Saturday, June 6, 2015

Spring has sprung

Well, despite my love of hot chocolate, wood stoves, handmade quilts, movie nights, snowshoeing (not that I did any this year), and, of course, Christmas, it felt like this winter would never end.

But it has!

I've been missing for quite some time because April was a wildly busy month due to some rather unexpected community involvement, and then during May, at various points each of the children was sick, as was I, and my love was away in Halifax for two weeks so I got a taste of the single parenting that so many island ladies are undertaking when their spouses are out west.

However, I'm back at this blogging thing, and I thought that to announce that I am still among the living, I'd share a couple of quick snaps as evidence that our beautiful island has emerged from the 540+ cm of snow (yes, that's almost 18 feet).

A robin spent one entire day working on building a nest in our gazebo.  The next morning, there was no sign of her.  I suspect she decided that the location wasn't entirely suitable for bringing up a family.  I was equally torn between disappointment that I wouldn't have such an intimate view of her young and relief that our children wouldn't disrupt her nesting behaviour to the point of losing the clutch.

One thing that I love about having a wooded backyard is that some of my favourite little wildflower friends have popped up to say hello!  Here is starflower (Lysimachia borealis, formerly Trientalis borealis) which darling little girl loves to wear in her hair.

A rather blurry photo of Clintonia borealis, of which we have a large patch in the woods.  I've been hearing ovenbirds so have been hoping that they might be attracted to the cover on the forest floor here!
The flowers for false lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum canadense) haven't just come out yet but I love their delicate and dainty nature.

So this is the far less native and more intrusive lily of the valley, which I nonetheless appreciate.  Especially covered in raindrops!

I don't care where forget-me-nots pop up, they make me incredibly happy.  The kids love them, I love them, and they make adorable mini-bouquets all through the house!

I would like to pretend that I know what this is, but I'm not entirely certain.  It's obviously a fruit tree in the rose family, and I think it might be apple but I didn't see one bit of evidence of apples when we moved in late last September, and I didn't notice anything when we looked at the property in late August.  Cherry maybe? Plum? I don't know.  One of the trees is really damaged after double whammy of the children climbing on it while buried under a heavy snow load, so I intend to plant apple trees between the two existing whatever-they-are and then eventually remove them.  For now, though, they're beautiful.  Sadly, they are NOT covered in bees as I hoped they would be.  I have only noticed one bee at any one time in our entire yard.  Is it possible that I have one resident bumblebee and that is it?!

Who doesn't love the happy smiling faces of pansies!  My vegetable-hating children think that it's cool that you can eat them, so I plan to put them in salads this spring and summer in the hopes of enticing them to eat something photosynthetic.
Yay for spring!  I don't even mind the black flies and mosquitoes too much at the moment, because there is life and warmth and growth out there.  Hurray!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Thoughts on sustainability and self-sufficiency on our homestead

I recently read a post about defining sustainability on one of my very favourite blogs, and I've been considering it ever since.  It is such a buzzword these days and can sometimes be so meaningless, but it is also something that we're striving for, little by little here, so I think it's important to consider it.

Although there is a little part of me, the perfectionist hard-working part, that would love to meet every single one of our needs independently on our property, most of me understands that this is impossible.  I can't knit, for one, although I'm learning.  We don't have enough room to grow grains and to pasture animals.  We have a wooded lot, but not a woodlot--and I refuse to cut down our tiny forest for firewood.  There are all sorts of things that I can't or won't do to provide for our needs here.

There are also all sorts of things that I can and will and hope to do.  I would like to grow toward supplying all of our maple syrup from our home!  This will be years in the making, I am quite sure.  I'd like to have a productive vegetable garden and establish perennial crops in the form of berry bushes, asparagus, fruit trees, rhubarb plants and others.  I love canning and already make a variety of preserves, which I'd like to continue to expand.  I bake all of the baked goods we need at home.  I am so incredibly hopeful that we'll be able to have chickens for eggs and goats for milk one day (my presentation to town council went pretty well, I think, by the way!).  I'd like to look into forest products that could meet medicinal and culinary needs and potentially be a small, renewable source of income or useful for trade.  I'd love to install a greywater system to reduce our water usage and irrigate our garden, and we want to eventually install solar panels and other renewable energy options in our home.  With all of these endeavours, and more, I think we will be able to provide a lot for ourselves, quite nicely!

