Last week I discussed the people with whom I’ll be living with next year. This week, I’ll be describing the place itself. For those of you who are patiently waiting for me to finish introducing my plans for next year (which, quite honestly includes myself at this point), I’m hopeful that Part 3 will be a single post… which means we are almost finished this series!
Russet House farm is named after the Russet apple tree that sits prominently in the middle of the garden. It’s been there for a very long time and is nearing the end of its life, though it still provides a few apples every year. The prior owners of the property were very interested in sustainability, and used their farm to model and to teach many different technologies. The house itself was originally built in the late 1800’s, though it has been renovated and added to throughout the years. It is completely off-grid, powered entirely by a photo-voltaic system and heated via a beautiful old wood stove situated in the old farm kitchen. A solar water-heating system is perched on the roof of the house and a small wind turbine stands majestically in the garden… though neither of them currently work (Brian and Sylvia are not convinced that the solar water system ever actually worked, and they have found almost all of the magnets from the wind turbine in the garden over the years, magnets which should, ideally, still be located in the turbine itself).
When Brian and Sylvia bought the land several years ago, they originally purchased it with a community of people, though not everybody necessarily lived there. Instead, it was used as a “meeting place” of sorts, with a beautiful little cob cottage being used for sabbaticals and as a writer’s cabin, and the land itself being used to host a number of different conferences. Through the years, all the other owners left for a variety of reasons, and Brian and Sylvia are now the sole owners of it. Much of the land is still forested, with trails winding through it and little hidden surprises awaiting those with eyes to see.
The farm is primarily a market garden, and Sylvia is dreaming of implementing permaculture methods in the near future. The garden is having a form of sabbath, as the farmers are taking a break to focus on the book that they are writing together. They are still working the land, just not as intensively, giving a much needed rest to both it and to themselves. They have a small herd of cattle (one cow and two steers when we visited, though they have possibly slaughtered one of the steers by now), a few ducks for eggs and a couple of horses for their daughters to ride.
The neighbourhood nearby has deep significance for my family, specifically on my father’s side of the family. Not too far away is the remnant of the cabin that my great-grandmother was raised in, and also the place that my grandmother grew up on. A few kilometers up the road from where I’ll be staying is a farm that my father spent many summers as a boy working on, a farm that my aunt and her family lived on not too many years ago. I remember spending a week or so there every summer for quite a while.
A short bike ride away (or run, or walk) is the Victoria Trail, a converted rail trail that conveniently (for me) goes directly into Lindsay, giving me a beautiful way to commute to school every day. Even better, it goes straight through the Ken Reid conservation area, an area I am really looking forward to exploring and getting to know. The land is near Sturgeon Lake, which is part of the Trent Severn waterway, which, hopefully, I’ll be canoeing on as soon as the ice is clear.
I could go on with more details, but I think that, for now, I have set the stage of where I’ll be staying well enough, while giving myself ample room to explore specifics and expand on many of these themes as I discover more about them. Next week, I will hopefully be sharing the end of the Introduction series.