Monday, March 31, 2014

How To Live The Simple Life Part Two - Deciding What You Want

Part Two is going to help you decide what you want to do and why, and then tomorrow we'll get discussing the 'How' of the whole thing.

This will be the most difficult post to write simply because of the fact that we all want something different out of life. So I would like to share some of the considerations from my own list. But first I want you to go grab a piece of paper and something to write with...I mean it, go get them, I'll still be here when you get back.

Does your pen work? Okay, then I want you to think about your dreams and aspirations regarding your life in ten years. I say ten years because this is less of an action plan and more a dream. It's about finding out what is fundamentally important to you. Now write a list of the things you want to be able to do. Just scribble away and we'll look over your list later. Here's my scribbles:

quality personal time
time with loved ones
time for recreation
making a living
reducing consumption
having a quality of life - what does that look like?
teaching myself new skills
trying new things
teaching my kids my values and some practical skills and appreciation for work
building my own mortgage free home
having autonomy
livestock, I like having them around
be environmentally aware, off grid maybe, self-sufficient
freedom to prep. and have a root cellar
sense of security
sense of belonging and rootedness for myself and my children

Now that we've got a list to work with it's easier to divide it up into categories. I think they should be
feelings and ideas,  physical space,  physical activity and work. But that's just for my list.

Feelings and ideas
This includes all the things that are intellectual and emotional for me. I want to have time to spend with my loved ones, particularly my husband and children. I think it's vitally important that we teach our children a good solid work ethic and that they learn to value things of worth. I have seen so many teenagers who get whatever they want and then complain that the new car their parents bought them wasn't the colour they wanted or doesn't have a sunroof. And that drives me crazy when I see other kids who work really hard for everything they get. But I think that the kids who work for things appreciate them more and take better care of them. I think it makes them better adults too, but that's just my opinion. Other feelings I want to have are the ability to just wake up with an idea and try it without a landlord telling me I can't. I want to have that feeling that the farm is mine and nobody can take it away from me. That it's going to always be mine as long as I want it and that my children and grandchildren will feel a love for the place too and have that sigh of peace when they come back to visit the ol' homestead. Sort of a secure base from which they can venture into the wild unknown but always can come home to. Does that make sense to you?

Physical space
Many ideas and feelings in my list relate to a specific space. Stephen and I realized several years ago that we'd need to actually have a farm, so we started working on that and eventually looking for our own place when we realized that rentals weren't going to work for us. Of course that led us where we'd never have guessed and here we are in Nova Scotia due to the attitudes, climate and land prices. It took lots of research and soul searching but we finally found a place that checked off most of the boxes on our wishlist. We had a general idea when looking and our list included at least 5 acres of arable land, some woodlot, a river or body of water, reasonable distance from town because of the children's school activities and jobs, high speed internet (Steve made me take photos of the power lines so he could check if I was out looking at a property by myself), nice neighbours who aren't too close, some south facing slope we could build on, and we even knew which county we wanted to live in due to building restrictions. It really pays to do all the research you can and then you'll be a much more informed buyer when the time comes to compare properties. Of course we had to have a real vision for our place as it didn't have a house, well or septic. Just 42 acres with a porta-potti. This wasn't the first place we put an offer on, but I'm SO GLAD we were blessed to get this place and not the other, it's a much better fit for us in the long-term.

Physical activity and work
To be realistic, by getting our farm we've opened ourselves to a never ending list of things that need to be done, and they greatly outnumber the list of things we'd like to do. But none of them are beyond our ability to learn. When it comes time to build our house, we'll already have practiced by building 2 additions, and then another barn and a garage. We can incorporate strawbale building, lime plaster, timber framing etc. into all our smaller projects until we're confident enough in our skills and planning abilities to tackle building our home. As well as all the projects around the home and homestead we still need to be able to make a living that lets us pay our bills. Having 5 teens isn't cheap so we have to find ways to feed them, pay our taxes and have some fun too. Life isn't free, and while we're aiming for self-suffiency we're not there yet.  Most farmers start either with savings in the bank or with one person working off the farm. We have no savings so of course Stephen has to go to work. While we don't owe money on our house we still have a mortgage for our land that's got to be paid off.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you have to be flexible and you must understand that this is a lifestyle shift that takes time. Your plan, your farm or garden, your whole being are a work in progress. If it's something that's really worth doing then it's worth taking the time over. Whether you're starting out small growing lettuce and tomatoes on your balcony or retiring and emigrating to Canada, if you have a clear vision then it makes planning easier.

So have fun tweaking and musing over your list, and if you skipped actually writing one then I encourage you to take 5 minutes and dream of a better life.

