Sharing the Completed Area

Here I am with Rose, the owner of the farm. Rose is very appreciative of the new environment and is excited for its future. The experience has been amazing and I have continued to learn more about behavior enrichment, which blends with my passion for animals – I am currently on a track to take me into the world of animal training.

The facility is currently in use and has improved the experience.

My animal friends seem to like the new enrichment area.

I will be submitting my Gold Award Project for evaluation by Girl Scouts. Please pray they liked the results as much as I did the journey.

Final Touches

Finishing touches including burying the tires, adding the wine barrels, mucking the hay area and general improvement. We had been mucking all along, so we had an area for construction; we removed over 30 barrels of muck over the month we were there, that will be used for compost. The feed trough was in need of repair and the benches were in need of extra support. We also added corners to the covered area on the platform.

The barrels added character and additional space to the platform.

Adding the tires proved tougher than planned. Ae needed to use an augur to bore our the dirt so we could bury them. A team effort proved fruitful.

Welcoming the First Guests

Every summer, Helping Hands Healing Sanctity hosts Farm Day, where neighbors from communities far and wide are invited to visit the farm and learn about animal therapy. Guests are also invited back to help volunteer on the farm.

The goat enclosure was the petting area for the day, so bunnies were moved into the enclosure and became the first official users of the new structure.

I had a great time explaining my Girl Scout Gold Award Project to the over 100 guests who attended the event. We were able to finish the roof after the event, as well as, secure the stairs better for the goats.

Raising the Roof

We started by getting the platform on six supports (we later added two additional supports) and validated the stability of the platform. We then started crafting the additional structure.

Once we had the structure completed, we added the stairs (last so the goats would not join us during construction). We ended up redesigning the stairs twice after the initial build due to the sheep, who kept finding ways to knocking them over.

After the structure was complete, we weather proofed it using an eco friendly/animal safe protectant. Now we need to bury the tires and place the wine barrels. And yes, the goats are loving it.

Leading – One Step At a Time

While I have lead school project teams and as a councilor at various camps, creating Goat Topia has been a next level up in leadership. It is one thing to have a plan and follow it, it is another when almost every step presents a new challenge. Not only were we dealing with the elements, like thunderstorms, we were learning that animal behaviors would require modification to the plan.

Leading a team is not about being a boss. It is about execution, and keeping the project moving forward. I listened to my parents, I listened to my sister and peers, and I listened to family friend helpers. One by one, we continued to work together and improve on what we were building, and how we were building it.

And, of course, the goats continued to investigate and help us understand more about what they would enjoy.

The Cornerstone is Set

While this is not a masonry project, we are using stones to keep the wood above the muck and water. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a foundation, which is important since all other structural elements are set in reference to this stone, and it determines the position of the structure.

For this project, the main structure will be in the center of the enclosure and give space on both sides for wheelchair access. It will also be easier for volunteers to clean underneath. Next we will be building the platform and setting the remaining stones.

The Trek to Oregon

We left California on June 22, 2019 & arrived at the farm on June 24, 2019. We rented the truck on June 21 so we could load up the day before we started our trek, allowing us to get a good night’s sleep and get on the road early in the morning. We drove about eight hours a day on each of the first two days, and then about an hour on the third day, so we had most of the third day to unload and stage our building supplies and tools.

Building Begins

I had two teams as Troop Members, family & friends begin the building process by helping sand the wood in California. We had the tires donated in California, so we knew at that point we were going to need to rent a truck to get to Oregon. Since we had the truck, we were able to purchase over half of the wood in California and engage my troop.

My California team also had helped generate ideas during the design phase. Many had shown interest in going to Oregon to help, unfortunately timing and family vacations prevented this opportunity. However, I have a wonderful family, ready to help once we got to Oregon.

Why an Interactive Area?

  1. The goats at Helping Hands Healing Sanctuary are very social and have been imprinted to love people since they were born.  Because of their sweet temperament and love of people, they are used for Animal/Farm/Goat Therapy on an almost daily basis.  Many of the current groups that come for farm therapy are special needs kids/schools, and troubled youth in the Chehalem Youth and Family services, residents of the local Sober Living Program, and also a facility helping those recover from addiction.  Most recently they have been serving Returning Veterans and their families, helping with issues related to anger, depression and PTSD.
  2. Currently, the goat pen is empty, with only a three-sided food shelter to protect them from the Oregon rain.  The rest of the area is empty.  There are two benches for people to sit on while visiting or working with the goats.
  3. In discussing with Rose Sullivan, owner, what her needs are on the farm, she mentioned the need for an interactive area in the goat pen so the people coming for goat therapy and the goats can work together. 
  4. The goats also need a place to exercise and play, as that is what they always want to do, but they don’t have a play structure for them to do this.  Because the farm is in Oregon where it rains a lot, the goats spend a lot of time inside the sleep/food shelter. 
  5. Since they get lots of kids and adults that want to be with the goats to hug and love, they need a play structure where they can interact together.
  6. I need to learn more about the proper building materials that will stand up to the harsh weather in the Pacific North West, rain and snow.
  7. I will be seeking construction advice in order to build a structure strong enough to handle a tribe of goats climbing and jumping on it.
  8. I also need to learn how best to acquire and transport materials in or to Oregon.

How Goat Topia Was Designed

I started with an idea of what I wanted, like a structure, jumping areas, and interactive areas. From there I researched existing structures, both online and by visiting local farms with goats. Some farms even have walkways fifteen feet in the air that allow the goats to cross from one enclosure to another. We also looked at resources we already had on hand, like a family friend who races and has used tires we could bury in the ground for the goats to jump on.

The structure ended up 30 inches off the ground. We used cement footings to keep the wood from sitting in the muck. The platform is twelve feet by eight feet. We built an additional structure on top that is six feet by four feet.

The final implementation has stairs instead of ramps due to safety concerns. Screws were used over nails, as the sheep were able to lift the initial steps off their supports. Moving the top structure to the side allows for a larger open area for goats and children to interact.