Odds & sods

As I was trying to figure out how to begin this final post of January, I went back and reread my first post of the month–my word of the year.

“I want to remember to choose my attitude, how I feel, how I react, how I spend my time… When I make a choice, there’s an acceptance that I’m letting something go in favour of something else… I’m also choosing to build my life based on what is most important to me–Ellie, family, friends, Cigo, this farm, freedom to enjoy it all.”

There have been some ups and downs this month. Anxiety is not something I struggle with usually, but I’ve had some worries recently. Rereading the words above is comforting. I know what is most important to me. Choosing to let go of other things–including worry and anxiety–makes me focus on the life I want.

So we finished the month on a high. We had a fun day celebrating my nephew’s ninth birthday with family. We have snow finally (not worrying about how long it took to arrive or how long it will stay), and we’ve enjoyed sledding, snow forts and skating. We’ve also made progress on several home projects.

Life is always ups and downs. Choosing to focus on the ups is important to me. As is remembering that I’ll find my way through the downs.

Here are some pick-me-ups from this month:

We are doing 1,000 hours outside again this year. Prioritizing time outside has added so much fun to our lives. We are at 72 hours already.

I am loving wool socks. The Darn Tough brand is a favourite, especially for their lifetime guarantee.

“This farm is and what we do on it is this living breathing thing.”

The land on most farms is degraded. But we can regenerate it.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.”

William Shakespeare

Let’s share a pick-me-up. What was the best part of January for you? Did you make any tough choices this month?

The plan for Ellie’s new room

The last project on my Home Goals 2023 list (and the only indoor project) is going to be our first project of the year. Ellie’s new room.

If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been trying to convince Ellie to move into the guest room for a while. The room is bigger, so she can have a double bed instead of a single. Her current room is closer to the centre of the house, a good location to become a playroom (and remove some of the toys from the living room). Most importantly, sleeping next to each other–with an open door between us–is not restful.

In December, we were struck down by a bad cold, and I moved into the guest room so that my coughing fits wouldn’t disturb her. Even with being sick, we both slept so, so well. I think that showed Ellie that the guest room was maybe okay, and she became a little more open to the idea of moving.

There’s still some resistance and sensitivity. Our girl is not thrilled with change. But talking about her new room and how we can design it like she wants is helping… a bit.

My initial plans (reuse the bed, paint the walls a muted green, make it soft and girly and floral) are shifting a bit based on her vision. But I’ve decided to let her make the choices. It’s her room, and I want her to be happy with it.

Right now, her favourite colour is teal, so that’s where I’m starting. We went to the store and looked at paint chips last week. With no hesitation, she immediately picked the colour she wanted (Calmness C35-3-0709-4 by BeautiTone from Home Hardware). It’s not as bright as I expected, and actually isn’t too different from what’s on the walls already. I’ll still be bringing in lots of neutrals to balance everything out.

I’m planning to reuse the dropcloth curtains that are currently in the guest room. Their warm colour will soften the bright walls better than white, I think. Hopefully I have enough bamboo shade left to make my standard layered window treatment. I need to buy blackout blinds to go underneath, and I may also add a blackout lining to the curtains (we like to sleep in the dark).

White will play a part with a new headboard. I had planned to reuse the metal bedframe that is in the guest room. But our girl likes how her current bed has a shelf (or as she calls it a nightstand). She stashes her water bottle and various other treasures. So I’m going to build a simple headboard with a shelf and paint it white. We have an extra metal bed base in the driveshed, so I will attach the headboard to that.

Her bookshelf (also white) and dresser (grey-ish wood tone) will move with her to the new room.

The tractor and likely the Strandmon wing chair will not. In my new quest to be thoughtful about how we use our house (like, do we really need a guest room?), the chair doesn’t make sense for her room. The chair was helpful when she was really little (especially for nursing), but now we read stories sitting on her bed. I’m trying to minimize clutter, and a big chair that we never sit in seems like clutter. The tractor can move out to the garage. Thanks to her new headboard, she won’t need nightstands.

