and special.
We have had unusual sightings here at High Point Farms this year from unicorns to double decker buses to blind-folded grooms to cigar cabinets and more.
I had a niece get married here at the farm and I had a granddaughter, Emma, born in June. My husband quit his truck-driving job to become our full-time projects and maintenance man/jack of all trades for our family business.
We have been truly blessed with so many of the experiences this year and we thank you for your part in making this a wonderful and special year. We loving being a part of your special day and  know that you too have made an impression on us as well.  Our lives are woven together and with the pictures in toe – it makes for some awesome memories.  I hope you have had a thankful Thanksgiving – there is much to be thankful for.

New Purchase – Barn Wood Tables

We have purchased three barn wood tables for the barn.  I love them!  Real old barn wood was used to make these.  In fact, their history is that a wood-maker made them for a friend’s wedding from wood that came from a dilapidated barn.  The farmer whose barn they came from had lamented at the loss but was excited to know that the boards would be used for something as fine as a wedding table.  So, the wood-maker made many of these for his friend’s country rustic wedding in the mountains of northern Tennessee.  So, to purchase these tables from a man who created them out of love for a friend-  to now us who can use them to celebrate more marriages and love – well…..it just seems fittin’…

These tables are not examples of fine craftsmanship…these are very primitive tables where the beauty comes from the old wood itself.  We purchased three of them thinking that two of them would make great head table options and maybe the third could be set out under the pear tree to accompany the whiskey barrel bar to hold the decanters and such.  Of course, the options are numerous and it just increases our collection of items that you can gently use and rearrange.

We do ask that you be sensitive to the thought that washing off Barbecue Sauce or cake icing may be a bit difficult seeing that the boards are worn and porous….so it may be that other folding tables would be a better choice in certain circumstances.  That said…..using these tables bare with some doilies or runners or scrunches of burlap would be cute….and even laying a vintage lace tablecloth over her so to get the benefit of both – board and lace…sounds good too.

These tables are about 8′ long and how wide?…..yes….I guess I will need to measure that.  But we can’t wait to see them decorated and photographed (professionally by some of our guest photographers) so that we can present some better photos for you.  But for now…these few ipod pictures will have to do.  We still are on the look out for a few special pieces of furniture….to compliment our facility…..if you have something to suggest or offer – let us know!

Till next time,
Margie

To Add-On Options or Not?

