Floorplan #3 – Master suite on the edge of the forest

This month, I’m sharing some of the floorplans I’ve worked through in the four years since we’ve owned the farm.

Just a reminder, here is our current layout.

Current floorplan

Last week you saw my second idea–adding a garage off the living room and turning the pool room into our master bedroom–which has been the plan for most of the time we’ve lived here. But all the way along, I struggled with losing the lawn on the south side of the house to the garage.

Matt has advocated pretty much since day 1 for the pool room becoming the garage. I could stomach the south lawn being a driveway better than I could handle it being garage. So that became the basis for floorplan #3.

Floorplan #3


  • The pool room becomes the garage. I’m pretty sure we’re going to need a mini-extension on the garage in order to fit two cars. Basically, the width of the mudroom gets tacked on the end.
  • Like in all of my plans, the current mudroom comes off and the front entrance shifts so that my office becomes the front foyer. Again, I think I can deal with the first view as you come into the house being the bathroom.
  • The back door in the kitchen is closed in, the window is expanded, and the wall pushes out about 5 feet.
  • The hallway is extended through the closets in the two bedrooms and the master suite (along with new closets) is added on the north side of the house. (And as I look at this, I realize it may make sense to switch the bathroom and closet… although I think this very not-to-scale floorplan is skewing the proportions).
  • The new mudroom and back door are still about 6 steps down from the kitchen.
  • We would still upgrade all of the doors and trim and add a metal roof.


  • This reno could likely be done in phases.
  • The kitchen expansion gives us a bit more counter space, room for bigger appliances, more natural light and my coveted view down to the pond.
  • There is direct access from the mudroom to the outside, so we don’t have to walk through the garage.
  • Bedrooms 1 and 2 still have good closets, added along with the master.
  • The bedrooms are all together at the end of the house. The master bedroom is nestled up to the forest and still has a pretty good view of the pond.
  • We keep the lawn on the south side of the house.


  • This is a bigger renovation with three separate additions: the garage, the kitchen and the master suite.
  • Running plumbing, electrical and HVAC to the master bedroom addition is a long way from the utility room under the living room fireplace.
  • This reno disrupts pretty much every room in the house.
  • Bedrooms 1 and 2 lose the windows they currently have on the north wall.
  • The pool room–one of the best rooms in the house in terms of size and windows–becomes the garage. Not a room you typically visit to enjoy the view.
  • We’ll lose a few trees, and we might have to fill in part of the small ravine on the edge of the north lawn.

Here’s the view of the north lawn. Pretty much this whole lawn would be taken over by the addition. The ground drops off right at the tree line on the right side of the picture. To be able to walk around the extended house on this side, we’d have to take out a few trees and level the ground a bit.

North lawn

Right now, this plan is the front-runner for me. I’m willing to sacrifice the north lawn as opposed to the south. I still get everything I want–better kitchen, front porch, master suite, attached garage, farmy-country appearance. Plus I get to keep the quality of the property around the house.

This is the last plan that I have to share. Going back to the home goals that I shared at the start of the week, my next step is to meet with a contractor or two and start to get some idea of costs of plans #2 and #3. The contractor I have in mind has experience with big renovations like this, and I think he might have some good suggestions for the best layout too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

What do you think about this plan? Do you like all the bedrooms to be together? What adjustments would you make?

Floorplan #2 – Private master suite overlooking the pond

This month, I’m sharing some of the floorplans I’ve worked through in the four years since we’ve owned the farm.

Last week you saw my first idea, which I eventually realized was more house than we needed.

The second floorplan is the one that’s been in my head the longest. Really, this floorplan preceded my decision not to add a second storey. I realized I could get pretty much everything I wanted almost within the bounds of the current house.

And just a reminder, here’s the plan for the current house.

Current floorplan

Plan #2 was about the master suite, the attached garage and the front porch. So there are some similarities and some differences between this plan and the one you saw last week.

