The Cottage on Sweet Lucy Farm

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“I never expected this, ever. This is not an Ashley thing, this is a God thing. He directed us this way, and here we are, and so grateful,” Ashley Dodgen Freeman said. “I had no clue that this would be my life.”

by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace

“I never expected this, ever. This is not an Ashley thing, this is a God thing. He directed us this way, and here we are, and so grateful,” Ashley Dodgen Freeman said. “I had no clue that this would be my life.”

Ashley and her 11-year-old daughter, Lucy, live on Sweet Lucy Farm, right outside of Oxford, along with a smattering of critters running around, from sheep to goats and chickens, they’ve got a little bit of everything.

That’s what drove Ashley, who grew up in Port Gibson — “Country on the river,” she said — to start Sweet Lucy Farm: Providing her daughter with a simpler life.

“I just wanted to give her that same simple lifestyle,” she said. “Being outdoors and playing in the creeks and ponds and in the woods, building forts.”

The two spent time visiting Ashley’s friend in Arkansas when Lucy was young, and Ashley remembers watching her young daughter fall in love with the farm animals.

“This one,” Ashley said, nudging her daughter’s knee, “would stay in a chicken coop for hours, and I thought, ‘I can do this, I’m going to try my hand at chickens.’”

So they bought five chickens and five guineas, and built a coop. After a month, Ashley figured she was pretty much a pro chicken keeper, and wanted to try her hand at something else, so they got Charlie.

“The grumpy sheep that has an attitude problem,” Ashley said laughing.

They decided to get some goats, Dolly Parton and Olive (Ollie). Once they came to the farm, Charlie’s grouchiness subsided.

“He just needed friends,” Ashley said. “The three best friends that ever lived right there!”

Since then, they’ve added more chickens, a duck, two little pigs, cats, a handful more goats, and a bunny.

“This is the redneck petting zoo, and I’m not kidding,” Ashley said laughing. “Kids will come out here, and that’s really our niche: Families will bring their children out here, and they don’t see them, they stay there and feed the animals and love on the animals.”

This dynamic mother-daughter duo basically built Sweet Lucy Farm together around 2016, and have been adding on since. It began with the Homestead, where Ashley and Lucy live. It’s a five-bedroom house they rent out as an Airbnb. It started back when Lucy was in elementary school, and Ashley was working three jobs trying to make ends meet.

“I know I was stressed out at that time, but I don’t remember it. I was just in survival mode at that point,” Ashley said. “I mean, we winged it. We wing everything! We wing our eyeliner, I have winged my life basically. We winged that part of our life too, and it worked out.”

Along the way, they built the cottage: A one-bedroom cottage, complete with a full kitchen and an upstairs loft with two twin sized beds. The decor is furnished by Ashley hunting down pieces — anywhere from furniture off the side of the road to thrift stores — and refinishing each one.

“We used all old doors and windows, so nothing is brand new. I like everything that has a history, like furniture that could tell a story, like really cool stories,” Ashley said. “I’m a hoarder of junk, but I always repurpose it. … I’m not scared to pull over on the side of the road and get stuff.”

Lucy half-laughed and half-groaned at her mother’s knack for grabbing furniture from just about anywhere.

“Bless her heart,” Ashley said laughing. “She’s put up with a lot.”

While Ashley is a tennis coach, who played at Mississippi State University and now teaches tennis camp to kids ages 3 through 8 years old, Lucy has already spent her fair share on the courts getting touted around for her mom’s work, especially when she was younger. Maybe too much time on the courts, Ashley admitted as they both laughed.

“I don’t like tennis,” Lucy said smiling. “I like soccer.”

Lucy is in the sixth grade, and made her first goal from midfield — a moment of overwhelming pride and joy Ashley said she’ll never forget watching.

When the two are at home, not living “like gypsies, little nomads” Ashley said, referring to moving in and out of their house as Airbnb guests arrive, they’re usually hanging out with each other, feeding the animals and having movie nights watching “love stories,” according to Lucy. Anything from “The Titanic” and “Pearl Harbor”  to all the classics that good southerners — the kind who believe, “Dolly Parton is my hero,” like Ashley does — have seen, like “Steel Magnolias.”

When they’re hosting guests, they love to hang out and get to know them. They’ve had ambassadors for the United Nations stay at The Cottage, an actress and of course plenty of families (usually from cities) looking to unplug and reunite with nature and its critters.

“I just want to treat these people that come in like they’re family and let them have an experience where it feels like they’re coming home or coming to a family member’s house,” Ashley said. “We take it for granted, living out in the country and being with the animals, so to share that with other people is something really, really awesome.”

Guests are more than welcomed to walk out to the chicken coop and grab some eggs for breakfast, and to visit the animals throughout their stay. Lucy usually gives the farmyard tour to the kids who are visiting, who spend much of their visit with the animals.

“Just to see them interact with the animals, it makes your heart feel all warm and fuzzy,” Ashley said. “Kids from New York who have never held a chicken or seen a duck or pet a goat, just the fact that they’re going to take those little memories forever and ever, to me, is worth all this alone.”

Soon, they want to expand their Airbnb rentals into a refurbished grain silo they’re bringing in from Como. And they’ll add a few more critters, too.

“The last two things that we want to complete us and our craziness,” Ashley said, “an alpaca and a mini donkey.”

  1. I know Ashley well and she is such a fantastic and positive person! I had two friends come in from Florida recently and the three of us stayed at the farm and had the most wonderful time! So restful, peaceful and joyful all at once!

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