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Old Friends and A Gravel Pit

The story behind the name Kingfisher Farm is one of fresh starts and a belief in being part of something bigger. In July 2016, after having taught in the same, wonderful school for 6 years, I was offered the Principalship in another school. It was something that I had wanted to do for years and we decided that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Leaving Bay d’Espoir Academy on the South coast was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places on the island, my job there was something most teachers only dream about. It is rare to walk into a school and feel supported from the time you open the front door in the morning until you leave in the evening, a sense of family and friendship. It was an amazing place to work, with phenomenal staff, students, community and administration. I could never say enough good things about my experience there or about the people that I had the privilege to work with and get to know. Not to mention, we were also leaving behind a group of friends that had become family to us.

Our old house in Bay d'Espoir

It’s hard to explain the path that friendships, especially close friendships, can take sometimes. In the moments spent together, we get to know each other on a very personal level, our ambitions, our fears, our passions. and then life starts to happen. It’s almost a sense of denial of what is happening or what we know will happen when we leave them to pursue something else in life. Our intentions of staying in contact and visiting every chance we get are honest. Then life gets in the way. Priorities change, families grow and the people we once held dear, the people that we laughed and cried with, start to become friends we hear from at special occasions, people we talk to just every now and then and eventually they become wonderful memories from a lifetime ago. Admittedly, I am terrible at keeping in contact with people. I never liked talking on the phone and small talk was never my thing. I made and still make excuses about why I don't put more effort into maintaining relationships and I'm not sure that will change, especially given my introverted personality. I think it's one of those things that carries with it just a little bit of fear that we still care about the other person more than they care about us even though that's likely not true.

I remember seeing someone talk about life and comparing it to a jar with stones in it. They filled it with large stones and then asked if the jar was full. Then they added smaller stones around the large ones and asked again. Then added smaller ones again and again, right down to sand and then water. The idea was that we could always add to our lives. They weren’t wrong, it’s just that sometimes the jar gets shaken and a little water or sand or even a stone falls out. It’s not that we want it to happen, it just happens and getting that same water back in our jar is never easy, especially when we’ve already filled it back up.

Nevertheless, in August of that year, we made the move and landed in Glovertown, a town about 45 minutes from my new job. Life, as it does, went on for about a year while I was getting my feet wet in my new job and we were getting used to a new life. During that year, there was a weekend that Samantha and I decided to go snowshoeing on the West coast. On our drive, as is customary for Samantha and I, we talked the whole time and came to the decision that we would stay in Newfoundland for the foreseeable future and see where life takes us. It felt like a decision that brought us both a measure of peace in an otherwise hectic year. We had moved a number of times and still really hadn’t settled. It’s interesting to me that sometimes it seems like the whole world approves of what you’re thinking and that the place in which you find yourself fits your emotions. The back country where we were hiking that day was serene. There was a stillness and calm; a sense of belonging. The snow was untouched and we hiked in and around snow-laden fir, spruce and birch trees, walked across frozen ponds where the terrain opened up and pulled ourselves up banks where we couldn’t go around.

Samantha and I hiking the day we decided to stay

Everything it seemed was content with what we were doing and it felt like we were where we were supposed to be. It was settling. After, we went back to our hotel and I still don’t know what possessed us to look, but we decided to see if there was any land available in and around Gambo or Glovertown. We were only looking for maybe 5 minutes before we stumbled across a piece for sale in Gambo, a 15 acre plot right in town. I immediately contacted the seller, set up a time to have a look at the land, which at that point was covered in snow, and a few weeks later we agreed to buy. I will never forget that first walk on our land and how excited we were to have found it. That winter, we explored quite a bit and waited patiently for the snow to melt so we could get a better idea of what we had.

With spring came new excitement and we’d visit our land every chance we got. What struck us those first few weeks was how quiet it was. We would spend hours exploring and hear not so much as a squirrel chattering in the trees. No birds, no signs of rabbit or moose, no wildlife at all. We figure it was because the previous owners had wanted to turn the land into a gravel pit and had done so much excavation that the wildlife had simply left. Most of the topsoil had been scraped off the land and into a large pile, many trees were either disfigured, diseased or dead and any flat land was dug down to gravel with a hardpan underneath. It was almost a worst case scenario in terms of fertility and there was no water to be found higher up on our land so it would have to be brought from the very bottom up to the top, which in our case was about a 800 foot run up a 120 foot elevation.

Looking out on the bay from our land

With all this swirling around in our heads we decided the first thing to do was some simple steps to try to get some life back on the land. I built bird feeders and houses, stacked up some dead brush for critter homes and dug some simple ditches to try to slow down water so native plants could start growing again. It wasn’t long before we started seeing some signs of life. The squirrels and birds were the first to come back. I’m pretty sure they were just waiting for the chance to move in. Eventually we started seeing some signs of rabbits and on one walk we actually caught sight of a bird nesting in a tree. A Belted Kingfisher had claimed our land as his own and we were more than thrilled to give him the run of the place. We’d see him going and coming each day, sometimes with small fish in his mouth, other times flying over us just to see who we were and what we were up to. He became a fixture for us and to this day, he and his mate still nest on our land each spring. Naming our soon to be farm Kingfisher was an easy choice after that. We figured that if he was willing to take a chance on our land, then he’d be a good symbol for us and represent the vision we had for what we wanted to accomplish and the life we wanted to lead.

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