  One of our mottos here at High Point Farms is to give our brides lots of options.  Whether it is having your ceremony under the grove and set up in a semi-circle or whether she wants to bring her own food…options, options.  options. 
  Many brides are on very tight budgets so they appreciate the few options where they can save money – by setting up their ceremony, finding a family friend to cater the food, and handling clean-up.  Some brides have more time or more willing friends to handle these extra chores – so it still remains an option.
  A few of our brides want everything included.  We have never touted our venue as all-inclusive…we don’t have a resident photographer, we don’t cater, and husband David – as of yet, doesn’t officiate. Some brides will look at us bewildered and say…..”you make us set out our chairs?”…..to which we say, “We give you the option of setting up your chairs so you can have it where ever and how ever you imagine it.”  Funny how some brides are thrilled at that statement and some are puzzled. 
  Most of our add-on’s come from repeated requests.  Each bride envisions her wedding day different – each come with a different budget – and each come with a priority list.
  Haybales – large and small.  Square hay bales for seating shouts rustic and fits in with our farm wedding genre.  It is no easy matter to haul hay bales out of the barn for set up and to return them – so our pricing to reflect the labor and time involved….but the look is adorable. Most brides will lay out a sheet of fabric atop the row of bales with a twisty knot at the ends – make them a bit more comfortable to sit upon. Some brides find this option appealing because they can avoid asking their guest to haul in their chairs from the ceremony to the reception area.
  Some use the square bales for decorating – either as accents on the hay wagon, etc. or like pictured below – a bride made a “hay couch” which was plum adorable! 
  Large haybales are requested to create a unique decor addition or for a great photo op.  Usually three are sufficient for “the look” but we have plenty of them either way.
  We do have fun stuff like 1. horse in the ring – where we place one or two horses in the horse ring to give that up close and personal touch that seem to please many of your guests…people are drawn to horses and it is just eye candy to be enjoyed. We offer our “goat on a leash” which must be purely unique to us – where we bring out one of our favorite and friendliest goats to be petting – fed bred to – and enjoyed….young and old seem to be tickled to be entertained by this. We had a bonfire which is also a favorite.  We set it up and set the fire as dusk approaches….we set out some extra seating – and it just provides a mellow and peaceful place for your guests to just chill….under the deep star filled sky. We offer hay rides, hay wagon get-away….and just adds a bit of farm fun to the evening.
    Some of our add ons are logistics – rentals of sorts.  We now offer linen rentals. We have a vendor who has agreed to deliver the linens, set them up, and come retrieve them all for $12 each. They also have burlap runners.  We rent our mason jar collection used for drinking glasses – giving a cute theme to even that feature. We have mason jars with metal hangers and mason jars with woven twine hangers – that can be rented so you can place flowers in them for the shepherds crooks or to be hung from the trees.  We now have a pergola that we can set up – it is a distressed white wood pergola with a bit of grapevine garland on it – which you can them embellish with greenery, flowers, ribbons, or fabric.
  We do also have various services as add-ons.  Though we do encourage you to come set up how you wish and where you wish – setting up your tables and chairs may be the last thing that you want to do on your wedding day – understandably actually. So we offer a set up add-on where we do this service for you.  I really do encourage more of our brides to opt for this add-on.  It really does take quite a bit of effort and often sweat to set up 100-200 chairs….hauling them from the barn out to the ceremony area.  Just setting them up is a challenge to most….finding the right angle….making straight lines….spacing them just right…..and then giving them a quick clean up if necessary.  Many times we have seen family members wearing themselves out setting them up – not realizing how quickly the time passes and the to do list pending. Then on days when the weather is iffy…setting out the chairs has to be delayed so not to risk ruining the chairs…this often means that the “setting out chore” is delayed to a less convenient time…….. I can’t help but think that many “bride’s families” would rethink this if they had it to do all over again.  If you opt for this add on…we just need to have a good pow-wow with the bride to find out exactly where she wants the ceremony – how many chairs set out…and how many tables set out, etc.  We also offer clean-up options too.  Saving money is often the driving force for a family to try to do this clean up themselves….and with a crew of dedicated friends who can stay up till late…this can be completed without us…..but….again….being able to just be the “family of the happy couple” ….enjoy and celebrate till late….then pack up what is important enough to keep…and leave the messes and the “put backs” to us.  There is always lots of clean up from a party….corn hole games to retrieve…banners to take down….shepherds crooks to take up….garbage…left overs, etc….Considering that you have likely been up since dawn…and had a busy and hectic day…adding on the service of complete clean up is a wise choice….again it is your choice or not…but believe me…..it is worth it.  That way…you can enjoy the evening and be the mother of the bride……the father of the bride….and not be the janitor.
  Finally, there are a few add  ons that we don’t include in our contracts….they are more personalized.  We often will offer to decorate – some or a lot – for a bride.  ‘we have a host of antiques, vintage bottles, doilies,  a watering tin collection, vintage tea pots, quilts, old wooden boxes, and our mixed vintage china collection with old silverware too. We will work with our florist so we can do most of the flowers leaving the bouquets to the professionals…so to take care of most of the venue details.  We enjoy the decorating and if you want to contact us to handle a slew of your venue details…..just email me a highpointfarms@gmail.com.       We look forward to the day that we can actually begin to offer full package plans…for those of you who want the look but have no time…..maybe some day…..maybe next year!
Thanks for listening!    Good Night!

