Ross Farm Museum
Lives in simpler times

Throughout the year in Nova Scotia, Ross Farm and its costumed guides invite the public to experience early farm life dating back to nearly 200 years ago.

My husband, Allan and I just got home from doing that very thing. We had a most enjoyable morning at the Farm. As we opened the door to the Rosebank Cottage, we were greeted by a cozy wood fire, the delicious aroma of baking and the welcoming smile of Joyce Hiltz.

Ross Farm is about a half hour drive from Lunenburg, and about 45 minutes from Gladee's at Hirtle's Beach.

Hard to believe Joyce has been at Ross Farm Museum for 33 years – the enthusiasm with which she brings to the job clearly demonstrates she loves her work. She expertly brings to life the simpler, yet much more difficult, days of early settlers in Nova Scotia.

After plying us with a hot cup of tea and freshly baked cookies, Joyce takes us around to a couple of the other buildings. We check out the woodworking shop, flax loft, store and lower barn area.

Although Ross Farm is open to the public, it is between seasons, so we almost have the place to ourselves. Normally, tradespeople such as a blacksmith, cooper (or barrel maker) and farmers, are at their posts, in costume and doing their jobs as they were done. In the museum shop, we find fine examples of their efforts.

Stacked hats wait patiently for summer's return. Below are some remnants of spinning and hooking.

The Woodworking Shop offers a framed view of Rosebank Cottage.

Window reflection captures an intriguing image. It shows the traditional efforts to protect the floor from winter's icy fingers. Nova Scotia's early settlers built an outside fence around the lower part of their homes and shops, about three feet high and a foot from the walls. They filled the gap with insulating materials such as seagrass, or, in this case, wood shavings.

Now...for some history ...

Back in 1816, William Ross was asked by the Governor of Nova Scotia to take 172 soldiers and their families to establish a settlement in what is now known as New Ross. Each of these disbanded soldiers, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, were given land grants.

Ross Farm Museum includes 60 acres of the original 800 acre grant given to Captain Ross. Five generations of his family lived and worked on the farm from 1816 to 1970 and even today, many of those who work at this living provincial museum are descendants of the area's early settlers.

Farming demonstrations are done through the seasons using heritage breeds of oxen and horses. As well, a full menu of domestic demonstrations are carried out in Rose Bank Cottage. Take a leisurely 15-30 minute walk along one of Ross Farm's beautiful trails -- they're a feast to the eyes regardless of the season. Or, if you'd prefer, sit back in a horse drawn wagon. Come winter you'll enjoy the song of the jingle bells as you go dashing through the snow. The autumn colours are spectacular. As is the field of pumpkins.

Ros Farm is also home to Nova Scotia chickens such as Buff Cochins, Silver Gray Dorkings and Silver Spangled Hamburgs.

What's a farm without farm-animals? The hard-working, slow-moving pairs of oxen deserve much credit for the success of local farmers. For thousands of years, these dependable helpmates have played an important role muscle-chores such as cultivating land, hauling fire wood and moving buildings. Even better, oxen were cheap to feed--they were hardy enough to graze outdoors most of the year and demanded modest amounts of grain. Their methodical pace was easy on farm implements and, when they were too old to work, unlike a horse, they could be sold or eaten for beef.

The museum-bred Canadian Horse is a source of pride to the community. The Canadian was a perfect co-worker to the early pioneer. It not only carried out light agricultural work, it provided transportation with horse-power -- either as a carriage horse or saddled roadster. This dependable Canadian could travel 60 miles a day despite ditches, mudholes or snowdrifts. The healthy, gentle animal worked from morning until late at night without a complaint. It cleared the land, prepared the garden, hauled goods and logs to market, building lots or shipbuilder's workshop.

These remarkable horses are not finicky eaters, and require little fuel to keep them working. And yet, they live a long and active life. Mares are fertile and can be counted on to add to the herd until the age of 20 -- or longer. Smaller than other breeds, they weigh an average of 1,100 pounds. They have clear, intelligent eyes and handsome looks.

We'll be bringing you photos of these large work animals, hopefully by year's end.

The museum collection is home to over 4,000 agricultural-related artifacts. The farm's gift shop carries items made by hand on the grounds such as wooden benches, wooden spoons, barrels and items done by the blacksmith.

In a time when people grew, raised and built most necessities, the farm's store provided families with luxuries such as spices, sugar and tea, fabrics and manufactured tools.

We'll keep our fingers crossed...

If the weather cooperates, Allan and I will be back at the farm the first weekend in December. That’s when the community, New Ross, holds its Christmas Festival. We’re looking forward to getting a horse and wagon ride through the woods, visiting a Christmas tree farm, learning about making wreathes, and of course, dropping in on Joyce to wish her a very happy Christmas.

Lunenburg has a Christmas festival as well ... so, we’ll have the start of a fun and festive Christmas section in the next several weeks.

Education centres around the farm's one-room schoolhouse. Below, is the woodworking shop and store.