Odds & sods

This has been a month of highs and lows.

Matt’s uncle, a much-loved figure in our lives, died. Uncle Bill made us the Coonley playhouse-inspired stained glass window that hangs in our dining room. Bill loved coming to the farm, and I love the big hugs that he gave me every time I saw him.

Coonley playhouse Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stained glass panel

We’ve had two birthdays so far this month, and the biggest one (for us) comes tomorrow when Ellie turns 3.

Our girl is so proud of how she’s growing (“I’m going to reach the books on the top of the shelf!”) and learning (“I’m going to write!”).

Ellie is a sensitive, thoughtful, enthusiastic little girl. Though we have our terrible-twos/threenager moments, most of our days are filled with fun, and I’m looking forward to some fun (albeit small) celebrations this week.

Here is an Ellie-inspired round-up for this month:

A mile with May

Cinderella just wants to go to the play ball

Christopher Robin grows up

A cute monster movie… that of course made me think of Ellie and Matt

Your real life is with your family

An epic playground in an epic park

How has February been for you? What kid-friendly things are you enjoying these days?

Ellie’s big girl bed

Ellie’s room got an update just before Christmas when we took apart her crib and set up a bed.

Colourful toddler bedroom

I had always envisioned this bed in the space. This was my bed when I was her age. Before that, it was my uncle’s bed when he was a child. It came from my grandmother’s family’s furniture store.

It is solid wood. Clean lines. Great quality. With super cute cubbies built into the headboard.

Anna doll lying in a cubby in a bed headboard

The finish was natural wood, but a little bit orange for my taste and also for her space. I didn’t want to change the other parts of her room. The turquoise paint on the walls, the grey wood toned dresser, the white bookcase. Those were all staying, so I needed the bed to work with those pieces.

I was a bit worried my Mom (the caretaker of the bed) wouldn’t like my plan to paint the bed, but she was all for it. A few coats of my go-to Cloud White by Benjamin Moore (in their Advance finish, which is good on furniture), and it was exactly what I had envisioned. And my Mom was thrilled, both that the bed was being used again and that it looked so fresh with its new white paint.

Ellie’s room is not large, so we could only fit a single bed. We rearranged some of her other furniture to make everything fit. It might be a wee bit tight, but everything fits (including her tractor) and the layout works for us.

Colourful toddler bedroom

And, best of all, the transition from crib to bed went pretty well too.

Who else likes secret cubby-holes? Have you repurposed any family hand-me-downs at your house? What is your crib-bed transition story?

Ralph update

Three months after breaking her leg, Ralph is finally free from her cast.

Cat meowing

When we first went to the vet at the beginning of November and he said it would be 6-8 weeks, I gulped. Keeping a barn cat contained for two months? This wasn’t going to be fun.

Well, it ended up being just over 12 weeks, and our barn cat now lives in the house.

We started off with Ralph in the mudroom. We keep the door from the mudroom to the house closed, so she could be contained and safe, but not in the house. For the first few weeks of her confinement, she was mad. She hated being inside. Then she adjusted and we had a peaceful couple of weeks. But then she got mad again. This time she was mad that she wasn’t in the house.

She would yowl for more than an hour at a time. Finally I couldn’t handle the noise, and I moved her inside. She settled into a corner of the kitchen and has lived happily ever since.

Fortunately, the transition has not been difficult. She stays in the living room or kitchen. She uses her litterbox. She does not scratch or climb on the furniture (aside from a couple of attempts in the early days).

Child sitting on the floor reading a book to a cat sitting on a chair

She’s occasionally more nocturnal than I would like and yowls in the night. And I really don’t like having a litterbox in the house and having to clean it.

But I think this is what’s best for our girl right now.

Her leg is still healing. I can feel a bump where the break has mended. But her leg is skinny and weak after two months with a splint and another month wrapped in a bandage. She needs to walk on it to rebuild the strength in both her muscles and bone.

