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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

“There are two L’s in ‘Billy,’ pal!”

Sat, Mar 12, 2022

Join us as we visit an animal sanctuary, and Robert gets a new editor!

“There are two L’s in ‘Billy,’ pal” says Robert’s new editor, making sure Robert gets his name correct

10:30 am

We’re getting faster at loading Harvey up, and we’re also getting better at slinging around the nautical lingo. “Stow that grog in the reefer abaft the strawberries!” and “Stand by to cast off the rigging and belay the hawsers!”

Still, it is fun to holler “Cast off!” and then start up a V-10 engine that gulps gasoline at the rate of fifty cents per mile…

2:00 pm Elbe, Washington

We’re heading south to Onalaska (named after a poem by a Scotsman!) and we’re taking the scenic route along State Highway 7. The first part of this route is anything but scenic as we pass through what is possibly the World’s Longest strip mall, with one of everything. In fact, we’re pretty sure we started repeating some of the stores when we saw our second Target store.

But then the stores finally peter off and we’re into great wads of trees and scenic mountains and winding roads with blasting side winds and—Oh My God—there’s a bunch of cabooses!

Yes, in the little town of “Elbe” there is: The Hobo Inn! You can rent a room in an actual caboose (there’s more than one, so you can bring your friends) and spend the night there. And have dinner in a real diner (the first diners were converted railway dining cars).

And all it takes is money! Winter rates are now in effect ($150 a night), and some of the cabooses have jetted tubs (and we’re assured they all have indoor plumbing).

It is with a heavy heart that we pass up the opportunity to park our cabooses in a caboose—as we have rescued animals to visit. But we’re sure making a note of it…

3:30 pm Onalaska Farm Sanctuary

Our phone GPS guides us to the correct place, which is in rural Washington, about 60 miles south of Olympia and 20 miles east. It’s near the “town” of Onalaska, although we’re not sure we ever actually saw Onalaska. Or maybe we sneezed when we passed through it.

Anyway, we’re here! It’s another Harvest Host site (where there’s no charge to park overnight). It’s windy and spitting rain when we arrive, so Jessica—the owner—isn’t really thrilled about giving us a tour, as she’d sensibly like to stay dry.

We park Harvey and get out to stretch our legs and end up getting a tour from the ranch hand (Cow hand? Farm hand? Matthew who was shoveling cow shit and didn’t seem to mind taking a break from it!). We also got a tour from Jessica the next morning, which we’re combining with our Matthew tour into one big tour.

Onalaska Farm Sanctuary is a place where animals can go and just be animals. Jessica and her husband and the cow hand are all vegans, so no eggs are eaten and no milk is collected. The animals come from various situations.


There are four cows, all from dairies. Every year, each cow gets pregnant so that they continue to give milk. If all the cows have baby cows, you’re going to end up with a lot of baby cows. If a baby cow is not needed, then dairies just sell them to butchers. Two cows, June and Daisy, were just so darn cute that the women working at the dairy fell in love with them, pooled their money and bought them and then turned them over to the sanctuary. The cows were very interested in peering at us.

The cows were also in heat, so as Matthew cautioned, “Don’t bend over around them!”

The cow in front is “Stumpy”—a full grown cow, but with a genetic condition that gives her short legs and a short neck. Behind her is a regular-size cow.


If triplet sheep are born, then one of them is surplus. The problem is that none of the three get to market weight quickly enough, so the surplus sheep loses out. The losers come here and instantly turn into winners, as they get to hang out with other sheep all day and live to the ripe old age of 15 years.

We notice they all follow each other around and generally behave like sheep.


The goats can be divided into two groups: the goats who don’t goat very well and the goats who really get into being goats.

Barry, the sunless goat

Barry was kept in a windowless shed for the first three years of his life and never saw sunlight. Plus his horns weren’t cauterized right and he now has one mutant horn growing out of his head. As you might imagine, he’s freaked out by pretty much everything except Puck, his stall mate. Neither of them goat very well.

Then there’s the “Howdy there!” goats who are happy to cuddle with visitors and get their heads scratched (just like our cat Frankie). We’re pretty good at the head scratching stuff, so we make fast friends with these goats.

These goats were in a domestic violence situation where the husband started taking out his frustrations on the goats. The farm took the goats, the wife took off, and everybody is much happier today (except the husband and we don’t really care about that jerk).

