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“Give Me That Countryside”
Birmingham Physician Trades Big
City for Life in the Country

By Susie Sims

Lots of city folks dream of leaving the hustle and bustle of the metropolis and taking up a quiet lifestyle in the country. But how many of those folks are able to see their dreams materialize, especially while their family is still young?

Dr. Ted Cox, who grew up on a dairy farm in Winston County, had such a dream and worked hard to make it come true.

Cox, an obstetrician and gynecologist, packed up his family and sold their Birmingham homes and businesses and moved just outside of the small town of Winfield.

Dr. Ted Cox gave up his fast-paced life in Birmingham for a peaceful life in the country near Winfield. Pictured with Cox, his son, Aubrey, 6, pulls Will and David Sims in a miniature donkey cart.

"I wanted my boys to grow up living the farm life," said Cox. "I wanted them to have room to roam and animals around them."

In order to provide this way of life for his family, Cox left his 16-year medical practice at Brookwood and sold the family’s gourmet restaurant.

He wanted to maintain his practice so he found a rural hospital that suited his needs and set up a medical practice in Winfield.

Dr. Ted Cox holds the gate open for the daily horse parade at this farm near Winfield. The animals are on their way to their stalls for feeding time. 

The family moved into a house much smaller than its previous primary residence and stored the rest of their belongings in the barn loft. "We may not have as many bedrooms as we had in Birmingham, but the boys have a good place to ride their bikes and play outside," said Cox. "We have 40 acres here for them to explore." Cox and his wife, Michelle, have two boys—Aubrey, 6, and Joseph, 3.

The Natural Way—
More Than a Lifestyle

Preferring to do things the natural way has proven to be satisfying for the Cox family.

Cox said he doesn’t like to use pesticides or herbicides.

Cox believes it is important for children to know where things such as meat, produce and dairy products come from.

"I am able to show my boys that eggs come from chickens, not from the grocery store," said Cox. "Also, we grow many of our own vegetables and herbs."

Near the vegetable garden are eight beehives. Cox said the location was perfect for the hives since it receives morning sun and has a good water source—a catfish pond—nearby. "The bees pollinate the vegetable garden," said Cox. "And we get honey from the bees."

The Cox family cans and preserves many of the vegetables and fruits that are produced on the farm. They use the original farmhouse located on the property for their canning.

Near the garden are dozens of martin houses. In addition to the martins, Cox also has a colony of bats. "The bats are excellent for insect control," said Cox. "They eat 35 times their weight in insects."

He said many people shy away from having bats because they think most bats carry rabies. Cox said the risk of being bitten a rabid bat is far less than coming in contact with rabid animal like a dog or raccoon.

This miniature donkey stops in for a hug before feeding time every day.

The farm’s dog takes his place in the feed trough. He is partial to the corn purchased at the local Co-op store in Hamilton.

Besides the martins and the bats, Cox uses guineas to control the tick population in the barnyard and pastures. He said the guineas are protected from predators by the miniature donkeys.

Efficiency is Key

Proud of the fact he hasn’t bought eggs in more than two years, Cox explained that he converted an old dog kennel into a hen house.

"I have the lights on a timer so the chickens have a routine even during short days," said Cox. "I have an automatic waterer on the way that will simplify things in the hen house."

Even a short conversation with the fifty-year-old reveals his philosophy for his farm and life—efficiency.

"The trick to efficiency is repetition before speed," said Cox. "You have to develop the right technique."

Cox noted that some of his animals, such as his Belgian horses, learn very quickly and doing something the wrong way, even once, can set back their training by weeks or months.

All of his animals are trained to enter the barnyard and go to their respective places to eat. When Cox opens the gate, the horses file in parade-style and head for their stalls. The cows also enter single-file and take their places at the feed troughs in the yard. Even Cox’s miniature donkeys enjoy the routine.

Cox extends his routine philosophy to his family as well. "Since I deliver babies for a living, I’m used to getting up early," said Cox. "I get up at 5:30 a.m. every day."

He said that children especially benefit from the comfort of a routine.

Outside Help

While he may have his own way of doing things, Cox is certainly not afraid to ask for assistance when needed.

To help him with the design and construction of his barn and pastures, Cox enlisted the help of Chris Edwards.

"I told Chris what I wanted and how I wanted the barn and pastures to function and he built this for me," said Cox. "It has worked out great."

The barn has stalls for the horses and an insulated tack room. It also has a loft for hay storage.

Much of Cox’s materials and equipment came from the Marion County Co-op in Hamilton. Cox also depends on the Co-op for his feed, minerals and animal health products.

"Steve has been a lot of help," said Cox, referring to Marion County Co-op manager Steve Lann. "When I have questions, Steve gets me the answers.

Cox also enlisted the help of AFC’s Feed Nutritionist Jimmy Hughes to calculate the number of cattle his 35 acres could accommodate.

Cox has 20 head of long-horn cattle that share the land with the horses and miniature donkeys. He sells the calves for bulldogging and roping.

Hughes also helped with developing a feed plan for the different types of animals at the Cox farm.

To help train his Belgians, Cox turned to Billy Gilbert to help with technique. The result is saddle-broke Belgians that can also pull a single and double plow.

When it came time to do some dirt work in the pastures, Cox called on Ed Trull to do the excavating work.

"I’ve learned a lot just by asking for help," said Cox. "If you don’t know how to do something, ask someone. There are a lot of people that are willing to help."

"Hobby" Farm

While many people would consider Cox’s place a hobby farm, he won’t necessarily disagree with them. "This is my hobby," said Cox. "I work so we can live on this farm and have this lifestyle."

Asked about his favorite hobby, Cox said he prefers training animals, noting the animals seem to find the routines soothing.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006