Petite School Closure: My take on it

So this post is not about my farm or my animals but it is about something so important to me. It’s about my kids and community. I ask you to take a moment to read my thoughts on it and do what you can to help us with this situation.

Five years ago, we moved across the country from Victoria, BC to Lahave, NS. We came all this way for many reasons; but one of the biggest was so that our children could be part of a small, rural school.  My seven year old daughter attends Petite Elementary school where we are proud to say she has had wonderful support and experiences. Most impressively she gets to play in the extraordinary natural, wooded playground and grow a garden with her entire school. There are a small group of teachers, many dedicated parents and sixty or so lucky children who make this school a very special place. The kind of place worth moving across the country for, the kind of school that makes each child feel included and part of something very special.

If you have ever been to our school, you can feel how special it is when you walk in the door. The smell of warm toast and the sound of happy kids makes you want to be there. This is not just a school but a community hub, a place where families get together, where our rural surroundings don’t feel so far apart, and a place that reminds you that elementary school isn’t so bad after all.

Next year my youngest daughter will start school at Petite. Although she is a quiet, shy child she will be happy to start at Petite because it is a small and peaceful environment. She already knows half of her class and her teacher for next year. She knows most of the kids in her school, has worked in the garden, played on the playground, and been part of most of the events happening at her future school. Going to school is not scary for her as it’s part of her community already. This is why we moved here; So that she would not have to be shipped off to a school of 400 students and lost in the crowd.

With all the talk of school closures I ask myself if the school board and the government know what kind of an impact they are creating on families like mine. I can think of at least ten other families with young children who have moved here in the past few years for reasons similar to mine.  Do you think we will stay? Will more families with working professionals, young children, and energy toward community make the move all this way like we did if there are no longer small schools. I think No, they will not. They will move to other communities where what matters to young families is heard. Where community hubs and strong community schools are flourishing, not being closed down.

I like to believe that Nova Scotia is a good place to live. That the South Shore is an empowered, creative, and supportive community for young families who have so much to give back to the community and in the building of a sustainable future. Unfortunately, with all that has been happening with the ongoing struggle to keep our vibrant small school open I feel that we are being treated like we don’t matter down here. That no matter what we say or do, we will not be heard and that our school like so many others is being closed. Is this really all about saving money? What about all the other factors, like what is best for our kids and our community?

Let’s give it our all, lets pull together to save our school and community, and let’s prove that we are indeed living in a wonderful part of the world where children, families, and communities do matter. Let’s show everyone that it is worth moving across the country for!

Jill Swaine

Lahave, NS

A difficult decision

It’s been a year since I started this blog. I decided to write about our farm and how my kids are growing up on it, and how I’m learning so much so fast. I wanted to let my friends and family know what we are up to, and to share the sweet and not so sweet moments that happen around our farm. I write this blog because I’m so proud of what we do, how we live, and I like telling our story.

I have had to make yet another difficult decision this week about our horses. As you may know, I have this horse Boo who came to our farm a year and half ago. He is big, grey and very smart and sensitive. I was hoping he would be my forever horse, that over time we would bond and he would trust me enough to be safe to ride. I was looking for a friend and a partner to explore the trails with. Boo has come a long way toward being a farm horse and he has slowly gotten used to the kids. He doesn’t bite or buck as often, but we have decided he is just not the horse for us. Since we got Shadoe (our lovely haflinger) things have changed. For one, I realized how relaxed and easy it is to be with her, she never bites or bucks and is always happy to see me. Without meaning to I have bonded with Shadoe, and she has become my special forever horse (Maeve would like me to add that she is her special horse too). I feel so lucky to have her and feel safe when I ride her. I realize that since I had kids I’m not as brave as I once was. I don’t want a challenge every time I ride, sometimes I just want to go for a pleasant ride. And that is what I found with Shadoe. After thinking about this for many weeks, I have decided to give Boo to his special person Yvonne. She has been half leasing him for almost a year and has a special connection with him. He loves that she dotes on him and always brings treats. She is also a very confident and experienced horse person who had many years prior with another horse who was very much like Boo. She is the perfect person for Boo and she is glad to adopt him and take care of him for the rest of his days. Some people ask me why I’m not selling him. The money would be helpful to put toward another horse or pony. My answer to that is that Boo’s happiness is more important then money. He needs a special home and person and Yvonne is it. So yay! There’s a happy ending.