Robert and Gini with our new goat friends

All the goats on the farm are male (and neutered so it doesn’t get too wild!). Goat horns have their own blood supply and help regulate the temperature of the goat—helps them stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Despite all the cartoons we saw as kids, goats won’t eat just anything (although one of them was sampling Robert’s wool jacket). They are browsers and will eat bushes, trees, and grasses as they seek food that has minerals they are lacking. Since they eat a lot of different stuff, we think of them as junk eaters, but they just have sophisticated palates.


Three blind ducks! One of them came from a hoarding situation and was smooshed by other ducks and made blind. The other was tiny and picked on by other ducks and made blind. The third one—well, once you have a reputation as a Blind Duck sanctuary, other places send their blind ducks to you.

They are all in an enclosure that doesn’t change, so they can find their way around. They look as happy as blind ducks could look.


There’s one rooster from a cock-fighting ring in Spokane, but they can’t put him in with the other rooster in the flock (guess why?). His name is Roscoe and he was very polite in the morning and waited until 6:30 to start crowing.

The other rooster has a flock of about a dozen chickens, so he’s feeling pretty good about himself. The flock is a rag-tag mixture of different chickens—some from hoarders, one found wandering in Chehalis on Christmas day, and one from a Craig’s List ad offering to trade him for a house plant (to be fair, a house plant is easier to care for).

We found out that left to themselves, chickens will hide their eggs. When they have enough eggs (12 to 18), they will sit on them and wait for them to hatch. Since this sanctuary is a non-breeding sanctuary, the staff is always on an Easter Egg hunt! They need to find the chicken eggs before there’s enough eggs for the chickens to brood.


Mara are from South America and look like a cross between a kangaroo and a bunny and are just cute as the dickens. They are actually in the Cavy family and closely related to guinea pigs. Winston the Mara doesn’t like to be touched. So you can imagine his particular hell at finding himself in a petting zoo. He nipped a couple of kids to get his point across and got shipped out. Kate was also at a petting zoo, but turned out to be blind and not profitable.

They are now bonded to each other and still don’t care for humans. They are going to get a nice outside run this summer (because they get the “zoomies”) and can run up to 18 miles an hour (and leap up to six feet!). We hope Winston and Kate have a lovely non-touch life.

Winston “leave me alone!” the Mara that doesn’t like to be touched


The Onalaska Farm Sanctuary survives on donations, and none of the staff take a salary. If you feel so inclined, they are @onalaskafarmsanctuary on Facebook, Instagram, and Venmo (we kicked in more than the expected $20, just for Robert’s new editor!).

4:30 pm

We are sitting nicely in Harvey in the rain and the gloom. Robert has an old-fashioned book, which means he’s got a head-lamp on trying to get the light in the correct place to read his book. Since it’s a 400 page book, he also periodically drops it and loses his place.

Gini is peacefully reading her Kindle book (actually finishing one book and moving on to another).

6:00 pm

Dinner is sautéed wild salmon with onion and wild rice with tame oranges. We eat in Harvey surrounded by plum trees and with the occasional “Moo” in the background.

Sun, Mar 13, 2022

6:30 am

Roscoe, the retired cock-fighting rooster wakes us at 6:30 am, just like the cartoons. It’s a lovely mild morning and there’s no rain!

We finally abandoned the idea of heated mattress pads with sheets and duvets. Instead, like good Northwesterners, we visited REI and got a couple’s sleeping bag (they make them!). This was 1,000% easier to set up and put away, making us happier and sleepier (although we did keep one of the duvets to put over the sleeping bag). Now if we just didn’t have to climb over each other to get to the bathroom in the night.

For some reason, Harvey’s electricity is behaving itself today and the heating system works (although the generator keeps dying, so we make coffee by pouring hot water through a Mr. Coffee). Harvey seems to be as eccentric as we are…

8:30 am

We wander around the farm, waiting for our tour with Jessica, and Dang! It’s a beautiful morning—so we sing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning!” (Rodgers and Hammerstein), which Gini has been working on for her singing lessons.

We are both city people, but on a morning like this, with the breeze scampering about, the cows mooing, and the sheep staring at us like we are their long-lost relatives—heck, it’s easy to see the appeal.

9:30 am

We point Harvey northward, back towards home and leave Winston, Puck, and Stumpy behind us to enjoy the day.

11:15 am

You taxpayers are too kind to us! Turns out the Rest Area just north of Tacoma on I-5 has a RV dump site! Harvey takes a dump—we are getting faster at it, and certainly less messy…

12:30 pm

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig! Frankie the cat looks relieved that we didn’t bring him any new “friends,” since every animal we saw would end up dominating him…

Gini & Robert Harvey’s staff

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