This weeks GotW features a very special little lady with a very interesting back story. Not only is this cutey seemingly always smiling, but she is just an all around, easy going, happy go lucky goat. Let me introduce you all to Everlily Maples Tootsie Roll, otherwise known around here as "Toots". This beautiful gold and white doe has the palest blue eyes, and same loving temperament that many have come to know as being out of our dearest Carmela - Toots' Grandmother. For Toot's story we need to back up a wee bit to get some history, for those who haven't been following the farm for as long. I am sure no one minds another great goat story anyways right? ;)
In 2014 after Geordon passed away, my son and I had to come to terms with the fact that we would need to sell some of our animals in order to make ends meet. As a family we had all worked hard to build our herd and we had many beloved animals that we were very attached to. Of course as it goes, the ones we were most attached to were the same ones that other people were interested in purchasing. Let me tell you how much THAT reality sucked, when it did sink in. Life throws us curve balls no matter how much we plan or prepare. My new reality at that time was that I would have to sell animals that I had intended to keep forever, just to pay the bills and survive another winter. For anyone who knows me, or has spent any time with me and my herd, you will know how strong my bond to them is. These are not animals to me, nor will they ever be. They are family. My new reality was having to sell my family? It is a bit hard for me to go back there, but it is very fulfilling to see how far we've come.
So how does Toots come into all this? As I was saying, we had to sell some goats. One of the ones that we decided to let go of was Sky River Meadows Neveah (Toots' mom and our miracle baby and Jr Res Champion). To say this was a hard choice is an understatement. We only knew that the best option was to find the best home possible for our dear Neveah, and so we did. Neveah joined a small family homestead called Everlily Maples. We were overjoyed that we were still able to see Neveah and visit with her at shows, and in two years we would hopefully receive a daughter back out of Neveah to add to our herd. In comes Tootsie Roll!!! Toots was born May 1, 2017. Although our plans and direction for the farm had changed greatly by the time, I was thrilled to be getting a another baby goat!! And she was so cute too!!! Courtesy of Everlily Maples - Here are Toots baby photos.
So, moving forward to 2020 and some very interesting observations I have made since Toots joined us. Being born and raised on another farm, to a different family, with their own methods, you would think there would have been some transitional issues adding her to our herd. Once again, as we have witnessed many times - there was no transition. There was the usual sniffing and vague threats of head-butting. It seemed that the entire herd knew who she was and where she came from. To make things even odder, that first night with the herd she was found sleeping next to Carmela (her grandmother) and Soleil (her older sister), as well as other extended family members. After many years of this it still amazes me every time I see evidence of bonds that we clearly can't see. How do they know who their family is automatically? They are not all white and gold, so this isn't a colour issue either. It is an incredible observation though and one I would love to find the answers to one day. If anyone wants to share theories or thoughts on this, hit me up! :)
Since we have arrived at our new location, the herd has really settled into a solid routine. Last year we bred Toots for the first time and she gave birth to a single kid, that we have retained as a wether and named Tommen. Both Toots and Tommen work within the therapeutic herd and Tommen has even ventured indoors with our Goats on the Go! program. If you think about my breeding program and the genetics that I specifically chose to create this herd, Toots is a great example of how solid this genetic temperament is. It can leave the herd and be mixed with other lines, and come back to us, fitting right in as if they were born here. No matter what causes this magic to work, I am just so grateful each and every day for them all. Being surrounded by so much unconditional love each and every day sure does have a way of filling your soul! As we venture out into the world offering our animal programs and introducing the herd into more places, it is comforting to know that I am always surrounded by my family and friends - two legged and four - the best support a girl could have and ever ask for <3
I cannot even begin to express how excited I am to write about this weeks GotW! This little man has the biggest heart in the tiniest body. Our wee Bilbo, as he is affectionately known, is one of our "dwarf dwarf" goats. Now that he is full grown, he stands at a whopping 10.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs all of 18 pounds. Don't let the diminutive size of this handsome wee man fool you. His heart is bigger than you can imagine! He is ALWAYS smiling. He is ALWAYS willing to cuddle or be groomed. He has quite a way with the ladies of both human and goat species, and he is always playful and full of joy. Bilbo is also a very important member of our Goats on the Go! program, where during the winter months we visit those who are in need of some special cheer and love. This program and the special goats and volunteers who work in it, are a very important part of how we reach those who are not able to come to us at the farm. This is especially true for those who are faced with mobility issues and challenges.
