My life in Toronto was behind me and I was living in a beautiful condo in the Kitchener-Waterloo area with the love of my life. I was also pregnant and pandemic craziness was in full swing. All my plans for prenatal yoga and pregnancy groups had been waylaid and my midwife appointments had been pared down to the bare minimum.
Despite all the turmoil around me, I was feeling great. My pregnancy was extremely easy and enjoyable. I was looking forward to childbirth. I was hopeful about our future in whatever form it might take.
This can't last much longer I naively thought to myself about the mysterious new virus.
On that day, we were driving back from a friend's cottage when I spotted a crude handwritten sign with the words 'Hobby Farm For Sale' written on it with a phone number underneath and an arrow pointing us down a gravel road.
It was probably an overpriced dump, like everything else we had seen so far in this market gone mad, but reasoning that it never hurt to look we turned around and followed that sign over a bridge that spanned a cheerily winding river.
We never should have turned around.
You had to have been there. I won't bother getting into the details about this place, but it was perfect.
Just picture your dream version of a property for the purposes of this part of the (sad) story (with a happy ending).
I have spent a long time searching through real estate listings and classifieds looking for the perfect little hobby farm/homestead in Southern Ontario.
It seemed a futile search, often a depressing one. I had lists of places saved.
Toronto and Vancouver are not the only expensive parts of Canada. The madness has spilled out ever farther and I would longingly gaze at beautiful properties listed for several million dollars that were so far from reach they may as well have been on a different planet.
What was in our relative price range generally also needed a very expensive overhaul. Or the property would be purposely underpriced so as to spur on a bidding war driven by the emotion of competition.
Surely this dreamy property would be out of our price range too?
Except somehow it was not.
To get to the point quickly without delving into the entire sordid tale — it was underpriced to the point that we had gone back twenty years in time in real estate terms. An offer had been placed by another family and a deal made but these buyers were asking for more time to close on the property as they were unable to come up with the money in time.
We had an actual chance to get this property.
But this was not to be.
We were heartbroken. For a long time. We had allowed ourselves to make plans for something that had not been our right to plan for and subsequently paid the price.
And in truth, it was selfish of us to be glad for the misfortune of this unknown family who more than likely loved this place just as much as we did.
Perhaps this was a good lesson in humility for us.
So what was our idea of the dream farm or homestead?
A minimum of 5 acres we could farm. A forest at the perimeter full of deer and wild game we could hunt. A clean river full of fish winding through. I longed for barely-used gravel roads, faraway neighbours, and an old stone cottage we could pour our love and sweat into making the perfect home to fill with children.
The land would be holistically managed, everything regenerative and in harmony. A permaculture edible food forest would be established with fruit and nut trees. Hives of healthy bees would pollinate the land and provide us with honey and beeswax. Sheep, goats, and cows would graze in rotational pastures, rebuilding precious topsoil and sequestering carbon while providing us with meat, milk, and fibre.
I would grow roses and other beautiful and useful flowers. Medicinal herbs and plants used for dyeing would be found drying in my rustic stone kitchen.
Inside the cottage would be a wood-burning stove. Handmade rugs on the old wooden floors. Tapestry weavings and William Morris wallpaper above beadboard. Outside a stone smokehouse and a dairy where I made and aged my own cheeses.
I was very pregnant and hesitant at the prospect of raising children in a condo. One child seemed manageable, if not exactly ideal, but more than that would not work as they grew. And I definitely want more. I wanted my children to have magical childhoods surrounded by nature and chickens, fishing in creeks and hunting rabbits for play, not noisy city streets and iPads.
The months went on. My belly grew larger. I was resigned to giving birth in the condo and raising our first-born there. I still looked on the Realtor site and Kijiji regularly and made notes of the listings I loved. I watched the hobby farm market to learn about it as much as I could.
Almost as soon as great hobby farm property went on the market it was sold and the listing was taken down. My notes turned into a series of expired links to properties no longer available. A virtual graveyard.
I refused to let myself feel resentment. I had been so blessed and fortunate these last few years with the direction my life had taken, that it felt wrong, almost sinful, to allow feelings of entitlement to creep in. I focused my feelings on how grateful I was for everything I did have. For how far I had come.
I continued to study and learn and prepare myself for whenever our time would come. Even if it never came, the skills of homesteading are worthy of learning. I started my own community garden. I learned to can foods and ferment them. I researched permaculture, regenerative agriculture, livestock breeds and care and management. I went on my first hunt ever for spring turkey — and it was successful!
I had been preparing for my dream country life for a long time so that when it finally became a reality I would know what to do. And even in a condo, these skills are very valuable. In a suburban house you could do so much more.
My pregnancy was passing by quickly. The pandemic meant no mommy groups, no prenatal yoga, that nothing was the same as before. I was grateful to have the pregnancy to focus on, and grateful at how easy being pregnant was. We prepared for the homebirth of our first child, a son.
