Hatchimals (the real life story of hatching ducklings)

It took 30 days of dedication of carefully turning our eight little duck eggs to have our ducklings finally arrive this week. This began as a project for the girls, who love nothing more then taking care of baby animals. They did pretty well being responsible for the turning of the eggs four to six times each day. After a few weeks the excitement wore off and I will admit the task of checking and turning the eggs throughout the day became a “job” that no one really wanted. It ended up being my job in the end, and I’m so glad we stuck with it, as the reward was great when they hatched one by one yesterday.

It was Friday evening when Maeve said she could hear peeping coming from the eggs. We were not expecting the eggs to hatch for another week, so we were surprised to hear muffled chirping and occasional eggs rolling around in the incubator. On Saturday there were cracks in the eggs, and on Sunday a few of them were breaking their beaks through little holes. On Monday morning we found four of the five eggs had hatched! In the incubator we found four wet, slimy little ducklings. If you have never seen a newly hatched duckling I can tell you they are so ugly, helpless and vulnerable that they are cute. They laid in the incubator and slept for most of the day. It was torture for the kids to leave their long awaited pets alone for the day. We had read that it’s best to leave the little ones alone until they dry completely (8 hrs. or so). When they finally woke up and opened their beedy little eyes the girls were waiting to meet them. They held them gently and gave them each a name (Roxanne, Butter, Buttercup, Sky). They cuddled them, showed them how to eat and drink, and kept them warm. The ducklings were not able to move around much, as their legs did not really work the first day. Today they are getting around much better; running, falling, flapping, inching their way around their house. One of them (Buttercup) does not seem to be able to move her legs at all yet, so we are hoping that improves as she grows and gets stronger. If not we will have to make a decision about what to do with her; to cull or not to cull. And if we don’t cull her does she live in the house and require a lot of assistance?

This entire experience has been another reminder of life and death that happens on the farm. Out of 8 eggs we have 4 ducklings. We had one die in the egg and one die under a momma duck. We are still waiting for 2 to hatch who are under the momma duck, but we’re not feeling too optimistic about it. That poor momma duck has been sitting on eggs for over two months. Her first batch of eggs didn’t hatch (some went rotten, some were not fertilized). Now she’s been on these eggs and they don’t seem to be hatching as they should, the one that did hatch we found dead and stinky under her. Despite our efforts to keep everyone of our animals well cared for, fed, and happy it’s normal for some things to die. My kids are getting more used to death being part of life. This week a little chick died (was born deformed) and Maeve explained to Bea that “some things are not strong enough to live; that’s just how it goes”.

My kids have been asking for a Hatchimal for Christmas and Birthday presents for over a year now. They are expensive, robotic little animals that hatch out of an egg and do all kinds of silly things. They are around $100 and at Christmas last year were completely sold out in Canada. I think what they wanted from this toy is close to the same thing they will get from these “real life” hatchimals: something cute and interactive hatches from an egg and you get to pay attention to it and watch as it grows and changes. I like our kind of hatchimal best, and it was pretty much free.

Thanks to our friends Barbara and Peter and Jay and Johanna who kindly donated their fertilized duck eggs to this very special project.


The Pony Chapter

Well it has been quite a month for our farm and family.

We have gone from having three horses to one. Things have changed drastically in so many ways. First, we are so happy to still have Daisy the pony with us and we have decided to keep her. As soon as Shadoe and Boo were gone my kids (all of a sudden) were out there with Daisy every chance they got. At first it was to keep her company, as she was very upset that she was without a herd. My intention was to sell or even lease her out right away. But then she calmed down and things shifted. My girls are spending hours a day with Daisy; grooming, walking, and riding her. They want to bring her out in the yard and we let her free range around the back yard with us and the goats. We are even taking her for “trail rides” back in the woods with us, which is something we could never do before because Boo would have taken the fence down.

It’s been amazing to see my girls and their pony find each other, bond and become comfortable with each other. This is what I was hoping to create all along. It was a very hard transition, and we all shed many tears when Boo left last Thursday. It helps knowing that he is with “his person” and living a wonderful life at his forever home. When Shadoe left it was hardest on me, as she was my horse. She was the horse I rode a few times a week and the one I was very bonded with.

It was a big help attending the Anne Gage clinic at Hobby Horse Farm where I felt welcomed and supported to enter the horse world again (outside of my own little farm) and ride with other wonderful horse ladies. Working on basic but essential concepts and riding wonderful, well trained horses from the farm did boost my confidence and improve my riding skills. Most importantly it gave me the chance to re establish who I am as a rider and horse woman. I don’t have to own my own horse to ride or be a part of a riding community. I am taking this chance to ride other horses, be part of other riding communities, and get out there in the horse world. I am hopeful that when I am out there I will find the right horse for me and my family.  It’s been awesome to find other alternatives where I can ride and learn. I had my first lesson this week on a lovely little mare at Legacy Equestrian Centre. I’m really looking forward to riding there a few times a month and getting excellent instruction. I’m also looking forward to working with Jackie and Miles at their near by stable and riding one of their green broke horses and cleaning stalls.

