It feels like spring has sprung here. We’ve seen our first robins, red wing blackbird and turkey vulture. There were a pair each of mallards and hooded merganser ducks paddling in the pond over the weekend. And this year’s sap run is coming to an end with a very decent quantity of syrup.
Perhaps a result of changing season, I’m feeling more motivated.
It’s a welcome change. I have been stalled for a while, which is not a comfortable place for me. I like being productive, but I have made no progress on Ellie’s room makeover or on bringing in some new contracts for work. These are important, but I’m not being disciplined in how I spend my time.
When March Break came along, I gave myself a little break from the blog to try to reset. I like writing, and I like posting every week (schedules and deadlines definitely work for me). But I had lost some mojo So I went back to my word of the year and chose to take a break.
I worked, read, prepared our income taxes, updated my consulting website, and took a small trip for a new client. Ellie and I started going swimming each week and had a fun March Break together. We marked Matt’s 44th birthday, which was hard. I thrifted a great furniture score for Ellie’s room and found some contacts for potential new work.
And my motivation and energy are returning. I’m looking forward to sharing more about Ellie’s new bedroom, starting to work outside and hopefully kicking off patio construction.
For now, here are some of the things I enjoyed this month:
This account has the best parenting–and human being–advice. They also have a new name.
Chef’s Table is my go-to for something easy, inspiring, fun, and uplifting to watch. Mashama Bailey, Lennox Hastie and Tootsie Tomanetz episodes are favourites.
Made this pie for Matt’s birthday. Ellie’s verdict: “Daddy would really like this.” Yes, he would.
Ellie is really into non-fiction (or as she calls them, “information books”). This story was a hit and led to a movie, more inspiring animal stories and daily dolphin role playing.
I’m aiming to finish off March with being disciplined. I am putting the finishing touches on some pitches for work, prepping Ellie’s room for painting (more to come), and depending on the weather and my productivity, maybe doing some coop clean-up.
How was March for you? Do you have any tips for being disciplined? Who else works best with a deadline? Has spring arrived where you are?
“Tell me a story of when you and Daddy moved to the farm,” Ellie says frequently.
Last week, I told her, “11 years ago today…”
March 2 marked 11 years since the farm became ours, and we’ve been looking back each day, talking about what Daddy and I were doing and how this journey started.
Often though, in my mind, I’m looking ahead these days. Long ahead.
Thinking about this land and Ellie and how I can make this farm healthy and helpful for the Earth and for Matt’s and my descendants.
I recall a quote I read once from an Indigenous elder (I’ve not been able to find the source). He was speaking of settlers, and he asked, “When are you going to act like you’re going to stay?”
When I see how people treat our land, water and natural resources, I feel like the settler mentality is often one of, “We’ll stay until we use it all up. Then we’ll move on to somewhere else.”
But the farm is different. Thinking of our child, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond being here, hopefully, makes me think of the Earth, and specifically this part of the Earth differently. I’m thinking about sequestering carbon, regenerative agriculture, health of the soil and trees, productivity of the fields, diversity of plants and animals, quality of the air and water, and sustaining life for all beings on this farm.
The farm is near the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee peoples. The Haudenosaunee are the source of Seventh Generation Principle. Rooted in an ancient Haudenosaunee philosophy, the principle states that “the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.” (Source)
That is our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren. Two hundred years from now. Eleven years is a baby step in that journey. But we’ve started. Now I’m trying to look ahead to where we’re going.
February has been a month of celebrations. Cigo’s gotcha day, Valentine’s Day, Pancake Tuesday, Super Bowl, birthdays, sap running, the pond finally freezing and more. We’ve had lots of opportunities to be with people we love and have fun together. Nothing has been extravagant. Everything has been special.
Of course, the biggest occasion was Ellie’s birthday. Our girl turned 5! We had a lot of fun celebrating together.
Celebrations don’t have to be complicated. Some fun food, a day off, being together become so meaningful. It’s worth making the effort to acknowledge special moments.
Here are some things that caught my eye this month.