Accessories and finishing are a bit undetermined right now. I really wanted to use the flowered chenille bedspread that I shared previously, and it looks like it is a nice match with the paint chip. My Mom’s flower girl lamp will hopefully find a home (and a new shade) as well.

For art, I’m wondering about a big gallery wall of black and white family photos. But I’m not sure black and white are what Ellie has in mind. There’s a cute curvy mirror (with a white frame) in the guest room already, but it’s a bit small to get a good look at your outfit. Maybe the light fixture should be more sparkly. Or I could paint the ceiling a really light pink.

I’m all over the place. Usually I’m pretty good at picturing spaces and have a vision in mind. Designing for someone else is a challenge.

Work on the room is kind of underway. The first step is clearing it out. As the guest room has been a catch-all space for years, this is a bit of an undertaking. We’re slowly going through things and have sold, donated and thrown out a lot with more to come.

Some major progress was getting rid of Matt’s and my bed last week. I don’t love sleeping in a king size bed and it was too large for our room. So in the spirit of making our house work for us, I posted it on kijiji and it went to a new home. The guest room bed is now my bed–once again. It was in my cottage bedroom as a child and was Matt’s and my bed at our first house and when we first moved to the farm. I’m glad that it continues to have a place in our lives.

Now I have more space to work on Ellie’s new room and make it what she wants it to be.

Is anyone else having realizations about what works and doesn’t in your house? What would you mix with teal to make beautiful room for a happy, sensitive, energetic young girl?

Home Goals 2023

I’m feeling pretty excited for this year’s home goals. We have some big projects coming up that will really transform the farm and how we live here. I also feel like we’re in a good place to tackle them. As you saw in my 2022 home goals wrap-up, I feel like we’re building toward the vision Matt and I have for this farm.

I’m also learning to make our home work for us. The way I want to do things, the way we live, the best use of our spaces. I’m less locked into keeping things just because that’s the way they’ve always been. This is our farm now, and I want to make it what we want.

Here’s how we’re going to be doing that this year.

Coop

Source: Backyard Poultry

First on the list is a (maybe) surprise project. We’re building a coop! Finally! We’ve lived here for nearly 11 years, and I’ve wanted birds the whole time. At my mid-year home goal review last year, I suggested maybe, possibly knocking down the old coop. Well, that ended up happening. There’s still a bit more clean-up to go, but it’s almost time to rebuild. Actual birds are not part of this year’s plan. I need a functional secure home for them first. Other barn upgrades, like last year’s eavestrough plan and probably some electrical, will be part of this project.

Patio

Source: RS Landscape & Construction

The driveway patio returns to the list. I think I’ve found a contractor. We’ve talked about my vision. We have a quote. We revised the quote so that it’s now in budget, but still in vision. We’ve looked at stone. We’ve talked timelines. I’m crossing my fingers that everything comes together to do this project this year.

Swing set

Source: Wayfair

This project is another carryover from last year, though you haven’t heard about it yet. Ellie very quickly outgrew the playset I bought for her. She now has the treehouse, which has been a huge hit. She needs a bigger swing set. Our girl is very into underdoggies, and as she grows she wants to swing higher than our little set can handle. I found swing set fittings on kijiji last year and even bought wood. This year, I will put it all together.

Vegetable garden

Source: Charles Dowding

I usually try to be cautious in the garden, but this year I’m feeling optimistic and it’s making me ambitious. I did a major cleanout in the fall, made a few rows and paths, and spread mulch everywhere. Ellie has big plans of what she wants to grow this year, and I’m hoping that we can get closer to a no-dig, not too weedy, productive garden.

Turnaround garden

Source: Gravetye Manor

Building another flower garden on the turnaround was a bit of an impromptu project last year when we transplanted the well garden in anticipation of building the driveway patio. I’m waiting to see what plants survived their hasty, late season relocation and we will keep growing from there.

Ellie’s bedroom

Source: Wendy Hyde via Design Mom

I think have finally convinced our girl to move rooms. So she and I will be coming up with a fun new design to make the guest room into Ellie’s room. Green is no longer her favourite colour, so now we’re aiming toward teal. Or maybe rainbow. My client has lots of ideas.

