Odds & sods

How is 2021 going for you so far?

This month feels like it flew by.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junkyard playgrounds

The woman behind Peter Rabbit

Anyone can be a millionaire

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

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

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

Word of the year: Focus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas

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

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

I wish you love, joy and peace this holiday.

Odds & sods

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

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

So how are you doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Days of Christmas, Canadian style

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

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

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

My writing elsewhere:

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

Odds & sods

I have decided to become a hugger. After we’re through this pandemic, of course.

A friend and I were talking the other night about how much we’re missing hugs. We’ve never been huggy friends, but we’re going to change that.

Being in a situation where it’s not safe to hug. Being in a situation where you don’t have a partner whom you can hug and who will hug you back. I’ve come to realize how important physical connections are.

I am making renewed efforts to connect with friends and family. As the year and the pandemic progresses, these connections are helping me cope. Even if I can’t hug people yet.

What we need on any given day changes. I hope that you are finding what you need and finding your own ways to cope.

(I’ve also decided Ellie is going to be required to hold my hand forever.)

Here are some other things helping me cope this month.

“Our culture is very solution-oriented, which is a good way of thinking for many things… But it’s a very destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution.” Coping strategies for difficult times.

Practical, real-life examples of how to talk to your kids

I don’t love making pastry. I find it fussy and worrisome. But I made Joanna’s quiche, and it wasn’t as much work as I feared. Also, it was good.

Even monsters need haircuts

Demo tools and tips (it’s not about smashing everything)

A guy who grew up down the road from Matt also died of melanoma (a different form) very young. His Mom recently reached out to me and shared this beautiful memorial. I hate that memorials like this exist. But I am grateful for all of the care and the love that leads to these tributes.

My writing elsewhere:

What are some of your coping strategies? Are you a hugger? Or planning to become one? Anyone else have feelings about quiche?

Thankful

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Thanksgiving is Matt’s favourite holiday. He loved the food and being together with family–and had very definite opinions on the importance of both.

It’s hard to mark Thanksgiving without him.

Yet, I am thankful.

I am thankful for our life. The choices we made, the things we have done, the opportunities we created.

I won’t say tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I honestly can’t yet. It hurts a lot to lose this love.

There is this one terrible hole in my life. And yes, it’s a huge and terrible hole.

But there’s one. Only one.

In so many other ways, I am incredibly fortunate. I know that. I never take it for granted. I appreciate it so very much.

The kindness of the people around us, the peace of this farm, the joy of our girl, good food, a safe home, financial stability, the option to continue to make choices, the chance to feel like myself and do things that matter to me. I am thankful for this and so much more.

We have a good life.

I am thankful for everything that Matt did–and does–to make that possible.

Odds & sods

I feel like this month was a time of ups and downs. Our first cold days and nights–so cold that I turned on the heat and plugged in the electric blanket. Then we spent the past week in shorts and sandals outside all day. Grief and joy. Fatigue and energy. Celebrations and disappointments.

Fall is here, with all its contradictions and challenges and beauty.

Ellie and I have been soaking in all the outside time we can, doing some pre-winter projects, working in the garden, eating our meals on the patio and visiting the farm across the road to watch the combine harvest the beans. We had our own little harvest when we picked some apples from the big tree in the meadow this weekend.

Toddler putting apples in a toy wheelbarrow

I feel like this month’s round-up is a mix of ups and downs as well. Perhaps it reflects my state of mind right now. I hope that you are well.

“… if the person I love has to endure this, then the least I can do is stand there, the least I can do is witness, the least I can do is tell them over and over again, aloud, I love you. We love you. We ain’t going nowhere.”

Lots of thoughts in this amazing and powerful article. But of course the quote above stood out for me the most.

I’m not the kind of Mom that plans activities for my toddler… yet. But @busytoddler may inspire me.

I spent 10 days in the amazing, wonderous place that is Mauritius 20 years ago. To have an oil spill on this island is devastating.

A really cool community project and what we’re going to do with our apples

I can’t stop talking about–or cooking from–this cookbook

Some more beautiful, hopeful quotes, both heard in The Anthropocene Reviewed:

“You were a presence full of light upon this Earth / And I am a witness to your life and to its worth.”

“And there was the world, lit by something that cannot shine light but still finds a way to share light.”

Yes, there is grief. Always grief. But I hope that you see there is love and joy and hope and peace too. That is my true state of mind. I wish the same for you.

My writing elsewhere:

Odds & sods

As August comes to an end, I’m noticing how the sun is setting earlier and the nights are getting cooler. I’m doing my best to hang onto summer for as long as possible, although I did chicken out of a final swim in Matt’s parents’ pool on the weekend.

