We moved to our lovely new homestead or hobby farm just outside Ottawa, Ontario at the end
of March 2008. It is a beautiful double brick farmhouse that was built in 1872, eventually we
will have the siding removed and the brick re-pointed to restore it to its former glory.
It has been most lovingly kept and has original wood floors, old wood doors, big wide window
ledges, angled ceilings. Truly it is a beautiful house and we love it.
It also has some amazing outbuildings, including a big, well huge, old barn and a new barn with stalls,
running water and electricity. Suddenly presented with everything we needed there was no excuse
to get on with having a homestead rather than just a home.
We have an 8 acre square, which is nicely outlined by trees, as you can see in this aerial
view (below) from Google Maps.
In the house there are the 2 of us, 11 cats and 2 dogs, and any number of foster dogs or cats
depending on the day! In the barn there are 17 sheep, 19 chickens, 14 ducks, 4 geese and a
livestock guardian dog. We also have 4 kittens who are currently living in the house due to
their tender age and orphaned-ness, but who will in time become residents of the barn.
For more detail you can check out the published statistics
page which details our homesteads population for 2008.
We have 2 spare bedrooms and plenty of space for friends and family wanting to visit.
We love company if you think you can stand the chaos!
I was born in Montreal, Canada, but I grew up in the English countryside, in a little hamlet that consisted of 14 houses, a post box and a pub, which may have something to do with why my natural environment is to be surrounded by trees and fields. When I moved in with Steve I exchanged trees for street lights and grass for concrete, on a housing estate in a semi-detached cookie cutter house. My health, both physical and mental, suffered.
But there was hope; we planned to move to Canada. While we were house hunting we discovered that Ottawa has a bylaw that you can only have 5 pets. Well we already had 8 cats and I fully intended on adding dogs. A little more research led us to the need to buy an agricultural zoned property.
Our first house here in Canada was 27 acres, we had such plans. But it was mostly scrub and the one barn was practically falling down, the land had been doing nothing, not even a garden. As newbie’s we didn’t even know where to start and just couldn’t get going.
We realised the house was way too big for us and the swimming pool was a nightmare, so we started looking for something a little more suited to us. And did we find it! We now have 8 acres with an amazing new insulated barn with its own well and electric, and an attached garage / work shop with heating. Add to that the 1860’s farm house that reflects our Englishness so much better than the huge open plan space we had before. It even had an organic vegetable garden and asparagus patch.
We had no excuse. Steve I think expected to start slow, we talked about Chickens. That was in April 2008, as I write this about six months later we have a small flock of Shetland Sheep, Chantecler Chickens, Muscovy Ducks and a Maremma sheepdog for a livestock guardian. I am looking at some Emden and Toulouse geese and another Maremma sheepdog. Steve still escapes back to 'normal people world', every day for work. I don’t think he could take it full time. But I am here on my farm, often out-standing in my field! And I Love It.
I have been accepted as 'mum' by two orphan lambs, my chickens and ducks are always pleased to see me and come to have a chatter. You can, well I can, have a conversation with a chicken. I am much happier with my furry and feathered management, than with the previous option with its 'beat-em-up' style, and phrases like 'tighten the noose' and 'giddy up'! Trust me live chickens make for much better managers than the variety that run around headless!
We wanted something different, something that reflected us, where we came from and where we hope to be going. After much deliberation we decided on Ruis Dair Homestead. Ruis and Dair are letters from the Ogham, which is the ancient Celtic alphabet. According to one source the pronunciation in Gaelic would be "Roosh Dehr" Homestead.
We had been thinking of Maple Oak as we liked the idea of the name involving trees, and it represented Canada and England as we do, but my dad suggested that Maple Oak sounded rather like a road in a housing development! And we couldn’t help by agree with him. We wanted to stick with the tree theme though as we had already named our livestock guardian dog and barn cats after trees. So I started searching on the internet and discovered the Ogham with each symbol associated with a tree.
I have been fascinated by all things Celtic for many years now and it reflects Great Britain if not England specifically, so using the Ogham seemed very appropriate. It would also combine well with a Celtic knot for a logo, and I happen to have a rather nice one handy that we had used on our wedding stationary.
I studied the meaning of each tree in the Ogham, to see if there was a combination that would reflect us, and our farm and sound like a good farm name.