Of course, along the way there will continued work on the history of this farm, pond shore, pruning, more clean up everywhere, preparing for the worst, repairs and surprises. But there will also be lots of fun.

What projects are on your list for this year? Do you have any home goals?

Looking back at Home Goals 2022

I ended last year on a high, project-wise. For the first time in a long time, I felt like we were building, not just fixing. There is still a lot of fixing, but it felt like we were working toward something more this year than before.

I have this vision of a beautiful, comfortable farmhouse, a thriving garden, a gorgeous old barn, perhaps with a few animals in it. Some days, that vision seems far away. But by the end of 2022, I felt like it was a bit closer.

Here’s a look back at some of what we did and last year’s home goals.

Mudroom

The mudroom has been an amazing addition (literally) to our house. Finishing it off last year (barring possible future built-ins) has been a beautiful, comfortable and functional addition to our house.

Garage landscaping

Hiring a contractor to pave the driveway and build a patio and some steps for the mudroom and living room was supposed to be our big project of last year. However, I never found the right contractor, so it did not happen. Ellie and I spread topsoil and grass seed all around the garage, so some progress was made. I think I have found the right contractor, so I am optimistic that 2023 is going to be the year for the patio.

Plan for the worst

I’ve made a bit of progress on preparing for the worst, but not as much as I want to. I updated our home insurance, closed extra bank accounts and made household inventory videos for a few rooms. Although these tasks aren’t fun, they are important, so I will be trying to continue to make progress on this this year.

History

Living here, it’s impossible not to be conscious that this property has a long history before us. Before it was a farm. Doing my own work toward truth and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples is important to me. I am still trying to learn and understand more, and honour this history in how I care for this land. Writing a land acknowledgement for the farm was one step I took this year.

I’ve also kept in touch with the woman whose family first owned this farm, spent some time with the owners who lived here from 1980-2000, met a woman who lived here from the 1950s-70s (whose dad built the house that we live in), and met a woman who’s lived on the property behind us since 1945.

Growing my understanding of this place is ongoing and deepens my relationship with the farm.

Pond shore

The pond shore has come so far. Having our fire pit set up, being able to get to the water, visiting the waterfall, building our little bridge has made it a lot easier to enjoy this spot–which I already enjoyed quite a lot. I still need decking for our new bridge and to build a better trail to it, but we’re in pretty good shape.

Source: Atlanta Trails

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was probably my biggest high at the end of the year. I was able to give it a lot of attention in the fall, and I feel like we’re in such good shape for the growing season ahead. We still have a ways to go–a lot of fixing to do–but we’re building too.

Barn

My plan to add eavestrough to the barn did not happen. I measured, but then I never called any contractors. This task will move to my 2023 list, along with a few other barn projects (which I’m very excited to share in my Home Goals 2023 list).

Living here on this farm is interesting. There’s the house, the barns, the land. I am always building on what’s here, trying to make it better and make it work for our family. My annual home goals help keep me on track and working toward our big vision. I’m really proud of what we accomplished in 2022 and excited to glimpse some of that vision getting closer.

How did 2022 go for you? What was your big home accomplishment last year?

Word of the year: Choose

Ice coating red branches with a wood barn and metal silo in the background.

Last year at this time, I was aiming for “a state of peaceful happiness.” I had selected as my word of the year “content.”

I’m not sure I achieved peacefulness in 2022, but I definitely achieved happiness.

(For a refresher on my words of the year, here are the past posts: Balance … Slow … Resolve … FocusContent.)

The summer was a turning point for me.

Heading into the summer, my mind was full. Ellie was going to be out of school for two months. We would be together every day. How was I going to work?

Then, I decided that we were going to do summer. Work was going to fit in where it fit. I was choosing us.

I’m a big believer in choosing. I choose how I look at situations, how we spend our day, how I feel about things. Making that conscious choice to focus on summer clarified my priorities and opened up so many opportunities for us. If an invitation came along, we said yes. If we wanted to playground, swim, hike, picnic, campout, bonfire we did. We had an amazing time.