Margie

Music To My Ears

  We have been giving tours virtually every month (and most every week) now for twenty straight months. We have gotten pretty good at showing off the farm and explaining our features and options. We get pretty good at spotting those brides that love us as well as those who should likely be looking elsewhere. If the bride is asking “can the barn be air-conditioned?” or “can the animals be put into a different pasture?”….then we are pretty sure that what they are envisioning is not us.
  On the other hand, when the bride steps out of her car and her eyes are instantly dazzled…we have a pretty good clue. When she says “oh, I love it that it is a real barn”….then we have a pretty good clue.  When she seems to notice every little piece of decor around each and every corner and takes a photo of it…..then we have a pretty good clue.  And…when the mother hugs me after the tour and tells me “how wonderful – this is what she has always wanted but I didn’t know if we would ever find it…” then we know we were meant for each other.  These are words that are like music to my ears – I relish them.
  One such bride was wed this past weekend – Kaylin (to her now husband, Andrew).  What a precious and fun wedding it was. Such careful and thoughtful planning went into this wedding – more so than most. It wasn’t the most lavish but it was so well orchestrated and thought out – each details – each vendor – each aspect.
  Highlights included:
1.  The band was friends of the family
2.  A warmer cabinet full of cigars for the men was brought
3.  A popcorn bar provided yummy popcorn with self-serve options for various flavors
4.  Vintage china was used on the tables
5.  A homemade Lemonade Stand/Bar was brought and set up – making for cute visuals as well as a practical way to serve a wide variety of drinks
6. The caterer brought cute benches for the ceremony layout
7.  A “horse-ring full” of corn hole toss games created a festive game atmosphere
8.  Various “food-stations” were set up around the barn area giving guests plenty of traffice flow and quick access to a variety of foods.
9.  Lots of homemade and personal touches for decor on the tables and about – like large scrabble tiles spelling our BAUGH or “B’s” burned into wood boxes in cute fonts.
10. A frozen custard vendor brought some delicious flavors for all to sample.
11. Our rustic chandelier was adorned with roses, baby’s breath, and glass beading that created a pinterest ready look.
12. a dessert smorgasbord of sorts including fudgey brownies, dipped cake balls on a stick, specialty cookies, cupcakes, and more.
  The day couldn’t have gone any better with the weather cooperated for this August wedding. Family and friends came, played, celebrated, danced, ate, enjoyed, and left. As the mother of the bride was beginning to leave – she was gracious enough to come to bid me good bye. She went on about what a wonderful day it was – a dream come true for her daughter and how so many guests had told them how wonderful the wedding was and how pleased they were with our venue, etc. etc. etc. We cherish these compliments and know that our hard work had paid off ….each time we hear these sweet compliments.  But…..this mother of the bride continued on. She said words to me that I won’t forget. She said……..”You want to know what the saddest part is?…The sad part is knowing that when we leave here today after this wonderful day – that we will not be coming back to the farm.” and she then hugged me.  What a sweet and generous thing to say!
  We both realized that we had become a part of each others lives….ours with hers as we created our little Love Ranch that set the stage for her daughter’s most special day.  Hers with ours as she gave me a gift of kind words – the music to my ears – to let me know that I had been successful in giving out a touch of love to our guests.  The kind words will be remembered and etched in my journal – which is here on my farm blog – where I share my thoughts and my heart with you.

The Bride From Japan

  We are constantly amazed and honored by the vast number of brides that are so in love with our venue – our concept – here at HP Farms. We have a large metro-Atlanta market along with our local girls but then we are branching out to brides beyond.  Augusta, Charlotte, Knoxville, and Nashville brides have come from afar to secure a date to create their fairy tale wedding here with us.  We have begun to get a few that are even further across the country that even those.  In fact – one of our early August brides was a girl who was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and wanted to come back to the States to get married.
  The groom was stationed on the West Coast. The mother lives in West Virginia. The bride went to high school south of Atlanta. Various family, wedding party, and friends would be flying in from various locations across the country any way….so she wanted to have her wedding where ever she wanted – and she like us best!
  Memorial Day weekend was my first email inquiry from her as she proposed the thought of securing an early August wedding.  Obviously that meant that the wedding would be 6 weeks away and it meant that she would be securing the venue site unseen.  Beyond that she was wanting Jill and I to decorate and prepare the venue for her.  The task was now set and plans were being made in hopes for all things coming together for a wedding, celebration, and a family & friend reunion – all in one.  The bride had my website to rely on with ideas. A quick questionnaire helps us decide what type of decor she leaned towards. Mason Jars, burlap, vintage china, mason jars for drinks, southern tea and lemonade in decanters, the cast iron tub full of bottled drinks of all sorts, ideas swirled….Calls to the florist and mapping out a plan…the clock was ticking.
  Her mother had her list knowing that her daughter would not even come into town until the week “of” her wedding. Vendors secured, dresses selected, friends stepping in to help….the day arrived.
   All the loose ends seemed to come together. The bride and her girls were stunning in their dresses and so looked the part!  The official photographer was even a friend of the brides from high school…so….The photos below give a hint at the fun and sass from these girls – you could tell that they had been friends forever.  The guests including the groom, his guys, and his family – flew and drove him from all sorts of places. But they partied hardy and celebrated the love of this sweet couple.  All who participated were glad to be a part of it. The photographs only gave hints of this fairy tale story….and I just was so excited with it all I thought it was worthy for a blog….a story that just may go down as one of  our more special ones.

