January 2006

As told by: Hugh Miller
Revised on Feb. 5, 2006 by John: Corrected origin of the word Ha’.

As he cleared his farm of trees, John Miller discovered that no matter what he sowed in the newly cultivated bush soil, the crop was accompanied by a discouraging abundance of thistles. Displaying his dry sense of humour about the nature of his crops, and perhaps thinking of the floral emblem of his native Scotland, he named his property Thistle Ha’.

Ha’ [pronounced “haw”] is the Scots word for Hall, which refers to an estate where the owner resides.

In 1954, Hurricane Hazel toppled numerous trees in the bush at Thistle Ha’. The next summer, Hugh Miller noticed that thistles were the dominant growth in the newly exposed soil surrounding the upended tree roots.

From a 1935 news clipping [source unidentified] about the early years at Thistle Ha’:

By good cultivation the thistles were brought under control but not before they had caused considerable irritation to skin and temper. On one occasion…the men helping…to thresh grumbled about having to feed sheaves into the mill. Vexed by the fuss they were making…John Miller stepped up to the machine and proceeded to handle the prickly grain with his bare arms. The effects of the thistles became more and more pronounced as the day progressed, but he remained at his post. As this indicates, John Miller was a man of action, a trait strongly evident in his livestock and farming operations.


A staple at Thistle Ha’ for decades, enjoyed by young and old, this cookie has a biscuit-like crunch and nutty flavour. The dough can also be prepared in a food processor, but the texture of the biscuit will be finer since the oats will be ground. A cookie sandwich with the date filling is optional but very tasty.

Elsie Miller’s Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 6-7 dozen 2″ cookies.

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup total of butter and lard
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsps. baking powder
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 T. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cream the sugar into the shortenings, then rub in the flour mixture and oats. Add eggs, milk and almond extract. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 2 inch rounds. Bake at 325°F. for 8 minutes.

Date Filling

  • 3 cups dates
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the first 3 ingredients and stir over low heat until a paste of spreading consistency is achieved. Cool slightly and add the vanilla. Allow the filling to cool completely before using. You may want to roll the cookies out a bit thinner if you are going to fill them, and bake them for a little less time.


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