That attitude has stayed with me through the fall. I’m saying yes as much as possible and choosing the balance that works for us. Some weeks that means I’m typing madly on my computer the whole time Ellie’s at school and much of the nights. Other weeks, it means I’m outside in the garden or hiking with Cigo or meeting a friend for lunch–and work fits in where it fits.

So, for my word of the year for 2023, I’m choosing “choose.”

I want to remember to choose my attitude, how I feel, how I react, how I spend my time. I’ve found that when I make a choice, there’s an acceptance that I’m letting something go in favour of something else. Being conscious of that helps me to not put (as much) pressure on myself to do everything.

I’m also choosing to build my life based on what is most important to me–Ellie, family, friends, Cigo, this farm, freedom to enjoy it all. It may not be leading to peace all the time, but it’s definitely leading to happiness.

Happy New Year to you. I hope that 2023 brings happiness for you.

Merry Christmas

The holiday puzzle is spread out. The halls are decked. The tree is trimmed. The stockings are hung.

We’re in full Christmas mode here, so I’m putting the blog on holiday too.

I’ll be back in the New Year with more updates from the farm (and big plans).

Thank you for following along with us and celebrating the big, the small and everything in between. I hope that you have a wonderful holiday, however you celebrate.

Merry Christmas.

Odds & sods

November turned out pretty well for us. This is remarkable because for the past few years November has been pretty hard. Between the anniversary of Matt’s death, an increase in tantrums (an annual event for some reason), illnesses, the time change, darkness, and cold temperatures, it tends to be a tough month.

We’ve gone through all of the usual hard stuff, but we’ve also had some good times. The month started off with very warm weather, so I blitzed through outdoor projects like the garden and wood chipping. We watched my sister run her personal best marathon to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Then we went straight on to winter with cold and our first (and several more) snows. We embraced it, changed the art in the mudroom and built our first snowmen. Along the way I still managed to squeeze in one more big outdoor project, even if I had to scrape off some icicles first (more on this to come).

Before we look ahead, let’s look back at some of what caught my attention this month:

We hit 1,000 hours outside. This is our second year doing the challenge, and our first time making it to 1,000. I’m really proud that we did it and am excited to start counting again in January.

What happens to your soil in the winter?

Ontario’s premier is opening up greenbelt land for development. Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland daily. Once farmland is paved it’s gone forever. Farmland produces food. Let’s keep it that way.

Media paywalls and democracy

Ellie and I love variations on the three little pigs story. This Canadian hockey version is a winner.

I consistently let go of things that weigh me down so that I can hold on to laughter, kindness, joy, compassion and love–and those things give me strength and fuel my power.”

Jillene Joseph


How did November go for you? Have you transitioned to winter where you are?

Unconventional living room reorganization

The living room is still most definitely the playroom. My campaign to convince Ellie that her room should become a playroom has not yet been successful. But I have successfully reclaimed part of the living room.

I started thinking about how I could better deal with the toys and the mess.

My first idea was moving the television farther out into the room. There was already an empty corner behind the TV. I could make that whole corner a play zone. Tucked behind the TV, it would be her own little secret spot.

But then I realized she wouldn’t like being tucked away. Part of the appeal of playing in the living room is that she can spread out and be close to the kitchen or wherever I am.

I also realized the toys are used much more often than the TV. So I decided to tuck the TV away. I pushed it back into the corner and made a play zone in front of it.

I grabbed a shelf that had been dumped at the side of the road. After adding some more shelves and giving it a coat of paint, it is perfect for holding a whole bunch of things. (Some bins would help it hold even more.) All of her kitchen and grocery toys sit on top of the shelf, instead on on top of the coffee table.

The TV isn’t useable now. But we can slide things around pretty easily if we ever want to watch it. And if we really find we miss the TV, I can mount it on one of those extending, swinging arms. We also have the basement TV.

The coffee table still gets covered regularly with crafts and colouring, but now there’s usually a spot to set down our afternoon snack or a book. Progress.

