Project ADD

Sewing desk

Ahhh. A week’s vacation. What a treat.

Time with family, watching TV and a few movies, reading, writing, sleeping in.

In between all of this relaxing, though, I’m not sure what I accomplished last week. As you can probably guess, I begin most vacations with somewhat ambitious plans of things I’m going to do around the house. I’ve learned to manage my expectations and that I enjoy my vacations more if I don’t put pressure on myself to finish all the things.

However, I usually finish at least some of the things. Not so this time.

I feel like I’m coming out of this vacation with a whole bunch of half-started and un-started projects. Everything from a spring living room refresh, new pillows for the basement, a dress I’m sewing and of course the never-ending office makeover.

I’m usually pretty good about keeping myself focused on one particular project. So having a list of things that I want to happen all over the house is making me a bit twitchy.

But I’m also excited. Maybe spring is in the air.

Who am I? Where did this project ADD come from?

Some of these projects are dependent on each other. I needed to get the office set up again–or at least my sewing machine–so that I can sew the pillows and my dress. The new pillows in the basement will mean some of the other pillows move upstairs to be part of the living room refresh.

Another week off would be very helpful to get all of this done. But I’m happy with how last week went.

You may notice in the photo above that my slipper chair is almost upholstered. Just two pesky corners to go. And a morning at the local fabric district with my Mom means I have all of the supplies for my other various projects.

I’m looking forward to these spring projects.

Do you have any spring projects on your list? Do you like productive or relaxing vacations?

Second year for syrup

Tapping a maple tree

It’s maple syrup season again on the farm. Or we think it is.

This is only our second time tapping our trees, so we’re still pretty much guessing. Temperatures are supposed to be above freezing during the day this week and below at night. From what I’ve read and what we learned last year, that’s sap weather.

Last year, we were impressed by how easy it was and how much syrup we made. In fact, we still have syrup left. We just don’t eat enough pancakes at our house.

But we’re not letting that stop us. We enjoyed making syrup last year, so we’re going to do it again.

Like so much of what we do on the farm, this is an experiment, so we’re learning as we go.

Lesson #1: Make sure the drill battery is charged (and the back-up too) before you start tapping. Mr. Dewalt had to hang out for a little while until the bit could spin enough to get him unstuck.

Drill stuck in a tree

Matt has picked a couple of new trees. The only issue is they’re not the easiest to access. More incentive to clean up the brush and junk along the edge of the field.

Tapping maple trees

The other three buckets went on our most productive trees from last year. (Can you spot the puppy?)

Tapping maple trees

Now our fingers are crossed that the weather cooperates and the sap starts flowing.

Lessons from the universe

I don’t quite know how to describe this week.

In the post I had originally written for today, I talked about how despite being frustrated at how slowly the office makeover is moving, I had taken some time away from it to focus on other aspects of my life. Vacuuming my floors, cleaning my bathroom, cooking dinner, donating a big pile of items–little things, but crossing them off my list gives me peace of mind. So as of Sunday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good about life. I had even made some progress on the office too.

Donation pile

But then a couple of hours later, driving along with a car full of items about to be donated, my brakes gave out. I had just enough pressure that I was able to stop the car safely, get home and then get to the mechanic on Monday morning.

It turned out the repair is a big job and more money than I want to put into my 14-year-old car.

So this week has been about buying a car–I definitely don’t have time or focus to work on the office or stay on top of other parts of my life.

I was able to borrow a car from my parents, so I could get back and forth to work–no choice but to stay on top of that. Then, on Wednesday night I came out of the office and the car wouldn’t start. Several hours and a tow truck ride later, I was home and once again vehicle-less.

So I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but the universe is not on my side this week.

I’m trying to look on the bright side. (Happiness is a choice, right?)

I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else when my brakes failed.

I have access to a vehicle that saves me the cost of renting a car.

I was able to work from home for a couple of days when I couldn’t make it into the office.

I’ve been saving my money because I knew I was going to have to buy a new car soon, so I can afford to buy the car I want, even if it’s a bit earlier than I’d hoped.

My parents have a CAA membership, so there was no charge for the tow truck.

The tow truck driver was very kind and dropped me at home before taking the car to a mechanic near my parents (nearly an hour from my work where we started).

My parents’ car is now fixed.