The Yellow Chair

  If I had known the end of this story – it would’ve been great to have taken some before and after pictures to show you as I told the story…so….I guess you will need to use your imagination.
  Months ago, one of Jill’s kitchen chairs was falling apart.  With so many projects at hand – hanging onto a crippled chair in hopes of putting it on the Hubby’s To Do List didn’t sound very practical – so she discarded it assuming it would head to the dump.  I likely inherited a chair fetish from my mother –  and I found some interest in this old tall spindled chair and I hung onto it for quite some time – thinking that I might find some use for it.  Weeks went by – maybe even months.  Finally, I decided that I would do some essential repairs – nothing fancy or professional but with some long screws and a drill…..we got it back in the shape of a chair.  Beyond that it was a pretty worn out chair. It needed cleaning and painting and likely re-upholstered – and that suddenly sounded like more than I could schedule.
  Then…it hit me – a plan of action.  I found some spray paint….a nice bright yellow….and sprayed it from head to toe…..and decided that I would make this into a plant stand of sorts.  Instead of upholstering the seat – I just tossed the seat.  I drug the chair way out away from the barn….out under the cedar tree along the driveway ….far enough out that nobody would really see it.  I put a plain old board across the seat and placed atop the board an old enameled pot full of flowers.  I thought it would add just a tad of color for anybody drying up…I wasn’t trying to hide it but it was just meant to be a glimpse of cuteness as you drove up.  Who would ever know that it wasn’t really fixed. Who would know that I put large hunkin’ screws in it instead of petite carpenter nails. Would anybody even notice it?
  Then….a photo gallery of wedding shots got linked to my facebook page. As I anxiously flipped through each photo – amazed at how talented these photographers are….I saw this unique photo.  Ahhhhh, I thought. I showed it quickly to my husband and ask “do you know where this shot is taken?”  He looked and pondered and mulled and eventually gave up placing it.  It was my yellow discarded chair.  It made a cute backdrop and was even temporarily “a chair again” for these photos.  It looked so cute and even helped to set the photo…it being an old spindle backed chair…it being yellow….and just all came together for a great shot and a funny story.
  It has not been the first time that some sort of “flawed” or “truly distressed” piece of the farm decor has made for a surprising but wonderful backdrop for this wedding venue.  It emphasizes that there is still beauty in some of the most unique and odd things that are out here….whether it is an old decaying fence post or patina stained barn wood or an aged old pear or even a discard

