11-year old Ben Sultan enlightens us with his account of life on a sanctuary farm

(The Sultan children celebrating ‘school is out’. Photo: Jessica Sultan)

Life on the farm this past month has been very crazy – which is no different than usual. It feels a bit busier because our newly hatched chickens and ducks are growing. One of my jobs on the farm is to take care of our two ducks, Lily and Harold. I do their food and water every day. I’ve also started letting them out for walks. I wander around with them to make sure they are safe from predators. They cheep when they hear my voice and they follow me closely. My Dad says they think I’m their ‘Daddy’. We think they are one boy and one girl because they have different tail feathers, which is a sign.

My mom has also broken her foot so I’ve been doing a large part of the chores she usually does. After my Mom broke her foot, I started doing the rabbits’ food and water, plus the barn cats. They are all starting to recognize me now. It’s nice to be closer to them, and to know they trust me. I feed and water them, so they associate me with safety. I check in the morning and night to see what they need. I check regularly so they won’t run out.

We have been giving cats homes from an animal shelter that specializes in feral cats. One is called Tah-teh (like Tate, but with a French accent). Tah-teh is very very friendly. He likes to be pet and we used to let him on the porch to sleep but he sometimes randomly bites us so we don’t let him do that anymore. Sometimes he gets so close he’ll even rub our faces, looking for attention. I like having Tah-teh here.

My Dad told me that he had to chase Tah-teh out of the house at 4am last night. He sometimes goes through the screens to come into the house and we have to put him back outside. I love that he wants to be with us, but he has a job to do in the barn and needs to be there.

It is great to have all this open space around us where we can do pretty much everything we want. We can play sports. We can go fishing in the creek. We can go for hikes because we have woods on our property. The other day I went for a walk around the perimeter of the farm. It’s good exercise and fun to do. It was very peaceful as normally all of my siblings are here screaming and running around the house.

You can be around animals in the woods too. We have deer and coyotes and we suspect that we have bears but we’re not sure. In the woods we have been finding bones for the past few years, as long as we’ve been here. I have a hobby of collecting them. We collected them at our old house too but there is a lot more forest here that we own, so people don’t cut down the trees and build houses in the forest, which is what happened at our old house. I’ve found skulls and bones of what I assume coyotes ate. I’ve also found lots of fossils here. It used to be a river bed. The most recent one I found was a fossilized muscle shell in the woods.

We have three pigs that got bullied and weren’t getting enough food while in with the other pigs so we separated them into a different cage. The cage was really sunny and the pigs weren’t getting enough shade so my Mom and I used wood from around our farm to build a structure. We used beams from an old porch that a friend of my Dad’s took apart and saved the wood for us, plus ancient 1960’s closet doors from my grandpa’s house to build the shade shelter. Normally my Mom asks me to help a lot so she asked me to help with this. I let her try on her own for about 20 minutes but she finally realized she wasn’t able to do it by herself. She called me so I went out and helped her and we built it together. I had to lift everything and it wasn’t actually heavy. My Mom for whatever reason was really surprised by what I could lift.

We kind of had a crazy morning today, as we had a vet come and try to sedate the donkeys so that we could have a farrier clip their hooves. When they get too long it really hurts them to walk. They weren’t letting the farriers do it when we tried before so we had to sedate them. The tamer one, Jenny, we were able to sedate and trim her hooves but the more feral one ran away, knocking over fences and my Dad. We will have to try again. It was really nice how the Hollibell Foundation paid for the vet cost as we are a sanctuary and we need help. The farrier was very nice and did it for free so that our animals could be safe.

(Donkeys, Jenny (l) and Gina (r). Jenny had her hooves trimmed this week – a huge step for her. Gina, on the other hand, would still not allow anyone to get near her to do so. Huge thanks go out to HolliBell Foundation for donating the money to have the procedure done and to the local farrier who donated his time. Photo: Jessica Sultan)

My favourite thing about summer in the house is that there is so much space to do all the summer activities. In the winter there is snow and it’s harder to get around but in the summer it’s just 40 acres of free space that we can use. We can play all kind of sports on the fields, like soccer, football and hockey. I play soccer on a field my Dad cleared behind the house. I can kick the ball as far as I can and there is still more space to go. I throw the football with my Dad in the field and we run and run. In the front field this month we started growing sunflowers. We’re going to use biodiesel in our tractor and we’re planning to sell it and make money to help the animals. My Dad spent so much time out there to get things ready. The red circle in this picture is my Dad and his tractor. This picture shows you how much space he plowed and seeded.

We excavated behind our barns and found the foundation of an old one that got taken down. Our driveway is gravel and we can’t scooter or bike on it, but we’ve been rollerblading and scootering and biking on the flat ground that is the barn foundation.

Near the end of school my Dad came in to my class to tell my class about farming. He showed up in a stereotypical farmer outfit and he explained that this is not really what we do. He told the class about what we do in the field and how farming is really a blend of jobs, like mechanical and structural engineering, and math. People thought it was really neat that so much of what they wanted to do was part of our day-to-day lives. They thought engineering was only in big computer companies but Dad showed how it can be part of farming too. He gave an example of how coding could be used to program a tractor. My Dad brought in grass from along the driveway to hand out to my class to chew, to show them that it actually tasted good. One other parent had come and talked about her job, which is in politics. I liked Dad coming in to talk about his job and about what we actually do because I find it hard to explain to people. My Dad works really hard and he knows how to fix anything and do anything. It makes me happy that he is an example of not a traditional job and also that he stays at home while my Mom goes to work. It was a bit embarrassing and he says he’s going to step it up a notch next year!

On the first day of summer vacation every year we take a photo of all of the kids together to show that we all passed school and that we’re about to have a lot of fun on summer vacation. Mom sings the ‘We’re on Holidays’ song which no one really understands but she says her Mom sang it to her and it’s just what you’re supposed to do. I hope everyone has a great summer season! Thank you for reading.

Ed Note: You can donate to the Sultan Farm Sanctuary with payments accepted by PayPal or you can sponsor an animal or animals to assist with the costs of operating a sanctuary that lets animals live out their lives with dignity and love. Visit their website www.sultanfarmsanctuary.com.


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