Odds & sods

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

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

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

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

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

What happens to your soil in the winter?

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

Media paywalls and democracy

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

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

Jillene Joseph


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

Odds & sods

Sometimes I think, “Oh I should post this on Instagram.” It could be my morning hike, or a home project, or a beautiful view at the farm.

But I rarely do.

With projects I usually don’t want to take the time to stop (I’ve learned to take pictures, at least most of the time). But mostly, my choice is about focusing on real life. I don’t live my life online. I enjoy the bit I share here on the blog and occasionally social media. But my life exists in the real world, and consciously staying offline keeps me focused on what’s real.

Do you feel a tug between real and virtual?

Here are some of the things that happened both offline and on this month:

What ancient cultures can teach us about the lost art of raising happy, helpful little humans.

“We can identify which parenting practices persist across the vast majority of… cultures–practices that have stood the test of time or cropped up over and over again throughout human history… ancient parenting traditions and techniques that Western culture has lost. Put simply, many hunter-gatherer communities have an enormous amount to teach Western moms and dads.”

Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff

A hallucinatory vision of modern hippie-luxe Not a typical interior design description

The Colonizer Playbook A great presentation of a heavy, hard topic.

Visualizing the climate future. I’m not as optimistic as this presentation. What do you think?

We’re ending the month with, of course, Hallowe’en. We’ve carved our pumpkin (and tried the hand mixer hack), made Ellie’s ghost costume, and I expect to kick off November with lots of candy. A different sort of treat arrived at the farm yesterday, on loan from our farmer.

Putting it to work will take up the rest of my week (don’t expect as-it-happens social media coverage, but I’ll share a blog post here once I’m done).

How do you find balance with online and off? Do you have a favourite parenting book or tip? How do you feel about modern hippie-luxe decor? Are you hopeful about climate change? Did your mixer help carve your pumpkin? What’s your favourite Hallowe’en candy?

Vote

Forest of autumn leaves

Once upon a time, some people thought the earth was flat. Once upon a time, some people thought it was okay to own other people. Once upon a time, some people thought it was okay to exterminate people who were different from them, Indigenous peoples, Jewish people.

Some people thought they could do anything to Mother Nature, and she would take it. Some people thought there were only men and women in the world. Some people thought if you believed differently from them you were wrong. You shouldn’t learn about things that are different. You should be quiet.

Times changed.

People opened their minds. People opened their hearts. They listened. They learned. They voted.

Sometimes it seems like we teeter backwards. Toward a place where people close their minds. Close their hearts. Don’t believe others. Only see their own point of view. But we can tip forward again. And we can vote.

I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman who loves another woman. I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman who doesn’t feel female. What it feels like to be Indigenous.

But I believe you do.

I believe we should know about each other and make our own choices. I don’t have to believe what you believe. You don’t have to believe what I believe. But we can learn and choose and respect and each have space for our own beliefs.

If you say you don’t care? It doesn’t make a difference?

Someday you will. Sometime there will be something that makes a difference to you. And you will care then. So it is time to vote.

Closing our eyes perpetuates problems. Going back to sleep is not an option. Vote.

Today is election day in Ontario. Please vote.

Odds & sods

A groove, productivity, balance–I felt like they all eluded me this month. We’re in a transition of back to school and work. Summer to fall. And I’m still adjusting.

I went into this month with plans and ambitions and long to-do lists. I’m ending the month in much the same place. I’ve done things. Just not as much as I planned to do.

Though there is the done-for-now mudroom.

As usual, we have made time to embrace fun. We started the month with another campout (our last one of the season). There have been lots of hikes, bonfires with my friends and my birthday celebration. Even school has been fun, as Ellie is loving it.

Fun is where we find the most love and joy, so that’s always most important in our lives. Finding my groove and being productive come much farther down the list.

In keeping with my current mood, this month’s links are a mix of dark and light. Some both at the same time.

A friend of a friend died in August of breast cancer. 34 years old. 4 little kids. While she was sick, she started @putakinddeedinyourfeed, and for her birthday earlier this month people did just that. A breast self exam could have saved her life, so make a point to feel yourself on the first.

you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down

Comes The Dawn by author unclear

I’ve followed Tim for a while, so seeing his condo on the cover of House & Home was fun. Also, his living room is beautiful.

I finished this dress for my summer sewing project and am looking forward to making this sweatshirt for the fall.

“there is no going back. That every good thing must end. That every bad thing does too, that everything does… In a life where so many things have gone wrong, there can be beauty too. That there is always hope, no matter what… I will never again have everything, and so all I’ve wanted is to believe that someday, again, I’ll have enough.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Is a farm the best place to survive the apocalypse? Some tech billionaires think so (but their apocalypse scenarios are much more selfish and scary than bucolic). Definitely worth a read.

I don’t agree with everything in this article, but it’s an interesting look at farming, food security, and the future.

Are you ready for the second half of your life?

We made our thankful turkey yesterday. It’s a great way to make gratitude tangible and visible. You might want to try it too.

How was September for you? Who else finds transitions hard?

