Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Water Water Everywhere

Steve and I spent the long weekend getting a ton of work done at the farm, particularly getting the pump hooked up between the well and the house. It still needs a little tweaking and I need to run water a little more to clear it because when we started the taps for the first time the water came out looking like coffee. Ew! But as it runs it's getting clearer. Thank goodness.

The kitchen walls are done and I'm working on finishing the living room so that we can get some of the furniture moved in this week. Of course the place isn't finished yet but we'll make do. Steve and I will be sleeping in the living room, Chris is outside in his caravan, the girls are sharing a room as are Jordan and Will for a few weeks. Or maybe a month or two. But at least we'll have hot and cold running water, a composting toilet and power.


Just a quick update. We're moving today so we're pretty busy, tired and exhausted. But also happy that this is hopefully our last move until we build a house. We don't have our new internet connection yet so we're going to be offline for a few days. Wish us luck and fair weather.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Power and Poo! Woo Hoo!

Yes, I realize it's not something that people usually celebrate. But having a toilet and power at the farm means we can now move, build with power tools, and see what we're doing after dark. And that's a wonderful thing that most of you probably take for granted. As I type this NS Power are parked in the driveway running 200 feet of wire across the paddock and up to the pole. I think they have to also install a transformer on the roadside pole before we're good to go but it will be so wonderful to be able to switch on a light. Now it means I can also get the house painted inside because I can run a small heater to boost the temperature so the paint will dry. Guess what I'm doing tonight! Having the power also means that we can plumb the trailer this weekend and hook up the pump at the well. So we'll have running water, just nowhere for it to go right now as we don't have a septic. I'm thinking a grey water recycling bed will be the thing to build and we have the plastic and the gravel so we're good. We'll see.

So incase you're wondering if we're using a 5 gallon bucket again for compost, you'll be pleased to see that we've taken a big leap upmarket and bought a second hand and hardly used Sun Mar Excel high capacity composting toilet. Here's a pic of what they look like new. Ours is older and a bit yellowed with age but it works and nobody will see it anyways. It's a self venting composter and they're rated very highly for the lack of smell and ease of use. I'll let you know how it works out. We've got the special bulking material to use with it (peatmoss and hemp coir) and microbes to get it composting quickly. It has a drum that turns, just like some of the barrel composters you've no doubt seen and after you make deposits (you poop in it) you just add a cup full of peatmoss mix and close the lid. Turn the drum a couple of times a week and you're well on your way to making compost for the flower beds. It's got a small fan and evaporator in it so it draws in air from the bathroom keeping the smells inside and dries everything up as it goes. There's a cut away diagram below and we'll write more about it once it's up and running and we're not so busy.

Beautiful Canada - Photography and Beavers

One of the most amazing things about Canada is without a doubt it's natural beauty and the variety of landscapes from verdant forests, to rocky shorelines to rolling prairie. From the warm hazy summer evenings to the cold deep frozen winter nights. Now I'm not much of a photographer but I admire those who can take pictures that evoke emotion, to me a photograph can be as artistic as the finest oil painting. And in our family we're lucky because my soon to be brother-in-law is a photographer among other things. He's just launched a new website at if you'd be interested in having a look. And if you're looking for a photographer in the Comox Valley, he's your guy!  I'll write more about his work at a later date but I just wanted to give him a shout out for taking an incredible series of shots for yesterdays eclipse and for allowing me to post it. Thanks Ash!

I also found a video that shows a small family of beavers repairing their dam during a warmer spell in Calgary this winter. Watching them work makes me think of Chris and Steve just working away getting their stuff done. Today is turning out to be a bit wet and wouldn't you know it, it's Chris' one day to help me with chores. But he'll move wood and haul stuff for me like a champ.

We had another lamb born last night, just a single and it's nice and healthy. So we're up to 6 lambs for the year which is a nice number and we know our ram is working. I'm doing the night shift so I'll go check on them all shortly. It's 5:30 am and I'm not needed here at the house until 7 so it's a nice quiet time to check on the mums and babies. As soon as NS Power has us hooked up I can turn them back out into their small field but for now they're indoors staying dry. I have to get them all moved ASAP though so that we can use the shed for it's original purpose which was storing our boxes.