In terms of our ecological footprint, it's big.  As much as I'd like to think we don't have much of a negative impact on our precious earth, we do.  We use a lot of water.  We use a lot of electricity.  We mostly use oil for heat and we have two vehicles.  We have more electronics than I would like to admit, and we don't always make the best purchasing choices in terms of carbon emissions or agricultural practices, although we've been making strides in changing that one!

I guess the bottom line is, I don't know that we'll ever achieve a lifestyle in which we give back to our earth as much as (or more than) we take from it.  I think this is what I would term sustainable.  Am I not only refraining from using up all the resources I have at my disposal, but enriching the world around me?  I'm not sure if we can, not entirely.  But I believe it is a worthy objective.  And I believe that even if we can't, every single little step that we make toward such a lofty goal will make a difference.  Especially as they begin to accumulate!

As well, I know that we won't ever be self-sufficient.  Not truly self-sufficient, and so a homestead that is entirely "self-sustaining" won't materialize in this little corner of the world.  But as I thought about it, I realized, I wouldn't want it to.  I want to meet many of our family's needs in as healthy and ecologically sound a way as possible.  But I don't want to meet all of them.  I think if I was working that hard, I'd be pretty darn grumpy a lot of the time.  I know that I, and my patience, have limits.  I want to enjoy this and share a beautiful, peaceful, rewarding life with my greatest treasure, my family.  I doubt it would be very beautiful or peaceful if I was stressed out and squawking at everyone.

Additionally, I don't think it is natural for humans to strive for a lifestyle that eliminates the need for others.  We are a naturally gregarious species, and we have developed a myriad of ways in which to cooperate with one another and in so doing, to achieve great things.  We love friendship, and sharing, and enjoying one another's company, and I think that is something that is extremely valuable.  I think we are so blessed to live in a small province where the sense of community runs deep, and I'd like to see it grow and blossom so that the strengths of each individual further bolster the community at large.  We are richer together, I think, than we could ever be on our own.

As a result, I think it is ok that we can't produce our own wheat, or all of our own firewood, or our meat.  Because there are others out there doing an incredible job producing those things.  We just have to find a way to encourage each other to pursue our strengths in such a way as to enrich the land and the water and the air and the people around us.  And then we will be a sustainable community that finds sufficiency within the network at its core.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trees for the future

I have been contemplating how best to use some money that I received for my birthday, and what I decided on was to purchase some fruit and nut trees for our property.  Trees in and of themselves aren't really necessary, because our one acre is almost entirely wooded, with native species. We also have two plum trees, one that produces dark purple plums and one that grows plums that are peachy-blush in colour.

I think that fruit and nut trees are a really great investment in a property, and one that I've been waiting to make until I was living in a place that I knew I would want to stay.  The idea of having a fresh harvest of our own organic fruit each year is a beautiful one, and I love the idea of being able to trade or share our bounty with others.  As a result, I've been trying to decide on varieties that are less frequently seen in our area.  Things that are a little unusual will be fun for us to try, and I also think they may be more desirable to trade.  I'd love to see more of a barter economy here on PEI, where we can share and trade our own goods with those of others. (Too bad you aren't living here, Jackie, or I would definitely be trading you fruit for your honey when you get it flowing!) Food security is very important to me too, and a perennial crop of nutritious food that is a source of vitamins and protein and good fats seems like a good idea.

So I found a nursery in Ontario that will ship to us in the spring, and I just submitted my order, which I am really excited about!

It was a little pricey but I think trees are a wonderful way to keep giving back to our family year after year.  So really, it's the birthday gift that I will receive every year, for the rest of our years here on this homestead!

I have been looking for a Canadian supplier of pawpaws, and while there are a few, the other two I contacted didn't respond.  I can't wait to see how these turn out, never having eaten a pawpaw in my life! They're supposed to be like a cross between a banana and a mango with a very tropical scent and taste but they can grow in our zone 5b climate.  They are supposed to be anti-carcinogenic and amazing sources of vitamins and minerals.  I'm intrigued!

