The First 5 Years

This is a google image of where we used to live. It was taken when we lived there- that's my car in the driveway.
We rented this 65 acre 'farm/gravel pit/future truck stop' for almost two years.  The big shed (back left) was storage for the landlord's kid, who came and went as he pleased.  The barn (back centre) was a hazard and an eye sore.  The long stretched building on the right was the house connected to former dog kennels that had been mostly converted into stalls.  Attached to the house!  Seriously- the back door opened into the barn.  The big brown patch on the lawn was my garden.

We bought our first two horses, our first chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and goats while we lived here. We started a rabbitry there, and we were just starting to turn a profit, after investing heavily in barn repairs, cages, watering system and stock.  I had 85 does and kits everywhere.

In the overview below you can see our 'woods', the pond, and the railroad tracks at the back.  That's an off ramp for the 401 on the right, and carpool parking in front.
After living in a little house on the main street of town for 5 years, with a postage stamp for a yard and a flower bed for a garden, we thought we had it made.

Except every time landlord or his kid showed up, they complained about what we were doing.  We didn't spray the apple tree, the apples would be junk- as they helped themselves.  'Are you growing tomatoes?' as they tromped through my garden.  You can't have a horse- it will smell.  You can't use the fields (empty)- you're only renting the house.  He wouldn't spend any money on the house- giving us the choice once to either replace the pump for the well ourselves or move.  That pump is now sitting in my garage, because I wasn't about to leave it behind when we did move.

At any rate, we stayed until he informed us he was going to raise the already overpriced rent to $1000/month.  That's the day we started shopping.

Husband was a long distance truck driver, so where we lived wasn't as important as how we lived.  We searched all of Ontario and Manitoba on the MLS website, for a simple 3 bedroom house with a barn and some land in our price range. 

When we first saw this place I wasn't all that impressed.  It's mostly bush, with all of the barns and out buildings crowded into a few acres.  Husband had to talk me into it.
These pictures are before my time.  In 5 years Google Earth hasn't updated them.  The large brown patch is pasture now, though it looks like they may have just harvested hay there in the pic.  The large clearing behind must have been logged recently, it's mostly bush now.  What looks like a blue roof is actually the tin roof of the barn.  The chicken coop is behind it, but hard to see.  Just right of that and back a bit is the workshop and tack room.  The black square is the house.  The garage to the left isn't in the pic.  The large brown patch on the right is the garden, though bigger now.  I'm guessing the smaller brown patches were flower beds, and the black circle is the pond.
In the overview, below the ravine, my parent's place.  The 'bump' in the road marks the north edge of our property.  That's 'the rock', a little reminder that we live on the Shield.  Our own miniature mountain.  Our property goes south , past the picture glitch from google, to the oddly angled road.  That's the beginning of the logging trail.  Past the creek on the left you can almost see a line, the edge of where the trees were logged- the edge of our property.
Our property in the top right corner.  This is a view of my playground.  Just a little bit of my playground, actually.  Acres and acres of trees, creeks, streams and lakes, mostly crown land, a little bit of private property here and there.

So, November 30, 2007, when the Bigs were Little and the Littles were Tiny, we packed up all of our earthly possessions- or at least the ones that would fit in the truck- and left the south on a wet and dreary fall day.  We headed north to our new home and new life, arriving to two feet of snow in the midst of winter.

And it snowed and it snowed and it snowed.  That first winter it didn't seem like it was ever going to stop.  But it did.  When the temperature dipped from -20°C to -45°C, there was no snow at all.  We may have been a bit shell shocked.

 Eventually we got brave enough to venture out in the cold and snow and got to know our new city.  The Bigs got started at Navy League,


Tori and Sailor made the trip up north,


we met the neighbours, found the auction, and bought a cow.

When we lost Sailor that winter, northern neighbour made us a deal on the big girls.

Bella was a pony trapped in a monster's body.
While Blondie was a workhorse, well rounded and good natured. 

The horse cart- chicken coop, workshop and tack room behind.

The first spring brought the first piglets, and the first garden.  We set the piglets up in a movable pen to till the soil.  They did a great job, until they figured out how to lift the pen themselves and escape.

Then we spent a lot of time trying to find and catch the wee beasties.  I wasn't sad to see the first two go in the fall.  The smaller two we overwintered, and butchered in the spring.

The garden did poorly the first few years- late spring frosts, early fall frosts, and depleted soil left me wanting.

We raised meat chicks and egg layers, and fed the foxes really well.  Not too many made it to the table.

Dorie's first calf was still born, so we figured what the heck?  Let's milk a beef cow!  Lots of delicious milk, butter and yogurt that summer (2008).

My MIL went into a nursing home, leaving my FIL on his own.  We began construction on the add-a-room- a home for him in our yard.

My Dad built the woodstove, we used our trailer for kitchen and bathroom facilities, the boys hauled water and firewood for him.

From left- house, horse sleigh, add-a-room, swingset.

And less than two years later he went to live with 1 BIL, and 6 months later another. 