We may have been lucky enough to find a composting toilet, a Sun Mar model, which would be brilliant. It has a fan and dries everything out so because of the continuous venting there's no smell indoors. And with us living on the farm I doubt there will be a noticeable smell outdoors either. They're great but usually very expensive so if we can get this one it will be fantastic and SO useful. Much more so than an outhouse or porta-potti. And to extend the capacity of it I'm going to ask the boys to simply pee on the compost pile I think.  :)  Anyways wish me luck getting it.

Have a wonderful week! And a very happy Easter to all our Christian friends.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 2 week countdown

It's now 2 weeks until we move permanently to the farm. And the weather has finally taken a turn for the better. No more snow and heavy rain. The fields are drying out although some still look like lakes and even have ducks on them right now.  But as I type this I'm flitting back and forth between the computer and the deck. There's a total lunar eclipse happening and the moon is a beautiful reddish orange. I tried taking a photo but I think those are going to have to be left to the professionals with good cameras.The roosters are crowing so it won't be long now until dawn and the rest of the country will have to watch it without us maritimers.

I haven't written anything for a couple of weeks so I thought I'd catch you up on all that's been happening with our family. Our wiring is complete and passed it's final inspection so now we're waiting for Nova Scotia Power to come and hook us up. We chopped down some branches and they put in a pole. The funny thing is that you'd think we'd notice a 35 foot treated pole 20 feet from the front door ... but apparently not. We're so used to trees that we didn't notice and must have just dismissed it as a naked tree or something subconsciously. I only noticed it because the ground was disturbed around it, lol. Anyways every morning I go up there and hope to see the wires attaching us to the grid, but not yet. I wonder if I'll get as excited to see us get unhooked from the grid again in a few years time? Probably, I don't get out much, LOL.

The sheep are moved back to the farm. And Steve got a new storage shed built (for storing our boxes) just in time for me to use it as a lambing pen. It's currently home to Dolly and her triplets plus our soon to be re-named lambs Merry and Pippin. One of Dolly's lambs is an interesting guy who was born very weak so we took him off her and he's bottle feeding. I wasn't sure he'd make it but he's now strong enough that we moved him back outside a couple of days ago and now he's threatening to jump the row of bales we're using to keep him in his own little area. So far Merry and Pippin can hop back and forth and I guess he wants to try too. Our best ewe Freckles unfortunately had 5 lambs born, that's a litter!!, but none of them survived. Angel may be expecting, I'll need to go check her udder to see if it's full at all, but we have 2 ewe lambs so far and 3 ram lambs. All Cotswold crosses. And so far all are doing well. It'll be so nice once the power crews and the septic guys are done because then we can turn them loose to graze on the grass that will hopefully be appearing soon now that the freezing weather is over.

Just went to check the eclipse. Alas, the day dawn is breaking and a cloud bank has moved in so that's it for this one. It's still nice and warm out though so I'll just enjoy that while I can. It's supposed to be much closer to seasonal temperatures as the week goes on and that's okay. But it does mean I'm going to try and get some painting finished at the house while it's warm enough to wash walls and dry paint.

It looks like we'll be moving into the house with power (hopefully) but no septic. It's just been so wet and freezing that the ground isn't good for heavy equipment to be working it. We're looking at having a composting toilet and just roughing it for a little while. Steve's going to run the water lines above ground until we can get the appropriate trench dug. We already have a pump and the pipe. It just needs to be plumbed and wired and have power so that's obviously his department. It seems there's always something holding us up. But in the meantime we're still trying to get a zillion things done so we're keeping busy. And we're 2 weeks away from moving so the pressure is on!

Our lovely cat Mandy was hit and killed instantly by a neighbours truck the other day so we had a small funeral and then she was laid to rest beneath a weeping cherry tree near our farm gate so that her spirit of love, welcome and fun can live on. See you in Heaven Mandy, we'll miss you. The girls are still sad but time heals and they're being kept busy.