Photo of pawpaws on a tree. I also fully intend to sing to my children, particularly the youngest, about being "way down yonder in the pawpaw patch".  If I'm honest, that might be a strong reason for choosing this fruit!

I was also thrilled to find a pecan variety that is hardy in our area.  This is by far our favourite type of nut so I ordered two for what will hopefully one day be a decent crop. We have native hazelnuts in our area but I have never seen the fruit at maturity and I assume they all get devoured by wildlife before most humans have the privilege of tasting them.  So I ordered two hazelnuts as well that I hope to plant near our house and keep under a watchful eye.

Finally, as a treat, I got a small Natalina fig tree to grow in a container. I think that indoor fig trees are beautiful anyway, but if one day I'm blessed enough to taste a fig from my own tree, it will be a truly wonderful thing and a reminder of my time in my beloved Italy.

I also have plans for multi-graft apples and pears, hardy kiwi, and a lot of berry bushes.  I'm not sure how many I can get in this year, but I wanted to start with the trees because you really can't plant them early enough and I'd love to see a little return from them, at least a few of them, in the next five years or so.  I'll update as my darling seedlings arrive!

What are you planting this year to promote food security for your family?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Planning for Planting

Yesterday's snowfall was absolutely beautiful, seen here in the early morning before the high winds started blowing snow around and causing major whiteouts.

In this never-ending winter of massive snowfalls and school cancellations, it's hard to believe that we have already passed the first day of spring!  But we have. And so this weekend, I realized it was time to get myself organized and write out a seed planting list so I'll know when to plant which seeds. Here's the plan:

Seed planting schedule, 2015

Veseys lists our final frost date as May 15th. They are the gardening specialists, but I think that May 15th is entirely too optimistic. I've based my seed starting on a tentative final frost date of May 30th, and I still think that transplanted seedlings will need some added protection until at least June 2nd, which is the first full moon in June.  I was brought up with that as the key factor in deciding when to plant more tender annuals.  Luckily, this year it's early!  When it's near the end of the month I can't really abide by it.

Seed starting dates organized by number of weeks before final frost date that they should be started.
 You may notice that I don't have any root crops on the list. I love carrots and beets, for example, but since I'm hoping to do some lasagne gardening this year and didn't start my beds last fall, I want to give them time to break down and improve soil quality before sticking root crops in there. I'm still part of my incredible veggie CSA so will lean on those root veggies this year!

Planting tray plans with numbers of each variety.

I might have been a little overzealous when I bought the seed starting trays that I'll be using this year.  I bought them because they have deep, hexagonal cells that I hope will meet the seedlings' needs until it's time to transplant outside. I'd like to skip the transplanting into a slightly bigger pot step.  However, these trays are for the pros and have 72 cells per tray.  I do not need that many! I may give a few seedlings to my dad, since he's planning to put a raised bed out at their cottage this summer, and I hope I can squeeze the rest in somewhere.  Especially the tomatoes!

Just a glimpse of some of our seed packets for this year.
 I have a few seed packages from last year and a few that I bought new this year.  Most of my seeds came from Heritage Harvest Seed in Manitoba, and they even threw in a free package of parsley which was nice.  Some are from Veseys, some from the Halifax Seed Company, and some from Burpee.  We'll see how they all do!

My schedule, drawn up on Saturday, reprinted in good copy yesterday, tells me that I need to plant my lavender now.  So I had better get on that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Buried under snow, but still here!

I have been quiet on this front the past week or so, but our days have been full...

This beautiful boy turned six on Monday!

So his birthday celebrations naturally had to include time at a farm, which means time for his mum to snuggle goat babies!

With two more snowstorms this week, we are desperately trying to find spring where we can.

But the snow doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the outdoors, in fact, it might have made it even better with 6 foot drifts to jump into from the trees!  (And yes, I know my children are standing on twigs, not branches, but luckily they're not heavy enough yet for disaster to ensue...)