Floorplan #2


  • Like in the last plan, the current mudroom comes off and the front entrance shifts so that my office becomes the front foyer. Yes, this means the view as you come in is of the bathroom, but I think I can deal with that.
  • The back door in the kitchen is closed in, the window is expanded and the wall pushes out about 5 feet, just to give us a wee bit more space.
  • The mudroom and garage follow the same layout as Plan #1 on the south side of the house.
  • The bulk of the indoor pool area becomes the master suite.
  • A modest addition behind the garage houses our walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom.
  • The mudroom and master bedroom are still about 6 steps down from the kitchen.
  • We would still upgrade all of the doors and trim and add a metal roof.


  • Most of the renovation is confined to one area of the house. The two bedrooms on the north side of the house are pretty much undisturbed.
  • The utility room is under the fireplace, making running HVAC, electrical and plumbing to the master bedroom easier–and likely less expensive.
  • The kitchen expansion gives us a bigger window for more natural light, a better view of the pond (I’m all about my view), a bit more counter space and room for bigger appliances.
  • We get our garage and the little nook I love at the person entrance (as opposed to the car entrance). It may sound silly, but the space behind the garage would also be good for the firewood pile, and I even love how the back door of the garage would be a convenient path to the (future) chicken coop.
  • I get my mudroom and the long uninterrupted wall up against the master bedroom gives lots of space for benches, cubbies and hooks.
  • The master bedroom would be a beautiful room with lots of windows and my favourite view down to the pond. The steps down to the doorway could be cute.


  • The steps down to the master bedroom could be weird.
  • The master bedroom is separated from the other bedrooms, which I don’t love.
  • Like in plan #1, the garage would take over the lawn south of the house, one of the best lawn areas we have.

Losing the south lawn was a sticking point for me. With the way our property is configured, the garage would stretch nearly to the bank of the barn. Our largest southern exposure would be blocked by garage–not the best way to increase the sunlight that comes into our house. And our best lawn would be taken over.

Here’s a photo of the south side of the house taken last summer. The garage would extend from the same area as the sunroom. It would stretch to the tree that overhangs the left side of the picture. The driveway would be where the clump of bushes is in the middle ground. The weedy patio to the left of the sunroom would be the closet and bathroom.

South lawn

Here’s the view of what would be the back of the garage to give you an idea of how much space there is between the house and the barn. (The barn’s at the right edge of the photo. The driveshed is in the middle. The tree would have to come out as it’s inside the future garage.)

South lawn

I really didn’t like the idea of losing the lawn. So I continued to work on floorplans to come up with an option that preserved the lawn.

All along, Matt has advocated for the pool room becoming the garage. I could stomach the south lawn being a driveway better than I could handle it being garage. So that became the basis for floorplan #3, which is coming up next.

In the meantime, what do you think about plan #2? What would be your priority if the house was yours? Are you all about the garage, the master suite, the porch or something else entirely?

Floorplan #1 – Go big

This month, I’m going to be sharing some of the floorplans I’ve worked through in the four years since we’ve owned the farm.

To start, I have to share my original vision–the one that popped into my head right after we saw the farm.

My original vision was based largely on achieving the exterior that I wanted. Namely, something that looked like a farmhouse. That meant dormers. That meant wrap-around porch. That meant two stories.

Someday farmhouse

Source: FamilyHomePlans.com (I made a few edits)

Can’t you see how that country farmhouse could come from our little bungalow?

Our house

But the outside is obviously just part of the puzzle. The inside was where we would be spending at least half of our time, so it had to work too.

Let’s start with remembering the original (current) floorplan of the house.

Current floorplan

Because I was planning on adding a second storey–which would house all of the bedrooms–my plan was to blow out the main floor. There would be a huge kitchen, a dedicated library/office, a new main entrance, a large sewing/laundry/craft room, a big mudroom, my coveted attached garage, and of course the porch. (And just a reminder, this plan isn’t at all to scale).

Floorplan #1


  • Current unheated, flat-roofed mudroom at the front of the house comes off, improving the balance of the front facade.
  • Main entry moves to the middle of the house, and my office becomes a generous front foyer.
  • The garage is added on the south side of the house.
  • The pool room is about 6 steps lower than the rest of the house, hence the steps down into the mudroom.
  • We also upgrade the doors and trim throughout and put on a steel roof.