One day, as I was browsing the Realter site as I frequently did, I came across a new and promising listing. I emailed it to Martin immediately. The next day we went for a showing and I fell in love (again) with what was already there and also the potential of the land to truly make it our own.
It was only 3 acres and there was no winding stream. The forest didn't exactly border the property, but it was still there at a distance. The home was an old farmhouse from 1865 with the original wooden flooring. There was an acre of fenced pasture with a suitable shed for livestock. The original old stone smokehouse was still there, albeit being used for storage at present. There was a large annual garden in place and beautiful landscaping throughout the entire property with mature trees and an old apple orchard too, the trees bursting with fruit.
The present owners had done the important and expensive upgrades. Big, new, beautiful deep-set windows had been put in the entire home. A nice big addition had been built downstairs adding space to the original home and making the old brick exterior of the original farmhouse a gorgeous living room feature wall. Real oak flooring throughout the new addition and upstairs had been installed. A new durable metal roof had been put in too and a brand new well and septic system was installed.
The kitchen was untouched but we preferred it that way as I'm very particular about kitchens and longed to design one on my own to suit my style of cooking.
We got excited. Very excited. It was the first property we had seen since the last one that made us feel anything. The price was perfect but I knew it was purposely underlisted and that a bidding war could blow us out of our budget — especially if someone from Toronto was to join in.
In just one week, offers on the house would be accepted.
In one week our lives would change forever.
It was a Thursday.
I was almost at my due date.
We put our offer in.
And.......we got it?
I can't describe the flood of emotions we felt as we got that phone call. Immediately we ran to the car and drove out to the property — our future home.
We just drove by it several times in disbelief as we called family and friends to tell them the news. This is a thing we would do frequently over the following months as our closing date wasn't until the end of January 2021.
Gone are the days of conditional offers. We got that place without having sold our condo first. We had to do that NOW.
But I was 9 months pregnant, could go into labour any moment, and would be of little help in moving or staging the condo. I was useless. Regardless, it had to be done.
We moved into my in-laws basement while the condo was staged, photographed, and put on the market. I did nothing but be pregnant as everything happened all around me in breakneck speed.
I cried a little at times that my nesting was being disrupted but that is to be expected.
Three days later I went into labour and quickly and easily gave birth to our perfect little boy.
My planned homebirth turned into an equally incredible birth centre birth as I didn't actually know I was in active labour for one, but also I didn't want to give birth in my in-laws basement.
After only a few hours we came back early in the morning to a very surprised and shocked set of grandparents.
I gave birth in mid-October a few days past my due date. We thought the condo would sell quickly but we ended up spending the next few months living in that basement. Thankfully it was a very nice basement of very nice people who took excellent care of me, but living out of boxes in someone else's home with a newborn — the novelty wears out quickly.
I wanted to make my own home.
In the meantime, I mostly just ate soup and kept warm and cozy nursing my perfect little baby. A beautiful but very different Christmas passed in that basement where the three of us slept on a mattress on the floor.
And then finally, on the coldest weekend of the year, it was time, we moved into our new house.
It was surreal. It still is.
I'm sitting here nursing my baby as I write this and each day I have woken up in amazement at where my life was to where it is now. There are two-dozen eggs incubating in my dining room. Barely any cars drive by on the gravel road. There is no delivery. The nights are utterly dark and silent and still.
I once lived above one of the busiest highways in the world in downtown Toronto where I was renting an overpriced condo. This was only two years ago. I was frequently anxious that I would be stuck there.
Who I was then to who I am now are two different people.
And I don't come from much financially speaking. But here on my own land, I feel like the richest person alive. Three acres may not seem like a lot but it's actually astonishing what you can accomplish on it.
I spend my winter days taking care of our home and son and continuing to do research on what we want to do with this place, our land, our homestead.
I feel the happiest I ever have. The most content.
It's still winter here. All I have for the spring is my hopes and dreams for 2021.
And it's going to be a busy year for us as we renovate the home and work the land.
We are completely renovating the kitchen.
Removing a bathroom off of the dining room and creating one upstairs instead.
Moving the large main floor bathroom into the mudroom.
Creating closets upstairs as the current ones are too small.
Raising heritage chickens for eggs and meat.
Raising Icelandic sheep for meat, milk, and fibre.
Staring our edible permaculture food forest as soon as the snow melts and we can lay down cardboard and mulch.
Expanding the annual garden to be larger and planting a ton of food.
My own personal goals:
- Take the best care possible of my son.
- Make my home a place of warmth and love for my family.
- Make of myself a woman worthy of this beautiful life that I have been given.
I'm really excited to share this with everyone too. I hope it can be entertaining, amusing, and maybe even inspiring for those of you who have the same goals and dreams.
I know we are going to make a lot of mistakes and learn many hard lessons too.