A South Whidbey farm sanctuary that has experienced a boom in visitors since 2020 is welcoming community members who might have an interest in participating in a COVID-safe spring photo op featuring lambs.
Sarah Santosa and her husband Ansel are high school sweethearts who made the leap from the metropolis of Seattle to the tranquility of a Clinton farm about two and a half years ago.
Around that time, they established a nonprofit sanctuary for farm animals called Ballydidean, which means “farm sanctuary” in Gaelic.
Current residents include a bow-legged goat, a cross-beaked hen, a flock of chickens in need of a new home and twin boy calves once bound for the dinner plate who were rescued from a commercial dairy farm.
“Taking care of and rescuing animals in a big way has always been a dream of mine,” Sarah Santosa said. “I don’t know exactly when it crystallized into a farm sanctuary, but I just always thought it would be amazing.”
Since the sanctuary’s beginning, Santosa and her husband have accepted requests to take in animals from Whidbey, Snohomish and north Seattle, among other nearby places.
“If you build it, they will come,” Santosa said.
For some animals, like retired dairy cow, Dahlia, it might be their final resting place.
For others, such as the hens, they have the chance to be adopted or fostered by community members with the promise that the animals will be taken care of and get to live a natural life, i.e. not cooked for dinner.
In the Santosa farmhouse, it’s not uncommon to find chickens in bathroom sinks or perched atop shower curtain rods.
“When someone needs attention, that’s what you got to do,” Santosa said with a laugh.
Some of the animals come to the sanctuary with various ailments and need medicine administered in the house, she explained.
A few of Ballydidean’s most recent arrivals include three bummer lambs who had to be bottle-fed. Now two months old, Dingle, Dublin and Burren have “graduated” from their place in the farmhouse’s mudroom to an enclosure shared with a bunch of vivacious new roommates, aka the goats of Ballydidean.
From 2-5 p.m. March 27 and April 3, animal lovers wanting to snuggle with the lambs can come take pictures at Ballydidean Farm Sanctuary, free of charge or by donation.
“I just thought it would be a really fun idea,” Santosa said.
“They’re not going to be lambs forever, and we’re definitely not going to have lambs every year.”
The farm sanctuary has also been hosting tours by appointment, an activity which Santosa said has really taken off since the pandemic began.
“It has become a really wonderful COVID-safe thing to do,” she said. “We wear masks, we’re outside the whole time. Rain or shine, you get to interact with these animals. We believe that exposure is empathy.”