Cat with a cast on her back leg

The vet checked her over at her last appointment, and the verdict is she’s a lame, blind, deaf, toothless cat. She gets to have whatever comfort she wants right now.

She curls up on Ellie’s playmat if we have a morning sunbeam. And when Ellie and I have lunchtime picnics in the living room, she comes to join us.

Cat begging for food from a young girl

At night when I’ve finished work, I sit in the living room for a few minutes and read. Ralphie invariably gets up and hobbles over to my chair for pets.

While I may not be an indoor cat person, Ralph isn’t a bad cat to have indoors.

I am extremely grateful that she wasn’t hurt too badly and the leg seems to have healed.

Are you a cat person? Any tips for night time yowling? Have you gone through an injury with your pet?

Replacing our drafty patio door

The living room has a big patio door on the south side. It gives us great natural light, which significantly increased when we removed the sunroom from the side of the house. I loved sitting on the couch in the fall, watching the leaves change colour.

But the beauty of fall is followed by the cold of winter, and I knew the patio door was a big source of drafts. I had felt that the sunroom provided some thermal buffer (perhaps wishful thinking). But with it gone, the cold air had a direct path through the door and into the house.

So at the end of the year (fortunately on a mild December day), we had the door replaced.

Of course, like so many things in this house, the door was “special.” It was right between five and six feet–the two standard sizes for patio doors. We went with a five foot door, and the installers built out the jamb and added some extra trim inside and flashing outside to cover the difference so it’s not noticeable.

Ellie plays in front of the patio door every day, and most lunchtimes are a picnic in the sunbeams that now stream through the window.

The feature I’m most excited about is the screen. With the sunroom in the way, we had no incentive to open the old patio door. We would have just smelled stinky old sunroom. Also, the door did not slide well and it didn’t have a screen. Now, we have a screen and a door that opens and closes smoothly. I am looking forward to fresh air as soon as the weather is warm enough to open the windows. For now, I’ll be enjoying my new view.

Anyone else dealing with winter drafts? Or enjoying winter sunbeams?

Odds & sods

How is 2021 going for you so far?

This month feels like it flew by.

Ontario is in lockdown again, but Ellie and I have been sticking pretty close to home anyways. Fortunately we’ve been bubbled with my Mom and Matt’s parents all the way along, so we’re still able to see some people and have help when we need it.

Our January highlights are celebrating my Mom’s birthday (complete with singing Happy Birthday over Zoom), skating with Ellie (she was a bit wobbly and nervous, but thinks hockey will be easier), some new clients and extra projects at work (and late nights as a result) and lots and lots of playing.

Like everyone, we’re doing the juggle. And we’re doing okay. I hope that you are as well.

Here are some other highlights that I came across this month.

It took me three tries to get through this book the first time I read it to Ellie. I still don’t make it sometimes, but I keep trying because it’s such a beautiful story. I see so much of Matt and her in it.

Setting a goal to spend 1,000 hours outside has been so motivating and made me much more conscious of how we spend our time. Also, we’ve had a lot of fun.

Junkyard playgrounds

The woman behind Peter Rabbit

Anyone can be a millionaire

What does it take to blow $10,000 a year?

When you dig yourself into a hole. And someone hauls you out.

I hope you’ve had a better month than that poor excavator. Is anyone else trying to spend more time outside this year? Paying more attention to finances this year? Reading any good books?

Busy, busy beavers

A month into living at the farm I wrote a post that was basically, “I think I saw a beaver? It wasn’t really a beaver, was it?” It turned out that yes, it was a beaver.

And they’re still here and busier than ever.

Ellie and I visited them on the weekend. She likes to throw sticks into the water for the beavers and climb the “beaver tree.”

Child standing on a tree in the middle of a large beaver lodge

Since we cleared the pond shore last year, the beaver lodge became visible. It wraps around the big willow–the beaver tree–on the shore.

