Since this is my first blog for the Caenhill Countryside Centre website, I think I should first tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Noor, I'm 44 years old and I live in the Netherlands. I've been working as an administrative assistant at a special needs primary school for the past 20 years (time flies!). I've been in a long-distance relationship with my partner Jeff, who lives in Ohio in the USA, for 4 years. Because I (under normal circumstances) travel to stay with him for most of the summer and a few weeks around Christmas each year, I decided not to adopt another pet when my cat died a few years ago. I just don't think it would be fair on the animal. Jeff has five cats living with him: Parker (an elderly, quite hefty, gentleman), former feral Hopper, and her three kids Amy, Rory and River (can you tell we are Doctor Who fans?). Hopper decided to have her babies in Jeff's garage three years ago. The plan was to foster them and then adopt at least some of the out, but in the end we just couldn't part with them. I often get to "talk" to one of them during my Skype sessions with Jeff.

I am a chat moderator for a kitten foster cam's YouTube channel, and that's actually how I found Caenhill. One of our regular chatters mentioned how much she loved watching Chris' videos on Instagram. I was curious so I went to check it out, and the rest is history! That must have been some time around early-mid May, Giggle was still a yellow gosling, Benedict wasn't even born yet, and Cuthbert had just taken up residence in the Office. I think one of the first videos I saw was Giggle running down the garden path following Caroline.

Like many people, I was dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety at the time, surrounding the outbreak of Covid-19. I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I would not be able to travel and be with my loved ones this summer (and, the way things are now, I've pretty much given up on Christmas too. So Marlene, I really will need piglets in a manger to cheer me up!).

During the crisis, I never completely stopped going into work. Schools in the Netherlands were closed from half March-half May, but we took turns going into the office since we had to accommodate daycare for those of our students whose parents are essential workers, so the school had to stay somewhat operational. But on the other days, I was at home, and of course for a number of weeks too when the school closed over the summer. I'm someone who really needs structure to function properly, and I found that I was somewhat struggling with that, with my regular schedule having been thrown overboard. Watching the Rush Hour every morning really helped me coping with that. I got up every morning, prepared my breakfast, and then sat at the pc for a while to see who would come out first that day. When the Rush Hour was over, I'd start with whatever it was I needed to do that day; I imagine this is not unlike what the farm offers to some of the young people who normally come there, some stability and structure to hold on to while learning to focus.

Then, there is the total wholesomeness and positivity of what the farm represents. For a lot of us, the world is a scary place right now. But the animals are oblivious to all of that. All Daisy cares about is if she gets her bananas, Coco her carrots, Henry still trying to convince us he really IS from the south of France, although his accent is decidedly Welsh… The farm is not just literally a sanctuary, it is one in the figurative sense as well. Lots of us from around the world travel there regularly, if only virtually (for now! We'll make it there in person one day!) to escape from whatever worries we have out there in the world. And it doesn't matter who we are, what we look like, what we stand for or believe in, where we come from, we're all welcomed with a smile and incorporated into the flock. We come from all different walks of life and corners of the world, making quite an unlikely company. But hey, who would have thought that an emu, a sheep, a pig and about twenty million ducks and geese would get along so well? If they can do it, so can we, right? I, for one, have come to value the companionship and budding friendships I'm experiencing within this community.

One last thing I want to mention that really inspired me is the way Chris and Caroline share their enthusiasm and passion. Caroline with her determination to master those dance moves (I hope your back heals quickly so you can get back to that soon!), Chris being happy as a child with his new toy, the drone. It's all so pure and instinctive and genuine. It's rekindled an enthusiasm in me to explore the world around me, even though the current circumstances don't allow most of us to venture far afield. But we don't HAVE to go far to see the beauty in everyday things! A flock of geese flying overhead, a beautiful sunrise, a giggling child…. And even if we really want to go out and get away from it all, we don't always have to go far. We sometimes forget there's so much beauty and things to discover close to home. I've cycled along forest lanes not even half an hour from home this summer that I never knew were there, even though I've lived in this city for twenty-odd years. Take a different route home. Stop to smell those flowers. Try to cook that dish that sounds daunting, what have you got to lose?