Year one theme: Go big

For me, our first year of farm ownership can be summed up in two words: big and more.

Everything we’ve done, every experience we’ve had has been bigger and more than I expected. It’s been amazing, frustrating, awful, exhausting, expensive, testing, uniting, surprising and wonderful–all to an extreme degree.

As this week is the one year anniversary of the farm becoming ours, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of what we accomplished and a few of the lessons we learned over the first year. Click here for the two-week and six-month wrap-ups.

We started big, installing the new geothermal system the very first week. The excavation was bigger than if we’d been digging a foundation for a new house.

Geothermal excavation

Upgrading one central system for the house was quickly followed by another, when we decided to redo the entire water system, including a new well.

Our original plan for the basement to patch the walls, move a couple of things around and redo the bathroom quickly grew to a full gut job that involved reframing, rewiring, reinsulatingredrywalling and recarpeting.

Eventually, we did get to painting, furnishing and decorating. We still need art and furniture in most of the basement, but the TV area is done. And it’s awesome. We spend every night here–if we’re not working on one of our other projects, of course.

TV area with sectional couch in the basement

So far, the basement has turned out even better than I envisioned.

The bathroom, which was the most disgusting room in the whole house when we moved in, is now one of the best thanks to new plumbing, marble tile, dramatic dark paint, extra storage, a shower bench and a big mirror. After breaking the concrete floor, running all new waterlines, marathon tiling and grouting sessions and, oh yeah, the snake, we ended up with a bright, clean, shiny, functional and modern space.

Small basement bathroom with white tile and big mirror

While the basement has been our longest project and most dramatic transformation, it wasn’t our most difficult. The hardest project was definitely the roof. Over five days in the middle of the summer with average temperatures around 30ºC, Matt reshingled our house. For him, this project is his proudest accomplishment for year one. For me, this project taught me my most memorable lesson: roofing is not a DIY job.

Half shingled roof

Away from the work and the projects, there’s been a few other big developments in our lives over the past year.

First, the property came with other occupants already living here: most notably, Ralph the barn cat. Sticking with our theme of everything being more than we expect, Ralph kept things interesting by turning out to be both female and pregnant.

Kittens with mother cat

Her four kittens were a fun addition to the farm for the spring.

Kittens

Gratuitous kitten cuteness

Three went on to new homes in suburbia, but one, Easter, stayed on at the farm. Learning that I’m a cat person–as long as they stay outside–has been my most surprising lesson from year one.

Cats on the windowsill

Ralph and Easter pay a visit to the dining room window sill. This is Easter’s “meow–let me in!” face. Ralph knows better.

In addition to our feline family members, our family expanded with the addition of Wiley, our tractor. He’s been quite handy for the various jobs we’ve had to do, from mowing the grass to blowing the snow. Tractor maintenance and how to use the front end loader are lessons we’re still in the process of learning. Lesson from last weekend: a hairdryer can be used to get a tractor to start.

Kioti CS2410

Outside, we’re still learning how to manage a large property. We’ve had the paddocks and run-in shelters removed from all of the fields, added a gate to the driveway, cut down a few trees, put in a flag pole and cleaned up the property a bit. We’ve eaten apples and raspberries from our own land, and watched two hay harvests. We’ve spent hours walking the fields, admiring the pond, hiking the woods and even managed to go tobaganning on our own hill and skating on our own pond.

Walking in the hayfield

When I imagined living on a farm, I envisioned lots of friends and family around, fun parties and big gatherings. This vision has absolutely come true, whether it’s the fun days we’ve spent with nephews, the relaxing nights we’ve had with friends, or big family parties we’ve had for Christmas, Easter and just because. Most rewarding of all, though, has been all of the help our friends and family have given us to make the farm ours over the past year.

Drilling post holes with an auger

We’re still in the process of putting our own stamp on the farm. We know there are more projects and more lessons to come.

Between rural living, a farm, a large property and DIY home renovations, we’ve chosen a somewhat unique lifestyle. And it’s exactly the life for us.

The first year has been more than I ever expected. I’m excited to see what comes next.

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