After a week I’m beginning to know my way around the Project and my jobs. For starts the Estate is beautiful…it’s located on the end of a little peninsula that runs south of the town of Kerkyra(Corfu) in an area known as Kanari or Cannon because it is a great place to defend the harbor. The cannon is still here. The area is considered one of the most beautiful in town.
From the estate, there are views to the east, south and west. Beautiful views. The estate has existed in some form for several hundred years and the main house is over 200 years old. There seems to be 25 or maybe even more acres. The grounds are lush with a mixture of natural and formal gardens.
Sylvia Steen owns the estate and is founder of The Sylva Project.
Just a short walk away, down a long set of stairs there’s the beach, lovely for swimming and in a few more steps there’s a little cantina (of course it’s not called that here) where a co-volunteer and I just had a beer. There is a little church on a little island which you can walk to. If you look closely you can see a plane coming in for a landing! (I shot this pix from the deck of Starbucks just down the street from the Silva entrance!) And on a longer walk you can cross to the other side of the bay that separates our peninsula on an old concrete walkway that has little bridges to allow for the movement of water.
The town of Kerkyra is about a 15 minute bus ride. Predictably the “old town” is the most interesting. I’ve only been there a couple of times, so there is more exploration to be done.
There are about 12 of us living and working here. There are some people who are here for an extended stay and then there are volunteers like me who are here for a relatively short time…a month or two. Most, but not all are in their 20s and come from the North America and Europe.
As it turns out, all the activities except the Kiwi farm are run here at the estate, including the horse program. The planned Equestrian Center is unfortunately still planned, with permits somewhere in the labyrinth of the Greek political system. So the equestrian part of the estate is pretty crowded. There are about 30 horses (including two Icelandics) and about 20 Skyrian horses. (See the first blog for a description of these horses.) We have two training rinks and a few short trails. The down side of this for me personally is that long trail rides probably won’t happen.
The Skyrians horses are amazing. As their pictures show, they are truly miniature horses…perfectly conformed with wonderful personalities. Of course, each horse has their own personality and I’m beginning to learn them, like Sunshine is lazy and nips and “be careful of Iggi, he eats anything.” And he did try to get my gloves out of my back pocket.
We work about six hours a day six days a week. So far my days have started with helping to feed the herd, mucking out the paddocks and a general cleanup. Then it’s on to tacking up the horses (getting them saddled) and ready for lessons. With some lessons I work with the instructor, leading the horse with young inexperienced riders. Students are as young as 3! There’s good opportunity to learn new things…like Tuesday I learned long lining. Long lining is where you control a horse with a normal bridle. The rains run through loops on a little piece of tack that is where the saddle would normally be and then on out up to 20 feet. Walking (or running) behind the horse, the trainer uses the rains and voice commands to control the horse. It’s great for working with a horse that isn’t saddle trained yet. And since most adults are too heavy for the Skyrian horses it’s a way for us to give them exercise.
My first ride was on Rodi, an Icelandic Gelding. Note I'm riding English with a "cute" little helmet...I tried to get away with out it, but...
I've only ridden English a couple of times before. Guess I'm gonna learn.
I’ve watched one of the instructors, Luciana work with students to improve their balance while riding. Having them close their eyes, the students move their arms, forward, backwards and upwards. I gotta try that the next time I’m riding. Luciana has said that there is no breed of horses that is better suited for working with children. I’ve also seen some of the techniques Monty Roberts (The Man Who Listens to Horses and Shy Boy) writes about.
And we’re encouraged to help in the kitchen, and since lots of neat conversation occurs there…usually with Sylvia…I’ve been enjoying that. And speaking of food it is varied and pretty good!
Since I’ve only been here about a week it’s hard to say how my job will evolve. But so far, it is interesting and challenging. I'll put up another post in a week or two.
Here are somemore pixs.
An old Banyon Fig Tree in the "back yard" of the house.
A little Greek Orthodox Chapel on the estate. Not that old...70 or so...but build to the plans of an old chapel.
The small bay
Franklin Levinson at Silva
On Sunday May 24th The Silva Project hosted a workshop in horse training lead by Franklin Levinson. http://www.wayofthehorse.org/ Franklin, from Colorado has been an equine professional for 42 years and has trained thousands of horses and taught thousands of humans.
Here Franklin talks to the group about a problem horse (in the background.) He continued by working with the horse and coming up with exercises that can be done on a regular basis to "improve" the horses attitude!
Here, Franklin works with the young owner of this beautiful Thoroughbred.
During a break in the workshop. Sylvia, Franklin and me.
Durrell School of Corfu visits the Silva Estate.
The Durrell School of Corfu offers adventurous minds a learning environment steeped in history. www.durrell-school-corfu.org/ Gerald Durrell was an author, naturalist and spend many years of his life on Corfu. I'm in the middle of his book My Family and Other Animals. A fun book. He wrote this about his young years on Corfu. The School held a conference in Corfu a couple weeks ago and I was able to go to some of the programs including a lecture by David Bellamy the famous naturalist and controversial figure on the causes of global warming. Then the whole group came to the estate to see the many plants and insects found here as well as the Skyrian horses.
Sylvia (center left) and Rachel (left) who's in charge of the horses talk to some of the guests from the School.
David Bellamy meets Iggy.
Two conference participants hug the Lemon Eucalyptus tree.
The next day The School chartered a boat and Sylvia and Mark (another volunteer) and I joined them for lunch, a hike and a boat ride.
Looking towards Albania with Mark.
The boat stopped at a place there was a little church that was a favorite of Gerald Durrell.
The skipper said "Anyone for a swim?" Mark and I and about 4 others didn't need a second invitation. Without doubt one of the most beautiful swims in my life! I forgot to ask someone to take pictures when we were in the water. Probably looks better with out people anyway.
Returning to Kerkra (Corfu Town.)
We deliver the colt Airaos to his new home.
Sunday, 31 May, Rachael, Sylvia and I took the yearling Skyrian colt Airaos to his new home. In an early morning departure, the three of us, Airaos and a puppy took the ferry and headed to Aetoraxn. Aetoraxn is on the mainland about an hour and a half drive east from the ferry dock and into some amazingly beautiful country.
I drove the van!
The mountains around Aetoraxn were beautiful. There was still snow on the higher peaks.
Here Aireos meets his new master, Eleni who owns Aireos' home the Ippostrouth Farm a day resort with horses and many other animals and a very nice restaurant. www.ippostrouth.com
Aireos' first friend...a month old filly.
Hi neighbor. This gelding was fascinated with Aeraos and made all sorts of non-gelding sounds. The puppy also is staying at the farm. Sorry no pix of him.
So I'm in my last two weeks here. The first month has been exciting. I had no way of knowing how diverse my experiences were to be. Sylvia and the rest of the people at The Sylva Project are great.
And what's in store for the last days...well a trip to Athens next Tuesday for sure. And then who knows?