Bilbo was born at the end of our kidding season in 2017. His mother, Soleil (also affectionately known as Mamacita) had blessed us with our very first set of quadruplets. Bilbo and his three sisters came into the world with some difficulty. It turns out that Soleil had conceived two sets of twins and they had all become entangled inside. As tiny as Soleil was, I had to go "in" to untangle the kids and deliver them safely. Bilbo came out first and was feisty from his first breath. He was also the smallest of the four babies by a very noticeable margin. This made naming him VERY easy considering that my naming theme for 2017 was Lord of the Rings, he needed a Hobbit name for sure. Bilbo it was! Initially I thought that Bilbo was the only dwarf dwarf of the four kids. It wasn't until a few months had passed that we realized all four of them were extra small. Of course by this time, one of Bilbo's sister's (Sky River Meadows Rosie Cotton) had left us to join another wonderful herd (http://www.happyhensheritagefarm.ca/), leaving us with the remaining kids that we have since always referred to as the "broken quads" since they are only three here at Sky river Meadows. I retained Bilbo and his remaining sisters to ensure that they would not be bred (due to health concerns as well as their own safety) I am so grateful to be building myself a life and career path that also allows me to do right by my animals, while still ensuring that I can afford to care for their needs. The work my herd does with people has nothing to do with whether or not they have the perfect conformation, or if they are the best example of their breed. If anything, it is that inability to reproduce that seems to make them perfect for this type of work. Thus far, Bilbo is the only one out of his immediate family that works in the Goats on the Go! program. That may one day change as we are quickly realizing that we do not have enough house broken goats in our herd and we are working to rectify that by beginning to train some others.
As today is Family Day here in Canada, I thought it would be nice to talk about an interesting observation that I have made from spending countless hours watching my herd interact as their own community. One fact always stands out over and over. They bond closely with their family units, and close friends become as family - just like in our own society. Bilbo's family is one of the best examples of these family bonds in my herd. I will speak of this more when I write about his mother later in the year. When I observe Bilbo, I can say with certainty that he is most closely attached to his twin sister Gilraen. They are never far from each other and most often found sleeping together. He is quite close with Galadriel as well and she is the perfect substitute for cuddles if Raen is busy. The quads have an older sister named Star Trek (born a singleton), and she watches over them all. The entire family sleeps together at night, as is shown in this photo. I have countless photos just like this of them all always sleeping together - or as in this one - sitting together, proud and smiling :) Seriously, how cute are they?
When it comes to Bilbo, I have to admit that there are so many stories to tell. I find it difficult to chose what to tell on this post. Funny, he had no input or advice to offer on the subject either.... When I think about Bilbo, the first thing that comes to my mind is his smile. Seriously - THAT SMILE THOUGH!!! This little tiny goat, with his huge heart and $1,000,000 SMILE, has stolen more hearts than even I am aware. In his 3.5 short years of life, I have witnessed Bilbo heal many hearts - including mine, multiple times. He has brought people together. He has helped a family learn to laugh together again. He helped spark and ignite love between two lost souls. He brought joy and inspiration to many entrepreneurs at business engagements and corporate events. Now be brings his charm, humour and good nature to those we visit in our Goats on the Go! program. How can anyone not smile when they see him coming towards you in his best dressed tie! Bilbo is just timid enough to make everyone want to comfort him, and because he is SO small, many think he is a baby goat. He is in fact smaller than all of the baby goats in our current travelling band, but he is indeed full grown. What a Superstar! For such a young little guy though, he sure does have an impressive resume already. Now that we are actively engaging with people almost daily, we are able to spread this amazing gift of animal love and connection to so many. The benefits are actively going both ways all the time. Each person we meet seems to be impacted in a positive way. For each heart, soul, and smile touched, I see the positive effects it also has on my herd, and most definitely has on my team. I am not excluded from that positive energy either. It fills me heart and soul. I have found my purpose and life path, and finally know that it is not wrong of me to spend so much time with animals. It is in fact essential to the work that I do, and an instinctual part of "WHO I AM". It feels good to honour myself, and to honour my four legged friends by helping to share the messages and gifts they each have to share. As spring draws closer, we also get close to the time when we can start walking with the herd again. Even Bilbo enjoys going off on many grand adventures! ;)
OH! One other thing that I absolutely MUST write about when it comes to Bilbo. He has the CUTEST BUTT EVER!!! When he walks, or skips happily along - seriously, cutest butt ever!! If you didn't catch the Instagram or Facebook post announcing this blog entry, be sure to go check out a quick 10 second video :)
For this weeks blog post, I decided to break temporarily from my usual GotW, (it will return next week, I promise) and instead make a personal one. It has been quite a long while since I have done so, and definitely feel that the timing is right for this week. February has always been a hard month for me in general. I am challenging myself today - more so than usual, as today I am struggling to put any words down. With all new goals we set ourselves, there will always be challenging days. As writing never comes easily to me I should expect days like these :) I have to remind myself that my commitment to write this blog was actually a commitment to myself. A reminder to myself that life happens every single day, and that each new day there will be new challenges, victories, choices and new opportunities to learn and grow.
