The Learning Barn

The Learning Barn, where people and friendly animals can learn from each other, rose from a concrete slab in 2021 and is almost finished. In 2022 camp sessions for children and adults will be hosted at the barn.

It has been a rough year for most of us, what with the political situation and the never-ending pandemic. But there are silver linings if you look for them. Our Learning Barn is almost complete and is already home to the goats, a donkey, a lamb, and the pigs. More people than ever are buying locally raised meat, and we now have a new roof so rain won't leak into the store anymore. Not all has been rosy. All of our trucks needed lots of costly repairs, Melissa, a valued helper, started a new job, and in March, I found my favorite ox, Stash, dead in the field. With each setback, I had the option of useless anger or constructive positivity.

For instance, at least I own two trucks to repair; there was a time when I had none. I have to stretch to see something positive in Stash's death. I still miss him. I can still see him looking at me from behind his shaggy bangs as he sniffs my pockets for carrots. But his successor, an earnest young steer named Finn, is coming along nicely.

As Hamlet said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so... nothing is really good or bad in itself — it's all what a person thinks about it."

Even cows have choices. When I halter-break a heifer, she can fight with the rope holding her or learn that being restrained leads to welcome brushing and extra treats.

The Learning Barn rose from my dream to share the lessons I've learned from animals like a little gray donkey named Eleanor, a pig named Tazzy, and an ox named Curious Bleu. They taught me how to be a better person, and I want to share that experience with youth of all ages. It took two years, but the Learning Barn will be ready for classes to start in the spring.

I hope you, too, have reasons that will help you get through 2022 with a smile. We all have choices. Even though things didn't turn out so well for Hamlet, he had the right idea.

•••

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs, and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.

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