(Jessica and Omar Sultan presenting their sanctuary farm life at the Stittsville Library on January 8, 2020. Photo: Stittsville Central)
The Grace Thompson meeting room of the Stittsville Library was packed to hear Jessica and Omar Sultan share their story of life on the farm and how they decided to make the move to rural life. The couple were invited by Eco West Enders to participate in the first of their Speakers Series 2020.
When they lived in Stittsville, Jessica and Omar were aware that space was becoming an issue with their growing young family with five kids. The homes were built close to each other, yards were small and there was the added worry for their children when playing outside because of the street traffic. Jessica says, “don’t get me wrong, I loved our neighbourhood and house with its four bedrooms, three bathrooms and wonderful pantry, but…”
Needless to say, Omar started looking for places with a larger property. He visited a few farms and they bid on one to no avail. Omar then came across the old farm where they now reside on Flewellyn Road. He called Jessica and said, “you just have to come and see this place!” As they travelled up the mile long laneway, literally, Jessica had a vision of “an old woman rocking in an upstairs window”. She had the feeling that it was a ‘creepy house’. Well it was not. When she walked in, she loved the house with its comfy kitchen, wooden floors and staircase – it felt like home. An offer was immediately drawn up and accepted. It was now theirs!
Imagine the logistics of moving a family of seven from a modern four- bedroom, three bathroom, 3,000+ square foot home to a three-bedroom, one full bathroom, 2,000 square foot home, sans pantry, on 48 acres of land and built in 1905!
(The Sultan family of seven. Photo: Jessica Sultan)
Omar is a mechanic by trade and likes to collect ‘stuff’, but mostly old boats and small engine machines. His Stittsville garage was full and he had items stored all over the countryside. Needless to say, it took three trips and a relatively large moving truck to get everything to the new house — one trip for house contents; another for the kids toys and things; and another just for the contents of Omar’s garage!
(Looking out from the porch onto the front fields. Photo: Jessica Sultan.)
While getting settled into the new place, Jessica realized how much she “missed her pantry, but loved the house”. They adjusted to the lack of bedroom space by doubling up the kids and set-up a schedule for bathroom time. Jessica and Omar both agreed that this life was so much better for the family. The kids could explore outside — enjoying their unstructured play time. In the winter, Omar and Ben have even skated down the icy laneway to collect the mail.
While renovating and building walls for the bedrooms, empty jars were found in the ceiling – what they were doing there is yet to be known. The inside walls, built with trees from their land, still had the bark. This was most interesting to the kids, along with Omar and Jessica too.
Jessica indicated that, “there was no plan to actively farm the land”. While Omar “had the dream to farm”. It started with maple syrup. Omar tapped every sugar maple tree on the land and spent hours boiling the sap down for the maple syrup and jarred it — albeit there was only enough for a few jars. Someone asked if the kids helped with the process? Omar responded with his secret to get the kids to help, “I told them to clear the brush to keep the fire going for the syrup!” That worked.
From maple syrup to chickens, their next big step. Omar purchased some Black Copper Marans, a chicken known for its large rich-brown eggs and copper lancets that adorn the hackles. They are also one of the hardiest chickens for our climate. The next feat for Omar, an incubator. Not a problem for the mechanic. He quickly converted an old bar frig into a incubator!
(Chicken house for the Black Copper Marans – one is to the left in the photo. Photo: Jessica Sultan)
Omar and Jessica were pleased to say that the property is covered with trees. There are old gnarly apple trees that have produced copious amounts of apples. There are 160 year-old poplars with trunks so thick — Jessica and Omar outstretched their arms around the trunks and their hands don’t meet. Black Locust trees surround the property and produce beautiful white blooms that the family ate. They also produce long pods full of seeds. There are several Black Walnut trees dotting the farm. There is a stand of three large trees on the property that tower above the rest. Omar noted, “that even when in Ashton, you can see the trees from there.” A landmark from afar for the location of their farm.
(A Black Locust Tree like that existing on the Sultan farm.)
Why the crop of Sunflowers? Omar said, “sunflowers are a natural aerator of soil and planting them helps to naturally ensure that the fields are arable.” This past summer there was a field of switchgrass, one of hay and the sunflowers in the front fields. The couple also wanted to try their hand at processing the sunflower seeds for cooking oil. Omar chuckled, “bio-diesel for the tractor!” Jessica said, “there is nothing like looking out the windows upon a field of sunflowers.” She was totally amazed at the number of people who lined the sides of the road to take in their field of flowers, have photos taken and donate to the animals on the farm. They are both so appreciative of this.
(The 2019 field of sunflowers in the front field. Photo: Jessica Sultan)
The animals came from different situations – some sad and some because people wanted them cared for with dignity in their later years. It was from these varied backgrounds that Jessica and Omar found themselves taking in the animals and the family consider them pets. Omar sniggered, “non-contributing livestock!” Not to be eaten, but saved from a life of hardship in some cases. Hence, the Sanctuary part of the farm began. Some of the animals have passed peacefully since arriving at the farm and are buried on the property. The children understand this circle of life and have accepted that they do have to say goodbye to their pets when the time approaches their demise. The farm recently saw the introduction of two mini-horses to the milieu of animals – Pixie and Nancy – and they are fitting in quite nicely.
(Piggies in their new pen at the Sultan farm. Photo: Jessica Sultan)
Since purchasing the farm, a lot of hard work has been put into the house, barns, animals and land by both Omar and Jessica with many situations encountered and noteworthy decisions made. This presentation was an enlightening and one well worth learning from should you desire to purchase a farm or live the rural life.
Should you wish to read more on the Sultan family, we encourage you to read Jessica’s stories that she has written each month since last Spring for StittsvilleCentral.ca. Jessica continues to provide her inspiring and heart-touching tales for which we look forward to sharing with our readership.
If you want to discover more about the Sanctuary farm or wish to donate or sponsor an animal or two visit their website at www.sultanfarmsanctuary.com.