PHOTOS BY STEVE SMITH, VISIONFIRE STUDIOS
Spring is a time of rebirth, regrowth, and reinvention – a fitting time to meet Carol “Naveta” Rivoire.
As the days lengthen and the grass gets greener, Carol looks over her property and ponders the awakening of her perennial gardens. Last year, while in quarantine, she extended the gardens to include more than 100 rose bushes, and she eagerly awaits the return of their spectacular colours and fragrances. Among her favourite flowers are her “wonderfully prolific dark-red echinacea. I don’t know where I got my first plants, but each season I’m busily dividing and planting them all over the farm. You know, I’ve never seen this colour in any of the seed catalogues.”
Carol has done many things since her birth in 1940. Among them are being a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a businesswoman, a horse importer, a chef of French cuisine, a restaurateur, an author, and an artist.
“A friend once said to me, ‘You’re always reinventing yourself,’” Carol explains. “I never really thought of it that way, but I guess it’s true.”
Carol lives on Beaver Dam Farm, just a few minutes outside of the town of Antigonish, in scenic Pomquet.
Carol and her late husband, Arthur Rivoire, imported and raised Norwegian Fjord horses on Beaver Dam Farm for more than 30 years. Originally, their farm was in New Hampshire on a property they bought after living in France for almost 10 years.
“The 100-acre (40-hectare) farm we bought in New Hampshire had a wonderful 1804 Colonial house,” she recalls. “We planted gardens and got horses, and then I started something I’d dreamed about while learning to cook while in France. I opened a restaurant called Le Coq au Riesling in our old farmhouse. I did all the cooking and grew most of the produce. My younger son, Alan, was the waiter.
It was a critical success, but not much of a financial one, so I ran it for three years then gave up. Frankly, it was only my relative youth that allowed the restaurant to happen. It was a huge amount of work. I must have been crazy.”
After that, Carol and Arthur began importing and raising Norwegian Fjord horses. Carol became skilled at their care. She describes it as a time of, “constant motion, problems, successes, joy, terror, personalities, paperwork, dealing with customers which could be fun and delightful, or miserable. It was tremendous work from early morning to late at night with me in the office on the phone trying to sell the horses, but all in all, it was a joy.” She also became adept at carriage driving.
In 1987, Arthur and Carol decided to vacation across the border. Carol had a connection to the Maritimes. Her mother was from P.E.I. and her dear old friend Sue’s mother was from Nova Scotia.
“Well, it was just a lucky chance or dumb luck that we came to Nova Scotia for a two-week vacation,” says Carol. They decided to buy a piece of land just outside of Antigonish – that spans over 120 hectares of rolling hills, pasture, and garden – and move to Canada. The big old Maritime barn, built in 1845, fascinated Carol. It could store about 3,000 bales of hay for the horses.
Many people questioned their move. So many, that Carol added her reasons for living on the North Shore of Nova Scotia to the end pages of her book, The Fjordhorse Handbook, published in 1998. She copied entries from her daily journal she’d kept upon arrival to her new home. Entries that would quiet the sceptics and entice anyone to reconsider her motive.
“Awake to cattle lowing outside our window (neighbour’s cattle/our field – sharing is a way of life here).”
“Morning ride across the road to the littoral. Wild roses are unbelievably pretty.”
“6 p.m., we go to the beach with wine and pâté. Air soft, and sunset glorious.”
“Our neighbour brings sack of freshly caught hake. We’ll have chowder tonight.”
“Horses are fat and in the best shape ever from the hills. Not feeding any grain.”
“Every week – theatre, concerts, sports in Antigonish. Never had so much entertainment.”
Carol long had the idea that the loft of the barn could become an art gallery. Upon retirement in 2010, she brought the idea to life. She’d had the thought tucked away in her mind since first seeing the structure in 1987. It had reminded her of an art gallery in a barn she had visited in North Carolina in 1984.
In 2011, the Old Barn Gallery opened its doors, making her vision a reality. She has since included more galleries on the property.