I'll be back tomorrow with Part 3.


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Simple Life In Canada - How To Guide Part 1

This is Part One of a Multi-part Guide.
Please check back tomorrow for the next installment. And thanks Dad for giving me a great reminder to write about things that might be useful to people. Here's photo of my dad taken on a nice hazy summers day last year. He's the best!

What does that mean to you, living the simple life? Does it evoke memories from your childhood of picking peas in your grandparents garden and chasing fireflies or frogs on warm summer evenings? Do you think of the Amish people with their wonderful farming and craft filled communities devoid of cars? Or is it something much closer to home for you, as close as growing herbs and lettuce in your garden? Because we're all individuals and at different points on the path of life we all see and experience things in ways totally unique to us. And that doesn't change if you decide to abandon the modern day rat-race and head for the country. Even out here in Nova Scotia you won't find 2 farmers who do things exactly alike. Some like chickens, some like vegetables, and some just farm trees.

My point is this; before you can even begin to make plans to move towards a simple life you need to assess what that means to you. You need to have at least a goal to work towards and then you'll be able to put the other necessary steps in order. What exactly do you want out of life? I find that the simple steps for this are as follows:

Have a Goal. It's okay if this evolves and changes over time.
     *Why do you want this?
     *How will it benefit you?
     *What steps do you need to take?
     *Can you afford it?

Decide how long you'll take to achieve your goal.
     Sometimes our dreams are tempered by the fact that we need to put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies while we're working towards something better. And that generally means for Canadians that we have to work at a paid job and work on our own projects in our personal hours. It's the trade off of hours available for work vs. a need to get paid. Sure, we'd all like endless time for our own projects but the reality is that most of us can't do that. We need at least a small income.

Make a Plan.
     Having something written down that shows the logical steps will help you to organize the work that's necessary. Just as a builder needs a set of blueprints and an understanding of the progression of a build (permits before walls,walls before plumbing etc.) so we need a plan that allows us to make the most efficient use of our resources. It helps you avoid some of the pitfalls by considering what could go wrong and making plans accordingly. Plans shouldn't be written in stone but they should provide a framework for you to build upon.

Do a realistic Budget.
     Sure we can all make our budget look good on paper, but saying you'll only spend $200 on groceries and eat lots of pasta and then actually doing it are 2 very different things. Maybe you hate pasta but didn't think it would be so bad. Who knows. I'm simply suggesting that you take into account that things may change in price, medical bills might happen, the car may break down. Be realistic and plan for some emergency funds to be set aside if you at all can.

And Last But Not Least ...

Get To Work!
     Nobody is going to feel as passionately about your goal as you do. It's your baby. You're the one with all the hopes and dreams so it's up to you to take the leap into the unknown and be adventurous! Learn new skills, try things you've never done before, make new friends and invest yourself in your project. When you can commit yourself to something it's more likely to be finished and finished well. It's not going to be easy for the most part but it will definitely be worth it.

Periodically, whether it's once a week or once a year, you need to sit down and go over the written plans and goals you have. See how you're doing and if there's anything you want to change or add. Take a look at how much you've accomplished and be honest with yourself about how you're doing. This is a good time to modify your goals and then start off re-energized and re-focused. If things haven't gone as planned figure out why and take steps to get back on track. Maybe you need to go in a different direction or get some help from a professional. Maybe you simply need more time. As the saying goes 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. The point of having goals and projects is to improve your life in some way. Otherwise why would we do them? And anything that's worth having is worth the effort to get it, even if it takes longer than you planned on. If you're getting discouraged then break down your goal into smaller goals and keep track as you accomplish things so that you can see yourself making progress.

Just remember this... every pyramid was built one block at a time.

Good luck with your goals for 2014 and beyond. Check back tomorrow for more information about starting a simple life in Canada.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


It's hard to believe that at the time of writing this entry it's March 27th. The wind is howling and slamming in fits against the house and the snow is being driven into deeper and deeper drifts. We've got category 1 hurricane strength winds and it's been like this for 12 hours now, since later morning yesterday and it's a little after midnight. Oh my goodness am I ever glad the animals have some shelter from this weather. They're ready to move up to the farm this weekend so as soon as the snow clears we're going to get them trailered. We'll get the barn yard fenced so that they're out of the way of the heavy equipment when they come to do the septic system installation. I also want to separate the ram and shearlings out from the pregnant ewes so that I can manage their feeding a bit better.  It's very important to feed the pregnant ewes well for the next few weeks because the lambs inside them will put on a bout 70% of their growth during this period. We want to keep them all healthy so we have good lambs and healthy ewes with lots of milk to feed them.