We’re working in the garden, playing on the playground, having bonfires by the pond and–as always–puttering away on a bunch of projects. One that you’ll see soon has something to do with the giant burn pile behind the tree.

Moonrise over the fields

To tide you over til then, here are some interesting and inspiring things that I came across this month:

How will our homes and design change in the age of COVID-19?

Mesmerizing… and an incredibly impressive feat of woodworking

Many years ago, I was hooked on an adventure race called Eco-Challenge. Amazon has done a reboot and I’m hoping I get to watch it. I remember the previous Fiji race as being brutal.

How they filmed the ‘World’s Toughest Race’

Share the land

Dude Perfect is not my usual style of entertainment. But the documentary about their journey was very compelling and shows that success comes from a lot of hard work.

It’s the time of year to prune raspberries

It’s the time of year for all the zucchini. Last week we made six loaves of chocolate zucchini bread–Ellie’s favourite (she didn’t eat them all, don’t worry). I also tried a new non-chocolate version from my go-to for all things cooking, Smitten Kitchen–and Matt’s Mom proclaimed it her favourite.

We had some suspicious noises in the walls for a few nights, so I reset all of our mousetraps. This is still the best mousetraps we’ve ever used.

Our library has reopened, so I’ve been ordering lots of new books for Ellie. This bear and this one are favourites.

My writing elsewhere:

Anyone else desperately hanging onto summer? Any favourite zucchini recipes to share? Or children’s books (with or without bears)? Have you watched any interesting shows or documentaries this month?

Odds & sods

The end of July always feels like the halfway point of summer for me. We snuck away from the farm last week for a family cottage holiday. It was lovely to have a change of routine and time with family after so much isolation over the last several months.

Morning at the cottage

Last week also marked 2 months until my 40th birthday. I’m not hung up on the number, though I definitely don’t feel 40 yet. And I’m not seeing this as a major milestone. But it is an occasion, and I don’t want to ignore it.

I’ve started feeling more ready to look ahead–though some days I’m absolutely still focused on just getting through–and I started to mull an idea over. I share my birthday with Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely (we’re the same age). When she turned 30, she inspired me with her 30 before 30 list.

I’ve decided to do a 40 for 40 list. Not before 40. I only have 2 months. But between now and the end of the year, I’ve come up with 40 things that I’d like to do. Some of them are chores (getting a handle on our investments), some of them are fun (rewatch Jurassic Park), some of them are things I’ve always wanted to do (like knit this sweater).

I feel like it’s a way to mark my 40th year.

But before I get too ahead of myself, I wanted to share some things that I came across this month that were particularly meaningful, inspiring and interesting:

A goodbye letter for Baxter

How to raise a monarch butterfly (we had to find a sitter for our 10! caterpillars while we were away)

Monarch caterpillars hanging upside down

Lots of life lessons learned after spending a month with the toughest man on the planet

A semi-scientific exploration of how to be more happy (reading this book, I realized I am pretty happy)

More inspiration for Ellie’s playground expansion

Want to move to the country? 15 things to consider

More real talk about country living and the busy-ness of modern life

How has your summer been going? Have you been able to get away? What are you doing to change up your routine or connect with family? Do you have any goals between now and the end of the year?

Solar panels turn six

Barn with solar panels at sunset

Six years ago, at the end of April 2014 (wow, that feels so long ago), we turned on our solar panels and started generating power. Every spring since then, I’ve written a post sharing how our little power station is doing (you can see the panels on the right side of the lower barn roof in the photo above). This year, our solar-versary beamed right by without me noticing. (Can’t imagine what else would have been on my mind.)

So today I’m getting caught up.

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

Solar panels on the barn roof

Over the last year we spent $2,683.97 on electricity (this is our lights, pump, heat, fridge, stove, etc.). And we made $4,349.94 from the solar panels (we’re hooked into the grid, and the province pays us $0.396 per kWh). Yay to coming out ahead.

Annual income from solar panels

Last year we finally crossed the halfway point in making our investment back–over the previous 5 years we had made 56% of what we invested in installing the panels ($40,727.46). Now we’re passed the two-thirds mark–$27,127.69 or 67%.

Monthly income from solar panels

More than ever, I am grateful that we invested in these solar panels. Our finances have obviously changed since Matt’s death. Having the money from the solar panels and knowing it will cover our hydro costs is a comfort.

And even though I focus on the financials in this update, I strongly feel solar panels are the right choice for the environment, and I’m glad that we were able to take this step.

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