I think it’s not a farm unless there’s some kind of animal living on it that’s not human. Even just one chicken. It was definitely hard waiting to get animals here until we were ready, as we were all very eager to get on with the farming business rather than building dwellings and preparing proper living conditions and storage for the animals and produce we nurture here.
An example of what I’m talking about is with hay. We got animals before we had a place to store hay, we even got haying equipment! And there’s no way around the fact that over winter, animals need hay. However, we haven’t until this year had the space to store hay, and as a result, we have lost a lot of hay (read: learned hard lessons) to the elements. We did happily take the rotting hay and throw it on our garden as compost, but would have preferred to let the animals eat it all winter without having to buy good feed.
Now, we have quite the array of animals here. I’ve started keeping counts every few months (48 at last count). Spring is coming, so it’s going to be a time of newborns. Here’s a look at some of the special moments with them.
In the Spring of 2018 we began building a new house in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, for my parents. What a process!
We threw around almost all ideas, and finally came up with an ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms from Nudora) house.
(as a side note: the only thing I didn’t like about this choice was that we weren’t able to build the house ourselves because one must be trained to install them right.)
It took what seemed like forever to organize who was actually going to break ground for us, and when. Almost every step after that was the same. Who could we get to commit to helping us put this house together. Our trick card was that my brother, father, and I all wanted to work as much as possible. Many of the contractors wanted to do to lockup. It almost felt like an arm wrestle the whole time with contractors and getting them to come by and do the work they agreed to do. Alas, it’s almost finished now and we’re pretty thrilled every day we get to live in it.
I didn’t actually move into the house until sometime in February or so, which means I was in the chicken coop for most of the winter with Ruu (dog) and Strawberry (cat). Mom and dad were in the house way earlier. Thinking back, it was mostly the ICF and the roof that we required the most help doing. The rest we did mostly ourselves with the help of a local business, Turnkey, specifically carpenter Tyler Miller, Dave and Jonah. Alex Knicker was here for a great spell helping, plumbing was done with Blair Falconer of Falcon Plumbing, and electrical by Michael George and Jim Fraser. This means external siding, 4ply laminate structural 64′ beam, floor joists, sub floor, hardwood flooring, framing, windows and doors, drywall, bathroom waterproofing and tiling, painting, air exchange, and most of the electrical we did ourselves.
It is really nice to have this building nearly done now. It was really a stressful year for everybody with organizing and trying to time everything perfectly and smoothly so there was no sitting around waiting – yet of course that still happened plenty in spite all the worrying! I have noticed more grey hairs in my hair and beard.. Granted, we did have a tonne of fun doing it and learned a whole hell of a lot, so much so that we feel confident building more houses soon.
I took lots of photographs with my phone camera – my main office – throughout the whole process. I haven’t really shared phone camera photographs on my fotoblog as I’ve always been skeptical about the quality. I’m sure if I looked back in my earlier archives I’d see I’d never had quality images! Almost all the time my hands were so dirty I didn’t want to take out my DSLR camera often. I guess, since there’s 42 images I’ve put into this fotoblog, I took it out more often than I thought. At some point I’ll put together some character shots from my phone camera to give a bit more insight into this build. I’m happy I did capture what I did.
This year has been a year of building, that’s for sure. Almost everything has really taken a back seat to building. I’ve only now had a chance to take a look at some of the photographs I’ve taken over the time.
Let me step back a second.
In 2017 we bought land in Nova Scotia in Pictou County. We live in Poplar Hill. In 2018, dad and I arrived to meet Bart here in late April and we at once began planning and building.
It took quite a while to really get things rolling. There was brainstorming, frustration dealing with last minute contractor cancellations, permits, and schedules to deal with – the ever ominous: “I should be able to make it there next week.” But with the three of us, joined by mom in the early part of summer, we kept moving forward. When we weren’t able to work on the house, we worked on out buildings. In those early days we would drive into town almost every day to pick up supplies, which was frustrating for all of us. It took us quite a while to get into the mindset of anticipating what things we needed to buy to keep us busy for a few days rather than just one or two days, and also buying enough supplies for the full job at once, rather than one step at a time. We also had to head into town nearly daily for groceries since we were living in a small cabin with no electricity, and a shower at the Pictou County rec center (which we are still doing to this day).
So many things have happened that I’ll kind of just rattle off here. Perhaps it would be better suited in the intro of a photobook.
We got a dog, an Australian Shepherd, we named Ruu. Alex Knicker joined us for so much of the summer giving her more than willing helping hand; I’m sure her blood has been imprinted in the planks used here many times over. We bought a tractor to use with our new-to-us disc harrow, sickle bar mower, wood chipper/shredder, and successfully spread lime and seeded the working land (~30 acres) we have here – yes, I did get the tractor stuck a few times which Bart, like a champion, helped me dig out. Bart bought a 4-wheeler, I bought a dual-sport motorbike. The tools, oh the tools! We build two 8’x12′ cabins, and one 12’x16′ chicken coop), one outhouse, and we are now almost complete building a 1800sq.ft (main floor) insulated concrete form (ICF) house (just about finished hardwood flooring and tiling the bathrooms). There are deer that cross our field daily now, and a few days ago we saw a coyote looking curious. There is a group of white breasted snow birds that are regular here now this winter. The raccoons have hibernated, as have the pheasants.
What a learning experience.
I still sleep in the chicken coop. There’s definitely a few reasons why I do, but the biggest two are that the house isn’t quite ready for living nor do we have a live-in inspection done, also, in the coop I sleep with the dog (and sometimes cat) on my legs.