Bernadette’s Take on
Ruth Howatt from New Glasgow on Prince Edward Island
Welcome to a not so bo(a)ring life
Dear reader, would you not want to live in such an idyllic place on Prince Edward Island? This is Ruth Howatt’s farm. Ruth must feel in heaven every day, don’t you, Ruth? (Photo courtesy of Ruth Howatt, unless otherwise stated)
Ruth knows a thing or two about boars. And sows and piglets.
She once owned and managed a hog breeding operation, first with her husband, then six years completely on her own.
Ruth (62), originally from Köniz near the Swiss capital Berne, had 75 sows and four boars. The boars’ task was to make a lot of piglets with the sows.
Must have been a male’s paradise.
One year, Ruth even received an award for “the most piglets weaned per sow per year” on Prince Edward Island. Go figure.
Ruth says the boars and the sows did all the work: “I just put them together and I did not have to help at all.” Fortunately.
When the piglets weighed 30 pounds, they were sold to a hog fatting farm.
Ruth never used electric prods like some other hog farmers. And she never trimmed the boars’ tusks. “I was never afraid of them”, she says, “if you treat them right, they do not attack you.”
The local vet said to Ruth: “You don’t really follow the book, but it works nevertheless.”
Well, Ruth has a penchant to do things her way. She traveled to Australia in 1980 and met a Canadian man there, her future husband. He was a farmer and welder. And yes, did I mention that she worked on a hog farm in Australia? She also worked with sheep.
Anyway, she got married and ended up with hogs on Prince Edward Island.
You have to cross a bridge to get to PEI. Do you get the symbolic hint? I repeat: Cross a bridge. Ruth surely crossed a bridge when she settled on the island, but she did not burn the bridge behind her. Enough metaphors, now, Bernadette! (Photo B. Calonego)
The Howatts had four children. But trag-edy struck when her husband died in 1990. Ruth was left with four kids, the oldest five years old, the baby just 15 months.
Ruth worked for six years alone on the farm while she had some help in the house. But in the end, it was too stressful for her. “My parents helped me financially so that I was able to sell the operation”, she says.
She sold the sows and rented the barns and the land out. Still does.
Today, her children have left the house and Ruth has become a published writer of poems and stories under the name Ruth Mischler.
In the last three years, she has spent six months each year in Switzerland to look after her ailing parents, 90 and 88 years old.
“I feel a bit uprooted right now”, Ruth says.
She doesn’t rule out that she might live in Switzerland again one day.
“It is not easy to grow old in the country side. On PEI, I have to take the car to get to the nearest store. In Köniz, everything is within walking distance. I also have more friends in Switzerland than I have in Canada. These are friends I know before I emigrated. Somehow I have more in common with them than with the people on PEI. But then … my children and 2 grandchildren live in Canada.”
You still have time to think about it, Ruth. In the meantime, we present you the CanSwiss Quiz:
– What gift do you take from Canada to Switzerland)?
Pastene (Italian flavoured bread crumbs) for my mother
– What product(s) do you miss most in Canada?
Thomy mayonnaise and Thomy mustard and Berner Haselnusslebkuchen (Bernese hazelnut gingerbread)
– Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Swiss men or women?
They look after themselves, there are not so many overweight people in Switzerland.
– Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Canadian men or women?
To some extent, they are freer to do what they like.
They have the tradition of potluck (all invited guest bring a dish that they share)
– What triggered a culture shock for you in Canada?
Different table manners, for in-stance the plates are removed even before everybody has finished the meal.
– Which Canadian or Swiss personality fascinates you?
Canadian singer Leonard Cohen
Swiss singer/songwriter Mani Matter