I’ve had 11 years to think about this project. We could have had birds long before now. But I’ve waited because I want to have a safe, permanent home for them. (And I avoid going to the feed mill in the spring when birds are in-stock.) I really want to do this coop right. So I’ve thought (and thought) about what the birds will need and also what we need.
First step is to move the coop into the barn. We have this huge beautiful barn that’s not being used. So I am going to devote part of it to birds.
The part that I’m going to use is what I call the lean-to, where the old coop joined the barn. (The part covered in paper house wrap below.)
The lean-to is a more recent addition to the barn. It has 5 horse stalls, our tractor garage and large open area at one end. It extends about 18 feet off the back and runs the whole length of the barn and then continues out behind the silo.
I am planning to use the large open area at the west end and divide it into three stalls or pens. I’m thinking the stalls will likely end up around 50 square feet. This would give us plenty of space for as many birds as we can handle right now. (Chickens each need about 4 square feet of coop space.)
Where the old coop was will become attached, covered runs.
The plywood patched and overhung area to the left of the paper-covered hole (seen in the top photo) will be a new door. A window used to be behind the plywood, but the foundation under the window collapsed years ago. We had our mason change it into a doorway, anticipating that I’d want easy access to birds from this side of the barn. (I’ve been planning this for a long time.)
My plan is for the stalls to be fully enclosed–walls and ceiling. Animals can get into the barn. I want to do everything I can to protect our birds. The bottom half of the walls will be wood (I have some handy tongue and groove boards I saved from the old coop). Solid wood means the birds in adjacent pens can’t peck at each other through a fence, and it also gives me a spot to mount nesting boxes, roosts, feeders or water buckets.
The upper half of the walls and the ceilings will be mesh. I want the pens to be high enough that I can walk in without stooping.
I’m considering making part of the lower walls between each pen a gate, so that I can expand the pens if I want to. For example in the winter, when chickens are in the freezer, and ducks could use more space.
The three pens give us space for laying hens, ducks and geese, and meat chickens. Or perhaps a few turkeys. We likely will not start with all of these at once, but it gives us the option to expand (or shrink) if we want.
For the runs, there will be three separate outdoor areas side by side. These will have mesh roofs and buried mesh around the perimeter to try to ensure that, again, the birds are as protected as possible.
The first step is to clear the layers of manure off the old coop foundation. Matt’s Dad rightly pointed out that it shouldn’t go to waste. So I will be working on that as soon as things thaw.
Then, we will be able to get rid of the old foundation and regrade this side of the barn. The ground is higher than we need it to be.
After that, we’ll be rebuilding: the wall, the door, the stalls, the runs. Electrical, plumbing, fencing.
This is a big project for us, and I’ll likely be working on it for the whole year. My goal is to be ready for birds in spring 2024.
What would be your coop must-have? Any feedback on my plans? Any questions? (It’s really hard to explain what’s in my brain clearly in a blog post.) Do you have a project that you’ve delayed because you want to do it right?
The idea to demolish the chicken coop was laid (see what I did there?) when I was writing my 2022 Home Goals mid-year report last summer. Usually, I have a list in my mind of what renovations or projects are next. So the coop kind of surprised me when it snuck in. But once it was there, I couldn’t forget it.
So as our last project of 2022, we took down the old coop.
The timing is right for a few reasons. The patio is on the list for 2023. That means there will be equipment here that is capable of removing the foundation for the old coop and levelling the ground.
Also, we’ve been here for 11 years. It’s time to have birds already!
If you need a bit of background, this post gives you an introduction to the old coop. While the coop was a good size, it was run down. Rehabbing it (and mucking it out) was more than I wanted to take on. Plus it wasn’t what I was looking for when I thought about how I would handle our birds. I decided to start fresh.
First step was cutting the trees that had grown up around the coop. Matt’s Dad and nephew came out and gave us a day of work to clear them out of the way. In the process, we learned that the coop was sturdier than it looked. One of the trees that was particularly close and leaning in an inconvenient direction ended up on the roof. Despite the weight of the large tree, the coop didn’t budge.
A few weeks later, my cousin and his daughter’s boyfriend came out for the official demo day and my Mom came to take care of Ellie.
