We wholeheartedly embrace serendipity…from experience we know that being open and flexible can bring us the most amazing experiences. And that’s exactly what happened in the summer of 2014 when we were volunteering our summer away.
We had returned to Vancouver Island (from Mexico) because we thought we were going to actually move to Puerto Rico to grow/manage some aquaponics projects. Although Danaka and Everette spent a few weeks in Puerto Rico and took a certification course in aquaponics, we decided it wasn’t a good move for our family.
So here we were, back in Canada staying with a single mom we had met via homeschooling years ago. Her & her kids were about to start volunteering at a hobby farm that opens to the public for the summer. They use volunteers for the most part to help take care of the animals, provide pony and hay rides, and host birthday parties or whatever needs to be done on the farm. She invited us along for Orientation and so we took our gang.
Meeting the Hamiltons
We met Chris and Shelly Hamilton that morning, who seemed cool to have us bombard them. We later discovered that Shelly was overwhelmed with all of us…didn’t know what to do with all these people. That’s not an unusual feeling for anybody when 8+ people show up unexpectedly. But within a few days she realized we were a good thing happening for her.
At this point in the year they were open on weekends and using predominantly school teens as their work force. But with the nicer weather and the school year ending, play schools and pre-schools were wanting to bring their charges to see the animals. The farm needed more volunteers during weekdays but most of them were busy in school until summer break.
Well, us homeschoolers were the perfect fit. And so began our intimate relationship with the Hamiltons!!
Our kids were soon spending 4-6 days a week usually at the farm. Naturally came the idea that maybe we should just live on the property, so that’s what we did. Between our tents and their 5th-wheel, the Johnsons took over one corner of the farm and moved-on-in.
Now the kids were available to help with early morning chores, and evening chores, and everything in between! We shared meals together. Mitchell split wood and we had campfires with roasted marshmallows in the evenings.
The best part of volunteering our summer away was hanging at the Hobby Farm, and the trust/faith the Hamiltons gave us. It filled the kids’ days/weeks up with something to do, the feeling of serving others, caring for animals, making life a little easier (we hoped) for the Hamiltons.
The kids enjoyed the riding lessons Shelly would give them, or the feeling of being trusted when she gave them (literal) free reigns when she was otherwise occupied.
Mitchell learned to change brakes on Ray’s (Hamilton’s step-dad) truck and on which he learned to drive stick-shift. He also learned sand-blasting and welding, and was able to use the Rhino whenever he wanted to.
As with every farm with live animals…there’s the sad moments when dealing with a sick or dead animal.
With lots of chicks on the farm, Gaelyn had many rough days when sadness wanted to overwhelm her with the loss of yet another baby chick. Her trips to the ‘graveyard’ were far too often for her liking, but it brought home to her the lesson that death is just a part of life.
Fortunately, the kids were able to watch animals brought back to health, too. Shelly gives all she’s got to nurse a horse back to health and our kids got to be a part of that by learning about the constant care and attention required all day long to their diet, their exercise, even the very ground they walk on.
Being on Vancouver Island enabled us to spend time with Layne (our eldest daughter) and get introduced to her Significant Other. We did some hikes, showed the younger kids some of our mid-island haunts (the youngest 7 kids were all born mid-island but the youngest don’t even remember life up there!) like Cathedral Grove, Englishmen River, and of course the Parksville & Qualicum beaches. We drooled once again over our greatest building project…the log house we built off of the land.
Bring the Kids!
Here we are years later and the kids still say that some of their best memories yet was volunteering our summer away. Thank you, Hamilton Hobby Farm. You’re the Best.
PS…if you’re on Vancouver Island anywhere near Coombs (with the Goats on the Roof!) you’ve got to stop by the farm. Tell them The Johnson’s sent you.
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