And I bought my car last night and should have it early next week.

Bright side. Bright side. Bright side.

Also on the bright side, it’s Friday. I am ready to leave this week behind and start fresh next week.

But between now and then there are a few more bright spots on the horizon. This weekend I am going to be spending some time my brother and his fiancée and meeting my brand new nephew (just 10 days old!–and just to be clear the nephew is not my brother’s… it’s Matt’s brother’s :)).

And I do have some news about the office makeover to share, so I’ll be back with a full update on the project on Monday. Because despite the universe’s plans for me, progress has been made. Slowly but surely.

Looking for robot vacuum recommendations

Vacuums are sucking up a lot of my thoughts these days. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist).

After much debate, we bought a Sebo canister vac several years ago, which works very well–when I use it.

I’m just not good at vacuuming, people. I don’t mean it’s beyond my ability. It’s just beyond my desire. There are approximately 8 million other things I’d rather do than vacuum.

So that means that dog hair, farm dirt, project dust (actual sawdust this week) accumulate. Our floors are regularly a disaster.

I long for a robot vacuum, but our Sebo was expensive. I feel like I can’t justify spending a not insignificant amount of money on another vacuum just because I’m lazy.

But then the universe started talking to me, sending me signs.

My sister got a Neato Robotics Botvac. (Isn’t that a great name?) And she loves it.

Neato Robotics Botvac

When I was at her house the other week, I spent some time following the vacuum around, watching it navigate the room and throwing things in front of it just to watch it pick them up. It did. (Aren’t I an amazing guest? You totally want me to come to your house, don’t you?)

John and Sherry at Young House Love talked about how their Roomba didn’t live up to their expectations in a recent podcast.

And then Thalita at The Learner Observer posted about her crumb-fighting, dog-hair-sucking sidekick bObi.

So I’m putting it out there to the universe. Anyone have any opinions on robot vacuums? Any recommendations on one that can handle an incredibly sheddy dog as well as farm dirt and a household under near constant renovation? Is it worth the investment? What chores do you struggle with?

Odds and sods

New buffalo check plaid skirt and shopping with my dog at Rona

Today, I have another odds and sods post for you, where I bundle together some of the little things that are happening around the farm and some things that I’ve seen out on the worldwide web.

  • I don’t shop at Rona a whole lot, but I ended up there last Friday, and they may become my favourite store because they allow dogs! I love stores that allow dogs–even though Baxter doesn’t quite have the energy for shopping.
  • Before I tore my office completely apart, I managed to sew a skirt that’s been in my head for a looooong time. Flannel buffalo check laid on the bias (AKA diagonal). It’s a little bit country and a whole lot comfortable for the winter.
  • We’re at an exciting time in our family. Nephew #1 has his driver’s license–so proud of him. Nephew #3 turned 3 a week ago. Nephew #5 should arrive in the next week or so–so extremely excited. Niece #1 arrives in a couple of months. Oh and Matt and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary yesterday and 19 years together this month. Craziness.
  • Alexandra Franzen is a writer whose posts inspire me. This one for the “the hard worker, the un-complainer, the tenacious warrior, grinding and slogging and striving to create something beautiful in this world” was a particularly motivating way to start the year.
  • Other words that are inspiring me right now: “No, we don’t do busy.
  • Thalita, who runs The Learned Observer, is someone I connected with online and then met in person a few years ago at Blog Podium. Now she’s a super busy Work At Home Mom of twin boys and is embarking on a new career as full-time blogger. The work that goes into making your dreams come true is significant, and I’m so impressed by what she’s been able to accomplish. I’m loving following her journey and cheering her on virtually.

I am more than ready for this weekend.

It’s been a bit of a tough week at the day job, with 26 meetings in the past four days and lots of extra hours to get at least a little bit of work done. I am grateful that I’m still on a four-day workweek schedule, so I’m willing to put in the extra time to get that balance.

However, I am looking forward to a few days of hiking, getting back to painting the furniture for my office, sleeping in, snacking and spending time with Matt at our farm.

What’s inspiring you this week? What have you been up to? What are your plans for the weekend?

A walk by the creek

Creek flowing over rocks

Care to join me on an evening walk along the creek?