And the man to really tell you about is Steve. He's keeping super busy as usual. So much so that he took a nap Sunday evening and I could hardly get him up to eat supper. Now most of you know he's a very practical guy. And you also think of him as being very reserved if you meet him in person. But here's a look at his farm side. In addition to moving trailers and building buildings he had to move the old broken down addition out of the way for the septic guys to be able to eventually get in with their equipment. So he jacked the whole thing up and placed logs under it for the building to skid over. When it didn't work to push it along he simply resorted to the more aggressive ramming method with his tractor. I'm not sure if you can see his grin in the video but trust me, it's there.

We'll get the walls painted this week and then the counters and cabinets in their final resting places this weekend so that my kitchen reno will be complete. Well, so I'll actually have a kitchen I guess. It requires lots of plumbing and wiring as well as the other things you'd expect so Steve and I will be doing that while the kids pack the house. Did you hear that kids? You're packing! It's going to be a crazy busy couple of weeks but I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it will be to never have a landlord again.  My kitchen may be small, recycled and used but it's still going to be terrific. Steve even got me one brand new item, an Over The Range microwave. It was actually cheaper than most of the hood fans I was looking at and we needed a new microwave anyways so it's brilliant and we're hoping it fits in perfectly with our high cabinets.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Living the Simple Life- Part 4 WORK

Work, sometimes called a 'four letter word' because people dislike it so much, is a fundamental part of the self-sufficient or back to the land movement and philosophy. Many western societies are losing the work ethic among the younger age groups and so there's a growing divide between those who know how to work hard to achieve something and those who don't see any point in putting in any more effort than they need to. Am I calling them all lazy? By no means, but some definitely are. It's different from those who have the brains to work smarter rather than harder, that's admirable and efficient. What I dislike is the fact that so many young people are avoiding hard work at all and preferring to not work and live on the handouts of society when they're physically capable. In Canada at the moment there's a debate going on in the media about why we bring in so many migrant workers. Here in Nova Scotia where the unemployment rate is over 7% I believe we are still bringing in workers from Mexico, the Phillipines and Jamaica by the hundreds. They work lower paying jobs doing hard physical work at farms and in restaurants that frankly Canadians are either too proud or too out-of-shape to do. I guess that means you know where I stand on this whole thing. I think that if someone isn't willing to do the work then they can't complain when a farmer hires someone from overseas who is grateful for a job. I was listening to the radio last week as a farmer in New Brunswick told his story. He runs a dairy farm and needs to hire a farm manager to work 7 days a week. The pay was about $12 per hour I think and included a house and truck. He's been looking for 2 years for someone and had 4 or 5  replies but nobody suitable. So he went through the appropriate channels and found a worker from the Philippines who's experienced and really wants to work. He got his work permit and is on his way, but Canadian callers to the radio station shared their dismay at the farmer not hiring a local. This is a classic case of a job that's hard work which nobody will do.

Part of living the simple life is work. The simple life, at least at first, is going to be much more work than most of you are used to and more than you expect no matter how good your plan is. So if you have ideas of just buying a farm and sitting back in a comfy chair on the porch you are either enjoying retirement or have hired a farm manager and have lots of money in the bank. If you're not like that though then you have to expect a good amount of work and time will be invested in your farm. But it's just that, an investment. We found that the biggest drawback in renting a farm is that you put lots of time and energy into it and at the end of the day it's not yours. And while it's admirable to improve the land for someone else I still think it's better to do it for yourself.  Buying even a small place that you can call your own is a better way to go. You can always rent a field somewhere if you need more space or intensively and wisely farm your own small acreage. Amazon sells numerous books on making a profit off 1/4 acre or other small pieces of land. That's where planning and work collide. The better you get at planning then the more efficient your work will be. So plan ahead. We used our pigs last year to dig out the ground that is going to a garden this year. They loosened up some rocks for us, removed the sod and roots, turned it over and manured it at the same time. And now it's fenced too. We rotate our sheep around the pasture for several reasons. By moving them frequently we keep down the number if intestinal worms and parasites, they fertilize as they go, they eat the grass but while it's young and more nutritious, and it prevents a fire hazard of long dry grass in the late summer. Of course there was still work involved such as fencing and building a house for the pigs but once that's done then the work is minimal (unless the sheep make a hole in the fence and escape).

