Friday, August 26, 2011

Why we chose Nova Scotia over cheaper places to live

I guess it seems a little early to write this entry in our blog as we have only been here short time so I promise that I will update it monthly and you can follow us every day to see how we're doing. I've been asked a few times why we chose Nova Scotia over New Brunswick or PEI. And today Shelley made some pretty persuasive arguments on my writing about specifically why we chose here. SO here goes.

We are told in our church that you should first research a question or problem, decide on a course of action and then pray about it to know if it's right. Sometimes along the course of researching you solve the problem and sometimes you realize other things you hadn't though about. So it makes you a more independent problem solver. Consequently we did a lot of research and originally were looking at New Brunswick with PEI as a far back second choice. Nova Scotia wasn't even on the radar.

Newfoundland we quickly dismissed as not being a place that had enough of the support systems that we wanted for our kids. The people are really wonderful but it's harder being an outsider to fit in. The rates of teen drinking are alarmingly high, there's less to do socially and educationally and you're of course out there on an island which limits job prospects. Fishing is a big part of the economy but not so much agriculture. I know it's a great place to live if you have roots there but it wasn't for us.

PEI is beautiful! And an island connected with a bridge which I like. But there is less church community for us out there and some of the same reasons we dismissed Nfld. It's a lovely family community if you've lived there before or have enough money to buy a place and pay for your upgrades and repairs or don't mind living rurally. Agriculture is big on the island and farms do come up for sale regularly but cost somewhat more than other provinces owing to it's being a tourist destination and summer cottage community. Tourists are mainly there mid April to mid September and then it gets very quiet. Perfect for retirement. But not for us.

New Brunswick. This was the place we thought we were going to move to. Around the Moncton area probably near Havelock or Sussex just to the south west. But we never quite felt 100% comfortable. Sure, the prices for homes are amazing! Cheapest place in Canada that's not northern Quebec. Church is good if few and far between. Education for the kids is ok too. Agriculture was hit and miss so you just have to pay close attention. The clincher was the climate in this particular region of Nova Scotia and the lack of French speakers.

Nova Scotia. It's not perfect for everyone, as evidenced by the number of people who move from here every year for better paying jobs on the oil rigs or young people looking for a faster metropolitan lifestyle. But of course we're looking for a quieter place to live away from all the hum drum of the city and yet we're still only a bit over an hour to the hopping night life of Halifax for when the kids are older and want such things. So this is perfect for us. We want to farm so we looked for a place with a good climate for growing soft and tree fruits, grains and vegetables, and that had good water. Schools are important, access to health care, available work for Steve and access to a social life for the teenagers is important too as well as access to good post-secondary schools.

So...the Annapolis Valley's little micro-climate makes it the warmest place in Canada overall. It's obviously colder than Victoria, BC in the winter...but if you took the mean daytime temperatures and averaged them out over a period of one year you'd find that Nova Scotia was warmer. In this section about climate I should mention that here in the heart of the valley there's not a lot of fog, it's warmer than by the coast, and the rain is spread out more during the year than on the west coast which gets most of it's rain in the winter and spring and has long dry summers. Here it rains more evenly throughout the year making sprinklers and irrigation much less of a concern. This was a huge plus to us after living through dried up wells and droughts for 2 years.

The Annapolis valley is the bread basket of Nova Scotia. Dotted with small (400 people) communities you don't have to go far to find what you need and the rural areas are quiet and peaceful. The soil is very suitable for mixed farming though it seems to be dominated by blueberries and vegetables with fewer animals than I think is normal depending on the county you are in. With a mix of reclaimed land, sedimentary glacial deposits and volcanic soil, it's very fertile with most areas having a small number of rocks and relatively level fields. Good if you're using large equipment. If you take a drive east from here along the river and towards the basin you'll see evidence of all the land reclaimed by the French dyke system and it's tremendously fertile. The original Acadian settlers were from northern France and had used dykes successfully back home so when they saw the possibilities available to them here they quickly went to work reclaiming thousands of acres of prime farmland.

There are lots of schools in the valley with transportation provided by school bus or public bus. Also, Nova Scotia has the highest per capita percentage of Universities and Colleges including Dartmouth, Acadia, St. Mary's, St. Francis Xavier and more. So if they want to, they can be close enough to share holidays or weekends with us when they are in University or even commute if they want to drive and live at home.

While it can be a bit tricky to find a family Dr. there are walk-in medical clinics and 4 hospitals in the valley. There are dentists, chiropractors, massage therapists etc all here but I think the orthodontist is in Kentville.