With all the ups and downs of having these horses in my life it’s great that this particular story has a happy ending. Although it was hard and sad to move Boo and Shadoe along to their new homes it has ended up being the best thing for all of us. And my kids who seemed to be not interested in having a pony are now pony crazy. I get to ride, and we dont have to spend a fortune on hay and vet bills. Thanks to all the friends and family who listened and supported me through this transition. You can look forward to hearing how about this next chapter goes with our pony.


Horses to Heartbreak

Where to begin? We are taking a break from horses. There, I said it. It makes me so sad to think of really doing this…it’s my passion, my hobby, part of my identity. It’s what I wake up thinking about and what I try to squeeze into my day. If I have 5 minutes you know where you’ll find me…in the barn or out in the field with my horses. Unfortunately, they just aren’t working for my family.

For starters, they are costing us a small fortune. The price of hay doubled last year (due to the drought) and we don’t have a large enough pasture for them to eat grass for most of the year. The other big reason is, we just cant seem to find the “right” horse. Our little pony Daisy is sweet and gentle, but the kids are not showing any interest in her. They are just not into it, and nothing I do or say can get them out there to groom, sit on, or even just hang out with their little pony. This is not fair to Daisy, who loves kids and attention. As I have already mentioned in a previous post, Boo (the big grey) is not cut out for farm life. He does not like all the people (and kids) around, he prefers a comfortable stall, and he is difficult and challenging to ride. He also keeps charging and nearly breaking the fence down every time one of the ponies is being ridden, which is very dangerous. Lastly, and most sad for me, is Shadoe. My lovely, sweet haflinger mare. If you read this blog, you have heard me talking about her as my heart horse. I have loved her from the second she arrived here. She is my friend and partner; she is beautiful and affectionate. And despite all her wonderful qualities, she is also not working out for our family. She’s super strong and pushy. She has thrown a few riders (unexpectedly but on purpose). She needs a firm handler, on the ground and when being ridden, as she goes from calm to “testy” very quickly. When talking with some people from her past I found out that she has been this way all her life, and it’s going to take a lot of time, energy, and professional help to get her to where we need her to be for our family. My kids, our friends and family can’t safely ride her until I have done this. Unfortunately I just don’t have the time, the energy or the money to do this with her.

And now the “voice of reason” in our family (my husband Joey) has had enough of these sketchy situations happening (horses breaking through fences and galloping across the lawn, people getting bucked off or pushed around) to say “maybe it’s time to take a break” and I have to agree, maybe it is.

Do I look forward to having a break? No, not at all. I love having horses in my everyday life. I love mucking stalls, carrying water, grooming and hanging out with them. There is nothing more satisfying then standing with horses while they munch their hay.

For now I will try to find peace with this decision. I will find wonderful homes for them all and know that they are going to home that is as good or better then here. I know it’s just not the right time for me and my family to have this giant, expensive, sometimes dangerous commitment. To ease the pain of all this I am hoping to find a stable where I can continue to ride and be with horses on a regular basis. I’m looking for a place to fill my cup, continue my journey with horses, learn more and improve my riding and handling skills, and someday when the time is right I will find my heart horse and be ready for it.

Girls and Goslings

Last week we were lucky to find someone selling four little embden goslings. They were only a few days old; young enough to imprint on their “people”. To me this was a nice opportunity to try out goslings; I have always admired those large, beautiful white geese that you see on farms. I have had geese chase me and bite my kids before, so it was important to get very young geese that would bond with our family and know how to fit in on our very friendly farm. A friend told me that if you handle them daily and spend lots of time with them they will become almost like a dog and will follow you around and even love to be held and picked up. And so we brought four little goslings home and they have been the center of attention for Maeve and Bea who call them their “babies”. Our plan was to keep two of the four; so we had to choose which ones to keep. This was an interesting discussion as one of the goslings was small and deformed (warty looking eye, deformed foot/web with an extra toe nail, and even a small, oddly shaped wing). This little one was immediately named “Little Foot” and was having a hard time getting around. The other little one named “Snow Drop” was the runt of the bunch and is still very small compared to the others. The other two were strong, fast and outgoing. When it was time to pick our two the girls decided to keep the two having the hardest time. They were not perfect, and one of them was a bit strange looking with the warty eye, but they needed the most love and understanding. What incredible little ladies I have here, already understanding the need to love, accept, and care for anyone who needs it.

Something to know about geese is that they love to be with people. They want attention and affection; they actually peep at you to be picked up and within one day were following Maeve and Bea around the farm in a little line.  Yesterday Bea (who is normally very shy) proudly presented her goslings to her preschool class. She confidently told her class all about them, how to care for them, and demonstrated how they will follow her around. The kids were enthralled with these goslings; I’m sure a few of them went home to ask their parents for their own pet geese.

With the arrival of spring we are all excited about what is up and coming on our farm. We are enjoying the 6 heritage breed chicks we have just bought to expand our flock (easter egger, lavender orphingtons) and planning for our meat chickens and turkeys that arrive next month. We will have a few pigs again. And we’re hoping Daisy the goat will be having her first kid later in the summer. Of course we are dreaming of growing our garden; last weekend planted peas. Spring is a time when my kids play outside without me making them, our goats are eating their first green grass, and we are all happy to eat supper outside.

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.




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