Outnumbered by Animals


Outnumbered by Animals

Frannie met Charlie when she took a semester off of college and volunteered on his farm as a WWOOFer (free room and board in exchange for being a farmhand). A little over a year later, Frannie had officially dropped out of school and she and Charlie got married.


Frannie and Charlie operate Hepzibah Farms in Talledega, Alabama. They grow veggies and flowers, and they sell them in a CSA and at a farmer’s market.


And they’ve got a bunch of animals: pigs, chickens, a super aggressive duck, goats. Well, they used to have goats.


But farm life is relatively new to Frannie. She grew up in a small town in North Carolina, and before moving to the farm she’d been going to school in New York City. So when she got pregnant soon after her wedding, she fantasized that she’d be a “warrior woman, baby slung on my back, just spilling my milk on the soil, fertilizing the garden with my womanhood.”

Which is sorta how it was … eventually.


But first, the animals had other ideas.


Tune in to this episode for the story of a woman who uproots her life, moves in with a smelly stranger, and finds herself in a situation where the only people for miles around are the ones who share her bathroom.


What impulsive decisions have YOU made that have changed your life?
Or maybe your parents made a decision like this when you were a kid? Tell all. Down below.

Frannie and Charlie’s wedding photos: Bre Conley

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27 thoughts on “EPISODE #75: Outnumbered by Animals

  1. Great episode!

    I grew up on a dairy farm, and many anecdotes from this episode reminded me of my childhood. My brother and I grew up watching our parents working hard, and we often worked together as a family. From an early age, we had barn chores, picked stones from fields, and rounded up the cows in the evening. I started cooking entire meals at the age of 7, and my brother started driving tractors when he was 10 or 11. My mom worked just as hard as my dad, but they often did different things, with my dad doing more of the manual labor around the farm while my mom did less physically demanding jobs and ran the business end of the farm with bookkeeping, taxes, etc. I do remember her scaling back on her workload when we were really little and dedicating more time to us.

    When I think back on my childhood, I think fondly of my memories of growing up on a farm. My parents were always nearby, and even though we never went on a family vacation, we had dinner together every night. Looking back, the family meals were more valuable than a once in a while trip to Disneyland.

    Frannie mentioned feeling isolated, and I remember my mom joined a farm women’s support network. It was organized by our local extension service, and I’d recommend that Frannie reach out to her local extension service agent to see if there’s anything like that in her area. My mom has remained close with many of these women for over 30 years, and they still meet regularly for lunch. Some of these ladies she met back in the early 1980’s have even knit sweaters and blankets for my daughter.

    Best wishes to Frannie and her family. Keep up the hard work – it is rewarding.

  2. I really enjoyed this story, especially the theme of similarities of motherhood (isolation, dramatic shift in what your life is, finding work/life balance) despite the unique aspects of Frannie’s experience. It made me think how nice it would be to have other stories about mothering in unique situations – ex pat moms, immigrant moms…

    My parents met under fate-like circumstances that definitely altered the course of her life and my family. My mom is an American Jewish woman who studied abroad in Paris in college while in a long term, long distance relationship with a man she was likely going to marry back in the states. She met my dad (a French, Catholic) who was a friend of the woman’s house she was a border at in Paris. They originally decided, once her semester was up, to end their whirlwind romance and not keep in touch. But not too long after my mom returned to the states my dad tracked her down and asked her to marry him. I guess the rest is history!

  3. I was just turned onto this podcast by a friend as I’m a new mom and needing some good stuff tomlisten to. I picked this episode first as I grew up on a farm and just loved hearing Frannie’s story!
    I am very much living my own trajectory from one of my biggest leaps. In 2008 when I was 26 years old, I left everything I knew, ended a relationship I’d been in all of my adult life, packed my car with some clothes, a couple houseplants, my dog Mini Wolf, my bicycle and my surfboard -leaving Washington state to follow my dream to live in Santa Cruz California so that I could surf all the time, anytime I wanted. I had no idea where I would live or work or anything at all other than the fact that the waves would be at my fingertips.
    Growing up in rural Eastern Washington, I got the surf bug early… Thats another story but it helped pull me out of a childhood illness and learned how to surf in Santa Cruz at age 14. Been hooked ever since!
    This was the scariest thing I had ever done, I’d traveled all over and lived all over before this but it had all been done on the coattails of my then boyfriend. I longed for independence and making it on my own and doing what I wanted, not what anyone else did! The first few years were hard, so hard, and I almost returned home many times but the ocean kept me pursuing my dream. I worked in restaurants at night and surfed my brains out all day! I began to get restless and want to move on in 2010 after traveling solo in Mexico and thinking of maybe living abroad for a while. I had returned to Santa Cruz to repelenish my funds and was working at the restaurant again, feeling bored and unsure of my next step, promising myself as soon as summer ended I was outta there. As fate would have it I met my now husband in June of that year and fast forward to today, we have a beautiful 9 month old baby boy and I work in a much more satisfying career as a Massage Therapist. The ocean still calls my name daily but my sessions have been few and far between so far as a new mom. .. But of course all of that will change all too soon as he is growing and changing as fast as everyone warns you!