Work is good for you mentally and physically. One of my favourite quotes from the movie Star Trek Insurrection is this "We believe that when you create a machine to do the work of a man, you take something away from the man." This is from the leader of a group of people who have given up their technological lives in exchange for a simple rustic and self-sufficient village life. I'm not saying that we all need to be luddites and avoid technological advances. It's smart to use tools and resources wisely. But what I am suggesting is that there's something fundamentally good for humans to work with their hands. If you start out modestly and respect that it's going to take your body time to get used to it then you'll be less likely to strain muscles and hurt yourself. So start now getting into better physical shape if you know that this summer you're going to be gardening or splitting firewood. And pace yourself. Some jobs have to be done right now because of necessity, and some you can spread out over time such as getting the winter wood chopped and ready. Oh my back is aching just thinking about it, lol. Time to take my own advice and get moving.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Living the Good Life - Part 3 Planning

Living a good or simple life is a dream for many people the world over. If you've read my blog for the past few days you'll have seen how we decided on our current course of action which basically involved selling all our worldly goods and moving across the country with our children in hopes of a better life. I guess that really does make us modern day pioneers or homesteaders. But like the homesteaders before us we needed to have a goal and then a plan of how we were going to achieve it. They had to build or buy wagons and handcarts, stock them with provisions and then set out towards a new land. None of them went without planning it first.

Planning takes time but is worthwhile because it can help you foresee and avoid some difficulties ahead. Planning gives you time to consider the things that could go wrong and also the various ways in which things may work out. For example, if you are a pregnant woman and you know you'll be going to the hospital you may keep your fuel tank topped up and do a couple of practice drives to try out different routes before you go into labour. You might also put aside money for a taxi along with their phone number or arrange a ride with a friend. Either way, the planning can give you a sense of direction and purpose, and also security. That's not to say that things will always go as planned but if you've thought about it ahead of time you can make several contingency plans in the event of something unexpected such construction or a flat tyre.

When you are making plans to change your life or lifestyle by going back to the land there are so many small decisions that they can all blend together and seem insurmountable. The trick is of course to break it down into smaller steps so you don't get too overwhelmed. Writing things down and keeping your notes organized is a good idea and I recommend the use of binders because you can divide them into sections with loose sheets  that can be changed or added to as needed.

If you find that you're getting bogged down in your plans and can't seem to find the way forward I have some advice. Start from the end and work backwards. For example:

I want to move to BC from NS. I've planned the vehicle I will use and how my things are going to be transported but after that I'm at a loss to know what to do. So I imagine myself arriving in BC. Okay, where specifically am I going to arrive? What will I have with me? Where did I stay the night before? What am I doing for meals? Often imagining a thing from the end to the beginning can kick start your thought process and get it going again. I can now see that I need to arrange and budget for places to stay and food. I need to have a specific destination and starting point. Before I can start my journey I must have taken care of things such as closing utility accounts which will remind me to arrange to start new ones, and I'll have to either sell my furniture and buy new when I get to BC or I'm going to have to move it somehow. So I need to research moving options and do a comparison budget before I make a decision. When you've made a decision don't second guess yourself. Just stick with it unless you get more information that changes your mind. But endless worrying and speculating serves no useful purpose and will only make you more tired, stressed and overwhelmed.

Asking for help and using available resources such as realtors moving guides can really help you find a place to start and get organized.  My friend Justin is a realtor here in Nova Scotia and he deals with military and RCMP moves to Greenwood as well as general moves, but because he's used to helping customers who are moving here from other provinces he has information on his website about the local area and different neighborhoods, he can tell you what to expect for weather and local schools and other information that people new to the area need to know. It doesn't cost anything to have a look and see if there's something useful for you too. His website is and if you need anything I know he's always willing to answer questions. He's a good honest guy and while it's true that it's his job to sell houses he is also interested in having happy customers who are going to love their home so he's definitely a real estate agent who will listen to what you want. If you happen to need a realtor I highly recommend him and you can tell him Elizabeth Faires sent you.