And just when I was getting worried about what to do about getting another pony or donkey to keep Shadoe company the solution appeared. Yesterday I heard from a very nice lady who has a little pony who needs a new home. The pony sounds perfect for us; calm, gentle with kids, easy to handle. She looks just like the little shetland pony I used to have as a kid and sounds like the kind of pony any little girl would love. With any luck, this week we will be getting her. I like to believe that people are good and that the world does not necessarily run on money. That animals going to good homes and good people is more important then money, and that hopefully anyone who knows us would see that we offer a very good home to any animal. If this little pony comes here and fits in we plan on keeping her for the rest of her days. I hope that she and Shadoe will get along and be best buds. Fingers crossed it all works out.

On another note: The new ducks have settled in well. They lay a big, greenish egg everyday and stick close to the coop. Rosco has stopped quacking and looking for Rhoda, his lost mate. He doesn’t love the new girls and they have not become a trio. The girls are very much disinterested if not disgusted at his mild attempts to impress them. But they are ok for now and we will hope that with this spring weather they become a little flock.

Our little goat Oreo surprised us with reaching “maturity” already at 8 weeks and spent the day mating with Daisy! We dont think he could have impregnated her, but were impressed by his attempts.

 

The mourning of a duck

I know, I know…it’s just a duck! But around here, it’s not. It’s the little life we have watched grow from day one. Rhoda was run over today and who knew that it could be so tragic. Mostly for Rosco, her mate. I didn’t know that ducks mate for life; they spend every waking moment in sight of one another, eating the same food, drinking the same water. They sleep with their necks wrapped around one another. If they get separated for even a minute they quack incessantly until they are together again. It’s a BIG deal to have at least two ducks. And this is why today, when Rhoda was run over Rosco showed so much sorrow and grief that I had to find him another duck right away. It may seem over reactive that I put the call out to all my friends, family and farm peeps in search of a female duck to buy or borrow. I was so pleased at how our friends and farming community were there for us and Rosco. I had two new female ducks within the hour.

I am happy to say that Rosco has stopped quacking and “crying” while frantically searching for his lost love. He is now eyeing up the two beauties who have been moved into his space. He’s not in love with them-yet. It may take some time, but I hope they become a happy little trio.  I hope that harmony has been restored on our little farm.

 

 

Maeve and Beas Pet Sitting

There is nothing like a little bunny to bring quiet snugly moments to a snow day. We are lucky to have “Hughey” with us for a few days and it couldn’t be better timing. Last night we had a winter storm that has left us snowed in for today; no school, no work, and not much outside time either. These days can be challenging for parents, as kids tend to be rambunctious, bored, and eventually pesty when they can’t burn off their energy outside and with friends. I usually dread these days, but so far today it has been fairly peaceful,thanks to Hughie. My girls are enjoying bunny-sitting so much that they have decided to open their own Pet Sitting business. Maeve says she would like to specialize in “bunnies, hamsters, gerbils, lizards, turtles, kittens, and friendly dogs”. Bea says “NO crocodiles!” I think they are on to something here 🙂

So, if you happen to have a friendly pet who needs care while you are away on vacation keep us in mind. I think we will try the “Pet Sitting” idea; it’s a great opportunity for Maeve and Bea to learn about other animals (that we dont have) and to practice being responsible and helpful on our farm.

On another note I have been on yet another steep learning curve around goat health this month. We recently bought two new goats; both are black and white nigerian dwarfs. The doe is Daisy’s sister and is the sweetest little goat we have ever had! She has big blue eyes and loves to follow us around the yard and snuggle. Lucky for us, she came with her little month old buckling who also is black and white with blue eyes. The girls named him Oreo and he has turned out to be our snuggle goat. He is only 5 lbs and he wears a sweater to keep him cozy on these cold days. Unfortunately the new goats developed coccidiosis, which are a parasitic protozoa that can be a serious problem for kids, older or weakened goats. They needed medication and lots of extra care and rest for the first week or so. Now our little Oreo has developed pnemonia and sounds like a little old man with a cough. I had to give him an antibiotic injection in his neck yesterday which made him cry and cry; it was hard to do, but necessary to save him. This farming stuff can be expensive and difficult, but also so rewarding. We have spent as much money as we could sell a goat for on keeping them healthy this month but it is worth it. These little animals are a part of our family. Especially because we have little kids, it’s a big deal when our animals are sick or die.

Well, that window of quiet bunny time has come to an abrupt end. Apparently we need two snuggle-bunnies as the kids are fighting over who gets to hold Hughie. Back to the kids, the indoor bunny and the farm I go!

 

 

 

 

Peace on our farm

Recently we spent a few days away from our farm. We were in the city and enjoyed the many wonderful things to do and places to go that the city offers. But I have to say, coming home to my farm and my animals was heart warming. I couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around Shadoe and smell her…I know that sounds weird for those of you who have not smelled a pony but it’s the best smell in the world. What I want to convey to you all is that living on a farm with animals is the most peace-bringing experience I can think of. These animals live in harmony with one another, spend their days napping in sunny patches, or scratching around for seeds or slowly chomping on fresh, sweet hay. It’s incredibly calming to stand in the barn doorway and watch the flock of wild ducks flutter to the ground at my feet or to see the chicken dynamics happening in the barn yard.