The snow also didn't interfere with lots of baby snuggles, especially during bum change time. :)
Forgive the photo quality. Until my beloved has more free time on his hands, I'll be using photos taken with our cell phone, and for those of you that know me, I have shaky hands. But at least it's a glimpse into the beauty of our days!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Application is in, and hopefully being considered!

Last week I went to a public town meeting regarding development on a neighbouring property, and while I was there, I had the opportunity to speak once again to the planning officer for our town, as well as to the mayor.  It was a perfect opportunity to quickly chat about our hopes for our property.

I had already delivered letters to our two adjacent neighbours explaining what we hope to do, which at this point, is to amend the zoning bylaws to allow for the keeping of chickens and small goats for personal use. I included a fact sheet for each chickens and goats, and gave them four ways to get in touch with me should they have any questions or concerns (and asked them to please do so). The night of the public meeting was one week after my delivery of the letters, and there had been no response, so we decided to move ahead with the application.  This was just in time, since at the meeting, the planning officer told me that planning board would be meeting today and that if I wanted to have the matter tabled, I would need to get my application in by Friday at noon.

An excerpt from my planning board letter

No problem!  All I needed to start the ball rolling at this point was a letter of intent, so I whipped one up right away.  The planning officer also told me that were I able to find an example of zoning bylaws that permit the keeping of small livestock which could be easily inserted into our existing bylaws, that would make it easier if this should be voted to go ahead.  A lot of the bylaws that I came upon were more related to animal control, but Seattle's bylaws deal with zoning and they seemed very reasonable to me, with parameters that would work well for the property owner and for the municipality.  I tidied up the look of them in a Word document, included the link to the bylaws, the document including the section relevant to our application, a pdf explaining the bylaws that could be useful in advising the public, and sent it all off--by email last Thursday, and dropping off a paper copy Friday morning.

Today the planning board met and the application will have hopefully been tabled.  Before any decisions can be made, we will have to have a public meeting.  I prefer this way, as it gives those with questions an opportunity to ask them and I would like to be able to answer in more detail. I don't know when I'll hear what the preliminary response to the application was like, but I will contact the planning officer in a few days if I don't hear anything.

I'm so hopeful that this will work out.  Please keep this in your thoughts, as it is a very important process for me!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A little goat love in the winter

This winter has been getting long. There have been so many school cancellations and although the sheer quantity of snow makes for great play opportunities, the wind chill sometimes makes it a little less fun to stay out of doors. One way we've been beating cabin fever is by going to a friend's awesome farm to spend time with some of her animals.  Island Hill Farm has a lot more than goats, but I had to be hands-free during the baby bunny cuddle time to make sure that our children handled them properly; likewise for the cats. The alpacas, pigs, ducks, chickens, donkey and horse are all sweet too, but the only animals I got a chance to photograph the kids with were the goats.

Besides, those are the most important animals there in my opinion! As someone who is slowly pining away for a couple of little backyard does, it does my heart good to spend some time with these ones and it helps tide me over.

Forgive the photo quality, I just had my phone with me. My husband is the family photographer and he isn't always around to document the fun!

This boy actually says that one of his favourite things in the world is "goat snuggles".

I am learning just how much like a goat she actually is--sweet but a bit naughty, getting into trouble and making me laugh all at once.

The sunshine on the straw makes for a cozy place to curl up with a friend.

He loved that this little pygmy was pawing him on the leg; I personally fell in love with that Nubian.

This about sums up my two children right here.  Gentle and calm on the right, wild and wonderful on the left.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Permaculture possibilities

Permaculture is something that has interested me for some time. To be honest, though, I found that a lot of the definitions that I was coming across in my reading were vague and left me feeling a little cloudy on the whole subject.  It seems that permaculture experts don't want to pin it down as any one thing, such as a gardening philosophy, and so there aren't many concise, clear explanations.

To sum up my understanding of it (at least as it makes sense and is useful to me!), the idea of permaculture revolves around designing agricultural systems that serve human needs while mimicking ecological systems found in nature.  In other words, while our garden and property will certainly be home to species not naturally found in PEI, they will work together as a community, forming a web of interactions that promotes harmony and allows each plant or animal to play multiple roles (e.g. a plum tree can provide shade, produce blossoms that feed pollinators and plums that feed us, slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil, serve as shelter to songbirds, etc.).  It is difficult to imagine a system that is really as self sufficient and sustainable as even the simplest natural community, but even using this premise as a guideline seems like a solid starting point.

