Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving here in Canada. I’m thankful for many things. My husband, our daughter, our dog and our cat. Our families, this farm, good food.

The silo at sunrise in the fall

Most of all this year I’m thankful for time. We often feel that there’s not enough time. Or we wish we were doing something else with our time.

At the start of this year, I proclaimed my word of the year was “slow.”

I wrote:

“We have to do our absolute best to live a life that we are satisfied with. I want to feel good about what I do, who I am with and how I spend my time. And the word “spend” is important. Time is valuable. Time is precious.”

Over the past little while, I feel like I’ve found a balance of how I spend my time. I have time to work and create and relax. Time with my family and with myself. I treasure each of these moments and don’t take them for granted.

Every day is very full, and there is pressure. There are trade-offs and the balance doesn’t always look the same. But usually by the end of the day I feel at peace with what I’ve done and how I’ve spent my time.

I’m very thankful for that.

A few weeks ago I saw a sign on the side of the road that said, “You have what you need for this moment.”

This message was an affirmation that I have the strength, the skills, the energy, the ability, the support to face whatever comes. It’s also a reminder to live in the moment and not worry about what’s ahead.

Today is going to be full of moments with my amazing family at our lovely farm. I’m thankful for this time.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Odds & sods

Happy last day of September. I’ve been hanging on to summer and the warm weather as much as possible, but yesterday morning, Baxter, Ellie and I went out for a walk and it felt very fall. The sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing. But in the east field, it looked like spring as new seedlings have sprouted everywhere (just ignore the red tree on the edge of the field).

Baxter walking across the field

Grass seedlings

Getting this field ready for planting has been a full summer project, but over the last couple of weeks, our farmer did the final grading and even seeded. I’m pretty sure this is the start of hay for next year.

Living on the farm, I’m conscious that things are always changing and growing. Even as fall begins and we head to the quieter season of winter, life goes on.

Before I look too far ahead, here are some of the things that have grabbed my attention this month.

When I meet people they often call me Julie rather than Julia. I always feel awkward correcting them, so I usually just go along. At a party earlier this month Ellie was playing ball with a young girl who looked to be about 7 years old or so. I kept saying, “Throw the ball to Ella. It’s Ella’s turn.” After a few rounds of this, the girl said, “It’s Bella.” She was so confident and direct. I was impressed. It takes a lot to correct an adult when you’re a child, and this is something I struggle with even now. Next time I hear Julie, I’m going to try her simple approach.

More communications tips: how to talk to your kids using nonverbal techniques.

“Food should be grounded in people and place… Growing and cooking their own food, making their own history, building their own economy.” Eat Like A Fish by Bren Smith is an interesting, motivating and slightly scary look at fishing, food and climate change . It has me thinking about the choices I make and my expectations around food.

I haven’t knit in a really long time, but I started again this month, and it feels really good. A little sweater for Ellie is taking shape. And one project is sparking so much creativity. I whipped up a simple elastic waist skirt for myself during one of Ellie’s afternoon naps and started sewing a dress for me as well. I also have two more sweaters planned for her, a pair of mitts, maybe a hat.

Sarah Richardson just wrapped up a makeover on her own cottage. I loved watching the first renovation that she did many years ago, so it’s been interesting to see how she updated the spaces. A highlight for me was the bathroom where she made it look new even though most things stayed the same. She shows the benefit of choosing timeless materials that you love.

My writing elsewhere:

What season does it feel like where you are? Have you been doing any crafting? What’s your favourite creative outlet? Anyone else have a name that people often mishear? What was the highlight of September for you?

 

Fall farm to-do list

Fall is officially here. I’m never ready to let go of summer, but the days are definitely shorter and leaves are starting to turn. I can’t deny it.

A long to-do list is the norm for life on the farm. But fall brings some extra pressure. We have to get thing done before the weather changes.

(Although have to might be a strong word choice. The farm will likely not fall apart if we don’t do these things, but I would feel like we’re more responsible caretakers if we did.)

Raspberries

Prune raspberries – The garden continues to be a disaster, but I continue to hope I can get just one part of it under control. Aside from the emotional peace of mind pruning the raspberries would bring, it would also set us up for a better harvest next year.

Double French light purple lilac

Transplant lilac – When we moved here, I brought a cutting from my grandmother’s lilac. It’s been doing well, but as it grows bigger, it’s obvious it isn’t ideally located. I’ve heard fall is a good transplanting time. Any tips for moving lilacs?

Remove screens – This is something I try to do every year, but it’s hit and miss as to whether I succeed. I feel that storing the screens for the winter protects them from the harsh weather, plus it sets me up to clean them and the windows every spring.