We have all heard of how being around animals (dogs, horses and goats especially) can be therapeutic. I feel so fortunate to live in a place where my everyday is filled with goats snuggling me and sitting on my lap, horses nuzzling me and allowing me to sit on, ride, and just hang out with them, and of course my wonderfully affectionate and smart dog Barkley who is by my side all day.

So, with my daughters upcoming surgery I know that home is where she will heal; it’s where we will come home to and feel connected to our land and our amazing animals. It’s where we will feel better. Thank goodness for peace on our farm.

Peace on a farm

Recently we spent a few days away from our farm. We were in the city and enjoyed the many wonderful things to do and places to go that the city offers. But I have to say, coming home to my farm and my animals was heart warming. I couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around Shadoe and smell her…I know that sounds weird for those of you who have not smelled a pony but it’s the best smell in the world. What I want to convey to you all is that living on a farm with animals is the most peace-bringing experience I can think of. These animals live in harmony with one another, spend their days napping in sunny patches, or scratching around for seeds or slowly chomping on fresh, sweet hay. It’s incredibly calming to stand in the barn doorway and watch the flock of wild ducks flutter to the ground at my feet or to see the chicken dynamics happening in the barn yard.

We have all heard of how being around animals (dogs, horses and goats especially) can be therapeutic. I feel so fortunate to live in a place where my everyday is filled with goats snuggling me and sitting on my lap, horses nuzzling me and allowing me to sit on, ride, and just hang out with them, and of course my wonderfully affectionate and smart dog Barkley who is by my side all day.

So, with my daughters upcoming surgery I know that home is where she will heal; it’s where we will come home to and feel connected to our land and our amazing animals. It’s where we will feel better. Thank goodness for peace on our farm.

Shadoe, the Amazing Haflinger

A few weeks ago I found my dream pony. Her name is Shadoe and she is the most calm, kind pony you will ever meet. She is trained to pull a cart ( as many Haflingers are) and is great to ride. She is strong and stocky and my perfect size. We bought her for my kids and all the neighbors kids and all the people in our life who come over and want to ride. Until now we had Leroy, the sweet little pony (too small for everyone) and my horse Boo (too unpredictable for everyone) so that didn’t allow many friends or family the chance to ride. It was soo hard to find a lovely, calm, well trained pony; those that I did find were thousands of dollars.

I knew as soon as I saw her, it was truly love at first sight. She is the right pony for us. My kids can ride her around and handle her easily and safely. Even Joey has been on her back…and Shadoe didn’t mind one bit. She actually doesn’t seem to “mind” anything. Today I was riding her bareback around the field. My horse Boo was freaking out, galloping up and down the field, calling to her and trying to bust through the fence. Most horses would react to that kind of behavior, but not Shadoe. She was calm and almost aloof toward Boo who was acting up for no good reason.

It was a pleasure to talk to Shadoe’s original owner today. It has been a bit of a wild goose chase to find where she came from. I knew whoever started her had done a great job; only a pony who has been well cared for and trained well would be the way she is. With the help of the NS Haflinger Club (Thanks a million Gillian and Janet) we were able to find where Shadoe came from (Windsor) and her past owner. The story goes like this: Shadow was born on a lovely farm with caring owners who treated her well and worked with her to pull a cart. She was loved and ridden and even competed in Haflinger Horse shows. She had a few beautiful foals, two of which are still alive, and she has a full brother who she was teamed with to pull a cart. Everything she knew came to a turn when one of her owners became ill and had to sell his horses. Shadoe was sold and traded until she luckily found a home with her lovely past owner Karen. Now she is with us, and I hope she will stay here for the rest of her days. Although Haflingers can live to be 40!  What was so moving was that Shadoes original owner remembered so many special things, stories, and attributes about her. She told me about who rode her, how she did in horse shows, even who she didnt like! This lady truly loved Shadoe, and it was touching to hear the emotion in this lady’s voice as she recalled the good old days.

What I got from today was the connection between past and present. How 15 years ago a beautiful pony was born and raised, was a part of someones everyday life. What happened then carries over to today. Today I have a very special pony, with nothing but trust and respect for anyone who is lucky enough to meet her. This tells me that what we do each day does carry over to tomorrow and down the road. The way I treat my animals (horses, goats, dog, etc) may not seem substantial in the moment. But over time it makes a difference. And for these amazingly smart and sensitive animals (who remember everything) kindness is everything.