Well, here it is.
Today is the 5th anniversary of all four of us finally being here at the farm today.
I can’t say “moved in”, since we had to put our stuff in storage for almost a month, but aside from that, it was done. We were here!
One of the things we did after spending some time assessing what we’d gotten into, as best we could at the time, was come up with a 5 year plan for what we wanted to accomplish, where we wanted to focus on, and a time line to shoot for.
Boy, did that ever get changed along the way!
Originally, the first two years were going to focus on clearing and cleaning the inner yard. Year one was going to be particularly focused on the maple grove to the west of the house, then year two would see us finish fixing up the inner yard with a focus on the spruce grove. Year three, we would continue working on the spruce grove, but also start moving more focus into the outer yard. By year five, we expected to be able to finish the outer yard. Through all this time, we were also going to work on where we wanted to put in gardens, and year five was going to be our first actual gardening year.
After year five, the inner and outer yards would be done, we could start planting gardens, and also start moving beyond the outer yard to start dealing with things like the car graveyard, junk piles, and so on.
Along the way, as things were cleared and cleaned up, we also kept our minds on where we wanted to plant fruit and nut trees, and other such permanent things.
Well… year one went pretty much to plan.
We got the old kitchen garden cleaned up and started to amend the soil with layers of cardboard, straw, leaves and whatever other organic material we could get.
We got the maple grove cleared and cleaned up. It still feels great to be able to walk through there again!
We got a lot done around the fire pit area and the west yard in general. It took months, and so much progress was made! We even were able to work on the perimeter of the spruce grove, and open things up.
In year two, the clean up continued, and I think it was around then that it became clear we would not be finishing the inner yard – more specifically, the spruce grove – as planned. In fact, we still haven’t finished the spruce grove, and won’t for some time. It’s a much bigger job than expected, and there are a large number of dead spruce trees that need to be cut down.
We did, however, start preparing our first garden area. We also got the retaining wall built at the end of the old kitchen garden. The clean up continued, inside and out, with quite a bit of storm damage to deal with when a blizzard hit us in October. I think the biggest accomplishment was getting that old wood pile area cleaned up – an area that uncovered some of the best soil in the yard.
A lot of work got done in our second year, but for our third year, our focus had to shift. There was no way we were going to be done with the inner yard, though we would have to do more in the outer yard at the same time. Things were getting pretty loosey goosey with our plans.
We still got a lot done. It just didn’t feel like we made much progress.
But, we got a garden in, with squash planted in the bed we’d prepared the year before, new beds made for potatoes, and the old wood pile area became a new garden, too. Our first year gardening was ahead of schedule – and right about the time when suddenly everyone else was starting to garden, too, thanks to the lockdowns and restrictions. We did repairs, patch jobs and replacements. General clean up in the yards continued, and we even got some bulbs planted. Hundreds of them!
Among the more difficult things we had to deal with was my husband’s health. In 2019, he ended up in the emergency room. Things got worse, and he later ended up in the hospital for about three weeks. It wasn’t until 2020 that he finally got into the pain clinic – after 2 years on the waiting list. That was difficult enough, since we were still under lockdowns and restrictions, but the whole thing was really a waste of time. Much like his visits with the cardiac clinic. After all that, right now, he barely even sees our GP, and the last time he had a phone appointment with the cardiac clinic, they never called. I think they’re pissed off at him for refusing to drive all the way to the city so they can make him sit in the waiting room, in pain, until he finally walks out without ever being seen. That’s one down side about moving back to our home province. The health care here is a lot worse than our previous province – though from what I’ve heard, things have gone seriously down hill over there, since we left.
For a lot of people, 2020 was the year from hell. My younger daughter ended up leaving her job at the pharmacy, but at least we had my husband’s disability income unchanged, unlike so many others. Being here on the farm meant very little actually changed for us. Our regular stock up trips and most other outings eventually became just me. I can’t wear a mask and had to deal with a lot of issues, since most places ignored the medical exemptions, never mind the fact that the mandates were illegal in the first place. We basically put our heads down and did the best we could, and counted our blessings.
One thing that did become clear is that we needed to step up on our long term goal of being as self sufficient as possible. Gardening became a higher priority. Our first winters here showed that we also needed to focus on having a stockpile of necessities in case we’re snowed in, etc. Getting chickens and, eventually, other food animals also had to be bumped up the priority list, though plans to build a chicken coop and brooder keep getting foiled.
We did have some fun things happen, though – like having a herd of goats show up at our place! One of which stayed for quite some time. In the end, I just walked over to the owner’s place with a bucket of feed, and the goat followed me.
I think most of us would like to forget 2020 happened, and had high hopes for 2021.
Except 2021 didn’t turn out any better. The illegal restrictions and mandates continued, people continued to have their health and lives destroyed, and we continued to try to keep our heads down and stick to our hermitage as much as possible.