A Hot Summer’s Day Wedding

  There are just some weddings that I feel so compelled to tell “the story” about – to blog about…..and the Julia/Will wedding of June 30, 2012 is one of those weddings.     Julia is one of those hands on brides….plans it all…loves the little personal touches here and there….makes a lot of things herself or gets friends to do….and so there was a lot of emails back and forth with me and Julia prior to her wedding. She loved the farm from the first glance…and notices every little thing that we do and add. She fits us down to a tee and so she comes here already in a heavenly mode – happy as a lark.
  As the day approach – we  realized that the day was going to be hot – very hot.  June is indeed a summer month and this is the south – so sun dresses, a popsicle vendor, fans for each guest, plenty of water, and the ceremony in the grove made wonderful sense to offset any heat related concerns. But……who knew that there would be some record scorching heatwave that day. 
  A bride who chooses any outdoor venue just needs to be that sort of bride who can take things with an even “chill” and make the best of it.  It could be wind or rain or heat or chill…one has the power of many choices but when it comes to the weather – you just have to go with the flow as they say.  Well…..we knew that Julia was one of those brides who could do that…but as the heat forecasters predicted – the heat was intense so we were all thinking of ways to offset those conditions..
  Extra fans were brought in……….and we even installed some misters on the fan stands so to create little cooling stations. We brought in some of the family and wedding party into Jill’s house for a bit – in the A/C….just to let them chill a bit.  Ultimately….you embrace the celebration and make the best of it. 
  Fortunately the bride has her a/c room and through out the day…I never saw her look anything but fresh and happy.  The pictures have come back and they show a summer evening wedding but you have to look closely to get any sort of hint of “heat wave”…..
  The guests arrived…..most of them smartly in a cooler attire….Julia had arranged for individual fans for each chair….water bottles provided as they made their way to their seats and they sat under the huge tree canopy with eye candy of the animals in the pasture. The wedding was beautiful. The evening was embraced with a barn full of family and friends. I know that each guest was aware of the heat and humidity but their focus seemed to be on the glorious day and event that had brought them to the farm. The laughter was evident, the food excellent, they stay long and had a great time. Julia and Will were radiating more from the glow of their love and happiness than from the temperatures….you could see that!  It was a happy event for all. 
  We were pleased to hear back from Julia later….telling us…. “I just wanted to let you know what a BEAUTIFUL time we all had on Saturday ( despite the heat). In fact, everyone couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful it was and not even about the heat! Everyone loved the barn and all the little touches.      Thank you again for everything you did for us. We truly appreciated it. So many people came up to us and told us it was the best wedding they’d ever been too and that they absolutely loved the barn. Everyone said it went too fast and I agree. It felt like it all lasted 30 seconds- incredible!       sincerely, Julia.”
  That said it all….and we were tickled to hear.  Enjoy some pictures….my favorites.
(Photographer:  Claudia McDade)
 
P.S.  My next blog will be a behind the scenes funny story about one of my rescued “chairs”:…yes I said chairs…..but that story in fact is also tied into the Julia/Will wedding….so….part II…………..later.

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I always love the corn photos

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I love it when homemade favors are given to the guests – and this also made for a cute presentation.

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Julia’s mom was a sweetheart that day too…and this picture of them all looks wonderful…one of my favorites!

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They looked like they have step back in time.

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Being a country girl from way back…these last two last photos look so precious to me because she is barefooted….she just fits the part and looks like she has grown up here.

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Here is the chair………..my Part II of my upcoming blog…..stay tuned.