  4. Ditto. I feel Frannie on most of what she said. Our own parenting adventure is almost 4 years old and our farming adventure is 5 years old. Hahahahaha. Yep, not much time to prepare for the life of parenting before starting a major farming project in Panama. We are from Virginia and North Carolina and now we live in Central America, far away from friends, family, and familiar culture. Our ambitious vision is to grow cacao, make artisan chocolate, live off the land as much as possible and supply ourselves with all our veggie/fruit, coffee, chocolate, and alcohol needs. I am a massage therapist and my husband squeezes in the naturalist tours into the jungle, and somehow we manage to care for Andros without using babysitters more than 1-2 times a week. We are insane for trying and will hopefully be successful and not wipe out, but we did it because we love it here and wanted to raise a new person in this “healthy” “better” lifestyle. But is it possible without a community like our neighbors provide for each other? The local Panamanians are also farmers, but they have generations of family and friends and culture to support their efforts. It is just us out here. We built the house from scratch pre-pregnancy and it needs enlarging, for sure. Is there time to do that? Absolutely not. Does this 4 year old want to help with the gardening? If we are lucky. He usually sees our projects as the enemy: activities that take us away from his lego building projects he’s got us working on daily. He might water for 1 minute and spray me for the next 5, while I wrestle the hose out from his hand… We planned on him having his own garden plot and growing his own flowers and veggies- however, he demanded to make a “road” out of rocks in the plot we saved for him, so nothing growing as yet. He’s much more enamored with bulldozers and power tools than gardening. He’s got all the trowels and rakes to play with, but he’d rather put a bunch of PVC pieces together and make a weed-whacker and mow down the kale. We are living our dream and getting to make a lot of chocolate (the real purpose of my life), but I definitely watch my husband do all the work while Andros and I make breakfast lunch and dinner and play legos while its cooking. Most of our marital disputes are around me not doing the fun stuff or a having any time without my sidekick. I’m sure we will come up with a book or blog full of stories one day, when looking back, but as of now, we lack the time available to shave or completely weed the gardens.

  5. We always knew we would farm but had two kids in Providence, RI while at graduate school.
    When the kids were 3 and 5 we moved to Northern VT to start our farming life. A year later we moved to the Adirondacks to start a new farm (long story). The kids are now 9 and 11 and we have an almost-2-year old too.
    If we had to start over again and got to do it in an ideal way – we’d definitely get the farm up and running before having kids. We are a small diverse pasture-based farm raising poultry, pork, and dairy cows. We milk less than 10 cows and I would highly highly recommend Frannie continue her milk-relatinship with her neighbor versus getting a family cow. It’s a whole other level of commitment. Our neighbors are interested in getting some milk cows and for the time being, they are milking one morning a week for us (in exchange for their milk). This is a great system because it gives them the experience without the commitment (for now) and gives us someone to rely on when we need a milker. Maybe that’s a good first-step for Frannie.
    Re: isolation – it can be really hard. Not only are farmers more likely to be living in a rural area (our nearest grocery story is half an hour away, for example) so there are fewer people, but being able to relate to others on a farming level can be challenging. Farmers tend to be independent, stubborn, and hard working. This makes time for socializing a challenge. However, we have found a few farming-and-parenting friends and it is AMAZING. When we fall off the face of the planet during the busy season, they get it. When we come to their house smelling like poop, they get that too. And when machinery breaks down, they’re ready to lend a hand (or equipment) as needed.

    It does get better. The isolation and the parenting.

    1. I was at the farmer’s market (as usual) on Saturday, our baby was born at home on Wednesday morning, I was back at the market on Saturday. I definitely did chores during labor too. Not because I had to, but I was sick of being in the house and it made sense.
      So yeah, farmers get it done.

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