Spraying hose nozzle

Turn off exterior water – This one is non-negotiable. The water has to be turned off, the hoses need to be put away and pipes must to drained before the temperature dips below freezing. We’ve done this enough times that it’s usually not too difficult.

Clean the gutters – Before we turn off the water, we need to clean out the eavestroughs. Being surrounded by so many large trees mean that the gutters fill up with pine needles, leaves and other debris that clog up the downspouts. If they’re given a chance to freeze, troughs will back up and overflow, which could lead to water going where it’s not supposed to.

Ralph and Baxter supervising the oil change on the tractor

Service tractor – My super helpful cousin comes up to the farm every fall to change the oil in the tractor and check it over. Before he shows up, we need to remove the mower deck, clean and grease it. We’ll hold off attaching the snowblower until we need it. We also need to run the push mower out of gas.

It’s a relatively modest list. I’ve not added any big new tasks, just focused on a few basic things that we need… or things I’d like… to do.

Odds & sods

I know summer is winding down, but we are still savouring every second. We’re having such a good time all together and really, really enjoying each other.

We’ve spent time with our extended families and also with our own little crew. There were lots of swims in Matt’s parents’ pool and a very special cottage week with my family. There have been tractor rides, hikes and harvests. Life is very full and very good.

Our rhythm is changing these days, but we make sure to treasure our time at the farm together.

Here is my monthly round-up of some recent happenings:

Dining room by Luke Havekes

The September issue of House & Home was over-the-top with a Milanese “guesthouse” (on the scale of a chateau), a Parisian pied-à-terre, and a large London flat. Completely out of my league. But tucked amongst all of the splendor was a home that felt completely attainable and identifiable by Canadian designer Luke Havekes. It was comfortable, colourful and personal. A few spaces even felt familiar, as they had elements that I’ve used here at the farm, like the white china cabinet with the arched tops.

Are you watching American Ninja Warrior? It is such a positive, uplifting show. The physical achievements are super impressive, but the competitors themselves and their stories are even more inspiring. Plus, watching two women finish the course last week was a great milestone.

“Resilience depends more on what we receive than what we have within us.”

I’ve been trying to recycle Ellie’s infant carseats rather than putting them in the garbage (they were hand-me-downs and are near expiry). It took awhile, but Atmo does recycling all across Canada. There is a cost (about $20 per seat), but there are various drop-off locations, which is more affordable than some of the other options I found that required me to ship the seats to a depot.

Chris Loves Julia’s kitchen makeover has been all over the internet–for good reason. It’s a great example of what can be done with DIY, creativity, some simple materials and paint.

My writing elsewhere:

Do you feel summer winding down? How are you wringing every last drop out of the season?

 

Summer holidays

I love summer. I love heat, sun and time together.

We’re getting all of that right now.

So I’m going to take some time to savour it.

Ellie, Ralph and Baxter

So far, we’ve been spending lots of time with family, had a bit of a getaway up north, done some special outings for just our little family and are enjoying this season together.

We have more of the same planned for the next little while, so I’m going to take a little break from the blog for the next few weeks.

I hope that you’re enjoying your summer and are getting time to do all of the things you love with all of the people you love.

Odds & sods

We’re at the last week of June.

We always think about my Dad. Between Father’s Day and the anniversary of his death our thoughts have been a little heavier at times this month. We see lots of signs that he’s still with us and we feel his love all the time.

Life is hard. But life is also very, very, very good.

We had a lot of fun this month. Ellie finished her second class of swimming lessons—she passed 😉 —so she’s all set for pool and lake time this summer. We celebrated Matt and his Dad with Father’s Day and remembered my Dad too.

Here are some of the other things we’ve been up to and inspired by this month:

Ellie with a miniature donkey

One of our family outings in June was to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. We’d never been there, even though it’s fairly near the farm. It was so much fun and their programs are super impressive. There are 86 rescued donkeys and more at local foster farms—which is giving me ideas. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

The garden on the turnaround has always been a challenge. The big maple tree keeps it in perpetual shade and also sucks up all the moisture from the ground. Plus the garden is big, so I feel like plants disappear. I went to a presentation at a local nursery about shade gardening to get some tips and came out with a list of plants and solutions to try. I’d like to try turtlehead because it’s a big plant and a late bloomer, although I’m worried our soil is too dry. Do you have any plants or tips that have worked for you?

On the topic of gardens, Cathy and Garrett over at The Grit and Polish did a massive makeover in their vegetable garden. They made a great family hangout space.

Looking for some food to serve at your next family hangout? Call it a bruschetta bar, charcuterie platter or tapas, this is what I love to eat.

