Animal Love Farm
Angel hair ears and pompadoured pig’s tail. Brazilian crystals. Speckled hen.
Old wood. Sunning kitty. Mule Mountain. Emerald woods. Open pasture. Scarlet hen’s comb. Sweet smelling barn. Smiling dogs. Cocky crowing roosters. Belly-scratching stumps. Labyrinthine stones. Big-leafed comfrey.
Why does it feel like I’m singing “My Favorite Things”?
Perhaps simply because I am. But I didn’t really know this until recently when a quartet of us took a tour of Sanctuary One at Double Oak Farm. About 30 minutes up the Applegate, the sanctuary and farm sit at the base of Mule Mountain, a graceful, fir-covered slope. The long driveway borders open pasture and on this sunny day there are goats, sheep, horses, llamas, pigs, geese and birds lazily grazing together. Pastoral. Serene. Safe.
Sanctuary One is a no-breed rescue care facility for homeless, abused and neglected farm animals and domesticated pets. Della, the program manager, says that soon after an animal arrives “their true colors come out and they become friendly. Except maybe for the bratty roosters” she adds. The dogs have their own house with blanketed cots for little “slumber parties every night.” The cats also have an apartment with a screened in porch for sunning. Tummy rubbing is a perk of the tour.
A lone little black goat is pointed out to us in the pasture. Scooby Keith we’re told seems to think he’s a llama — he’ll only sleep with the llamas. But she goes on to say, “It’s probably a good thing because the other goats tend to pick on him so maybe they think he’s a llama too!”
Part of the ambiance is a 100 year old barn where the farm animals sleep; all of them together, including the geese. The original structure of the barn was notched construction, without nails, and most likely wood resourced from the Applegate. Standing in the cool quiet of this sweet smelling barn I imagine the cacophony that must occur at night time as all the animals are herded in. But Della says that “other than when the geese are coming in, the animals just know and settle right down.” It is certainly something I’d like to experience. Bedtime in the barn.
Some of the animals are older such as Oliver, the elder sheep, and the llamas, which places them at a lower chance of adoption. Black animals have the distinction of being the most euthanized. Sanctuary One chooses to take in animals that have a lesser chance of being adopted. Consciousness and compassion are such fragile aspects of human life. But when we choose to bear witness, the world offers us gentle reminders of the importance of reciprocity and exuberance in the care and feeding of all Life.
Della tells us the lovelies, Lulu and Lisa with their younger male companion, Jigsaw, spoon together at night. Three in a row. Pigs, she says, can be taught anything, and more than a dog can be taught. Yet, they are sadly abused. On large farms, sows are kept in small crates and useful only for breeding. When they stop breeding ‘enough’ they are slaughtered.
Have you ever scratched a pig? When you do you’ll feel their hair is like fine twine. But their ears are soft, like spun silk. Gentle and intelligent creatures, they do seem to have a penchant for food so if they are rooting around your way, it’s probably best to stand aside. A few years ago I read a wonderful non-fiction book, The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood, which is not about the music director but a very special pig. I highly recommend the book if you’re interested in a pig’s point of view.
Golden sunlight filters through the woods as we leave the animals and head up into an area that will one day be orchards. Emerging from the woods we are surprised by a large, rock-outlined labyrinth. At the center, shimmering in the sun, is a substantial Brazilian quartz crystal. Gene, the labyrinth designer, explains his original layout. “I used an Ancient Greek design and added another layer so to have 7. The 7 represents the chakras in an effort to join east and west and therefore create a whole.” Meandering through the labyrinth I realize, is much like the slow wandering graze of animals, although we humans usually seek the answer to something and they are looking for the tasty morsel. But, in the end, both satisfy a hunger and it could be extraordinary for us humans to meander and enjoy each morsel a little more. After all, as Tolkien once said, “not all those who wander are lost.” Some of us might be scouting for that tasty tidbit.
And beyond the labyrinth and through the woods we find it — the gardens of Double Oak Farm. The flower and herb garden is only two years old and looks like it has been there a decade. They refer to it as their, “permaculture training garden.” Basically from a hard pan surface they kept adding organic soil and mulching and then let nature take its course. Heavy on perennials, cooperation and collaboration, the farm and the sanctuary multifunction successfully through biomimicry.
For further information and to book a tour (reservations required) visit www.sanctuaryone.org