Hugs, kisses, feathers, honeycomb and fur babies!
These are goodies that fill special moments for John and Stacy Epema, along with their three children, Lucie, 11, Ethan, 9, and Mollie, 6. When not attending school at Summit Christian Academy in Lee’s Summit, they play a variety of sports, including baseball, ice skating and more, and care for their menagerie of critters.
John, an emergency physician in the KC Metro area, and Stacy, who has a background in elementary education and is currently a stay-at-home mom, both grew up with pets and have always understood how they complete a family.
They recently moved from Lee’s Summit to a home just east of town.
“It has always been a dream of John’s to have a wide-open space to call home and enjoy the great outdoors,” Stacy says. “We now have 35 acres!”
They continue to increase their variety of pets. First, they added Rosie, a Cockapoo, and Zimmer, a golden lab. Rosie had five puppies, and Stacy and her children treasured that experience.
“The charm of puppies can never be denied, and as a child, I remember how sweet it was to watch their mother having them and caring for them,” Stacy says. “I wanted to give that memory to my children, so when Rosie went into labor at 2 a.m., I woke all three so they could witness the miracle of life. They enjoyed watching the puppies change and grow, and they had fun weighing them each week and creating charts to monitor their growth until we found forever homes for them at eight weeks.”
Rosie and Zimmer love the new space to roam, and Stacy said they recently purchased a chicken coop and eight baby chicks that are growing into hens. (They should be laying eggs soon.) The Epemas chose a variety of hens, which has sparked an interest in the children to read books about raising chickens — the different varieties and their life cycle.
“Each morning they open the coop and make sure the chickens have fresh food and water…they have a science classroom in their backyard!” she says.
To further grow their little family, the Epemas recently acquired two Huacaya Alpacas as pets, named Noelle and Naddie. Noelle is 19 months old and Naddie is 13 months. She explains, “Alpacas are native to Peru and are primarily raised for their fleece, which is incredibly soft and luxurious. They have such sweet faces and are adorable pets to have in our field.”
Frosty, their new Llama, is nine years old and stands guard over Naddie and Noelle. Stacy learned that Llamas are guard animals that instinctively posture themselves to threaten and deter predators. Her children spend time each day caring for them and enjoy bringing books and chairs into the field to read with their special furry pets.
Stacy and John recently added beekeeping to their list of fun outdoor activities. They have started two hives that currently house approximately 20,000 bees each.
“I have attended a couple of beekeeping conferences and have a mentor to assist me to reap the rewards of watching the fascinating complexity of bees. We have adult-sized and child-sized bee suits so we can all be involved. I truly believe animals can help develop empathy in children, as they consider the feelings of another when reading the pets’ needs,” Stacy says. “We hope the experiences of all these pets will help equip our children with lifelong skills to become responsible, caring adults.”