“There are all these phenomena in human life that are really resistant to language… It’s that personalization of experience and the urge to share experience. We all desperately want other people to hear us and hear our stories and know what our feelings feel like, and they can’t.” Beautiful reflections on the power and limitations of language by John Greene of The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast on 99% Invisible.

Another quote that’s inspiring me: “talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know.”(From A Star Is Born)

My writing elsewhere:

We’ll be rounding out the month with lots of family time this week, and our first overnight trip with Ellie. Matt’s parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, so there’s a special dinner and family photoshoot in the plans.

What was your highlight from June? How are you wrapping up the month? What’s been inspiring you recently?

 

Tiling the east field

Our farm came with six fields, but in the years that we’ve lived here, only five have been in use. The far east field has been “in rehab.” In fact, it’s also known as the rehab field. (This post shows a bird’s eye view of the property.)

The field is boggy with two marshy areas, one of which is right in the middle. It’s hilly and on some of the slopes the soil has washed away and the ground is very stony.

Green marshy area in the middle of the east field

The farmer who rents our fields told us that several years before we bought the farm, one of the previous owners brought in some dirt and regraded the field, and after that it didn’t drain properly. In the time that we’ve been here, the farmer has augmented the soil with manure and tried various measures to drain the field. Nothing has worked.

In fact, he’s gotten more and more frustrated as his equipment gets stuck in the mud and the field remains unuseable.

This view shows the east field and the big field from the same vantage point a few years ago. You can see that the big field is a lot healthier looking than the east.

East field

Big field

Every year we talk about tiling the field, and this spring our farmer decided to go ahead.

Note I wrote tiling, not tilling.

Tiling involves running weeping tile throughout the field underground to drain the water.

Our farmer hired a drainage contractor for this project. The first step was to survey the fields using GPS to map out the best drainage path.

Surveying the field by ATV to prepare for tiling

Then the big stuff showed up. A backhoe, bulldozer, a drainage plow and biiiiig rolls of weeping tile.

Baxter surveys the backhoe

Baxter standing in front of a spool of weeping tile

The plow was a really cool piece of equipment. It was a large tractor on caterpillar tracks with a spindle to carry the giant spool of tile. The plow cut into the ground and fed the tile into the trench and filled it back in all in one pass.

Drainage plow

Even after living in farm country for seven years, the novelty of farm equipment has not worn off for me. I marvel over the tractors, the combines, the plows and all the rest. So I loved seeing the drainage equipment at work. The maneuverability and power of the tractors was awesome. They went through the water, up hills, through trees–nothing stopped them.

Baxter watching the drainage plow tiling the field

Tiling the field

The crew laid tile all through the east field, a bit into the big field and drained it all through the front field and into the creek that runs across the front of the property.

Weeping tile

Field drainage tile flowing into a creek

There is still work to be done before the field is finally out of rehab. There’s a big section where top soil was scraped off, and it needs to be pushed back. As well, the trenches and ridges from the plow need to be leveled.

Field after tiling before levelling

Ridges in the field after tiling

The ground is still a little squishy in spots, as you can see by my boots (please give me props for not tipping over and dumping the baby into the mud).

Standing in the mud

But the tile is a huge step towards hopefully making the field more useable.

Do you have any muddy spots at your house? Or have you spotted any cool equipment at work? Is part of your property also “in rehab”?

 

Odds & sods

Happy last week of May, everyone. And happy Memorial Day to my American readers.

This is one of my favourite times of year. The farm is so, so green and everything looks nice–wild, but nice. We’re trying to stay on top of mowing and weeding, and for once I feel like I’ve been making progress in the gardens. Between a pregnancy and a baby, we have about two years of neglect to overcome. But fortunately, the baby loooooves being outside and can entertain herself a little bit.

My monthly Odds & Sods post took a break last month thanks to the One Room Challenge, but I’m back this month to share some of the interesting links I’ve come across recently:

Baby sitting in a puddle on the driveway

The baby’s favourite outdoor entertainment involves splashing in puddles, hassling the cat, picking flowers (so cute), practicing walking up and down the barn ramp, visiting the horses across the road and definitely ingesting a (hopefully) healthy amount of dirt.

If like us, you’re spending a lot of time outside and you happen to also live in tick territory, here’s an article I wrote about how to protect your dog (and yourself) from ticks.

This documentary about the Mayo Clinic was so impressive and inspiring. And this documentary about how Bill Murray seeks and creates joy gave me joy.