The add-a-room makes a great playroom now.

And we do love our toys.  They're what makes the long, cold winters bearable.

We built stalls in the barn, which the horses didn't like, and therefore helped remove them.

We found a lake in the woods and dubbed it 'Bathtub' because the water was so warm and clear.

We acquired more horses and let them mow the lawn.

The spring of 2010 brought Maddy & Mindy to the farm, along with Nelly's mother, who died delivering her twin.  Nelly was my bottle baby.  Maddy later went to live with northern neighbour.

 She's no longer on the bottle, but she's still a big baby.  A really big baby. 

#1 wanted to raise goats, so he bought Mama, who has been producing kids like a pro.  She helped raise Nelly, too.

We bought Pig, who was much bigger than we had planned, but we couldn't find any piglets that year.  She never stayed in her pen and wouldn't till the garden, preferring the flower bed where we'd find her napping every morning.  She didn't live here long.

 We strung barbed wire.  Lots of barbed wire.

We bought hay.  We built the hay lean-to.

We helped harvest hay.

We hauled hay.  We bought more hay, and more hay and more hay.

We finally decided enough was enough.  The hay burners had to go.  We sold the Belgiums and the stallion.  We lost dear sweet Rita.  We bought Knightmare in 2011- who tricked us into raising a foal.

We rebuilt the hay lean-to three times, after heavy snow falls slid off the barn and knocked it down.

 Miss Dorie spent the summer of 2009 with northern neighbour.  She came home and delivered Casper the spring of 2011.  We bought a bull calf, Steaks, that summer, to knock the girls up and feed us through the winter.

 And then we bought Toothless.  Since Nelly had done so well we decided to raise a bottle bull.  Dorie babysat.

 He could be a poppa next spring, but he's still so little I'm not betting on it.

We cut firewood.  Lots and lots of firewood.

More firewood every year.

The Bigs learned how to use a chainsaw.  #2 built the woodshed.  We cut lots and lots of firewood.

 The Bigs graduated from Navy League and joined Sea Cadets in 2009.  #1 started highschool in 2010.  Since Sea Cadets was in the Big City, there were lots of nights when homework was skipped, or he had to miss cadets to do assignments for school.
When #2 started highschool in 2011, I made them quit Sea Cadets and join Air Cadets in Highschool Town.  They could stay after school and do homework, eat out, and walk to cadets.  It took awhile for them to adjust, and they'd still rather be sailing, but they're both progressing.  #2 was a Guard of Honour at this year's Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Fall of 2010 my Dad taught #2 how to build our first greenhouse.  That led to the turkey shack, a second greenhouse, and the wood shed.  #2's a pro at these buildings now.

Spring of 2011 we began our adventure in raising Orlopp's Bronze turkeys.

The Littles used their ingenuity to move them from the brooder to the turkey pen.

The geese had work to do, guarding the turkeys.  It went well in 2011, in 2012 we lost all of the chickens and most of the turkeys to foxes and wildlife.

The garden got better with time, composted manure, ashes, coffee grounds, and the endless battle against the twitch grass.

The greenhouses extended the season.  I'm still learning how to not turn them into a jungle though.

chimney repair

There were lots of odd jobs along the way.

the walls in the Bigs' room

garage doors installed

basement shelving

sunroom closet

generator shed

plant stand bench

barn repairs and painting

 Through it all we took time to pick the blueberries,

play in the woods,

make new friends,

#1, #4, Husband, #2, #3.

 and grow up.


  1. I just got around to reading this tab and wonder how long it has been here. Your former landlord sound impossible. I think I have been reading your blog since the beginning of where you are now.

  2. Actually, I had just joined the compact a few months before we moved. So you're the only one who knows all the stories from before I started the blog!

    I wrote this up after a new follower- katidids, I think, asked if I had an intro posted somewhere- November 2012.

  3. I just found this too. What an adventurous five years. There is just so MUCH going on! I especially like the before and after (so to speak) pictures of the boys - such dramatic proof of how much kids change over five years. I have a feeling you live in one of the best places to raise boys - even with those Canadian Shield winters.

    1. Thanks, Sailor. We keep busy, and mostly have fun with it. Only occasionally do I have to remind someone that they don't get to own their own horse if they're not willing to shovel manure, lol.

  4. Hi Wendy,
    I am not a big computer person but I have just stumbled onto your web sight. My 4 boys have grown up now but many years ago we lived in the bush in Manitoba and home schooled our kids. I Now live on the edge of a small town in Ontario but my philosophy is still the same. I would like to share garden ideas with you if you would like to.
    First of all have you ever thought of using soil blocks I have for 20 years now. There is no garbage as you have with container planting. Check out Jason Beam the soil block guru,. He sells soil blockers but so does Johnny's seeds. Jason has a lot of how to use the the soil block makers, very informative.
    Next you can check out EM effective microorganisms.
    If you want to talk more email me.


  5. My first time visiting and I think I may be hooked. What a story!