  • Wrap-around porch. Do I need to say more? Alright, I will. From the porch you enter into a large front foyer. The entry we currently have at the top of the basement stairs is waaaaay too tight. And all kinds of farmy bits–pine needles, leaves, dirt–get tracked down the (carpeted) stairs.
  • Powder room right inside the side door, so if you’re outside and you have to pee, you can slip inside without tramping through the house with your boots on.
  • Main floor laundry room with plenty of space for a big sewing area. Windows on three sides and a great view to the pond would make this a beautiful bright room.
  • Big kitchen with lots of storage and prep space, plus a walk-in butler’s pantry. Oh, I really want a pantry. Plus I added a much bigger window along the back wall above the sink to improve our dim main floor.
  • Mudroom. Essential at a farm. Bonus, this one would be heated!
  • I love the little entry nook at the front of the garage. A bit of shelter as you’re coming in or going out.
  • The stairs to the second floor would be really cute with a turn and a landing at the top and a pretty railing all the way along.
  • On the second floor lots of bedrooms and a huge master suite with walk-in closet and private bathroom. (Although I never did get the layout of the second floor completely worked out in my mind).


  • Adding a second storey would eliminate the vaulted ceiling in the living and dining rooms. At first, I didn’t see this as a big deal, but I’ve come to really like the tall angled ceilings.
  • Big kitchen means more cleaning.
  • We’d probably not use the library a whole lot… but it would sure look nice.
  • I’ve come to like my basement laundry room. We tend to watch TV downstairs, and it’s convenient to throw a load in while we’re relaxing in the evenings. Running up and down the stairs doesn’t sound like as much fun.
  • The garage would take over the lawn south of the house, which is one of the best lawn areas we have.
  • This reno would be expen$$$ive.
  • This is way more house than we need.

After living at the farm, I quickly realized that we did not need a second storey. If we ever win the lotto, this plan may come back on the table. I would not only need money to build the addition, but also to pay someone to clean it regularly.

But the reality is, our house at its current size is pretty close to enough space for us. I went back to the philosophies of the Not So Big House books and thought about what we actually need… and also what I want, ’cause I’m not pretending that’s not an important factor here. No one really needs a private master suite. But I sure want one.

So Floorplan #1 was a no-go. Onto plan B. Next week, I’ll share Floorplan #2.

For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Floorplan #1. What’s your favourite part? What could you live without? Are you a fan of vaulted ceilings? If you won the lotto, what would your dream house be?

Four years of floorplans

Hello. Happy New Year.

The start of the year is always special for us because it marks the anniversary of when we found the farm.

Four years ago today, we submitted our offer on the farm. Our search had lasted a year and a half. We’d seen lots of farms and a few that we actually liked.

With any farm that we thought might have potential, my usual routine was to return home and work up a floorplan of how I would reconfigure the house to make it my dream home.

The house was usually the least important factor when we were looking at a farm. Location, quality of property, whether there was a barn. Those mattered to us. The house, I figured I could work on that.

My floorplans were not to scale and usually more dream than reality, but they were a regular part of my process.

Except on this farm.

I never drew a floorplan. It wasn’t that the house was perfect. Lots of things were missing: master suite, garage, front porch. And there was a big thing that I wished was missing: it had an indoor pool, and there was no way I was keeping that.

Matt in the indoor pool

I definitely had the floorplan in my head.

However, I never sat down at my computer and mocked it up.

But now I have. In fact, I’ve mocked up three different plans.

I’m a big believer that living in a space helps me make the best decisions about how to renovate it. My vision for this house has changed over the past four years.

Before we get to the vision, let’s start with the reality. Here’s the main floor as it exists today (in fact, pretty much as it existed when we saw it four years ago).

Current floorplan

And here’s the front of the house as it looked last June.

Front of the house

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some different floorplans with you, and you can see how my vision has progressed over the years.