The toys still win, but so do Ellie and I.

Who else’s living room does double duty? How do you handle toys at your house? Do you have a TV in your living room?

Brush clean-up with a borrowed wood chipper

Back in the spring, I started trimming branches, brush and trees that had sprouted up around the farm. I kept clipping and cutting for weeks. (Matt’s Dad even came out to help with some bigger trees). By the time I stopped, I had two very large piles of brush.

I asked our farmer (who rents our fields) if I could borrow his wood chipper. He was willing to loan it to me, but when I asked if our tractor could run it he laughed at me. So I needed to borrow the chipper and a tractor. Well, the weather shifted soon after that, hay season started, and our farmer and his tractors were busy.

So the piles sat.

I waited until we were well into fall, and I reached out to our farmer again. A giant tractor and an equally giant wood chipper soon arrived.

And I got to work.

The chipper blasted through our brush. It was awesome. Matt’s Dad came over and cut a few more trees, so I added them to my pile and kept going. When I finished one pile, I moved the tractor (slightly terrifying to drive something that big) to the next pile and kept going. It took several days, but finally all the brush was gone.

I spent another day cleaning up and moving the piles of chips. I have one pile on the turnaround where it will be spread on our new flower garden next spring. I have another pile tucked beside the compost bin for wherever else we need it. And I still have half of the load that a local tree service delivered back in the spring. (Comparing piles, I estimate that I chipped another truck load.)

With my focus on no dig gardening, the chips will be useful. I’d much rather make the brush into something useful than burn it. Plus having all of the brush finally cleaned up feels like a big win.

Do you use woodchips in your gardens? Have you ever used a woodchipper? Or driven a big tractor?

Getting the vegetable garden ready for winter

Garden month kicked off in September. Now, in November (two months, but who’s counting?), I am declaring it done.

I am also declaring it a success.

You may recall that by mid-October I had one task left on my to-do list: clean up the vegetable garden.

My focus was on the one quadrant where Ellie and I grew some things this year. That quadrant definitely was my main priority, but two other quadrants also got some attention. That means three quarters of the garden is in pretty good shape for next year.

In our growing quadrant, I laid out planting beds and pathways mulched with woodchips. I had researched the best dimensions for no dig beds, brought my measuring tape outside, laid out one piece of string… and then I just went for it. We ended up with three wide beds. My plan was to seed them with a rye cover crop, but it’s too late in the season, so I covered them with leaves instead. We have ample supply of leaves right now.

I laid down cardboard under as much as I could, but I quickly ran out. Some weeding will be in my future, but hopefully the mulch is thick enough that it will help a bit.

Ellie wanted to plant some garlic (part of her birthday present to me). So we set up another wide planting bed and another mulched pathway in an adjacent quadrant. Then we tarped the rest.

Two quadrants done. Now onto the raised beds around the edge.

These beds hold our asparagus and grapes… and a lot of weeds. I’m embracing no dig, so my clippers got a workout as I chopped the weeds as close to the ground as I could. Around the grapes, I laid down my last stash of cardboard (pizza boxes) and topped them with more woodchips.

There was one last thing on my to-do list and it was outside the garden. So, so many weeds had grown up around the fence. I still don’t have a working weed eater, and the mower can only get so close. So my clippers went to work again, and I edged the outside of our growing quadrant. It didn’t take that long, so I kept going. Then I did a bit more and the whole perimeter was cleared. Next year, I will get the weed eater running and keep the edge tidy.

I was on a roll with my clippers, so I ventured back inside the garden and went to work on another section of raised beds. I managed to clear it. Then the mower handled a third quadrant.

Finally, I stopped. (Though I am coveting bundles of cardboard set out for recycling at local stores and eyeing the leaves that are covering so much of our lawn… I could mulch the rest of the garden and it would be so good!)

As it is now, three quarters of the garden are pretty useable. Since my goal at the start of garden month was one quadrant, we’ll definitely be ahead when spring comes.

To-do list over-achievement rarely happens for me. Does it for you? Are your gardens ready for winter? Have you planted anything this fall?