Tomorrow will be the six year anniversary of Geordon's sudden passing. Six years since everything changed... Although so much has changed since then, we are all doing great. My grandson turns two this May, my son is getting closer to finishing his apprenticeship and I have officially opened my FEEL practice. Our family remains small but strong, and we grow in abundance and gratitude daily for the blessings that still remain. February 11th has been a tough date for me the last 5 years. However, I now feel like I have come full circle. Six years ago, when Geordon died, I had just started working for Community Living South Muskoka. That was a long term goal that I had worked towards and finally achieved for myself. When Geordon died, I stopped working for a time and that also meant leaving the CLSM job behind. Tomorrow, six years later, I am returning to CLSM but in a completely new capacity. This time I come visiting with goats! To be able to offer this service, in this way brings such joy to everyone involved. So how did this all happen? That's an interesting story and journey that I think I am finally able to start talking about.
Two years ago I started the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) Certification program from Horse Spirit Connections in Tottenham, ON. In the understatement of the century I will say it was the best decision I ever made for myself to enroll in that program. It was at the very least life altering for me personally. What it will be in the end still remains to be seen as I am still studying this path. Since graduating from the FEEL training, I have also completed the Advanced FEEL Training and am waiting to take the next level that is still being written. In the meantime, I have enrolled and begun studying the Wisdom Circles of Horse Medicine Lodge to gain better understanding of the Shamanic components to the FEEL Approach. The most beautiful thing about this entire process, in my opinion, is that while studying and learning skills to enhance the ways I can help others, I have inadvertently learned to love and help myself. That might sound strange to some. The reality was though that before I started the FEEL program I didn't love myself. Before then I actually didn't even have a concept of what self love was. It was during my first week away studying the FEEL program that I had a profound encounter with a horse name Juliette on Day 1 of my training. During an activity where we are challenged to connect our hearts energy to that of the horses heart energy (called a Heart Connection), Juliette looked me dead in the eye and spoke right through to my heart. She wanted to know why I didn't love myself. What? Excuse me? I didn't love myself? She was right though. Yes, I am talking about having a conversation with a horse. Yes, I know how it sounds. No, it was not imagined. The FEEL Approach teaches us how to connect with all beings, human or animal, from a heart centered approach. From this connected space with another being, incredible communication can and does happen. Juliette was 100% right. It took me a long time to be willing to admit it or even examine if the possibility was true, but this beautiful old mare was right - I didn't love myself. Juliette also did something else for me that day. She showed me how my life would look and feel if I chose to love myself instead by sharing a vision with me. Can you imagine? What a gift she gave me that day! I am almost two years into the process of learning to love myself and although I have not yet achieved the vision she showed me, I know the progress I have made. The FEEL program is amazing and is set up in 3 parts. First we are the client, experiencing all of the exercises first hand. Then we learn the science behind it, and participate in a practicum, and finally we learned how to facilitate the activities for others.
What started out as a learning journey has turned into a major spiritual awakening for me. I have participated in dozens of sweat lodge ceremonies as well as taken part in many other guided journeys and healings along the way, including a very profound Table Top Healing I experienced by a horse during my Advanced FEEL Training. That experience helped me to deal with a great deal of what was referred to as "ancestral pain" - that is something that has existed for multiple generations that is negative and not serving the individuals involved. I won't get into the details on this post, but WOW, what an experience! I came out of that exercise a new person, as with each and every sweat I take part in. Transformations are possible, if we only take the time to put in the required work. Find what works for you and do it! I think that is a responsibility we all have to ourselves. Love ourselves enough. Enough to do the work. Enough to make the necessary changes. Enough to ensure that we achieve happiness in our lives. Love ourselves enough!! One of my personal goals for 2020 was to love the S**t out of myself each and every single day. I am doing this by ensuring I take the time for all of my personal care every day, getting enough sleep, making time for yoga daily, etc What I have noticed already is that the more I pay attention to myself, the more productive I become in my own life! I feel better and I look better! Each day begins easier and my depressive symptoms seem less frequent. As each day is a new step, I feel stronger and more empowered all the time. I can now look at my accomplishments in life and see them as that - something I have accomplished! A long time ago I set out on a mission to one day own and run a Therapeutic Animal Farm. I wanted to create a place where people could come and connect with animals and not feel judged or shamed for the connections they felt. As animals have always been my personal healers, I knew there were others out there like me that not only needed that animal connection, but actually felt lessened when it wasn't available. Sky River Meadows has become the realization of those dreams of mine.
Now that we are officially open for business, I have the fun task of dreaming up new programs and activities to keep our guests and animals entertained. We have begun implementing a brand new program we now offer in the winter months we are calling "Goats on the Go". We are now visiting homes, schools, retirement homes, offices, and anywhere else that may need some goat cheer!