There are still lots of questions to work out, and I hope that you’ll share your opinions as we go.


Ummm… hello? It’s March. How did that happen? I was going over the calendar planningwhat I was going to post on the blog in the coming weeks. All of a sudden I realized that March was imminent and it was the THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF WHEN WE BOUGHT THE FARM!!!

Sorry for shouting, but holy cow. We’ve been here for three years!

The farm has been pretty momentous for me. I love who I am here. I love the lifestyle that Matt and I have. I love the atmosphere I’m surrounded with every day. If I could spend all of my time here on the farm with Matt, Baxter and Ralph, I would be quite content… Not that I’m not happy already. It’s just the dang day job that pays for the farm keeps dragging me away from it.

But anyways… as Matt would say, “I digest.”

(Translation, “digress” … just in case you didn’t get it).


In celebration of the day I found myself, also known as the day the farm became ours, I like to look back at the past year and reflect a little bit.

My word for this year is “progress.”

Thanks to my Home Goals and a relatively strict monthly schedule, we made some significant progress on transforming the house into more of the home we want it to be.

We spent some time in the basement, which hadn’t received a lot of attention since year 1. We redid the doors, patched the foundation and finished off the last remaining untouched space: the laundry room.

Slab doors become barn doors

I loved participating in the One Room Challenge for the first time. It pushed me to think about all the details in the room and bring it all together in a limited amount of time. The result–a beautiful, fully-decorated, completely made-over laundry room–still thrills me.

Black and white shaker cabinets with chrome hardware in the laundry room

Also thrilling was the progress we made upstairs on the main floor. I took a baby step into making over my office by setting up a little command centre in a previously awkward nook. You’ve also seen recently that we’ve started on a master bedroom makeover.

Pretty home command centre

The space that saw the most progress over the past year was definitely the living room. This room basically got a complete makeover with fresh paint on all the walls and trim, remade bookshelves, additional furniture, a growing family photo display, some really special art and, of course, our beautiful fieldstone fireplace. It is so amazing to have the fireplace working finally. It’s a total show piece for the room–heck, for the whole main floor.

Family photo display

Outside, we were not quite as progressive–as usual. We’re three years in, and I’m still learning that landscaping the farm is a mammoth task. The area that saw the most progress this year is the one where I can claim no responsibility–the fields, which produced our first crop of soybeans.

Sprouting soybeans

The landscaping will continue to be a theme for years to come, I expect. Probably an infinite theme.

Another theme for my annual reflections is animals. We’ve had our usual sightings and hearings of birds, deer, coyotes, turkeys–and as much as they’re usual, they’re still novel. Like last year, we also experienced a few more losses. The robins, Harold and just last week the owl. Death is a part of life, a fact that is made even more real here at the farm.

On a more positive note, Ralph and Baxter continue to thrive. The best word to describe Ralph is constant. She presides over her barn and keeps everybody in line. You know that saying, “dogs have owners and cats have staff”? Ralph has hired all of us onto her crew–including Baxter.

Baxter and Ralph

Baxter, the most easy-going guy ever, takes life as it comes. We had an extra focus on training this year through classes with a really great trainer, a hiking group and ThatMutt’s #ActiveMutts challenges. As much as I can’t imagine my life without the farm, I also can’t imagine life without Baxter.

This year we branched out beyond the farm too, participating the #ALSIceBucketChallenge and weighing in on #Farm365.

Time is flying. As much as I can’t believe it’s already March, and already our third anniversary, I also have the feeling that we’ve always been here. Thanks for coming with me on this wonderful journey.

Our very first farm

Happy New Year, everyone.

Jan. 2 is always a special day for us. Three years ago today, we finally found our farm.

It took us a long time to find our perfect farm. The search started about a year and a half before our forever farm even came up for sale.

I still remember the very first property we saw. Want to see it?

Large country mansion

Ummm… yeah… it didn’t look like that when we saw it.

At the start of our farm search, we were looking for an empty piece of property. Our plan was to build our own house from scratch.