For groceries there are the local 'Needs' stores everywhere, Sobeys, Superstore, ValuMart, plus many more. Overall I find groceries to be about 20% less than Vancouver Island with meat having the biggest difference, it's cheaper here. Milk as mentioned before is more but I got it at $5.49 per 4 litre jug today at Shoppers Drug Mart (thanks for the tips on that one!) so that's only 10c more than we were paying for milk in BC when we left. One thing to watch when comparing prices is that seasonal and promotional items don't reflect the price of your average grocery shop so follow the flyers for a month before making decisions about prices and also the cost of food is going up everywhere so it may seem expensive now but that's happening everywhere. There is Costco in the major towns for any of you who like to stock up and Bulk Barn too.

The vast majority of people in Nova Scotia speak English with a few small Acadian villages still speaking French along the West Coast. And this is good for us as we don't speak French. It's an important decision if you don't speak French very well to do your research as some parts of Canada that you might not expect are heavily French. Quebec obviously speaks French only for the most part though you'll be able to communicate to get groceries and gas with no problems. Crossing into New Brunswick it gets more and more English the further away from the Quebec border you go. As I mentioned previously there are isolated pockets of French here in Nova Scotia too.

There is work here but many jobs are minimum wage and that's $9.65 per hour but of course the housing is cheaper. So it's a trade off. Skilled workers and seasonal fruit pickers are always in demand. You can look here for some recent jobs listed. Just put in the appropriate info like Nova Scotia for the province and then search by town or just look at all jobs. Other online search engines can be helpful too including Kijiji and Craigslist which can also be a good place to find other second hand items you want.

If you look at the online property listings there are some things to bear in mind.
1. There are some fantastic photographers who can take pics and make everything look much better than it actually is.
2. Lovely old homes should DEFINITELY be inspected to avoid nasty surprises and they require more maintenance than newer ones so budget accordingly.
3. Rural property taxes are much lower than in town.
4. If a house looks great and the price seems cheap then it's located out of the main towns in a quieter place which means a longer commute if you work.
5. In most parts of Canada each property for sale is listed on the MLS but here the realtors list only about 50%. If you follow the links to an individual realtor you''ll find his personal website has more listings. So if you're a buyer it's advantageous to work with a realtor to get those inside listings. Or expect to do a lot of searching online and looking in person. Realtors charge the majority, if not all their fees, to the seller. But do expect to sign a contract with any realtor in Nova Scotia. It's the rules now so that there is no squabbling about who gets what fees and who is actually helping individual buyers. Seems petty but there it is, at least now they have a solution.

Once we had made the decision that this was the place for us we prayed about it and believe that God told us to come here we are. So far it's all working out beautifully! We like our neighbours, have made friends from Church, and we're excited about the possibilities.

I'm exhausted so I'm going to go now. We had a long fun day exploring Port Royal and more of the Annapolis Valley. We also drove over North Mountain to Hampton to see the harbour and lighthouse and get our first taste of the Atlantic and the Bay of Fundy. It was neat to see the tide come in and raise the boats off the mud bottom of the harbour and Steve and Meghan went into the water to get their feet wet in the Atlantic for the first time. The beach varies between sand and pebbles with the pebbles offering many beautifully polished specimens. If you like to collect them, save your pockets and take a bag. I'll get some pics uploaded as soon as I can. More exploring planned for tomorrow.

Best Wishes to you all.


  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    One day I plan on not being anonymous here, but I need to figure out how to do all that sign in stuff. Fascinating read here ! I have been on mls a lot lately to see what's available and for what cost. You're right ... realtors have their own sites with their listings which I never came across on mls. I can't believe how old some of these homes are. It makes me wonder how they can still be standing. LOL ! We have a heritage section in Kamloops too, but nothing that even comes close to 150 plus, plus years.
    I'm happy to hear you are settling in and making new friends. I can see you working your own fields already.

    Thanks for offering to answer any questions I may have about NS. I know I'll have some for sure. I'm reading all the time about this distant and new land. Have a wonderful Sunday !

    Cheers ... Helga

  2. Hi, I just found out about your blog and wanted to welcome you to NS. We just moved here from BC in June 2011, so we are very new here too. We bought a well known farm in New Germany area. House is 175 yrs old! We go to the valley every week, so maybe someday we will meet you. We just decided one day to up and move across the cross with our two little ones. Pretty amazing experience, and yes I prayed everyday, that if it was not where we were supposed to be, then it wouldn't happen, but here we are... I felt as though this is part of God's plan, though at the moment...I'm not sure where it will lead. Hope everything is going well with you and your family

  3. Hi Helga. I'll try to post some useful info in among the tidbits of daily family life. We went to visit a family from church and their beautiful house has been in the family for something like 15 generations before them, and it's beautiful, all the hand cut beams. I think they said it was 250 years old. Lovely!

