Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Living a Contented Life in Nova Scotia

We get asked all the time why we moved from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia. Afterall, we're the first to admit that BC is BEAUTIFUL!! One of the most beautiful places on Earth. And we miss the snow capped mountains and the pink cheeked faces of our grandchildren as they run around the yard holding fuzzy yellow chicks. Life was pretty good, but we just didn't seem to be getting anywhere. We didn't own the farm or the home we lived in and that made it hard because we planted crops only to be later told that we were being given 60 days to move. We were tired of being at the mercy of others in so many fundamental ways. And we still have 4 children to finish raising.

So we prayed about it and felt inspired to move to Nova Scotia, specifically the Annapolis Valley.

Things have really worked out well for us since we've been here. Financially we're getting stable and as of this month we'll be able to get ahead a little if we're lucky. Dreams of owning and paying off our own farm are more easily realized here. Whereas in BC we would have payed over $500,000 for a small acreage and home, here we can find one for under $100,000. That's partly because we're able to renovate ourselves and because we live rurally. Homes in the city are like anywhere else in Canada, more expensive.

We like living in the country. For now we're temporarily living in a small subdivision in the village of Greenwood but even here it's not too busy. We enjoy nature and being outside in the garden so the country life suits us. And I think it's a more contented life. We take pleasure in the simple things like a warm and cozy bed, a beautiful day, ripe strawberries or fresh corn from the garden, watching the daily drama of chickens as they go about their day and seeing the hard working bees pollinating my flowers while making honey too. It's all marvelous if you stop to appreciate it. Even in the winter there's so much beauty and so many things to look forward to.

Due to the cost of housing here we actually can afford to buy our own place, one that we can then change and develop as we see fit. To make the additions and build structures that suit our lives as small farmers. In essence, to benefit from the labour of our own hands. It's not some New Age concept, it's a basic fundamental right, or it should be, to benefit from your work either through pay or through ownership and the use of something. So many times before I felt like we were just slaving away for the benefit of other people...landlords, ex-wives etc and now I finally feel like we're in it for ourselves.

None of the lessons have been lost along the way, we've learned a lot about what's important in life and we've encouraged other people along the way to live a happy and fulfilled life too. After all, money is important but relationships are more important. The love you have for your husband or wife, the way you love and raise your children, the opportunities you have to serve your community, these are ways that we truly influence the world for good and make society better. And this is where we find true and lasting happiness, within the walls of our own homes and within ourselves.

Living a contented life doesn't mean we stop trying to improve and set goals. We most certainly do, it's just that the end results and the focus are different. It's not about money so much as having things that make our lives more pleasant. Having time for friends and the space to have extra children pop over because they just like our home are two of the things that bless our lives and allow us to bless others too. How many times have we walked into the kitchen to find a crowd of small children telling us how great our cookies are while they demolish the whole lot? Or walked into the basement to find teenagers all hanging out together having a good time? How often has someone said we should get together for a last minute party at their place and we could go because we weren't wrapped up in other things? These are some of the things that I love about my life...that I get to share it with other people I care about. Even strangers. If I can make someone's day brighter then why wouldn't I? What does it cost me to be friendly and to smile? To bandage a knee or find a lost dog? It costs me nothing and yet gives so much back to me in terms of happiness.

As I'm sitting here reading seed catalogues and making plans for the coming year I want you to all know that for me, there was never really any decision to make...I love living in the country. The city isn't for me with it's hustle and bustle. Give me the quiet life! Live it for a year and you'll realize it's not so quiet after all. Here's a photo of Kate last year at the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market learning about preserving natural habitats and making a flower press. She had a great time. We loved going on a Saturday morning to the market, it's a time for farmers to meet their customers, socialize, and share ideas.

In many European countries, Canada, the US and in Japan too, there are scores of younger people looking for a different way to live. They want something different from the daily commute and the hectic schedule of trying to balance work and a home life that they see their parents and their friends living. Here's a good article from the BBC focused on why some young Japanese people are moving back to the countryside. Here in Canada young people are experimenting with SPIN (Small Plot INtensive) gardening if they don't own land, or CSA's or other forms of small level market gardening if they have a little land that's arable. Steve and I are not alone, even within our family, in realizing that food security begins in your own backyard. Our eldest son and his wife are beginning their own market garden this year and their info can be found at If you're looking for vegetable boxes delivered fresh and delicious in the Oceanside/Nanaimo area, give them a call!