Happy Monday to everyone! It is February and the promise of an early spring is on the horizon. I took a few special moments to really notice the smell on the air this morning as I walked back in from the barn. I adore this pre-awakening time of year. When you know the forest and all of nature will begin to reawaken with new life and purpose. For all of those who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), this is not a great time of year for you. On the milder days when the wind blows, take a moment to notice what carries on the breezes. Have hope, for this too shall pass and spring is right around the corner :)
This week for GotW, I have decided to share the story of Aphrodite. It is February after all and why not feature the Goddess of Love this month? Besides all that, "Dite" as she is known as mostly, has a pretty cool and interesting story. She is one of the few who have actually left my herd, lived in a few different places, with a few different people, and returned home to her roots again. Not many people move around that much in their loves, but Dite here has. The life journey this little goat has been on has given her a very unique wisdom and insight. I am pleased to share her story with you all.
Sky River Meadows Aphrodite was born a triplet in the summer of 2014. Her sister and brother were amongst the last babies born that season and as such they always got the most attention. These three were all so very different from each other in every way. Dite was very quiet, more aloof and shyer than her siblings. She was always very cuddly and affectionate though and was often found curled up in someone's lap. In 2014 we had the largest kidding season ever. It was the year my late husband Geordon passed away, and even though he was gone, we still had a LOT of bred does to give birth - 14 to be exact! 2014 saw 32 babies born to Sky River Meadows. It was an insane time on the farm that required the hands of a lot of volunteers. After Geordon's death, I really had to rethink the farm's plan and direction. I also had to think about how much I could manage on my own and I suddenly had a lot more goats than I was prepared for. That meant the sad reality of having to sell many goats that we otherwise perhaps would have kept. The entire process of downsizing the herd in 2014 was fairly traumatic for me. Saying good bye to many beloved goats that I had long term goals for was really hard. Saying good-bye to Aphrodite was really hard for both me and my son. As a farmer, I take finding new homes for my animals very seriously. I do my due diligence. I check people out. Even with the best background checks though, sometimes people can still manage to deceive you. I am not proud to say that the original home I found for Dite turned out to be far less than ideal. The poor girl lived in some rough conditions for a bit there. Very fortunately for Dite, she was not meant to stay there. I was contacted and informed that she was being sold. At that time I was still unable to add another mouth to feed at home, I was able however to find her a wonderful new second home.
In Dites second home, she held the very important position of "Pet Goat" to a lovely young lady. She was loved on, cared for, fed very well and had life all figured out for a bit there. As does tend to happen though, sometimes in life we have to make a choice or a change that affects other aspects of our lives. For this young lady and Dite, a choice had to be made that would result in their separation. As sad as this may sound, it is actually OK. This allowed me to bring our beloved Dite back home to her herd after all these years, AND her human visits her as often as she can. I'd say that's a pretty awesome outcome all around <3 Now we can all enjoy the love and gifts this special goat has to offer.
When I agreed to bring Dite back into the herd after such a long absence, I really didn't know what to expect from the herd. Would they welcome her back? Would they remember her? I really had no idea what to expect. She had a lot of family in the herd including her triplet sister, BUT, she had been gone for 4.5 years. What happened that first night when I brought her back in with the main herd was incredible actually. She and her sister walked right up to each other. They checked each other out just like any other long lost siblings would do after a long separation. The majority of the herd knew who she was and seemed to have no issue with allowing her back. There was very little to no fighting at all. When doing bed checks that first night I found Aphrodite sleeping beside her sister Soleil. My heart absolutely melted for them. If I hadn't witnessed it all with my own eyes I would have never believed it. In all honesty though, Dite has been back for a year now and the transition was as easy as if she never left. Even more incredible though. Dite didn't return alone, she actually came with a friend. A wether named Ozzy was her companion and needed to come with her. I'll spare a lot of the details for Oz's own story, but the herd accepted him immediately as well. A total stranger goat. Born and raised on a different farm, exposed to different things, raised a different way, you would think there would be transition issues. There wasn't. Perhaps Oz was accepted on Dite's word? I He was challenged by the other wethers but only mildly at best. The whole herd was chill with them both! Dite and Oz are definitely besties though. They are always together (and are often in the company of a third goat who recently joined us from the same farm...another story for another GotW post).
Dite definitely has a place in the working therapy herd here. She still enjoys meeting new people and often comes to share some quiet comforting space with people. She and her sister are both very good as sharing "grandmother energy" which could be partly why they are both so special to me. You know that safe, loving feeling you can only get from a Grandmother? Like a nice warm hug :) I am just so happy to have Dite back here on the farm. Just last night, I was personally blessed with some great advice from her that really helped me to find a solution to a common dilemma in my daily routine. She was seriously helpful. Thanks Dite! XOXO