We’ll start at the front of the property where water from farms to the north of us drains onto our land. It flows along the border of the front field, cuts under the driveway and then picks up another stream. From here it snakes along the perimeter of the corner field following the edge of our pine forest.


Partway along, we come to an old bridge that once connected the field to the forest. I discovered this bridge on one of my first rambles in the early months of owning the farm. I remember how excited I was, although I have yet to attempt to cross the bridge.

Dilapidated bridge

Some day, we may repair the bridge and establish some pathways through the forest.

Dilapidated bridge

As we near the mouth of the pond, the creek drops, swirling under trees, around boulders and over rocks.

Creek flowing over rocks

Unusual weather for January in Canada–five degrees and day after day of rain this week–has the water high and flowing fast, yet ice still coats the grass along the shore.


Fast flowing water in the creek

We end our ramble at the pond where the ice is melting in this January thaw.

Pond during a January thaw

Just one small problem, we’re on the wrong side of the creek and the bridge is out. Be careful getting home. 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone. May I suggest you go for a ramble?

Building a garage in a barn

Have I mentioned how much I want a garage? So far this week we’ve started the days with heavy frost that took forever to scrape off the windshield and freezing rain that coated everything in ice. More rain is forecast this week, which means I will get wet coming and going from my car to the house.

Sarah in Illinois recently built a garage with a bit of help from family. She is here today to share the process and an extra special feature that makes it even more useful.

About a year ago, on a Friday night, Steve and I were laying underneath my SUV in our freezing cold garage. A few days earlier my transmission had went out, and since Steve has some experience as a mechanic and has no fear of tearing things apart and putting them back together, we decided to save some money by removing it and reinstalling a used transmission by ourselves.

Except things weren’t going well.

We were tired, sore, cold and frustrated. I drew the line when I laid my head down in a puddle of transmission fluid. Steve and I looked at each other, and he said, “I will own a car lift.” At the time I agreed but knew that lifts were really expensive, and we really didn’t have a good place to install one.

A couple months went by and a customer ordered a new car lift from the shop where I work. It is not often that we sell one, and I got to talking to him about his old lift. He said that it still worked. It just wasn’t working for him anymore. I grabbed my phone and called Steve and gave him the customer’s phone number. Two days later we owned a used car lift.

Now for the important part. Where the heck were we going to put it?

We have a large pole barn on our property, but it has a dirt and gravel floor. In one corner the previous owner had built a woodshop with a small concrete pad. We decided to extend this pad and basically make a garage inside a small part of the pole barn.

This picture is showing the woodshop inside the pole barn with two walls removed.

For several weeks we spent evenings and weekends tearing out two of the old walls of the woodshop and framing up for a concrete pad. When we had the framing ready Steve, my Dad and brother took a day off work and poured and finished the pad.

I am so thankful that my family is so helpful and knowledgeable with projects like that. They ended up saving us quite a bit of money.

Once the pad was cured, it was time to build the new walls.

We borrowed some scaffolding to help with the new tall walls and to install some insulation board on the ceiling.

Steve and I believe that having good insulation is very important in any building project. What we have chosen to put on the ceiling is not ideal, but we have limited options with a tin roof. We seriously considered spray-on foam insulation, and honestly it’s probably what we should have done. But right now we are settling with what we have.

To install the vertical supports of the lift, Steve and my dad used concrete anchor bolts. They drilled holes using a hammer drill then inserted the sleeve and bolt into the hole. When the bolt was tightened it expanded to hold tight to the concrete.

One of the final steps was to install an overhead door. The pole barn has huge sliding doors on two sides, but this wasn’t handy for the new garage. So once again family came in very useful. My dad is known for not throwing things away in case he needs it someday. Well, it worked out for us. He had all of the parts and pieces for an overhead door.

We had to frame in a smaller opening, and then Steve, my Dad and my stepson took some of the tin off of the sliding door and covered the new smaller opening.

This week Steve has been insulating the walls. We still want to add another overhead door and of course he has to fill it with all of his tools and supplies. But basically we are going to call this project done.

And I have one happy hubby!

Great job, Sarah and family. I love that you did this all yourselves. Your family sounds very helpful and very handy. How great that your Dad had the door already! It looks like a great space for you and Steve. That lift is pretty cool.

Five years ago

Hello everyone. Happy New Year. I hope that you had a great Christmas.