This kind of harmonious gardening appeals to me greatly, so I have been reserving books at our local library that will teach me more about how to properly design this sort of system.  The first one that I borrowed was absolutely awful.  I became a bit skeptical about the whole thing and then I got this book out of the library: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.

This book, by Toby Hemenway, is an excellent primer on permaculture and designing your garden to enhance your environment in order to provide food, habitat, beauty and enjoyment.
I loved reading this book.  The author lives in California, so some of the plant suggestions aren't applicable to our zone 5b climate, but all in all, I really enjoy the way he has laid out this book and there are some very usable suggestions in it.

One thing that bothers me when reading about permaculture is all of the forest gardening information.  It's not that I don't think forest gardening is great, but our property is almost entirely wooded!  The little area where I have sun will most certainly not be planted in huge perennial shrubs and fruit trees that will eventually shade out everything else, thank you very much!  Finding information about gardening in the forest, however, is much more difficult.  This book has a few suggestions that might work for growing edibles in the woods, however, and some of the information about planting forest guilds lends itself to translation into planting in the woods.  It also has good ideas to add to the companion planting and sheet mulching I already plan to do in our annual beds.

What I found most helpful though were the space-saving garden design tips, such as this one:

Using keyhole beds (without the central compost tunnel) allows small spaces to be used much more efficiently, eliminating much of the necessary walkway space and freeing it up for use for planting.

This image of a yard planted with interconnected keyhole beds captivated me.  Our front yard (the south side of our home) is currently an adorable little rounded green lawn, surrounded by a thick border of perennials.  My first objective is to turn the perennial border into an edible border, made up of annual veggie and flower beds, fruiting shrubs, and areas where perennial veggies such as asparagus can be planted.  However, if I can convince my lovely husband to eventually give up the front lawn, this design would be a way I could maximize the sunshine in a beautiful way.  Each of the keyholes seems like an exciting, secret little place to visit and the thought that they'd be filled with sugar pumpkins and flowers and berries and tomatoes makes them seem all the more magical.  I imagine putting bird baths and little sculptures and fairy houses throughout as well, with bean teepees and sunflower forts and things that my kids would find enticing.  I love this.

Additionally, in the section on water conservation, I loved one of the ideas that he highlighted regarding greywater use.  Our house is a little curious, because although we are on municipal sewer, we get our water from a well.  So we pull water up out of the ground, but none of the water we use gets treated and then returned to our soil--it gets pumped off to the municipal treatment plant.  This doesn't sit overly well with me, and so I had been wondering about a way to use greywater--the used water that comes from showers and sinks and tubs and washing machines, but not the nasty toilet water (or blackwater).  I knew that you couldn't use the water directly on vegetable beds, but irrigation seemed like the best use of it so how would that work?  I don't want a lawn to water.  I want tomatoes and strawberries.

When I saw this, I thought, "Yes."

My dream greywater system.
The used water comes out of the house, goes first to a submerged gravel cleansing marsh stocked full of native wetland plants that can use the slightly grotty water and that are home to the bacteria that will cleanse it, then it goes through a series of tiny little ponds where the water becomes even cleaner until it ends up in a slightly larger one that could be used for ducks.  I'm not keen on koi, but even providing habitat for local frogs would be lovely!  Then I could dip my bucket into the final pond and use it for watering as well as habitat.  The system would have to be very small, but the enhancement to the yard and the re-use and return to the soil of previously-used water is very attractive.

These are the two main new concepts that I got from this book, and there are a lot of other great tidbits in there, particularly for those who have a larger property that we do.  I'd really recommend it for any gardener to read, but especially for those who would like to garden in a more nature-inspired manner.

