Come say hello to @jolenesdad (also known as Brett). He has been a member since April 2015 and comes to us from Montgomery, Texas.
1. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Hey y’all! It’s Brett.... Jolenesdad. I’m 39, from Texas. I have a husband and an almost 4 year old son and lots of pets. “Jolene” in my username ... is a horse. My husband isn’t the most farm-y person around, so I let him name animals after Dolly Parton if I want him to be attached to them. And wouldn’t you know ...... my plan works!
There have been lots of versions of me throughout the years... but I think I’m settling on the best one. I still don’t know who I really am—do we ever?—but somehow in a weird way chickens and this group have helped me get closer to finding out than ever before.
I grew up a theater kid, and moved to New York City for college and life. That wasn’t me. There’s too much “pressure” in New York City, it’s way too fast, it doesn’t feel personal... and I’m a Texan at heart. I loaded up, retired my glitter and my platform shoes and returned home. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’ve done commercial and corporate photography since 2005. After I met my husband we started a dog magazine. The highlight of my career was photographing Kathie Lee Gifford for the cover of the magazine, and then being referenced the following day on the Today Show by her as “the best photo shoot of her entire life.” Swoon. Of course, there was wine. I like to think it was more my personality and less the wine that was so much fun, but I digress. It was probably the dogs. Kathie like all of us knows that animals make life far better. Alas... print magazines are hard in today’s age so we ended that and moved out to our property.
I thought I was going to do horses for a while for potential business, but that’s evolved more to where I want to work in mustang rescue. I think I’m building towards a bit of a sanctuary vibe. I’ve been progressively migrating to a more intentional, holistic life and I’d rather be a part of things from the ground up with people than the top down from a corporate sense. I’m hoping to create our small farm as an experience based destination for photography and learning. I’m exploring in my own life how a deeper connection to animals, land, food, family, space... all these things affect us. I’m hoping to develop photography, farm, food experiences together and separate for people to come and participate and learn from. I’d love to explore the uses of rescue animals with therapy for humans. We live so close to an urban area and I feel like this connection to a more natural life is going to be more and more lacking for urbanites in the future.
2. Why and when did you start keeping chickens? (or any other poultry you have)
I got into chickens when we had a kid. We are both older first time parents, and so we elected to be pretty intentional with what we did with ay. It was really incredible that his first foods—and for a while his only foods—were foods we or our friends had grown. I had ducks for a bit when I first moved to property, and then started with 6 pullet chicks 4 years ago. I’ve had up to 90 12-week and older birds here at a time (between meat birds and laying hens), and I currently have about 20 hens and a pair of Sebastopol geese.
Chickens and kid:
3. Which aspects of poultry keeping do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy watching the behaviors of my flock the most and really....just the stewardship and day to day care. I *like* the fact I’m tied to this place and can’t do many things. I can’t quite figure it out, but I feel like maybe I have some sort of control issue? Oh well, I really like taking care of things. The egg are a fabulous off-shoot.
As with horses, I’m really into watching and understanding communications. I can spend a lot of time watching the behaviors of the flock throughout the years, and it brings me joy to recognize the distinct differences in “personalities” of the chickens. Watching and taking in the behavior of animals, watching their reactions to things in the moment in this pure sense that is so free of all the emotions and ego we humans put on things, fascinates me.
4. Which members of your flock, past and present, stand out for you and why?
My first flock was my most personable, because it was the smallest. I have one dang chicken right now I have to net. That is a new one for me. Anyway, my first flock of 6 chickens was the size that you build a bit stronger relationships with. I lost all but one of my original girls to hawks in a matter of days, except for ONE that was lifted and dropped. With the help of BYC of course, I nursed her back to health and she was with me for another year or so. Im sure she had internal issues after the attack, but her loss was a very hard one for me. Her name was Orfeh, and she was the most pet-like of all the chickens I have ever had. She is the first animal I have ever had to personally euthanize.
With animals and livestock, there is so much loss. I’m a pretty empathetic person, and its been a hurdle for me. Around the time I lost Orfeh I had also lost one of my favorite horses, and I was certainly feeling overwhelmed. My experience and time at BYC has helped me grow and evolve so much as a person and an animal steward and there are times when things happen that you want to quit what you’re doing, and the support here has been incredible. So far beyond chickens, I’ve learned to understand how much of my emotions I put onto the situation, and recognize that for what it is. I can recognize and appreciate my emotions, I can value and appreciate the animal, and I can not anthropomorphize the heck out of things. Yes, I learned all of that here at BYC. I take comfort in knowing that through all of the experiences I have had growing through chickens, I can carry forward the things I have learned to each new member of the flock or farm that comes through. In that way, the loss isn’t a loss. It’s just a part of the circle.
5. What was the funniest poultry related thing that has happened to you in your years as an owner?
Though a few girls are running a close second to Orfeh, none so far has really ever held quite the same spot for me. I think I’ll honor her by giving her the only shout out here.
Here we are together. ;-) She started my habit of making my own personal memes and gifs of my chickens that I like to bombard my friends with.
Additional funny gifs I mention:
6. Beside poultry, what other pets do you keep?
We currently have 4 dogs, Avery a rescue chiweenie that is 8. She and my husband go to schools and detention centers with a program that use dogs to teach about life skills. Frankie, my farm buddy who is a miniature Australian shepherd and he is 8. Then we have a rescue cavalier King Charles Gibson that is 3 and a handful. Lastly I have an 11 month old Karakachan named Minnie Pearl. She is the very best dog I have ever had. She was going to be an LGD, because I realllllly want sheep, but she is instead more of a family-protecting farm dog which we are more than happy with. She is the most affectionate, caring and genuine DOG I’ve ever had and I’m head over heels in love with her. She protects her geese that live in the backyard and watches the chickens from the porch and goes absolutely everywhere my son goes. She accepts strangers if we ask her to but she is FIERCELY protective of us if someone comes on the property.
I also have horses. Two rescue quarter horses Lucille and Dolly and two Missouri foxtrotters Cover Girl and Jolene. Lucille was a cruelty case at the SPCA, she had been shot and left to die and was pregnant. The bullet was lodged in her shoulder when they got to her. They operated on her and she had a healthy baby. I adopted her and Dolly when Dolly was a day old. I purchased Cover Girl pregnant about 7 years ago and was there for the birth of Jolene. She had to be assisted out she was huge and she took her first breaths in my arms it was amazing.
I can’t forget Wally, the miniature horse I got this year. Quite possibly the best 200.00 I’ve spent in my life. He is a buddy, through and through.
Pets: dogs and Wally:
7. Anything you'd like to add?
I just want to say thank you to so many people here all the time. This community is by far the most supportive community by there is. There are people here — strangers — who I have gone THROUGH the emotions with. Even though this is an “anonymous” space, there are so many people here who throughout time have been so unafraid to show their vulnerabilities that this place is FILLED with education. It’s a resource in so many lives that is truly invaluable. That takes so much from nifty’s vision to the dedicated staff to the tireless volunteer project managers and the work that they put in. (you guys! They’re amazing... Kathy!) but mostly it’s the undeniable sense of community here that keeps us all coming back.
I’m really feeling things tonight and apologize for getting super long winded but this has been slightly therapeutic. I received a presumptive Mareks diagnosis today on a necropsy that I took directly to the lab at Texas A&M. I truly don’t know where I would be without BYC on this entirely new journey I never expected to be on that I’m embarking on today. It’s kind of frightening and intimidating and overwhelming all at once and there are just so many unanswered questions reeling through me right now. It’s comforting to know the one answer I do have is where I will go for support when I need it. Right here. ❤