  4. Hello Anna. Thanks for reading! How are you finding it over in New Germany? We've seen it on the map but haven't ventured that far yet. If you're ever in Greenwood just pop over! I hope we can stay in touch and you can let me know how it's going for you guys on your new farm. Do you have farming experience or is this part of the adventure? Our very best wishes to you and your little family!

  5. Hello Elizabeth

    Welcome to Nova Scotia. We moved here from Ladysmith, BC 5 years ago and have never regretted it. It took a little while but our family has now dug in our roots and have our feet on the ground. We own and operate Murrayfield Berry Farms just outside of West Branch River John in Pictou County. Welcome. - Marja Jorgensen

  6. Hi Elizabeth ~

    I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your blog. My husband and I and our children would like to do the very thing you have done and have been researching NS for the last 3 years. Your blog has been so helpful to us as we struggle with the idea of leaving family behind in BC, secure jobs, etc. to a place that we have never been to but have fallen in love with through reading about it on the internet and numerous blogs. You have given us so much useful info and in reading your ideas on a simpler way of life have reaffirmed our beliefs. So as we patiently wait for our home to sell, I'll continue to read and research, plan and dream of the day we too may be living the life in NS. I am very interested in your thoughts of your new home province and thank you for all your helpful insights.

  7. Hello!

    I'm happy that I found your blog. Reading it helps me to get my thought more in orders. I don't live in Nova-Scotia, I live in New-Brunswick from Ontario since 2 years now. I'm originally from QUebec which I miss a lot, sadly me and my family have been not well treated since we live here we have been force in government housing and all that we wish now is to get out of the Province ( not much work) my children have nothing for them here too,so we were thinking where on earth are we going to look for a home that is the right place for us. We had a hobby farm in Ontario, had chickens, goats,ducks and had a big garden and now we just hoping to be able to survive so we can leave as soon as possible. We want to do like your are doing and be in a peaceful place to live in nice community and some work.Well thanks for your blog.

  8. Hi,
    I’m a Filipino who’s planning to migrate to NS together with my wife and my son.

    Anyone here can give me advise or suggestion which City/town the best to live for new comers in terms of. (arranged according to priority).

    1. Job opportunities
    2. Housing
    3. Food
    4. Transportation
    5. Education

    by the way we are both Professionals
    I am Electronics Engr.
    My wife is a Nurse

    * Priority will be change as soon as we already settled and stable.

    Best wishes.

    1. I would say that the priority of where to live depends on where you find work. Dartmouth or Halifax are of course the biggest cities in NS and offer more work. Also there are more immigrants so that may make the transition a little easier as there are newcomer programs that can help you make friends and settle into Canadian life. Food is more diverse and a little cheaper in the city. Better public transportation too. So I would say that looking within the Hallifax area would be good to start until you know where you'll be working. And our very best wishes to your family.

  9. Jay Russell marsi, I am replying to your post. No offence to anyone, but I strongly advise you not to go to live in Nova Scotia. It is a beautiful place, so are many others. You should be prepared to accept that you will never fit in, blend in nor be accepted In my experiences, this is mostly due yo the area's history. Look it up yourself and you'll see. For white race immigrants, perhaps yes, but you are not like my family. I would suggest you go west, alberta. You will get hired for a job regardless of your race (well most jobs). Ottawa and surroundings is also very nice to non-white people. Canada has the image of being multi-cultural, however it's reality is very different.

    1. I am sorry you have come to feel that way Anita, I am from Nova Scotia, but I live in Toronto. Overall Canada is very multi-cultural, cities have higher populations and the transition for immigrants is easier I must agree, there are pockets of racial groups here in Toronto they tend to group together into areas...if I move to India or China I have to be aware that I will be a stranger and people will be curious who the white dude is unless I move to an area with more white people. Don't hold it against Canada please...I pride myself on being tolerant and curious about other people's culture...I would gladly embrace yours and learn about you, please embrace my culture also...we white fold warm up quickly, but country folk tend to be more conservative:)


  10. wife and 13 yr old son thinking of moving from newfoundland to property taxes high.

    1. Yes in the cities, towns vary, no in the country. You need to research before you buy.