Hello to our readers! It’s been awhile! I thought I knew what ‘busy’ was, but from the end of August (when our sunflowers reached peak) to this first week of November, our lives have reached a whole new level of chaos. From the popularity of the sunflower field and the publicity and interest that created, to trying to harvest the sunflower seeds, while simultaneously getting the five kids back to school, my starting a new job, and trying to get the farm ready for winter, we haven’t had a moments’ rest. I thought often of the need to provide an update on life at our farm for Stittsville Central, but just couldn’t make it happen until now – while I’m sitting on an airplane on a three-hour flight back from Iqaluit, finally enjoying some quiet time to reflect on what we’ve been up to for the past 2.5 months.
As many of you are likely aware, we opened our sunflower field to the public at the very end of August 2019. The idea to invite people to visit, and in exchange leave a donation for our animal sanctuary, was my husband Omar’s. To be honest, I was skeptical at first. A true government-administrator at heart, I worried about all of the things that could possibly go wrong; however, Omar’s enthusiasm for the initiative eventually overturned my concerns, and we went for it.
I wrote one article about our sunflower field that was shared on Stittsville Central, and posted in my usual Facebook groups (Stittsville Moms and Stittsville Neighbours). That’s it.
Imagine my surprise when the posts were shared more than 100 times in the first 10 minutes. The next day, I started getting tagged in posts on Facebook and Twitter with pictures of people enjoying our field. I received emails from local schools and libraries, asking if we could come in and speak about our sanctuary and our family, and was contacted by two local TV stations to ask about interviews.
The community response to our offer to share our flowers absolutely filled my heart. I sat down at the end of the driveway on the first Saturday we’d opened the field, surrounded by my five excited kids in our camp chairs, and waited to see what would happen. We had no idea if anyone would show up at all. Imagine our amazement when cars started pouring in, and eventually, ended up parked up and down the road. I watched peoples’ faces light up as they pulled in and saw the field of endless flowers. I listened to a woman tell me that her Mom had recently passed away and that her favourite flower had been sunflowers – the woman felt close to her Mom while walking through our field.
I accepted an envelope with a generous donation from a long-time family friend whose daughter had passed away weeks before, who told me that her daughter Julie would have wanted the money to go to us to help with what we are doing at our farm.
I burst with pride as I watched my eldest help a couple with walkers into the sunflower field, took pictures of them posing together, cut some flowers for them to take home, and escorted them back to their car.
I would like to note that we did not have one negative incident. Not even a hint of one. Of all the thousands of people who visited our farm, each of the interactions were respectful and positive. The experience was incredibly rewarding for our family and we will, without doubt, repeat this event next year. Thank you to all who visited us and helped to spread the word.
We have been up to work other than sunflowers! Omar has been working hard on barn repairs to get things more settled for the animals as winter rolls in. We’ve sealed crevices in the animals’ main barn to ensure less wind gets in this winter. Omar completed a second harvest of hay. We also changed the location of several fences to better accommodate both the needs of the animals in regard to space and also our own needs for storage of farm machinery, including a combine and seed storage barrels. Omar built a wood shed so that we can make better use of the felled trees on our property both for campfires for fun throughout the long winter months, as well as to heat the work-barn that gets used year round. We don’t have a sealed, heated workshop, so we do our best with the 1905-built barn on the property. We have a stove installed this year which will hopefully help make it more habitable for my husband to try to continue some of the required farm work in the colder months when he can’t easily work outside.
Just after Halloween, I posted in a variety of local groups about the fact that unwanted pumpkins and bales of hay and straw would be a wonderful help for our animals. Due to time pressures of caring for the farm and sanctuary, we were not able to pick up the items this year; rather, we asked people to drop them off to us if they were able. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of people who dropped pumpkins and bales off, taking time out of their busy lives to donate. We even had a few people, including two young girls, collect pumpkins from their neighbourhoods and bring us truckloads of goods. This picture was taken on day one of our collection, and represents about a third of the volume received.
Our plans for our house include some eventual renovation. We began the preparation by removing the carpet in an upstairs bedroom, and found a great treasure underneath: three or more layers of newspapers dating from the mid to late 1940s. Most are in pristine condition and provided much reading entertainment. Stories included a ban on cocktail bars, a few bad car accidents, and a problem with beavers taking over the local waterways and causing floods.
We adopted a four-month old baby goat who was born with a condition that does not allow her leg tendons to fully extend, resulting in a permanently flexed front leg. This baby goat was brought to us by loving owners of a local farm who had tried myriad attempts to rehabilitate her; however, the efforts were not successful and the goat, being bullied by her counterparts, could not access enough food. In tears as they surveyed our farm with us, to choose the best place in which to house the baby goat, it was abundantly clear that her former owners were loving people who truly felt they were doing the best for her by letting her go, regardless of how much it pained them.
Our baby goat appears to be very happy here on our farm, and is thriving. Her condition is difficult to look at as people immediately cringe with the assumption that she is in pain. Contrarily, she seems content and can actually get around very quickly. Shy at first, she is warming up to us and now follows Omar around to ask to be pet.
As the days get darker, we have seen the animals’ winter coats begin to fill in, most notably our pony Cashew’s. His thick, curly coat has returned in preparation for the coming cold.
Our youngest chickens have started to lay eggs and we again have a farm fresh supply in such abundance that it is more than our family can consume. Our female duck, Lily, has also begun to lay.
I have received many emails and messages in recent months, and would like to assure readers that we have heard the concerns expressed. Our sanctuary started as a family undertaking to enable us to bring up our children in a learning atmosphere on the farm. Our desire to care for animals is a project of love, designed to ensure that our animals are well taken care of, and will live out their lives in peace and contentment.
I am so, so grateful for the support to date. Please know that we are just a regular family trying to provide for our children and be a contributing part of our broader community. While we continue to work towards being able to share our lives more broadly, via tours or other educational opportunities, we are struggling with finding time and funding to make the required infrastructure changes and then deliver the services. Many sanctuaries focus on their rescues full-time, while we are doing it in addition to full-time jobs.
On a more positive note, winter is a beautiful time on our land, and I look forward to sharing stories and pictures of life on a farm in the winter! Thank you for taking the time to read about our family and our adventures.
(Editor’s Note: The Sultan family are doing everything in their power to help the animals on their sanctuary farmland. If you would like to assist them in achieving this, please consider making a donation. Visit their web site to find out more www.sultanfarmsanctuary.com.)
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