Groom’s Room, i.e. Man Cave

  We do have another project completed – well….I hate to ever really as completed for we get new ideas and notions all the time how to upgrade or decorate or to improve some of our features here at HP Farms.  That said, I would hate to take away from our feeling of accomplishment as we announce the opening of our Groom’s Room which we really want to call it the Man Cave. 
  It didn’t start out as the Man Cave.  It has evolved which sounds more like a pun to the title of this room.  We knew from the get-go that we wanted to provide a cute and comfortable place for our brides to prepare.  We tout that brides love to get married in a barn but don’t want to get ready in a barn.  Give them a clean and vintaged decorated room any day and they will be happy.  Through in an air conditioner and a bathroom and you have just met all the necessary requirements.  Little touches of artistic paper flowers and quilts and shabby chic decor and well…….we have set the stage for our brides to have a wonderful time getting ready at the farmhouse.
  Now – the guys usually come dressed and if they don’t – sometimes all the need is a place to turn face. They have been known to just drop their drawers and change in  our barn lounge.  Well – that never went over really well with me or Jill so plan B was devised.  Plus – we noticed that often times the guys would hang their clothes in the lounge and leave little piles of their stuff – which not only wasn’t a safe place to leave your belongings but it then cluttered up our quaint rustic lounge which was meant for your guests.
  We pondered the where and the how.  Space is a prized item and finding the right place was a must.  A stall?…that was possible but I didn’t really want to alter the mood of the inside of the barn by having the guys hang out so close….plus I knew that I would love to provide for them an air conditioner and didn’t want to have the noise infiltrating my peaceful atmosphere at the barn.
  We had originally planned to make the Milkhouse (gray masonry building located between the barn and the farmhouse) to be our Caterer’s Corner. – a place where the caterer’s could have a work station, extra electricity, and a place to hide their clutter.  Over time – we saw that though this was functional – that it was a bit too far for the caterers to run their goods over to the Buffet Room.  Instead – we clean and revamped “and extra stall” located beside the Buffet Room for our Caterer’s Room – which made sense. This is so convenient for them to then refill the Buffet and keep an eye on the food status. So….we set up a table and moved the Frig there – leaving the Masonry Building to be our future Groom’s Room.
  Now – we did want to provide a place for our guys to change – a private place where they can change full monty if need be.(I say that, maybe I need to find a good way to attach a lock!). But – so close to the farmhouse  where our brides take great joy in all of the photo opportunities – well…that means that we have to eliminate some of their visual access to the farmhouse areas.  We added a hunkin’ HUGE air conditioner to keep those guys cool even on those hot days of August….some comfortable leather seating…..and of course….some vintage decor to keep everything in theme.  My grandfather was a barber back in the early 40’s thru 80’s and for many of those years set up shop in downtown Chattanooga in the James Building.  When he left there – he brought quite a few of the items from that shop; old green sinks, large mirrors, barber chair, etc. We have stored many of these things here at the farm for all of these years – sentimentally hoping for a way to use them in some capacity. Well – Jill recovered the barber chair and it sits proudly in her kitchen of the farmhouse. Many passerby-ers of her kitchen window have noticed it and admired it.  But the extra large vintage mirrors we put in the Man Cave. An old suitcase of his displays a few Men-related decors and even an old shoe-shine caddy that my grandfather had for all those many years ago – sets in the corner.  Curtains cover the windows so that there is no peeking in or out.  Several lights can provide enough glow to facilitate their dressing needs.  An old vintage galvanized cooler is there usually with a few cold water bottles for their pleasure. 
  So – our Groom’s Quarters has ended up more as a Man Cave.  A dark cold private room to harbor in – cool off – change and really just chill – in private….he and his guys as they wait for their cue.
 
So – is it a bit primitive?  Yep!  But I think quaint and quite sufficient for the guys and what they need. Give them a pack of cards and they may settle their nerves a bit.