So when we went and looked at this farm, it was a rocky cow pasture. There were no buildings, there was little grass. As we stumbled through the rough field, I realized that building from scratch was going to be a lot of work. We’d have to put in a driveway and a well and hydro and never mind actually building the house!

Well, two years after we passed on the cow paddies, someone else built their dream home. I can’t say that this is anywhere close to my dream home, but I do have to give them a bit of credit. They built the barn first.

(And for scale, that’s a full-size barn behind the trees to the right of the house. This place is massive.)

Because our search went on for so long, we saw a lot of properties. Since we looked at them, a lot of them have gone through renovations or even complete rebuilds. It’s kind of neat to retrace our steps sometimes and see what people have done to build their own forever homes. Fortunately, we’ve found our own forever farm, and it’s so nice to start another year here.

Have you gone through a long real estate search? Or what about a really short one? Do you ever go back to your former houses, or houses you looked at and see what’s been done to them? Are you in your forever house yet?

Six tips on how to stay organized when buying a house

When I was organizing my office the other week, I came across the binder I made when we bought the farm. This thing was my bible. I thought it might be helpful to share how I stayed organized during our relatively complicated house closing.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

1. Come up with a system capture the paper work and information that comes with selling and buying a house.

You want to have all of your information in one place that’s easily accessible. For me, this system was a binder that I carried everywhere for about three months. For you a file folder might work. You might even be able to set up an electronic file on your computer, tablet or phone. In my experience, buying a house comes with a lot of paperwork, so having a paper-based system worked for me.

2. Once you capture all of the information, keep it organized.

I used dividers to categorize information in my binder.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

You’ll have your own categories that work for you, but the ones that I used were mortgage broker, mortgage provider, mortgage quote, life insurance, house insurance, lawyer, storage, eco-energy audit, geothermal, insulation, water, internet, home inspection, property taxes, finances, offer, move-in and “fun & plans” (more on this one later). Sections were a mix of information we needed to complete the purchase of the farm and the sale of our first house, along with the fixes we planned to tackle first.

3. Keep track of everything

Make note of every conversation, every contact, every transaction, every flyer. You never know what you’ll need some day. I found it was particularly important to have a photocopy of our official offer and all of our financial information that I could quickly refer to.

Here’s the first page in my “lawyer” section. I have everything from appointment times, notes on title insurance and land transfer tax, even the scrap of paper where my dad first wrote down the lawyer’s contact information (which I’ve blurred out) stapled onto the page.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

Other sections have written quotes from insulation contractors, flyers for rural internet providers and business cards from other contacts. Our water section had the reports from all of our initial well inspections, but then it grew to include research that I gathered on different water treatment and pumping systems, estimates from contractors and other notes as we went through the process of installing our new system.

4. Keep a calendar

There are lots of things to remember when buying and selling a house. A calendar or schedule is essential to keep things on track. I made a customized calendar that showed the two months from when we purchased the farm to after we moved in all on one page. The front cover of my binder had a plastic sleeve, so I slipped the calendar in there, where I could always see it at a glance.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

5. Make sure your system is flexible.

In order to work throughout your whole house purchase, your system will have to grow and adapt and travel with you. Part way through the closing, I bought a second package of dividers and doubled the sections in the binder. As new information came in, I could write it down or print it out, punch holes in it and slot it into the appropriate section. Wherever I was, I could whip out the binder to access information or jot down a note.

6. Make room for some fun.

Buying a house can be stressful. Often, it can seem that you’re spending all of your time with depressing inspection reports that show everything that’s wrong with your house, exorbitant contractor quotes that show you’re never going to be able to fix your house, or complicated legal and financial forms that make you question if you’re ever going to be able to actually buy your house. Occasionally, you’re going to need some help to look on the bright side.

The final section of my binder was called fun & plans.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

This wasn’t a huge section, and I confess it didn’t get a ton of attention, but it was a spot where I could do things like this.

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

Or this (pre-Pinterest).

