Salt of the Earth

By Aimee Serafin | Photos by Randy Pace

Jennifer and Grady Blanchard are down-to-earth Southern folk who love Jesus, family gatherings and slow-cooked barbecue. Their faith runs deep, as does their love for furry four-legged creatures, so much so that two years ago the couple purchased 20 acres in Appling where they developed and currently run Blanchard Mini Farms.

“We looked at the property for a while before finally purchasing it,” says Jennifer. “We always knew we wanted some land and goats.”

It was on the tract of woodlands that the two first entertained the idea of a mini farm. “We started with six animals: Max and Ruby, a pair of Nigerian dwarf goats, Poncho and Lefty the miniature donkeys and Frank and Beans, two miniature Zebu cows.

“But after visiting our friend, Scott Slice at Slice Mini Farms, we kept taking home more animals … a mini horse, Babydoll sheep, pigs, chickens … and Blanchard Mini Farms was born,” Jennifer recalls. The once distant idea of owning land and animals became a quick reality after the couple designated five acres of the property to fence in their mini herd, currently numbering 40 animals and including the famous Facebook goat, Rubert, who has upward of 3,000 loyal followers.

Rubert is not your standard goat. “He thinks he is a dog. He will fall asleep on my chest for Saturday afternoon naps inside the house,” Grady explains. Because the goat’s nanny died giving birth, Grady and Jennifer spent several months tending to Rubert exclusively inside their home where he became comfortable with house living and human interaction.

“He is spoiled. He got so used to spending time with us in the house that now he doesn’t know how to be a regular goat,” Jennifer says.

Yet goat indulgence aside, Rubert has consistent work in the Savannah River Region. The Blanchards take the celebrity goat to local elementary schools for visits, and they spend time talking with students about raising farm animals. The young students go nuts for Rubert, as do his older female Facebook followers, noted the Blanchards.

The mini farm is not the only point of interest on the Blanchard property. As we head through the large, dark-encased glass front doors of the residence, we enter a space with 22-foot ceilings and furnishings that make guests feel simultaneously relaxed and engaged.

“We looked at the property for a while before finally purchasing it. We always knew we wanted some land and goats.”

– Jennifer Blanchard

Wooden beams cross the high ceilings in the main room where the focal point is a captivating interior brick “curtain,” cloaking the home’s kitchen. The brick archway frames the space and lends to the separation of rooms without the necessity of walls.

Flanking the kitchen is a tunneled alcove that holds a large assemblage of knotty wood art in the form of a horse. It is driftwood collected after Hurricane Katrina from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The sculpture hovers in the space as a reminder that resiliency and beauty are often responses to tragedy.

Adjacent to the main room is Grady’s office, replete with earthen artifacts like Native American arrowheads under glass casings, a personal collection of bird nests, two 19th Century Civil War Calvary Officer sabers and a dozen baseballs with inscriptions — mementos of his years playing baseball in high school and college at Georgia Southern University. The room, a bolthole of history and curiosities, has a story connected to every item. “The beams are reclaimed wood from a barn believed to have been from Lewis and Clark’s property in the early 1800s,” Grady says with a gleam in his eye, revealing his understanding of history as the link to storytelling for future generations.

The lower level contains another gathering room with cushy leather couches and a kitchenette next to a vintage Coca-Cola coin machine (the real deal with 8-oz. hobbleskirt glass bottles). There are two guest rooms — one is a large in-law suite where Jennifer’s mother lived with the couple for several months before passing in 2019.

“It was very important for us to have pieces [of furniture] with familiar sentimental value … ”

– Jennifer Blanchard

When asked about the home’s builder and interior designer, Jennifer said, unassumingly, “Grady and I found the house plan online, and one of his cousins helped with the interior design. We worked closely with home designer Craig Peel and builder Bill Easler, and on the interior design with Ashley [Ashley Kelly, interior designer at Gertrude Knowles]. It was very important for us to have pieces [of furniture] with familiar sentimental value, like Grady’s childhood bed, my mom’s garden sculptures and some of the furnishings from our previous home.”

What makes the home full of life are the anecdotes tucked inside the personal design and décor elements. The couple was intentional about incorporating family connections so stories could be shared with visitors. One of those items is a painting by the Blanchard’s daughter, Emmie, who is carrying on the college tradition of both mother and father as a freshman at Georgia Southern University. In the subtle yet colorful strokes of the watercolor portrait, the viewer recognizes a gentle authenticity — sometimes referred to in a personality as salt of the earth, or an attribute developed with the strong support of an honest and grounded family.

Appears in the May 2022 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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