Moving 50 Animals 600 Miles

We made it! We are officially here permanently. I can’t say that it feels so final in my mind– rather, the days are rushing by as if again approaching the long return trip to California. Without a set routine and with such a seemingly insurmountable to-do list, the past week has been a blur.

The process of packing and loading, of corralling the animals and worrying about how in the world we’d be able to move them all at once, is still haunting my dreams.

The two sheep, two goats, three rabbits, four geese, and dozens of chickens all rode in one trailer, neatly packed into cages and a makeshift livestock area. As stressful and challenging as the experience was, the actual trip was successful and undoubtedly quite the amusing scene for passers-by. We did try to track down a professional livestock mover or at least rent a proper trailer, for the record, but in the end, this was it. And it worked!

The animals seemed to travel quite comfortably, and their release onto acres of lush mixed grass was a happy one. The goats have managed to clear most of the blackberry brambles from under the hay barn. As soon as it’s cleaned out we can fence the area off to contain the sheep for shearing next week.

Between the numerous projects and good hard work, I’ve been voraciously foraging and experimenting with preserving the wild harvests. Posts and recipes will follow this week, along with an update on the beautifully expanding garden.

Home sweet home!


The Rabbit & Chicken House

We currently have about twenty chickens including two roosters and two broody hens that cannot be deterred from setting. Since for the past several years we’ve had the unique circumstance of urban acreage, there have been no predators aside from the occasional raptor from which to protect them. They simply roam free and roost in the rafters of the barn.

The new property will expose them to numerous hungry hunters, so at least at night, they’ll need to be cooped. With numerous outbuildings in various states of disrepair, I intended to fix one up to house the chickens and rabbits in the style of Joel Salatin’s “Racken House.” My favorite building seemed well suited, if a bit large, so we set to work cleaning it out.

After a few hours and a dump run, we had the place ready to litter and roosts. There was only one problem: everyone liked the place too much to give it to the chickens. It’s an early twentieth century cabin with true two-by-four construction and attractive siding on all but the front. (We will salvage the siding from a fallen building on the property to reside the front.)

So I changed course and located a concrete-floored shed at the back of what we call the Workshop. It needs to have a window installed, but it is otherwise perfect. We’ll mount the rabbit cages on the wall and the chickens will run below, eating their dropped food and aerating the litter to prevent ammonia build-up. For litter we raked dried grass from the field around the garden into piles, which we used also for mulch.

We removed the heavy door and replaced it with wire gate and a small chicken entry at the bottom, which with any luck, will keep the goats at bay. Add a few roosts and a window, and I think we’ll have a perfect little bunny-bird abode.

Gathering Nettles With Help

Our crop of stinging nettles has grown exponentially over the past few years, and we covet the bounty. We picked a pound or so today for a batch of nettle wine (recipe to come; same basic procedure as with mint wine) with some extra to dehydrate for tea. Any work in the barnyard brings a troop of helpers.

The goats and sheep keep all greens in the field finely mowed, with the exception of the stinging nettles. Since goats happily munch roses, blackberry brambles, and poison oak, I doubt the stingers deter them, yet they ignore them nonetheless and instead keep them fertilized and without weedy competition.

The Kitchen Floor

We spend a lot of time on the kitchen floor.

When Suzanna started crawling, we barricaded off an area with chairs and padded the floor with colorful spongey squares. When she started climbing the chairs, we replaced them with baby gates. She soon began moving the plastic fences and slipping around them, so they too went on with time.

The encased sewing machine that held the gates in place remains awkwardly, unnoticed as we step around it day by day. The colorful interlocking pads still line half the kitchen. Unused baby toys still lie in a heap in the corner.

Even after the hours of taking turns playing and reading on the floor with our girl while the other cooks or washes dishes, when she’s down for a weekend nap and we’re enjoying a quiet hour together, we find ourself back on the kitchen floor reading cookbooks and gardening books and jotting notes for our future plans.

Maybe it’s because there are no table and chairs in a place where we won’t disturb our sleeping daughter. Maybe it’s because we’re finding an excuse to avoid looming projects. Probably, though, we find ourselves back on the kitchen floor for the fondness of a passing time. This won’t carry forward to our new place and new life for myriad reasons, except in pieces.

And hard and stained and tired as it is, the kitchen floor represents a stillness and history that we secretly cherish.