Ruis is the Elder tree, which represents cycles of change; the cycles of life and death; and the necessity to come to terms with change. This seemed particularly relevant to farm life; but made more poignant by the fact that we had just lost one of our cats. In addition each letter of the Ogham is associated with a month, and Ruis is 'the makeup days of the thirteenth moon', and 13 is my lucky number. Elder also already happened to be on the list for planting.
Dair is the Oak tree, which of course represents, in many world cultures not just the Ogham, strength, stability, protection, security and endurance. Things which our home represents to us and which Steve represents to me. Of course the Oak represents England as well. According to the Ogham the Oak also represents the ability to attract inspiration, wisdom and illumination, which we would rather like to do! It also has been associated with fertility, which in some ways is good - we hope for good fertility in our garden and in our livestock, but hope this isn't tempting fate as we don’t intend to extend our human family! Dair's month is May which will be a busy time on the farm and happens to include my birthday.
Each letter also has a challenge associated with it, Ruis - "Come to terms with the necessity for change. End of a cycle or problem." and Dair - "Be strong and stand up for yourself. Stand firm in what you believe is right." I think coming to terms with change and the cycle of life will be very important here on our farm; and learning to be strong and stand up for myself and my beliefs is something that I need to do.
A very good friend of ours told us that to her our farm represents new life, growth and opportunity, kindness, imagination, nurturing, second chances and love; Ruis and Dair represent at least some of these characteristics, so I think we are on to a good thing.
Ogham Pronunciation Guide
Ogham Alphabet Meanings
Ogham Tree Alphabet
When I started researching livestock I very quickly came to the conclusion that for us Heritage or unimproved breeds are the way to go, where possible. It is important to me to be able to keep animals in a natural way, requiring a minimum amount of interference from us.
Heritage livestock breeds are traditional breeds that were raised in the past before the rise of industrialised agriculture. They were bred gradually so as they would develop the traits that would make them particularly well adapted to the local environmental conditions; to be hardy and able to withstand disease and to be better suited to living on pasture. It is also important to us to try and help, where we can, in preserving these breeds before they become extinct.
When we went to collect our chickens from Performance Poultry Jason told us about the Standard Bronze turkeys he was raising; they are an unimproved breed and are one of the very few that are able to mate naturally. The majority of breeds now have been bred to provide as much meat as possible and their size means that they cannot mate naturally and have to be artificially inseminated. This isn’t just the case with Turkeys. I find this crazy, greedy and really out of touch with nature.
An heirloom plant, be it fruit, vegetable or flower is cultivar that was grown in past times, as with the heritage breeds, before the rise of industrialised agriculture. Many heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination, fruits varieties have been propagated through grafts and cuttings. Many have survived with families passing them down generation to generation; or because of the work of seed exchange programs.
In modern agriculture most crops are now grown in large, monoculture lots. Few varieties of each type of crop are grown, this is partly for consistency, and partly so that only varieties with the greatest productivity, able to withstand long shipping, and a tolerance to pesticides can be chosen. Rather than choosing based on nutrition or flavour. Maintaining heirloom plants is important to preserve the genetic diversity of the plants against this onslaught of only 'commercial' varieties.
In addition, heirloom plants will have been able to adapt over time to the climate and soil, and due to this and their genetics can often be more resistant to local pests, diseases and extremes of weather. To my mind Mother Nature is hindered, not helped, by mans interference.
Written by Heidi Welch, Sept.4 2008
Sustainable Table - Heritage and Heirloom foods
Why You Should Care about Heritage Breeds By Troy Griepentrog
Why it Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds posted by Annie B. Bond
I only recommend books that I own and have found useful.
Just click on the appropriate flag to take you to the Amazon store that you prefer. Sorry, but at the
moment I am only set up for the Canadian, American and English sites.
Our Garden: the various growing edibles.
Chantecler Chickens: our peep of Buff Chantecler chickens.
Shetland Sheep: our hurtle of Shetland sheep.
Maremma Sheepdog: our livestock guardian dog Willow.
Homesteading: a lifestyle of simple, agrarian self-sufficiency. Currently applies to anyone who
is a part of the back-to-the-land movement and who chooses to live a sustainable, self-sufficient
Hobby Farm: a smallholding or small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary
source of income.
According to Wikipedia