Margie

Common Mistakes

  Well…a year and a half has come and gone with our new business venture.  We have seen weddings that differ in dozens of ways. We have seen brides come in with a decorator and a crew of helpers and we have seen do-it-yourself brides who are pinterest regulars and etsy customers.  We see expensive weddings and thrifty ones. We see fancy and frilly do-dads and those with quilts and mason jars.  I don’t dare say that I have seen it all – for with a flexible venue like we have and tout – it just encourages brides to come do their own thing.
  Organizing a wedding is basically like planning a large party – a very large party. Some of our brides (and their family) have had lots of experience with hosting parties and some have very little experience.  I am sure that if anybody had the notion to “do it all over again” that they would’ve learn from their mistakes and found a way to do it better the second time.  Well….nobody in their right mind would do it over again or want to.  That said….I have seen a fair amount of mistakes – common mistakes – that I want to share so that you can maybe avoid.
1.  The Bride tries to handle too many of the details.  This is indeed the brides day and if should reflect that. She choose the place, the dress, the colors, and in fact….should choose virtually every aspect of this wedding day.  This is likely the only day in her life that she can have such a luxury – so let her have it.  But…some brides think that they can handle it all….the set up…..the decor…..dealing with the caterer, etc. etc. etc.  On wedding day…she needs to have a short list of her responsibility.  If she needs to go oversee the layout of the venue – do just that.  Oversee it…have a crew of helpers (or hire this out) but convey how you want it…and let them do it…..On the decorations – the lay out – the table decor, etc….do your work ahead of time – set up a table decor at home – take pictures of it..put the stuff in a bag labeled Table One…pack the stuff in the bag….and then on wedding day…delegate this to some one else.  Time slips by….the day gets consumed…you need to primpt and prep and enjoy this time with your family and friends so you need to do only those very specific things in regards to the barn and reception area…then delegate it to somebody else.
2.  Mistake number one also applies to the mother of the bride.  Many of our mothers are use to giving parties so they think that they can handle all of the setup and decorating.  Setting up and decorating for 100-200 in an unusual venue is much different than doing the same for a group of 30-40 at your own house with your usual decor.  It takes time to decide how to space the tables – do you want the runners going all the same direction or mismatched – do you want the cake table in the corner or under the tree – do you want the ceremony chairs 12 ft. apart or 8 ft. apart – does the sign in go here or there.  These are all fair things to ponder…but point is…these little things take time….and time is precious on this day for you – the mother of the bride – need to be in that role too…be the mother of the bride and not the hired hand.  Yes – if you are on a budget – you may need to help over see these things but find a die-hard friend who would be happy to donate their time as a gift to the bride. 
3.  Communicate thoroughly with your vendors and preferrably in writing.    Doing it your own way means that you can get your uncle Joe to bring your food or you can hire your own caterer.  Your caterer is concentrating on the food but you need to make sure you talk about every aspect that is needed regarding the food.  Who will bring the ice and how much?…i.e. fill the cast iron tub plus drinks plus galvanized tubs?  What about dinnerware and napkins?  Does he need tables and how many?  Does he need electricity?  Will he bring tablecloths for his tables?  Is he bringing food  only or serving food?  Who is in charge of the garbage?  Also….when deciding on your wedding cakes…tell your vendor that you are getting married in an outdoor venue and the cake will be set up on a table in a barn.  If you are getting married during a “warmer” month…they may then discourage you from using certain icings that would tend to melt.  You need to know when they will arrive to set up the cake – for they can’t rightly come at 3 p.m. for a 6:30 p.m. wedding.  Don’t assume anything.  Ask and ask and then even ask them if there is anything left you should ask.
4.  Don’t overdress your groom and groomsmen when you have a summer wedding.  Being a farm wedding venue – we are outside the box.  All the rules can be fudged because we are unusual.  What you wear – mismatched bridesmaid dresses – what you eat or don’t eat – what kind of photos you have taken – your vows etc….So…if you have a summer wedding…don’t make your groom and groomsmen wear long sleeved shirts and jackets.  Typically…many of the photos are taken prior to the ceremony….so that means the guys are out sweating in the hottest part of the day.  By ceremony time (7ish…if they follow our advice), they will be fine….but….being decked out in full gear will mean heat stroke and the guys looking around for a way to escape.  So…whether that means just no jackets?….and maybe suspenders….or whether that means them rolling up their sleeves a bit….but just be practical – in order to make it a pleasant time for your best guys!
5.  Unlimited beer.  Yes – this is a common mistake.  In order to have beer at our venue – you have to get insured to cover the liability that comes with serving alcohol.  In essence, our requirement that you get  insurance for this is protecting  YOU.  If one of your guest drinks and drives and wrecks – they could sue YOU.  So…take this liability and responsibility to heart. Providing alcohol is your choice but we have seen several weddings where the tub was full of beer and by late evening – there were quite a few of buzzed guests.  This puts them and you at risk.  We are a long way from anybody’s home – Walker County police know we are here – and driving tipsy is the same as driving drunk – and this is no favor to them or you.l Even if most of your guests will drink responsibly, consider either having a bartender, or limiting the number of bottles that you provide.
