Another chapter from the Sultan family – life on a sanctuary farm

The warmer weather was so welcomed at our house. We basked in the spring sunshine and tried to wipe out the memory of months of freezing winter winds whipping across the fields and snow battering the house.

One of the first signs of spring was the sap starting to run. The first year we moved into this house, Omar and the kids found a grove of old maples, which they tapped excitedly. Always the fun-parent, Omar started a tradition with the kids where the first person who realizes the sap has started to flow yells as loudly as possible, so that all the neighbours will be alerted and will know to get tapping: “Saps a-runnin’!!!!”. This year, Tommy won the race, and proudly did the honours.



Omar built an outdoor stove from leftover  paving stones, and the kids helped to keep the fire burning by bringing brush they found around the property. All five children tell us that the Sultan Syrup, as they’ve named it, tastes much better than store-bought because they made it themselves, and it was made with love. Understanding the value of hard work – COMPLETE! I’m going to check that parenting goal off my list.



As the weather continued to warm even further, it was lovely to see the pigs and goats venture outside the barn and enjoy the sun. Throughout the winter, we sometimes did not see them come out of the barn for days, as they’d stay sheltered inside, huddled together in the straw. It’s routine now to see them all out sunbathing. Clearly, the animals missed the warmth of the sun as much as we did.

Our resident pair of Canada Geese returned to our swamp. Last year they hatched seven goslings, parading them proudly around the property. We haven’t seen babies yet this year, but it should be any day.

Cashew shed his winter coat, to choruses of “Mom! It’s like I brushed another pony off of him!”. Merv the goat turned one year old. My seven year old made him a cake made of mud and leaves, which Merv happily devoured. My kids pulled out their bikes and started taking trips up and down the driveway multiple times a day. They even took the goats for a walk.

My eldest child, who will be 13 this summer, has tended a vegetable garden for our family for the past three years. This year, she’s expanding, and began creating diagrams of where her veggies will go. We started seeds indoors, and have platters of seedlings sprouting all over the kitchen counters. We happily eat her homegrown produce all season long. I often send the kids out to pick a snack of peas right off the vine, or gather a basket of beans to have with dinner. One of the reasons my daughter says she wants to plant more this year is so that she can share the extra food with people who may be in need, either giving our produce to friends or donating it to the local food bank. Another parent goal checked off – compassion.

This year will be the first that we actively farm the fields. Omar has spent hours getting them ready and the seeds we’ve ordered arrived. We plan to grow enough feed and bedding to sustain our animals through the winter months, as well as plant a large field of sunflowers to be used for sunflower oil. At the height of summer, look for us as you drive down Flewellyn. The giant field of sunflowers waving in the breeze should give you a clue of where to find us.

We started 30 chicken eggs in our incubator (which, I might add, my MacGyver-husband made from an old bar fridge), 21 of which successfully hatched on Friday 3, May. It is an interesting fact that the type of chickens we have only take 21 days to mature to hatching. Think about that- from nothing there, to a fully formed chick, in 21 days. After enduring (enjoying! I mean enjoying) five nine-month pregnancies, I find this speedy growth hard to wrap my mind around.



(Watch this incredible capture of the Sultan baby chicks hatching from a unique home – egg cartons!)

Since adopting our donkeys in December 2018, we’ve tried multiple times to have their hooves trimmed. They are so skittish and scared that a farrier can’t even get near them, let alone touch their feet. We’ve tried patience and time, hoping that our care for them would gain their trust and affection. It’s working (incredibly slowly) but we still haven’t been able to hold their hooves. The donkeys love Omar best, and while he can now pet them lightly, they won’t let him touch any part of them but their heads, and then only lightly. One of the donkeys, Jenny, has one front hoof so long that it is almost horizontal. It is impacting her ability to walk.

We’re told that we will need to have an equine vet come to the house and sedate the donkeys. Then, a farrier can come and trim their hooves while they sleep. The cost of the vet visit, the sedation and the trimming is prohibitive. We are slowly trying to raise funds with which to undertake this needed care and welcome ideas on other ways to approach the needed trim; or on how to fundraise; or as always, welcome assistance. I came across my youngest (age 5) a few weeks ago, gathering toys in her room. When I asked her why, she said she was going to hold a garage sale to raise money to cut Jenny’s hooves. I was so touched. Selflessness- CHECK! Another parenting-goal mastered.

I love hearing the sounds of the animals and my family happy outdoors. It’s as if we’re all coming out of a very long hibernation; after all, by my calculations, our winter this year lasted seven months. No wonder we’re all a bit desperate for some sunshine.

The coming weeks will see our fields planted, as well as our vegetable garden. We put up the hammock and the zipline, and I don’t feel one bit guilty kicking my kids outside and telling them to come back at dinner time.  Here’s to hoping the weather continues to be nice and dries up the remaining puddles and mud around our property. We have hosted some one-on-one visits with people who have reached out, and continue to plan towards a more general open house.

Thanks as always for your interest!

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


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