Odds & sods

We have done summer well this year.

At first, I was worried about the end of school, work, Ellie, the house, the farm. How was I going to fit it all in? Then I decided we were going to go all in on summer. Everything else would fit in where it could.

Now, at the end of August, I’m looking back at an amazing season. We said yes to pretty much every invitation that came our way. There have been big things like cottage getaways and backyard campouts in the tent. There have also been simple things like fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden, catching frogs at the pond and picnics at various playgrounds.

We have had so much fun.

To be honest, I’m not ready for it to stop. School resumes soon, and I have an ambitious to-do list as we head into the fall. But I’m feeling very nostalgic. Our days are filled with so much love and joy. Ellie is learning so much. We have such an amazing bond. I want to hold onto that.

Time marches on and once a day is done, it’s gone forever. I don’t want to stop time. Life is constantly changing and it’s mostly pretty wonderful. So as I look ahead to the fall, I’m reminding myself of that, and I’m determined to continue to find the love and joy in each day.

Here are some things I’ve read and done over the last little while.

“Believing there is nothing to be done leaves room to become disengaged, apathetic, and inactive… To fight against climate doomism, we can centre hope in our environmental activism.”

“If you ask indigenous peoples… they have no word for wilderness… “What you call ‘wilderness’ we call our back yard.”” As I work out what my role in the environment of the farm should be, I’m learning more about humans working with nature, rather than nature working solely on her own.

Six principles of regenerative agriculture.

Helen Keller on over-consumption, production, business, competition and the opportunity for a happy life. (So many thoughtful, good points in this essay.)

Yay for books set in Canada! Louise Penny and Beverley McLachlin‘s mysteries have been some of my main summer reads.

As August winds down, I’m holding onto summer. We hosted a family barbecue over the weekend–the first time we’ve gotten together with extended family since the pandemic began. It was nice to celebrate with people. I’m thinking another campout this week might be a good way to finish off the month.

How has summer been for you? What’s been the highlight of your summer?

Land acknowledgement

Hay growing in a field

The land this farm sits on is part of the traditional territory inhabited by the Attawandaron people. Other Indigenous peoples also lived in this area, including the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and The Métis nation.

This land is still home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

I have wanted to write a land acknowledgement for the farm for a while. “Land acknowledgements allow us to meaningfully reflect on physical space and the land we sit on by analyzing ourselves and our connection to the land.” (Source: On Canada Project)

I am a white woman. I am privileged. My ancestors were settlers. My presence on these Indigenous lands is part of that legacy.

Bee in the wildflowers

The Attawandaron people who used to live in this area were also known as the Neutral nation. French explorers thought that the Attawandaron were neutral between neighbouring First Nation groups. The Canadian Encyclopedia tells me “The last reference to the Neutral as a nation in French records was in 1672. Today, no Neutral nation exists.”

This date astounds me–I know my reaction shows my lack of knowledge and my separation from Indigenous peoples’ experiences. Less than 200 years after colonization, an entire group of people were gone. Today, three and half centuries later, Attawandaron “descendants are believed to reside in present-day Haudenosaunee communities.”

The damage done to Indigenous peoples is phenomenal–and is still ongoing.

I am working to learn more about Indigenous peoples and their experiences and act to support them.

Living here at the farm, I want to honour the land and its original guardians. I am now responsible for how this land is used, how it is cared for, and how it is protected. I am learning about Indigenous land use, regenerative agriculture, and working to do the right things for this land.

Creek running over mossy stones

My history and my status allow me to be here and live in this way. My ancestors faced hardships and worked hard. But their efforts were within a system that privileged people who looked like them, who lived like them, who believed what they believed. Their experience and mine is vastly different from Indigenous peoples who have faced generations of injustice. John Green wrote in The Anthropocene Reviewed, “If I don’t grapple with the reality that I owe much of my success to injustice, I’ll only further the hoarding of wealth and opportunity.”

I am trying to grapple with my reality and my place in the world and to take my own personal steps toward reconciliation.

This acknowledgement is part of that.

With thanks to the On Canada Project for their blog post about How to think about land acknowledgement meaningfully.

Odds & sods

Summer has arrived here on the farm. We watched the hay being cut and baled. We picked strawberries. We caught frogs and minnows at the pond and had bonfires. We laid in the hammock and read in the treehouse. Every day is full of special, simple moments. I do not take this life for granted.

The world is a heavy place. I see extremists with power imposing their vision on society–regardless of the beliefs citizens hold. Whether it’s Russia with the Ukraine, the US with guns and abortion, Canada with Indigenous peoples, or pretty much every society with climate change, people who hold power are using old and extremely narrow thinking to make decisions for today.

Most people look to the future. What do I want to be? How can I do better? We must fight to make sure our countries do the same. Society must progress. We must recognize the wrongs that have been done and correct them. People’s and the planet’s welfare should be a priority. We must treat each other fairly.

This is the world I’m trying to build at the farm. My actions are reading, learning, listening, voting, writing and speaking about my values, being an example for Ellie, respecting and trying to repair the land where I live, and living each day with love and joy as much as I possibly can.

