Brightside: Animals return to farm following evacuation

Volunteers took care of Old McDonald's Farm Inc.'s animals when they were evacuated because of the Eagle Creek Fire. (KATU Photo)

TROUTDALE, Ore. — It's hard to teach people what it's like to live on a farm when you don't have any farm animals.

That's been the situation at Old McDonald's Farm Inc. in Corbett since the entire place was evacuated close to two weeks ago because of the Eagle Creek Fire.

"I can’t do anything without animals," said farm director Stephanie Rickert.

"I’ve been turning kids away and turning classes away and haven’t been able to do our farmer for a day programs, an overnight stay for people to actually live on the farm," she said.

The nonprofit farm would normally be full of school kids wandering from pen to barn.

Rickert says the fire came just after the busiest season, but burned close to the freshly harvested hay bales that fill the barn.

"14-point 9 tons of hay. This is what feeds everybody all winter long. And I was absolutely worried about losing this," she said.

None of the animals were lost either, thanks to a barn full of volunteers who Rickert says took "35 animals to three different counties and seven different places."

One of those places was the Northeast Portland home of Amy Hall, who crammed a Subaru with ducks, geese, rabbits and a goat.

"We loaded them all into these crates, they were all squashed in. When we got home and unloaded them there was a green egg sitting in the bottom of one of the kennels," said Hall.

Hall and her husband brought the animals back to the farm Friday, while Rickert waited to hear when they could bring the bigger animals, horses and cows and pigs back as well.

The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office didn't want to let livestock back into evacuated areas too soon, because it was so much work the first time. They didn't want to have to turn around and do it again if the fire backtracked to the west.

"Our pig was the toughest," said Rickert. "It took four of us to get it in a vehicle."

But Rickert got word Friday she could get her horses from a local training facility, and they'd be home by evening.

Now it's time to get the farm back to normal, and that means back to work educating people about just how much work it can be.

"It’s a very special program," said Amy Hall.

"I don’t know of any farm, summer programs like this, where city kids can get bused in from Lloyd Center area and spend all day with farm animals, learning about them and taking care of them. Yeah, it’s a very special program."

The fun (and work) doesn't end with the summer.

Old McDonald's Farm Inc. is having a "Pumpkin-Pick" event the weekend of Oct. 7 and 8.

"Pick out a pumpkin, go on a hayride, listen to some live music, even roast a hot dog over the fire" said Rickert.

"Roast a hot dog over the fire pit" she emphasized. "It's a controlled fire."

And remember to check with your local county for evacuation levels where you live before you or your animals move back home.

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