The Great Animal Exodus

Letters from Finca el Moro.

Dear Friends, 

It has been a while since I last wrote, we’ve been pretty busy over here at Finca el Moro. Since Eliott and I packed up my van (Ali) at the end of the winter season and drove down to the farm, it’s been pretty non stop. 

We kicked the season off with two weeks of ‘getting El Moro guest ready’. Luckily we managed to gather a little army of sorts, rather a motley crew comprised of Mum, Dad, Eliott and I, Eliott’s Dad Pierre, Maleni and two German workawayers. 

Mum was chief gardener and spent on average 12 hours a day weeding, watering, trimming and pruning whilst the rest of us strimmed, painted, scrubbed and cleaned the three cottages, the farm house, the Shala, the Shop and the all important Chicken Palace. But before welcoming the first guests we had to welcome back the most important farm residents. The Animals. 

For a little context, these days my parents and I have shared custody of the animals. They look after them at Las Tapias (the new farm) over winter and I get to enjoy them over the summer. And when I say animals I mean, the dogs, Mima the cat, Violeta the donkey, the three horses, the 30 odd sheep and of course the chickens. Now, their farm isn’t a stones throw away, it takes 40 minutes by car or at least 2 hours on horseback. It takes considerably longer if you’ve got to herd Violeta the donkey and Osa the grrrrrrreat big (and slow) mastiff.

But as Eliott and I are committed to wintering away the Great Animal Exodus must happen twice a year, once at the begging of winter and once at the end. 

Last year’s exodus was the first and therefore a lot of mistakes were made. The thought of a Noah’s Arc-esque voyage with 30 sheep, a donkey, 12 chickens, 2 dogs, the horses and a cat seemed very romantic to me but my father was a little more realistic. Of course if everyone behaved it would be easy peasy but after giving it some thought, I had visions of Bunny (our terrier) terrorising the chickens, who would in turn send the sheep into a tizzy, Violeta would probably make a run for it amongst the confusion and we’d end up with animals all over the Sierra and our reputation as farmers ruined.

So thus, the decision was made to proceed with the Great Animal Exodus in stages, and in the Land Rover. Let me tell you, if the voyage on foot seemed complicated, try convincing 12 chickens to get into the trunk while there’s a cat on the back seat. 

Somehow we managed to get the birds into boxes, with quite a lot of fuss and feathers everywhere. All 40 kgs of Osa (the grrrreat big Mastiff) where hoisted into the car, she made no effort to help and proceeded to wretch for the following 40 minutes until we reached our destination. She’d never been this farm from home and was very sceptical of her new surroundings. 

Round two of the G.A.E. and there was only Violeta and the sheep left. A horse box load can take about 15 sheep and we had 20 and a donkey… so it became obvious that Violeta was going to have to share her seat with a woolly companion. She was NOT happy about this, not even close. She was looking rather smug when we loaded her into the horsebox first, thinking she’d got lucky and scored herself a first class ticket. Soon the realisation hit when the last few ewes started to leap and jump and baaa as they poured into the horse box with her and had no regard for her personal space. 

We finally made it to Las Tapias, opened up the back doors and could see the look of relief on everyone’s faces when they were finally able to roam the beautiful grassy meadows. The whole palaver was worth it in the end. However, Violeta hasn’t spoken to me since. 

Circling back to the beginning of this story, due to the Great Animal Exodus, the chicken run had been empty for the first time in 30 years. So it was a perfect time to renew and renovate it this spring in time for the Great Animal Return. But more on that next time. 

In other news…. The Times has written a lovely article about us and it is available to read here:

Finally, there is still space on Lara Stapleton’s Yoga retreat (27 July to 3rd August). A lovely week with a really knowledgeable teacher. All ages and abilities welcome, good food, sunshine and great company (the animals I mean!)