6.  Garbage detail.  Some of our old contracts are still being fulfilled. These older contracts did not include garbage disposal.  This was an option giving initially in order to hold down the costs.  Some brides have readily assumed that responsibility thinking that they will save some money – and besides…what is the problem in taking home a few bags of garbage by your brother or uncle.  First…if you are going to do this – please let them know ahead of time that this is your request so that they bring the appropriate vehicle and be prepared to haul it off.  Also remember that depending on your particulars – whether you have lots of beer bottles, water bottles, and disposables – you may end up with a slew of garbage bags…and it isn’t easy to stash a dozen bags into your car.  Point is…communicate a head of time about this with your helper crew to make sure they are prepared.  We have since altered our contract to include a certain amount of bags “in the package” and then automatically charge for each extra bag which can be taken out of the security deposit.  This just avoids having the problematic issue of one of your friends exasperated at the unprepared thought of hauling off tons of garbage in their small fancy vehicle. 
7.  The Bridal Prep Room.  The key word is “Prep” i.e.  preparation.  The Farmhouse is occupied by my daughter Jill and her family. She opens up her home’s front room for the brides so that they can have a clean, cute, and air conditioned place to prepare. She allows access to her bathroom. This room is meant to be a place just for preparation and not to be lingered in and out of for the rest of the evening.  We request that the bride be totally out of the room by 7 p.m. so that Jill can bathe and put her children to bed and that they resume their lives in their own house again.  The Bridal Room needs to be left as clean as she found it.  Sometimes the brides – and more often than not – it is her bridesmaids will continue to pop back into the bridal room during the evening in the hopes of “refreshing their make up” and such.  We have even had guests show up in the bridal room thinking that they could use the bathroom “in the house” instead of the barn.  We try to be sympathetic with the needs of our brides but it is very important that Jill and her family can not lose their privacy and domain over their own house beyond the hours that we give.
8.  Table decor needs to be meant for an outdoor event.  We see every sort of table settings. It is quite interesting and fun for me and Jill to pop into the barn to see how a wedding is being set up and decorated.  Occasionally we see things that surely looked real cute “in a magazine” but wasn’t logically smart for an outdoor venue.  A couple of examples that come to mind are 1. cut out paper hearts or  such on the tables.  Sprinkled about…saying love or marriage etc….may look cute on a table in a fellowship hall where there is no breeze but when you do this on tables set out side or even in the barn…by the time the ceremony begins…half of  your “words” are scattered all over the floor.  2. On the same theme…if you set out silky sashes or runners on the tables….any little bit of breeze will blow these into a roll or in a twist.  The center piece may keep it from falling in the floor but it requires constant attention from your overseers.  Point is…keep in mind your venue…and if you have any questions….just shoot me an email.  I check those daily and answer lots of questions.
9.  Heels.  If you are a short bride – I know that you want to give yourself some inches but remember your surroundings.  You will be prancing all over the farm for those quaint and interesting photos plus back and forth from the farmhouse to the barn….and we have grass everywhere….and we are a farm venue – not a fully manicured park – so our landscape is uneven.  So – rethink the heels – and try to find something cute and pretty but comfortable.  Also…pass this tidbit along to your bridesmaids and your mother (and extended family) and maybe even find a way to make a bit of a comment on your invitations so that your guests will come “comfortable.”
10.  Don’t forget to check in with Jill about 5-6 weeks out from your event so that you can go over any of the add-ons that you may want to include.  This gives you an opportunity to tell Jill about the time of your event, to make sure all of the paperwork is provided, and to ask any last minute questions.  Plus – she can verify your total before writing that check. Remember – you will include in your total the $300 security deposit to cover any damages or last minute purchases/add-ons. 
  Luckily – even with all of these common mistakes…the weddings have always been successful and enjoyable.  So far – no rained out weddings.  Even with one of those very hot evenings last month – the wedding went off as a true success with guests peppering the bride and groom with compliments about the wedding and the venue.  There have been many a mother that had tired and sore feet that night but still with happy hearts.  It is a big party with lots of details.  A To-Do list is a smart thing….an “organized friend” to help trouble shoot is worth their weight in gold.  Deciding which of these “chores” you can hire out and which you can handle is a thing to ponder.  And…always feel like you can ask advice from us – we are happy to help.
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