Matt and I are regular Jeopardy watchers (yes, we’re closet senior citizens), so we’ve been watching James Holtzhuaer since the start. Initially we were excited by him because he reminds us so much of my sister’s husband: appearance, voice, quickness on the buzzer, weird wager amounts. But then we got excited for how James has been playing… and winning ($2 million and counting). I’ve loved reading some of the articles that go behind the scenes on James’ impressive run: The Man Who Solved Jeopardy

I’ve always loved hyper-realistic art, so CJ Hendry’s images blow me away (those ink blots are done with pencil crayon). It was interesting to read about how Instagram helped her popularity, but I was kind of bummed with the focus on “art-world acceptance.” I’m not in this sphere, so I don’t know how important galleries and museums and critics and collectors are. She definitely has a loyal following, commercial success and a lot of acceptance in certain circles. If you’re an artist, feel free to enlighten me.

The story of a Pulitzer prize winning reporter (from my hometown who got started at our local newspaper).

A good reminder of the importance of water conservation.

I cook mainly vegetarian these days, and I’m a fan of the power of cauliflower (Matt not so much). Two recipes we’ve I’ve enjoyed are taco “meat” (dial up the seasoning) and cauliflower bolognese (my MIL thought it was a meat sauce). On the non-cauliflower side, these lasagna stuffed mushrooms were a hit with everyone, including the baby.

My writing elsewhere:

What are you eating these days–hopefully it’s not too much dirt? Any other Jeopardy fans out there? Do you have any artist Instagram accounts to recommend? Or must-watch documentaries?

 

Solar panels five years later

It’s been five years since we turned on our solar panels. Each spring, I look at our numbers to compare how we’ve done each year and see how much money we’ve made overall.

Solar panel array

Here are previous year’s updates:

If you want to get caught up on how this all started, my Going Solar series covered all of the details of our install and our array:

And now to the latest update.

If you’ve been following along, you know that the power we generate goes back to the provincial grid, rather than to our own use. We paid to install the panels, but the province pays us for the power they produce.

Last year we made $4,595.18, bringing our total income over the past 5 years to $22,777.75.

Annual solar income over 5 years

As of this year we’ve made 56% of what we invested in installing the panels ($40,727.46). Solar panels are obviously a long term investment for us (our contract with the provincial government pays us $0.396 per kWh and runs for 20 years).

This year’s profit was the third highest since we powered up the solar panels. As always, the weather determines how much power we generate, and it varies every month and every year.

Monthly solar income over 5 years

But like always, what we made far exceeded what we spent on power.

We paid $2,595.02 for electricity last year, meaning we came out $2,000.16 ahead.

Solar programs vary a lot depending on where you live and what your goals are. As well, solar technology has come a long way since we installed our panels 5 years ago. For us, our system has been working really well for us–both environmentally and financially–and we’re really happy we made this decision.

Odds & sods

Happy last Monday of March. This was a special month. We marked 7 years of living here at the farm. And we marked Matt’s 40th birthday. There was lots of time with family, more sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Matt holding Ellie while he blows out the candles on his birthday cake

It feels like we have finally turned the corner into spring. The skating rink that was our driveway has turned into a mud strip. We tapped some maple trees to make syrup. The skating rink that was the pond is melting.

Tapping maple trees

I was down at the pond one morning last week and discovered that there is some serious construction going on down there. We have beavers again and they are building lodges and taking down trees all around the pond. (When we first moved to the farm, I spotted a beaver one night… and I think I’m just as excited now as I was then.) I shared a video on my stories (it’s saved in my highlights).

To cap off the month, I’m sharing another round-up of some interesting things I’ve come across recently.

  • Baxter’s coyote encounter is very fresh for us. This video of a dog playing with a wild coyote, is a nice counterpoint to our violent incident. In other unlikely wildlife-dog news, this dog made friends with a wild deer.
  • “Marriage is a journey, it’s a changing of singleness to oneness. A removal of yourself and our natural desire to put ourselves first, and laying down our life for another.”
  • There’s still a place for blogs. This month’s Instagram and Facebook outage were “a reminder of the importance of cultivating and maintaining influence across a variety of digital channels.”
  • The One Room Challenge kicks off next week. I’m actually thinking about participating, albeit on a really small scale. I’ve been ever so slowly been cleaning out the dining room to prepare for painting. I’m thinking the ORC might be helpful to keep me on track and actually get this project done. (See my previous ORC projects: the laundry room, master bedroom and my office.) Are you participating?

My writing elsewhere:

We have a pretty quiet week ahead. I’ll be working on a few freelance writing projects, and Matt has one appointment. Hmm, maybe I can get a headstart on the dining room.

How are you finishing off March? Did you have any special celebrations this month? What’s been inspiring you? Any unlikely animal pairings to share?