Anyways, I just wanted to catch up while the power is still on and let you know that we're sick of this winter weather so would you please pray for Spring to finally come? We really could use some good weather in a hurry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chickens: The Gateway Animal

Like most of you dear readers, I'm on Facebook and enjoy being part of a local farmers group. It gives us a chance to connect with other people who don't fall asleep when we talk about lambing or cringe when we mention castration. People who understand that your chickens are more interesting to watch than 99% of what's on TV. With the obvious exception of Adam's Farm and Countryfile and other farmy shows. One of the very posts I've enjoyed watching recently is a video about the dangers of backyard chicken raising. I chuckled all the way through because as a chicken person I can relate. Hope you all enjoy.

And keep checking back because we're going to be adding a forum for discussion and to build a community of like minded individuals so that we can share knowledge and have a good time too.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Swimming Hole or Natural Pool

At the farm we're working on basically 3 sets of lists. Just like a lot of families do. First there's the list of things that need immediate attention. Like replacing the car brakes or fixing things that are broken. Our second list is things that need doing soon such as wiring the new house and building the additions. But after that comes the third list, and it's the most fun list of all! The third list is basically my wish or dream list. Build a wood fired hot tub. Build some cottages for guests. Put in a micro hydro system. The sort of things that add pleasure once you've got the basic day to day living phases out of the way. And one thing I would love to have is a pool for swimming in the hot summer weather. Now a building a conventional underground pool would cost us more than we paid for our home, and even an above ground 4 foot deep pool bought cheaply from WalMart would cost $1200 by the time you put a small deck around it. Not to mention the pollution caused by all the chemicals used to keep the water clean and clear. We want something that's pleasurable, low maintenance and environmentally friendly. So how about a swimming hole? Swimming holes in the river side are fine but to just dig a hole in the middle of the field would quickly land us with a pool of green algae covered water. So the solution is to take a design for a natural pool and change it to suit our needs. The combination of deep water and a naturalized shallows really appeals to me. It's beautiful, functional, and pretty darn self sustaining. I know it's way down on the list of projects to build but it's one I'm really looking forward to. Check out this website for more info. natural pool
Or this one too

Here are a couple of pics taken from the internet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Looking for the bright side

Here we are in March. Spring in the rest of the world but not here in Canada. Many years we have warming Spring sunshine over wet and muddy fields that gives us a promise of things to come. Not this year. The Weather Network, yes in Canada we have a whole tv channel dedicated to weather (very Canadian), just issued their Spring forecast and it's not looking good for growers or people trying to put in a septic system. The prediction generally is that it's going to be mid April before any consistent Spring weather arrives. So I better get cracking on building a greenhouse for my seedlings because they're not going outside any time in the near future, not even for day trips. This morning was -20. BRRR!!

It does make for some lovely sunsets though and when it's crisp and clear the stars are amazing in the sky with Orion clearly visible and the big dipper turned around on it's end. It's worth taking a minute to appreciate the amazing sights that nature gives us even in the coldest weather. When we lived in rural northern Alberta we'd lie outside in January in -40 weather with our winter gear on and a sleeping bag and watch the northern lights or aurora borealis. Amazing some nights.

Here's a pic of yesterdays sunset at our rental house. And here's the link to the Weather Network's Spring Forecast for 2014 for Atlantic Canada.

I'm going out to tap a maple tree and get firewood for a few more weeks supply. Hope you're all staying warm and dreaming of your summer projects. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Canadian Weather Rants and Videos

Yes, it's March, and Spring is supposedly just around the corner but in true Nova Scotia style we're in for another bout of -15 degree weather. Tomorrow's going to be a nice day and then cold and snowing for a few more days. I'm sure I speak for all Nova Scotians when I say "Winter, your work here is done. Now get lost!!" It's common for March to swing between cold and warm weather and it's not all bad because it does slow down the thaw and help to prevent too much flooding. In years where we get a lot of snow it's never good to have it all melt at once as our flooded basement in January could attest to. But I'm happily staying warm at home and just waiting for the warmer weather to come now :) Every time it snows again I go to check the weather because even if it snowed 3 feet tonight I'm going to hope that tomorrow it's warm so I don't have to shovel!

There's an old saying that I've quoted here before, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing choices" so I'll go grab another sweater and head for bed with my laptop and Netflix. Hope you're all staying warm and have a nice weekend. Here are a few videos of the beloved and very funny Rick Mercer to make you see how much a part of Canadian life Winter is, lol. The ocean temperature at the moment has cooled down to a nice chilly 31 degrees farenheight, that's -1 celcius so yes, the water is colder than freezing. it's a bit warmer usually when we do the polar bear dip though. Anyways, enjoy some colder weather videos.