As a military brat who married military, I am well-versed in cross-country moves. Packing, loading up a bunch of kids, and even living in a “TLF” (Air Force acronoym for “Temporary Living Facility,” which is really just a souped-up hotel room) until we find a home doesn’t scare me in the least. I’ve never lived in the same house more than 5 years in my life. I’ve slept at interstate rest stops, exercised my horse and dogs in gas station parking lots, and had more adventures than I can count. Despite my past experiences, however, I am learning that moving a farm is a whole different ball game!
We had to trim down the number of animals we had, so we kept our favorites as foundation breeding stock to get Red Gate up and running. Due to unexpected events with the goats, we wound up with more milk than we can drink now, so we wound up not buying the 4th doe I was wanting so badly. All in all, we are moving 30 animals, including the house dog and cat.
In order to move, we bought a truck and trailer and had to begin planning our breeding and baby-delivery dates for all critters back in early fall, based on the moving schedule. That turned out to be easier planned than accomplished. I think the rabbit doe is the only one who cooperated. I had to arrange for a ridiculous amount of veterinary and state transport permits for traveling with livestock. Here in CO, equines and cattle must have “brand inspections” to prove ownership before you travel or sell an animal. All goats must be registered, either through ear tags or ear tattoos, and there is NO exception for 5 lb., 2-week old kids. Caramel’s ear was so tiny when we tattoo’ed that I’ll probably have to re-do in the future. But it was that, or an ear tag almost as big as her head. The poultry all had to have blood work done, the rabbits had to have their temperatures taken, the dogs had to have their rabies licenses inspected, blah, blah, blah…. Several hundred dollars later, the states and federal government have decided our animals are safe to travel.
Just as things were coming together, last Wednesday, the truck’s radiator spontaneously sprung 2 leaks. On Thursday, it spent the day in the shop getting fixed. On Friday, we walked out to find a truck tire going flat and the spare was totally dry-rotted. On Saturday, we discovered the tire was unrepairable and had to buy 2 new tires. On Sunday, the radiator sprung another leak, so it spent all day Monday in the shop again. With just over 2 days before I am supposed to be driving this truck, loaded down with a 20 foot gooseneck trailer hauling 28 of my 30 animals, we are praying it is fixed once and for all. I’m just so thankful it happened now instead of half-way through remote Kansas!
As if that wasn’t enough adventure, we had a bought of a stomach virus that bounced around the family, landing me in the E.R. My blood sugars had plummeted, and because of the virus, the glucose I ate wasn’t working. As my sugars approached the 30’s, I knew it was time for S to get me to the hospital for some intervention. A bit of Zofran to calm my stomach did the trick, and my sugars were on the rise. They went ahead and gave me an IV of saline and magnesium though, to replenish what I had lost. It all worked out, but I wound up missing my going-away party at church the next day. 😦
One of the most frequent questions I have received lately is regarding how we are going to accomodate so many animals of so many different species in one trailer. So, now that the trailer is almost set up and ready, I took a few photos to show you.
First, I built new, large rabbit cages, which will be our bunnies’ home for at least the first few months while we figure out what our long term rabbit plans are. I bought the wire for several cages, but only built 2 for the trip. Each cage measures 18 inches tall x 48 inches long x 30 inches deep. It has 2 swing-in doors for easier access, a hay feeder, and plenty of space for feeders, waterers, salt licks, nest box, etc.
One of the cages will house our mature doe and her 2, 3 month old doe kits. In the other cage, I inserted a section of wire to divide it in half, and it will hold both our bucks. The divider is simply held with zip-ties so we can easily cut them off when I get the other cage built, and the dividing wire is cut to a size I can use on another cage.
I filled the gooseneck of the trailer, an area roughly 8 feet deep x 6.5 feet wide x 4 feet tall, with pine shavings. This is where the hens and rabbits will travel.
There will be just enough space on each side and in between the cages for a hen to squeeze through, which will hopefully prevent any dangerous corners where the hens could pile up and suffocate each other. There is a “calf-gate,” or gate type panel that folds up to seperate this area from the rest of the trailer. I forgot to take a photo of it up, but you can see it hanging down in the top photo of the gooseneck.
The next, front section of the trailer has access through the man door on the side of the trailer. The goats and dogs will ride there. First, I wrapped a week’s worth of hay in a tarp and tied it to the center gate. The goats can jump on it if they desire, which is why I covered it with a tarp–to protect it from being eaten or peed and pooped on. The rest of the area was filled with shavings and some straw for the babies and Faith, who is very pregnant. They will have a hay bag to keep them busy, and a small bucket of water.
The rear of the trailer was simply bedded with lots of shavings for the donkeys. They, too, will have a hay-bag and a bucket of water. Because the donkeys are fairly small, I don’t plan to tie them in the stall. They will be able to freely stand, lay down, turn around, and move a bit, which will hopefully reduce their stress load a little.
That’s the tour of the trailer. Pretty simple and basic, but hopefully comfy, cozy, and stress-reducing for the critters.
Now if I could just reduce my stress! I have packed about 80% of the house, and will try to finish the rest tomorrow. We have another therapy appointment with the boys and I have to start loading the vehicles. Another major challenge I discovered in regards to moving a farm is the fruitless efforts involved in trying to use up things that keep being produced! For example, in an attempt to empty the fridge, we have been eating lots of eggs and drinking milk at every meal. Just this morning, we ate 16 eggs and drank 1/2 gallon milk at breakfast. 30 minutes later, I went out to milk Joy and Latte. I tried to use up some of the milk by feeding a pint back to each doe, and another pint each to the two dogs. I still wound up filtering almost 1/2 gallon and putting it the fridge. By day’s end, I will have at least another 1/2 gallon and 12-14 more eggs! I never considered the fact that these high-production animals don’t come with an “OFF” switch to temporarily shut them down. It’s all or nothing, and it’s up to me to find creative ways to use the bounty. Eggs or milk, anyone?