Partially frozen pond with a large tree and beaver lodge on the shore

Occasionally over the summer we caught a glimpse of the beavers swimming in the pond or heard splashing during one of our campfires.

In the lead up to winter, the beavers added sooooo many sticks and sooooo much mud to their lodge. It is very large.

Close up of a stick in a beaver lodge

If you take the trail from the pond around the meadow and behind the barn, you come to the beavers’ logging camp. They’ve taken down about a dozen trees here. In the fall, Matt’s Dad came and cut up three trees that had fallen over the fence and across the path. He dumped the wood at the firepit by the pond. The beavers dragged every single log into the water. And then they went back and knocked over a bunch more trees.

Trees stumps cut by beavers
Child ducking to walk under a tree cut down by beavers

Apparently, “beavers store food (fresh branches) in the water around their lodges” in the fall. Then “in the winter, a beaver will swim out… to get food under the ice.”

This gives me a bit of comfort as the build up of sticks in the pond this fall has me worried that the beavers are planning to build a dam across the middle.

The weather here has been much too mild for the pond to freeze yet. And I can see where the beavers have broken through the ice to keep the water open. They’ve also still been coming up on shore to eat the bark off a variety of trees, including a huge maple.

Beaver damage around the base of a large tree

I’m a little worried for the maple and still concerned that the beavers are going to take over the whole pond, but I’m hoping we can continue to share the farm. I still think it’s so neat that we have beavers.

Do you have any interesting wildlife at your house? Anyone have any experience with beavers to share?

Home Goals 2021

It’s been a while since I’ve posted home goals. Looking back, 2017 is the last time I looked a year ahead and thought about what I wanted to change around the house and property. I was surprised it’s been that long.

But I am ready to think about home goals again.

It’s nice to feel this part of me coming back.

Here are some of the projects I’d like to tackle this year.

Playground expansion

The playground that we got for Ellie last year has been awesome. As soon as it arrived, I started thinking about how I could expand it. When I saw this set-up from heart of this home, everything came together in my mind (and in a hastily scribbled sketch).

Pond shore

Having déjà vu yet? Yes, the pond shore makes the list every year. And yes, with a lot of help we cleared the shore last year—or at least part of it. I’d love to clear a little bit more and build a little bridge so that we can cross the creek more easily.

Vegetable garden

Another item that always makes the list. Matt’s Dad and I cleared a lot of the weeds out of the garden last fall, and that gives me hope that I can maybe possibly hopefully manage one quadrant this year. I’d love to try raised rows, deep mulch and no dig. The promises of a low maintenance garden make me feel like the set-up would be worth it.

The last big junk pile

Between the garden and the tree line of the front field is one of our last remaining junky areas. It’s full of brush, skids, bricks, lumber, barrels, a basketball net and who knows what else. It’s in direct view out the dining room window, and I’m tired of looking at it every day. I’d like to finally tidy it up and mow the grass.

Bedroom refresh

I guess I should put at least one house project on my home goals list, eh? I saw before Christmas that Ikea has a new duvet cover in a pattern I’ve coveted for years. As soon as the king size comes back in stock, I’m planning to order it. I’m thinking a bedding refresh might inspire a couple of other changes. Paint? A different dresser? A better closet organizer? I have some ideas.

Source: Ikea

History

Connecting with the woman who’s family first owned this farm was a very meaningful experience of the last year for me. I am looking forward to continuing to stay in touch with her and learning more about this special place.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse surrounded by open fields

Even without goals the last few years, we’ve accomplished things around the house: demolishing the sunroom, redoing the dining room, setting up Ellie’s nursery (I have an update to share) and a new play area for her, clearing the pond shore, finally putting the finishing touches on the basement.

I’m proud of what we’ve done. But I’m also happy to be back in a more plannful frame of mind. It helps me focus–there’s that word of the year.

Stick with me. Let’s see what happens.

What are you aiming to do at your house this year? Are you focused inside or out? What would your dream playground have? Any tips for low maintenance gardening? Is there such a thing?