What ways do you derive inspiration from nature in your garden planning?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Organic grains come to Invercauld

*Warning: my nerdy science past may come out to play in this post.*

Although I love my planet and I care deeply about the health of our family, I don't always buy organic. I know that I should, but I don't.  Supporting organic farmers is very important to me, but I often make my purchasing decisions based on budget and not my values.  One thing that I was consistently not buying organic was grain products, most specifically, flour. We don't have a flour mill on PEI, but there is an organic grain mill in Woodstock, NB, which is about 415 km from where I live.  Maybe not close enough to qualify for the 100 mile diet, but when you think about it, in Canada that isn't really a huge distance is it?

I was added to a bulk buying group for that company about a year ago but I stalled on putting in orders.  The pickup was a bit of a hike from our old home, and the price, while reasonable, was a little high for my slim student/mother budget.  I meant to put in an order, but I just didn't, for the time being.

Then I started to read articles, on blogs, mostly, about the spraying of glyphosate on wheat crops just before harvest.  I didn't relish the idea of a fresh dose of Round-Up on my wheat just prior to being turned into flour, and I hoped that since this was information from the blogging world (which we all know is full of scientific hogwash) and from the US (I like to pretend to myself that we make better choices in Canada, which is a bit of a fairy tale in so many ways!) that it probably wasn't an issue here.  I started to look into it and found this link from the University of Saskatchewan regarding the pre-harvest application of glyphosate to wheat crops.  I take the word of a university in the wheat capital of Canada as fairly solid when it comes to how crops are grown.  The government of Saskatchewan also notes this as a common practice on its website, and explains when and how to apply it.

I understand that weeds are annoying and problematic, far more so for a large crop of one species than for a small diverse garden, so I don't want to vilify those who use federally regulated substances.  Farmers are just trying to make their living, after all, and I believe that they care about the soil that they tend.  However, I don't really trust the regulating bodies or the pressure that big pesticide and processing corporations can exert on governments and farmers.  I also don't trust non peer-reviewed articles.  So I tried to look a little harder at the issue, and while I haven't conducted any major research, I easily dug up a few articles from peer-reviewed journals containing studies that showed that there are concerns for human health related to the use of glyphosate.

It isn't even so much the glyphosate, but the chemicals that are added to it to improve its function that are the problem.  These studies show that the adjuvants (or added components) can make the glyphosate accumulate in human tissues more easilycan harm placental, embryonic and liver cells, and act as endocrine disruptors (mess up hormone function) at levels lower than those used agriculturally.  These studies came out of France, which isn't surprising since Europeans are far more conservative with their regulation of pesticide products and their use in crop production and are likely making more of an effort to study the harm that these substances can do.

I think scientists need to look at these effects more conclusively over the long term, but this reading is enough for me to decide to exclusively purchase organic grains from now on.  In our world we come into contact every day with things that can harm our health.  We can't worry about it too much, I don't think, because we have to just live, and an over-thinker like me can end up with major bouts of anxiety!  But we can take steps where possible to minimize our exposure to things that can harm us, and in particular, our little ones.

So all this to say, I was super excited to scoot out to the country, to the hills where I was raised, to pick up my first (finally!) order of local-ish, organic grains today, and I'm even more excited to begin baking with them!

I promise the next post will be more fun.  I just felt I had to explain my lengthy decision-making process.  I can be long-winded like that.  Sorry!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 Homestead Objectives

This photo was taken on January 27th, during the first major snowfall that we've had recently.  Since then we've basically been bombed by snow, with a total of 200 cm since January 27th--that is six and a half feet in under three weeks!

As the snow continues to pile up outside our windows and to bury our future vegetable garden beneath what now seems to be is metres of glistening white, I like to spend my indoor time daydreaming about our property and what we'll do this year.  Most of this daydreaming occurs while washing dishes, changing bums, and in particular, while nursing Ellen, since I can have the latest library book about gardening open on my lap just beyond her sweet, fuzzy little head.

I'm realistic about what we'll accomplish, because I want to enjoy time at the beach with my family during the summer.  There are chores to do inside and kids to cuddle and meals to make.  I don't want to try to do too much, get burned out and cranky, and end up feeling disappointed that I didn't end up checking very much off the list.  So this year's list of homestead objectives will be less ambitious, but hopefully that will mean that we can review it at the end of this year and feel a sense of satisfaction for having accomplished many of our goals.