Here are some links from this month that made me laugh, made me think and made me remember.

“We tend to disconnect the digital world from the physical world… But the surveillance that you don’t notice tends to be far more insidious than the one that you do.” Making the case for better digital privacy

I’ve waterskied since I could walk, and it’s a highlight of my summer. This video brought back good memories and made me laugh.

“You better come quick ’cause there’s a hippo in the bathtub. And it’s going down the drain, oh no it’s gone.” Anne Murray. Sharon, Lois & Bram. Raffi. I downloaded my childhood soundtrack for Ellie.

An illuminating, personal look into Julia Child

“The less you disturb the top layer of your soil, the fewer weeds you will have.” Some encouragement and advice for the battle against garden weeds

“One day, you’ll leave this world behind so live a life you will remember.” My father told me.

This week is 4 years since my Dad died. I was having a hard time on Sunday, and The Nights came on at exactly the right time. Life is precious. Don’t let it slip away.

How are you looking to the future? What are you doing to share your values? Where is your refuge? What was the highlight of your month?

Odds & sods

I took an unexpected blogging break this month. Between spring on the farm, work projects and a little getaway, a lot of things were taking my attention.

I am still here.

One of the books I read this month was What Comes From Spirit by Richard Wagamese. This quote spoke to me:

“The Creator meant for me to write. Not to think about it, not to plan for it, not to wait for inspiration, but to write to honour the gift I was given. So I come here every day and I write something.”

Even though I haven’t been writing here on the blog, I have been writing.

It is nice to be back here, sharing my thoughts and some of what we’ve been up to.

The highlight of the month was a getaway with Matt’s family to Manitoulin Island. If you’re looking for a peaceful, private spot surrounded by nature, I highly recommend Rainbow Lodge. Fun fact: it had a previous life in a CBC show.

This chocolate cake was yummy, despite its weird ingredient list.

This book was heart-warming and fairly light. I had to hide it so I could actually do some work, or else I would have read it all at once.

The number of farms in Canada decreased 2% in the last five years. The new Census of Agriculture has lots of data about farming. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture breaks down some of the numbers.

It was lovely to have our little holiday away. However, there is no place like home.

“Long after the final i-gadget has been discovered, we’ll still yearn for hugs, kisses, and personal conversations. When we’ve traveled to the last exotic place and finished participating in the last recreational or entertainment venue on our list, we will want a haven and we will call it home.”

Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin

This week I’m hoping to take some time to catch up on projects around the farm and with some family and friends. It’s also election week in Ontario, so I will be voting. If you live in Ontario, I hope you will too. I’m considering winding up the week with our first bonfire of the year–a big part of my summers for the last two years.

How was May for you? What’s keeping you busy these days? Have you read any good books? What’s the weirdest dessert you’ve ever made? What are you focusing on this week?

Eight years of solar panels

One of the most significant environmental steps we took when we moved to the farm was adding solar panels to the barn. Last week marked eight years since the solar panels started to feed their power back into the grid.

Solar panels on the barn roof

Here is this year’s solar report.

If you need to get caught up, here are all of the previous updates and other details:

This year the panels generated $4,196.79. (We’re hooked into the grid, and the province pays us $0.396 per kWh). This is a lower total than previous years. The decrease is due to an accounting change, not a panel change. Our previous payments had included HST (a tax that we then remitted to the government). I cancelled our HST number for the solar panels, as it was below the threshold that required us to file, and it seemed simpler to not have to deal with it.

We still came out ahead in terms of what we spent on electricity, as we do every year. This year, we spent a total of $2,713.70, which translates to $1,483.09 in profit.

In my original estimates, I had predicted that year 8 would be the year that we paid off the panels. We may get there. We’ve earned almost 90% of what it cost to install the panels–just $4,366.60 left. (To be clear, we paid for the panels in full 8 years ago.)

I’m proud that we made the decision to install the panels. While my analysis is all financial, the environmental angle is extremely important to me. I would love someday to be truly off-grid and self-sufficient. Panel and battery technology have come a long way in the past 8 years, and I feel like that will give us the opportunity to do more in the future.

Does anyone else track their utility bills and compare each year? How are you “going green” at your house?

Odds & sods

Doesn’t this photo illustrate what we need more of in the world? More nature, more compassion, more gentleness, more help. More children learning to be compassionate, gentle and helpful to nature.

As April comes to an end, I am hanging onto Earth Day. This month’s round-up is made up of things that have taught me, inspired me and helped me to think about the Earth and my place in it. I hope that some of them help you to do the same.

April’s links:

Pastoral Song by James Rebanks was a major focus of my last blog post, but I have to share it again and encourage you to read it for yourself.

May we raise children who love the unloved things

A creative sewing up cycle

Books are one of the ways I’m trying to help Ellie understand the world. Here are a few about climate change, environmentalism and the Earth that we’ve liked: We Are Water Protectors, I Am The Storm, A Rock Is Lively (this whole series is a great way to introduce science to little kids).

How did you mark Earth Day?