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?

 

Odds & sods

I work very hard to be a positive person and put goodness out into the world. So I feel like this isn’t what I want to say, but I have no other description than this past month felt heavy.

I miss Baxter. My Dad. Matt.

Father’s Day, the anniversary of my Dad’s death and a few other occasions weighed on me.

Matt’s Dad is part of the Optimist Club, a service organization in Matt’s hometown. The Club bought us a tree to plant at the farm. I chose a sugar maple, to honour Matt’s love of making maple syrup, and selected a spot near Ellie’s playground overlooking the fields.

Standing by Matt's tree

It was lovely and special and generous and kind. But it was also sad and harder than I expected.

The last class of kids that Matt was able to teach graduated last week, and the school organized a scholarship in his honour. Lovely and special and generous and kind. But also sad and hard.

Obviously, the world is grappling with some very, very difficult issues, and we felt the impacts of that here at the farm.

Slowly pandemic restrictions are lifting (sometimes it still feels too fast). We have been getting together more with family and friends, but still staying outside and still being cautious about going out very much.

I have been thinking about race and biases and racism and what part I can play, both for myself and for Ellie.

And in the realm of first world problems, we had no internet for about two weeks, which sent work, connecting with family, my Zoom grief counselling group skidding sideways. I’ve been working hard to get caught up.

But we had beautiful warm (sometimes sweltering hot) weather. Our fields had their first cut of hay, and we took Ellie’s annual picture with the bales. (You can see the flashback on my Instagram.) And last night as I walked up the driveway after closing the gate, thousands of fireflies were sparkling all around me as far as I could see.

Ellie standing on the hay bale

Every single day has good in it, and that is some of what I am sharing today in my monthly round-up.

“Two of the fundamental facts of being a person are 1. Whether we can walk or not, we must go on. And then also 2. None of us ever walks alone.”

My new favourite Instagram account (and an inspiring One Room Challenge transformation)

The One Room Challenge wrapped up last week and I’ve been having fun looking at some of the rooms

Expansion plans for Ellie’s playground

Three tips for how to make choices that will make you happy

Pandemic financial habits that are worth keeping

A thought-provoking comparison

I found my design inspiration for our main bathroom

How was June for you? What were your bright sides this month?

 

Bonfires at the pond

Bonfire beside the pond

The sun is going down. The air is warm. Frogs and birds are chirping. The water of the pond ripples as bugs, fish and beavers paddle around. Within a circle of stones, the flames of the bonfire dance in the gentle breeze.

This is the idyllic night by the pond that I have imagined since we moved here. And it has finally happened.

For many years, I have proclaimed that clearing the pond shore is my one and only outside project for the summer. And for many years, I have failed to fulfill my dream.

Overgrown brush on the shore of the pond

You might recall that earlier this year I burned the shore. This cleared all of last year’s brush and grass. In a couple of weeks, the grass had started to regrow, but it was small and and soft and green—very mowable.

Controlled burn beside the pond

Matt’s Dad went through with his heavy duty loppers and chainsaw. He did battle with saplings, suckers and the beaver lodge (not dismantling it, just climbing around on it). It was brutal for him, but more brutal for the brush.

Burning all of it took two more big fires.

I mowed, our nephew mowed, my cousin mowed. Ellie and I added benches and moved rocks to make the firepit.

Soon, Ellie and I were making daily visits to the beavers and then friends came for a (social distancing) bonfire. It was as wonderful as I imagined.

Last weekend, Matt’s Dad, his oldest brother and our two nephews waged another battle. This time with the stumps. Once we started mowing, we discovered a few stumps sticking up high enough to catch on the mower. With axes, pry bars and shovels, they dug them all out—another brutal job, but one I appreciate so, so much.

Digging out stumps by the pond

We celebrated on Saturday night by gathering for a bonfire. It was the first time we’ve all been together since Matt’s birthday in March. At the start of April, I wrote, “maybe, maybe in a few months the shore will be green, quarantine will be over, and we’ll be able to walk down and sit by the water.”

Though restrictions are lifting across Ontario, we are still being cautious. But the shore is green and we’re able to spend time together.

I often sit by the pond for a few minutes in the afternoons when Ellie naps or in the evenings after she goes to bed. We still visit the beavers at least once every day. And bonfires have become weekly events.

Evening at the pond

All of this gives me joy and peace, even more than I imagined.