So, here goes!

  1. Relocate the current perennials that we'd like to keep to new homes before commencing any work on the garden.
  2. Start seeds indoors for the vegetables and flowers that need an early start to the season.
  3. Obtain enough materials to start a lasagne garden where we will plant vegetables for this coming year.
  4. Build tomato trellises that can be used year to year for at least a few seasons.
  5. Confer with neighbours about our hopes for backyard animals and put a proposal into the town to amend bylaws to allow for chickens and goats within certain parameters.
  6. Build a little trail through the woods for the kids to run along without tripping over roots and branches (this is really for Susannah, the accident prone wonder child!)
  7. Plant a few fruiting shrubs/trees/vines.
  8. Establish a perennial flowering herb garden with pretty and medicinal species.
  9. Try to make even a minute amount of maple syrup from our trees.
  10. Resume canning!  I really miss our own tomato sauce and jams this year.
  11. Spend time on a friend's farm getting to know more about goats.
Eleven objectives looks like a lot, but most of them have to do with the garden and are really just steps on the way to establishing vegetable beds where our current perennials were planted by the previous owners.  It seems sad to remove their hard work and beautiful beds, but I've experienced large perennial beds before and found that I was clearly and woefully not up to the task of maintaining them.  I have a bigger drive to maintain gardens when they feed me.  Obviously I think with my stomach...

I really just want to start dabbling again with different things.  If we are able to harvest a few basketfuls of veggies, try one pancake breakfast's worth of homemade maple syrup, and have a chance to meet with town officials about my hopes for chickens and goats, I'll consider that a success.  As the children grow, I know I'll have more time for these hobbies and that with each year comes more experience and more opportunities to try new things.  For now, I know I can fall back on my awesome CSA veggie boxes and I can visit goats and chickens elsewhere.  Mostly, I want to spend as much time as possible with our children outside in the yard, the woods and the soil, discovering and trying new things and having fun together in the fresh air.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A new adventure

This past fall was one of many beginnings, and a few endings as well. In late August, we gave our hens to a friend, dug up a few strawberry plants, and moved out of our home of seven years. On the day that the sale of our house closed, we didn't have any idea of where we would end up living. A summer of looking for homesteads in the country in the beautiful hills of central PEI had turned up nothing that was just right for our family. Our oldest child started school in our previous city, not knowing where he would end up later on.

Two weeks after moving in with my parents, our third child was born, a beautiful little girl who completed our family and my heart.

Two weeks after her birth, we moved into our new home. It was a bit surprising in that we hadn't expected to find our forever home in the community in which we are now living.  I, especially, wanted at least two or three acres (preferably one hundred!) in the country. My husband appreciated the beauty of the area in which we were looking, but his heart has always more or less been loyal to Charlottetown. When we stepped out of our vehicle to have a look at a home on one wooded acre in a small town, situated almost exactly halfway between my area of choice and his, we fell in love with it and we bought it the next day.

I felt like I had stepped into a fairy tale wood with the beautiful colours of early fall surrounding me in a peaceful, homey place. It felt like home immediately and I forget what it was like before we began to build our new life here.

Our children love to run through the trees and visit with a little girl who lives nearby. They find sweet little details left by the previous owners, a carved wooden chicken, horseshoes hanging on a tree branch, a tiny, perfect plant with a single pink rose, etc.

There are many maple trees waiting to be tapped.

The current bylaws prohibit chickens and dairy goats on residential lots. This was a disappointment to me but it only furthers my resolve to work proactively with the town to change its bylaws such that homesteading activities can be carried out, respectfully of neighbours, in our area. I finally have a sunny yard. It isn't the backyard, but the front where I am already planning on harvesting perfect, juicy tomatoes and sweet small melons.

I'd like to chronicle our homesteading journey from the very beginning. I hope it may be interesting for some of you that used to follow my old blog, and for anyone who stumbles across this one. I won't be writing homestead how-tos and offering expert advice. I may share how I've done things and make suggestions for others who are interested. I'll definitely write about how things worked out or didn't! Mostly, I'll just be sharing our story, the story of a family growing and loving and planting seeds on a small homestead in the trees.