Word of the year: Focus

Hello. Happy new year. I hope that you are well and had a nice holiday.

Over the last three years, I’ve enjoyed figuring out a word of the year.

The word gives me some guidance for the year ahead. It reflects my mood and some of the things that are on my mind.

When I was pregnant with Ellie, my word was balance as I wanted to hang on to who I was and be open to who I was going to become. When we were in the depths of Matt’s illness, my word was slow. I was trying to savour moments with Matt and Ellie and not rush through our time together. Last year my word was resolve, as I was trying to figure out how to keep it together and keep moving forward.

This year the word that keeps coming into my head is focus.

I want to focus on what is most important to me. Ellie, this farm, myself, family, friends, my work. Knowing what I value means I know where to put my energy and time. By being focused, I give myself permission to spend extra time playing with Ellie, prioritize a home project or connect with a friend. I can also say no to things that don’t fit with what’s most important.

I also want to be focused in the moment. There are a lot of thoughts in my head and the to-do list is long. I am often rushing, distracted and multi-tasking. In simple tasks like tidying up from meals, I flit between loading the dishwasher, putting food away and clearing the table. Several times I’ve walked past the dining room an hour after we ate and discovered I left the orange juice or milk on the table rather than returning it to the fridge. I’ve learned I do better if I can focus on one thing–clearing the table–and then move onto the next. This goes for more complex tasks too, whether it’s work or Ellie.

My word of the year isn’t at the forefront of my mind every day. But it’s enough of a reminder most of the time to help me focus on what matters most and how I want to be.

What are you feeling as we begin 2021? Anyone else seeking focus or balance or to slow down or resolve?

Merry Christmas

This has been a year of love and joy. Of challenges too, absolutely. But love and joy have prevailed.

We are going to be soaking in all of the love and joy–and working through more challenges, I’m sure–for the rest of this month. I will be back with more posts in the new year.

I wish you love, joy and peace this holiday.

Odds & sods

How are you? How are you doing? What are you feeling?

If anyone asks me how I am doing, I rarely say only “fine” or “good.” I figure if you care enough about me to ask, I’m going to give you a full answer.

So how are you doing?

We’re in a weird time. A hard time. As Christmas approaches and virus cases rise, things feel a bit harder. As well, outside of a global pandemic, everybody has other stuff happening. Family stuff. Health stuff. Home stuff. Money stuff. Kid stuff.

In many cases, we don’t have a choice. You have to get through. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. However, it’s sometimes easier to keep going if you talk to someone about what you’re going through.

So how are you? I really want to know. Leave a comment if you feel comfortable. Or send me an email at homeon129acres@hotmail.com. Or find someone else you feel comfortable with and tell them how you’re doing.

It may make a difference in how you feel about your day.

For me, I’m doing alright. I’m definitely overdoing it with late nights right now as I try to work, organize Christmas and keep the rest of this train on the tracks. Ellie has been going through a hard toddler stretch, so I’m working on finding my patience, positivity and energy.

But I keep putting one foot in front of the other and checking another thing off my to-do list. And find downtime in front of the fire, with our books, in a good podcast or in a few minutes every night when I find something else that inspires me, intrigues me or interests me.

Here are some of the things I’ve come across recently.

This thought-provoking podcast about Indigenous fashion led me to an even more thought-provoking Instagram account for this Indigenous fashion designer. Her mission to use fashion for the betterment of future generations is powerful.

12 Days of Christmas, Canadian style

A stunning historic Canadian lakehouse gets a major makeover (I liked this episode the best so far, but you should go back and watch from the start.)

The kitchen of 1914. So much interesting commentary on the value of home making and how efficiency matters.

An amazing story of restoring a natural environment and our role as caretakers

My writing elsewhere:

I truly hope that you are well. If you’re struggling, I hope that you are able to reach out to someone and find some support. Take good care.