The Stable Gallery became Carol’s first studio in 2012 when she, now a widow, decided to take up painting. Her abstract oils and acrylics on canvas and burlap are fascinating. Initially a vivid colour or distinct shape lures the eye to the painting. Then another area draws the viewer toward it. Every time the art is viewed, there’s something new to see. But always the joy and passion of the artist are present. Even though she hadn’t painted prior to this, art was always a part of her world.
“My father was an artist but earned his living wallpapering houses. My grandfather, also an artist, painted hotel rooms in Boston. My husband, a gifted artist, worked in the leather industry. Me, I never picked up a brush until after my husband died in 2012.
“I love colour and texture,” says Carol. She initially studied collage in 2014 after seeing an ad in a Florida newspaper for lessons. She loved it. “I learned to be courageous in my art. Not afraid to make mistakes or fail, use big brushes, and scraps of anything.” This fearlessness has served her well in all facets of her life.
“My pictures have a lot of texture,” she says. “Often times that texture is created by the painting’s history. That’s artist talk for what’s underneath.”
Carol’s own history is a collage of experiences and endeavours. Her artwork earned her the nickname ‘Wild Child’ from one of her instructors. “Hey, in your seventies, that’s a good thing,” Carol says. “My art doesn’t appeal to everyone, but enough to keep me inspired. I recently had a lovely email from a woman whose parents had been to Nova Scotia on vacation and stopped to visit my galleries and bought one of my canvases. This daughter and her father wanted to buy another ‘Naveta’ painting that they’d seen on my virtual gallery.”
The new painting they wished to purchase was one she was inspired to paint after discovering, for the first time in her late 70s, the music of Queen. Carol signs her painting with her middle name Naveta, which she was given in honour of her mother, Naveta Pearl Hoag, born in Summerside, P.E.I.
Carol displays her work in the galleries and her home is filled with an eclectic array of art she has acquired and enjoyed over the years. She exhibits and sells work of other local artists, too. There’s wildlife photography, folk art, quilts, hooked rugs, and antiques. She says, “If it’s handmade, and lovingly made, it’s art!” But she admits, “It was easier to sell a horse for $10,000 than it is to sell a painting for a couple of hundred.”
Rodney Tate, a wildlife photographer whose work is featured in the gallery, is also Beaver Dam’s handy man. “I couldn’t run this farm without his help,” says Carol. “He’s kind, thoughtful, and talented.” He grew up hunting, fishing, and watching. “It’s his knowledge of the animals that makes his photography so good.” He has the patience to capture a hummingbird as it feeds from one of the flowers in Carol’s extensive garden or wait for the young coyote pup to turn toward the lens. Years ago, after a stroke forced Rodney to give up his work as a plumber, he was given a camera. He’s self-taught and constantly improving. Recently, he began crafting frames with repurposed wood from fences on the farm. The rustic appearance of the well-aged boards enhance his pictures, many of which were taken on the property.
This spring is different for Carol. It follows the first winter in fifteen years that she wasn’t able to move South for the season due to the pandemic. And last year she sold the main living quarters on Beaver Dam Farm, lovingly named Hill House, and designed by Arthur. She also sold all but four hectares of the land to a German family. She is hoping this spring they will be able to move in. Again, COVID-19 and travel restrictions sidetracked their plans.
Carol now lives in the house that used to be the farm’s cottage and looks forward to caring for a much smaller piece of property. The house was winterized, and the basement renovated to include a winter gallery she named Gallerie au Sous Sol (Gallery in the Cellar). She also included a mini studio for herself to continue painting. Even though she’s 80, she intends to continue to create and showcase the many talents of local artisans.
Horses continue to hold a spot in her heart. “I still have two Fjord horses,” Carol says. “Holly, an old mare that’s now 34 years old, but still in good shape. She provided 16 foals over the years. The second horse I have is one of her sons, Quasar. He’s now 22.” The two horses were boarded over the winter, maintaining the routine they were used to when Carol moved to Florida each November.
Now that spring has arrived, she will bring them home, tend to her gardens, and open
the Old Barn Gallery for the season.