Today marks five years since we saw the farm for the very first time.

By the start of 2012, we had been looking for our farm for nearly a year and a half. When Matt hopped online on Jan. 1, he saw a new listing. We made an appointment to see it with our realtor the next day. Jan. 2 was a freezing cold day. The farm was abandoned except for Ralph. The house was a mess.

Despite all that, the farm felt like ours, and soon it became ours for real.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been five years. At the same time, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Looking over the hayfield towards the barn

Living here has touched me in ways that are hard to describe. When people ask what made us want to buy a farm, I usually say something about peace and quiet, the idealistic idea of what country living is all about. All of that’s true, but it’s something deeper.

I find a lot of people have the dream of moving to the country. I feel very strongly that it’s a wonderful dream, and I’m so grateful that Matt and I have been able to make ours come true. However, I also feel that there’s no way to know if the dream is right for you until you live it. Country living is very hard to describe, and it’s not right for everyone.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about country living.

1. A large property is a lot of work

This might sound like a negative, and I don’t mean it to. Even though we’re not farmers and don’t make our living off our land, choosing to live on a 129-acre property is a big deal.

Take a suburban home with trees, flowers, gardens, lawn, driveway, shed and multiply it by 129. That’s a lot of time, sweat, muscle and energy. For Matt and me, we’re usually okay with spending our time in this way. In fact, working outside is something I enjoy.

Pushing the wheelbarrow over the forest catwalk

2. Choose your farm wisely

Matt and I (mostly I) were very picky when we were looking for our farm. Despite spending less than an hour here before deciding to buy it, we made a good choice.

The property has pretty much everything that was on our original wishlist. Things like the pond, long driveway, woods, big barn and proximity to our families mean more to me than I realized they would. Things that weren’t on our original list, like having a second small barn with the driveshed, the layout of the property with the fields, meadow, marshes, different clumps of forest have all been huge bonuses.

Rainbow over a green hayfield

In real estate you often hear that you can’t change the property but you can change the house. I firmly believe this and was always looking for a fixer-upper that I could make what I wanted. We ran into a lot of issues with this house and have a lot more that we want to do. But fundamentally it’s a good house and the floorplan gives us lots of options.

3. We are capable of more than we realize

Going back to point #1 and our DIY lifestyle, there are lots of times where I think that I can’t or don’t know how to do something. Most of the time, I can hunker down, figure it out and muscle through.

I think that this is a good lesson for all of my life, whether it applies to the farm or not.

For me, I’m so thankful to be sharing my life with Matt. Most of the time, it’s easier when the two of us are hunkering down, figuring it out and muscling through. This farm is a dream that we share, and I’m not sure that I’d want to do it alone.

Matt and me after sanding drywall

4. Being connected with nature

I admit that my environmentalist side has influenced me with this farm. I am preserving 129 acres. We are generating electricity, using a low impact geothermal system, drawing water from our own well. I like that we are trying to minimize our impact on the environment.

Living so close to nature, I’m very aware of the cycles of the season and how we influence and change those patterns. Watching the crops grow in our fields, following the trails animals make through the forest, monitoring birds and bugs, keeping track of the weather–I feel like I’m more aware of the world around me since moving to the farm.

Pussy willow

5. This is where I’m meant to be

Country living is not for everyone, but it’s definitely for Matt and me.

Walking in the hayfield

The best words I can think of to describe this feeling are comfort, pride and gratitude.

I’m so grateful for the experience of the past five years. When I think about the 50 years–or hopefully longer–that are yet to come, gratitude is what I feel. I’m grateful to look ahead through my life and know that whatever comes, I will have the experience of being here at this farm.

Merry Christmas

Snowy farm

Our fourth Christmas at the farm. It feels like we’ve always been here, but I never take this life for granted. The farm is the greatest gift.

This is my absolute favourite place to be, and this is a special time of year to be here. It’s an extra bonus that we’re going to have a white Christmas this year.

Matt and I have an extended time off this year, so I’m looking forward to two weeks of relaxing, good food, family and friends, and of course some projects.

Thank you all for following along with life here on our 129 acres. It means a lot to know that all of you are out there, interested in what we’re up to and cheering us on.

Merry Christmas to you. I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with your family.

I’ll be back with more stories to share in 2017.