Shroeder is the founder of Star Gazing Farm, a nonprofit in Montgomery County that takes in neglected, abused or stray farm animals.
What made you want to start a farm? I was living in rental property with two ducks and was getting thrown out. I have always loved animals. It kind of runs in my family. My mom was a big advocate for animal welfare.
One of your goats gets a lot of valentines, right? Mr. Newman Goat. He's gotten numerous valentines. We were thinking of doing something where people could pay $5 and give an animal a kiss. He's quite the lady's man. He's very bad. He's the one who gets in people's cars. You have to lock your car or he'll get inside and lounge around and eat stuff. When he first came to me, he was about 6 months old, and he was just awful. All the farmers I knew said, "Aw, you just got to put him in the freezer; he'll never get better." I said, "No way!" I'm a vegetarian ... And he's 11 years old, and he has not mellowed at all.
You also run a bunny motel? I shouldn't say this, but it is hopping. There's a local bunny house-sitting chapter that's pretty active, but a lot of people aren't hooked into that, so over Christmas we had 19 bunnies staying with us. We have two permanent residents, and they just kind of hop around the house. But I have a whole series of bunny condos.
How many animals do you have now? Sixteen large animals and 30 various birds: ducks, chicken, geese. Three dogs and four cats, and the two bunnies. One of the dogs is a working guard dog. He's on duty when I'm not home.
That sounds like a lot of work. It's a lot of work, but it's really a joy.
- Liz Essley