Here at Humblebee Farm in Nova Scotia we elder Faires are busy making plans, borrowing land, ordering bees and doing the other things necessary for the coming growing season. Firewood is getting re-stacked as the indoor pile dwindles, we're researching local livestock breeds that are suitable for what we want...and of course we're still looking to find a farm for sale in Annapolis County. But one thing at a time. First we've got to get the garden planted and have a down payment. Maybe one can help with the other.

Part of our growing program will be to propagate bushes and other plants for planting on a larger scale at our new home. For example we want raspberry bushes. Lots of them. If I go to Vasseys and get 3 plants it will cost me about $25. Ok, it's cheaper at somewhere like WalMart or Home Depot but they're not as good quality or the varieties I want. So I spend $25. In the fall I should be able to take at least 6 cuttings off each plant again for rooting. That means that I'll have the original 3 bushes ready to fruit the following year plus 18 new plants if they all root. At the end of the following year (next year) I'll have 21 fruiting bushes and possible another 120 new plants. So within 3 years I've got fruit producing bushes, bushes beginning to bear and more that are established and ready for the following year. Instead of waiting a year until we get a place and then buying 140 bushes for some huge amount of money and waiting for them to establish, we've saved perhaps a thousand dollars and had a little fruit one year earlier. And the same goes for many other types of things too. Buy the best seed you can and from then on save your own seeds. It works for almost any open pollinated plant but you have to remember that some plants are bi-annuals like carrots...they set the root the first year and then flower and produce seeds the following year.

We will have vegetables for sale this summer as well as preserves, salsa and pickles. Hopefully we'll have eggs too, but we'll see about that later. The first priority is to get our side yard ready for bees and the greenhouse up and going with some hot beds in March. Our main plantings won't be in until the middle of May or June for things like heat loving corn, and peppers but I can still get flowers and tomatoes started inside early to get a jump on the season and maybe get some lettuce and salad greens going along with peas and radishes. I'd love to be the envy of all my neighbours by eating fresh produce in May when they're just getting started gardening. Does that sound conceited? lol. It won't be long before I'm whining on here about how much work it is and how much I miss having WWOOF'ers around. Maybe we will anyways...just for fun.

These are just my musings and plans for the coming year. I realize that everyone has different goals and different things that make them happy, the real trick is to find out what leaves you feeling content and then to build your life in such a way that you can experience it all the time. It's a lifelong goal for most of I'm still working on...but I'm glad that I've got such a supportive family and a husband who loves me and who I adore. I'm thankful for ordinary miracles. For love, and laughter, faith and friends.


  1. You are so right - it is almost an effort to stay focused on what is important in life rather than the buzz of our commercial culture, bopping from one thing to the next. I am glad to hear you find the country life more connected - I think it is easy to disconnect in the city, certainly here in Victoria I see it every single day. I'm awaiting word on where I will be accepted to school and I'm really keeping my fingers crossed for Dalhousie. I too would like to live out of town and have a big old house that welcomes people in! I love your blog and find it very inspiring, pls. keep on writing, Linnaea from Victoria and crew, hoping we are eastward bound.

    1. When I lived in Victoria I found the same disconnect as you and it's more pronounced in places like Vancouver and Calgary. I had friends that attended Dalhousie and just loved it. Acadia is awesome too. We're lucky to have so many good schools so close. On a personal don't happen to be about 19 and have a mum who sells Mary Kay do you? I knew a cute little girl years ago with the same name as you when I lived in Vic. Just thought it might have been you...small world and all.

  2. Nope, I'm late 30s and grew up in Hfx. Partly why I want to get back. But yep, it is a small world, although there aren't many of us Linnaeas in it!

  3. NEW POST- Good for you! My husband would need to work if we moved east. Currently in Ontario and feeling the crunch financially. I am a retired country girl who has dogs and did have horses-maybe again? What about employment around Annapolis Valley. The idea of having water view or even better being on the water is a dream for us. We were looking at Victoria Island but the housing was pretty limited in our budget range.