How I stayed organized when we bought our house

Our two-month closing process was a little complicated because we were dealing with a country property and a fixer-upper, but I think a binder like this would be helpful no matter what kind of house you’re buying. It can be scaled and customized for whatever you need. And its usefulness continues after the sale closes. It’s been two years since we moved to the farm, and I still pull out this binder occasionally to find a contact or double check some information.

Now it’s your turn. Anyone have any tips on how to stay organized when buying a house? Are you a paper or computer person?

Farm-iversary 2

Two years ago yesterday, we took possession of the farm.

As I did last year, I’m going to take a look back at the milestones and accomplishments from the past year.

This year wasn’t as big on projects as year one. As much as I love DIY and improving my house, it was really, really nice to sit back a little bit and enjoy the comfy spaces we’ve created.

Relaxing in a cool basement

Part of settling into the farm was focusing a little more on decorating, rather than renovating.

I found inspiration on a local home tour and took in the Toronto Home Show with one of my friends. I got crafty, making a monogram, dice and painting a tray. I revealed my obsession with chairs and added two to our collection, receiving Strandmon for my birthday and winning Austin at Blogpodium.

I also went thrifting more than I ever have before, scoring a metal washtub to hold firewood, lamps, flags, pillows, tchotchkes and our beautiful dining table. Thrifting worked the other way too, as I sold the woodstove, our original kitchen stove, a rotisserie and a wing chair on kijiji.

Antique dark wood dining table

However, we did still accomplish a few things that fall more in the reno category.

We increased storage and counter space in the kitchen with the addition of a kitchen island, complete with a DIY wood countertop. We added more storage and reorganized the front hall closet. We made over the mudroom to be a bright welcoming space. I finished a cozy reading nook in the basement, including my favourite chair and a simple DIY ottoman. Oh, and then there was our most recent project, painting the kitchen, foyer and hall.

Simple bright country mudroom

Landscaping was supposed to be the big project for year two… and it turned out to be a really big project. Too big for just one year.

I swear, landscaping at the farm equals rocks. There were the four hours Matt, my Dad and I spent moving a pile of rocks from beside the driveshed to the official rock pile behind the barn. Then there was the new garden around the well that I edged with rocks. I finally had to enlist Matt and his Dad to move the most massive boulders into position.

The path across the turnaround was the one place where I wanted rocks–or at least bricks–but of course Matt and I first had to dig up another big rock that was in the way.

Digging up a large rock from our brick pathway

An extreme summer heatwave put an end to my landscaping. The intense heat was just one example of the extreme weather we saw in our second year. Spring came really late. Summer was really hot. And winter has been really snowy… and really, really, really cold. On top of it all, there was the ice storm. Spending three and a half days without power (and water and heat) was a challenging lesson in the realities of country living

Despite the difficult weather, we managed to grow some of our own food for the first time last year. We only picked a few tomatoes before the rest of the fruit was struck down by a blight, but we are keen to try again. The annual raspberry harvest was much more successful. A vegetable garden is still on our wish list.

Rotting tomatoes

Beyond our small vegetable plot, our fields produced another crop of hay, though our farmer only took one cut. In the fall, the fields were prepped with manure for their transition to soybeans coming up later this year.

Waste was a bit of a theme for year two as I did my own much smaller manure application, we had the septic tank pumped, and I did a major clean up of our 2km of roadside.

Four full bins of recycling

Change was also a theme in year two. In the fall, I left the organization where I had worked for the past 10 years for a new job. I was a bit scared to leave, but I was ready for a new challenge. I’m loving my new job–it’s definitely a challenge–and I’m really glad that I made the leap.

Interestingly, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the farm. We’re now located within reasonable driving distance of a bunch of new cities that were too far away before.

The biggest change that came to us in year two is of course Baxter. Matt and I both wanted a dog for a long time. However, we agreed that we would wait to get one until we were living in the country. We thought it might happen in year one, but we ended up waiting until year two. I think that we were just waiting for Baxter.

Family picture with Baxter

He is absolutely the perfect dog for us, and I love experiencing the farm with him. Rain and shine, day and night, hot and cold, I’m spending way more time outside enjoying the property than I did before.

