Dear Cavaleiro Farm …
My last day on the farm. How can I truly express in words what this journey living the farm life has meant to me?
I probably can’t do it justice. But here is my meagre attempt.
As my seven and a half month stay at Cavaleiro Farm draws to an end, it feels like everything has come full circle — from my first comical attempts to graze the sheep to now confidently managing the flock and the farm my last week here.
It feels like I’ve graduated from Farming Grasshopper to The Sheep Whisperer.
Indeed, my time here has been all about change and growth, both observing it in nature and the farm, as well as experiencing it within myself.
Though I will return for a few weeks in the fall to help with lambing season, it’s hard to say what the future holds for me and whether I’ll be living the farm life long-term again.
Either way, my recent experience at Cavaleiro Farm deserves reflection and a significant amount of gratitude, as I say goodbye for the time being.
Living on the farm as Fall turned to Winter, through the snowy days, to seeing the first buds bloom, and as Spring burst into Summer, has given me an intimate look at the seasons.
Soon after I arrived here, wintertime flew in right behind me. With it came the snow, cold, quietness, and reflection.
Looking back now, I can only recall marvelling at the pristine, snow-covered hills. I remember trudging through the powdery snow in awe, leaving my footprints beside Olive’s and Clyde’s who had happily run up ahead.
Having just left my career and life in the city, the farm seemed like the perfect space to settle into at the beginning of my new journey living more immersed in nature.
With new beginnings also came new relationships, many of them with the animals on the farm whose trust had to be earned.
It also meant a time for acclimatizing to change and enduring some tough winter days that tested my resolve. I thank Mother Nature for throwing those challenges my way. I grew so much as a result of overcoming them.
And then, finally, Winter went to sleep and those first signs of Spring appeared.
It was a glorious feeling to walk back up to my favourite hill with Olive and look out at the fields that had turned from snow white to glowing yellows.
Just her and I, we’d gaze out at our home, the farm. Then, I’d lie back on the dry grasses and stare up at blue skies, while red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures circled overhead.
It will be those simple moments that I’ll remember the most when I’m gone.
Slowly, things were changing. I had changed too. I was no longer just trying to keep up with my farming duties, but I was actually contributing to the life and evolution of the farm.
The animals — sheep and company — as well as our farm community, had become part of my family. I felt valued and valuable, and that each task I took on had meaning and purpose.
Then, the momentum of change sped up. The days grew longer, the sun flooded more energy into the Earth. Spring was starting to whizz by in a flurry of activity.
It was a time for growing, for more community and activity. I’d often find myself frozen in the middle of the field, taking in the serene view of bright green pastures. There was so much beauty blooming around me.
Summertime somehow arrived in a flash and brought with it those hot days when no farmer or animal could withstand the sun’s fire.
But it was also a time for celebration, for nights around the campfire, and for both proudly and humbly hosting our farm guests, showing them what we had worked so hard towards all of those months.
Being outdoors every day, working in tune with the sunrise, sunset, rain, sun, and snow, has deepened my relationship with, and respect for, the natural world.
It has reinforced the awareness of how incredibly privileged we are to have access to the resources and beauty offered to us by Mother Nature.
I can’t say that every moment living the farm life has been the best life. (But what life is always perfect?)
There have certainly been times when I’ve wondered: Am I too immersed in nature?
Those days I wanted nothing to do with the cold, blowing rain, yet had no choice but to withstand it.
Those nights I shivered in my tent, buried deep inside my sleeping bag, dreaming about the day I wouldn’t have to sleep with a toque on my head.
Those moments I walked into a heated house and wanted to fall onto my knees and kiss the floor.
Yes, I’ve had my doubts as to whether this way of living in nature was the right thing for me.
Going from city life to farm life tests your comfort levels. It forces you to dig down deep and pull out a kind of toughness you didn’t know you had in you.
It pushes you out of indifference and towards unconditionally loving all of the lives you affect around you.
Any part of farm life that hasn’t felt like the best life has still always offered up a priceless life lesson.
And all of the beautiful things about it — and there are many — not only also help you to grow, but instil an immense joy that far outweighs any of the discomforts or inconveniences of living a life in nature.
I have had the honour of learning from many teachers on the farm.
From the sheep, I have learned about life and death, accepting and letting go. I’ve also learned about having compassion for those we don’t readily understand, but who we can easily love once we do.
From Spot, I have learned about courage and how anyone — even a pampered cat from the city — can adapt to an entirely new world if they must.
From Jay, I have learned about friendship and taking the time to pause during the busyness of the day to enjoy a conversation and company. (Yes, I talk to the donkey :)).
From our farm community, I’ve learned about different ways of living and relating to food. I’ve learned about the importance of surrounding myself with like-minded people who fully understand and support my path in life.
From Farmer Antonio, who I’ve had the privilege of working with every day here, I have learned about dedication, self-reliance, patience and believing in myself.
And from Mother Nature, the greatest of all teachers, I have learned about humility, gratitude and peace.
With all of the inevitable lessons learned, you can’t not leave the farm a better version of yourself.
And with all of the love that you’ve given to and received from a place and its people (and animals!), you can’t not return to what has become your home.
And so, with this beautiful experience tucked away safely inside my heart, I take one last look out at the swaying trees and, yes, the blowing rain, and I smile, shed a few tears, and know that I will always belong here at Cavaleiro Farm.