The World Reset Series–Sanctuary on an Island

Cow Rosie

Ansel Santosa and Dahlia, courtesy of Ansel Santosa

The mission of The World Reset Series is to portray diverse people ranging from animal rescuers to artists as each of them makes the best use of an otherwise uncomfortable situation.

I interviewed the animal rescuers (who founded the Ballydidean Farm Sanctuary in Clinton, Washington), Ansel, and Sarah Santosa for Whidbey Life magazine in 2019. I thought of them on their farm during the lockdown so I reached out to Ansel to see if he would be up for an interview.

As some of the readers of this blog know that I’m passionate about animals and animal causes. I would also like to bring animal shelters and animal rescuers to your attention because this is not easy work to do during a pandemic or a lockdown. In a way, they are on the front line also, but in a different way than the medical profession. Giving animals a sanctuary even during the best of times is heroic in my mind.

Even if you’re not providing a sanctuary to your extended family (human and fur companions), an act of kindness goes a long way in restoring peace and vitality in the world.


sanctuary farm

A walk on the farm, courtesy of Ansel Santosa


How many weeks have you been in lockdown?

Ansel Santosa–This is our 10th week staying home. The last day I went into the office was March 2nd.

Describe what it’s like to be in lockdown at a sanctuary farm with your family?

AS–It’s quiet and peaceful. My wife and I have 16 animals, a toddler, and 2 senior parents with us for lockdown so even though we have largely isolated ourselves from the outside world, there is a lot of socialization happening. My wife and daughter do daily chores with the animals and play outside a lot. I work remotely during the day from my home office. 

The family walks down to the local beach for exercise, and we watch some family TV after dinner (mostly sleepy BBC shows like Escape to the Country or Antiques Roadshow).

We also come up with projects to keep ourselves busy. My mother-in-law is working on a memoir and likes to organize our house, my father-in-law practices meditation and does erasure art, my wife has built some outdoor furniture and is re-landscaping the garden, and my daughter (Gwen) is learning how to feed the chickens and take care of the dog.

You were commuting to Seattle to work before the pandemic so are you working from a home office now? What are you doing with the time that you once used for your commute by ferry and train?

AS–For the first week or two of working from home, I was spending more time with family, but it became clear quickly how important that personal time and those gradual transitions between family and work were to my mental health.

After talking to my therapist about it (via remote sessions!), I have instituted “pseudo-commutes” where for 30-minutes before and 45-minutes after my 8-hour workday, I have scheduled personal time to take a walk, play a video game, listen to a podcast, or do something else by myself. The structured transitions have been a very constructive addition to my routine.

How are you keeping your mind, body, and spirit healthy during this particular lockdown?

AS–We spend time outside playing with Gwen and the animals, we keep in touch with friends and family by exchanging photos and doing video chats. We are being diligent about keeping the practices that supported our mental and physical health before the pandemic including medication, therapy, daily routine, exercise, and personal time.

What skills and personality traits work well for you during the lockdown? Such as are you mentally strong, good at fixing problems, or resourceful? Growing food is another useful skill.

AS–I think the thing that has served me best is my bias towards planning and structure. I’ve always been one to keep careful to-do list apps, keep my calendar up to date, and keep my inbox empty. That skill has enabled me to adjust to the new circumstances and create routine and structure which is an important mental health practice for both my wife and I.

The other thing that has served us well is that I like to socialize and network with our community. We have such incredible and supportive neighbors who have called to check in with each other, offered to run errands for at-risk neighbors, set up mailing lists with local resources, and so many other kind gestures.

One particularly wonderful addition to our quarantine life is Alanah who we met at a “land swap” meetup at the Organic Farm School. This year she started @foggyhillfarm selling cut flowers and veggies on our property. She is a joy to have around and she gives us delicious fresh food grown in our own backyard!

What wisdom are you gaining from this global situation?

AS–Any kind of isolation is difficult of course, but the pandemic has made it so clear who is privileged and who is not. We have our beautiful animals to keep us company and give us purpose, we have land that we can safely walk and play in, we do work that allows us to stay home, we have savings and income that are not existentially threatened by the economic situation.

Most are not so lucky. People have lost childcare, jobs, savings, and family members. Service workers are forced to put themselves at risk because they are “essential” but are not given any benefits, any pay above minimum wage, or even PPE. Those of us who are privileged enough to not be worrying about things like food and shelter during the pandemic have the responsibility to give our money, our time, and our attention to helping those who do.

What practices do you have in place to keep yourself virus-free?

AS–We stay home whenever possible and we have hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, and homemade masks for when we must leave the house. We pay a friend to do most of our grocery shopping for us and then we carefully sanitize everything before it comes into the house.

Because we have a toddler and two senior parents in our home, we are being as cautious as possible. We keep the number of people visiting the property to a minimum and we always keep a safe distance away from non-family members.

Perhaps, most importantly we follow respected science-based institutions like the WHO and the CDC and papers of record like the New York Times and the Washington Post to stay updated on the latest news and recommendations.