If you have followed my journey here for any length of time, you know that Steve, our daughter Leila, and I recently relocated to Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, from Ojai, California. But we weren’t the only ones who made the big move.
Our animal family, which includes 4 cows, 3 goats, 4 donkeys, 3 sheep, 3 pigs, 30 chickens, (and 4 shih tzus), also made the move across the country.
And just like any parent, I leaned toward worrying about how the animals would fare in the journey to Tennessee. Many of you have asked how they are doing, so I thought I’d post a little update and admit that I learned so much from these animals from this move. I learned about resilience and adaptability.
HELICOPTER PARENT NO MORE!
Having this many animals is more like parenting than I initially realized. When you first become a parent you are apt to become a helicopter parent and feel like you need to do everything for your child. The reality of what I learned is that animals are so much more intuitive and connected to their environment than we are. It’s fascinating to me.
We moved at the end of September last year and by October, they had grown these fuzzy, floofy coats they never had before. They just knew it. They have these amazing instincts of what they needed to do. It wasn’t even that cold yet.
SOCIAL MEDIA FAMILY INSIGHT
I am very blessed to have this wonderful Instagram and social media community full of people who have more experience with this than I do. We learned that even in colder places, people’s animals do fine.
We had bought blankets to put on our donkeys and people explained to us that donkeys don’t need blankets because if the blankets get wet during the day, they can freeze at night. The blanket pushes down their fur. What you want is for them to be fluffy because it is more insulating. The blanket causes the donkey to not do what it does naturally.
Really all they needed was a place to get out of the wind.
Often the donkeys will just stand in the rain. They will go into their shelter if they need it. It faces south so the back of the shelter stops the wind from coming from the north side of the property.
We learned a similar lesson with our chicken coup.
It’s all about keeping your girls dry. They need to have a dry coup and a place to get out of the wind. The biggest challenge for us was keeping them watered.
But even then, I saw a couple of them eating the ice where their water had frozen in the cold weather. But as long as they had some water a couple of times a day they were fine.
What we learned is that everybody seems fine. We worried more than we had to.
We were really worried we would get our cats here and they would run away. But they didn’t. We got these cat houses for them to stay in. We have two black cats Bonnie and Clyde and also two orange tabbys, Sherlock and Watson and they do not get along too well! We kept them in separate kitty houses in different parts of the property so they would each have their own jurisdiction. We fed them and gave them time to adjust to their new location.
They were scared at first, so it was nice for them to have their safe space. Little by little by the end of the third week, we were ready to let them explore their new home. They were more active when we would feed them and they wanted out. So after about three weeks, we let them out and they’ve never left the property.
They are social with the other animals, so I think they realized this was now home. The transition was pretty easy.
The animals are now on their second pasture that we set up so we can let the first one rest. It’s important to let the pasture rest for the health of the grass and to let the bacteria load dissipate. As it rests, everything gets a chance to recalibrate and get back to a healthy plot.
We practice rotational grazing, where we take all the animals off of one pasture and move them to another one. It’s great for the land and ultimately better for the animals.
When they come off of a pasture, we chain harrow it, which mixes up the soil, so the manure doesn’t just sit on top of the soil. It speeds up the process. The manure is good for the soil once it’s mixed in.
We do our best to care for our animals holistically. We try to feed them well and avoid antibiotics as much as possible.
And in the end, we have to step back and realize they know more about adjusting to new surroundings than we do. What elements of your life do you need to release control of and just let nature take its course? We learned a lot throughout this process, but most of all, we learned that our animals are going to love it here.
Do you have any pets? If so, what lessons have they taught you? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear them.