Susie is a goat, but she thinks she’s a dog, and eagerly hops in the back of her owner Phenie Sawyer’s car to go for a ride. “When we go to Taco Bell, she’ll hang her head out the window,” Sawyer says. “She’s smart.”
Pancake is a large boisterous pig, who also thinks he’s a dog. He was rescued when he was four days old and has never seen another pig. At Sawyer’s Meadow Green Farm, he greets visitors by hurrying towards them with very loud welcoming oink-oinks, so eager to be petted that he almost knocks them down. “He gets so excited,” Sawyer says. “He doesn’t realize he’s so big, because he was little for so long.”
Rachel and Mr. Buckley are donkeys, and Ranger is a white pony, and they also roam as if they own the place at Meadow Green, an 11-acre farm in Mandarin. The donkeys pick the lock to the feed room with their lips, and enjoy locking the horses in their stalls by pushing the doors shut until they click. Ranger turns on the water faucet and leaves it on.
With 34 goats, four donkeys, one pony, two horses, one pig and 40 free range chickens, there’s never a dull moment at Meadow Green, where Sawyer lives with her 18-year old daughter, Madison. The farm animals are beloved pets.
“It’s like having a yard of kindergartners,” Sawyer says, “That never grow up.”
Despite its mischievous residents, Meadow Green is a working farm. The goats are dairy goats, including Nigerian Dwarfs, French Alpines, Oberhasli and Nubians. With the milk Sawyer makes 200 to 300 bars of soap every week, which she sells at Riverside Arts Market every Saturday, alongside eggs and other items. The chickens lay lots of eggs, but since they are free range, Pancake eats many of them.
“He knows places they put them that I don’t know about,” Sawyer says with a smile. “It’s like an Easter egg hunt for him. He eats them shells and all.”
Sawyer’s house overlooks the animal areas and barns. She moved to Mandarin in 1975, when the area was rural and filled with large horse farms, and has fond memories of those days. Many subdivisions have since altered the landscape where Meadow Green is located at the end of a private road. But worn fences and Oldfield Creek surround the property, and the view from Sawyer’s front porch is all farm.
She’s kept animals since 1984, even though for 30 years she ran a retail store on San Jose Boulevard. She still has a day job, running an interior design and flooring business from her home. With business and farm work she puts in “nonstop” 16-hour days.
And that’s OK with her.
“I like being out here with all these animals,” Sawyer says, “They are very peaceful – at times.”