Aside: I am so fortunate to have help with so many things around the farm. I want to be able to continue to live here, and I want to make it the way Matt and I always envisioned. But it’s a huge job. Taking care of this property and doing the work that’s needed (and wanted) is a lot. In cases like the coop, it’s more than I can handle. Asking for help is essential. Having people who willingly and happily say yes is incredibly meaningful. It’s more than a coop. It’s a vision and a life, and they help me make it happen.
Back to demo.
We started with popping off the old siding. I wanted to work from the outside as much as possible, as the coop was full of old manure, critter mess and who knows what else. Nothing we should be breathing.
As we progressed to the roof, it became obvious that the coop was, in fact, very sturdy. Even with major support posts cut, the structure wasn’t going anywhere. So my cousin climbed up, peeled back the metal sheathing and sliced the roof with his chainsaw. Then we hooked up a rope, connected it to the winch on his ATV (he brought all the tools, which turned out to be so helpful) and pulled the roof down. We did that three more times and ended up with four huge sections of roof spread around on the ground.
This was also the point when it became clear that the coop was its own freestanding structure and wasn’t actually attached to the barn. I had planned to leave the one wall intact where it joined the barn, so that we didn’t have a huge gaping hole in the side of the barn all winter. But the wall was part of the coop and down it came.
By the end of the day, the coop was gone–aside from huge piles of wood and a foundation covered in half a metre of manure.
We saved a lot of pieces of wood that are long enough or solid enough to be reused. Matt’s Dad again came to the rescue and took care of burning the rest of the old lumber. He also helped me cover the huge gaping hole in the side of the barn.
He and my sister came out again to help take apart the roofs. These were beasts. The rafters and beams were round sections of trees. Then there was a layer of sheathing boards. On top of that was a layer of wooden shakes. Then another layer of boards that were strapping for the metal panels that were the final layer. Prying them all apart, saving what was useable and then burning the rest took a full day.
From what we uncovered during demo, I am guessing that the coop was built in 1919. The walls were a double layer of barnboard, and between the planks were old newspapers. They were very well preserved and dates were very clear. The coop has obviously been renovated over the years. Metal was added to the roof over the original shakes. A layer of concrete was poured over the original floor. But the core structure seems to be more than 100 years old.
Part of me felt a bit bad for taking it down. But as I said at the beginning of the post, it would have taken a lot of work to fix it up and it still wouldn’t have been what I was looking for in a coop. I’ve come to realize that living at the farm comes with history and also means adapting the property to us and now.
So that’s where I’m looking now. I’m planning for our new coop and looking forward to starting to rebuild. I’ll share my plans soon.
Have you ever had a home project sneak up on you (not because something broke)? Have you found any relics when renovating? How do you deal with history at your home?
When we adopted Baxter, I began a tradition of writing a letter to him on the anniversary of his gotcha day (inspired by Tracey at love lives on). Cigo’s gotcha day was yesterday, so I decided to resume the tradition.
Thank you for joining our family a year ago. When we met you, the adoptions coordinator explained that deciding which family would adopt you was your choice as well as ours. I’m very glad that you chose us.
Ellie and I remember our first visit. I think about seeing you on the computer for the first time, sending in our application and all of the feelings I had–excitement, uncertainty, hope. When we brought you home, I think you felt some of those yourself. We all adjusted. You joined our circle of love and joy.
You have brought a lot to my life. Your company, our hikes. Most of all watching you with Ellie and her with you. Your love of people, your patience with children, your happy, sensitive nature are very special. Whatever we are doing, you’re up for it. In fact, you’d prefer not to be left out.
This year has been full of adventures–cottages, road trips, picnics, playgrounds, boats, a ferry, canoes, sleds and tents. We’ve also made our own routine with hikes, swims, bonfires, car rides and the farm.
Along the way, we’re remaking our own family. We don’t know each other’s history. You don’t know Matt or Baxter. I don’t know your other family. We’ve found our way together, and we keep moving forward, enjoying each day.
Tracey, who originally inspired me to begin writing letters like this wrote, “joy is not ignoring reality, it’s about making the best of it.” I feel this so strongly. You help us make the best of it, every day.
The wonderful thing about love and joy is that they grow. Our lives are better because you’re here. Thank you.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?