Focus was once again on the garden, which required some creativity, and it was a difficult growing year. It started out well enough, with an early spring that had all sorts of trees blooming. It was very tempting to plant early, and some things, like a mulberry tree sapling we bought, did get planted as appropriate for our climate zone. Then one exceptionally cold night in May killed off so much. That year we had no crab apples, no saskatoons, no chokecherries, and the poor mulberry got killed off.
We expanded the garden by a lot, and it was a constant battle. Drought and heat waves meant watering the garden plots pretty much every day, twice a day. It also meant struggling to protect our garden from hungry and thirsty animals, with deer and groundhogs doing the most damage. We had to watch for racoons, too, though they were more interested in the bird seed and cat food than the garden. And yet, we managed to get a decent amount out of it.
We had plenty of other things to deal with, from van and door fixes, and even tire blow outs, to cat fixes! (Ginger is doing just fine now, and the missing leg isn’t slowing him down at all!) We got more clean up and improvements done around the yards, such as this path we added in the old kitchen garden. We even added to our longer term goals, and I hope to start working on these ones, next year or maybe the year after.
Again, we got a lot done, with all sorts of projects, but it didn’t feel like we made forward progress, other than in the garden.
Then there’s 2022.
Our fifth year here.
I’ll be doing future posts about how the year went, including a gardening review and goal setting, like I did for 2021, so I won’t get into that too much, now.
It did turn out to be another rough year, though after 2021, I don’t think a lot of people expected 2022 to be better. Despite the fact that data around the world has shown that the illegal restrictions and mandates not only didn’t work, but made things worse, our own dictatorial government is talking about bringing them back for this winter. Supply chain problems and increased inflation has been devastating to so many and, being on a fixed income, we’re certainly feeling it, too.
Through we did not have to deal with drought and heat waves this year, we did get a long, drawn out winter, followed by flooding that washed out roads around us in all directions, and more water in our yard than I’ve ever seen before, even when I was a kid growing up here. We did get long term progress done, with finally planting berry bushes and trees.
We expanded the garden so much this year and planted so many different things, we did not have to fight critter damage like last year, and yet we had a much worse growing year than the year before. Over all, I feel like we didn’t really make much forward progress at all, in any area. In fact, in some areas, we’re falling behind. We’ve got aging outbuildings collapsing or falling apart, and no way to replace them. We need to replace our van, as it’s really not worth fixing up anymore, but that’s out of reach now, too. About the only really good thing is that our vandal’s vexatious litigation against us, in response to our getting a restraining order against him approved, finally got thrown out and he didn’t appeal, so we don’t have that hanging over us anymore.
So what can we expect for the next five years? How do we even plan for such an uncertain future?
Well… honestly… the original goals haven’t really changed. They’ve just shifted. We’ve always wanted to live a more self sufficient life, and that’s simply become a greater priority over things like cleaning up the spruce grove or the outer yard.
In the short term, the gardens will continue to expand. We’ve learned a lot in three years of gardening here. We now know that we need to put a priority on things like raised beds and trellises, and that we need to work out how to deal with both drought and flooding, as well as getting around our rocky and nutritionally depleted soil.
We know that we need to work to grow a lot more food, with a lot more varieties, on the assumption that much of what we plant will simply not make it.
We know we need to step up on planting a food forest and other perennials that will feed us – along with things to attract and protect pollinators.
We know we will have to battle critters over the food we grow.
We know that we have to put a priority on getting food animals, even if it’s just a few chickens or meat rabbits – and that we need to be prepared to grow their feed, because we might not be able to buy feed for them.
We know that we can expect to be unable to get out of here for potentially months at a time, whether it’s due to vehicles breaking down or freezing, or roads impassable because of snow or flooding, so we have to be prepared for that. We know we need to keep at least a couple months worth of food, household necessities, and cat supplies, on hand, just in case.
We have been incredibly fortunate in that we have not had any major power failures, but I remember many times when I was a kid, losing power and having to fire up the old wood burning cook stove. That is no longer an option. We can at least cook on the BBQ or the fire pit if necessary, which means that the priority list now includes finding some way to pay for the original well with the hand pump to be repaired, so we will at least have water if the power goes out. Water is our biggest weakness.
We always liked the idea of cooking over the fire pit, but with the first years here having total fire bans, this past summer was the first time we could safely use it for any length of time. We now know we need to come up with an off-grid, outdoor kitchen that we can use at any time of year, whether it’s in the middle of a snow storm in the winter, or if we’re under a fire ban in the summer. This would also be part of bringing back the old idea of having a summer kitchen, to use for canning and preserving, without overheating the house or taking up the kitchen from daily needs.
These past five years have shown us our original goals don’t actually need to be changed. Just the priority list. Yes, it’ll be great to finally have the spruce grove cleaned up, but that is less important than building garden beds and shelters and getting food animals. The goals are not mutually exclusive, though. Since we can’t afford much when it comes to lumber and supplies, we’ll just have to make use of the dead trees we need to cut down in the spruce grove, and we have to clean up around them to do that safely, anyhow.
We just have to keep reassessing and adapting the how and when, but the what has not really changed at all.