There have been some not so perfect moments: the three run-aways, the pink-eye, the brownies, the chicken bones, the nail clippings and the skunk come to mind. Nonetheless, my love for the sleek sleepy creature dozing in the corner is immense. I have become a massive dog person.

While we gained Baxter, we lost Easter. In the fall, she disappeared for a few days, came back for one night and then disappeared for good. We’ve not found any evidence of foul play, so I am still wondering whether she might return this spring.

I think that’s some of my naive city-girl optimism overshadowing my realistic country-girl side. It’s been hard to think that the little fur ball that was born in our driveshed and that we watched grow up from a helpless baby into a spoiled kitten might not be part of our lives any more. I called her baby all the time for goodness sake, and she loved to be cradled like one.

Matt and Easter eye to eye

Ralph, whom I still call mama, is as constant as ever. She’s packed on the fur–and the pounds–as she presides over the barn. She humours us and now allows us to hold her like a baby. She’s learned that she gets the best belly scratches that way.

Beyond our family animals, we continue to keep a tally of the other animals that come through the farm. Year two gave us a few close encounters that we’ve not had before.

We went beyond seeing turkey footprints to seeing actual turkeys. We saw more deer (and then Matt hit one with his car and his Dad and his shotgun added another to our freezer). We saw a skunk for the first time, and then got sprayed for the first time (but not all at the same time). Down at the pond, we had what we think was a fisher. Watching all of the birds who come to the new feeder we built has been a highlight for me this winter.

Two wild male turkeys

In last year’s anniversary post, I came up with two words to summarize our first year at the farm. Last year’s theme of “big and more” still applies to all of our experiences at the farm, but I wanted something specific for year two. It was harder than I thought to come up with a theme, but I feel like wins and losses sort of summarizes this past year.

We were successful at a decent number of projects but didn’t accomplish as much as I’d hoped. We lost power, and I won a chair. We lost one precious family member and gained another extremely adored one. We settled into the farm a bit more, and the wins have far outweighed the losses. Year two confirmed that it’s definitely a country life for us.

Bird’s eye view

A few weeks ago as we headed into this year’s major undertaking that is landscaping, I posted an overview of what I call the residential portion of the property. That post got me thinking that you might be interested in seeing the whole farm. So let’s zoom out a bit, shall we?

Birds eye view of the farm

Voilà. The farm. All 129 acres of it. Clear? Good. Post done for today.

What? Oh. Not clear? Perhaps you’d like some explanation of where and what things are.

Layout of our farm

Obviously, the residential portion is a very small part of the property.

The farm is a fat L-shape. The small severance on the west side belongs to the people who owned the farm three owners ago.

During our real estate search, it was very hard to find farms that hadn’t been chopped up over the years. Lots of them had rows of small one acre lots cut off on all sides, and it became a running conversation between Matt and me about how I didn’t want a property that was missing any pieces of pie. This single severance is relatively small and tucked around the side, so I don’t notice it too much. Ironically, it’s an unusually shaped lot: triangle, just like a piece of pie.

Anyways, before you all leave me and go looking for dessert, back to the explanation of the farm.

At the top of the image (on the west half), the dark squiggly line cutting across the top left corner is the creek that runs across the front of the property and under the driveway. It flows into the pond and then continues out to the back half of the property, which is mostly marsh.

When I describe the property, I say that about half of it is cleared for hay fields and that the other half is natural. The natural half is very wet, but it’s also thickly forested.


According to the third season of Sarah’s House (where Sarah Richardson bought her farm), an acre is about as big as a football field and fits 16 small city lots. So using that math, we could have more than 2,000 houses on our property–or a whole lotta guys in tight pants. Yikes.

One of our most frequently asked questions is, “What are you going to do with all of that land?” My answer is always, “Enjoy it.” The opportunity to live in these surroundings is a luxury that I do not take for granted.

I’ll admit that my environmentalist side was one motivator in buying such a large property. I am not a fan of suburbia, and I’m happy that I can preserve this small (or large, depending on how you look at it) corner.

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.


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.