WHAT'S NEW IN 22? I always like to post this time of year to talk about how FSFS works. Frog Song Farm Sanctuary began in Cairo, GA in 2016. We loved everything about living there but outgrew our space and had no room to expand. After more than a year of looking, we found our current location and moved to Hodges, SC in the spring of 2020. We love it here and with 107 acres, even with our many new rescue additions, our animals have plenty of room. However, with growth comes change (and vice versa) so here's where we are and where we're going!
FINANCES: Richard and I own the land that FSFS sits on and our home is here. We cover all of the expenses associated with this property, including property taxes and insurance. We also built the barn with personal funds. Whenever possible, we do work here that would otherwise be hired out - building smaller shelters, adding paddocks to the barn, repairing fencing, etc. The vehicles that we use to pick up rescued animals or transport them to vets are our personal vehicles and we pay all associated expenses - even the gas used when we transport FSFS animals. Richard is currently spreading 20 tons of gravel (that we personally paid for) down our 1/2 mile driveway which has hard use with animal trailers and hay and feed deliveries. We don't charge any rent to FSFS or take any type of salary or reimbursement. I mention all of this just to make it perfectly clear that no donations ever go to us or our living expenses - only to FSFS.
DONATIONS: Your donations go directly to the animals. As they have always done, donations are used to pay for feed, hay, farrier, vet, medications, grazing muzzles, halters, water troughs, feed bowls, etc.. As a general rule, donations go to things that an animal will actually touch. That has been our rule since FSFS began in 2016. We're excited about how FSFS has been able to expand and help more animals and that means that your donations are now needed for a few more needs. We typically do a fundraiser for big projects e.g. remember when we spread lime and fertilizer in our pastures last year to provide healthier, more nutritious, grass for our grazing animals? But we do sometimes need extra fence panels or gates to use with our smaller shelters or fencing to repair a weak spot in our pastures and we use FSFS funds for those kinds of things. We have also hired a part-time employee to help with our animals and FSFS funds will pay for that (more about this below.) Lastly, we're going to be opening up FSFS to more visitors and volunteers this year and that requires some insurance to cover FSFS for any potential liabilities associated with having more people here. FSFS funds will pay for the insurance to protect FSFS (although we will still personally cover property insurance and taxes.)
AIRBNB - We are so close to being able to open our AirBnb, aka the Lily Pad, right on our property with views of ponds, pastures and the barn! We're just locking down insurance and putting the finishing touches on the interior. Everything has taken longer than we expected but we're getting there. I promise that I'll post something here so that our loyal supporters will have first dibs at reservations through the AirBnb program. We plan to start with weekend visits only and we'll see how it goes. The structure for the Airbnb was here when we bought the property but we extensively renovated and decorated it with our own money (nothing from FSFS.) We'll pay insurance, cleaning, taxes, etc. personally with the hope that these expenses will be covered by income generated from Airbnb rentals. 100% of all net profit will be donated to FSFS and we hope that this will eventually become a sustainable way to help fund FSFS.
NEW EMPLOYEE - We have hired a delightful young woman named Delea to help with morning rounds and general animal care. Delea is a freshman at nearby Lander University, grew up with horses and is comfortable around all of our animals. She spent part of her Christmas break, riding shotgun with me on rounds and is already hitting the ground running. She will be working just a few hours a week, mostly to free me up to work on other projects. Delea showed up Monday morning as we were dealing with our last hours with Panda and it was enormously helpful to have her take care of the barn and farm animals so that our focus could be elsewhere.
PROJECTS - We always seem to come up with a project that needs doing but we have two BIG projects that we're committed to this year . The first is is building a LARGE three-sided, covered hay shed. Currently, we have those large round bales of hay delivered about 14-15 at a time every few weeks during the winter months. We are totally dependent on whoever happens to have hay at the moment that we need it so cost and quality is not guaranteed. Our current hay man, Marcus, is a great guy but he doesn't have unlimited covered hay storage so a lot of what he cuts in the summer is either wasted or sits out in the elements for months and is not what we would choose to feed our animals. As I type this, we really need hay but Marcus is sick and can't get it to us this weekend.
We need to build a large enough structure to hold dozens of those giant round bales. That way we can start storing fresh healthy hay in a covered, protected structure as it's cut over the spring, summer and early fall. We will have more control over the cost and the quality of the hay because we can buy it when it is plentiful from as many different sources as we need to. And, best of all, we'll have what we need on site so that we can put it out in our pastures when it is needed throughout the winter without being dependent on someone else to deliver it to us. It's the difference between having a stocked pantry vs. having to run to the grocery store every time you want to cook anything (with the added complication of supply chain issues that mean the store might not even have what you need!) We hope that we can get enough volunteers to do most or all of the construction ourselves rather than having to pay a contractor. If we can do that then we'll only have to pay for materials. We'll launch a fundraiser for that when the time is right to start building - definitely not January or February!
Our second project is a repeat of last year. We will need to put fertilizer and lime on our pastures to make them lush and nutritious for all of our grazing animals. We saved money last year by having Richard spread the fertilizer himself using our tractor and we'll do that again this year. It's still an expensive project and inflation has hit those costs too - we expect it to cost somewhere in the $10,000 - $11,000 range. However, not only does having plenty of grass save on our feed bill, grass is much healthier than feed for everyone.
BARN VISITS - Once we get our insurance figured out and the weather warms up a bit we'll start having barn tours on Saturday mornings once or twice a month. We're still working on the logistics of these tours and we'll announce all of the details once we've got it all figured out. We're hoping to get this rolling in March or April. Stay tuned!
VOLUNTEERS - We will have some opportunities for volunteers coming up. If you think you might be interested, drop me an email (FrogSongFarmSanctuary@gmail.com) and let me know what your availability is and if you have any particular skills. We could use some volunteers who can help with bigger projects - like building the hay shed or repairing fencing and our chicken coop. We'll just put you on a master list and let you know if we have something going on. If you can help great, if the timing or type of project doesn't work for you, no problem. We could also use some volunteers that can come regularly - maybe on barn tour days to get here early and help get the barn spiffed up and ready for visitors or even more regularly to help with animal care. I will tell you that there's nothing glamorous - you'll need to be able to walk a lot, sweat a lot and deal with a lot of poop. We might be painting or patching fences, cleaning out the chicken coop or filling holes with rocks so some degree of physical fitness is important. We can't have any volunteers under the age of 18. If any of this stuff interests you then drop me an email and I'll put you on the list. No commitment on your part - just my promise to let you know when a volunteer opportunity presents itself.
AUCTION: A number of creative people have stepped up to provide us with special items to auction. We won't have dozens and dozens of items but we will have one-of-a-kind items - paintings, quilts, home-made soaps, gift baskets, etc., etc. Many will feature some familiar faces at FSFS. We're hoping to have that auction up and running in March! If anyone wants to donate an item to this auction and hasn't already let me know, it's not too late - just drop me an email at FrogSongFarmSanctuary@gmail.com.
Thanks for reading this very long post. I really think transparency is important and it's only right to make sure that the people who donate or share our posts really know where their money and support are going. If you have any questions about anything I've said here, please let me know and I'll do my best to get you answers. Thank you for being part of the FSFS family!